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The Eris Plan

By Sunn
Created: 26th February 2021 09:46:58 PM
Modified: 22nd April 2021 02:43:58 AM

  1. >The click of shoes and the clack of hooves against a crystal floor echo through the hall as you rub the sleep from your eyes
  2. >Nearly every part of you wishes you had stayed in bed
  3. >It would be useful to just lay there and do nothing as you try to come to terms with your current situation
  4. >You've been thrown ass over tea kettle into a new dimension and it was difficult to get used to, to say the least
  5. >Currently you're making your way through your new eye sore of a temporary abode to get some breakfast
  6. >"Anon, once again I can't apologize enough for what I did"
  7. >You're pulled from your thoughts by the walking talking purple alicorn, Twilight Sparkle, human kidnapper extraordinaire
  8. "Twilight, how many times have you apologized to me since I got here?"
  9. >Despite your teasing tone Twilight takes the question and runs with it "36 times or thereabouts, I'm still a little hazy on how many I sputtered out when I first summoned you"
  10. >Pressing a hand to your tired face you rub the sleep from your eyes and chuckle
  11. >She was kind of cute when she rambled like that
  12. >The thought cuts as quickly as it appeared, leaving you no time to process it
  13. >"Honestly though Anon, I'm glad you don't hate me for what I did. I would never have cast that spell if I knew it would have dragged you here."
  14. >That makes 37
  15. >"Though thank Celestia that, out of everypony that could have summoned you, it was me, who knows how hurt a poor stallion like you could have gotten if the wrong mare got their hooves on you"
  16. >There it is, that strange role reversal that this world adheres to
  17. >Apparently all their males are limp wristed gossip mongers
  18. >Finally reaching the double doors to the kitchen you reassure Twilight as you open the doors
  19. >Expecting to be stopped by the weight of the doors you stumble slightly when your outstretched arm meets open air
  20. >Before your hand could reach the handle both doors were enshrouded in a purple aura and opened wide
  21. >Looking down to Twilight with a raised eyebrow she extends her hoof towards the kitchen "Stallions first"
  22. >If it weren't for her genuine smile you'd think she were mocking you
  23. >You simply shake your head and make your way to the table, where a pre-stacked pile of pancakes awaited
  24. >Throwing a glance around the room you see no sign of Spike, Twilight's little helper
  25. >Shame, he was the one guy you'd met in this world who didn't come off as a tool
  26. >Then again the only other guy, or stallion, you'd met was Caramel
  27. >Talk about a diva
  28. >"I'm still looking into that spell that brought you here Anon, if I can replicate it and reverse engineer it, I should be able to find a counterspell to send you home"
  29. >With a flap of her wings, Twilight sat herself in front of her own stack of pancakes
  30. >Once more her horn lit up with a purple aura
  31. >This time her target was a punnet of berries and a tube of cream
  32. >Loading up her stack with a generous helping of both she’s quick to dive into her meal
  33. >You on the other hand, preferred something more viscous with pancakes
  34. >Hoping that Spike didn't have a system for his storage you haphazardly rummage through the cabinets in search of some syrup
  35. >After a minute of searching each cabinet you're ready to give up until a quick flash and pop makes your head snap to a particular shelf
  36. >Before you sat an unassuming bottle of golden brown liquid
  37. >Double checking you didn't just have a stroke you shrug it off and grab the syrup
  38. >Twilight is already on her last pancake before you even sit down
  39. >Just barely stifling a chuckle at how fast one pony can eat you pop open the bottle and squeeze
  40. >Once again you check that you're not having a stroke
  41. >As the golden brown falls out of the bottle it begins to solidify and a grey liquid replaces it
  42. >Blue, yellow and red, about a dozen different coloured liquids appear in the bottle before oozing out and solidifying in mid air
  43. >As the mass of jumbled colours float in mid air they begin to compress and stretch into shape
  44. >At this point Twilight has forgotten about her food and her eyes slowly turn to pinpricks as the mass takes form
  45. >With a spin and a flash of sparkles the former syrup has taken a form you could only describe as a Picasso painting come to life
  46. >A lion's paw, an eagle's talon, and a goat's hoof to name a few of her features
  47. >You're 95% sure it's female at least, this new visitor's body is noticeably lithe with a slender face
  48. >Her eye's immediately lock onto you and she coils herself up like a spring before gently uncoiling as she approaches you
  49. >With Twilight stunned into silence you say the first thing that comes to mind
  50. "You're not syrup"
  51. >The creatures halts mid hover as she processes your words
  52. >Her previously stoic face cracks into a slight grin before she bursts into a bout of laughter
  53. >Quickly composing herself she simply shakes her head
  54. >"No, no I am not, however" approaching you once more she shifts her body so that her tail arcs up and around to rest on top of her head, gently brushing against your face "I can be just as sweet if you like"
  55. >The only word that comes to mind as she looks at you is sultry
  56. >However before you can retort her face begins to contort before she sneezes due to the tip of her tail brushing her nose
  57. >As she recoils from her own tail it flicks you in the nose as well, causing you to sneeze as well
  58. >Finally snapping out of her shock Twilight leaps to her hooves
  59. >"DIS- cord?"
  60. >Her brief flash of anger is replaced by confusion as she does a double and triple take on the new guest
  61. >"Oh me, oh my, are my ears burning?"
  62. >Another voice echoes through the kitchen before the table starts to shift
  63. >Acting fast you swipe your plate off the table before you lose your uneaten breakfast
  64. >The table shifts to life and another entity similar to the first appears
  65. >This one's definitely a dude though
  66. >The beard is a dead giveaway
  67. >Glancing between the two, you note that the female is considerably younger
  68. >The coat of fur covering her head has a pristine silver sheen and her torso's fur is the same golden brown syrup colour
  69. >Meanwhile the newcomer's coat is noticeably more matted and its color is dulled
  70. >"Oh, sorry, my mistake, it's just you" The newcomer waves his arm at Twilight, whose ears are literally on fire
  71. >With a yelp Twilight's horn revs to life and a glob of water materializes above her, drenching her and dousing her ears
  72. >Growling at the two new chuckling entities, Twilight visibly suppresses her anger
  73. >"Discor-"
  74. >"Oh where are my manners!" planting his lion's paw against Twilight's lips, Discord, turns to you "I haven't even introduced myself. Discord's the game, chaos is my name"
  75. >With a bow that detaches his torso from his legs he holds out his remaining appendage to you
  76. >You only hesitate slightly before taking the talon in your hand
  77. "Don't you mean Discord's your-"
  78. >This time you're the one cut off as he presses his talon to your mouth "Yes, yes Discord, Chaos all the same really"
  79. >With a flash of purple light, Discord is teleported to the corner of the room where he collapses into a mess of limbs
  80. >It'd be obvious to anyone that Twilight was close to blasting a hole in Discord's chest
  81. >Though with what you've seen, you'd be surprised if that would work
  82. >"Discord. What are you doing here?" Finally getting a question out, Twilight noticeably relaxes
  83. >The sound of legos clicking together ring out as Discord slots his limbs back in their sockets
  84. >"Oh Twilight, please, you're seriously telling me that, after you shanghai'd a creature from another dimension" after mentioning shanghai Discord appears in a stereotypical chinese outfit "you actually thought I wouldn't come snooping?"
  85. >"But that doesn't explain how you even knew he was here-" as the two devolve into their back and forth they seemingly forget about you
  86. >Of course the other guest hasn't
  87. >In fact you're pretty sure she hasn't stopped looking at you since she got out of the syrup bottle
  88. >As she nonchalantly floats over to you, you try and relax but she seems intent on making that impossible
  89. >Stretching out her talon she gently swipes at your hair with a claw
  90. >You wordlessly move away but her talon simply detaches at the wrist and follows you
  91. >As one of her claws begins twirling one of your hairs you shoot a glance at her
  92. >She simply winks at you before propping herself up on her paw "You wanna try squeezing me next to see what comes out?"
  93. >Various images flash through your mind before you can process them
  94. >Quite frankly you don't want to process them either
  95. >Grabbing a hold of her talon, you pry it out of your hair and throw it back to her
  96. >With a flash she dons a loose baseball shirt and catches her talon in a leather mitt
  97. >After a brief transplant from mitt to talon her arm is back to normal
  98. >Or at least as normal as something like her gets
  99. >"-is that anyway?" Silently thanking whoever was watching you turn back to Twilight and Discord, the former of which has her hoof pointed at the hair fondler
  100. >"Oh I'm so glad you asked" Discord squeezes his cheeks together before floating over towards you two
  101. >"Oh Celestia I regret asking" Letting out a groan Twilight slaps her face with a hoof
  102. >"Yeah, I regret you asking too" With an annoyed sigh the girl curls into herself slightly as Discord approaches her
  103. >"Twilight, Anonymous-"
  104. "How do you know my name?" This time it's your turn to cut Discord off
  105. >Shrugging off your question he simply says "I have eyes and ears everywhere" To punctuate his point several eyes and ears sprout of the walls
  106. >That's gonna haunt your dreams
  107. >They recede as quickly as they appeared and Discord wraps the mystery girl in a hug before squishing her cheeks together
  108. >"I want you two to meet my chaotic daughter, Eris"
  109. >Eris, finally, a name to madness
  110. >Embarrassed at Discord's introduction Eris simply curls into herself more
  111. >Then she curls into herself more, and more, and more
  112. >Until she shrinks to the point that you can't see her anymore
  113. >Huffing at the display Discord puts his hands on his hips "Eris, what have I told you about going subatomic when we're visiting the neighbors?"
  114. >Somehow her sigh is audible as she begins unfolding back to her regular form
  115. >"There's that's better"
  116. >Once more he wraps an arm around Eris' shoulder and looks between your two
  117. >While you're attempting to process what you just saw Twilight just seems tired
  118. >"So, so, so, so many questions, but since I don't want a headache. Why?"
  119. >"Well, number one" with a flash he and Eris appear in between you and Twilight "you ponies did such a good job with me, I thought it'd be downright cruel if I just left my daughter to continue wreaking chaos so haphazardly the same way I did."
  120. >Suddenly the wall in front of the four of you flashes to life and you see a near copy of Ponyville, only its sky looked like a child's drawing of the sun and moon, while it's building were spinning like dreidels
  121. >Snapping his fingers, Discord restores the world back to normal
  122. >"Dad!" Breaking out of the hug Eris flattens herself against the wall "I worked really hard on that one"
  123. >"I know dear, I know, a real shame to waste all that chaos, but trust me, you'll love it here"
  124. >Turning back to the now pristine world, Eris face falls to sincere dejection
  125. >You'd feel bad for her if you hadn't just seen the state of the world she left
  126. >"Now, point number two" An identical clone of Discord pops out of nowhere as the two speak in unison "Like I said, she's my daughter, but ever since my petrification I haven't been able to spend any time with her" Reaching into one of his wings they both pull out a blank black book
  127. >Flipping it open shows various photos of Discord and Eris, each one showing a background more chaotic than the last
  128. >"Oh this one's my favourite, Eris' first-" Before he can finish flipping the page Eris snaps the book shut and turns it into bubbles that quickly pop
  129. >Her eyes quickly glance between you and the Discords
  130. >"Oh well, I have more" both Discords sprouts ten new arms, each one holding a copy of the book
  131. >Eris' eyes turn to pinpricks before shooting out of her sockets and puncturing two of the books
  132. >Discord throws the books up as they sprout wings and scatter throughout the castle
  133. >Growling with rage, Eris races after the books
  134. >After she rounds the corner Discord merges back into one as he scoops you and Twilight together with his tail and get uncomfortably close
  135. >"Number 3, my Eris REALLY needs friends"
  136. >The seriousness of his tone starkly contrasts his words
  137. >Disentangling yourself from him you brush yourself off and pry Twilight out from his coils, eliciting an eep out of her
  138. >You could have sworn you saw his eyebrows furrow for a second
  139. >"Didn't she have her own world? Why couldn't she-" Twilight is cut off by two dozen books being thrown into the kitchen
  140. >Was Eris sweating?
  141. >She must really not have wanted you to see those pictures
  142. >"Look just go with it" Discord whispers quickly to you both before throwing his arms out and approaching Eris
  143. >Shoving her paw into his face she moves him out of the way before hopping up and relaxing in midair
  144. >Shrugging it off Discord floats over to her "Good news Eris you get to stay here with us"
  145. >"She does?" "I do?" Twilight and Eris ask in unison
  146. >Noticing her mistake Twilight clears her throats and straightens her posture "I- I mean yes, we'd... love? to have another Draconequus here"
  147. >Despite the off delivery Twilight maintains her smile and offers a hoof to Eris
  148. >Before Eris can take it in her talon, Discord pushes her towards you
  149. >All three of you raise an eyebrow at him but he simply shrugs
  150. >"I felt like Eris could get along better with Anonymous here, after all they're both new here, both bipeds, both-" Discord pauses for a minute and rolls his hand as he tries to think of something else to connect you two
  151. >"Well the semantics don't matter, really, you two should get along like a house on fire, the good kind I mean"
  152. >With that he grabs Eris' talon and puts it in your hand
  153. >It's surprisingly smooth and cool to the touch
  154. >Relaxing slightly you shake it, just to get this over with if nothing else
  155. "Glad to have you here, I guess"
  156. >As you shake her talon you notice that it's simply remaining rigid
  157. >Taking a second glance at Eris you notice she's gone stock stiff and a slight pink has crept up her cheeks
  158. >"YES NICE TO MEET YOU TOO, I'M ERIS, BYE!"
  159. >With a flash and a bang Eris dissipates into thin air and you're left with your hand hanging in mid air
  160. >Not expecting that reaction Discord simply taps his paw and talons together before awkwardly chuckling "Kids right? What are you gonna do?"
  161. >With a flash of his own he disappears as well
  162. >You look to Twilight, just to double check that all that actually happened
  163. >She opens and closes her mouth like a fish before letting her head droop and shaking it with a sigh
  164. >You turn your attention back to your pancakes, still in your hands
  165. >Tearing a piece off and nibbling it you let out a pleased sigh as you find that they're still warm
  166. >Magic, how does it work
  167. <>
  168. >With a flash and a bang you appear in your room
  169. >Home sweet home
  170. >With the bed you never use stuck to the ceiling and the upside down flowers in your floor, the roots growing up
  171. >This can only mean you are Eris, heiress to chaos
  172. >Still love the way that rolls off the tongue
  173. >With an angered yell you grab hold of your wardrobe and hurl it at the nearby wall
  174. >The wall simply grabs a baseball bat and smacks the wardrobe away
  175. >As the wooden structure floats in zero gravity you let out another groan
  176. >You can not believe your dad just did that
  177. >He shows up for the first time in over a millenia and pulls you out of your perfectly chaotic work
  178. >Then he makes it NOT CHAOTIC
  179. >WITHOUT asking you first
  180. >Then he pulls you into his world
  181. >Which also isn't chaotic for some reason
  182. >Ugh, you're gonna have to get to know who to watch out for while you're here
  183. >Grabbing hold of the air you tear it like paper
  184. >On the other side is several flashing images of Equestria
  185. >As your eyes scan the various images you think back to your first encounter with these new beings
  186. >At least that biped was cute
  187. >Anonymous was his name, if you're remembering correctly
  188. >Then of course your dad nearly embarrases you in front of the first non-pony guy you've met who hasn't run away from you with that stupid book
  189. >THEN he makes you hold his hand
  190. >Sure, you teased him with the old syrup bottle trick
  191. >Maybe you touched his hair and got a little distracted and zoned out
  192. >But who makes two people who don't even know each other hold hands?
  193. >Your dad apparently
  194. >You can't help but rub your paw over your talon
  195. >It's still warm
  196. <>
  197. >Despite all the clattering upstair, courtesy of your rowdy daughter, you couldn’t be prouder of yourself
  198. >You’d even go so far as to say you’re usually machiavellian mind has outdone itself
  199. >”Try not to break an arm patting yourself on the back Discord”
  200. >You turn to see a clone of yourself shaking his head disapprovingly
  201. “Oh be quiet, me”
  202. >With a wave of your paw the other you dissipates into a cloud of very handsome air
  203. >Despite that nay-sayer, this is going better than you thought
  204. >Sure Eris may be stewing in her room for a while but she'll thank you in the end
  205. >Pulling a piece of paper out of the ether you unfurl it and grab a pawful of ink
  206. >The Eris Plan sat proudly at the top
  207. "Let's see, introduce Eris to a boy that won't freak out at her. Check. Have Eris spend more than five minutes in the same room as said boy. Check. Get Eris to hold hands with said boy."
  208. >You have to scroll down the list for several seconds before you get to that particular point.
  209. "Also check."
  210. >Having soaked the paper in ink you throw it back into the ether and dust your hands off
  211. "Discord old boy you're a natural-born cupid. At this rate Eris will stop being a wizard before she knows it. Honestly I should play matchmaker more often. Ooh maybe I should go give Cadence some pointers"
  212. >Knocking on the air you open it like a door and step into the Crystal Empire
  213. <>
  214. "So they're gods?"
  215. >After the draconequus' duet had amscrayed you and Twilight headed over to her part library, part study
  216. >Pancakes still in hand, and still without syrup you tear away strips and enjoy them at a leisure pace
  217. >You really need to ask Spike how he makes them stay fresh and hot
  218. >After crashing onto the various pieces of plush furniture you finally got to ask Twilight what the hell just happened
  219. >Clearly Discord was not a subject Twilight enjoyed bringing up, if her tone was anything to go by
  220. >After a quick rundown of his history and what he, and by extension Eris, were capable of, the only conclusion you could come to were that they were gods
  221. >Which Twilight heavily objected to
  222. >"First off, despite any claims he might make, Discord isn't all knowing, and secondly, he certainly isn't all powerful"
  223. >With only half a pancake left you simply fold it in half and stuff the rest into your mouth
  224. "You sure about that Twilight?" You hold a hand over your mouth to obstruct the sight of chewed pancake "They seemed pretty powerful to me"
  225. >With a brief sigh Twilight's horn lights up as she begins scanning the various shelves
  226. >"He SEEMS all powerful sure" pausing briefly, Twilight mutters to herself as she double checks a certain shelf "buck's sake"
  227. >You only just catch that last bit before a pulse of lavender washes over you and the entire room
  228. >As the pulse fades a string of white light spirals up through the grooves in Twilight's horn before sprouting out of the tip and stretches to the other side of the room and lands on a specific book
  229. >With a grumble Twilight propels herself to the shelf with a single wingbeat
  230. >Pulling the book from the shelf, she approaches you and begins skimming through the pages
  231. >"Like I was saying, they're not gods, they're simply the concept of disharmony that have manifested in a physical form"
  232. >Despite the very scientific sounding answer you’re not convinced
  233. "I dunno Twilight, still sounds like they're gods to me, or at least god-like"
  234. >Snorting slightly at that Twilight flips the book open with a wave of her horn
  235. >When the book finally settles you're staring at an illustration of a grand pedestal, protruding from it are five struts, each one holding a different shaped gemstone
  236. >In the centre is a much larger, star shaped gemstone
  237. >"If Discord and Eris are gods simply for being physical manifestations of disharmony, are me and the girls gods for being physical manifestations of harmony?"
  238. >You open your mouth to retort but quickly shut it as you process Twilight's words
  239. >Her faces shows that what she just said makes perfect sense to her
  240. >Personally you're just baffled that she'd compare herself or the others to those two
  241. "Ok, a few questions Twilight"
  242. >With a thump she shuts the book as her face begins to beam, like a teacher with their favourite student
  243. "Can you or your friends warp reality on a whim?” Though she opens her mouth to retort, you decide to push your point “Are you or the girls immortal like they are?”
  244. >Twilight is quicker this time and interrupts you “They aren’t immortal” as you raise a skeptical eyebrow, Twilight rubs one of her forehooves with the other and turns her head to the side before murmuring “as far as I know”
  245. “Didn’t you say that Discord guy’s been around as long as the princesses?”
  246. >Twilight’s face takes on a triumphant smirk at that “Yes I did, but he wasn’t around before them, therefore he’s not immortal”
  247. “But he also hops from one dimension to another at a whim right?” Twilight’s mouth shuts at your counterpoint “Sort of like a god” You hide that last point, poorly, behind a cough
  248. >Twilight shoots you a glare but you simply return it with a smirk
  249. >”Still not immortal” Her tone is matter-of-fact but you’re not quite ready to give any ground just yet
  250. “Well, have you ever thought about, oh I dunno, asking Discord how old he is?”
  251. >Twilight's mouth clamps shut at that and she nervously chuckles
  252. >"Well I mean, no, of course not, my mother raised me better than that after all"
  253. >That's a weirder response than you were expecting
  254. >"I know full well that it's rude to ask a stallion his age, and with a stallion as whimsical as Discord it might be downright dangerous to ask"
  255. >"Oh please, my doddering old man is harmless" You and Twilight jump as the familiar voice and the thud of the book clattering on the floor echoes through the room "you ponies have made sure of that-"
  256. >Half expecting the chair to turn into Eris you bolt up and away from it
  257. >Several pops turn your attention to the abandoned book as the gemstones on the page morph into Eris' eyes and limbs while the pedestal takes on the colour of her fur
  258. >Stretching up and out of the page, Eris begins to form out of the book
  259. >"-and it's all thanks to these trinkets" Unfurling her paw, several small gemstones that match the color but not the shape of the ones on the page now rest there
  260. >Gasping, Twilight tenses her legs and wings before rocketing towards Eris
  261. >With a flash Eris takes on a matador outfit and holds out a piece of thick red cloth
  262. >As Twilight collides with the cloth she comes to an abrupt stop, as if she has just hit a wall
  263. >Her body crumples from the physical shock and Eris lets the now regular cloth drop and cover her
  264. >Eris’ eyes briefly meets yours and she gives you a smile and wave
  265. >Not entirely sure what to do, you simply return the gesture
  266. “Hey Eris, good to see you again?”
  267. >You’re not entirely sure how to play this, considering Eris just left Twilight in a heap of feathers and a possible concussion
  268. >”Y- you too”
  269. >Her eyes widen slightly at the awkward delivery and turns her back to you before clearing her throat and returning her attention to the gemstones in her paw "The. Elements. Of. Harmony"
  270. >She flips the gemstones like coins from one finger to the other, punctuating each word by flipping them into the air "You know, we didn't have these back where I'm from, or at least, nopony ever found them"
  271. >A sheer ringing echoes through the room as the red cloth is torn to magical shreds by a ruffled Twilight
  272. >"How did you get your paws on those Eris, they're protected against-"
  273. >"They are protected" Eris interrupts, pressing her face against Twilight's causing her to flinch slightly before pressing back against Eris "against my dad, not against me."
  274. >As Twilight leans back slightly Eris' face detaches from her head and follows her
  275. >Using the slight distance Twilight gives a firm shove forward with her head, pushing Eris back and putting some space between the two
  276. >"You both use the same magic" Twilight's breathing has gotten slightly more pronounced from the brief tussle
  277. >"Oh please, that old goat?" With a snap of her talon a goat falls into the room wearing a mask with a crude drawing of Discord's face "He's about a thousand years out of practice"
  278. >With another snap of her talon the goat turns to stone
  279. >"Then when he finally did get free" Another snap and the goat was back to normal "You ponies threw that mess of yellow and pink, whatever her name is at him and made him soft"
  280. >This time a herd of goats appeared and chucked a cotton candy coloured one on top of the first
  281. >"But personally, I think he's due a wakeup call" Eris begins slowly growing in size and you try to back away while Twilight takes to the air "throwing this world into turmoil ought to get his old chaotic motor running again"
  282. >Her body has now grown to the point where she has you pressed against the wall with her surprisingly soft fur engulfing you
  283. >You hear the snap of her talon before a crack and flash ring out through the room
  284. >Everything's back to normal
  285. >The goat's are gone and Eris is back to her regular size
  286. >In fact, she seems to be the most confused out of the three of you
  287. >With another snap of her talons a small flash erupts from them, but nothing happens
  288. >She snaps again and again but the flash only gets smaller and smaller
  289. >Nearly fuming she shoots a glance between you and Twilight before shaking her talon with a frustrated growl
  290. >"What's the matter Eris, having problems getting your magic up?"
  291. >Eris shoots a death glare Twilight, who currently has the smuggest grin you've seen on her face
  292. >"What the buck is this? My magic's never failed before"
  293. >Still incapable of any magic Eris simply stands there shaking her talon furiously
  294. >She stops as her paw is engulfed in a purple aura as the elements are pulled out with ease
  295. >"Don't worry Eris, I hear that's common as mares get older"
  296. >Eris' face has taken on a red hue as Twilight giggles at her own comment
  297. >"What did you do?!" Remembering she had wings, Eris bolts over to Twilight "I know my dad took those away from you before"
  298. >Simply pushing Eris away with a hoof this time, Twilight teleports the elements away
  299. >"Another reason they’re not gods Anon” Brushing off the fuming draconequus Twilight turns to you “they have absolutely no way to counter harmony based magic directly”
  300. >Turning back to Eris, Twilight boops her on the nose, causing her to lurch backwards “As for Discord, he was never stupid enough to expose himself to physical contact with them for an extended period of time"
  301. >Eris' eyes widen in realisation before skulking away from Twilight
  302. >Smacking her face with her now empty paw Eris runs it down her face, causing it to stretch
  303. >Though it isn't able to get far before it snaps back up, eliciting a pained gasp
  304. >"Pain, that's new." With a sigh Eris flops against one of the library chairs "I suppose I'm going to get the medusa treatment now right? At least I'll take one of your chairs with me"
  305. >Twilight does seem to ponder this for a second before letting out a snort
  306. >Her wings flutter gently at her side as she approaches Eris
  307. >"As tempting as that sounds Eris, no, we're gonna give you the same chance we gave Discord"
  308. >Sitting up straight at that, Eris' face shift between surprise to joy to disappointment
  309. >"Oh goodie, you're gonna put a collar on me too." She snaps her talon, but again nothing happens "Buck, how long is that gonna last?"
  310. >While you can't see Twilight's face, you can see the corner of it turn up in what you can only assume is another smug grin
  311. >You finally decide to speak up as you approach the two
  312. "Well not that that wasn't fun but" reacknowledging your presence, and seemingly embarrassed by her display Eris shrinks back into her seat, or at least she tries to "if she’s getting the Discord treatment, then who’s gonna keep an eye on her?"
  313. >Turning to you, Twilight's eyebrows furrow as she ponders your question
  314. >"Well we can't ask Fluttershy, she's got enough draconequus to deal with as it is"
  315. >You faintly hear the scratch of quill on parchment, looking up you see Eris scribbling in one of Twilight's books
  316. >Unsatisfied with her lack of magic, Eris makes due with drawing a crude sketch of Fluttershy and putting a cross over it
  317. >"As for the other girls Pinkie might just encourage her" Hearing this causes Eris to sit up as a grin stretches across her face "so that's another no"
  318. >Disappointed, Eris slumps back and draws a caricature of Pinkie, also with a cross through it
  319. >After listing off the other girls and herself, Twilight comes to the conclusion that none of them would make a good fit as Eris' parole officer
  320. >With each rejection Eris makes a crude sketch and crosses them out
  321. >While Twilight paces back and forth trying to determine how best to approach reforming Eris your attention is once more brought to the draconequus in question
  322. >She waves her talon to get your attention and opens a new page
  323. >All that's written is ‘(You)?’
  324. >You let out a sigh as you put two and two together
  325. >It can't be that bad right
  326. "What about me?"
  327. >Twilight stops her pacing and snaps out of rambling to turn to you "What?"
  328. "I said, what about if I, you know, try and help her reform?"
  329. >Twilight's eyes widen slightly in shock while Eris silently fist pumps in the background
  330. >Slowly processing what you just said, Twilight is barely able to sputter out a response "I mean- I suppose? I don't... know how that would work but, maybe?"
  331. >"Well that settles it then!" With a snap Eris shuts the graffitied book and shoots out of the chair
  332. >With a flap of her mismatched wings she takes to the air and glides out the room "Come on Anon, let's go paint the town red, or maybe lilac?"
  333. >"Hey! Wait" Twilight gallops after Eris "I didn't say yes!" but the draconequus has already long gone
  334. >Groaning, she turns to you "Sorry Anon, can you make sure she doesn't turn Ponyville upside down? I have to make sure the elements are secured" Planting a hoof to her face she lets out a tired sigh "and maybe contact Celestia about this too"
  335. >With a salute you go into a light jog to chase after the chaotic woman
  336. >Despite how maze like the crystal hallways are you're able to find the main doors with relative ease
  337. >You look out over the expanse of Ponyville and see no sign of Eris
  338. "Great, hide and seek" With a tired sigh of your own you begin jogging towards the town square
  339. >As you slowly make your way into Ponyville proper you slow to a walk and begin scanning the streets for the popery of pinched body parts
  340. “Alright, if I were a dracono-whatever Eris is, where would I go?”
  341. >Despite only being a classified as a small town, there was a lot of ground to cover, and with her wings she may not even be on the ground
  342. >You steal a glance up at the sky and notice it’s completely covered by thick white clouds, meaning she could easily be hiding up there too
  343. >Since Spike, who is Twilight’s direct line to Celestia apparently, is out of the castle, you’re gonna be on your own for a while
  344. >Not to mention that once she recovers her magic she could go literally anywhere
  345. “Great, just great” with a sigh you rub your temples as you scan up and down the alleys you pass by
  346. >While you could ask some of the residents for help, you’d rather not start a panic
  347. >If even half of what Twilight told you about him was true then you doubted any of them would have forgotten Discord’s last tirade through Ponyville
  348. >Hearing that a new draconequus, fresh out of an Equestria she had ruled over, had taken up residence would probably not go over well with the ponies
  349. >Besides, they’re already uncertain of you, and telling them all that, plus the fact that you’re the one who’s supposed to keep her in line probably won’t endear you to them
  350. >You can’t blame them for being skeptical of you though
  351. >It hasn’t even been a week since you arrived and Twilight has yet to properly introduce you to any them
  352. >The only real introductions you’ve made are with her friends, and you haven’t had a chance to get to know any of them yet
  353. >There’s also Caramel
  354. >But that wasn’t exactly planned
  355. >He just kind of started talking your ear off one day while you were getting to know the lay of the land
  356. >That stallion had issues and you weren’t interested in any of them
  357. >You do a 180 just to be sure Eris wasn’t hiding behind you
  358. >As you do you’re met with a faceful of paint
  359. >Staggering back you reflexively spit to remove any paint from your mouth
  360. >A melodic chuckle is all you hear as you wipe your eyes
  361. >”Hey buddy, the paint ponies didn’t have lilac, so cyan will have to do”
  362. >You mentaltly ask Twilight to hurry up
  363. “Eris” You bite back your annoyance as you spit out more paint “and here was me thinking we were playing hide and seek”
  364. >”Oh Anonymous, why would I ever hide from you?” As you wipe away the last of the paint you see Eris has bent her body similarly to how you first met, with her tail dangling over her head and the slight tuft of hair at the tip of her tail waving at you
  365. >You also notice she’s hovering
  366. >Without the use of her wings
  367. “I also see you got your magic back”
  368. >You had been hoping to wrangle her back to the castle before her magic returned
  369. >”I know! It’s great right!?” Holding up the can of paint it burst open, releasing a spray of confetti and multiple smaller Eris clones “You know, I actually thought those elements were something worth worrying about for a moment”
  370. >As each clone hits the ground they splatter into a puddle of varied paint colors
  371. >”Well Anon, we’ve got a lot of ground to cover, and I only had enough bits to buy this one can” Eris chucks the can at you
  372. >As it lands in your arms your knees nearly buckle at the weight
  373. >Not wanting a hernia you simply let the can hit the ground before looking back up at Eris
  374. “Wait did you say you bought this?” You dare a glance into the can and you do indeed find ordinary paint
  375. >”Well of course, I’m reforming aren’t I?” With a flash a tacky, cracked, halo appears above her head “The responsible thing to do, is to pay for-”
  376. “You paid with chocolate wrapped in gold foil didn’t you?” Just barely keeping a straight face, Eris nods
  377. >Internally sighing you make a mental note to ask Twilight to pay the paint shop later
  378. As you still struggle to lift the paint can, you wait for Eris’ giggles to subside “So I’m guessing there’s like, infinite paint in here?” Eris simply shakes her head at you, her snow white hair briefly covering her eyes “It refills itself?” another head shake “Then why does it feel like it’s full of concrete?”
  379. >Finally, the can begins to tip
  380. >As it lands on its side, a mass far too big for the can falls out of it
  381. >Your eyes slowly widen as you notice the sputtering and coughing mass has a rainbow mane
  382. >While Eris has doubled over with laughter, you rush over and try to use your shirt as a makeshift rag
  383. >Luckily you manage to get most of the paint out of her eyes while she clears her mouth
  384. >Despite having just been stuffed in a paint can Rainbow gets to her hooves with surprising speed and leaps at Eris, only for the draconequus to simply move slightly up and out of reach
  385. >Rainbow attempts to take to the air but finds her feathers stuck together and made heavy due to excess paint
  386. “Eris, what the hell!?” Finally venting at Eris, she simply responds with more laughter
  387. >”7 colours for the price of one can” Eris just manages to crack out her words through peals of raucous laughter “now that’s what I call a bargain, eh Anon?”
  388. >Eris dangles her tail up and down, goading Rainbow into leaping at her again and again
  389. >”I guess my old man was right” finally removing the halo from her head, a grin spreads across her face “I think I am gonna like it here” with a flick of her wrist the halo sails above your head and off into the distance
  390. >When Rainbow finally manages to latch onto Eris’ cloven hoof, she simply disappears with a flash, leaving Dash lying on the ground while her laugh still echoes up and down the street
  391. >Finally taking notice of you, Rainbow’s head falls, her eyes simply staring at the ground
  392. >Quickly looking up and down the street you spot a nearby well
  393. >Kneeling besides Rainbow you pat her lightly on the back, covering your hand in paint
  394. >Finally pulling her gaze away from the ants in the grass her eyes meet yours
  395. >You give her a small smile as you point to the well with a thumb
  396. >Her only response is a silent nod
  397. >With a trail of cyan hoofprints in the grass and Eris’ laugh still echoing through the street you begin inspecting the well’s winch
  398. >A simple wooden bolt connects the lever to the well’s frame, locking it in place
  399. >Pulling out the bolt you let the lever spin wildly before it halts and a splash of water echos up from the narrow chasm
  400. >You turn the lever back as quickly as you can while Rainbow has simply sat besides the well, embarrassment clear on her face
  401. >Thankfully it’s still early in the morning so most ponies aren’t going to be up and about yet
  402. >Except maybe Applejack, as you recalled from your brief meeting she worked on a farm
  403. >Now with the knowledge that Eris is back to her full chaotic self you feel a greater urge to find her and try and reason with her
  404. >Though you doubt that word is in her dictionary
  405. >As the rope gets shorter and shorter you see Rainbow slightly shaking out of the corner of your eye
  406. >Unhooking the bucket you place in on the ground and realise you don’t have anything to wash her off with
  407. >Other than your shirt that is, but you doubt that would be helpful since it’s already covered in paint
  408. >Seemingly noticing your uncertainty Rainbow lets out a frustrated groan
  409. >”Just dump the water on me for buck’s sake!” you’ve never seen someone’s mood shift so suddenly
  410. >You do as requested and begin to realise she might have been angry instead of dejected
  411. >With the water now soaking her matted fur and mane, Rainbow gives her body a thorough shake, whipping off most of the paint in one go
  412. >She extends her wings to their full span and begins haphazardly preening them to get the majority of the remaining paint off them
  413. >Her irritation with the situation only grows with each passing second, no doubt fueled by Eris’ still echoing laughter
  414. >Whether it was exclusive to this stretch of dirt road or was echoing throughout the town, you were unsure
  415. >Finally satisfied with her wings Rainbow shoots into the sky, leaving a trail of rainbow dust in her wake
  416. >Just below the cloud cover you see her head snapping back and forth, her barrel heaving up and down as she searches for the draconequus
  417. >Most likely with the intent of physically venting her frustration
  418. >You also search as best you can from your grounded perspective for any sign of her
  419. >Mismatched horns, mismatched wings, anything
  420. >But you find nothing
  421. >With her magic back you can’t imagine her being able to resist messing something else up
  422. >Especially after that display
  423. >But no sign of her
  424. >”Hey!” You snap out of your thoughts and crane your head up to the source of the call “Anonymous right?”
  425. >It only takes less than a minute for Rainbow to give up, though it is apparent that she does so reluctantly
  426. >You have to shield your eyes slightly as the sun still manages to shine through the clouds
  427. >With a flap of her wings, she makes her way down to your eye level “Do you know what the buck Discord’s problem is today?”
  428. “Discor-?” Realizing her misunderstanding you’re quick to correct her “Oh. Actually, that was-” You cut yourself off as you notice a few ponies have finally taken to the street
  429. >Some of them have begun crowding around each other speaking in hushed tones as they cover their ears and look for the source of the echo
  430. >You point your head to the side a few times towards a nearby alley and make your way there
  431. >Despite a bit of hesitation Rainbow follows behind you
  432. >Without enough room for her wingspan she lands with a click of her hooves and now only comes up to your waist
  433. >Once you’re sequestered away from prying eyes and ears she speaks up “Ok, seriously, what’s up?”
  434. “What’s up is that, that wasn’t Discord” Sadly the alley was built with ponies in mind, so you have some difficulty turning around to face Rainbow
  435. >”Well that explains the voice at least”
  436. >Finally twisting around fully you see Rainbow zone out briefly when she realizes what she’s at eye-level with before her head snaps up to make eye-contact
  437. >Brushing it off you drop your voice a little to make sure no one else hears
  438. “Yeah, that was Eris. His daughter”
  439. >The word ‘daughter’ hangs in the air for an uncomfortable amount of time as you see Dash’s face shift from anger to confusion, back to anger, then to slight worry and finally contorts in disgust
  440. >“Oh Celestia, I did NOT need that mental image” A shudder runs up the length of her spine “Since when did he get a kid?”
  441. “Dunno, but she only arrived here out of her own Equestria today” Despite the limited room you still crane your neck up to the sky, hoping to see her tail disappearing into a cloud or something
  442. >”Her own? She- wait wha-” Rainbow raises and lowers a hoof while her mouth opens and closes sporadically as she tries to process what you just said “Everytime you answer one of my questions I get like, ten more, dude”
  443. You chuckle slightly “And I haven’t even gotten to the worst bit yet”
  444. >Her face falls slightly at that “Oh Celestia, what is it?”
  445. “Unlike Discord, she isn’t reformed” Her eyes begin twitching at that
  446. >“Yeah! I noticed!” Just barely holding up one of her wings you spot paint still dripping off it
  447. >Slightly embarrassed by her condescending tone you rub the back of your neck
  448. >Noticing your reaction she heaves out a sigh as her head droops
  449. >”Crap, look, I’m sorry for snapping but-” You cut her off mid sentence by holding up a hand
  450. “Don’t worry Rainbow I get it, if I were stuffed in a paint can I’d be pissed too”
  451. >You both share a chuckle at the ridiculousness of the situation
  452. >At least she doesn’t look like she’s going to go into a murderous rage anymore
  453. >A distinct feeling of dread drops in your stomach as you imagine how Eris would react to something like that
  454. >”So, I guess we need the elements to blast her into a glorified lawn gnome? I’ll go tell the others” Her face breaks into an assured grin as she turns to leave the alley
  455. >Quickly placing a hand on her back you just manage to stop her before she takes off
  456. “Not quite, or at least, not yet”
  457. >Scoffing slightly she turns her head to you “What do you mean not yet?” She shakes her body in an attempt to get your hand off her back “A crazy chaos causing she-goat is out there, doing who knows what.” Her wings flap slightly in a poor attempt to free herself, only hitting the surrounding walls “Last time Discord was around he turned Ponyville on its head in a minute”
  458. “But they might not be enough now” This seems to finally get her attention
  459. >Wrenching herself away from you, she gets out of the alley and begins hovering in the air “Like tartarus, why wouldn’t they be!”
  460. “Well she got hold of them earli-” You begin before being cut off
  461. >”She got hold of the elements of harmony!” Rainbow’s eyes have nearly widened to the size of dinner plates
  462. “It’s fine, Twilight has them back now” You hold up a hand to try and get her to quiet down again “Look, the bottom line is, touching them drained her magic or something, so she’s not gonna be caught off guard by them.”
  463. >Rainbow’s face twists in anger and uncertainty before landing with another click
  464. >”Buck this” Muttering under her breath she begins pacing back and forth
  465. >Maybe Twilight’s habits are rubbing off on her
  466. >”If the elements don’t work then what the hay are we supposed to do?!”
  467. >With the echo of Eris still loud and clear the street has emptied once more
  468. >You spot a few ponies on either end guiding others away from the thoroughfare, and a few dozen others heading straight for Twilight’s castle
  469. >This could not be going worse
  470. “It’s not that they don’t work it’s just-” Heaving a sigh of your own you mutter a few choice words under your breath
  471. “Look, right now I’m just trying to find her, but since she could be anywhere I could use a pair of eyes in the sky”
  472. >You let the words hang in the air for a moment as Rainbow realizes what you mean
  473. >“I’ll see what I can find, but it’ll be difficult since the clouds aren’t scheduled to be cleared ‘til later, so I won’t be able to get a great view” Rainbow brings a hoof to her chin as she mulls over her options “I’m also guessing you want this kept quiet?”
  474. “Well” You shift your eyes back and forth across the echoing street “As quiet as possible. Let’s just try and make sure a panic doesn’t break out”
  475. >”Right” With a nod she spreads her wings out once more
  476. “And Rainbow” Turning to you once more you give her a nod “Be careful?”
  477. >”Tsk. Colts. Always worrying over nothing” With a self-assured grin she straightens out “I’m gonna go get Fluttershy too, maybe she can help”
  478. >With a faint rainbow trail behind her, she shoots off to the other side of town
  479. >Renewing your own search, you begin making your way up the street
  480. >And immediately go back down the alley when you spot Caramel
  481. >You really didn’t need to hear about Aloe and Lotus messing up his hooficure again
  482. >As you go deeper into the alley you notice Eris’ laugh begin to fade
  483. >Good, it was giving you a headache
  484. >Coming out the other end brings you to an area where an intricately carved stone fountain sits in the centre
  485. >At the top of the fountain stands three statues, one representing each pony race, and each spewing out a constant stream of water
  486. >Briefly recalling your rather rushed tour of the town, you remember Twilight calling it Ponyville Square, the centre of the town
  487. >At least it’ll make a good point to backtrack to if you get lost
  488. >With at least a dozen streets branching out from you, and no further sign of Eris you take a seat on the fountain’s edge as you flick your eyes across the streets, trying to choose where to start
  489. >Before you’re able to get your thoughts straight a hefty weight crashes into the back of your head
  490. >Quickly bracing yourself you manage to keep your face from meeting the ground
  491. >Sitting up straight you bring your hands around and grab hold of whatever hit your head
  492. >As you pull it around to your front you come face to face with a foal
  493. >With a white coat and brown mane the infant simply stares at you gormlessly, curious about what you are
  494. >”Pound!” You whip your head around and see a pink blur barreling towards you
  495. >Despite her speed, Pinkie comes to a grinding halt, stopping just short of your face
  496. >You hold up the foal, Pound, to her and she carefully takes him in her hooves
  497. >”Whoa, thanks Anon, Pumpkin distracted me and then Pound got out of the play-pen and then Pumpkin magiced the door open and then Pound flew out and he’s pretty fast for his age and” With a deep gasp Pinkie practically inhales a metric ton of air “and, thanks”
  498. >You chuckle slightly at the pink mare and wave her off
  499. “Don’t worry about it Pinkie, it’s fine”
  500. >”You know, normally his little wings are constantly abuzz, but he kind of calmed down with you. Stallion’s touch I guess.” Her beaming smile and soft tone makes you feel a little pride
  501. >Though you doubt you actually calmed him down, it’s more likely he was just weirded out by you
  502. >But you keep that to yourself
  503. >”So what brings you here?” As Pound and another yellow and orange foal, most likely Pumpkin, crawl over her body she occasionally grabs one of them and puts them back on her back
  504. “Well I’m uh-” You notice a significant amount of ponies making their way through the square
  505. >Not only is it probably the main thoroughfare, but some of them were probably taking a detour around the echoing street
  506. >Still trying to avoid a panic you decide to skirt the topic as best as possible
  507. “I’m looking for someone”
  508. >With a wistful sigh Pinkie grins slightly “Aren’t we all?”
  509. >You put your head in your hand and chuckle slightly at Pinkie’s naive response
  510. “No Pinkie, I know who she is I’m just literally looking for her” Weirdly you can almost see through Pinkie’s eyes as something clicks in her mind
  511. >”Oooooh I get it” She slightly nudges your arm with a hoof before correcting Pumpkin’s position for the tenth time “So who’s the lucky mare?”
  512. “What?” You raise a confused eyebrow at the pink mare
  513. >”Oh come on, I can throw the two of you a get-together party. What kind of cake does she like?”
  514. >Your hair is threatening to annex your eyebrow with how close it's getting to the border of your forehead
  515. >”Hey don’t worry, there’s no need to be embarrassed, some mare just like… how would Rarity put it?” With a quick headbang Pinkie’s hair curls into a more elegant style while she takes on a posh accent “Exotic stallions”
  516. >Finally realizing her misunderstanding you plant your face in both hands with an exasperated groan
  517. “Look is-” Noticing some of the ponies have half-turned their attention to the two of you, you decide to move your conversation “-is there somewhere else we can talk about it”
  518. >”Awww, you colts are so cute when you’re bashful, come on, we can go to Sugarcube Corner” With a spring in her step, Pinkie bounces off down one of the streets
  519. >”Mr and Mrs Cake are out today so I needed to shut the store anyway” As her legs compress like rubber she slowly makes her way down the street
  520. >Silently, you give one more glance around the Square for any sign of Eris
  521. >Nothing, again
  522. >Getting to your feet you jog to catch up with Pinkie
  523. >As you get closer you notice the twin foals bouncing along with the pink mare
  524. >Pound however is slipping towards the edge of her back
  525. >Quickly leaning down you hold your arms out for him to fall into just as he spreads out his wings
  526. >Noticing that he isn’t falling anymore he puts his wings back to his sides
  527. >Pumpkin shoots a curious glance between you and her brother
  528. >Not wanting to separate the two, you simply put Pound back on Pinkie’s back
  529. >Almost immediately after your hand leaves him he spreads his wings and flaps back to you
  530. >Thrown off guard by his weight bumping into your chest you simply cradle him in your arms awkwardly, not entirely what to do with him
  531. >”See Anon? Stallion’s touch” Pinkie says, without even seeing what happened
  532. “How did you-” Just as you voice your curiosity she cuts in
  533. >”My Pinkie sense silly, my left forehoof was itchy” Despite only using three hooves, she maintain her balance perfectly
  534. >While you want to question her you decide not to give yourself another headache
  535. >You and Pinkie begin heading up an incline towards the town bakery
  536. >Just in view is the very top of the bakery, a dome decorated like a cupcake
  537. >As you reach the crest of the hill you see the rest of the bakery, the exterior decorated to take on the appearance of multiple treats
  538. >You almost wish you were staying here, at least you didn’t get blinded when the sun bounced off this building
  539. >But you understand Twilight’s reasoning, her castle is a little bit away from town
  540. >It gives you some distance from prying eyes, which is a very welcome perk
  541. >Pinkie slows her pace as she takes control of the outstretched bit of mane that hangs over her face like a prehensile limb and digs into the main part of her mane with it
  542. >A bag of sugar, a half eaten muffin, Eris’ earlier halo
  543. >Your eyes widen when you spot that
  544. >Before Pinkie’s able to inspect it, it comes to life and shoots off into the distance again
  545. >Whipping around you try to spot Eris, but still nothing
  546. >The lack of her presence is actually starting to make you feel more anxious than when she was around
  547. >Simply shrugging off the living halo, Pinkie begins digging through her mane again
  548. >With a satisfied hmph she pulls out a small metal key
  549. >As you make the final approach to the bakery you spot a small purple dragon running over to the two of you
  550. >You and Spike exchange waves as Pinkie rubs the top of his head affectionately
  551. >”Hiya Spike, whatcha doing?”
  552. >”I’ve been looking for you, actually”
  553. >While he couldn’t match you or Pinkie’s stride, Spike kept beside you two as you finally got to Sugarcube Corner’s door
  554. >”We’re out of syrup at the castle, and the usual stall at the market isn’t due a shipment for the next two days”
  555. >You stop and wonder if he had really spent all the time that he was out of the castle looking for syrup, simply on the chance that you or Twilight might want some with your breakfast
  556. >Briefly removing an arm from cradling Pound you copy Pinkie’s show of affection and rub the top of his head
  557. >While he shrinks slightly under the pressure of your hand he makes no attempt to escape it either
  558. “You’re grade A Spike, you know that?”
  559. >The dragon simply smiles up at you, pride beaming from his grin
  560. >With a click the door opens and the three of you enter the bakery
  561. >As you cross the threshold, a dozen different scents flood your nostrils, each one sweeter than the last
  562. >Though closed, the store shows signs of vibrant life
  563. >The floorboards are worn from the countless hooves that have wandered through the shop
  564. >The glass of the display cases shine with polish, save for the deep stains of where foals have left prints of the hooves and faces they pressed against the glass
  565. >The serene calm of the bakery is finally broken by claws gently scratching against the wood, hooves rapidly clicking as Pinkie quickens to a trot behind the counter, and your own heavy footfalls
  566. >You breathe deeply, taking in the confectionary filled air and allow yourself a moment to relax
  567. >From in here you could almost forget that Eris was causing havoc around Ponyville
  568. >Images of her invade your mind
  569. >Though as you recall what she did to Rainbow your face hardens slightly
  570. >If something like that brought her joy then you doubted anypony would be off the table for her magic
  571. >Seemingly sensing your shift in mood Pound taps on your chest
  572. >Looking down to the small foal, he leaps out of your arms as his wings buzz to life
  573. >You take a small step back as his body flails back and forth, his hindlegs threatening to hit you in the neck as his lack of muscle control causes them to swing wildly
  574. >Pound haphazardly manoeuvers himself through the air, towards a corner of the shop, separated from the customer tables by a knee high plastic fence
  575. >With a slight thud, Pound lands and his wings click to back to his sides
  576. >His head twists to look back at you as he waves both of his hooves while bouncing to the best of his ability
  577. >You chuckle softly to yourself at the display and make your way over to where Pound sat
  578. >Clicking open the play pen’s gate you sit cross-legged in front of Pound, several toys, as bright and pastel as the ponies who made them lay strewn on the floor
  579. >With you finally present, Pound grabs hold of some coloured blocks and begins stacking them haphazardly
  580. >When the shoddy structure is complete Pound leans his body back, before throwing his infantile weight against it, sending the blocks scattering across the floor
  581. >Briefly looking at the destruction he had wrought, Pound’s gaze shift between the blocks to you and then back and forth
  582. >Taking the hint, you take hold of a block yourself and realise just how small it actually is
  583. >These blocks are barely the size of an average ponies frog, and are even smaller in your hands
  584. >Taking the block between your thumb and index finger you place it in front of Pound and begin grabbing each scattered block and stacking them atop one another
  585. >Being much bigger than Pound, you’re able to stack the blocks in a single column without toppling them, much to Pound’s amazement
  586. >With a click, the last block settles atop the tower, still barely reaching your chest
  587. >Glee clear on his face Pound leans his body back
  588. >You recognize the tell and hold a hand up
  589. >This stops Pound from destroying the tower, much to his confusion
  590. >You retract your palm and hold up just a single finger and grab another wooden block
  591. >Unlike the coloured blocks you had been just using, this one had a curved underside, taking on a shape similar to a bridge
  592. >These particular blocks are clearly intended to be built up to loosely resemble actual buildings
  593. >Block in hand you stack it atop the coloured block
  594. >Seeing this Pound’s eyes widen significantly, as if you had just told him the secrets of the universe
  595. >Eager for more, Pound begins grabbing the other blocks himself and slides them towards you
  596. >Your heart tightens slightly at the sight
  597. >Pony or not, an adorable baby brings a grin to your face
  598. >Finally stacking the last of the wooden blocks it has now reached your chin in height
  599. >As you and Pound admire the architectural marvel you wave a hand dismissively at it
  600. >Understanding your meaning Pound leans his body back far enough that you expect him to lose balance
  601. >However he manages to lean back at the perfect angle to bring his body back for a mightier swing than before
  602. >His body meets the blocks and sends the foundation flying, causing the top to lean inward
  603. >With an arm held above Pound’s head the wooden blocks bounce harmlessly off you as Pound lets out a cacophony of mirth-filled laughter through the hail of wood and colours
  604. >Some small part of you begins whispering in the back of your head
  605. >It urges you to simply stay here, to leave Eris to burn herself out in Ponyville
  606. >It’s not as if the Elements of Harmony won’t work on her
  607. >The girls would simply have to be clever about their use
  608. >They might not even be needed, Discord could simply be made to fix his daughter’s mess
  609. <'I said, what about if I, you know, try and help her reform?'
  610. >Your own words echo through your mind and cut off your doubts
  611. >Why had you gone along with Eris’ suggestion anyway
  612. >Why had she even made the suggestion in the first place
  613. >For a moment you consider the possibility that she was using you
  614. >You, the lone human in this world, without any sort of magic to his name, no flight, and no freakish strength
  615. >If there were a creature that a being of chaos could more easily dismiss than you, you were having trouble thinking of one
  616. >But then your mind flashes back again to your brief meetings
  617. >There were instances of her acting strange, even considering her nature
  618. >There was a reason she suggested you, a reason you agreed and a reason that Twilight didn’t outright dismiss the offer
  619. >And you intended to discover the answers
  620. >You sweep up the scattered blocks and pile them in front of Pound again before rubbing his mane and standing to your feet
  621. >With an incoherent babble he flails his hoof in your direction
  622. >Pumpkin crawls under your legs to join her brother as you click the playpen shut
  623. >With renewed determination you approach Pinkie and Spike, recounting whatever had occurred since their last meeting
  624. >Noticing your presence, as well as your change in posture they shoot you curious glances
  625. >”Hey Anon, something the matter?”
  626. >Pulling out a chair of your own you seat yourself between the two and shoot a glance at both of them
  627. “Spike, Twilight needs you at the castle asap, she can fill you in”
  628. >”Ar- are you sure? What’s going on?”
  629. >In an attempt to reassure the dragon you place a hand on his shoulder
  630. “It’s under control” a small white lie “but Twilight needs you, so I can’t be wasting your time trying to explain everything here”
  631. >Clearly wanting to argue Spike opens his mouth though he shuts it just as quick, with a nod to you and Pinkie he hops off his chair, a few bottles of syrup in his arms as he goes
  632. >The jingle of the front door’s bell rings through the bakery as you turn to Pinkie Pie
  633. >Her lips have narrowed into a straight line and her eyes are fully focused
  634. >You decide to simply rip off the proverbial band-aid
  635. “Discord came by today and introduced us to his daughter”
  636. >Pinkie’s jaw begins dropping as an all too familiar voice cuts through the air
  637. >”Are my ears burnin- wait. Dad did this bit already”
  638. >You twist in your seat and spot Eris hovering over the playpen
  639. >With a snap of her talon Pumpkin’s horn and Pound’s wings to begin rotating, startling the foals
  640. >As Pound rises through the air he squirms as best as he can in a vain attempt to get his wings to work properly
  641. >His wings chop through the air like helicopter blades until they finally stop dropping him inbetween Eris’ horns
  642. >You hear Pinkie gasp at the sight but you hold up a hand, hoping Pinkie doesn’t worsen the situation by giving Eris a reaction
  643. >Your fingers dig into the varnished wood and scrape slightly as you see Pumpkin attempt to lean back as her horn gravitate towards the ground, before cracking it open like a drill head and digging deep
  644. >You breathe a sigh of relief as Pumpkin re-emerges from the ground almost as soon as she had disappeared, only for Eris to wrap her up in her tail
  645. >Before you’re able to do anything though Pinkie bounds over to Eris
  646. >”Oh my gosh, I can't believe Discord has a daughter!” Basking in Pinkie's attention Eris flips her hair slightly as a spotlight appears and highlights her face
  647. >“I have to throw him a 'You have a daughter' party and I have to throw you-” Poking at Eris' tail Pinkie swipes Pumpkin out of the slowly coiling appendage and puts her on a nearby table “-a 'Welcome to Ponyville' party. OH!”
  648. >Pinkie compresses herself against the ground, seemingly disappearing for a moment before springing back up just behind you “I could throw a double 'Welcome to Ponyville' party-” interrupting herself Pinkie suddenly gasps as her eyes widen
  649. >Pointing to you, a grin spreads over her face “So this is the mare you were looking for Anon, I'm surprised it took you so long, she’s not exactly easy to miss”
  650. >”I disagree my dear 3.1415 pony” Eris has started giggling while donning a white and red striped sweater, beanie and thick rimmed glasses “I was the master of hide and seek back home, although-” the clothes phase through Eris as she pulls them off, leaving them perfectly intact as she drops them on top of Pinkie “being able to teleport probably helped”
  651. >“I suspect I'll be the talk of the town before long but” letting the word roll she leans down slightly and begins hovering towards the main counter “what has Anon been saying about me?” Twirling one of her white locks with a talon she shoots a sideways glance at you “Only good things I hope”
  652. >The usually silver colour of her head fur has taken on a light dusting of pink blush
  653. “Well Eris, you've only shown me good things since you got here” Your eyes narrow slightly at her, causing her smirk to only grow
  654. >As she passes by, your eyes flick between her gaze and Pound, who’s still confused as to what's going on
  655. >You shoot a hopeful glance at Pinkie, but she’s busy calming down Pumpkin, who’s still coughing up dust from her brief drilling expedition
  656. >With Eris still idly twirling her hair you spring forward and cut her off mid-hover
  657. >Spotting you she stops hovering forward, causing all her body to compress towards her head as the sound of rubber wheels squealing against pavement echoes through the shop
  658. >The sudden high-pitched shriek has Pinkie and the twins covering their ears while Eris simply lets her body flow back out while her eyes rapidly shoot to look at everything but you
  659. >”I- I believe I had right of way Anon”
  660. >Briefly you realise that this is the first time you’ve seen her up close
  661. >From afar her eyes appeared to have a sickly yellow sclera and pupils mismatched in size
  662. >Upon closer inspection you’d say her sclera are closer to gold
  663. >Her pupils meanwhile are like looking into a red kaleidoscope, the patterns within writhing and twisting
  664. >With no real way to reach Pound yet you decide to just try and keep her talking
  665. “You know Eris” Your voice finally snaps her out of her rapid eye shifting as they finally settle on you, causing the pink dusting on her cheeks to brighten
  666. “With how much you pop in and out we may have to put a bell on you”
  667. >The red of Eris’ tail shoots up her entire body and explodes into a plume of smoke as it reaches her horn
  668. >The hot air is enough to lift Pound off her and towards you
  669. >As his body collides with you, you dip your body back, allowing the momentum of his fall to peter out
  670. >Some part of you wishes you could trust Eris, but with her plans still being an unknown you feel a lot more secure with having the foals away from her
  671. >Though ultimately, you’re well aware that she could undo any action you take with a snap of her talon or paw
  672. >You return Pound to Pinkie and approach Eris once more
  673. >She’s still a stuttering red mess, but at least she’s staying in one place
  674. >Hopefully you can have a proper conversation with her now
  675. >Before you’re able to get a word out though a clone of Eris appears behind you
  676. >”Hold on, I can fix her” As the Eris clone approaches the original, she grabs her by her shoulders and begins shaking her vigorously “Snap out of it!” Raising her paw she slaps Eris across the face twice
  677. >The second slap causes Eris’ head to unscrew like a lightbulb
  678. >It extends at least an extra foot before detaching and a howl like a boiling kettle rings out as a column of thick steam pours out of her neck
  679. >With a talon on one hip the Eris clone shoots you a smirk before heading back to you
  680. >”My bill” She holds out a slip of paper which you hesitantly take
  681. >Flipping the page back and forth you see no writing on it at all
  682. >You look around for the Eris clone only to realise she’s already vanished
  683. >Meanwhile, the original is finally running out of steam, literally
  684. >With a final puff, Eris’ natural colour returns as she screws her head back on
  685. >”Wew!” Slightly out of breath, Eris shakes a single talon from her claw at you “I knew I had a good feeling about you Anonymous” Pulling at the point where her silver fur meets her body she pulls it out like a shirt collar
  686. >”Now Pinkie” Having finally calmed the foals and corralled them back to the pen, Pinkie turns to Eris “I believe you mentioned a party?”
  687. >Pinkie’s mood brightens at the mention of a party, but you notice her eyes stay trained on Eris “Absolutely! We’ve got a lot to plan so where should we start?”
  688. >Trotting up to the counter she leaps atop the case and looks between you two, front half down and tail wagging like a pink puppy
  689. >”I know it’s ‘stallions first’ but if I may be so bold, I think we’re going to need a lot of cake, let’s say” rolling her paw, Eris looks around the bakery “everything you’ve got?”
  690. >Snapping her paw, a potato sack full of gold coins lands with a heavy thud
  691. >Pinkie’s eyes widen slightly at the sack of money but she quickly recomposes herself
  692. >Leaning towards the bag, Pinkie gives it a small sniff before flipping one of the coins up with her nose and letting it fall between her teeth
  693. >With several clicks the coin stays unbent
  694. >Satisfied, Pinkie spits out the coin, letting it clatter back into the sack as she begins rushing around the shop in a pink blur
  695. “So no chocolate coins this time?” You raise an eyebrow at Eris as she chuckles at the recent memory
  696. >”Yes well, after me, you and Rainbow got done painting” you let out a small huff through your nose at that “I decided to take your words to heart, so I popped back home briefly to grab my allowance”
  697. “By back home, do you mean-”
  698. >”My old stomping ground! Yes, indeed” Grabbing one of the bits she holds it up to you
  699. >Where normally you’d see your own reflection you see the copy of Ponyville you had briefly been shown on Twilight’s castle wall
  700. >Not even half the buildings of the Ponyville you’re in are there, and the ponies wander around, constantly throwing nervous glances in every direction
  701. >”Ah, memories” Clutching the coin to her chest, Eris lets out a content sigh, a look of nostalgia crossing over her face
  702. >”Do try and make my memories here worthwhile, eh Anon?” Leaning slightly towards you she raises her eyebrows up and down as she flicks the coin back into the bag
  703. >You push her away from you slightly, causing her eyebrows to stop and a mark in the shape of your hand to appear on her neck
  704. >Another dusting of pink crosses her face as she wipes at the point you made contact
  705. >”Okie dokie loki Eris, here’s ‘everything we’ve got’ as ordered”
  706. >It was surprising to see just how many boxes were needed for all the cakes in such a small shop
  707. >Several Eris’ split off from the original, each wearing thick gloves, goggles and a hard hat
  708. >Two of them fight over operating a miniature forklift as they cart away box after box
  709. >Another two stack them high and phase into a nearby wall
  710. >The last Eris grabs hold of the last of the tightly packed, ribbon-wrapped, multi-coloured boxes
  711. >With a growl the box comes to life and engulfs Eris and then engulfs itself, causing it to fold into itself until it disappears
  712. >”Phew” Wiping her brow, Pinkie beams at you “She doesn’t seem to be any worse than Discord at least. Oh drat” Her face falls slightly “I should have asked her to make some chocolate rain, no wait marshmallow hail, no wait marzipan snow!”
  713. >Despite what you’ve seen so far, you can’t help but agree with Pinkie
  714. >Other than covering Rainbow in paint and Pumpkin in dirt, she hasn’t really hurt anypony
  715. >But you’re lack of progress still leaves you anxious
  716. >You’re supposed to be trying to reform her, but she scampers off as soon as you start talking
  717. >Hopefully Spike has gotten back to Twilight by now
  718. >With no real plan you decide to just try and find her again on foot
  719. >Before you step over the threshold of Sugarcube Corner again you turn back to the pink purveyor of pastry
  720. “Hey Pinkie” She turns her head to you as she idly entertains the twin, since the store is now emptier than when you entered “Are the Cakes still in Ponyville?”
  721. >She opens her mouth to respond but is quickly silenced when Pound latches onto her face with a flap of his diminutive wings
  722. >With a foal latched onto her face she simply nods in response
  723. “You should probably take those two back to them then, Twilight might need you too”
  724. >With a salute, Pinkie scoops Pumpkin up in her hooves and swats at one of the nearby tables, causing it to spin
  725. >You hear a heavy clunk just before a trap door opens under Pinkie which she and the twins disappear into
  726. >Shaking your head at the sight you make your way back out onto the Ponyville street
  727. >Just as you begin heading down the dirt hill again you hear a thundering creak behind you
  728. >Turning around you spot Eris, once again she has grown in size, to the point that both sides of her body hang over the edges of Sugarcube Corner’s lower roof
  729. >She takes a hold of the cupcake sized dome at the top and takes a bite
  730. >You expected it to have taken on the texture of actual cake but instead you’re showered with wood splinters
  731. >With a swing of her tail, it extends and sticks into the ground beside you and Eris rapidly pulls herself towards you
  732. >As the tail retracts Eris slowly begins shrinking again
  733. >By the time she’s landed besides you, she’s returned to her natural size while the dome has shrunk alongside her
  734. >You look into the now demolished dome and see what looks like a bedroom on the inside, or half of one, with several miniature Eris’ having a party in the ruins
  735. >Before you’re able to comment she holds up a talon to silence you
  736. >She slowly hovers behind you while her talon stays in place
  737. >You shoot a glance between her and the talon, only to see it now much closer to your face
  738. >The talon flattens out into a palm and raises to just below your eye level
  739. >Briefly you go cross-eyed as you stare at the slowly rising appendage
  740. >When it stops your eyes snap forward and from your perspective it seems like the talon is holding Sugarcube Corner
  741. >”I did say I wanted everything they had” With a deeper chuckle then usual Eris reattaches her talon and begins lifting it
  742. >And Sugarcube Corner lifts with it
  743. >As the foundation of the building is ripped out you feel a slight shift under your feet and take a step back to steady yourself
  744. >Spinning around to face Eris you see her holding a much smaller version of Sugarcube Corner in her talon
  745. “Eris you can’t just-” You try to object but Eris is quick to interject
  746. >”Oh my dear Anonymous” Pulling at her golden brown fur, it once again pops open like a shirt collar
  747. >With both her limbs full, her dragon leg detaches and walks up her body and reaches into the pocket
  748. >The claw pulls out another box, which Eris happily dumps the Sugarcube Corner into it
  749. >”You don’t need to worry about can and can’t anymore, now that we’re friends, I’m happy to show you the time of your life!” With a smile that literally splits her face in two and a wink she once again folds into herself and disappears
  750. >It was getting harder and harder to gauge Eris with each encounter
  751. >Was that ominous sarcasm or was she being genuine
  752. >These thoughts and countless other swarm your mind as you begin jogging through Ponyville
  753. >With no way to tell where she was going you decide to head back to the square
  754. >At least, you try to
  755. >When the fountain comes into view you pick up the pace of your jog but find yourself getting further from it
  756. >Your first mistake was stopping
  757. >Despite you no longer being in motion you are hurled backwards as the ground is pulled out from under you
  758. >Then that damned laugh invades your ears again
  759. >As you shake off the dirt from your jacket you look down to see a dirt road treadmill has appeared where once was solid ground
  760. >Meanwhile in front of you, two Eris’ holding up a lifesize portrait of the fountain, moving back in sync to give the illusion you just witnessed
  761. >Again you’re reminded that, while her actions have been wildly unpredictable, at least no one’s gotten seriously hurt
  762. >You allow yourself a moment to relax when that thought crosses your mind, and you can’t help but crack a smile at Eris
  763. >If you can convince her to restore Sugarcube Corner, this might not be too bad
  764. >Your second mistake was thinking she’d stick around
  765. >You’re briefly blinded by the flash of a camera as Eris once more giggles at you before she’s gone in a flash of her own
  766. >The portrait of the fountain drops and catches in the still in-motion tread, sticking to it like glue and bending like rubber
  767. >Moving around the treadmill you approach the fountain and notice a distinct orange glow and a visceral heat
  768. >You have to keep a sizeable distance from the fountain as you nearly retch at the overbearing stench of sulfur
  769. >Inside the fountain, the water has been replaced with lava
  770. >Luckily the stone stays intact
  771. >You also see some ponies enjoying the new addition
  772. >Three stone ponies to be precise
  773. >The blank white eyes of each statue turns to you as you slowly pace back and forth in front of the fountain
  774. >They each share a glance between each other before the pegasus raises one of its wings from the depth of the magma
  775. >With a flick the pegasus sends a bout of lava at you
  776. >For a brief moment, you ponder if this is how you die
  777. >You’re not given long to ponder however as the lava hits your arm before you blink
  778. >You tense up your entire body in anticipation of the pain, but nothing comes
  779. >Inspecting the lava further you confirm that it does give off an intense heat, but not enough to burn
  780. >Unfortunately the sulfuric smell is still very pungent
  781. >It has the texture of a viscous gel and slides off of your arm with ease, leaving no stain except for a slight pink tint from the heat
  782. >Briefly shooting a glance at the fountain ponies you quickly move on after they shoot a wink back at you
  783. >”Hey Anonymous”
  784. >Backpedalling into the previous street, your turn to see a now paintless Rainbow Dash has finally gotten back with Fluttershy
  785. >And they’ve got a very disgruntled cowboy pony in tow
  786. >”What the hay is taking Twilight so long? This town is getting worse by the second!” Rainbow points at the lava fountain to emphasize her point
  787. “It… looks worse than it seems?”
  788. >While not entirely false, you expect the three of them will find no credence in your words
  789. >”Don’t matter much how bad it is, it’s still bad” Applejack scuffs her hoof against the dirt as she dismisses your words “Ya ask me, ah’m in the right mind to buck that smug grin right offa this ‘Eris’ gals muzzle”
  790. >Applejack is undoubtedly used to being dirty and worn out but even you can tell she’s been pushed to her limit
  791. >The entirety of her forelegs, barrel and the bottom of her mane has been steeped in dirt, the crisp orange of her coat's natural colour is barely peaking through the brown
  792. >The rest of her coat has been matted with sweat and what you can only assume is apple juice
  793. >The only part of her left untouched is her stetson hat, still as pristine as when you last saw it
  794. “So how bad is the rest of the town exactly?”
  795. >You hope that Eris hasn’t just been going easy on the areas of town you’ve been through
  796. >”Ah reckon it’d take me an hour to list everything but here’s a start: she turned all the paths in mah orchard to rocky road. Oh she found that pun real funny. So funny she felt the need to tell me about it three times.”
  797. >Applejack’s face hardens as she talks, eventually talking through clenched teeth
  798. >With a distinctly horse-like whinny she shakes her head and takes a deep sigh
  799. >”Why in tarnation couldn’t Discord ’ve just kept her in his house, or just not bring her here in the first place?”
  800. >As Applejack’s temper begins to flare again, Fluttershy places a hoof on her withers
  801. >”I’m sure he just didn’t expect this kind of reaction from her Applejack, I’m sure if we talk to him, he’ll understand”
  802. >It’s clear to you that neither Rainbow or Applejack share her optimism
  803. >Quite frankly neither do you
  804. >You are certain that, if anyone could get Discord to stop Eris, it would be Fluttershy
  805. >But your concern comes from whether or not he actually could stop her
  806. >From what you’ve seen, she could probably match him if she needed to
  807. >That wasn’t a pleasant thought
  808. >”Ok Shy, sure, but first we kind of need to know where he is”
  809. >Fluttershy shrinks back slightly at Rainbow’s words
  810. “Well unless he’s been running around with a wig, the only draconequus I’ve seen for the last hour or so is Eris”
  811. >”As I recall, I’m currently walking Cadence through my plan to broker a peace with the Changelings through the use of: some rope, half a barrel of cheese, and a talking ferret”
  812. >There was neither the flash or pop that you’ve become used to, but all the same Discord has appeared beside the four of you
  813. >”Discord!” The low volume of Fluttershy’s voice betrays the enthusiasm of her words as she goes to hug Discord
  814. >Just as she reaches his torso however, Fluttershy phases completely through him, temporarily replacing Applejack’s anger with confusion
  815. >”Augh, Discord, now ain’t the right time fer your antics, be a Celestia darned father and fix your daughter’s mess”
  816. >”Mess!” Discord places a talon against his chest in mock offense “I have a keen eye for interior decoration and if you ask me, she’s done a swell job of sprucing the place up”
  817. >Whipping out a camera of his own, he begins rapidly flashing pictures “This place hasn’t looked this good since that whole vine incident”
  818. >With each flash of the camera, chunks of the chaotic town disappear
  819. >As the old camera prints out the photos he gives each one a light blow, restoring the briefly vanished parts of the town, still as chaotic as before
  820. >”Oh, these are definitely going in the book” Once more he takes out the blank black book from before and places the photos within
  821. >Snapping the book shut, Discord disperses both it and the camera
  822. >”You can scrap book with your colt group later Discord” This time it’s Rainbow who phases through Discord
  823. >Groaning at the chaotic goat, Dash simply settles for getting as close to his face without phasing through it
  824. >”The town is a mess, you brought her here, you fix this!”
  825. >”Oh my dear Rainbow, I would if I could, but I can’t. Luckily I can, and I will in about.... Oh-” Whipping out a melted clock Discord eyes the illegible time “-ten minutes? Give or take”
  826. “Wait so are you, or are you not gonna fix this?”
  827. >If you didn’t know any better you’d say that Discord looks disappointed in you
  828. >”Oh Anonymous my boy, I had hoped that you at least would get it, after all you were the one who- well, you’ll figure it out”
  829. >Again, no flash, but Discord has donned a white professor’s coat, with several complex equations and childish doodles littering it
  830. >”I’m not really here, here, as you might have noticed” To emphasize his point he puts his arm through his body and wraps it back around so it pokes out of his face “I’m just a delivery boy, your me is currently enjoying a wonderful conversation with Cadence”
  831. >Despite the girl’s looking completely lost you’re just managing to follow the nonsense he’s trying to explain
  832. >”I think right now I’ve shifted to my talk of matchmaking, oh the wonderful relationship ideas I had” Swooning slightly he puts his phased arm against his forehead as it snaps back to normal “Personally I think it’s going swell, even in hindsight she really was just being a killjoy”
  833. >”Anywho, after that little… spat I’ll end up here, then after some strong-arming, your truly appears here”
  834. >You and the girls each share a look of complete confusion, Rainbow’s muzzle twitching as she tries to think of what to say and Fluttershy looking like she’s repeating Discord’s words in her head to try and understand them
  835. “That was… great? Discord” You finally break the silence and Discord gives a small bow as his coat slips off
  836. “But could you repeat that in English?”
  837. >”But could you repeat that in Ponish?”
  838. >You and Applejack look at each other as you talk over each other
  839. “I mean Ponish”
  840. >”Ah mean English”
  841. >Once more you and Applejack stare at each other
  842. >Applejack chuckles as the two of you stumble over each other and you can’t help but find it infectious
  843. >Discord simply rolls his eyes at the two of you, quite literally as they click against the ground like dice
  844. >”Honestly, I can’t wrap my head around living through a linear timeline like you lot, it sounds dreadfully boring”
  845. >When the eyes settle, Discord pull a small umbrella out from his back and grabs Applejack’s hat, much to her chagrin
  846. >”Like I said, I’m just a delivery boy” Slipping the yellow umbrella into Applejack’s hat it disappears completely into the stetson as he throws it to land perfectly back on Applejack’s hat “See you all in a few minutes”
  847. >Without any of the usual flash or panache he simply begins fading into nothing
  848. >Thoroughly confused by that, you and the girls simply stand there, while Applejack paws at the inside of her hat looking for the intruding umbrella
  849. >”Girls, Anonymous!” A new call finally snaps you all out of your thoughts
  850. >Looking up, you see Twilight flying down to the three of you and Pinkie bounding across the ground not too far from you
  851. >As the pink blur and purple alicorn finally reach your group the girls exchange hugs
  852. >Seeing the state of Applejack, Twilight ignites her horn
  853. >As her horn glows a deeper purple the magic envelops Applejack’s body, causing the dirt and grime to slowly wash out of her coat, returning it to its usual hue
  854. >With the pleasantries done Twilight looks around the group but pauses
  855. >”Where’s Rarity?”
  856. >”We were just planning on grabbing her now, ‘til we ran into Anonymous here, and then Discord” Applejack’s tone drops at the mention of Discord
  857. >”Hold on, I should be able to…”
  858. >Twilight’s face begins twisting in concentration as her horn ignites once more
  859. >With a flash of purple, Rarity appears in the middle of her group
  860. >And immediately loses her balance
  861. >Being closest to her you dip to one knee and hold your hands out in case she collapses
  862. >Her body briefly falls into your hands but she uses the surface to regain her footing and stabilise herself, though she is still shaking on her hooves
  863. >”Rarity, are you alright?” Twilight voices all of your concerns as she approaches the dishevelled mare
  864. >”I. Have been spinning. For fourty minutes!” Rarity gasps several times, trying to catch her breath
  865. >As Rarity continues gasping Pinkie goes to her side and produces a simple paper bag for the unicorn mare who takes it gratefully
  866. >With her breathing back to normal Rarity begins again “I was finishing off my latest orders, when the ponnequins came to life and started asking me for changes to their clothing, as if I had made it for them”
  867. >With the bag no longer needed, Rarity returned it to Pinkie and began fixing her messy mane
  868. >”Initially I thought it was due to that dreadful Discord” You spot Fluttershy mouth straightening into a line at Rarity’s tone “but instead I was greeted by a female doppleganger, it was the most peculiar sight.”
  869. >While not satisfied with the state of mane, Rarity moves on to her tail to fix it as best she can. “I introduced myself and the store, but before I could get another word in edgewise she took the name ‘Carousel’ boutique literally and it began spinning out of control”
  870. >Heaving a sigh at her still raggedy mane and tail she looks back to Twilight “I’m just thankful Sweetie Belle wasn’t stuck in there. Thank you ever so much for the rescue dear”
  871. >Twilight wraps Rarity in a hug of hooves and wings, apologising for not doing so sooner
  872. >Rarity is quick to dismiss Twilight’s worries though, citing Eris as the problem
  873. >”Now, somepony please tell me we have someway to make her stop”
  874. >You and Twilight share a nervous glance as she tilts her head to the side
  875. >Taking the hint you move a bit away from the group as they share their own tales of encountering Eris
  876. >”Have you had any luck with Eris yet?”
  877. >The surrounding area could answer Twilight’s question easily but you see the nervous look in her eyes breaking through the calm face
  878. “I haven’t even had a conversation with her”
  879. >As much as you’d like to reassure her, you don’t really have anyway to do so
  880. “The only thing I can think of is that she hasn’t really hurt anyone”
  881. >You list off your handful of encounters with Eris and Twilight slowly nods as she processes each part
  882. >”Ok, she isn’t hurting anypony, but it sounds like she’s making more and more chaotic changes as time goes on, we should try and find her quickly”
  883. >”That’s great and all Twi” You and Twilight look up to see the rest of the girls have eavesdropped on you both “but how in the hay are we supposed to find a needle like her in a haystack like this?”
  884. >Applejack waves a hoof to indicate Ponyville as Twilight ponders her question
  885. >”We could try the spell that summons Discord to try and summon her by proxy, but I’m not sure if that would work” Twilight’s eyes dart back and forth as she weigh whatever options there are
  886. >While she’s deep in thought Pinkie speaks up “Didn’t you girls say you saw Discord already? Maybe he’s gone to grab Eris right now”
  887. >You, Fluttershy, Rainbow and Applejack all share unsure glances with each other
  888. >”Well sure, he appeared outta nowhere about ten minutes ago, but after talking some nonsense he left, just a little bit before you and Twi appeared actually”
  889. >As Applejack finishes, your brain latches onto her mention of ten minutes
  890. >A brief gust of wind blows across the ground as you see a very slight pink tint in the distance
  891. >Without much thought you grab hold of Applejack’s hat and stuff your hand inside
  892. >Surprisingly you’re able to go shoulder deep in the hat before making contact with something
  893. >With a yank you pull the yellow umbrella out of the hat and return the stetson to its owner
  894. >You inspect the umbrella for its mechanism but are startled when it opens on its own and encompasses the area around you and the girls
  895. >Before any of them can question you, the sound of trickling rain splattering against the umbrella stops them
  896. >As the rain drips off the umbrella you notice a distinct brown and grey colour to it
  897. >Closing the umbrella with a click, you watch as the drops slowly move towards each other and begin growing bigger and bigger until they begin to take on the form of Discord
  898. >With a pained groan he stretches out his back
  899. >”Honestly, I don’t see how matching Tirek with a copy of himself is such a bad idea” After several clicks and pops he straightens out with a shudder “Oh and Anonymous-”
  900. >Finally turning to the seven of you he beams at you
  901. >”-don’t think I didn’t see that little trick with the umbrella” Splitting into multiple clones they each give you a small ovation “I didn’t know you had some chaos magic of your own”
  902. >Briefly looking between Discord and the umbrella you hold it out for him
  903. “Actually, it’s just a loan”
  904. >”And don’t go messin’ with my hat in the future- ah mean- the past”
  905. >Umbrella in talon, Discord looks confused for the first time since you met him as he looks between you and Applejack
  906. >”I’m sorry this is new to me, I’m lost”
  907. “Don’t worry, you’ll get it in about 10 minutes ago”
  908. >You dismissively wave at him and his confusion turns to surprise
  909. >”What a delightfully chaotic thing to say Anonymous, I knew there was something special about you” Discord wipes at his eye before shrinking and stretching across your shoulders
  910. >Before you’re able to question him you’re blinded by the flash of another camera
  911. >Discord disembarks from your shoulder as he looks over the photo
  912. >Cheerfully inspecting the photo Discord pauses as he seemingly just starts processing your words
  913. >”Oooooooh, poo.” With a sigh he holds up his arm, only to show some cracks have appeared on it
  914. >Turning to you he leans down to eye level “You said ten minutes, yes?”
  915. “Give or take” Echoing Discord’s own words back at him feels weird
  916. >”But time stuff is such a bore. Maybe I could let the continuum slip just this once?”
  917. >As his eyes sweep over the seven of you they stop at Fluttershy, who has simply raised a thoroughly unimpressed eyebrow at him
  918. >”Oh fine- fine” With a snap he makes the umbrella vanish “If living in a reality that doesn’t collapse in on itself is that important to you, I’ll go”
  919. >”Annnnnnd?”
  920. >Fluttershy has taken on a smug grin that could rival Eris’ easily as she stretches out the word
  921. >”And, I’ll ‘fix’ this ‘mess’ when I get back”
  922. >”Thank you Discord” Back to her chipper self, Fluttershy wraps Discord in a hug, causing him to awkwardly laugh before coughing into his talon to regain his composure
  923. >”Yes, well, you may want to stand back for this” Suddenly bracing himself, Discord moves Fluttershy away with his tail
  924. >Mimicking what you saw just a few minutes ago, Discord begin simply fading out of existence
  925. >While Twilight, Pinkie and Rarity are all thoroughly confused by what they just saw, you, Fluttershy, Rainbow and Applejack share a knowing look
  926. >Before either of the other three are able to voice any questions, Discord reappears, his usual flare back in full
  927. >”Now that that tedium is over and done with” With a cheerful tone Discord looks around at the scenery “I see that Eris has been getting settled in splendidly here”
  928. >Several copies of his faces appear across his neck and torso as he tries to take in more of Ponyville
  929. >You follow some of his gazes yourself and see that the town is still devolving
  930. >One by one, flash after flash, the various buildings are slowly turning to origami
  931. >Ponies begin galloping out of the spa as you see the mud from the mud baths seeping out and turning the surrounding area into swamp
  932. >”Yeah Discord” Twilight has started approaching Discord, causing him to retract his spare faces “she’s gotten really comfortable after she tried taking the Elements of Harmony”
  933. >Both the girls and Discord gasp, though Discord is brimming with mirth
  934. >”My Eris got past all those little spells you and the other princesses locked the Elements behind?” He lets out a small squee as Twilight nods her head “That’s my girl!”
  935. >”Discord!” Fluttershy’s level tone causes Discord beaming grin to dull slightly, though his pride is still evident on his face
  936. >”Don’t worry Fluttershy, it’s not like she could have done anything with them anyway, right?” He looks at you and Twilight for confirmation, but you and Twilight share a small grimace as you remember her getting a hold of them
  937. >”Wait! Don’t tell me, I want to guess” With no sense of personal space he scans you and Twilight up and down as his face turns slowly into a grin
  938. >”Oh my, she touched them didn’t she?” Discord is desperately trying to hold in his laughter as you and Twilight nod at him
  939. >With the dam broken he spins in mid air as he continuously doubles over “I can’t believe she actually touched them, her face must have been priceless”
  940. >”I’m not so sure dad” Everyone in the group, save for you and Discord, tense when Eris voice cuts through the air once more
  941. >While Pinkie shoots a suspicious glance at Eris, Fluttershy retreats behind her mane and the rest of the girls turn to her with glares
  942. >Discord is the complete opposite though, beaming at his daughter
  943. >Meanwhile, you’re still unsure of the chaotic girl, so your face remain mostly neutral as you turn to look at her, though you do exchange a wave with her
  944. >”Personally I think, these faces” With a snap and a flash two statues of Discord appear, one of them holding his stomach as he laughs towards the sky, the other holding his mismatched limbs up with face contorted in what you can only see as fear “are MUCH funnier”
  945. >Eris’ face twists back and forth between the two statue faces before laughing
  946. >With a chuckle of his own, Discord wraps Eris in a hug “Yes, yes, good times, had by all, right girls?”
  947. >Twilight, Rainbow, Applejack and Rarity simply snort dismissively at Discord
  948. >Pinkie on the other hand has begun drooling with a thousand yard stare
  949. >Spotting this Discord whispers something into Eris’ ears who’s eyes widen in shock
  950. >With a smirk she snaps her talon, causing a pink cloud to appear in Pinkie’s hooves
  951. >Holding the cloud up, Pinkie wrings it like a sponge, causing chocolate milk to rain into her mouth
  952. >You look up at Eris and curiously see her shooting glances at you through the corner of her eye
  953. >Speaking up you get her attention
  954. “What, no silly straw?”
  955. >Eris smacks her face at your question, before snapping her paw
  956. >With a delighted squeak Pinkie begins guzzling the chocolate milk through the non-euclidian straw
  957. >”She’s alright by me”
  958. >You spot Fluttershy’s eyes flicking between Eris and Pinkie’s interaction from behind her mane
  959. >Taking a deep breath, she straightens herself out and flutters over to Eris
  960. >”Um, you must be Eris?” Despite her nervous tone Fluttershy manages to suppress her shivers which you spot at her twitching hooves “I’m Fluttershy, it’s nice to-”
  961. >”The Fluttershy!?” Taking the shy mare’s hoof in her talon and paw, Eris begins shaking Fluttershy vigorously “The one responsible for my dad going soft on you all; yes he wouldn’t stop talking about you when he was packing my things in the old world before bringing me here”
  962. >Despite being let go, Fluttershy continues to shake up and down until Discord stops her with a press of her head
  963. >”Wait a darn minute, did you just say ‘old world’? The hay does that mean?”
  964. >Before Eris is able to answer a new voice cuts in
  965. >Your body shakes involuntarily as you feel the words shoots through your mind
  966. >”An old world? Yes, I’d like to hear more about this myself”
  967. >Great, another newcomer
  968. >You decide to take a page out of the pony’s book as you voice your annoyance
  969. “Oh for Celestia’s sake, who is it now?”
  970. >The others seem to be just as confused by the telepathic message as they look around for the source of the voice
  971. >Before you’re able to look around yourself you feel your mind rear back at something that isn’t there
  972. >Adrenaline suddenly begins pumping through your body while your legs and arm tense as your fight or flight instincts turn up to 11
  973. >You groan as you feel the air pressure dropping
  974. >You felt something similar when Twilight teleported Rarity, only now it feels different
  975. >The only word that you feel can describe it is heavy
  976. >What feels like pins and needles encompasses your body as the feeling of the air around you and the ground beneath you is numbed
  977. >While you try to inspect your arm to confirm what you’re feeling you can’t wrap your head around a single thought
  978. >It’s like static in your head as each thought is lost before it can be formed
  979. >If that wasn’t enough you suddenly feel hot
  980. >Heat greater than the fountain of lava flushes through your body, from the crown of your head to the soles of your feet
  981. >The numb feeling in your arms and legs overtakes the adrenaline and your legs give way under you
  982. >However your nervous system is given a hard reset as you feel a sudden impact against your stomach snapping your brain back into action
  983. >Though it’s of little use as you double over in pain and drop to one knee
  984. >If that wasn’t enough a flash unlike anything Discord or Eris have used encompasses your entire vision temporarily blinding you
  985. >The air just seems to keep getting heavier as a ringing pierces your ears
  986. >A dull, incoherent echo repeats in your ears as you try to keep yourself from completely collapsing
  987. >Then silence
  988. >It become uncomfortably quiet as your own heavy breathing is all you can hear
  989. >Your mind takes a few second to fully start processing your surroundings
  990. >First your ears clarify what the dull echo from before was
  991. >Twilight was calling your name, she still is actually
  992. >You hold up a numb hand as best as you can to let her know you’re becoming responsive
  993. >Second comes your sense of touch
  994. >As Twilight turns you on to your back you sit up just as quickly when you feel a dozen small pricks in your back
  995. >Finally the white begins to clear and you look around
  996. >Ponyville’s been turned back to normal
  997. >And littering the burnt ground around you are small pieces of glass
  998. >Before you can turn your head up you are taken into a gentle hold by a pair of pure white wings
  999. >”Little human I can not apologise enough! I had no idea harmony magic would affect you like this”
  1000. >Before you’re able to respond a golden glow encompasses your body
  1001. >The pain of the shards in your back dissipates and you feel your senses hone themselves back to full in an instant
  1002. >Similarly to when you first ended up here you gulp down the air as best you can
  1003. >Despite being back to one hundred percent your mind is still reeling from the sensory overload
  1004. >Raising a shaking hand you slowly get to your feet
  1005. >The wings never leave your side as you do, gently repositioning themselves when you stumble slightly
  1006. >Finally, after what felt like several minutes just to rise to your feet you turn around
  1007. >A pure white coat to match her wings and a gentle visage
  1008. >Deep violet eyes resting beneath a crown of intricately forged gold
  1009. >To finish off, an incandescent, multi-hued mane
  1010. >Now steady on your feet, the princess retracts her wings, though the golden hue of her horn persists, clearly intent to cast a spell if you need one
  1011. >Princess Celestia
  1012. >While you feel none of the fight or flight from before you can still feel a slight pressure radiating from her body
  1013. >You had heard brief stories from Twilight about her, but you assumed they were all from the skewed perspective of a student and admirer
  1014. >Evidently, you were wrong
  1015. >When Twilight says she towers above other ponies, she meant that she towers
  1016. >Celestia actually stands above you in height
  1017. >While you’re level with her head, you have to turn your gaze up to meet hers
  1018. >Before you’re able to fully wrap your head around what just happened, Celestia drops herself into a deep bow
  1019. >”I humbly apologise for hurting you the way I have, if there is anything I can do to rectify this, please let me know”
  1020. >Ok, you officially feel weird
  1021. “Hey, it’s alright, I know you didn’t mean anything by it” Quickly dropping to your knees you hesitantly place your hands on either side of her and wave them upwards
  1022. >Thankfully she takes the indication and stands
  1023. >”Well, be that as it may, my offer will stand until I feel I have properly apologised”
  1024. >With a sigh of relief you wave her off
  1025. >You’re just glad that you don’t feel like the world is collapsing anymore
  1026. >”If you’re having an apology party, where are our invitations?”
  1027. >You realise that, in the confusion, you had forgotten Eris and Discord were even here
  1028. >Both have been hurled several dozen feet
  1029. >Discord’s body has wrapped around a lamp-post several times while Eris has dug a trench from the force of her impact with the ground
  1030. >”I’ll deal with you two when my sister arrives”
  1031. >While Discord is being aided by Fluttershy you notice that the others have dropped low in a bow to the princess
  1032. >Heaving a sigh you slowly make your way over to Eris, still worried your legs will collapse under you again
  1033. >You feel Celestia cautiously place a wing in front of your path but you brush past it
  1034. >If you’re gonna reform Eris you’ll need to make an effort
  1035. >A quiet, pained groan escapes Eris’ lips as she attempts to prop herself up on her elbows
  1036. >With a grunt of pain her arms give out and she lands on her back again
  1037. >The magic must have really done a number on her
  1038. >Considering her nature, you’re not surprised
  1039. >You slowly step into the trench, avoiding loose rocks and Eris’ bruised body as you do
  1040. >By the time you reach Eris’ head you’re up to your waist in dirt
  1041. >Slowly inspecting Eris’ body you can’t help but recoil slightly at the damage
  1042. >Her arms and legs twitch sporadically, probably from her body trying to simply process the pain
  1043. >From what you’ve pieced together from her brief rant back in the castle, it seems like she went completely unchallenged in her Equestria
  1044. >Going thousands of years without even acknowledging the concept of pain is probably making this harder for her than it should be
  1045. >You steal a glance at Discord and see him already back on his feet, or his cloven hoof and claw
  1046. >He’s unsteady, but stable with Fluttershy’s help
  1047. >A shallow gasp brings your attention back to the female draconequus
  1048. >You’re pretty sure she isn’t even aware of your presence right now
  1049. >Not wanting to agitate her injuries you settle for brushing her hair out of her eyes
  1050. >You can’t help but appreciate how soft it is while you sweep it behind her ear
  1051. >This gets her attention as she slowly cracks opens an eye
  1052. >Neither of you are really sure what to say, so for now you simply share a gaze
  1053. >Finally breaking the silence Eris once more attempts to prop herself up
  1054. >Just as Celestia did with you, you hold your hands just above Eris’ body, ready to catch her if she falls again
  1055. >She manages to find enough of her strength to settle herself on a loose patch of dirt
  1056. >Taking a deep breath to steady her shaking limbs she leans towards you and manages to eke out her voice
  1057. >”Are you alright?”
  1058. >The absurdity of the question cause you to let out a chuckle
  1059. “What?” You ask through another chuckle, double-checking that you heard right
  1060. >”I saw you collapse before I got flung by that white-” Eris slowly clenches her talon, digging up dirt as she begins to mentions Celestia
  1061. >Before she can finish the insult, the dirt agitates her wounds enough to elicit another pained gasp from her
  1062. >She attempts to cling to her injured talon with her paw, which nearly causes her to collapse from the sudden weight shift
  1063. >Luckily you were close enough to stop her from collapsing into the trench again
  1064. >As you wrap your hands around her back she gasps slightly at the contact but with a few deep breaths she settles down
  1065. >Once more she props herself up and holds a shaking paw up to you
  1066. >Slowly releasing her, she settles back on the dirt
  1067. “Trust me Eris, you’re doing a lot worse than me”
  1068. >”Pffft” her dismissive hiss is cut as she gasps once again, but she persists nonetheless “Please, it’ll take more than Celestia to keep me down”
  1069. >She shoots you a shaky smile in an attempt to dissuade your concern
  1070. >You simply raise a skeptical eyebrow at her in response
  1071. >Snorting, she turns her head away from you and mutters “shut up” under her breath
  1072. >The clamour of hushed voices tears your attention away from Eris once more
  1073. >Having finished greeting Celestia, the girls are seemingly recounting the goings on of the last hour or so
  1074. >You notice that Discord has abandoned his usually nosy personality as he hasn’t moved from the lamp post ever since Fluttershy unwrapped him
  1075. >Fluttershy herself hasn’t left Discord’s side either, tending to his wounds as best as she can without an aid kit
  1076. >It’s unlikely that either Discord or Eris will actually need one
  1077. >Once they get their magic back they’ll most likely be able to undo their wounds with ease
  1078. >Still you can’t help but share Fluttershy’s desire to ease Eris as best as you can until that time
  1079. >Before you can turn back to your quasi-patient Celestia’s eyes catch yours
  1080. >Her violet eyes briefly flick over to Eris and Discord’s damaged forms
  1081. >What you saw as a gentle visage before hardens into a slight glare
  1082. >She clearly regrets catching you in the crossfire of her spell, but she definitely doesn’t feel that same regret towards Eris or Discord
  1083. >Her gaze turns back to the girls and just as quickly as it appeared, the glare is replaced with the motherly smile and calming gaze from before
  1084. >You also notice that she’s positioned herself so that you two are within full view out of the corner of her eyes
  1085. >For a brief second, your mind flashes back to the pressure you felt radiating off her
  1086. >The memory cuts out as quickly as it entered your mind
  1087. >You shake your head to clear your thoughts and turn back to Eris
  1088. Leaning down you extend a hand to her “Can you stand?”
  1089. >Your voice grabs her attention again as she looks between your hand and your face
  1090. >She clears her throat before awkwardly placing her talon in your hand
  1091. >You notice a slight pink tint creep up on her cheeks while her talon rapidly changes from a sturdy grip to going slack in your grip
  1092. >Slowly, you begin pulling her to her feet
  1093. >Once more you’re reminded of the height difference between the two of you
  1094. >She has to slowly retract her feet into a crouch so that she can rise
  1095. >Fluttershy was probably able to stay level with Discord as she pulled him up
  1096. >Sadly, you can’t do the same
  1097. >As she continues to rise far past your head she continues holding your hand
  1098. >When she finally gets back to her full height she parts her claw and cloven hoof to steady herself
  1099. >Taking a deep breath she gives you a small smile as she finally stabilises
  1100. >You return the smile just as she rips her talon from your hand
  1101. >Holding it in her paw as she looks everywhere but at you
  1102. >”T- thanks Anon”
  1103. >You simply respond with a nod before tilting your head towards the group
  1104. >Still unsteady, Eris begins walking with you back to Celestia and the girls
  1105. >Your hands stay at your side, ready to catch her if she falls again
  1106. >Celestia is the first to notice you two approaching
  1107. >Holding up a hoof to a still ranting Applejack, she turns to face you two
  1108. >Out of the corner of your eyes you spot Discord and Fluttershy following your example as they begin approaching as well
  1109. >Spotting you, Twilight rushes over to your side
  1110. >With a flap of her wings she begins circling you, checking your body for any damage
  1111. >You chuckle a little at her concern
  1112. “Twilight, don’t worry, Celestia did a great job patching me up” You shoot the princess another thankful nod which she happily returns
  1113. >”Anon I’ve never seen any creature react to harmony magic the same way you did” Twilight’s face twists in thought slightly “Actually, this is the first time I’ve seen you give any kind of physical reaction to magic at all”
  1114. >Before she can go too deep in thought she shakes her head
  1115. >”Maybe I should take you back to the castle, run some tests”
  1116. >”Oh yes” The sound of slow clapping draws you and Twilight’s attention to Eris “Brilliant idea Sparkle-”
  1117. >You’re surprised as Eris uses her tail to slowly push you behind her, placing herself in front of Twilight
  1118. >”-let’s take Anon, who just collapsed from magic, and pump him full of some more”
  1119. >Twilight glares up at Eris ”They’d be non-intrusive medical projection spells, they wouldn’t even enter his body” with a flap of her wing she rises to meet Eris at eye level
  1120. >”Or am I supposed to trust his safety with you?” Eris’ eyes widen slightly as Twilight jabs a hoof into her chest to emphasize her words, before they narrow to pinpricks “You, the draconequus who stuffed one of my friends in a paint can! And trapped another in her own house for a quick laugh!”
  1121. >Eris has lifted herself slightly off the ground with her own wings and you could swear that the red in her eyes has started to glow
  1122. >”The worst I’ve done to Anon is dirty his clothes, SHE” with an accusatory talon Eris jabs in Celestia’s direction “nearly made him keel over-” Twilight’s confidence slightly falters at the reminder
  1123. >Her eyes briefly flick to you before returning to Eris
  1124. >”-am I supposed to trust his safety to her student?”
  1125. >Before Twilight can retort Celestia’s voice cuts through the air like a gunshot “ENOUGH!”
  1126. >Both girls heed Celestia’s words as they turn their attention to the alabaster alicorn, their argument forgotten
  1127. >Despite the harsh volume of her voice, Celestia’s has kept her regal composure as she looks between the two
  1128. >With one final exchange of glares, Eris and Twilight land on their feet, Eris stumbling slightly, and wincing at the pain
  1129. >You place a hand on her back just in case, but she’s quick to wave you off
  1130. >With the squabbling ended, Celestia approaches the three of you “I made it clear that any matters concerning you, Eris” Celestia’s voice drops slightly as she says Eris’ name, causing her to step back slightly “would be handled when my sister arrives”
  1131. >The usual golden hue of Celestia’s magic is replaced by a deep azure that briefly lights up her horn before fading
  1132. >With a contented sigh Celestia turns her attention fully to you
  1133. >”Anonymous” As Celestia turns to you, you feel the pressure from before radiating from her again
  1134. >”Yes your maje- Celestia?” You mentally curse yourself as you flub your response
  1135. >Walking up to you she pushes Eris away with a wing and holds the other one in front of you like a barrier
  1136. >”After what happened earlier I ask that you brace yourself for my sister’s arrival, just in case”
  1137. >Before you’re able to question her further you feel the same shooting pain in your head from before return
  1138. >Luckily you’re able to begin taking deep calming breath before your adrenal glands begin panicking again
  1139. >A splitting migraine pierces your head before a harsh gust of air pressure washes over you, pushing you back slightly
  1140. >Before you can collect yourself you feel Celestia’s wing wrap around you once more and what you can only assume is Eris’s talon on your shoulder
  1141. >”Anon?”
  1142. “I’m alright Eris- I’m-” You’re actions betray your words as you need to take several more calming breaths to stop your shaking “I’m fine, I’m not made of glass”
  1143. >You can feel the histation in Eris as she slowly removes her talon from you
  1144. >”We would disagree with such a sentiment” You can feel the lunar princess before you even open your eyes
  1145. >”Luna-” Celestia’s voice begins to dull in your ears as waves of a strange, serene calm slowly glide over you and wrap around your thoughts like vines
  1146. >Where Celestia radiated a gentle calm like basking in a simple summer noon, Luna’s presence brings a calm that reminds you of a dreamless sleep
  1147. >With a grunt you actually have to shake your head to stave off the intrusive, uninvited calm
  1148. >Finally opening your eyes you see Celestia shooting her sister a look you can’t quite read
  1149. >”Really Luna?”
  1150. >Luna simply turns her nose up slightly at Celestia “We can turn it off no less than you can dear sister, ‘tis simply the reaction of his meager constitution”
  1151. >With your thoughts freed from whatever that was you begin to process Luna’s body
  1152. >The fur of her coat gently blows in the wind and all too quickly you find your mind lulling once more
  1153. >The longer you stare at her, the deeper the gentle mental vines from before dig into your mind
  1154. >You feel them
  1155. >You can almost see them in your mind’s eye
  1156. >But you can’t find the strength to shake them off
  1157. >The world around you seems to fade, dull voices echo in the empty that surrounds you
  1158. >Even the tangible presence of Celestia begins to fade
  1159. >All that remains besides you and Luna is the sun
  1160. >The golden glow catches in her azure coat, pulling your stare deeper
  1161. >Slowly, the light begins to fade as well, and is replaced by a shining silver
  1162. >The muscles hidden by her coat undulate beneath the contours of her lithe frame
  1163. >As one muscle rolls over the other you are reminded of waves in an ocean
  1164. >Suddenly, the world falls around you gently like smoke and is replaced with a desolate beach
  1165. >Your hazed mind inspects your surroundings
  1166. >But you see nothing
  1167. >No Eris, no Twilight, only cold pale sands
  1168. >You feel nothing
  1169. >What once was a constant pressure from Celestia pushing against your body has faded to still, dead air
  1170. >All that remains in this place is you, and the azure waters
  1171. >One part of you wants to pull your mind out of this place, but another part of you, in its foolish curiosity, wants to remain
  1172. >Ultimately you decide to stay
  1173. >You feel no danger here
  1174. >This place, this beach, it is cold and dark
  1175. >And a very gentle place
  1176. >Once more your gaze stares into the abyssal waters and a voice, not your own, intrudes on your mind once more
  1177. >Before, it felt like the words sliced cleanly through your head
  1178. >Now it feels as though the words are slowly dripping from the folds in your brain, like rain
  1179. >”Great volumes of deep water serve as a grand bulwark, guarding sleep”
  1180. >As the waves gently lap against the shore the refined azure begins to darken and blend with deep purples
  1181. >White dots begin to shine through the dark waters and you realise you’ve begun staring into a night sky full of stars
  1182. “stop it” Your mouth doesn’t move, but your own voice cuts into your star-gazing, disturbing the infinite ocean of the night sky, creating ripples that cause some of the stars to fade
  1183. >You feel your mind lurch back and once more you become aware of the vines gently caressing your mind
  1184. “Stop it” This time you manage to vocalize your thoughts and the night sky falls into the sea, the chunks of solid sky forcing up huge plumes of water that crash into your body violently as you return to the beach from before
  1185. “Stop it, stop it” With each repetition your mind begins to recoil and forcibly tears the intruding magical vines out “Stop it! Get out of my head!” With one last cry you clasp your hands around your head and stumble back
  1186. >Once more the pressure radiating from Celestia hits you and you can feel various appendages holding you steady
  1187. >A part of you is worried about opening your eyes again, you can still feel Luna
  1188. >She hasn’t moved an inch
  1189. >But the gentle calls of your name gently open your eyes for you
  1190. >Eris has clasped her talon and paw on your shoulder and has used her body to block Luna from your view, worry etched on her face
  1191. >Twilight meanwhile a hoof on your side and a wing against your back
  1192. “Didn’t know you girls cared so much” You let out a nervous chuckle to try and ease the tension
  1193. >Eris lets out a sigh of relief and gives a chuckle of her own “Only cause you’re the only one who’s put up with me so far”
  1194. >You shoot her a small grin and pat Twilight on the head
  1195. >Undoubtedly you’ve given her enough material to make her think you need to be doted on constantly now, but you’ll burn that bridge when you get to it
  1196. >To the side you see an equal measure of curiosity and worry on Celestia’s face before she turns to her sister
  1197. >With a deep breath you make a greater effort to mentally prepare yourself this time as you turn your gaze back to Luna
  1198. >Just as you had felt, she hasn’t moved
  1199. >”Hmmm, interesting”
  1200. >You hear a small gasp from Twilight and a not so small gasp from Eris at Luna’s words
  1201. >With a flap of her wings, Eris plants her face an inch from Luna’s
  1202. >”He has THAT kind of reaction to looking at you and all you can say is ‘hmmm’?”
  1203. >Luna’s calm remains undisturbed despite Eris’ being so close
  1204. >”Get thee gone creature” Luna almost sounds bored as she talks down to the draconequus, despite having to crane her neck to look Eris in the eye “we have little time and less patience still for Discord’s spawn”
  1205. >Eris bares her fangs at Luna’s callous dismissal but stops when a golden glow gently tugs her away
  1206. >With a glance, Celestia dismisses Eris just as quickly as Luna did before turning to her sister
  1207. >”Luna! I thought I made it clear-”
  1208. >”’Tis passive magic Celestia, you know this” Luna cuts Celestia off, though you hear none of the callousness from before in her voice “Are We to apologise to for the results of a spell We did not consciously cast?”
  1209. >”You could have stopped it at any point”
  1210. >”As could he” Luna nods her head towards you as she counters her sister's point “Yet he chose not to ‘til the end, and you can not deny thine own curiosity at the fact he has reacted to us both just as our little ponies did all those millenia ago”
  1211. >With a nudge to your side Twilight grabs your attention
  1212. >She gives you a questioning nod which you return
  1213. >While hesitant, Twilight moves in to join the conversation between the two sisters
  1214. >As the three begin talking, with Eris butting in every now and then the other girls surround you
  1215. >They each question you while Fluttershy gently inspects your body for any damage
  1216. >Honestly, you just feel tired
  1217. >Having to deal with the presence of the two ruling alicorn sisters has left you drained
  1218. >Your adrenal glands have never pumped out so much adrenaline so rapidly and in such quick succession
  1219. >Slowly you feel the dull aches of exhaustion start to spread through your body
  1220. >You suppress a yawn as you turn your attention to the girls
  1221. >”Are you quite sure you’re alright darling?” Rarity’s asks in her usual posh, dulcet tone “Maybe you should sit down, we could go back to my boutique, it’s not far”
  1222. “Thanks Rarity” She puffs her chest out slightly with a small smile on her face “But I’m gonna have to say no”
  1223. >The fashionista deflates slightly at your refusal but pushes her point “Darling, I understand wanting to put up a strong front, but you look exhausted”
  1224. “I probably feel worse than I look” You let out a tired laugh but none of the girls seem to share your sense of humor
  1225. >”Anonymous, you’ve had a very… volatile reaction today, maybe you should take it easy”
  1226. >”Ah’m with Rarity on this one” Applejack cuts in as she shoots a glance at the princesses and Eris “Ah ain’t ever seen the princesses this riled up before, and I don’t want you gettin’ caught in another spell again”
  1227. >With a deep sigh you slightly shift one of your aching shoulder back and forth and roll it in its socket to try and alleviate the tension
  1228. >Just as you do you feel a pair of hooves press into your shoulder blade and you feel some of the tension start to ease up
  1229. >Looking over your shoulder you see Fluttershy, eyes focused as she presses into various points on your back, loosening your recently tensed muscles
  1230. >You’re surprised she doesn’t work with those massage ponies Caramel mentioned
  1231. “Girls, I’m fine. At least now I am” You can see that they aren’t convinced so you turn to the other draconequus “Discord, back me up”
  1232. >No answer comes though, save for several successive snaps
  1233. >Turning your head, you see Discord concentrating on his talon and paw, snapping the thumb and index of one and then the other
  1234. >He tries different combinations of fingers and even tries clapping before letting out a frustrated groan through gritted teeth
  1235. >”Honestly Applejack, I don’t know how ponies like you can live like this”
  1236. >With a derisive snort, Applejack approaches Discord “Don’t tell me the big bad Discord can’t handle not having his fancy schmancy magic for a few minutes”
  1237. >”I wouldn’t expect you to understand Applejack” Rising to his feet, Discord makes full use of his height to tower over the mare “You’ve been stuck in the mud your whole life, I haven’t had to touch the ground in millenia”
  1238. >”Yeah... well” With Discord literally hanging over her, Applejack has lost most of her previous confidence and steps back slightly “maybe you’d learn a thing or two if you did”
  1239. >With a scuff of her hooves she walks back over to your group
  1240. >”Oh, I doubt that” With a dismissive wave Discord goes back to snapping his talon
  1241. >With an audible click you feel a lot of tension roll out of your shoulders
  1242. >You roll them back and forth in their sockets again and heave a sigh of relief
  1243. ”Thanks Fluttershy, why don’t you go check on the old man? He’s getting grumpy” With a smirk you nod towards Discord
  1244. >”I heard that! I’ll have you know that I can’t remember how old I am, so for all you know I’m young”
  1245. >Fluttershy hides a giggle behind her mane as she trots over to Discord, checking his bruises
  1246. >”... in lieu of not being able to investigate his mental state directly”
  1247. >”Considering the fact he isn’t a pony, that would be too invasive without asking”
  1248. >You turn to the approaching princesses as they finally break away from their secluded discussion
  1249. “Ask me what now?”
  1250. >As the three princesses approach, Twilight’s eyes dart up and down your body, searching for any sign of another reaction like before
  1251. >Luna regards you with cold curiosity, although her eyes betray her and show some regret
  1252. >Celestia, as always retains the warm motherly gaze as before
  1253. >”First things first, how are you holding up Anonymous? Sometimes my sister and I forget the kind of effect we can have on others”
  1254. >Celestia looks out of the corner of her eyes towards Luna and raises her eyebrows slightly
  1255. >With a small cough Luna approaches you “Indeed sister. Anonymous-” Once more she clears her throat as her regal composure falters slightly “-t’was not our intent to cause thee duress. We shall endeavor to suppress our passive magics when around you in the future to ensure it does not ail you again”
  1256. >Now that she’s gotten closer you see that she’s about a head shorter than her sister
  1257. >That puts her head just below your jawline
  1258. “Thank you Luna” You hold out a hand to her which she graciously shakes with a hoof “It’s actually nice to finally meet you, Twilight hasn’t had much time tell me about you”
  1259. >With a small smile Luna retracts her hoof “We are sorry to say that thine knowledge of us shall have to remain shallow for the moment as there are more pressing matter to deal with”
  1260. >She shoots Discord and Eris a glance and narrows her eyes slightly
  1261. >Eris simply pulls one of her eyelids down at the princess while Discord ignores her comment as he continues snapping his talon
  1262. >”However, thou ought to know that our realm is that of dreams” This catches you off-guard slightly as Twilight had only said she was diarch of the night during one of the few crash course she was able to give you on Equestria
  1263. >”At the behest of Twilight Sparkle We have refrained from yours for the time being, wouldst thou be willing to allow us to visit you while you sleep?”
  1264. >You think about it for a moment but find no viable reasons to deny her
  1265. “As long as I don’t have a bad reaction to you entering my mind again, you can knock yourself out”
  1266. >Luna and Eris both pause at your words, until Eris bursts into a fit of laughter “You tell her Anon”
  1267. >Luna meanwhile has scrunched her muzzle slightly and turned her head to the side
  1268. >Seeing the confusion Celestia is quick to correct it
  1269. >”Luna, he simply means you can do as you wish”
  1270. >With a huff Luna rolls her eyes “Why must modern speech be so perplexing?”
  1271. >Eris meanwhile has stopped her laughing fit “Wait that’s what you meant? Well that’s boring”
  1272. >”Ah yes. Eris” Celestia once more turns to the female draconequus “Discord’s daughter from another world”
  1273. >”That is the long and short of it, yes” Eris idly responds to Celestia as she grinds her talon’s claw against a small rock “Though, if you ask me, you could hardly tell the difference between here and there”
  1274. >”Oh?” Celestia steps towards Eris as she holds up her talon and paw and creates a frame with her thumbs and fingers
  1275. >Slowly adjusting the frame Eris closes an eye as she sweeps the frame back and forth between Celestia and Luna
  1276. >”Yep, you two are practically mirrors of the ones I knew” Drifting over to Celestia she coils slightly above her head “For example you’re as big a killjoy as ever, if I didn’t know any better, I would have thought that my Celestia had followed me here”
  1277. >Pulling out a magnifying glass, Eris’ eye presses through it as she turns to Luna “And don’t even get me started on Bluebean here?”
  1278. >”Bluebean!?” Luna pulls retracts one of her legs as an indignant glare crosses her face
  1279. >”Yeah, you know, Bluebean, Moon Cheese, you hated those names back home, I’m hoping you’re the same” Putting her talon and paw behind her head, Eris reclines mid air and lets her head drop backwards to look at Luna, a smug grin plastered on her face
  1280. >As Luna’s horn begins glowing slightly Celestia places a hoof in front of her chest
  1281. >Luna’s horn doesn’t get any brighter but neither does her magic stop completely
  1282. >Pulling back her hoof, Celestia turns back to Eris ”According to Twilight there are no Elements in your world, I can’t imagine we’d be the same pony without them, what can you tell us about them?”
  1283. >With a bored sigh Eris rest her chin in her talon “Oh you know, you two would find me, cast some spells, say ‘Eris something this, Eris something that’ honestly I just tuned you both out whenever you started talking”
  1284. >Luna lets out a small groan as she leans in towards Celestia “Sister, this is going nowhere”
  1285. >”Be patient Luna” Shooting a glance between Celestia and Eris, Luna lets out a sigh as she shakes her head
  1286. >”Eris, I need to be sure that you understand that what you normally did won’t be allowed here in our Equestria”
  1287. >Eris simply stares at the ground, following the path of a ladybug before snapping to attention “huh?”
  1288. >A loud snap and brief flash catches your attention
  1289. >As you look towards Discord you see him floating off the ground again, all of his previous injuries have disappeared while several flowers spin around him
  1290. >”Oh, finally!” With a snap of her talon Eris clicks her wings to her side and she begins hovering as her own wounds fade
  1291. >”That feels, so much better. You know, my Celestia really is a lot like you-” Stretching out her paw, Eris snaps again
  1292. >In a flash she dons a robe and blind fold and holds up a pair of old scale, with Celestia on one side, causing it to dip
  1293. >”-maybe not quite as heavy”
  1294. >As she leaps from the scales you see Celestia’s horn start to glow ever so faintly
  1295. >”None of your games creature, you would do well to cooperate if there are to be terms to you staying here” Luna’s horn shines much more brazenly as she points it squarely at Eris
  1296. >Holding up her arms in mock surrender, Eris disappears her creations “There’s no need for such hostility, Luna. You ought to be thanking me really”
  1297. >”Why would we ever thank a vile creature such as yourself, after what you did to this fair town?”
  1298. >”Mud roads and thatch roofs? Yeah truly a ‘fair’ town” Eris looks up and down the street before grabbing some of the thatch from a roof and screwing it up into a ball and letting it roll through town like a tumbleweed “This place is a modern marvel”
  1299. >Before either of the princesses can interject Eris gets closer to Luna “I am interested by your choice of words though. ‘Vile creature’ is kind of rich coming from you isn’t it?”
  1300. >With a flash, Luna’s magic bursts from her horn and sends Eris back several feet, though she hardly seems phased by this spell
  1301. >”What are you implying, creature?”
  1302. >”Oh don’t pretend to be a fool Luna” With a snap of her talon, Eris replaces Luna’s regalia with a jester’s outfit “It really doesn’t suit you”
  1303. >With another flash of her horn, Luna tears apart the outfit
  1304. >”I mean, I’m not the one who got put in the moon for a thousand years” Luna’s eyes widen slightly as Eris rolls a miniature moon in her hand, on its surface is a rough cluster of craters that resemble a pony’s head
  1305. >”But as for the thanks” Eris flings the moon over her shoulder, but it hovers above the ground rather than hitting it, and begins drawing in small bits of dirt and rock
  1306. >”Without the Elements, you two had no way of decorating your garden with my beautiful form” Eris strikes several poses mid-air as she approaches the princesses
  1307. >”And since both of you fought me together, your ponies loved you both equally” As Eris continues Luna’s horn slowly dims “which means there was never any Nightmare Moon, so, you’re welcome”
  1308. >Luna simply stands there, her face a mix of contained rage and sadness
  1309. >Before Eris can poke further Celestia goes face to face with her “How did you come to learn of these events in the first place Eris?”
  1310. >”If something catches my attention, like you two” Eris pokes at Celestia’s horn but quickly pulls her paw away as it begins smoking “I can be a very quick study”
  1311. >”If that’s true, then why did you fail chaos school all those millenia ago?” Discord has appeared beside Eris in a worn and weathered professor’s coat
  1312. >”Because none of the teachers were interesting dad, we’ve been over this”
  1313. >”I was all of the teachers”
  1314. >”Exactly” Eris smiles smugly at Discord as he puffs on a bubble pipe with an irked expression
  1315. >As the two begin to devolve into squabbling back and forth you feel something tug on your sleeve
  1316. >Looking down you see Twilight nodding her head away from the group
  1317. >Silently, you two walk out of earshot of the others
  1318. >You’re pretty sure the only ones unaware of your departure are the princesses and the draconequus’ though the girls don’t question the two of you
  1319. “What’s up Twilight?”
  1320. >You lean down a little so you can speak quietly
  1321. >”Has Eris told you anything about her Equestria?” Twilight briefly glances over your shoulder at the draconequus in question
  1322. >Returning your focus to the princesses, Eris and Discord you catch small snippets of their conversation
  1323. >”-an accord, of which you have broken every term”
  1324. >”Name one”
  1325. >”Breaking the laws of physics, breaking the laws of reality, using temporal magic-”
  1326. >”I said name one Lulu, besides, would you have preferred if I let a paradox take root? As tempting as it might have been”
  1327. >”Do not call us that Dis-”
  1328. >You spot Eris simply leaning against the air, popcorn in paw as she watches Discord and Luna’s back and forth
  1329. “No, like I said I haven’t gotten the chance to talk to her yet” You shift through your memories of the recent chaotic hour you spent chasing the she-goat when your brain stops at Sugarcube Corner “Except, there was a point where she said she briefly went back there to grab some bits”
  1330. >Twilight’s eyes narrow slightly as she rubs her chin, a pensive look on her face
  1331. >”That actually says a lot without saying much, I have some theories but I’d rather wait until we weren’t being eavesdropped on” Again she looks over your shoulder
  1332. >Her eyes suddenly widen and before you’re even able to open your mouth something grabs you by your collar and pulls you back
  1333. >”-true Anon?”
  1334. “Um what?” Regaining your bearings, you find yourself in the middle of Celestia, Luna, Discord and Eris
  1335. >”I asked if it’s true Anon” Discord asks as he bends his head around yours
  1336. >Despite his head being upside down his face has flipped to look you in the eyes
  1337. “Is what true?” As you rephrase your question you reach around to pry Discord’s talon off you
  1338. >”Eris claims that you’ve been assigned as her reformer” Celestia steps forward to clarify the situation
  1339. >You pause briefly as you consider this, you haven’t exactly been doing a stellar job of reforming her so far, if the previous state of Ponyville was anything to go by
  1340. >Neither were you really assigned to her
  1341. >According to Twilight, Fluttershy was requested by Celestia herself to reform Discord, whereas Twilight simply asked you to try and catch Eris after she ran off
  1342. >The closest thing anyone’s done to asking you to reform her was Eris scribbling in a book back in the castle
  1343. >You look between Eris and Celestia, the latter regards you with calm patience as you try to think of an answer
  1344. >Meanwhile Eris is strangely devoid of her usual smirk, you could almost believe she looks nervous
  1345. >You recognise that nervousness
  1346. >After your first night here you saw the same look on your own face as you checked yourself in the mirror
  1347. >You spent nearly two hours in your room just trying to mentally prepare yourself for facing the fact of this new reality
  1348. >It didn’t help that Twilight kept coming to check on you, each time she knocked on your door or tried speaking to you through the door frayed your nerves and reminded you that this was real
  1349. >Straightening your posture, you turn to fully face Celestia
  1350. “Yes. I am her reformer” You notice a few of the girls whispering amongst themselves out of the corner of your eyes but you continue to focus on Celestia
  1351. >She raises a curious eyebrow at you, but a wistful smile grows on her muzzle
  1352. >”It’s decided then”
  1353. >You let out a breath you didn’t know you were holding as Luna steps forward
  1354. >”Far be it from us to criticize, but are you sure this is wise Anonymous? We would assume thou art eager to hurry home”
  1355. >She turns her attention to Twilight “Or are there complications unbeknownst to us?”
  1356. >Suddenly being put on the spot causes Twilight to tense briefly before she collects her thoughts
  1357. >”Well... while I did bring Anon here, it was unintentional. The arcane casting of the original spell went haywire halfway through and spiralled out of control, before I could even stop my magic it had nearly drained itself in an instant. The next thing I knew, Anon was in front of me” Looking down at the ground, Twilight kicks at a loose rock.
  1358. >”I don’t even know where to start to send you home” She looks up at you, the same regret she’s worn for the past few days still clear on her face
  1359. Holding up a hand you stop her from continuing “You’re just confirming what I already know Twilight. You didn’t mean to bring me here, it’s fine”
  1360. >Her face relaxes slightly as she smiles at you
  1361. >”If Anon shall be remaining here for the foreseeable future as you say” Luna stands between you and Twilight, looking up at you and then down at her “Then I have no further qualms with this arrangement”
  1362. >”That’s all well and good” Applejack speaks up, catching all your attention “But I got plenty o’ qualms ‘bout her staying here, it’s bad enough that we have to put up with one of them already” Applejack points a hoof at Discord
  1363. >Rarity and Rainbow step in an agree with Applejack, but Fluttershy is quick to interject
  1364. >”Girls, please. You all agreed to let me reform Discord, remember? Why not do the same with Anon and Eris?”
  1365. >Once again it’s Applejack who speaks up “Well back then we had the Elements at the ready in case Discord tried anything”
  1366. >”Oh, you mean these trinkets” With a snap and a flash, a large intricately decorated box begins floating besides Eris, eliciting gasps from five of the girls, while both Luna and Celestia reignite their horns “Honestly they’re not as impressive as I expected”
  1367. >Discord is once again trying to suppress a bout of laughter while Twilight simply glares at Eris
  1368. >”Eris” Twilight extends the name in a low, tense voice
  1369. >”Oh, fine, I learned my lesson last time anyway” Haphazardly, Eris lets the box drop
  1370. >Catching it in a cloud of purple mist, Twilight teleports the elements away “Great, gonna have to re-work the spell again”
  1371. >”You know, you could think of it as magic practice” Eris gives Twilight an amused grin, but the purple princess simply huffs dismissively
  1372. >”Oh come on girls” With a small bounce Pinkie hops besides Fluttershy “She really isn’t that bad if you ask me”
  1373. >”Why, thank you Pinkie” Eris rests her paw over Pinkie’s shoulders “I knew you’d forgive me for eating Sugarcube corner”
  1374. >”You did what?” Pinkie’s head snaps to look at Eris
  1375. >”I did what?” Retracting her paw, Eris drifts away from Pinkie
  1376. “On the subject of Eris” Diverting the subject quickly gets everypony’s attention on you “Not to play devil’s advocate” Turning to Eris you quickly add “no offense”
  1377. >”None taken” You briefly see Eris’ whole body turn red as she holds up a sharpened trident
  1378. >As soon as you blink she’s back to normal
  1379. You blink a few times before turning back to the girls “But from what I’ve heard of Discord, she hasn’t been nearly as bad, has she?”
  1380. >”Anon, ah’m sure you’re a good colt, but you didn’t see the state of my orchard when she was done with it”
  1381. >”Not to mention the state of my boutique”
  1382. >”Or the fact that you were literally the one who got me out of that paint can”
  1383. >As each mare voices their complaints you hold up your hands to stop them from ranting
  1384. “I remember all of that, but didn’t Discord do much worse?”
  1385. >Discord straightens himself out as a proud smile crosses his lips while Eris crosses her arms
  1386. “I mean, didn’t he turn your brother into a dog or something Applejack?” You address her first as she has seemingly taken charge of the complaints against Eris
  1387. >”He just acted like a dog, but yeah” Seeing your point her face drops in thought
  1388. Before she’s able to retort you push your point towards Rarity and Rainbow “And were either of you actually hurt by what Eris did?”
  1389. >Rainbow has raised off the ground to be face to face with you
  1390. >”Well no, but it took Fluttershy like ten minutes to get all the paint out”
  1391. >A baby blue glow of magic grabs hold of her hoof and pulls her down as Rarity speaks “Rainbow, Anon does have a point, after all haven’t you dumped paint on ponies before as one of your ‘pranks’”
  1392. >”Well, yeah but- I mean that was-” Cutting off her own stuttering Rainbow crosses her hooves over each other
  1393. >Rarity gives Rainbow a small smile before pushing her way forward slightly “And I would be remiss if I condemned Eris for what she did to my boutique when Discord had gone so far as to corrupt the six of us when he was running rampant”
  1394. >Your knowledge of Discord’s last caper was still limited to what Twilight had briefly gone over with you earlier today but it’s clear the memory is still fresh for the girls as their moods noticeably dampen at the memory
  1395. >”If you wish to reform her darling, then I’ll simply wish you luck” Rarity smiles up at you as she places a reassuring hoof on your leg
  1396. “Thank you Rarity, that means a lot, really” You crouch down slightly and place your hand on one her withers
  1397. >Leaning forward slightly, Rarity drops her voice to a whisper “And should she ever start to get out of hoof, just let me know”
  1398. You and Rarity share a chuckle as you stand back up “I’ll be sure to keep that in mind”
  1399. >”Well my little ponies, if there is nothing more to discuss…” Celestia lets her words hang in the air briefly as she looks over the six ponies
  1400. >As each one shakes their heads she nods and turns to Discord and Eris “Your breaking of the terms of our accord will be omitted this time Discord, but I expect you to take responsibility and educate Eris on those same terms”
  1401. >With a groan Discord pulls his talon down his face, stretching it to his feet “But there’s so many, and it’s so boring”
  1402. >”Well then you and Eris can consider it due punishment for what you did today” While her tone stays level you see a small smile tug at the edge of Celestia’s lips
  1403. >Grumbling, Discord grabs Eris “Well, I suppose we should get started now”
  1404. >Before she can object Discord snaps his paw and the two disappear into nothing
  1405. >Heaving an exasperated groan Celestia’s wings drop slightly before she shakes herself to regain her composure “Dealing with him never gets any easier”
  1406. >”You handle him quite well though” Luna says, causing Celestia to smile
  1407. >”Now-” Once more she turns to the seven of you “-the harmony spell should have undone all of Eris’ damage, if anything is still out of place though, do not hesitate to contact me”
  1408. >With a clamour of acknowledgement the girls bow to the princess
  1409. >”Come sister, we should return to Canterlot” Spreading her wings Celestia takes to the air, each wing beat sending up significant clouds of dust
  1410. >”Oh yes, the nobles must be pulling their hair out without you to hold their hooves through every decision they make” Luna joins her sister in the air, causing your clothes to whip back and forth from the combined gusts their wings create
  1411. >”Day court rests for nopony sadly, not even me, and besides I’m sure you’re eager to go back to bed” With a chuckle Celestia beats her wings much harder and takes off with Luna close behind
  1412. >As soon as they crest the tops of the surrounding buildings the two pull their wings much farther forward and with a thundering crack shoot into the sky and disappear from view in a few seconds
  1413. >You’re surprised they didn’t break the sound barrier
  1414. >But relieved that they didn’t teleport again
  1415. >With the town restored, and Eris, Discord and the princesses gone you see ponies starting to pour out into the streets again
  1416. >The girls also say their own goodbyes
  1417. >Rainbow shoots off to go check on the weather team and get them back on schedule
  1418. >Applejack races off back to her farm to check on her family, her powerful hooves pounding against the dirt
  1419. >Rarity goes to check on her boutique and clothes while Pinkie bounces off to check on the Cakes and foals
  1420. >Fluttershy takes a slow trot back to her cottage to check on her animals
  1421. >Leaving just you and Twilight stood in the middle of the street
  1422. “Well, that was… eventful?” You turn to Twilight who simply looks up at you wordlessly
  1423. >She looks as tired as you feel
  1424. >With a heavy groan she begins trotting towards the Castle, wings hanging loosely at her sides
  1425. >You hadn’t noticed before but you’re pretty sure she had tensed her whole body for the entire time that the princesses were here
  1426. >To fill the empty air you and Twilight compare your stories of the day one last time
  1427. >You give Twilight the cliff notes of your side since you already explained most of what happened when she first arrived with Pinkie
  1428. >She meanwhile begins detailing what she did from the moment you left the castle
  1429. >How she sent about half a dozen letters to Celestia through different magical means in case Eris tried to intercept them
  1430. >The method she used to rework the protection spells on the Elements
  1431. >You didn’t understand half of it, but it was fascinating to listen to
  1432. >Then she spoke of Spike’s arrival
  1433. >After hearing about the situation the little guy was too spooked to come with her to regroup with you all
  1434. >Finally there was her meeting Pinkie Pie and then meeting up with the rest of you
  1435. >The rest of the trip goes by quickly as you begin approaching the crystal castle
  1436. >Maybe you should ask Eris to change it
  1437. >But only slightly, maybe make it so light doesn’t bounce off it and into your eyes so much
  1438. >Eris
  1439. >Your mind briefly flashes through all your interactions so far, as brief as they were
  1440. >You’re officially her reformer now
  1441. >And you have no idea where to start
  1442. >Maybe you should visit Fluttershy, see if she can give you any advice
  1443. >As the doors swing open you hear a small yelp come from deeper in the castle
  1444. >”It’s just us Spike”
  1445. >A high pitch screeching of wood and an echo of metal impacting metal rings through the castle for a few seconds before halting entirely
  1446. >Soon it’s replaced by the pitter patter of scales on crystal as Spike rounds the corner
  1447. >Barreling into Twilight, Spike wraps his claws around her neck which she returns with her hooves and wings
  1448. >”Did anything happen here while we were away?” Twilight’s voice has dropped so much that you’re just barely able to hear her
  1449. >”Some of the mops came to life, swept over the floor and made it dirty, the bags of flour came to life and spread pollen everywhere, and some of the rooms were tilted” Detaching from Twilight he turned to look at both of you “But nothing too big thankfully, then a flash of gold made it all go back to normal. I guess that means you had to use the Elements huh?”
  1450. “Actually that was all Celestia apparently”
  1451. >Spike turns to you and then back to Twilight with a raised brow and she simply nods in confirmation
  1452. >”Wow, I didn’t know you could do that without the Elements”
  1453. >Spike scratches his head at the new knowledge
  1454. >Twilight simply giggles and rubs him on the head
  1455. >”Well she can’t do it too often, especially with how Anon reacted”
  1456. >Your eyes widen slightly before narrowing at Twilight
  1457. >”Why what happened?” Spike’s voice goes up an octave as he looks at you worried
  1458. “Nothing, Celestia already fixed me” You regret the words as soon as they leave your mouth
  1459. >”Fixed you?” Spike’s eyes have widened in shock at your choice of words
  1460. >”He collapsed from the spell” Twilight quickly speaks as she begins trotting down the hall
  1461. “Damn it Twilight!” She simply giggles as she rounds the corner, leaving you with a very worried Spike
  1462. >”Come on, the castle has a small room with some medical supplies, I can check on you there”
  1463. >He grabs hold of your hand and begins walking down another hall
  1464. >With his small size you could easily stop him but you’d rather not manhandle him
  1465. “Spike I already said I’m fine, Celestia was the one who magiced me better” You know that your arguments will fall on deaf ears but you try anyway
  1466. >”And how do you know your body hasn’t had some other reaction to that magic?”
  1467. >You open your mouth to argue but close it when you can’t think of anything
  1468. >Despite your time here you’ve only been exposed to a handful of spells so he might have a point
  1469. >With a groan, you simply resign yourself to whatever checkup Spike has in store for you
  1470. <>
  1471. >’Dear Princess Celestia: Discord has broken the terms of his accord with us in more ways than one today. While me and Anonymous were trying to enjoy breakfast we came face to face with another draconequus, a near perfect doppelganger of Discord, save for the fact that she was female. Discord says that her name is Eris and is his daughter, and if that wasn’t enough to process as is, she’s apparently come from an Equestria she had ruled over, one with no Elements of Harmony, to top it all off she was able to break through the arcane seals guarding our Elements, I’ve managed to reclaim them but I require your immediate-’
  1472. “Blah blah blah, is this pony writing a letter or a thesis?”
  1473. >With a snap of your talon the letter ignites, and deteriorates into a soggy heap from water damage
  1474. >It didn’t matter, you had more
  1475. >She had sent so many after your little soiree
  1476. Looking around you pluck another of the dozen letters that you had snatched “Honestly, I thought friends weren’t supposed to tattle on each other”
  1477. >It was fun watching the little alicorn send letter after letter and not get a response as your party in Ponyville raged on outside her crystal tree house
  1478. >You’re a good sport though, so you let one go to her precious princess eventually
  1479. >The cool feeling of ink runs up your tail as you dip the tip into an inkwell
  1480. >Running your tail over the letter you draw the pony in question along with the new Celestia and Luna
  1481. >These new princesses are fascinating
  1482. >And much stronger than the ones you knew
  1483. >How this Celestia managed to harness and channel the same magic as those magic gemstones, you aren’t sure
  1484. >The worst part is you probably wouldn’t be able to figure it out either
  1485. >You aren’t even entirely sure what those gemstones are
  1486. >Their magic was able to warp reality the same way yours did but in a completely opposite way
  1487. >The idea boggled your mind
  1488. >Letting out an annoyed groan, you stretch your body out
  1489. >Not knowing something was a pet peeve of yours
  1490. >Your father could learn a thing or two from you
  1491. >He always claimed that ignorance was the most chaotic thing
  1492. >Well all that got him was a stone bodysuit
  1493. >You still can’t believe that idiot let that happen to him
  1494. >Twice
  1495. >With a growl you shred the letter with a swipe of your talon
  1496. >The worst part is the way he’s been acting recently
  1497. “It’s almost like he’s- he’s… trying to be a dad”
  1498. >You shudder violently in disgust at the idea
  1499. >He was a spirit of chaos, even older than you
  1500. >What the hell would make him want to be a father now
  1501. “Hmmmmm… Fluttershy” You murmur the name under your breath
  1502. >She was the only pony your dad ever seemed to talk about
  1503. >The pegasus hadn’t exactly impressed you though
  1504. >Sure, she had approached you first out of all the other ponies
  1505. >That alone made her braver than most, but she was still a coward
  1506. >You could see it in her eyes, feel it
  1507. >She was terrified of you
  1508. >Even if she had dealt with your dear old man, you were something completely new
  1509. >And you were gonna prove that to the rest of these ponies
  1510. <’I remember all of that, but didn’t Discord do much worse?’
  1511. >There he is again, getting in your head
  1512. >What does he know anyway
  1513. >Who does he think he is
  1514. >You are Eris, The Mad Madam herself
  1515. >The next time you’re in Ponyville you’ll show Anon so much chaos that he’ll never think your father is worse than you again
  1516. >Without even using your magic you feel your hair shift behind your ear
  1517. >It’s as if you’re back there, in that trench
  1518. >Having your magic blocked for a few minutes was one thing, but the amount of pain you’d felt
  1519. >It was awful
  1520. >Something hurting you didn’t make sense, it was beautifully chaotic
  1521. >But you hated it, but you loved it too
  1522. >Another groan escapes your lips
  1523. >You want to try and fight the memory but you just feel yourself relaxing
  1524. >The way his arms wrapped around you to stop you from falling was intense
  1525. >Celestia and Luna had grappled you a few times during your fights, but this was different
  1526. >There was nothing like his appendages in your world or this one
  1527. >Wrapping your arms around yourself you could swear that you can still feel them
  1528. >You could feel each of his fingers adjust individually
  1529. >He spread them out to avoid agitating your wounds too much, and he left your wings free so you could use them if you needed to
  1530. >Floating up, you rest on your bed for the first time in nearly a millennium
  1531. >Clearing your head wasn’t something you did often but this was bothering you
  1532. >That biped had actually defended you
  1533. >You had given him the ol’ doe eyes when Celestia asked if he was gonna reform you
  1534. >But you didn’t expect the response you got
  1535. >You expected him to shrug you off, to see through the act, to just leave you with somepony else
  1536. >He didn’t do any of that
  1537. >When he turned to look at you, your eyes met, and for once since you got here you were actually able to hold the stare
  1538. >Something about the way he looked at you rubbed you the wrong way
  1539. >It’s like he pitied you
  1540. >You didn’t need pity, certainly not from him
  1541. >But he defended you all the same
  1542. >It’s the first time anyone hasn’t gotten angry at you after wrecking a town
  1543. >It was new
  1544. >It was chaotic
  1545. >And you weren’t even sure if you wanted more or less
  1546. >A clunking and banging from the corner of your room pulled you from your thoughts
  1547. >A tarp was draped over something you hadn’t used in a while, your mirror
  1548. “Oh shut up in there”
  1549. >Desperate for something to take your mind off of Anonymous, you snap your talon and a crack in your wall opens up
  1550. >Looking through you take in the landscape of your old home
  1551. >You’re eager to see how your ponies are dealing with the fact that the queen who ruled them for a millennia has disappeared
  1552. <>
  1553. >Slowly you become more and more aware of your own lucidity
  1554. >As your body begins to wake up you stiffen slightly
  1555. >The exhaustion from meeting the princesses yesterday had turned into various aches littering your body
  1556. >If there was a part of you that wasn’t aching, it’s because it was numb
  1557. >Thankfully your new bed was helping
  1558. >The soft texture and slight pressure helped to distract your mind
  1559. >You could easily go back to sleep for a few hours like this
  1560. >But you feel the need to resist the temptation
  1561. >Mainly because you don’t know how long you’ve slept in already
  1562. >There were a handful of rooms in the castle that had no windows and you had claimed one as yours
  1563. >The lack of natural light made it a bit of a pain initially but Twilight set up a few dim light runes after you first settled in
  1564. >Personally, you thought the tradeoff was worth it
  1565. >Completely shutting out the noise and lights of the outside made sleeping feel like a whole new experience
  1566. >Luna hadn’t visited you last night, which is understandable considering the size of her kingdom
  1567. >Despite this you couldn’t help but wonder when she’d visit you
  1568. >The way she had requested your permission made you assume she already knew how to find you
  1569. >More likely than not you just needed to wait
  1570. >As you sort through your thoughts you begin to feel yourself relax deeper and deeper
  1571. >Before you can fall asleep again you gather the strength to throw your duvet off
  1572. >And you are reminded of another perk of not having a window
  1573. >No morning chill
  1574. >Your room has remained a pleasant temperature throughout the night
  1575. >Shifting your legs over the side you get to your feet and stretch out the aches in your body as best as you are able
  1576. >The floor lights up with a soft purple glow as you walk over to your wardrobe
  1577. >Twilight’s idea, along with the regular light runes, she set up runes on the floor that detected you as you passed by, giving you a constant light source
  1578. >Magic was still far beyond anything you could understand, even if Twilight broke it down as simply as possible
  1579. >Thankfully Spike was just as clueless as you so at least you got to share your lack of knowledge
  1580. >Throwing open your wardrobe you grab a shirt, jacket and jeans
  1581. >They were nearly identical to the ones you wore when you first arrived here
  1582. >Only this outfit was fresh from Rarity
  1583. >The sleeves and collar weren’t frayed and the colours were much more vibrant
  1584. >She’d insisted on putting gemstones in your clothes but you managed to talk her down to reserving that for any suits she made you
  1585. >Her eyes had widened to the size of dinner plates when you mentioned formal attire
  1586. >Having an entirely new species to design clothes for seems to be like a waking dream for Rarity
  1587. >A small smile tugs at your lips as you make your way through the castle, remembering the few times you’ve managed to talk with her
  1588. >Behind all the hair product and posh articulation was genuine, raw passion for her work and you couldn’t help but admire that
  1589. >It was the same for all the ponies here
  1590. >Especially Twilight, you think to yourself, as a soft orange glow pulses under a doorway
  1591. >You could play crapshoot with how hard you’re rolling your eyes
  1592. >Opening the door you briefly spot the source of the orange glow
  1593. >A life size projection of your body, made up of hundreds of individual dots that created your outline like an incomplete dot-to-dot
  1594. >Before the doors even reach the walls a flash of purple shrinks the dots into a sphere
  1595. “Put it back Twilight”
  1596. >Closing the door with a click, you see the wall light up with the orange glow again
  1597. >The purple princess is nursing a large mug of coffee
  1598. >Who knows how many times she’s refilled it
  1599. >You’re pretty sure that if it weren’t for Spike she’d just carry the coffee machine with her at all times
  1600. >Her ears are folded down slightly and her eyes are glued to the ground as she tries to make herself as small as possible
  1601. >As you make your way beside her you remain silent
  1602. >Reaching a hand up, you flick it down and the projection begins to perpetually spin at a slow pace
  1603. >It stops as you tap against it, the dots rippling outward from the point of contact
  1604. >Guiding a finger to one of the dots on the neck of the projection you double tap it and the dot widens and three graphs appear
  1605. >You still can’t understand any of it, it’s all magic mixed with medicine
  1606. >The only part you understand is the text at the top
  1607. >Jugular Vein
  1608. >Structural Integrity: 100%
  1609. >Magical Erosion: 0%
  1610. >With a flick of your wrist the dot recedes and the body projection appears again
  1611. >Twilight still hasn’t said a word
  1612. >You look down to make sure she hasn’t scampered off for another fill of coffee
  1613. >She’s still there, and still looking at the floor
  1614. “So, found anything yet?”
  1615. >If you’ve learned anything from your time here, it’s that a good conversation can help to snap out Twilight out of her own head
  1616. >Unfortunately she settles for just shaking her head
  1617. >Alright, yes or no questions are off the table
  1618. “How long have you been up for?”
  1619. >She raises her head a few times before turning to look up at you fully “About six hours”
  1620. “And what time is it?”
  1621. >Again she turns her head down and paws at the floor with a hoof “About 10 o clock”
  1622. >You take a long time as you breathe in and even longer to breathe out
  1623. Clicking your tongue you turn your attention to the ceiling “Please tell me you at least got something close to resembling sleep”
  1624. >This was inevitable
  1625. >After you had first been pulled here, Twilight had spent 56 hours straight combing through every book she had to try and send you home
  1626. >You had only managed to convince her to go to bed after threatening to pick her up, carry her to her bed and hold her there
  1627. >Before you could blink she had dropped her books and teleported away
  1628. >And after your reaction to the princesses your gut told you she’d react this way, but some part of you hoped she’d learned her lesson
  1629. >”I tried to sleep Anon, honest” She’s finally turned to look at you again “But I just- I had this dream. You were there! And you were collapsing again! And I couldn’t-”
  1630. >Crouching down to Twilight you wrap her in a hug which she gratefully returns
  1631. >You pray that you don’t start to feel a wet patch on your shoulder
  1632. >Hearing her voice quiver was more than your heart could take already
  1633. >Pulling back from the hug you cup Twilight’s face and force her to look at you
  1634. “Twilight, I’m right here, and you just said there’s nothing there” Indicating to the projection you see it pulse slightly as you mention it “I’m. Fine.”
  1635. >”You were fine this time” Twilight pulls away from you “But what about next time? What if nopony’s there to help you? What if you have an even more violent reaction to a different kind of magic?”
  1636. >She’s starting to freak out and you’re not entirely sure what to do, so you do what comes to mind first and place your hand against her chest
  1637. >That is a powerful heart
  1638. >It’s beating so hard and so fast you’re almost worried that it’ll bruise your hand
  1639. >As she processes what you’ve done Twilight takes a deep, shaky breathe
  1640. >Her tired eyes meet yours as she places a hoof over your wrist
  1641. >”Anon, I don’t even know how to send you home yet. If I don’t figure out what caused the reaction in you then-” She cuts herself off as the same thought crosses both your minds
  1642. >She tries to find the words, but all her knowledge seems to fail her when she need it now
  1643. >Her hoof falls from your wrist and she steps away from you “I couldn’t forgive myself if, something, made it impossible to send you home”
  1644. >Her eyes narrow in determination as she turns to the projection and her horn flares to life
  1645. >The projection flashes between multiple dots as she investigates each part with incredible speed
  1646. >You need to approach this from a new angle
  1647. >Wracking your brain for a few seconds you settle on an idea
  1648. >Hook
  1649. “Alright Twilight fine, but it’ll take more than your sun goddess princess to take me out you know?”
  1650. >You hear a small huff come from Twilight and a mumble of “not a god”
  1651. “Well, you could have fooled me, I mean, my people have a lot of stories about gods that manipulate the sun”
  1652. >Nothing yet
  1653. “Some stories came from civilizations from over a thousand years ago even”
  1654. >The projection has finally stopped moving and Twilight’s ears have perked up slightly
  1655. >”How many stories?”
  1656. >Line
  1657. “More than I could ever tell, and that’s just for one god of one pantheon”
  1658. >She’s turned to you completely now, a hoof tentatively raised in curiosity
  1659. >”Pantheons?” She probably knows exactly what she’s doing but she probably doesn’t care either
  1660. “Yeah, multiple pantheons, greek, roman, egyptian, nordic”
  1661. >Twilight’s body is shaking ever so slightly as she looks between you and the projection
  1662. “But I guess you wouldn’t be interested in that right now, don’t worry I probably won’t forget anything by the time you’re done”
  1663. >Slowly making your way over to the door you’re surprised that you’re able to turn the handle before Twilight reacts
  1664. >”Wait!”
  1665. >and Sinker
  1666. >With a small burst of purple the projection disappears and Twilight trots over to the door
  1667. >”I think Spike was planning on making prench toast today”
  1668. >Her muzzle is scrunched up slightly while a blush creeps up her face as she walks past you
  1669. >She definitely knows you played her
  1670. >But she’ll get you back by poking you for detailed answers for the rest of the week probably
  1671. >At least she should be able to get some sleep
  1672. >To keep her attention away from your magic episode you start listing off the pantheons you know and some of the gods within them
  1673. >Twilight has already teleported a notepad and quill to herself
  1674. >You can’t help but chuckle as she seemingly never stops writing
  1675. >Despite what little you know she’s managing to fill whole pages
  1676. >Eventually you make it to the kitchen and Spike confiscates the notepad
  1677. >He watches to make sure Twilight sits down and then looks at you to confirm what he’s seeing
  1678. >”Dude, you actually managed to get her to stop worrying about you?”
  1679. >As you approach the table he walks over to the still simmering pan
  1680. “I wouldn’t say that, I just-”
  1681. >”Bribed a princess?” Twilight grins as she cuts you off
  1682. “I was gonna say, encouraged you to focus your mind elsewhere” Twilight raises an eyebrow at you “But yeah ‘bribed’ works too”
  1683. >The two of you share a laugh as Spike delivers the toast to your plates
  1684. >He also leaves small bowls of fruit which Twilight ends up nearly emptying
  1685. >You’re not too fussed though, you doubt you could match an alicorn’s appetite if you tried
  1686. >As Twilight devours the toast you wonder if she’s just eating at her regular speed, or if she’s going faster to get back to questioning you
  1687. >Either way you have no intent to end your meal any time soon
  1688. >The toast has been made tender and soft from simmering in the beaten eggs yet it retains its crisp crunch as you bite into it
  1689. >The taste has been enriched by the mixture of egg and fruit that come together in a wonderful combination
  1690. >Twilight grumbles slightly when you ask for seconds but is placated by a second helping of her own
  1691. >With that brief reprieve over, you begin going into greater detail of the greek pantheon
  1692. >You start with Apollo of course
  1693. >Twilight found the idea of a man pulling the sun across the sky by chariot to be very whimsical
  1694. >She was also bewildered by the idea of your species using very similar animals as them for transportation
  1695. >As you regaled her with the stories of how the Gods overthrew the Titans and the Titans overthrew Uranus, Twilight found great delight in the literary symmetry of the cyclical nature of the pantheon
  1696. “There are a lot of stories of mortals interacting with the gods as well you know?”
  1697. >The scratching of quill on paper stops suddenly as Twilight begins to peek over the top of her notebook
  1698. >”Really?” Her disbelief is palpable “Why would your people want to interact with these gods? You’ve not exactly painted them in the best light”
  1699. “What can I say Twilight? Humans have always wanted to touch the untouchable, and it’s not like it was easy” Adjusting yourself in the plush chair you sit forward “After all, Hades lived underground and if you fell in the river Styx you’d die prematurely”
  1700. >Something you’ve noticed as you’ve talked about the greek gods is Twilight’s reaction to the death that pervaded these stories
  1701. >Apparently it was extremely rare to find any pony fables that mentioned death, it all either ended with imprisonment or banishment
  1702. >Your nonchalant discussion of it also seemed to worry her
  1703. >But before she could bring it up you digressed from those stories into more palatable ones
  1704. >Prometheus was one she took particular joy in hearing
  1705. >The idea of passing on the ‘fire of knowledge’ for the greater good of others despite the ramifications seemed to resonate with her
  1706. >Ramifications that you may or may not have played down
  1707. >Sure, Prometheus was locked away for what he did
  1708. >But you didn’t need to tell Twilight about the vulture that visited him
  1709. “Not to mention that the rest of the gods were up on Olympus, a near impenetrable mountain… city” Despite having described Olympus beforehand your thoughts suddenly slow
  1710. >Despite being miles away and inside a castle of dense crystal you start to feel it again
  1711. >The pressure
  1712. >Wordlessly you slowly turn your head around the room until it settles on a specific part of a bookshelf
  1713. >You don’t know how, or why, but for some reason you can still feel Celestia’s presence
  1714. >When you first saw Canterlot sat on the mountain, the sun caught in its ivory towers, you were left speechless
  1715. >Now it just made you nervous, but you didn’t want it to
  1716. >You didn’t want to feel this way just thinking about the princesses, but every survival instinct you had told you to avoid them
  1717. >A hoof against your leg snaps you out of your staring contest with the wall and the pressure disappears completely
  1718. >Twilight’s abandoned her notebook as she scans your face
  1719. >Damn it, you were supposed to get her mind off what happened
  1720. >But then again, you can’t get your own mind off it either
  1721. >”Oh come on Anon” Before Twilight’s able to voice her concerns or you’re able to wave them off a long red tail begins slithering down, the tip replaced with a hook that catches the top of Twilight’s notes
  1722. >Looking up you see Eris in an oversized fishing hat that covers her eyes, which end up highlighting her mischievous grin
  1723. >Cranking an invisible reel, her tail begins to retract
  1724. >”I was really getting into these little stories of yours” With notebook in paw, Eris begins flipping through it “Though Twilight has taken all the fun out of them with this chicken scratch writing”
  1725. >Twilight lets out an indignant gasp at Eris
  1726. >Before she’s able to retort, the notebook springs to life, flapping its pages like wings and begins running rampant through the room, crashing into furniture and scrabbling up the various bookcases only to fall off them
  1727. >You’re surprised when Twilight ignores the falling books in favour of catching the notebook in a spell
  1728. >With several chicken cries the book shifts wildly in the spell until it start to settle down
  1729. >A second layer of purple, paler than the first overtakes Twilight’s horn as she begins sorting the library back to the way it was
  1730. >”I see you got your sense of humour from that teacher of yours” Crossing her arms Eris grumbles at the restored library
  1731. >Twilight’s wings buzz slightly against her side in irritation as she takes a deep breath “Eris, what are you doing here?”
  1732. >A forced smile appears on Twilight’s face as she turns to Eris, who returns the smile
  1733. >”Well it gets boring just having my dad for company, so-” As if swimming through the air, Eris’ body slides through the air towards you “-I thought I’d come see my parole officer here”
  1734. >Suddenly an orange jumpsuit appears on Eris’ body
  1735. >On her paw is a handcuff far too small to fit around the wrist and on her talon the cuff is too big and slides off the wrist completely
  1736. >Glad to see that she hasn’t turned the castle upside down you give her a small smile
  1737. “You’re hardly a prisoner when you can teleport wherever you please, whenever you please Eris”
  1738. >”Hmmm” In a flash the outfit disappears again and you become vividly aware that you’re surrounded by perpetually naked creatures
  1739. >Before your brain can conjure any images you mentally burn the idea
  1740. >That was a thought you could leave until later
  1741. >”I suppose you’re right Anon” The air suddenly shifts as you blink
  1742. >In the brief window that your eyes closed you were warped to an equally displeasing to look at crystal castle
  1743. >Several gasps draw your attention to the multiple guard ponies donning silver armor
  1744. “Where-” Before you’re able to finish your sentence the castle shakes and a flash of pink escapes one of the windows
  1745. >Several flashes follow and you can almost begin to make out voices from within, and one of them is very familiar
  1746. >Phasing through a nearby door, Discord appears a gleeful grin on his face
  1747. >Following close behind him a pink aura rips the doors off there hinges and a very frazzled pink alicorn in-between Twilight and Luna’s height appears
  1748. >”How many times do I have to tell you to get out?!” She fires several pink blasts at the cackling draconequus
  1749. >”Oh come on Cadence, I really thought Shining and Chrysalis had chemistry” Discord dodges several of the blasts, parts his body to avoid others and summons a bat to hit them away
  1750. >”I’ll turn you into coloured rain again!”
  1751. >”Fine by me, Anonymous can probably handle me again. OH!” At the mention of your name he seems to finally notice you
  1752. >He seems elated to see you three as he summons a mirror
  1753. >A creak comes from the mirror and a duller version of Cadence appears
  1754. >In more ways than one, the clone’s colours are dulled and also seems incapable of higher brain functions as it fumbles around
  1755. >”Eris, I see you’re taking your reformation by the horns”
  1756. >Eris simply responds by sticking her tongue out at Discord
  1757. >With a flash of pink, the fake Cadence and the mirror shatters and she once again turns to Discord
  1758. >”Well it’s been fun, but I can see when I’m not wanted, arrivederci!”
  1759. >Another flash and Discord’s disappeared
  1760. >Leaving the three of you with a still fuming pink alicorn
  1761. >She calms down significantly when she notices your group though
  1762. >”Who- wait how? Twilight?!” Her head snaps back and forth between you, Eris and Twilight
  1763. >”Cad-” You feel the air shift again as you blink ”-ence”
  1764. >It’s significantly hotter and humid now as you look out at an arid desert
  1765. >Both you and Twilight whip your heads back and forth to confirm your surroundings
  1766. >”Is that Appleloosa?” Squinting her eyes and placing a hoof above her eyes, Twilight stares into the distance
  1767. >Joining her you look off into the desert and see a cluster of dots in the distance
  1768. >”Well of course, if I’m not a prisoner than I guess some sightseeing is in order”
  1769. >While Twilight turns on Eris you walk around a little
  1770. >The crunch of the barren earth beneath your feet isn’t entirely unpleasant
  1771. >You only wish you had put on shoes
  1772. >Another flash, this time form below you grabs your attention
  1773. >Your once bare feet are now covered in your old shoes
  1774. >Looking over your shoulder you see Eris barely paying attention to Twilight
  1775. >On her shoulder sits her talon which shifts to make a finger gun at you
  1776. >Nodding to the appendage you return your attention to the various flora and fauna that litters the biome
  1777. >Scorpions scuttle around underfoot and the cries of carrion birds from above cause them to scatter to safety
  1778. >The only green you can see are the cacti of various sizes and shapes, though on some of them, flowers are beginning to bloom
  1779. >A thunderous crack rings out, causing the scorpions to dig for safety and the birds to converge into one swarm and fly away
  1780. >Following the path of the birds you turn around and see the source of the disturbance
  1781. >Several of the monolithic plateaus that dotted the landscape have been uprooted and have begun spinning in various directions
  1782. >”Eris!” Twilight stomps her hoof into the sand while Eris waves her talon randomly to turn the airborne rock formations
  1783. >”Oh lighten up Sparkle, this place is practically empty, these would make great tourist attractions”
  1784. >Like a stampede, several Eris clones appear out of nowhere all carrying cameras as they take in the new sight
  1785. >Some of them pose for the pictures, some of them pretending to hold the plateaus up while some grow their bodies and literally hold them up
  1786. >”Anon” Twilight extends your name slightly with a defeated tone “A little help please?”
  1787. >Right, reforming
  1788. >Suddenly you feel very uncertain
  1789. >At the mention of your name Eris turns towards you
  1790. >”Oh Anon, you have to see this”
  1791. >The thumb and index of her talon comes together and just as you hear Twilight yell out “Wait” you’re suddenly stood atop one of the plateaus
  1792. >Not just a regular floating one though, this one is rotating on an axis and also spinning through the air in a circle
  1793. >Before you know it you’re staring at the world upside down
  1794. >Instinctively your body attempts to adjust as it expects gravity to pull you off and towards the ground, but nothing happens
  1795. >You stay rooted in spot while Eris floats in mid air, turning in perfect sync with the plateau, making it appear like she isn’t moving at all
  1796. >”Pretty cool right?” Looking out to the horizon you follow her gaze and your eyes widen at the view
  1797. >Seeing the world turn and spin messes with your mind slightly but you can’t deny, it’s a view you’d never be able to see if it weren’t for her
  1798. “Definitely… but”
  1799. >All the mirth left her face, and her face drops as she looks at you “Oh please tell me that’s a good but, like ‘but you could do more’?”
  1800. >A small chuckle escapes your lips before you can stop it
  1801. >She really was just like a kid
  1802. “I’m not gonna tell you to stop if that’s what you’re worried about” The previous tension leaves her body at that “I was just gonna ask if you had any plans for that town- Appleloose or whatever it’s called?”
  1803. >Holding her talon to the side of her mouth, Eris leans towards you “Don’t tell Twilight” Her voice is low but filled with excitement
  1804. >Her eyes practically shine at whatever thought is in her head and you almost don’t want to stop her
  1805. >But you know that if you don’t then things could spiral downwards really quickly
  1806. “Well, what if you…” You pause as you try to think of how to phrase this in a way that she’d go along with “Only affected Ponyville, and left other towns alone?”
  1807. >Eris lets out a bout of laughter at your suggestion “Anonymous, come on” Slowly regaining herself she manages to speak through smaller and smaller bouts of laughs “My chaos was worldwide just a few days ago, asking me to confine it to one town is practically criminal. Now get excited, cause it’s gonna get weird”
  1808. >You begin to race through any ideas you can as she begins rubbing her paw and talon together
  1809. >Focusing on yesterday you remember one comment that seemed to throw her off
  1810. “I guess you’re right Eris” She turns to you with a beaming grin as her paw and talon rub together faster and faster and begin to smoke and glow
  1811. >”See, I knew you’d get it”
  1812. “I mean after all, I suppose it was wrong to compare you to Discord” Eris’ ear perk up and she slowly turns to you
  1813. >Her paw and talon detach from her and continue rubbing together as her eyes narrow at you “What’s that supposed to mean?”
  1814. “Well you know, when he was reformed he just stuck with Ponyville afterward, but I get it if it’ll take you a few days to get to where he is now” You have to desperately fight the smirk that threatens to invade your face as Eris lightly growls at your words
  1815. >Still with no talon or paw, Eris gets much closer to you, and her empty arms point towards you “I! Could cause more chaos in one town in one day then he could cause to this whole world in a year!”
  1816. Absent-mindedly scratching your cheek you turn away from her “I’m not so sure Eris, I mean Twilight couldn’t stop talking about how bad Discord was, and Fluttershy can’t stop talking about how well-behaved he is. So you’re chaotic sure, but do you have any self-control?”
  1817. >Her eyes narrow to slits and her body shakes slightly
  1818. >With a deep breath she relaxes back to her usual self and a more playfully sinister grin spreads on her lips “Alright then, how about we make a deal?”
  1819. This time it’s your turn to narrow your eyes as you turn to the grinning draconequus “What kind of deal?”
  1820. >Tapping the tips of he talon to her paw rapidly she leans back against the air “If I can convince you by the end of the day that my father doesn’t hold a candle to me, then I win”
  1821. “And what exactly would you win?” You feel a small amount of dread in the back of your mind as her smile widens
  1822. >”You allow me a full day of unrestricted chaos, and join me as I traipse through this new world” Her eyes glow slightly and your cone of vision darkens slightly, making her stand out more
  1823. >With a brief shake of your head your vision is back to normal and so are her eyes
  1824. >“Eris even if I wanted to, I couldn’t give you that”
  1825. >She looks very unimpressed as she crosses her arms ”Why not?”
  1826. “I don’t have the authority to say ‘sure have at the world’-”
  1827. >Eris points one of her claws directly at you to cut you off “Anonymous, you’re my parole officer, not the princesses, not my dad” As she lists off each one a small version of them appears in her talon and disappears just as quickly “not even that fuddy-duddy that’s being trampled by my clones”
  1828. >You have to turn around several times to spot the area that you were in
  1829. >Just as Eris had said, Twilight is being squished in the throng of Eris clones
  1830. >”As far as I’m concerned, you have final say on what I can and can’t do” A playful smirk appears on her face as she leans towards you
  1831. >You ponder her offer for a moment and think of how you can turn it back on her
  1832. >Or at least think of how you can minimize the damage from your bet
  1833. “Ok-” Eris leaps in mid air and pumps her talon but you quickly stop her with a hand “-but what about me?”
  1834. Her eyebrows raise slightly, so you clarify “Let’s say that, since you’re trying to-”
  1835. >”Going to!”
  1836. “Going to show that you have self-control, if you break any of the terms of your agreement with the princesses, then I win”
  1837. >Her mood dampens and she begins nibbling her lower lip as she considers your proposal “If you do win? What happens then?”
  1838. >Stroking your chin you begin to think of what you could want out of this
  1839. >Eris could literally grant you whatever you wanted
  1840. >But one idea in particular stand out to you
  1841. “Let’s keep the prizes similar, I’ll spend a day with you, but this time, you won’t be allowed to use any magic, not even flight”
  1842. >Her eyes widen at you and she looks about ready to back out but stops herself “Fine! But, you’re not allowed to restrict me with one of those Elements if you win”
  1843. Certainly a fair caveat, meaning you need your own “Alright, but only if you keep your chaos restricted to Ponyville during the bet, and I still can’t just give you a town to run wild in if you win, so how about that weird forest nearby?”
  1844. >Once again she looks about ready to call off the bet but decides to keep pushing “How about half of Ponyville and the Everfree?”
  1845. ”The Everfree and the empty area bordering Ponyville?” You’re surprised that you’ve reached a point where you’re haggling on what areas of Equestria you’re gonna let her run rampant in
  1846. >”The Everfree, Canterlot Mountain, and the entire sky?” She’s held out her talon to you now
  1847. “Don’t affect Canterlot itself and take out the sky and it’s a deal” You hold out a hand to her and she looks nervously between it and you
  1848. >Seemingly steeling herself she slaps her talon into your hand and shakes it once before pulling away
  1849. >”Today’s gonna be fun… can I keep the plateaus?”
  1850. You can’t help but laugh at her playful nature and nod “Sure, until you get bored of them”
  1851. >Turning her back to you, Eris looks out over the vast planes
  1852. >Simply watching her back, you wait for a snap and flash
  1853. >But it never comes
  1854. >After waiting a few more seconds you clear your throat to get Eris’ attention
  1855. >She turns to look at you and you indicate to the floating plateaus with your head
  1856. >Confusion crosses Eris’ face as she tilts her head
  1857. >No longer able to fight it, you let a toothy grin cross your face and chuckle
  1858. “Guess I win then?”
  1859. >Eris’ confusion doubles at your comment
  1860. “I believe we agreed you’d keep your chaos contained to Ponyville, right?”
  1861. >The red of her pupils nearly fills her yellow sclera as she begins to realize her mistake
  1862. >Sputtering slightly she manages to find her voice “Bu- but you said I could- and we shook on it!”
  1863. >The sight of her muzzle scrunching in annoyance nearly makes you double over in laughter
  1864. You’re able to suppress your laughter enough to eke out an explanation “We shook and THEN you asked if you could keep them. They were never part of the deal” Shrugging your shoulders you smirk at the draconequus
  1865. >Her pupils begin to literally playback her memories and you can see the deal being made from her perspective
  1866. >Sadly you can’t hear the memory
  1867. >As the memory slows to the present she visibly deflates at her own mistake
  1868. >You walk towards her and once again your brain tries to forcibly correct your body since you’re staring at the world sideways but your feet still gravitate towards the turning plateau
  1869. >Eventually you’re able to stumble over to Eris and you lightly tap her lion arm, snapping her out of her own thoughts
  1870. “You don’t really… talk to others that often do you?”
  1871. >Your smile is seemingly infectious as she mirrors it and chuckles a little “Depends, do you count threatening Celestia and Luna everyday as ‘talking’?”
  1872. Briefly you share her laughter until you process her words “Wait, did you say ‘everyday’?”
  1873. >Nodding her head Eris’ pupils widen again and you briefly see, from Eris’ perspective, several images of Celestia and Luna casting spells or lunging forward either with weapons or their bare hooves
  1874. >”Everyday for all my reign, they never gave up, it was annoying but in an endearing way” A blink later and Eris’ eyes are back to normal
  1875. >Despite this, the images remain printed in your mind and store them away for later
  1876. >You’ve never seen anything filled with as much rage as those versions of Celestia and Luna had in their eyes
  1877. “Well, that aside, this was too easy a win” Holding out a hand to Eris another smirk crosses your face “Rematch?”
  1878. >Eris grabs her talon with her paw before she’s able to grab your hand
  1879. >Pulling back she snaps her talon, fixing the plateaus back into place and freeing Twilight from the pile of her clones
  1880. >Once more you offer her your hand but she holds up her paw “The deal doesn’t start until we get to Ponyville”
  1881. “Well look at that, you can actually learn” Her eyes narrow at you but quickly morphs back into a smile as you shake once more
  1882. >The heavy flap of wing beats catches both of your attentions
  1883. >Kicking up a small dust cloud, Twilight grinds to a halt as she lands on the plateau
  1884. >Her mane and wings are ruffled as she pants for air
  1885. >She shoots a small glare at Eris who simply giggles at the state of the mare
  1886. >With a tired sigh she shakes her head and turns to you “Let’s just go home”
  1887. >”An excellent idea Twilight” With a flash, the three of you are outside the castle steps and Twilight’s mane and wings have even been fixed “Now, let the games begin Anon”
  1888. >Twilight stops inspecting her preened wings and fixed mane at Eris’ words “Games? What games? Anon?”
  1889. Holding up a hand you manage to stop Twilight before she can begin ranting “Relax Twilight, me and Eris just made a little… wager”
  1890. >Twilight’s eyes only widen at your words “Anon, that’s a huge deal, the last time the girls and I made a deal with Discord he took over Equestria”
  1891. >Eris’ tail brushes over Twilight’s nose, causing her to sneeze “Oh relax princess, my dad never understood that a good deal was a two-way street, Anon has as much to gain from this as me”
  1892. >Rubbing the side of her snout with a hoof Twilight looks incredulously between you and Eris “Do I even want to know?”
  1893. “She can’t break the terms of her agreement, and she has to stay within Ponyville” You list off the basic terms on your fingers which seems to satisfy Twilight
  1894. >Letting out a sigh Twilight heads up the steps to the castle “I’m gonna get in contact with Cadence, make sure Discord hasn’t been causing too much trouble there, and make sure nopony in Appleloosa is panicking, if she-” Twilight narrows her eyes at Eris, who’s scanning the town “- starts getting out of hoof, let me know”
  1895. >You give a small nod, which she returns
  1896. >With one last glance at Eris, Twilight heads inside, leaving you and Eris alone
  1897. >It only occurs to you now that this might be another excuse for her to painstakingly inspect your medical projection again
  1898. >Before you’re able to pull the alicorn out of her castle the sound of rustling grass fills your ears as deep green fills your peripherals
  1899. >Refocusing your attentions, you see that all the grass in Ponyville has sprouted to be the same height as the crystal castle
  1900. >Spinning on a dime, you turn to Eris who is already giggling to herself and rubbing her talon and paw together
  1901. >She swims over to the nearby grass and rests her body against it
  1902. >The grass gives significantly against her weight but eventually settles
  1903. >”Did you actually know the terms of my agreement before this deal Anon?” Her smug grin is back in full force
  1904. >Besides the brief snippet you heard from Luna, you realise that you are woefully ignorant of what she can actually do
  1905. >”Don’t worry I can give you the cliff notes, believe me, you do not want to go through the whole thing” Kicking off against the air, Eris begins floating down the walled off dirt path
  1906. >As you get beside her you make out a few splashes of colour through the grass as the wind blows it aside occasionally
  1907. >”To make it short, there are three big rules, though two of them sort of overlap. Number one, no breaking the laws of physics” Grabbing one of the blades of grass, Eris rips it free and cups it in her hands
  1908. >With a few blows she adjusts it slightly until she can make a continuous melodic whistle with it
  1909. >As she whistles you make an exaggerated show of looking between her and the surrounding grass to make sure your point gets across
  1910. >Her eyes briefly flick to you before she focuses on you completely “Oh my dear Anon, you thought this was gonna be easy didn’t you?”
  1911. >Quickly getting bored of the grass whistle she chucks it back and turns to you “Our laws of physics and yours, are two very different things, because we, have magic”
  1912. >”For example-” With another snap of her talon the ground beneath you trembles and rises, nearly throwing you off-balance “-levitation, is a basic spell, and falls under our laws”
  1913. >Floating in front of you, Eris throws her arms open to indicate to the surrounding grassy maze “And a simple growth spell is foals play”
  1914. >Relaxing against the air, Eris grabs a nearby rock and begins grinding down her talon “It just so happens that I’m a bit of a magic powerhouse”
  1915. >With a small hop, you get off the floating piece of earth which collapses back into the ground
  1916. “Kind of just sounds like you can cast any spell you want Eris” As you brush off the dirt you glide your hand against the rough texture of the enlarged grass
  1917. >”Pffft, I wish that were the case” With you and Eris now in Ponyville proper you see a lot of the residents giving you both a wide berth
  1918. “Well how am I supposed to know?” Several creaks and tears pulls your attention upward once more as you see the roofs of the surrounding buildings being lifted while slowly spinning
  1919. >If any ponies were still in their houses, they weren’t any more, as several ponies come bursting out of their doors to investigate
  1920. >Several grumble emanate from the slowly growing crowd while they shoot you both dirty looks
  1921. >”Hey!” With a streak of colour Rainbow appears in front of you two
  1922. >”Oh Rainbow! Wonderful to see you, you’ll make a great example” Rainbow’s eyes widen slightly at Eris’ words and she flies several meters away ”Oh relax scaredy pony, I’m on the reformation course right now. In fact, if I could use all my magic right now, I’d give myself a halo”
  1923. >Eris slowly flaps up to Rainbow who eyes her cautiously
  1924. >Turning to you, Eris wraps her paw around Rainbow, pinning her wings to her back
  1925. >The sound of hooves beating against dirt tells you that every other pony is only interested in getting away from the three of you as quickly as possible
  1926. >”A few ways that I could break the laws Anon, are if I were to say, take a paint can, and stuff a pony two sizes too big into it” Rainbow’s struggles intensify as she’s reminded of her previous encounter with Eris “Or doing what my dad did, and modifying pony physiology, by say, taking away their wings”
  1927. >With a yelp Rainbow rips herself free of Eris and creates a sizeable distance between her and Eris’ cheshire grin
  1928. >Pointing a hoof at the draconequus she manages to speak through laboured pants “Keep your freaky magic away from me”
  1929. >It’s only for a moment, but you catch Eris’ narrowing her eyes at Dash as an edge of her mouth curls up in a snarl, briefly showing her fangs
  1930. >Taking a deep breath, Eris relaxes again and floats towards you “Sticks and stones Dash, but I’ve not broken any rules yet, so I can put my magic where I please right now”
  1931. >Rainbow’s glares hardens before she turns to you and relaxes her face into a concerned stare “Anon she can’t be serious, I mean look at this place”
  1932. “Tall grass, and floating, spinning roofs, yeah it’s a.... waking nightmare?” Shrugging your shoulders you see Eris stick her tongue out at Rainbow from your periphery and nudge her with an elbow
  1933. >Rainbow’s mouth hangs open and one of her eyes twitches slightly
  1934. >Looking between the houses and the two of you, the cyan mare heaves a sigh “You’re right. You’re right. This isn’t as bad as yesterday but it’s just- she’s-”
  1935. >”Amazing?” Rainbow jumps slightly as Eris floats right behind her head
  1936. >”Ugh, she’s that” Rolling her eyes Rainbow flaps away from Eris “Look, the main reason I came here is because we’re due a storm, and if this-” Rainbow says, pointing to the roofs “-keeps up, houses are gonna be flooded”
  1937. >Turning to Eris you see her taking particular interest in a nearby wall as she drums her claws against each other
  1938. “Eris” She continues to feign interest in the wall as her tail wafts in the breeze
  1939. >Reaching a hand out you give the tip a brief tug causing her to yelp and shoot backwards, hugging her tail to her body
  1940. “When the clouds come, put the roofs back, alright?” Rainbow is holding a hoof to her muzzle as she tries to suppress her snickers at Eris’ glare
  1941. >”Please, that’s too easy, if I’m gonna keep the rain out, I’ll do it my way” Turning away from you with a huff she brushes her tail with a paw
  1942. >A few snickers escape Rainbow “You keep that up and you may actually be able to control her”
  1943. >With a snort Eris releases her tail and lets it whip Rainbow in the back
  1944. >The pegasus’ backend is dragged down slightly, but is mostly unphased
  1945. >Rolling her eyes at Eris Rainbow gives you one last nod “If she starts-”
  1946. “Getting out of hoof, let you know? Deja vu, Twilight and Rarity have said the same”
  1947. >”Yeah, well, I mean it” Leaning in closer Rainbow drops her voice “Don’t let her push you around just cause you’re a colt”
  1948. >You roll your eyes as she flies away, and you see grey clouds in the distance, most likely just coming out of Cloudsdale
  1949. >”Ugh, good, now can we get back to our fun?” Circling around you, Eris flicks her tail in the general direction Rainbow flew off in
  1950. >Looking around the now deserted street you’re somewhat stumped for what to do
  1951. “I mean, we could actually tour the new town I’m living in?” As you look around you realize that you have absolutely no idea where you are in relation to anything else
  1952. >Other than the path you just came from to the castle, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the path to Applejack’s farm and the path to Town Hall
  1953. >Stroking her chin, Eris ponders your suggestion
  1954. >She looks around herself and, seeing nopony and nothing else around, simply shrugs her shoulders “After you” With far more flourish than necessary she waves her arms towards a street
  1955. >Most of the town is purely residential, with occasional restaurants, cafes and stores dotted through the town
  1956. >Some ponies use their house as the base of their job
  1957. >As you and Eris move through town she takes great glee in causing small bouts of chaos
  1958. >Snails and worms that pass underfoot are enlarged and proceed to demolish the enlarged grass
  1959. >Rocks are brought to quasi-life and hurl themselves at window panes which let out small grunts of pain at each impact
  1960. >An animation spell and a voice mimic spell respectively
  1961. >All of which are supposedly within the limits of her agreement
  1962. >It’s doubtful she’d use your lack of knowledge to win the bet, she just seems to be happy to use her magic
  1963. >You imagine that Twilight’s gonna attempt to give you another lesson in magic so you can verify what Eris does in the future
  1964. >Celestia and Luna are also probably going to consider revising their agreement after today
  1965. >But for right now, you find a simple joy in the elation on her face
  1966. >If you weren’t actually there, you wouldn’t have believed Eris could make the same nervous face she made yesterday
  1967. >Ponies still avoid the two of you like a plague, muttering as they go by
  1968. >Out of the corner of your eyes you often see Eris’ ears flicking back and forth before she lets out a small growl
  1969. >Her senses are unboutebly sharper than yours, but you can’t help but wonder what they could be saying that’s getting under her fur
  1970. >As another group of ponies give you a wide berth she straightens out and turns to you “Hey Anonymous, wanna hear something cool?”
  1971. Hopefully you’ll be able to distract her from whatever’s bothering her now “Shoot”
  1972. >Leaning towards you her eyes flick between several ponies around you, each one stepping away when her eyes land on them “Some of these ponies, aren’t actually ponies”
  1973. Your hair is threatening to annex your eyebrow with how high you’re raising it “What’s that supposed to mean?”
  1974. >Giggling to herself she goes a full spin, investigating the surroundings “I’ll tell you when I found one, oh the looks on their faces back home when I’d undo their disguises. Priceless”
  1975. >While Eris darts back and forth, investigating plants, ponies and rocks you feel your stomach grumble slightly
  1976. >The idea of hay-based food isn’t exactly appealing, and you can’t remember how long you’ve been walking away from the castle
  1977. >Briefly looking around you spot a small door framed by two walls of grass that cover the rest of the building
  1978. >On it hangs the sign ‘Bon Bons bon-bons’
  1979. >Shrugging, you head over to the door
  1980. >With a jingle you step inside to a quaint sweets shop that could have been pulled straight out of a children’s book
  1981. >A singular room, in the centre stands a large, square display case with a hollow centre where ‘Bon Bon’ most likely works from
  1982. >Each side displays dozens of different sweets, save for a small wooden panel for her to enter and exit
  1983. >The walls have shelves dug into the stone all the way to the roof, each shelf having been refined down to a smooth finish where even more sweets and confectionaries sit
  1984. >”Hello hello, sorry to keep yoOOOOOOO-” Turning to the source of the voice you see a cream coated mare with a blue and pink dual-coloured mane
  1985. >Her eyes are wide as she looks you up and down but slowly relaxes as you make no move “I uh- I had heard of some strange… thing running through Ponyville yesterday” With an aged creak the wooden panel is flipped up as she steps behind the counter
  1986. >”I guess I owe Lyra some bits” Clearing her throat Bon Bon tries to regain her composure “Anyway what can I get you uh…. um?”
  1987. >Her bewilderment is slightly amusing, though you imagine that if you have this interaction with every other pony in town when you meet them, it’ll get old fast
  1988. “My name’s Anonymous, and I’m a human” Finally hearing you speak seems to simultaneously startle the mare and put her at ease
  1989. >”Well Mr Anonymous, you’re certainly… bigger? than Lyra implied” She leans forward to look you up and down
  1990. >Quite frankly you’re not surprised by her reaction, especially considering the fact that the only pony to surpass you in height is Celestia
  1991. >Bon Bon soon realizes she’s been staring and shakes her head “Sorry, don’t get a lot of new species coming through town, what can I get you?”
  1992. >You give the courteous mare a smile, considering the fact that you’re a literal alien they deserve a little slack
  1993. “Well” Looking around the store you count at least a hundred or more sweets “What do you like?” Turning back to the mare she seems a bit taken aback by your question
  1994. >”Oh uh, I don’t really sample my own stock” Nodding, you turn back to the stock but she quickly starts again, possibly worried she’ll lose a customer “B-but! I do make the bon bons myself” Pulling a small, unassuming chocolate brown box from the display case she places it atop and pops the lid open, allowing the slight fragrant scent to fill the shop
  1995. >”And well I... wouldn’t want to toot my own horn... but-” Her words slowly die in her throat as you approach the counter
  1996. >You just hope that other ponies won’t make a habit of it
  1997. >Each bon bon is wrapped neatly in foil and you take one in your hand
  1998. >You could probably fit a dozen or more of these in a single palm
  1999. “May I sample one?” Again Bon Bon snaps out of her daze and refocuses on you
  2000. >”Huh? Oh, yes you can sample one” With a wave of her hoof she grabs the box and puts it back in the display case
  2001. >Unwrapping the bon bon you pop its entirety in your mouth
  2002. >You have to immediately stop chewing after the first bite as the rush of flavour and pure concentration of sweetness nearly overwhelms you
  2003. >There was nothing on earth that had this level of sweetness to it, yet it isn’t overpowering
  2004. >For what feels like ages you simply hold the bon bon in your mouth allowing the thick chocolatey goo, in place of the usual liqueur, to dance on your tastebuds
  2005. >It takes every fibre of your being to hum instead of moan from the taste as you finally swallow the sweet
  2006. “That’s fantastic” The mare perks up at your compliment, her chest puffing out in pride “How much are they?”
  2007. >”They’re two bits per bon bon” For such a small sweet you’d normally complain if it weren’t for the sheer quality “How many would you like?” Pulling out a paper bag she awaits your order
  2008. >”Why don’t you give us all of them” With a heavy thud a bag of bits lands on the counter, luckily without cracking the glass
  2009. >Bon Bon lets out a yelp as she looks towards the door, Eris has climbed into the room, literally, she’s climbed up the wall and onto the ceiling, her claws and talons digging into the stone
  2010. >”No! You! You, get out!” Bon Bon scrabbles under the counter only to reappear a moment later with a broom which she swipes at the upside down draconequus
  2011. >”Come now, there’s no need for that, I’m a paying customer after all” Releasing her talon she dangles from the roof
  2012. >She has to crouch her legs to stop her head from hitting the floor and also to stop her head from being level with your crotch
  2013. “Are you doing that with magic or is that just leg muscle?” It takes you a moment to realise you had actually vocalized your thoughts
  2014. >Your only response from Eris is a wink
  2015. >With a grumble Bon Bon puts away the broom and begins counting the bits
  2016. “Also, where did those come from?” Pointing to the bag you distinctly remember not seeing it before
  2017. >Eris’ tail drifts towards the bag and begins flipping through the coins “A clever observation, but I just teleported these from my house, so I’m still winning”
  2018. “Only cause I felt bad for you earlier” Her tail coils up slightly as a light blush creeps up on her face
  2019. >You also notice Bon Bon trying to hide the smirk on her muzzle “Here. Try and keep your freaky marefriend under control this time”
  2020. >With a loud crack Eris detaches from the ceiling and falls to the floor, just barely managing to twist and land on her tail
  2021. >Like a spring it compresses to stop her fall
  2022. >Her muscles are tensed as she gets to her feet
  2023. >Quickly grabbing the bag of sweets you make your way beside her
  2024. “Hear that Eris?” Nudging her manages to snap her back to reality but there’s still a small snarl on her face “Ponies are already talking about us”
  2025. As you make your way to the door she seems to slowly calm down “We keep hanging out and there may be stories before long”
  2026. >This seems to finally get her to smile as she begins floating again “Oh I dread to think”
  2027. >Another jingle echos through the store as you exit and the snap of Eris’ talon matches the clicking of the closed door
  2028. >Looking around you see no obvious changes to Ponyville
  2029. >Soon though rapid popping emanates from inside the store and several yelps follow
  2030. >Turning to Eris she shrugs her shoulder “It’s just a popping spell on her candy, it’s not like I’m hurting her”
  2031. >Now hanging upside down above you she reaches into the bag to grab a bon bon “Speaking of which”
  2032. >Unwrapping the foil she pops it into her mouth and chucks the sweet to you “Rule number three, I can’t cause any kind of harm to ponies”
  2033. >You glance between Eris and the shop
  2034. >Maybe you’ll be able to convince her to undo the damages later
  2035. >Though right now she still doesn’t seem to be back to her usual self
  2036. “So did you find any of those things you were on about earlier?” Hoping to get her mind off what’s bothering her you bring up her little tease from earlier
  2037. >After finishing the foil, Eris does another spin to look around town
  2038. >”No, no I haven’t, maybe we should get a better view” Once again the ground lifts up from under you as Eris tears a sizeable chunk of the earth up and over the grass line
  2039. >Now with a better view you’re able to see the ponies wandering through the maze like grass
  2040. >You also see a very peculiar sight, Eris has enlarged a gray pegasus pony with a pale blonde mane, flapping over the town she looks between the houses and the enlarged pack on her side
  2041. >Pulling letter from the pack she drops letters and packages on to the houses as she passes by
  2042. >Her wall-eye catches you two floating there and she waves at you both, thanking Eris
  2043. >Eris simply waves back at the mare
  2044. >Apparently, before she had entered the store, Eris had bumped into the mail pony, usually she would fly around to do her job but the tall grass was getting in the way
  2045. >Of course Eris’ solution was to make the mare grow
  2046. “So seriously, just tell me what you’re looking for” Poking the draconequus in the side cause her to recoil with a snicker
  2047. >”Not yet” She says waving you away
  2048. >Her smile begins to fade slightly as she looks back over the town so you decide to push her for info
  2049. >Several pokes later and you manage to break her down enough that she can no longer sustain her hovering
  2050. >Backing away from you and clutching her sides through her giggles she manages to prop herself up
  2051. >”Alright fine, if you’re gonna be such a needy colt” Drifting besides you she does one last scan of the area before sighing “I’m looking for changelings”
  2052. “Changelings?” The name rings a bell but you can’t remember that much detail about them
  2053. >”Yep, they’re Celestia and Luna’s best allies, not sure what they’re like here, but if they’re anything like back on my world, they’re the princesses spy network”
  2054. >Pulling out another bon bon you hand her the foil as you chew through the chocolate
  2055. >Despite being your third one you still aren’t used to the pure sweetness of it
  2056. >Now being high above the town, a comfortable silence replaces the constant murmurs of the ponies from before
  2057. >A few thoughts drift in and out of your head but none of them stick as you glance at Eris
  2058. >Her usual jovial nature has been replaced with tired eyes
  2059. >Shuffling against the rock you lightly brush against her as you readjust, causing her to go stiff
  2060. >You settle a bit away from her but her eyes remain on you
  2061. >After a few more thoughts come and go you decide to simply grab the proverbial horns
  2062. “Eris, what’s wrong?” For a few minutes she doesn’t say anything
  2063. >Unlike earlier, she isn’t purposefully ignoring her, you can see her trying to collect her thoughts as she eats another bon bon, both the foil and the chocolate
  2064. >”Back in my Equestria” Her voice finally snaps you out of the staring contest you were having with her neck “Nopony or changeling ever used my name, I was always just ‘freak’ to them, after a few centuries I actually had to start reminding myself of my own name”
  2065. >Idly picking at the floating rock, she flicks a few pebbles to the streets below “That’s the price you pay for initiating a hostile takeover of a whole planet but... I don’t know” Using her talon she rips out a more sizeable chunk of rock and begins carving into it with her claws
  2066. >”I guess hearing it over here just” Her carving begins to slow and eventually she simply lets the rock drop to the ground “I really don’t know why it’s bothering me”
  2067. >You open your mouth to try and say something, but you see her pupils have grown again
  2068. >Countless images of ponies and pony sized bug creatures flash by, each of them yelling and hurling whatever they can get their hooves or magic on
  2069. >Now that you’re closer to her you notice small bags beneath her eyes
  2070. >Tentatively, you wrap an arm around her paw
  2071. >She doesn’t freeze up this time, but her head jolts slightly as her pupils snap to their regular size, and she looks down at her paw, as if to confirm what she’s feeling
  2072. “You look tired Eris”
  2073. >With a tired chuckle she places her talon against your arm before slowly pulling herself free “I am tired. Believe it or not a thousand years is a long time, even to creatures of chaos. I never got any before; Luna would just give me nightmares”
  2074. >Leaning back Eris rests herself against the rock “Ol’ Bluebean really needed to get laid if you ask me”
  2075. >The thought of that causes both of you to giggle, the infectious nature of the laugh and the ridiculous subject feeds back into itself, fueling you both into near howls of laughter
  2076. >Finally broken out of her sombre mood, Eris manages to sputter out ridiculous commentary regarding Celestia as well which only makes you both laugh harder
  2077. >When the laughter finally begins winding down you realize that somewhere along the way you dropped the bag of bon bons
  2078. >The previous anger from before has finally washed off Eris, and a small contented smile has taken place on her muzzle
  2079. >Leaning down beside her you stare at the sky, by the position of the sun you’d wager you’ve missed lunch
  2080. >But right now your stomach doesn’t really seem to mind
  2081. >Quicker than you’d expect though, dark clouds begin to roll over the skies of Ponyville
  2082. >”Ugh already? Pegasi work a lot quicker over here” With a snap you hear several heavy thuds
  2083. >Looking over the side of the floating rock you see the roofs are back on the houses, except they’re all backwards
  2084. >As the ponies below, the mail mare included, gallop to their houses a crack of thunder and a flash of lightning lights up the sky just as a torrential downpour begins
  2085. >Yet you and Eris remain unaffected
  2086. >The water crashes against an invisible barrier and falls harmlessly away from you
  2087. >You don’t even bother asking this time
  2088. >As the rain continues to fall, Eris begins telling you of her experiences with the changelings in her old world
  2089. >Apparently they had several hives, and each changelings mission was simply to find and relay her position to the princesses
  2090. >Rinse and repeat everyday
  2091. >Though Eris took great joy in reminding them that she could find them with ease, no matter how many new disguises they tired or tricks they used
  2092. >One story is cut off by a piercing whistle, dulled by the rainstorm, the thunder and the barrier surrounding you
  2093. >Eris whips her head in every direction for the source of the noise
  2094. >Eventually her eyes land on the train station and she leans forward to get a better look “What’s that thing?”
  2095. >Sitting up you take in the sight of the steam-powered locomotive
  2096. “They didn’t have trains back in your Equestria?” You stand to your feet as Eris begins hovering, shaking her head as she does
  2097. >Before you can say anymore the two of you are on the train, shocking the driver
  2098. >She immediately begins flying around it, taking in the carriages, wheels and finally back the engine
  2099. >”How the hell is something this big supposed to move?” Eris says as she sits atop one of the carriages
  2100. >Not entirely sure what to do in this situation the driver simply turns away from you two and focuses on the engine
  2101. “Well I’m no expert but, from what I recall” Another whistle and jolt causes the train to lurch forward “Coal is fed into a boiler, then the resulting steam turns the pistons which turn the wheels”
  2102. >Eris’ eyes slowly part to the side as you talk before snapping back into place “Ok, now what’s a boiler and what’s a piston?”
  2103. >You can’t help but laugh as you realize that Eris inadvertently stopped her Equestria from progressing technologically for a thousand years
  2104. >The gentle rhythm of clicks and clacks of the train wheels against the rails and the shuffling of coal fills the air as the train barrels down its track
  2105. >Eventually you’re able to break down the basic mechanisms of a train down into laymens for Eris
  2106. >She meanwhile, is fascinated by this new discovery “This thing is insane”
  2107. “You think this is insane? Wait until I tell you about rockets, or submarines” Eris eyes literally sparkle at your words “But before we get into my world, tell me more about yours”
  2108. >Eris slumps back slightly, no doubt annoyed by you withholding information, but her face quickly turns ponderous
  2109. >”Where do I start? Do you wanna hear about Sombra or Tirek first?”
  2110. “Either, who were they?” Your hand brushes against the metal roof of the carriage and you’re reminded that your bon bons are probably still ruined in a muddy puddle back in Ponyville
  2111. >Seeing this Eris snaps her talons and teleports the bon bons into your lap
  2112. >Happily unwrapping one you give her the foil while you indulge in the sweet
  2113. >”Well, of course neither were too happy with my rule, so they joined with the princesses, but I think I’d say Tirek was the bigger threat, since he was, you know, an actual threat”
  2114. >You nearly choke on your chocolate at the thought
  2115. “How’s that possible?” You find it hard to believe there was anyone that wasn’t the princesses that would have a chance against Eris
  2116. >”Well sit back, cause it all starts with Cerberus-”
  2117. >The wider world almost seems to fall away from the two of you
  2118. >Eris’ eyes take on a gentle red glow as she reminisces about her old world
  2119. >How Tirek was allowed to consumed the magic of ponies to try and fight her, only to have it ripped out of him and scattered back to the ponies again
  2120. >When Sombra tried to use the Crystal Heart as a power source for his magic only to have it undone by Eris
  2121. >And the countless fights she had with Celestia and Luna
  2122. “She seriously dropped the moon on you?” With half a bon bon in hand, you give Eris an incredulous stare at her latest story
  2123. >”Well, she tore off chunks of it and let gravity pull them down on top of me” Rather than eating the foil, she’s begun folding them into origami figures that prance around the two of you
  2124. ”And no other pony or monster tried to stand up to you?”
  2125. >”I guess everyone else saw them fail and got scared off”
  2126. >With each new story the landscape changes little by little
  2127. >From rolling emerald hills, to verdant woodlands
  2128. >Slowly but surely rocky formations begin to come into view
  2129. >All the while the rainstorm rages over head
  2130. >One lightning bolt had actually come towards the two of you but Eris simply caught it in a bottle
  2131. >The bet had been forgotten long ago
  2132. >You preferred it when she went unrestrained, there was something in the way she effortlessly warped the world that made it impossible to look away
  2133. >The huffing of the train becomes more intense as greater amounts of coal are shovelled into the boiler
  2134. >Looking around the metal motor you notice that you’re going up an incline
  2135. >This is the closest you’ve been to Canterlot since you got here
  2136. >Along with the towering spires of ivory you see grand building inlaid with gold and purple
  2137. >Your body instinctively tenses as you expect to be hit with Celestia’s presence
  2138. >But it never comes
  2139. >Glancing over to Eris you see her lost as she too stares at Canterlot “so that’s where they live” Her voice is barely above a murmur, she probably didn’t even intend for you to hear her
  2140. >”I doubt they’d want me visiting them so soon” This time her voice clearly cuts through the ambient noise “I guess you won the bet… again”
  2141. Letting out an exaggerated hum you stroke your chin “I dunno Eris, there’s an argument that it’s a tie”
  2142. >This gets her full attention as she leans towards you “I like the sound of that”
  2143. “Well, I believe that you could win by convincing me that Discord ‘doesn’t hold a candle to you’? Right” She nods along with you “Sure you broke the terms of your agreement, which part I’m still not sure, and you took your magic out of Ponyville. But you still managed to convince me”
  2144. >Eris’ body relaxes slightly at your words and a look of uncertainty crosses her face
  2145. “I know it doesn’t really make up for a thousand years of ponies calling you-” You cut yourself off before you blunder “-well you know. But for what it’s worth, I think you’re pretty great”
  2146. >Shooting a smile and wink at the draconequus you expect her to do the same
  2147. >Instead her body shakes ever so slightly before she lunges at you and wraps her arms around you
  2148. >“Thanks”
  2149. >Her shaky voice is the last thing you hear before the world seems to stop
  2150. >It takes you a second to realise that you had simply been teleported back into the castle
  2151. >You look around for any sign of the draconequus, but she’s simply gone
  2152. >A slight tingle runs through your hand and a crinkle comes from the other
  2153. >Looking down you see the bottled lightning and bag of bon bons in your grasp
  2154. >With your day so abruptly ended you mindlessly wander through the castle
  2155. >Rumbling snores come from a room as you pass by
  2156. >A room with an orange light
  2157. >Groaning slightly, you head over to your room to deposit the volatile lightning and sweets
  2158. >Swiftly returning to the room you crack open the door to see Twilight fast asleep
  2159. >Beside her are two small notes
  2160. >One of them is in a harsh scratchy calligraphy
  2161. >‘It’s of my professional medical opinion that any harm done to Anon’s body was benign at worst and that no further medical measures are required to ensure his safety’ - Private Light Sutures, Equestrian Medic Corps
  2162. >You twirl the note in your hand for a while
  2163. >Did Twilight go out of her way to get a combat medic to look into your projection or was this pony sent by Celestia
  2164. >The other note is in Twilight’s neater calligraphy
  2165. >’Anon, there’s food in the fridge, also, please don’t be mad’
  2166. >Flicking the notes aside you put your hands apart and bring them together, shrinking the projection down to a small sphere
  2167. >Careful to not wake the exhausted mare you slowly cradle Twilight’s body and carry her through the door
  2168. “Silly mare, why’d I be mad at you for caring?” You keep your voice low as Twilight slowly shuffles in your arms
  2169. >Eventually, after several broom closets and toilets, you find Twilight’s room and place her atop her covers
  2170. >They’re so tightly tucked into the bed that pulling them free would probably wake her
  2171. >Leaving the purple mare to her dreams you slowly make your way to the kitchen and the preserved food
  2172. >As you pass by a few of the windows you see the storm still going on, though with far less intensity than before
  2173. >Slowly small gaps in the clouds begin to form as they begin to dissipate from lack of rain
  2174. >An inky black peeks through the holes in the clouds with small specks of white dotted through
  2175. >How long had you been on that train
  2176. >Your thoughts return to Eris as you grab the large salad from the fridge
  2177. >The way she spoke of her old home definitely reminded you of how you had felt
  2178. >A sombre nostalgia, but at the same time, worry at the thought of returning
  2179. >You imagine that, after literally being hunted everyday for a millenia, even if it was never successful, Eris is probably happy to be able to relax out in the open
  2180. >Save for the murmurs from today
  2181. >Twilight will need to hear about Eris disdain towards the word freak
  2182. >Slowly you chew through the cold salad, maybe you should see if Fluttershy has any meat you can eat, she has to feed her carnivorous animals somehow, right?
  2183. >Trying to think of other ways to help Eris feel more at home you hope that you’ve at least helped her feel at ease around you
  2184. >That hug was pretty telling though
  2185. >With the salad done you leave it in the basin as your exhaustion begins to finally catch up with you
  2186. >Along with the purple glow of Twilight’s runes, dull flashes of white hums through the room as the lightning perpetually rages on inside the bottle beside your bag
  2187. >Besides both items you see a small picture, most of it dimmed by the room
  2188. >Bringing it in front of the light you see yourself, laughing at something
  2189. >The dirt treadmill besides the laughing you brings your mind back to yesterday
  2190. >Turning it over, a short note is on the back, each letter seemingly made up of letters cut from magazines
  2191. >‘See you later Anon’
  2192. >Propping the photo against the bottle you slowly slip off your clothes before finally collapsing into your bed
  2193. <>
  2194. >The cold cries of wendigos filled your ears
  2195. >As they ran down the mountain their ethereal hooves kicked up a blizzard that would have snow-blinded you if you didn’t have goggles on
  2196. >Your own laughter managed to match their cries in sheer volume
  2197. >You hadn’t done this in eons and had forgotten how fun it was
  2198. >Fighting Celestia and Moon Cheese can be so boring sometimes
  2199. >Though this will probably draw their attention pretty quickly
  2200. >With a simple flex of your paw you extend your claws and cut the ropes that bound the phantoms of ice
  2201. >Were Wendigoes dead ponies or simply another species of them
  2202. >Maybe Celestia or Bluebean will know
  2203. >Though their response will probably be something along the lines of “Shut up Eris” or “Today you fall Eris”
  2204. >Honestly, those two need some new material
  2205. >Slowly your momentum peters out and you come to a halt
  2206. >Snapping your talon, the wendigos' eyes flash and make a beeping noise
  2207. “All right kids, remember where we parked”
  2208. >Scurrying under your cloven hoof, several smaller clones of you scatter throughout the wintery expanse
  2209. >Before you’re able to take in the sights yourself, you’re briefly blinded
  2210. >Every muscle in you tenses, ready to throw your magic at the twin princesses
  2211. >You tense, and you tense, and you tense
  2212. >Yet you sense no incoming magic
  2213. >Blinding you before a battle was Celestia’s favourite, if not pointless, trick
  2214. >A quick glance up helps you relax
  2215. >The sun had simply bounced off the spires of Sombra’s crystal castle
  2216. >Annoyed at the little ball of burning gas you turn your gaze up to it
  2217. >Using the thumb and index of your talon, you see the sun fit between the gap and pinch it out of the sky
  2218. >Unsurprisingly its quite spicy as you pop it into your mouth and it travels through you
  2219. >You’ll put it back
  2220. >Eventually
  2221. >Maybe
  2222. “I wonder if I could convince Celestia to beg me to put it back?” You double over at the mental image of the stubborn mare kneeling to you “She probably would as well, if it meant protecting her ponies”
  2223. >Your laughter carries up the mountain and shakes the snow sat at the peak loose, causing an avalanche
  2224. >With a few tonnes of snow, your laughter finally stops
  2225. >Luckily someone was kind enough to leave a door in the snow for you to simply walk out of the avalanche with
  2226. >That someone was you
  2227. “Thank you Eris”
  2228. >”You’re welcome Eris”
  2229. >Before you can properly thank yourself she disappears in a cloud of dark, crackling magic
  2230. >The snow nearly muffles it, but your ears pick it up clearly
  2231. >Heavy metal boots crushing the snow and rock beneath it
  2232. >Glancing towards the source of the noise you see a pair of eyes piercing the prevailing darkness you’d created
  2233. >Red pupils like your own, with purple smoke wafting out of the sickly green sclera
  2234. >A red cape, lined with white fur and black dots
  2235. >On his head sat a crown of steel as cold as the ice around you
  2236. “Hello Sombrero, miss me?” With a flash that tacky crown of his turns into a wide brimmed straw hat “Hey look we match” Floating next to the dark sorcerer you grin ear to ear as you compare your hats
  2237. >His horn crackles to life with dark lightning as its overtaken with purple and green smoke to match his eyes
  2238. >The snow is melted off the ground from the heat and pressure as he tears apart the hat
  2239. “That was a gift Sombrero” Your hurt tone is returned with a deep growl
  2240. >”You should not have come here today, monster” His voice reverberates around the two of you
  2241. >Was it simply a vocal alteration spell he used or was it a result of all the dark magic coursing through his veins
  2242. “Don’t you mean tonight?” Waving your arm up you pull Luna’s celestial body up over the horizon, replacing the ebony darkness with a silver light
  2243. >”They are not yours to control, freak” You feel your nostrils flare at the impudent stallion as he began pacing around you
  2244. “Well if that teacher of yours is too pathetic to stop me, then why shouldn’t I do what I want with them?” Sombra’s face twisted in rage at your insult
  2245. >Once more his horn flared to life and a spell was launched at you, but a simple mirror deflected it onto the snow
  2246. >Like a twisted tree, a spire of black crystal sprouts up from the ground
  2247. >An effective spell, if he could actually hit his target, which he never could
  2248. >”I will not suffer any slander of Celestia’s name, creature” With a snarl, he levelled his horn at your chest
  2249. >Volatile black lightning sprang from his horn and formed a net
  2250. >With a twist, you unscrewed your antler and began spinning it in your talon
  2251. >When the net made contact, it spun itself into a ball
  2252. >Biting into the magic, it tore away like cotton candy
  2253. “I’m not really a fan of black liquorice, but this isn’t too bad” Flicking your wrist, you threw the magic treat up
  2254. >Telekinetically compressing it, the black of Sombra’s magic and the white of your antler mixed into a flaming ball of black and white
  2255. >His horn flared to life again and dozen of crystal walls appeared around him
  2256. >With practiced ease you tore them away from him and began peeling them
  2257. >The black stone fell away to reveal a reflective surface which you used to reflect and multiply the fiery orbs
  2258. >Clapping your talon and paw together, the balls converged on Sombra
  2259. >Instead of the blazing inferno a spell like that would normally cause, the black and white balls unfurled into dozens of kittens of the same colour
  2260. >For a split second you saw a grin tug at Sombra’s lips before he regained his composure and turned to you again
  2261. >His horn flared with a sickly green and purple as spears of black crystal manifested in the air
  2262. >Your paw extended towards him and tore his cape off as he hurled the spears
  2263. >Throwing up the cape, each spear harmlessly bounced off the enchanted garb
  2264. >As if gravity were acting on it, the cape tugged itself out of your grasp and towards the crystal ruler
  2265. “Tell me Sombra, does that cape come in green? Red isn’t really my colour”
  2266. >Despite being Celestia’s pupil, Sombra wasn’t a fast learner
  2267. >Dark magic pulsed off his horn once more as he prepared another spell
  2268. >The magic cloud grew larger and larger with each passing second
  2269. >When the cloud became the size of a building it pulsed angrily, as if an invisible wall were stopping it
  2270. >Though it continued to pulse as Sombra poured more magic into the spell it didn’t grow any further
  2271. >In fact it began to shrink
  2272. >Sombra’s face was twisted in concentration as the cloud began to solidify, pulsing with a magical density far greater than its mass
  2273. >Sure, you could stop him, for the first century you didn’t let anyone cast a spell as you were more than quick enough to stop them
  2274. >But you quickly got bored of doing that, so now you let these spells play out
  2275. >This one has certainly caught your attention
  2276. >Looking down, you see small flakes of snow getting pulled off the ground and into the dense spell
  2277. >The spell has shrunk to the size of a ball and the silver light of the moon began to be drawn too it as well
  2278. >You were honestly getting excited at this
  2279. >Finally, the spell converged back into Sombra’s horn and arcs of black lightning tore up and burnt the ground around you
  2280. >As the spell hit its zenith, Sombra let out a scream of pain
  2281. >Any other pony would find it bloodcurdling
  2282. >You just found it funny as he fell into a crumpled mess, the spell releasing a powerful shockwave that caused a split to run up the entirety of the mountain
  2283. >His limbs folded the wrong way, snapping the bone and sinew beneath
  2284. >So intense was the pain that his horn flared sporadically, leaving him in a puddle of an inky liquid
  2285. >Probably something else too, if his whimpers were anything to go by
  2286. “A thousand years Sombra” One of his hooves twitched in your general direction, so he hadn’t fainted from the pain just yet “A thousand years and you still haven’t figured out how to counteract your own magic’s drawback?”
  2287. >Sombra slowly propped himself up on his own broken legs
  2288. >With a groan that slowly turned into a defiant yell his magic twitched and flickered before taking a cohesive form and burst around his body
  2289. >Another series of clicks rang through him as he fixed himself
  2290. >”I… can do… enough-” The stress of it was clearly too much as he once more collapsed
  2291. >Steam rose from his body as the cold wind boiled against the sheer heat of his body, resulting from the magic expenditure
  2292. >It wasn’t hard to see why Celestia had taken Sombra under her wing
  2293. >Any other pony would have died after a decade of using dark magic non-stop and if they managed to last longer than that, they’d go mad
  2294. >But not old Sombra
  2295. >The little dark prince had practically made himself a magic beacon for the others
  2296. >As you looked over Sombra’s pathetic form, you didn’t see a beaten and broken stallion, you saw Celestia’s student, and as your mind focused on the ivory princess you felt an old familiar emotion begin to rise in you
  2297. >Anger
  2298. >It was fun to mess with these ponies but every now and then they managed to tick you off
  2299. >And right now you felt like blowing off some steam
  2300. “Awwww, poor Sombra” He knew the situation he was in, yet he still tried to gather the strength to shuffle away from you “That looks like it hurt” Your sickly sweet voice dripped from the ear-splitting grin on your face as you stood to your full height
  2301. >Your paw and talon hung limply at your side, your magic wasn’t necessary, right now you felt like getting physical
  2302. “Here, let me help you” Rearing your cloven hoof back you compressed it as much as you can before letting it fire into Sombra’s chest like a piston
  2303. >Wait, what’s a pist-
  2304. >Before you’re able to finish the question a weight slams into your back
  2305. >Quickly increasing your own density, the offending items crumples into a gasping heap behind you
  2306. >Turning around you see Sombra, his chest plate shattered, his crown long gone, and his cape torn
  2307. >You must have teleported into the empire just after kicking him
  2308. >Shaking the previous thought from your head you pull up your dragon talon over his body
  2309. >Like the knell of a grand bell, the impact of your foot reverberates through the empire
  2310. >Inspecting the point of impact you see a crystal clear dome has formed around Sombra
  2311. >You shoot a glance over your shoulder and see a gentle, baby blue glow shining brighter and brighter from behind you
  2312. >As you drag your talon’s claws against the crystal dome, the piercing screech causes the spell to warble as the surrounding ponies wince at the sound
  2313. >Your talon gently slaps against the ground and the deep gashes you had left in the protective spell slowly begins to fill again
  2314. >Slowly you turn around to face the ponies of the crystal empire
  2315. >Despite their defiant nature
  2316. >Despite the fact that they had been taught about you from birth
  2317. >They were still cowards when they came face to face with you
  2318. >”Y- you-” With a crack you bent your neck in a way no other creature could
  2319. >This alone was enough to paralyse the crystal pony that had managed to build up the courage to speak to you
  2320. >But you felt like really messing with this pony
  2321. >Your eyes began to glow and you created a small illusory dome around you and the pony and began to make the light dim, leaving only you visible to them
  2322. “Have something to say?” You twisted your neck again so that your face was the right way up
  2323. >Her breathing slowly became more and more ragged and she slowly placed one hoof behind the other
  2324. Bringing your lion paw down, you caused the ground to crack “Well!?”
  2325. >That did it, with a screech, the pony turned around and bolted to whatever hole they had crawled out of
  2326. >As your body twisted back to its normal orientation you couldn’t help but laugh at the fleeing mare
  2327. >Her terror had really brought up your previous mood
  2328. >But that’s wrong isn’t it?
  2329. >You weren’t supposed to be doing that anymore
  2330. >Anymore-
  2331. >Once more your train of thought is derailed, literally as a train come tumbling out of your ear and crashes into the ground
  2332. >Where’d that come from, you don’t have anything like that in this Equestria
  2333. >This Equestria-
  2334. >You let out a small gasp of pain and clasp your head
  2335. >”What’s the matter monster, getting tired?” Sombra’s voice cuts through your head
  2336. “Well well well, look at you, so eager for my attention, I can understand if Celestia isn’t doing it for you anymore” Sombra’s face twists in anger as he tries to rise to his hooves, only to collapse once more
  2337. You begin pacing around the protective dome his subjects made while he growls at you like a cornered animal “If you must know, I’m just desperately bored of you, I could use an actual challenge like say, an alicorn?”
  2338. >”Careful what you wish for, creature, Celestia and Luna will have noticed your presence here by now”
  2339. >You’d be able to take him more seriously if he were actually able to stand
  2340. “Well why wait for them Sombra, why not have Cadence come fight me?” Glancing towards the castle expectantly, you wait for the familiar flash of pink
  2341. >”Who?” All you get is Sombra’s question
  2342. “Oh you know, Cade- Ca- Candy? Cotton?” You wince as another twinge of pain hits one of your temples
  2343. >You had just said her name, you remember that earlier you knew her name, but now it escaped you
  2344. >Planting your head in your paw and talon you let an exasperated groan
  2345. “Something’s wrong” Before Sombra can interrupt your thoughts again you teleport yourself
  2346. >Where, you don’t know, you just know you needed to be there
  2347. >Ponyville
  2348. >That’s where your magic brought you
  2349. >But again something was wrong, except it wasn’t
  2350. >It was exactly the way you had left it, including the ponies that screamed and ran as soon as they saw you
  2351. “Where is it? It was… big and ugly, right?”
  2352. >As you stared out into the open plain of grass you continued to wonder at what was missing
  2353. >Did you put something there before?
  2354. >Before you can think too long a whistle rings through the air
  2355. >With a speed that you didn’t know you had, you blitzed over to another empty plain of grass
  2356. “There’s supposed to be something here, a snake” Snapping your talon you summoned a massive python
  2357. >Close, definitely close
  2358. “A… a metal snake?” Another snap hardened the python’s scales to the same steel that Celestia and Luna’s guard would use
  2359. >Not sure of what to do next you let yourself fall onto the snake’s back
  2360. >Seemingly with a destination in mind, the snake began slithering through the grass and away from Ponyville
  2361. >Meanwhile you were racking your brain trying to figure out what you were missing
  2362. “Something big and ugly, and Cade- Cady… Candy? Bon bons?” With a flash a bag of the sweets appeared in front of you
  2363. >But again, something was missing
  2364. >As your journey continued, you chewed through the bag like a sandwich
  2365. >Eventually a mountain came into view
  2366. >There was nothing interesting about it, but for some reason it drew your attention
  2367. “That’s where they live?” You mimicked the words before you even knew what you were saying or who you were mimicking
  2368. >Another flash and you were stood on the face of the mountain
  2369. >Your eyes enlarged to several times their normal size and shone light onto the mountain’s surface to try and find whatever it was you were looking for
  2370. >As you glanced over a rock you brought your talon down on it and squeezed
  2371. >With a flash of green fire, Chrysalis dropped the inanimate disguise and gasped as your talon squeezed her neck
  2372. “Will you ever learn Chrysalis?” Aside from the disguise magic, she couldn’t really do much, so you let her go
  2373. >Sputtering and heaving, she slowly managed to regain the air you had squeezed out of her
  2374. >She slowly staggered to her hooves and you got a clearer look at the damage you’d done to her over the centuries
  2375. >You could see every crack in the sinister smile she shot you
  2376. >Her chitinous hide was tougher than stone, but you had found a way to work around it
  2377. >Hit her, hard, with something very big
  2378. >You matched her smile with one of your own as the memories flooded your mind
  2379. >”You know, I’m actually glad to see you, monster” With a final cough, Chrysalis tried her best to puff out her chest and look intimidating
  2380. >It wasn’t working, but it was cute that she tried
  2381. “Oh?” Normally she’d have signalled for a few hundred drones to swarm you by now, so this ought to be interesting “Do tell Cheese Legs”
  2382. >Her nose flared slightly at your little nickname but she quickly calmed herself
  2383. >”I actually wanted to show you something new I’ve been working on” With a flash of green fire, a perfect copy of you stood before you “Actually, I think I wear this freaky body better than you do” She even got your voice right
  2384. >Her smarmy self-assuredness was admirable if nothing else
  2385. “Good for you insect, but you don’t have my magic so…” You wave your paw up and down at the copy of you, wondering what the purpose of it is
  2386. >”Well it was more of a personal goal than anything” Seeing yourself rest your cheek against a single claw was weirder than you expected “I just haven’t done it until now because I wanted to figure you out first”
  2387. >With a flap of her wings, the Chrysalis copy spun and floated over towards you and began spiralling around your body
  2388. >“And you know what, I really think I finally have” To emphasize her last word she flicked your nose with the tip of your tail
  2389. “Oh goody, psychology” With a flash you sat yourself in a leather armchair and donned a tweed jacket and fake beard “Is this the part where I tell you about my mother?”
  2390. >Chrysalis’s voice echoed slightly as she chuckled “Oh no, this is the part where I tell you about yourself”
  2391. >You could feel your brain melting from boredom already
  2392. >In fact, you and the chair were melting too
  2393. >Maybe she’d keep talking and you could slip away by melting to the bottom of the mountain
  2394. >”I mean, of course you’d act this way with all the ponies that have hurt you”
  2395. >You stopped yourself at her words and slowly resolidified
  2396. >Crossing your arms, you turn back to the queen of the bugs
  2397. >”Trust me, I get it, being capable of changing into anything, I know what it’s like. When no one trusts you” She shifts to take the form of Luna and the deeper feminie voice replaces yours
  2398. >Her form was far more pristine than Luna’s actual body, it was the way her body looked before you went on a rampage
  2399. >The countless nights of being visited by her and her endless interrogations flashed through your mind but were cut off as Chrysalis spoke again
  2400. >”I can be anything or anypony. You’ve never tried to be something you're not, but when push came to shove, they didn’t trust you”
  2401. >Celestia this time, the harsh glare, and the voice of a disappointed mother actually caused you to stumble back from the now approaching Celest- Chrysalis, she was just trying to get in your head
  2402. >”But in the end, none of that mattered, what really stung, what really drove you to… all this? Was the simple fact that-” Clasping your paw in her hoof, Celestia was slowly overtaken by green fire
  2403. >This time you saw a dragon’s talon and a cloven hoof, leading into a tall skinny brown body
  2404. >But it wasn’t yours this time, the coat was matted and dull
  2405. >Slowly, your paw was pulled up and rested against the face of your dad
  2406. >“-they didn’t need you, and they all left you behind” A cruel smirk crossed his face as his deep voice echoed throughout the mountain
  2407. >Pulling your claw back you made sure to draw blood
  2408. >The Discord copy simply chuckled as they wiped away the blood ”But in the end, despite being smart enough to outwit all of us for centuries without slowing down, you never stopped to ask why”
  2409. >Undeterred by your bared fangs and claws the copy continued to approach you as green fire began to creep up its form again “Why did everyone you ever cared about leave you? And you also haven’t asked yourself-”
  2410. >For the first time since you got here you froze completely, your face fell, and your claws retracted
  2411. >Skin to match the emerald fire that had just engulfed the body, and simple clothes with a rugged and worn jacket “-what’s to stop everyone else you meet from leaving you too, Eris?”
  2412. >Chrysalis never used your name, no one had in centuries
  2413. >You’re pretty sure the only ones who remember your name are the five you’ve been fighting all this time
  2414. >Hearing your own name, from her, using his face
  2415. >You had never frozen up like that before, but it didn’t matter, because it was being overshadowed by all the unyielding rage you felt
  2416. >With a roar that shook the mountain you grabbed the fake by the neck, only hesitating for a moment as you saw the face you were attacking
  2417. >Reminding yourself that it was Chrysalis you doubled your grip and shot into the air
  2418. >As quickly as you rose, you dived back into the mountain with a thundering crack that caused a crater to form, causing Chrysalis to revert back to her regular form
  2419. “DON’T YOU DARE USE HIS FACE, VERMIN FILTH!” As your fists closed completely around her neck she slowly began dissolving and laughing
  2420. >But not with her own voice
  2421. >Springing to your feet you watched as Chrysalis turned to smoke and blew away in the breeze
  2422. >The breeze carried with it another bout of laughter
  2423. >Turning to the source of the noise, you see Luna
  2424. >Definitely the real one
  2425. >Patches of her fur were completely gone from where you had left her scarred
  2426. >She refused to place her full weight on one hoof that was particularly thinner than the others
  2427. >Pure magic filled in half of her left wing
  2428. >You’re pretty sure you’ve got the rest of it framed somewhere in your house
  2429. >After that particular fight, she never even thought to fight you alone again
  2430. “Bluebean. Should have known it was you” You let out a derisive snort at the moon princess
  2431. >”We expected a standing ovation for that performance, twas not easy to get all those likenesses correct, we assure thee” With a half hearted bow, she hopped off her previous perch on an outcrop of the mountain and stood before you
  2432. >”Was the little world we made thee to thine liking, creature? Thou wouldst not gainsay that it made for sweet anodyne for thine bleeding heart” She did a small pirouette in the air and her dream form began shifting
  2433. >Her body became flush with new fur, hiding away her scars and injuries
  2434. >”Tis more than one so vile deserves” Her eyes narrowed into a small glare as she hovered in front of you
  2435. “What world Moon Cheese, how’d you get in my head?” Luna stops and looks you up and down for a moment before a laugh escapes her
  2436. >”Be still our beating heart, was our woven story so compelling that it snared thee like a fly in a spider’s web?” Another bout of laughter escaped her and you begin to feel your heart beat faster
  2437. >”Thou never thought to question what befell thee? Thine estranged patriarch returned, mismatched limbs outstretched to whisk thee away to another world” Her horn flared to life to show Discord suddenly appearing before you and disappearing just as quickly
  2438. >”And what should inhabit this new world? Tis an alien, an outsider much like thou art” Once more her horn conjures up a small version of you and manifests Anonymous besides you “Yet he does not fear the unknown as others do, he accepts thee with rapturous vigour”
  2439. >Luna’s magic twists the duplicates to show when you had briefly stolen a hug from him on the train
  2440. >The echoing laughter of the night princess disperses the image and you feel your arms go numb
  2441. >”Our lucky stars shone true the night you finally succumbed to slumber, we have so much more planned tonight”
  2442. >As her voice echoed in your head you clasped your talon and paw over your ears, desperate to keep her out any way you could
  2443. >”Thou art having issues remembering the rest of the world we made correct?”
  2444. >But it wasn’t enough
  2445.  >“As if it were like trying to recall a dream?”
  2446. >You tried teleporting yourself to the other side of the planet but her laughter persisted
  2447. >”Soon, you will lose everything else”
  2448. >Despite your eyes being closed you saw an ever growing expanse of white approaching
  2449. >“Your past” Visions of your first exploration of Equestria fills your mind
  2450. >Meeting Luna and Celestia
  2451. >Setting their world’s sky on fire
  2452. >”Your future” Now you saw yourself going through the second Equestria, making the same mistakes you made before
  2453. >The world constantly flashes to each time you’ve seen Anon’s face
  2454. >A few times, there was frustration, but never anger
  2455. >Curiosity, but never fear
  2456. >”You will lose everything and you won’t even care”
  2457. >Your back hit something solid and you opened your eyes
  2458. >You were in the throne you had carved out of a mountain to sit on and watch Equestria fall to chaos
  2459. >With a yelp, you lept out of the throne but rather than floating in the air, gravity pulled you, and everything else, down
  2460. >The world around you was dragged further and further, until it was stretched so thin that you couldn’t make heads or tails of where you were
  2461. >”And one day, you will stand before the decrepit gates of the world you ruined! Without really knowing why...” Your mind finally grinded to a halt as you floated in front of another draconequus
  2462. >You didn’t recognise her, her eyes were pale and dull, and she looked like she barely had the strength to stand
  2463. >Mentally struggling against the image, you managed to rip your mind out of Luna’s grasp
  2464. >Luna’s laugh was like torture, it poked at your brain and pulled the memories you had made in yoru brief time with Anon to the forefront of your mind
  2465. >Eventually you couldn’t hold your own body up and collapsed, wishing that she’d just go away
  2466. >A roar like thunder suddenly shook the world and everything fell silent
  2467. >Finally unfurling yourself you looked around to see that the world had turned into a white void
  2468. >Only you and Luna, now back to her scarred self and frozen in laughter, remained
  2469. >”We find this glib facsimile to be most insulting Eris” Metal shoes softly clicked against the void and approached the two of you
  2470. >Hesitantly, you look up to see another Luna, this one’s face is slightly twisted in disgust as she examines your Luna
  2471. >With a dismissive huff, Luna flicks her horn and the frozen one, still taunting you with her silent laughter disappears into the void
  2472. >”It took us far too long to gain control over this errant mind of yours Eris” Luna looks around the white void, clearly seeing something that you can’t
  2473. >”We feel the need to reveal that we have not trusted thee e’er since Discord brought thee to our world” Her words leave no room for you to interrupt, though right now you’re just glad for the conversation
  2474. >“We wish to disregard this distrust now” This is almost enough to break you out of your stupor, but you are halted by a gilded shoe “The reason for this, is that we no longer believe thine intentions to be false, nor do we believe a malcontent could react in such a way to a dream such as this one”
  2475. >Slowly her hoof approaches your face and as it makes contact you recoil at the sudden chill
  2476. >Bringing your talon up to your face you realise that Luna’s shoes weren’t cold
  2477. >Your face was hot, with tears you didn’t realise you’d been crying
  2478. >With a twist that would have snapped a normal being’s spine you turn your back to Luna and fervently wipe away the wet stains on your face
  2479. >Once more hooves hued in royal blue lightly press against your arms and push them down
  2480. >”Such emotions are naught to be ashamed of Eris, we know this more than anypony” You try blinking away the tears that lie on the edge of your eyes but they still fall, and burn you again
  2481. >”We know full well the temptations to pretend that this pain does not exist, but you must face it” A chill like ice runs through the hallow dreamscape and you look up at Luna
  2482. >Her head is turned away from you, to something behind her
  2483. >Looking over her shoulder, your eyes widen at the pony in front of you both
  2484. >The same height as Celestia
  2485. >A billowing mane of stars
  2486. >And a coat like ebony
  2487. >You’d only seen Nightmare Moon briefly when you studied this Equestria’s history, you didn’t expect her to command such a presence
  2488. >”If you are ever to know peace” Luna’s voice drops to a whisper and her counterpart wordlessly turns her gaze away from you two and out towards the endless void
  2489. >Luna slowly pulls away and you can feel her magic presence becoming fainter
  2490. >Internally pushing against your own shock you reach out to her
  2491. “Wait- wait- please wait!” Your call stops her from whatever she was doing as she turns to you “Please just- just tell me that these past few days have been real”
  2492. >Luna raises a hoof slowly as worry crosses her face
  2493. “My- my you she’d- the fucking bitch always made me question what was real when I slept, so I stopped, but now I- I don’t know I-”
  2494. >Gentle shushes echo through the void as Luna closes the distance between you again
  2495. >”We wish we could aid thee further Eris, but thy mind is set, we both know that our words would fall on deaf ears, sincere as they may be” You feel a little bit of shame as you realise she’s right, with that face you just can’t trust her “But we also know whom’s words would mean the most to thee. When thou art ready to hear their words then hold them close, and hold them fast. Until it hurts if need be”
  2496. >A smile begins tugging at the corner of your lips at her words
  2497. “The words or the one who said them?”
  2498. >Luna steps away from you and a wistful smile crosses her face “Tia was ours”
  2499. >”For now though, accept this, tis all we can do for now” Luna’s face twists in concentration as she begins to manifest something in the void
  2500. >The spell is taking far longer than it reasonably should
  2501. >With an exhausted pant she levitates the new item to you
  2502. >An emerald green dreamcatcher
  2503. You chuckle as you inspect the intricately designed ornament “Thank you Lu-” As you look up you find yourself alone “-na”
  2504. >Turning your attention to the dream catcher once more you hold it close and slowly feel yourself growing sleepy
  2505. <>
  2506. >With a jolt you sit up and whip your head back and forth
  2507. >Slowly, you process the inside of your own room
  2508. >You let out a small hiss of pain as you register how deeply your claw and talon were digging into you
  2509. >If you hadn’t been gripping the fabric of your duvet so tightly you probably would have pierced your own skin
  2510. >Sighing you look down to see the gold foil origami animals running around your room
  2511. >They were kind of cute
  2512. >As you shift in bed you feel a weight that isn’t your own
  2513. >Reaching under the bed you grab the offending item and pull it up
  2514. >An emerald dreamcatcher
  2515. >You blink a few times to make sure you’re not seeing things
  2516. >Again you are assaulted by a burning, stinging sensation
  2517. >Bringing your talon up, you feel tears running down your cheek
  2518. >You lose track of time as you run your claws gently over the dreamcatcher
  2519. >It’s made of something denser than stone, so you don’t need to be gentle
  2520. >But it feels right to treat it with care
  2521. >Slowly, you slump lower and lower into bed
  2522. >Your eyes start to feel heavy again as you hold the dreamcatcher close to your chest and the origami animals lay besides you
  2523. >Leaning your head to the side you look to the photo floating besides the bed
  2524. >It’s the picture you took of Anon laughing at your treadmill prank
  2525. >The picture actually moves, showing his chest moving with his laughs, yet makes no sound
  2526. >But you can hear his laughter in your mind
  2527. >A smile forms on your face as you let your body relax completely into your bed once more
  2528. <>
  2529. >Cicadas cry out into the darkness
  2530. >Their calls are only occasionally interrupted by the high-pitched snap of twigs under your heavy boots, before their cacophonous song begins again
  2531. >The storm that had passed a few days ago brought with it summer rain
  2532. >What would usually have been refreshing and cool, has left the air hot and damp
  2533. >There was sweat dripping off you before you even set foot in the forest
  2534. >The Everfree
  2535. >Its name had been tossed around during your time here but you’d never gotten a chance to ask more about it
  2536. >There was already so much to learn about this world and you didn’t know where to start
  2537. >Now though, you wish you’d asked
  2538. >At least Rarity was nice enough to think ahead and made you some boots to help you trek through the mud a little easier
  2539. >The forest floor was two inches short of being a bog
  2540. >How ponies were able to walk through it so easily was baffling
  2541. >Especially somepony like Fluttershy, who was self-admittedly the physically weakest of the group of six
  2542. >”How are you holding up Anon?” The yellow pegasus’ voice pulls you from your thoughts
  2543. “You know, I was gonna complain that these boots are too tight but-” You give an annoyed grunt as you have to wrench one of your boots from a particularly thick patch of mud “-I probably would have lost them by now if they didn’t have my toes in a death grip”
  2544. >Fluttershy titters as you drag yourself through the mud “I was more concerned with how you’re handling the forest. I know it can be pretty scary during the first time through”
  2545. >You raise an eyebrow at the pegasus and cast your eyes across the dense overgrowth surrounding you
  2546. >Fireflies blink in and out, casting a gentle, almost ethereal green glow across the trees
  2547. >When Fluttershy had told you about the group’s first journey into the forest you expected to see the trees shift and writhe, you expected their branches to reach out to you and beckon you deeper into the forest’s embrace
  2548. >But nothing, as with every tree you’ve ever seen they simply stand as stalwart sentries of nature
  2549. >Of course, you know that there are things other than harmless insects and looming trees in this forest
  2550. >You also know that they’re watching the two of you
  2551. >They have been ever since your foot first stepped into the mud
  2552. >When you had reached the gap in the trees that led to the only beaten path into the forest, the air had kicked up and leaves had skittered under your feet, as if fleeing from whatever lay deeper within
  2553. >As your gaze lingered on one of the distant treelines, every now and then, when a firefly’s light would snuff out, two more green lights would shine through the thick, gloomy shade of the trees
  2554. >The lights would never approach you, but nor would they retreat
  2555. >Even the air clung to you in a way it never had before
  2556. >The heat and weight of it was oppressing
  2557. >To the point where you had to be weary of your own breathing
  2558. >Not just because it was physically challenging simply to put one foot in front of the other due to the mud that clung to you, but because each intake of air felt like it weighed down on your lungs
  2559. >As if it you could suffocate on the very air itself
  2560. >This forest was heavy with magic
  2561. >Like it was alive
  2562. >You couldn’t stop the tired sigh that escaped you at the thought
  2563. >Celestia
  2564. >Luna
  2565. >This Forest
  2566. >Whatever they were, nopony seemed to feel them the way you could
  2567. >After your collapse at the mere presence of the princesses, you had asked Applejack if she could feel them too
  2568. >Celestia’s pressure, that silently told you to keep a distance
  2569. >Or the serene calm that invaded your mind and lulled you into a near helpless mental state when Luna was near
  2570. >You hadn’t worded any of it like that, you haven’t even fully divulged to Twilight what you felt that day
  2571. >She didn’t need anything else to worry about right now
  2572. >You had hoped that, being an Earth Pony, Applejack’s lack of magic might make her feel something akin to what you did
  2573. >But no, she claimed that the princesses felt the same as any other pony to her
  2574. >Even Fluttershy, as quick as she was to recoil from a hint of danger, strode through the forest without care, only occasionally casting glances at the surrounding area
  2575. >Her gait was unwavering, her breathing unobstructed
  2576. >The forest accepted her in a way it refused to do for you
  2577. >You had spent a long time in bed after you met the princesses, like the day you first got here, your mind needed nothing more or less than time to process
  2578. >You expect you’ll need another long rest after today to come to terms with this place and the fact that it’s sat right on the border of the town you call home
  2579. >They’re rather isolating, these feelings
  2580. >There the six of them stood before the twin princesses, with nary a single care or worry
  2581. >But you, you were nearly paralysed as you looked upon them
  2582. >You couldn’t see their magic, but you could feel it
  2583. >The danger that ruled this land
  2584. >Kept in check by just a few inches of skin, their horns and their metal regalia, hidden beneath motherly smiles and gentle words of wisdom
  2585. >You shake your head free of these thoughts before you can get lost in them again
  2586. >Finally getting out of your own head you realise that Fluttershy’s been staring at you
  2587. >Right, you had been talking before this forest invaded your sense
  2588. Turning your head to the side you let out a small grunt “This forest is weird, but I’ve seen weirder since getting here”
  2589. >Fluttershy’s eyes narrow ever so slightly at you but she quickly shifts back to her small smile and nods at you “I suppose it might seem that way to you, but this is actually one of the stranger parts of Equestria”
  2590. “Stranger than the city that hangs off a mountain?” Turning back to the mare, you tilt your head slightly
  2591. >Again, she titters at you “Much stranger actually, you see, pony magic doesn’t affect this place at all”
  2592. >That was strange to hear, considering how the air itself seemed to be saturated with magic
  2593. >”Nopony is sure why, but the trees grow on their own, and the weather changes at random no matter how many pegasi try to control it” Her eyes rapidly shift from one point of the forest to the other as she speaks
  2594. “Sounds a lot like home” Though it doesn’t feel like it, you think to yourself
  2595. >Fluttershy suddenly perks up and takes to the air to be eye level with you
  2596. >As she rises, the saddlebags she had strapped to her rattle as the contents within shift with her
  2597. >”Really? You haven’t spoken about your home much, I’d love to hear what the nature there is like” You almost think you’re speaking to Twilight in a Fluttershy suit but you quickly dismiss the thought
  2598. “Well, it’s like you just said, nature sustains itself. Wherever there’s regular bouts of rain and an abundance of fertile soil, forests like these grow.” You turn your head up to the canopy above, briefly spotting the dark clouds above through breaks in the trees “Animals would feed from the plants, and whenever either died, the remains would be used to grow into something new.”
  2599. >You notice a distinct drop in Fluttershy’s demeanor at your words
  2600. >”Isn’t that scary?” She asks as she begins lowering to the ground
  2601. “How do you mean?”
  2602. >”Not being able to control nature, ever, doesn’t that scare you?” Fluttershy shrinks into herself at her own words
  2603. “Not really, nature being out of our control is as normal to us as nature being in your control is to you” As you explain yourself, you realise just how truly opposite your world and this one is “Most of the world wasn’t too bad to live in, it’s only disasters that we have to worry about”
  2604. >”Disasters?” Once again, she shrinks into herself “You mean like out of control tornadoes? That must be awful”
  2605. “Terrifying actually” You let out a small chuckle at yourself which seems to throw the mare off “Back before modern civilizations we actually used to worship nature in an attempt to placate it so it wouldn’t destroy us”
  2606. >”Did that happen often?” Despite the mud weighing you down you’re now in stride with Fluttershy
  2607. “Yep, hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, and tornadoes are infrequent but ever present threats to my world” A violent gust of wind whips past the two of you, as though the Everfree itself were listening to you and reminding you of its own danger
  2608. >Thankfully, with your boots buried so firmly in the mud it barely shifts you, though Fluttershy has to tightly clutch her wings to her sides so they don’t get caught up in the wind
  2609. “Luckily the volcanoes have settled down enough that we don’t have to worry about them too much, though scientists are always monitoring them just in case” The wind carries your voice and you notice several more green lights blink into existence in the distance
  2610. >As the wind finally dies down, Fluttershy straightens out her mane and ruffles her wings before you both continue your journey
  2611. >”How do your people monitor natural disasters like that? Even we have difficulty stopping them, and we have a weather factory”
  2612. “Well” You scratch your chin as you try to recall what little you knew of natural disasters “Back home nature had a sort… pattern to it”
  2613. >”Like a puzzle?” Fluttershy interjects
  2614. >You chuckle at the naivety of the answer but find it fitting
  2615. “When you get down to it, I suppose it is. For example, if the tide at a shoreline is retreating far more than it should, then that’s a possible sign of an approaching tidal wave” Fluttershy nods along with your explanation
  2616. >Though, as her face twists slightly in confusion, you realise how foreign these concepts must be to her
  2617. “Another example would be checking the seismic activity underground to predict earthquakes or volcanic eruptions” This causes Fluttershy to pause entirely as her face scrunches up
  2618. >”I’m sorry Anonymous, but how do your people monitor things underground?” Her face suddenly perks up “Do you have an underground society like the Diamond Dogs?”
  2619. >Your brief bout of laughter causes her face to fall and you quickly hold up a hand to avoid hurting her feelings
  2620. “Sorry Fluttershy I- I’m not laughing at you. It’s just-” Your laughter tapers off as you sit yourself on a tree root that’s sticking out of the ground
  2621. “In a lot of human mythology, we have the idea of underground cities, you just reminded me that so much of what we see as fantasy is real here” Fluttershy’s smile returns as you reassure the meek mare
  2622. >”So how do you monitor what happens underground?” Fluttershy lays down in a low branch just above you
  2623. “That wasn’t really something I knew a lot about, if I’m honest I don’t know a lot about exactly how advanced our own technology is, for perspective, the train has been around in my world for over two centuries” Fluttershy’s eyes widen a little at that
  2624. >You weren’t sure of the specifics but you knew the train system that’s around today wasn’t around when Ponyville was founded
  2625. >But Ponyville was essentially developed by the Apple Family, specifically Granny Smith’s generation, meaning it can’t have been around for more than half a century here
  2626. >”What about the animals?” Fluttershy’s question snaps you out of your small attempt at mental maths
  2627. >You hum questioningly in response, to try and get her to elaborate “The animals? I assume you monitor for natural disasters to evacuate, how do you help them get away?”
  2628. >As her innocent eyes looks at you, you can’t help but break the gaze
  2629. “Humans don’t really have the same affinity for animals as you do Fluttershy, unfortunately” You turn back to her and let your words hang in the air, hoping she picks up on your hidden meaning
  2630. >”Oh” Such a simple response, but as she turns her head down and her mane falls over her face you wince slightly
  2631. “But then again, we can only do so much with wild animals” As you step off the root and adjust your footing in the mud, Fluttershy looks up to you “After all, they either attack us or hide from us”
  2632. >Fluttershy quietly nods as she flaps her wings and lands beside her
  2633. “So are you sure we’re going the right way?” Wanting to get off the topic you try to redivert her attention to the task at hand
  2634. >”Hm? Oh yes-” Clearly still bogged down by thoughts of your world, Fluttershy shakes her head to snap out of her own thoughts “-this is the main road that leads to the castle”
  2635. >Now with a bit more pep in her step, Fluttershy once more takes the lead ”Last time, me and the girls kept having to take different paths due to Nightmare Moon, but we’ll be taking the full path there, though it’ll still take some time”
  2636. >You silently nod, simply taking your guide mare at her word
  2637. >Once more you glance at the treeline and the lights from before have disappeared
  2638. >Or, to be more accurate, you just can’t see them anymore
  2639. >You take a deep breath to calm your nerves
  2640. >The thickness of the air threatens to clog your lungs, so you force yourself to be especially slow with your breathing
  2641. >With your nerves back in check you fall in line with Fluttershy and take in the forest
  2642. >The trees seemingly go on forever into the darkness with barely any way to discern one from the other
  2643. >In the distance you can just barely make out a few sheer cliffs
  2644. >As the wind picks up in another violent gust, it weaves through the trees and lets out a howl like a banshee
  2645. >When it finally dies down you notice Fluttershy has tucked into herself quite a bit more than before
  2646. >Before you can check on her you realise how quiet it’s gotten
  2647. >Neither the light of the fireflies nor whatever was watching you can be seen
  2648. >Even the cicadas have gone quiet
  2649. >Turning your head up once more you narrow your eyes to try and focus through the gaps in the tree canopies
  2650. >The dark clouds overhead are rushing past
  2651. “Fluttershy, a storm’s about to hit, do you know anywhere we can take shelter?” You’re nearly thrown off your feet as you turn to the mare and are hit with another gust of wind
  2652. >Looking up from her crouched position, she tries to stand but has difficulty with all the wind
  2653. >”We’re nowhere near the castle or Zecora’s and Ponyville is at least half an hour’s walk away, I don’t know where we can go” She darts her head back and forth and, for the first time since entering the forest, you see her getting scared
  2654. >You try to take in your surroundings for somewhere to hunker down but let out an annoyed grunt when the darkness hides any sign of shelter
  2655. >Just as you’re about to suggest trying to run back out the forest you notice a faint trail of green light fading into the distance
  2656. “Come on Fluttershy!” You call to the mare, finally snapping her out of her small bout of panic
  2657. >Pushing all the strength you’ve got into your legs, you begin running off the path
  2658. >”Wait, Anonymous” Turning your head back you see Fluttershy trying to jump over the roots of the trees that stick out of the ground
  2659. >Your height would give you a natural advantage in the overgrowth over the ponies
  2660. >Jogging back over to the yellow pegasus you hold up an arm in attempt to defend yourself from the howling wind that continues to pick up in force
  2661. >With Fluttershy in reach you wrap your other arm around her barrel and tuck her into your side
  2662. “Sorry! But we don’t have time!” You’re just barely able to call over the screaming wind
  2663. >You see Fluttershy’s lips move but the wind carries her words away before you can catch them
  2664. >Shaking your head you begin heading deeper into the overgrowth
  2665. >Every now and then you briefly spot that same trail of green light before it fades again
  2666. >After a few minutes of weaving your way through the trees, making sure to keep Fluttershy secure, the trees begin to space out a little more
  2667. >A few of the trees you’d passed were hollow, but they were each only big enough for one of you, so you’d have to separate from Fluttershy for both of you to take shelter
  2668. >Before you can consider the thought though you notice a part of the approaching cliff is a darker shade than the rest
  2669. >Getting closer you confirm your suspicions, it’s a cave
  2670. >Before you’re able to wonder about whether the green lights will be in the cave or not a rumbling from above draws your attention
  2671. >With that as the only warning, the clouds open up and release a torrent of rain that is carried by the harsh wind and whips against you
  2672. >Fluttershy lets out a meek yelp at the heavy rain and you shake your head clear of your previous doubts
  2673. >You use the last of your strength to burst into a sprint into the cave
  2674. >As the stone walls begin to surround you, they cut off the wind and rain and finally give the two of you a brief reprieve
  2675. >The burning in your muscles forces you to drop Fluttershy, though she lands on her hooves, and plant your hands on your knees to catch your breath
  2676. >”Thank-” Fluttershy is cut off by a series of coughs and deep breathes “Thank you Anonymous, how did you even know a storm was coming?”
  2677. >It takes a bit but you manage to take in enough air to stop your heart from thundering against your chest
  2678. “The wind-” You let out another gasp as your body is still recovering from the run through the harsh storm “The wind wasn’t just strong, it was noticeably moving the clouds”
  2679. Fluttershy tilts her head to the side slightly so you continue “It means the clouds were lower to the ground then usual, they were heavy with rainwater” Standing to your full height again you take one last deep breath to steady yourself “Plus the entire forest had gone quiet, so the animals knew something was coming”
  2680. >Fluttershy perks up as you mention the animals
  2681. >It also causes you to pause
  2682. >There was no other noticeable place to hide out from the storm, unless they had dens they had dug underground
  2683. “Fluttershy do you have a lantern in your bags, or something?” Turning to the mare she looks between you and her saddlebags
  2684. >”Ummm, no but-” As Fluttershy drops her hindlegs, her saddlebags slide to the cave floor and she begins searching through them “-I do have… some kindling-” She retrieves a bundle of thin wood, luckily kept dry by the thick material of the bag “-and a fire striker” With a dull thud, Fluttershy drops a piece of metal and flint out of her bag
  2685. “Fantastic”
  2686. >Crouching down you slip one of the pieces of wood out from the bundle and hand the rest back to Fluttershy
  2687. >It takes a few tries but you eventually manage to agle the flint against the metal correctly to light up the wood
  2688. >Grabbing the new torch you hold it above your head and the light casts itself across a wide area of the cave
  2689. >Not the entirety, but enough that you no longer feel like you’re blind
  2690. >Another howl of wind causes the flame to flicker and you quickly bring the torch in front of you, hoping to use your back to shield the flame
  2691. >As you make your way deeper into the cave both you and Fluttershy remain silent
  2692. >Besides the occasional whistle of wind from outside, the only noise within the cave is the skittering of insects and the occasional plink of water dripping from the ceiling
  2693. >Deeper within the cave, you find a turn, now with the threat of the wind blowing out your flame gone you once more hold it above your head
  2694. >The top of the cave is covered in a warm orange glow while the walls and floor reflect a pale yellow light
  2695. >You slowly take in the darkness that stretches past the border of the light, but see nothing
  2696. >Hesitantly, you take the first step into the new stretch of cave, but feel your stomach drop when a series of growls meets you
  2697. >Two, four, six green lights flicker to life and lock onto you as another growl echoes through the cave
  2698. >Quickly stepping a foot in front of Fluttershy she lets out a small gasp at your sudden movement
  2699. >Hoping that you can simply drive them deeper into the cave, you take a heavy step forward, making sure to put all your weight into it
  2700. >Your heavy boot stomps against the solid rock and causes an echo of its own to ring out through the cave
  2701. >For added effect you wave the torch back and forth
  2702. >The lights seem to back away though they come forward just as quickly
  2703. >Back and forth they seem to flow and you wonder if it’s some sort of intimidation tactic
  2704. >Before you’re able to do anything else, you feel Fluttershy tug at your leg
  2705. >Looking down at the pegasus she cuts you off before you’re able to say anything “Can I borrow the torch Anon?”
  2706. >Briefly looking between her and the lights you slowly crouch down and hold the non-charred wood to her
  2707. >Taking it in her mouth, Fluttershy gently flaps her wings and makes her way towards the light
  2708. >You step forward to object but stop as the light illuminates the source of the green lights
  2709. >Three wolf-like creatures made of wood have pressed themselves against a dead-end wall of the cave
  2710. >”There, there, it’s ok, we’re friendly” The eyes dart between Fluttershy and you and she gently giggles which seems to calm the wolves “He was just trying to protect me, he’s harmless”
  2711. >Some small part of you wants to be offended by being called harmless, but whatever Fluttershy is doing seems to be working
  2712. >”We just need a place to rest and wait out this storm like you, ok?” Once more, their eyes flick between you and her before slowly nodding
  2713. >As Fluttershy trots back to you, you see the wolves begin to rest against the floor and huddle together before the light creeps off of their forms, leaving them shrouded in darkness again
  2714. >You continue to watch the dark corner for a while until a crackling sound snaps you to attention
  2715. >While you were staring into nothing, Fluttershy had set up the rest of her kindling as a proper fire
  2716. >She’s made herself comfortable at the edge of the fire and smiles up at you
  2717. >Her hooves kick up small puffs of dust as she pats the space beside her, but you opt to simply sit yourself where you are, on the other side of the fire
  2718. >Casting one last glance at the corner, you see a wooden paw quickly retreat back into the shadows
  2719. >With your shelter secured and the threat of being mauled having been dealt with, you finally allow your body to relax
  2720. >Stretching your hands out to the fire, you rub them together in an attempt to rid yourself of the cold that clung to you from the rain and the wind
  2721. >Luckily the floor of the cave was perfectly dry so your clothes wouldn’t get any dirtier
  2722. >When Fluttershy first asked you to be her companion through the forest you chose to use your clothes from Earth
  2723. >It was better to wreck the already old and frayed clothing over the fresh pair that Rarity made you
  2724. >For a long time, you and Fluttershy sit in comfortable silence, the crackling fire and the echoing wind from outside being the only thing that disturbs your ears
  2725. >Eventually though, your curiosity gets the better of you
  2726. “What are they?” You peer above the roaring fire at Fluttershy, while she has to peer through it to look at you
  2727. >You see her raise an eyebrow at you and you clear your throat before clarifying
  2728. “I haven’t had a lot of time to read about Equestrian plants or animals” Tilting your head towards the darkness you hear a faint growl “What are they?”
  2729. >Fluttershy perks up as she finally processes your question “Oh! Those are Timberwolves, and they’re absolutely fascinating creatures!”
  2730. >If her excitement wasn’t evident enough in her voice, then the fact her wings involuntarily flap and raise her slightly off the ground is
  2731. >”They’re a breed of wolf entirely native to the Everfree” She looks over to the shadow and smiles at it “Despite their appearance they’re actually a condensed magic core, bound to the wood of the Everfree, so whenever they’re damaged, a piece of an Everfree tree can restore their body”
  2732. >Raw magic parading itself as a wolf, one that can regenerate, possibly indefinitely
  2733. >The thought unsettles you
  2734. >Clenching your fist, you shoot another glance at the hidden creatures, and the growl they respond with is much louder this time
  2735. >Fluttershy remains calm, so you stop yourself from jumping to your feet
  2736. >Slowly, you place your hands on the floor, and slowly rise to a crouch
  2737. >The dark corner remains quiet, though you see two slits of green staring at you
  2738. >Maintaining eye contact, you slowly rise to your feet, and make a slow, but obvious show of turning your back to them
  2739. >”Anonymous?” Before Fluttershy can question you, you hold a hand up over your shoulder and make your way towards the entrance of the cave
  2740. >When you clear the corner, you allow your shoulders to go slack
  2741. >You rub your face with a hand and make your way to the mouth of the cave
  2742. >The storm still rages on outside
  2743. >Though it doesn’t hit you, you can feel that, unlike the rain from Equestria, this water is cool and refreshing
  2744. >Dense trees, wild animals, and random weather
  2745. >If it weren’t for the crazy magic, you could see yourself living here, or at least on its edge
  2746. >With nothing but you, the rain and your thoughts, you think back to the reason that brought you here
  2747. >Fluttershy had come to you hoping you could come investigate the forest with her
  2748. >Apparently, the monsters within had begun crowding around the border to Ponyville
  2749. >The yellow mare had previously visited Zecora, the local zebra equivalent of a witch doctor
  2750. >Something deeper in the forest had driven the beasts out of their homes and she wasn’t sure what
  2751. >Zecora was busy brewing potions to help Ponyville incase any monsters did decide to cross the threshold between the forest and the town
  2752. >So Fluttershy was the second best choice, as her knowledge of the Everfree was second only to the mare that lived here
  2753. >A weight against your chest reminds you that this forest was drowning in magic, and you ponder why anypony would want to live here
  2754. >Even if it was for the plants that grew here, surely she could simply visit the forest to collect them
  2755. >Shaking your head free of the thought you return to the main thought
  2756. >Why had Fluttershy brought you to help her, out of every other friend she could have chosen
  2757. >The wind whistled, howled and screamed at you, as if trying to give some kind of answer
  2758. >Your thoughts were going nowhere fast
  2759. >With nothing left to think about you turn around to head back into the cave
  2760. >Though, before you can take your first step, you feel a wave of calm run down your spine and a simultaneous pressure against your shoulders
  2761. >It almost feels like a massage
  2762. >Quickly snapping out of the brief trance you shoot a glare over your shoulder
  2763. >The Castle
  2764. >Celestia and Luna’s old home
  2765. >Despite being abandoned for a thousand years, their presence had left a magical print in the air
  2766. >Though you had only felt it just now, there was no doubt in your mind
  2767. >The early days of their reign was spent in that castle
  2768. >For a few centuries they had lived there before the Nightmare Moon incident forced Celestia to leave the castle behind and let it fall to ruin, while she founded Canterlot
  2769. >As you walk back into the cave, you wonder if there’s anything still salvageable in the old home of the two alicorns
  2770. >The sound of sharp claws scratching against stone fills your ears as you round the corner of the cave once more
  2771. >A flowing tail of twigs is all that you see of the Timberwolves as they once more retreat into the darkness
  2772. >Their glowing green eyes stay locked on you as you approach
  2773. >When you seat yourself back at the edge of the fire, their eyes begin to lower to the floor
  2774. >After a few more tense moments, they close again
  2775. >Fluttershy watches the spot they disappeared into, a vague hint of pity within her gaze
  2776. >Clearly you’d interrupted something
  2777. >You grab one of the few remaining pieces of kindling and idly poke at the flame
  2778. >Some of the charred pieces of wood give into the gentle poke and collapse
  2779. >The impact of the collapsing wood is enough to launch a plume of ash into the air
  2780. >Your eyes follow the plume into the air, and you watch as the embers of the flame rise to meet the ash and dance across the ceiling
  2781. >Though it isn’t much, the light of the embers and ash is enough to illuminate bits of the cave that the fire isn’t strong enough to reach
  2782. >Small stalactites hang from the ceiling, droplets of water slowly flow into the cave through cracks in the ceiling, converge on the points of the hanging stone, and fall to the floor
  2783. >They almost harmonize, the crackling of the fire and the splashing of water droplets
  2784. >Closing your eyes, you take a deep breathe and, for the first time, find your lungs unobstructed
  2785. >The cool air that flows in through the mouth of the cave, and the bitter aftertaste of smoke from the fire mix in your lungs
  2786. >All these sensations mix with your own exhaustion from pushing yourself through the forest and begin to lull you
  2787. >You suddenly become sharply aware of the fact you’re about to fall asleep and jolt slightly
  2788. >As you pull yourself back to lucidity you pull your foot back, as it had begun creeping towards the fire while you were falling asleep
  2789. >To stave off your tired eyes you glance around the cave again
  2790. >Each of the wolves had opened their eyes a crack
  2791. >Your sudden movement had probably unsettled them
  2792. >Fluttershy meanwhile, remains blissfully calm
  2793. >Her eyes follow the crackling flame as it rises and falls
  2794. >She’s completely unphased by the three monsters that lie in the shadows just a few feet from the two of you
  2795. >It’s incredible to think that this was the same mare who was cowering from a simple heavy gust of wind before
  2796. >As another wave of fatigue rolls over you, you let out a small yawn and shake your head
  2797. >Clearly you need something more to stave off sleep
  2798. >Turning your head down to look at Fluttershy you clear your throat
  2799. “You really surprise me Fluttershy, you know that?” You have to clear your throat again as the smoke from the fire wafts into you again
  2800. >Fluttershy’s head snaps away from the fire and her eyes briefly widen before going back to normal as she looks at you
  2801. >It’s like the fire had her in a trance
  2802. With no word from her, you continue “You’ve often said that you’re shy, your friends have said the same” Fluttershy adjusts her legs as a small smile forms onto her face “Yet you’re handling those wolves better than I am”
  2803. >Again, you look out of the corner of your eyes at the shadows and, as with every time before, the wolves answer with a menacing growl
  2804. >Your words hang in the air for a while as Fluttershy stares at you
  2805. >Eventually her eyes become half-lidded as she looks down at the fire with a gentle smile
  2806. >Her mouth opens and closes a few times as she tries to find the words
  2807. >Content with waiting, you throw the kindling you’d used to stoke fire into the flames
  2808. >With fresh fuel, the fire creeps up to consume the wood and grows
  2809. >”When you were talking about wild animals before” Fluttershy’s voice pulls your attention back to her “It reminded me that my friends see animals the same way you do”
  2810. >Her voice is a gentle hush, and the roaring wind outside threatens to drown it out
  2811. >But you pull your legs into your chest and move closer to the fire to hear her
  2812. >”When I think of wild animals… I think of them” Her head turns to the shadows and the eyes open wide to look at her
  2813. >They make no other movement, or sound, they simply watch and wait
  2814. >For what, you’re unsure
  2815. >Perhaps she and them are having a silent conversation
  2816. >”I can’t really talk to them the way I can with my animal friends. But they understand me enough” Fluttershy moves one of her hooves from beneath her towards the shadows
  2817. >You hear a slight scratching against the stone, but they make no move to approach her
  2818. >Fluttershy’s face drops slightly as she retracts her hoof and the wolves let out a small whine as their eyes retreat as best as they’re able to into the darkness
  2819. >”... They’re scared of you”
  2820. >The silence is deafening
  2821. >Her words leave you with no response, as if you’d been winded
  2822. >Seconds stretch on as her gaze lingers on where the wolves lie in darkness before slowly turning to you
  2823. >FInally the silence is broken by a low whistle of wind as a chill breeze wafts into the cave, sending chills down your spine and causing the flame to quiver
  2824. >When the wind stops blowing, the cave seems to come alive again
  2825. >The flames creep high again, consuming the wood to preserve itself, and Fluttershy’s shadow stretches up the cave wall
  2826. “Me?” You narrow your eyes at the fire, and you keep them locked there, though you can see the yellow mare shifting out of your peripheral vision
  2827. >Initially, she gives an affirmative hum, before continuing “I’m not sure why, like I said, the animals here are more difficult to talk to. But from what I gathered, to them, you just feel-”
  2828. >Once more, she goes quiet as she tries to find the word “...wrong”
  2829. >You let out an amused snort at the word and shift back from the fire as chips of wood begin to fall at your feet
  2830. “Well isn’t that a compliment and a half”
  2831. >Fluttershy shoots you a small, apologetic smile but you wave her off with another amused huff
  2832. >”It isn’t entirely their fault” Turning to half look at you, and half look at the wolves, she lets her head fall to rest on her hooves “They’re not as capable as the animals of Equestria, here, all they know is their instincts-”
  2833. “-and instincts are hard to fight” She turns to fully look at you as you cut her off “Right?”
  2834. >Her smile widens slightly before gently nodding at your words
  2835. “Instincts” You say the word more to yourself as you grab another piece of kindling to stoke the fire
  2836. >You blink away the thin smoke that wafts in front of your eyes
  2837. >As your eyes close, in that instant, your mind is pulled back to then
  2838. >All at once you’re reminded of every sensation you felt
  2839. >The numbness, the static in your head, the impact against your stomach, the glass shards that dug into you
  2840. >Above all of that though, one thing overwhelms you
  2841. >The heat
  2842. >As your eyes open again the visions disperse as quickly as they had formed
  2843. >But not the heat, that prevails through your mind, and remains in front of you
  2844. >How such a gentle pony could invoke such primal terror in you, you’re still unsure
  2845. >Every part of you wished you didn’t feel this way around her
  2846. >All that power, yet she wants for none of it
  2847. >You could tell
  2848. >There was something in her eyes when she looked at you
  2849. >Regret was etched into every inch of her eyes when she realised that all the pain you felt was because of her
  2850. >She only began to look happy again when she was surrounded by her subjects
  2851. >Hopefully you’ll meet her again soon
  2852. >You feel that there were words left unspoken due to Eris and Discord’s presence
  2853. >As your mind lingers on Celestia, it begins to drift to Luna
  2854. >Even now, you have not been visited by her in your dreams
  2855. >”I think Discord is why” Before you can lose yourself in your thoughts again, Fluttershy speaks
  2856. >Turning your head away from the flames, you give her an inquisitive look
  2857. >”When you asked how I can ‘handle’ the wolves easier than you, I think Discord is why” One of the corners of her lips curls up at the mention of the elder draconequus
  2858. >”I used to be terrified of this forest, but Discord-” She cuts herself off again, again looking for the right words, clearly not wanting to outright insult him
  2859. “-he gives you a new perspective on things, doesn’t he?” You and Fluttershy share a chuckle as you once again finish her sentence
  2860. >”He made me realise that not everything has to be as scary as it seems” She turns her gaze back to the flames and you can see an almost nostalgic look cross her face
  2861. >You can’t help but smile at her
  2862. >As she loses herself in whatever memory of Discord she has, you think back to the last time you saw Eris
  2863. >When she had hugged you on the train, her arms had a firm grip on you, but none of her claws dug into you
  2864. >Her soft neck had pressed into your face and just before she teleported you away, her hair had hung down and tickled your forehead
  2865. >”How are you and Eris by the way?” Fluttershy’s eyes are wide with curiosity as she leans towards the fire and you
  2866. Chuckling slightly you lean back on your hands “Well, if you include today, I haven’t seen her in three days. But I think I’m getting somewhere with her”
  2867. >Finally tired of staring at the flames, you begin shuffling around to Fluttershy’s side
  2868. >Though you make sure to keep the wolves on the far side of you
  2869. >Maybe putting Fluttershy between them and you will help them to feel a little calmer
  2870. “She gave me a bolt of lightning in a bottle. Still not sure what to do with it” Fluttershy chuckles at the thought of the odd gift
  2871. >Her laughter slowly dies as she turns her gaze up “Discord’s constantly giving me strange gifts too. Singing tea bags, animated stuffed animals” You give a chuckle of your own at the mental image
  2872. >”He’s really helped me come out of my shell” Her words slow as she begins to curl up into herself
  2873. For a while you let the comfortable silence permeate the cave before breaking it “Eris has helped me too”
  2874. >Your voice i barely a murmur, but Fluttershy opens her eyes a crack and turns up to look at you
  2875. “More than she probably knows if I’m honest” Your voice is slightly melancholic as you turn to her “This place still baffles me, but she’s shown me so many strange and amazing things that...  that just makes this place more bearable, I guess?”
  2876. >You’re not entirely sure of yourself, but Fluttershy seems to understand you well enough as she nods “Maybe you should tell her sometime, if she’s anything like her father, something like that will really help her”
  2877. “I will, next time I see her. Whenever that is”
  2878. >Before the silence can completely return Fluttershy speaks again
  2879. > “Sometimes...” She swallows a lump in her throat and lets out a sigh
  2880.  >Slowly turning away from you and the fire, Fluttershy stares at the dirt beneath you, and her mane covers her face “Sometimes Discord gets this look in his eyes…”
  2881. >Her smile slowly begins to fade as she absentmindedly paws at the ground ”Like he’s so sad”
  2882. >Her gaze briefly turns to you and you narrow your eyes in a sympathetic look before bringing your hand on top of her head and silently nodding
  2883. >Once more you think back to your time on the train with Eris
  2884. >The entire time she was telling you about her world, she was eager to move onto some other aspect of it, never staying on one topic for too long
  2885. >Any time she lingered on something, her composure would begin to falter
  2886. >But as soon as you’d blink, she’d be practically bouncing, eager to tell you about something else
  2887. >The only time she purposefully let you see her like that was when she hugged you, and that was still only for a second
  2888. Eventually, your thoughts become too much to stay contained and a question rises up your throat before you can stop it “What was Celestia thinking, choosing us for this?”
  2889. >You regret the words as soon as they leave you
  2890. >Pulling your hand away from Fluttershy, you gently clench it as you shut your eyes
  2891. >Rubbing them, you let out a tired sigh before looking back to Fluttershy
  2892. >No better word than shock comes to mind
  2893. >Pushing yourself to your feet you dust yourself off and take a few steps away from the fire
  2894. >You know you can’t just leave a question like that, but you hadn’t even had time to think it through before you said it
  2895. “I mean-” As you turn on your heels, you see Fluttershy close her mouth, so you continue “-Applejack, is stronger than us, Rainbow Dash is faster than us. Pinkie Pie is- is-”
  2896. >”-is Pinkie Pie” You and Fluttershy chuckle as she finishes your sentence for once
  2897. Nodding to her, your chuckle slows down, as do you “Rarity, at least she has magic.”
  2898. >”And Twilight is an alicorn” Fluttershy’s gaze once more falls to the floor and you feel your shoulders slump at the sight  “Even before that she was a magical prodigy”
  2899. “At least you’ve got an element, you’ve got latent magic potential. But I’m just me” You raise your arms slightly before letting them fall against your sides
  2900. >Bringing a hand up you snap your finger, and the crack seems to reverberate through the cave
  2901. “It’d be that easy, just-” Again you snap “-just that and exit stage left, goodbye me”
  2902. >”Anonymous-” Fluttershy’s tone is low as she rises to her hooves “If you’re that worried about Eris, the elemen-”
  2903. “No Fluttershy, the elements are NOT an option!” You raise your voice higher than you would have liked, but she remains undeterred
  2904. >”But you just said-” As Fluttershy continues, you turn away from her, to try and calm yourself down
  2905. >But her words are just acting like fuel now
  2906. “I know what I said! I was there!”
  2907. >Despite your attempts, your voice has now started to drown out the storm
  2908. >”But if you really think she’d-”
  2909. “She wouldn’t do that! Ever!” You cross your arms over each other, in an attempt to end the conversation
  2910. >Slumping down you fall into a crouch as you angrily pick at and flick stones away
  2911. >Without a word, Fluttershy slowly makes her way over to you and wraps a leg around you
  2912. >”The girls certainly didn’t think so”
  2913. >With an exasperated groan you rise to your feet again, almost throwing Fluttershy off
  2914. >She has remained composed though during your spiral and simply floats with her wings
  2915. “Well what do they even know! They had their chance! But I don’t remember hearing them volunteer for this!” Your mind flashes back to when you were calming down the girls after Eris’ first trip through town
  2916. >The irony of this situation is not lost on you, but it in no ways cools the burning you feel in your chest
  2917. >”Then why did you volunteer to help her?”
  2918. >Fluttershy’s tone remains a constant in this back and forth as you pace through the cave
  2919. >The wolves growl at your movement, but you ignore them
  2920. “Because I- I needed something to do! Something else other than- than ALL of this!” You raise your arms up and make a wide circular motion with them
  2921. >”And what’s wrong with Equestria?”
  2922. “What’s wrong!? What’s wrong!? How about your princesses that make me collapse when I get within ten feet of them! How about immortal wooden wolves that are, for some reason, scared of me! How about I don’t know how I got here and Twilight doesn’t know how to send me back! WHAT’S WRONG IS THIS WORLD DOESN’T MAKE ANY FUCKING SENSE!” You give a solid kick to the ground and launch up a huge pile of dirt
  2923. >As the dirt suffocates and kills the fire, the resulting smoke invades your lungs and immediately snaps you out of your rant
  2924. >You wheeze and cough to try and force the smoke out of your lungs
  2925. >Feeling one of the walls of the now pitch black cave with a hand, you retreat in the direction you think is the exit
  2926. >Before you can register it, your hand hits the corner and you fall on your side
  2927. >Your body has officially used up the last of its energy, so you simply lie there
  2928. >The click of hooves against stone stops you before you can start pitying yourself
  2929. >Shuffling, you manage to find the strength to sit upright, where you find Fluttershy already sat besides you
  2930. >Shame overwhelms any sense of self-pity you had
  2931. >Tightly curling up, you bring your head into your knees and hug them close
  2932. “‘M sorry Fluttershy” You just barely manage to eke out “Stupid”
  2933. >”Stop it!” Your grip on your legs tightens at her suddenly strict tone
  2934. >It loosens just as quickly as you feel her gentle hooves slowly press on your legs
  2935. >You hesitate only for a moment before you stop resisting her and pull your head back up
  2936. >She still has that same gentle smile on her face “How long have you felt this way Anon?”
  2937. >In a poor attempt to distance yourself, you shuffle down the wall, she simply follows you
  2938. >You chuckle at how you two must look, and let your head fall against the wall
  2939. “I dunno” Heaving a deep sigh you get a lung full of the scent of rainwater “First day?”
  2940. >”Why didn’t you tell anypony?” Fluttershy places both her hooves against your shoulder
  2941. >You don’t look at her, but you’re certain she’s looking at you with well intentioned pity
  2942. “Didn’t know it was this bad ‘til now if I’m honest, it all just” You clench your fist in front of you and tighten it before letting out a huff of air as you unfurl it
  2943. >Fluttershy, seemingly with no response, lets her hooves fall to the ground, and slumps against your side
  2944. >Her light rose mane is soft against your now cold hands
  2945. >The silence has officially gone from comfortable, to awkward
  2946. >You both sit there, as the smoke slowly filters out of the cave, and is drowned out by the wind and rain
  2947. >Turning your head to the tempest you mutter under your breath
  2948. “How long is this damn thing gonna last?” You mentally scrap your previous thought of ever living in or near this forest
  2949. >The seconds go by and slowly turn to minutes as you both continue to be at a loss for words
  2950. >You wrack your brain, trying to think of where that bombshell even came from
  2951. >But nothing seems to fit the puzzle
  2952. >Everything you’ve done until now felt fine
  2953. >Even at your lowest, this place has been good to you
  2954. >Sure, you weren’t lying when you said it didn’t make sense, but you thought that could be an inviting proposal to explore it
  2955. >Now, you’re not sure what to think
  2956. >”Anonymous, I want you to really listen to me” Fluttershy’s voice, barely a whisper, finally breaks the silence, but she’s crystal clear to you
  2957. >With no real strength anymore you simply hum to let her know you’re listening
  2958. >”I can help Eris, if you need time. It’s barely been over a week since you got here after all” Her mane shifts against your hand as she tilts her head
  2959. >You don’t turn to meet her gaze, instead, you stare off into the rain, and think
  2960. >Closing your eyes, you mentally go over all you’ve done until now
  2961. >There’s so much to go through that you find it hard to believe it’s only been a week
  2962. >The longer you think, the more your thoughts turn to Eris
  2963. >Even when you try to focus on something else, there she is, tugging at the corner of your mind
  2964. >You can almost hear that soothing, mischievous voice of hers telling you to pay attention to her
  2965. >A smile forms on your face and you finally turn back to Fluttershy
  2966. “No” A simple, straight answer that seems to be more than enough for her, but you explain anyway “I think we can help each other. I know she’s tired and…” Heaving a deep sigh, you slump down against the wall “I think I am too”
  2967. >Your chuckle is interrupted by a yawn
  2968. >Caught by a yawn of her own, Fluttershy slumps deeper into you
  2969. >”We should rest, who knows when this storm will stop” Her voice slowly gets quieter and quieter as you feel her bury her face into your arm like a pillow
  2970. >Rolling your wrist, you wrap your hand in her mane once, to make sure you don’t get frostbite as you feel yourself drifting off
  2971. >She’s not as warm as Eris
  2972. <>
  2973. >The cries of cicadas and chirping of birds slowly pulls your groggy mind back to reality
  2974. >The smooth stone of the floor contrasts with the coarse dirt that clings to your coat
  2975. >You’ll need a bath once you get home
  2976. >Maybe you should convince Harry the Bear to join you, he’s been avoiding cleaning himself for a while
  2977. >As you become more and more aware of your surroundings, you feel a weight on your back
  2978. >A weight that isn’t your saddlebags
  2979. >Looking over your shoulder, you see a raggedy cloth draped over your whole body
  2980. >Oh, it’s Anonymous’ coat
  2981. >That thought brings you fully back
  2982. >Quickly rising to your hooves causes the coat to thump against the floor
  2983. >Looking through the mouth of the cave you see Anonymous, his arms crossed and his back to you, your saddlebags slung over one of his shoulders
  2984. >Though only briefly as his coat catches his ear and he turns back to you
  2985. >”Welcome back to the land of the living” He chuckles at himself as he enters the cave to retrieve his coat
  2986. >You’re about to apologise for dirtying it but he silences you as he simply picks it up and puts it on with practiced ease
  2987. >He didn’t even bother dusting it off
  2988. >It’s really easy to forget he’s not as picky as the colts in Ponyville
  2989. >None of them would have the stomach to do the same with their clothes
  2990. >”Come on sleeping beauty, sun’s going down” You blush lightly at the compliment but, from what little time you’ve spent with him, the context and lax nature of what he said leads you to believe it’s some reference to his old world
  2991. >The previous hours speed past your mind as you remember the anxiety he tried to hide in the forest, his slowly growing temper and eventual burst
  2992. >You approach the mouth of the cave and see the Timberwolf pack sat a little bit away from you, in the shade of the trees
  2993. >Raising an eyebrow to Anonymous he simply shrugs his shoulders “Don’t look at me, I think they’re waiting for you”
  2994. >The wolves don’t growl at him this time, only letting out a half-hearted bark
  2995. >Once more you’re confused
  2996. >”We’ve just been stood here for a few hours, I think they’re used to me, or at least, as much as they can get used to me” You do a double and then a triple-take at Anon’s words
  2997. “Hours? Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry, why didn’t you wake me?” You rise to his eye level but he closes them as he shrugs at you
  2998. >”You were sleeping, what was I supposed to do, kick you?” He lets out one of his carefree chuckles as he heads towards the trees and timberwolves “Come on, I think they’re gonna lead us back to the path, or maybe eat us”
  2999. >Rolling your eyes you flap your wings to follow him “You shouldn’t say things like that, you might offend them”
  3000. >He simply waves you off, reaches into one of your bags and hurls a piece of kindling at the timberwolves
  3001. >The three watch the arc of the stick and then each leap at it, before breaking it between themselves and eating the remains
  3002. >”See, we have an understanding” Gone is his previous low tone and his shaking body, replaced by his usual mannerism and devil may care attitude
  3003. >Though what you previously saw, sticks to your mind
  3004. “You know Anonymous, we’ve been here a while, maybe we should head home? I’m sure the girls are wondering where we are” He could tell what you were going to try before you even said the first word
  3005. >You can see it in his eyes as he casts a sideways glance at you
  3006. >”Nah, I want to see what’s going on with this place, the castle can’t be too far” You purse your lips a little at his words
  3007. “Actually… it’s about a half a day’s journey there and back” He stops and turn to you completely, his face neutral
  3008. >”Seriously?” He gives you an incredulous look and you simply nod back
  3009. “Yeah, when we entered the forest the first time, it was sunrise- or at least it was supposed to be”
  3010. >You and Anonymous are able to keep pace as you no longer have to worry about the roots tripping you up, while he remains unphased by them
  3011. “But when we got back it was early to… midish afternoon?” The day was so hectic you hadn’t actually bothered to check how long it took you
  3012. >Twilight probably knew though, sadly you hadn’t asked her before you came it
  3013. >”Well then, guess we better be quick” Your eyes widen slightly as Anon lets out another chuckle and hurries ahead of you
  3014. >For your perspective it almost looks like he’s chasing the timberwolves
  3015. >Flapping harder, you fly after the gleeful human
  3016. “Anon, are you sure?” You keep your tone level, and see his gaze soften
  3017. >Turning to you he gives you a small, but definitely genuine smile “Just give me some time Fluttershy, alright?”
  3018. >With no real reason to argue you simply sigh and continue following him and the wolves
  3019. >At least the girls were partially right, this has helped you to get him to open up some more
  3020. >Though you suspect Twilight’s worries about how Anon’s handling things are much worse than she expected
  3021. >It feels like, even with all that happened in the cave you only got a glimpse of what’s he’s been holding in
  3022. >You hope he was right when he said Eris could help him and much as he could help her
  3023. <>
  3024. >This forest is just messing with you at this point
  3025. >After the storm, you expected the mud to be even thicker and harder to walk on
  3026. >Yet, for some reason, the forest floor seems to have gotten drier
  3027. >The soles of your boots are still being caked in mud, but it no longer feels like you’re being dragged down by it
  3028. >It takes a while longer than you expected to get back on the path
  3029. >You must have ran a least a few miles into the forest to find that cave
  3030. >By the time you all reach the path you’ve returned to the usual routine
  3031. >Fluttershy is close to the wolves and talking to them while you keep a comfortable distance
  3032. >When you’re safely back on the beaten dirt road to the castle, the wolves let out a howl and run back into the wilderness
  3033. >Your eyes linger on their retreating forms for just a moment before you turn back to your path
  3034. >Then you turn back and forth a few times
  3035. >There’s no discernible landmark to let you know where you are
  3036. >Fluttershy however, begins walking deeper into the forest with no hesitation
  3037. >Adjusting the saddlebags on your shoulders you begin your trek once more
  3038. >You’re still not sure how to start up another conversation after you blew up in the cave
  3039. >If the continuing silence is anything to go by, Fluttershy isn’t either
  3040. >But despite the silence, you’re glad you finally got all that off your chest
  3041. >Better to let it out then let it stew and turn ugly you suppose
  3042. >For most of the remainder of the trip, the sounds of the forest are the only noise
  3043. >After the storm had them stuck in their dens for a few hours, the animals are back out to hunt
  3044. >Luckily there seems to be some unspoken rule of the forest that they avoid this path
  3045. >Fluttershy occasionally gives commentary on the local flora and fauna
  3046. >You cross a patch of poison joke and she recalls all the effects it had on her and the others
  3047. >A part of you wonders what it’d do to you, then it wonders what it could do to Eris
  3048. >She also points out a few other packs of timberwolves and describes slight differences in them that help differentiate the packs
  3049. >Different shades of brown in the wood that their bodies are composed of
  3050. >The slight differences in the shape of their heads and tails
  3051. >Each of them with an alpha about twice the size of the rest
  3052. >Her reaction to a manticore is particularly strange
  3053. >She insists you both stop while she moves her head back and forth to discern as many details about it as she can
  3054. >After a few minutes she sighs, apparently she was hoping it was the first manticore she met here
  3055. >If you had to name a highlight of the trip it would have been when you saw the silhouette of a chimera through the trees
  3056. >Its hulking form doesn’t slip through the trees like the rest of the creatures here, but instead rams them aside
  3057. >Some of the trees simply bend out of the way, while some are nearly uprooted from its strength
  3058. >Fluttershy expresses regret for not bringing a notepad and quill with her
  3059. >Apparently she’s wanted to sketch the beasts of the Everfree for a while
  3060. >Even after the heavy storm, dark clouds still loom over the Everfree, making it impossible to tell how much time has passed
  3061. >Not to mention the path still looks the same to you, so you’re also not sure how far you’ve travelled
  3062. >Luckily you’re able to mostly go on autopilot, losing track of time as you lose yourself in your thoughts
  3063. >One thing stands out in your mind right now
  3064. >Your very presence unsettles the animals of the forest
  3065. >At least, it unsettles the timberwolves
  3066. >But from the way Fluttershy described the Everfree, it seems like every animal acts the same way
  3067. >Would you scare one of the pack leaders
  3068. >Could you scare a manticore, a chimera
  3069. >All Fluttershy could deduce from the wolves was that you felt wrong
  3070. >Whatever that meant
  3071. >As you travel further down the path, slowly but surely, the trees begin to shift and open up
  3072. >Snapping back to reality, your internal clock seems to catch up with you and you realise that your legs are beginning to ache and your breathing’s gotten a lot heavier
  3073. >Fluttershy was right, that was definitely a few hours of walking
  3074. >The trees begin to clear as the path curves one more time, leading to an old rope bridge
  3075. >Straight across, sat atop a small hill, lies your destination
  3076. >The old castle of the princesses
  3077. >A thin fog hangs over the ruins, slightly obscuring it
  3078. >With a howl, a gust of wind batters at you, as if the castle were telling you to turn back
  3079. >Once more you feel it
  3080. >An unwanted wave of calm and a slight pressure
  3081. >It’s slightly stronger than it was back in the cave
  3082. >With a firmer mental shake you manage to shrug off the ambient magic invading your senses
  3083. >Turning your head down, you stop yourself as you no longer see Fluttershy besides you
  3084. >Shooting a glance to your sides you see her stood at the edge of the cliff
  3085. >Slight aches run through your shoulder, so you switch the saddlebags as you approach the yellow mare
  3086. >Over the edge is a long staircase that curves towards a large, glowing cave beneath the castle
  3087. >Fluttershy smiles up at you as she begins hovering down the stairs
  3088. >With a shrug you begin making your way to the base of the cliff
  3089. >The stairs are made for ponies, meaning they’re so short that you take them two or three at a time
  3090. >Sadly they’re also so narrow that you have to be careful of each step so you don’t send yourself hurtling down them
  3091. >Finally making it to the bottom, you take in the surroundings
  3092. >It’s mostly just a barren ravine, the only point of interest being the cave
  3093. >Or more importantly, what’s inside the cave
  3094. >A grand tree made of a deep blue crystal
  3095. >Before you can stop her, Fluttershy lands on your shoulder and pulls her saddlebags off
  3096. >She smirks down at you and you can’t help but chuckle
  3097. >They had begun to chafe anyway, so you won’t miss the weight any time soon
  3098. >You both approach the cave and your curiosity finally gets the better of you
  3099. “Where are we Fluttershy?” Your voice bounces off the walls of the ravine and is carried up by the gentle stream of wind that flows through it
  3100. >”This is the Tree of Harmony, I… wanted to see it” Her voice drops to a sadder tone briefly before she perks up and glides towards the titanic tree
  3101. >As you approach the cave’s entrance you feel a slight pressure and heat washing over you
  3102. >It’s like standing in front of a grand furnace
  3103. You slow down as you mull over Fluttershy’s words “Harmony?” Having reached the tree, Fluttershy doesn’t hear your voice, which is barely a whisper “Did you say Harmony!?” Your raised voice finally reaches her as she hovers over it’s branches
  3104. >She nods at you before her face shifts to dread
  3105. >You’re facing the floor before you even realised your legs had gone numb
  3106. >Blinking to life, your instincts force your numb arms out to the edge of the cave’s walls
  3107. >Like knots under your skin, your muscles seem incapable of receiving the orders to brace themselves
  3108. >Just managing to force past your body’s reaction to the magic, your hands finally grip the wall and stop you from collapsing
  3109. >A wisp of pink causes you to jump slightly as you register that Fluttershy’s besides you now
  3110. >Her mouth moves but you hear no words
  3111. >Your hands are clasping what should be cold rock but it feels like you’re pressed against nothing
  3112. >The taste and smell of rainwater that had hung heavily in the air since the storm no longer registers
  3113. >Finally, your mind becomes incapable of discerning shapes and all the outlines that defined the world falls away, and the colours mix into an incomprehensible sight
  3114. >Loss of senses
  3115. >Shaking your head, you ignore the yellow mare and try to focus
  3116. >Like before, it’s as if static has filled your mind, each thought lost in the fog before they can take root
  3117. >The magic of Luna, Celestia and this forest
  3118. >You feel all of it washing over you as a single wave
  3119. >But there’s something else, something new
  3120. >Your experience with it was brief, but now you feel the full weight of it
  3121. >Harmony magic
  3122. >The invading force continues to press on your mind despite your best effort to clash your will against its own
  3123. >As you feel yourself growing closer to unconsciousness, you attempt a new approach
  3124. >Relaxing your muscles and mind, you feel a great flood of pressure encompassing you
  3125. >Like a whirlpool with you at its centre
  3126. >Despite having let your mind’s guard down, you remain conscious, or at least inbetween it
  3127. >You know that your body is just beyond the overwhelming swell of magic that surrounds you, but you can’t command it to move anymore
  3128. >The magic seemingly does nothing, it presses on all sides but it doesn’t crush you
  3129. >You aren’t being pulled, or pushed
  3130. >It’s simply you and the magic
  3131. >Not sure of how the magic will react, you experiment by trying to send a signal to one of your fingers
  3132. >Your finger twitches and causes ripples to echo outward from the point of impact, like a pool of water
  3133. >You can’t see them, but the ripples slowly pass over you and begin to clear your sight, though none of your other senses have yet returned
  3134. >A pale white fills the edges of your vision, framing the Tree clearly in front of you
  3135. “Harmony magic” You can’t even hear your own voice anymore
  3136. >But your sight has seemingly sharpened as you catch the faint pulse of pale light from the tree, like a response
  3137. “Show me” The tree’s light shifts ever so slightly again, and you begin approaching it
  3138. >The great swell of magic begins to move around you, it contracts and hugs your form, then expands, allowing you to breathe
  3139. >You hadn’t even realised you’d stopped
  3140. >The distance between you and the tree seems to stretch, no matter how many steps you take
  3141. >It’s especially difficult to walk when you can’t feel your legs beneath you, but you press on
  3142. >With some effort, you lift your arm and extend your hand out
  3143. >In a flash, the tree rushes towards you
  3144. >If your mind wasn’t in a haze, the speed would have startled you
  3145. >As your hand makes contact with the tree, you feel electricity run through your entire body, and your sense of touch returns
  3146. “I can feel this” You absentmindedly speak as you guide your hand across the tree’s surface
  3147. >It’s cool to the touch, but you can feel a heat emanating from deeper within
  3148. >Its roughly hewn surface makes you wonder if it’s actually a tree or a crystal construct, whether it grew naturally, or by some other means
  3149. >With the edges of your periphery still framed in pale white, blocking out the rest of the world, your eyes glide over the tree and stop at a point nearest to the roots
  3150. >A glyph of a crescent moon carved into the trunk
  3151. >Curiosity fills your mind and you trace your hand over it
  3152. >What was once a pale white light, has turned to a gleaming silver, a sapphire moonlight pours out from the mark and shines through a cluster of star filled clouds
  3153. >As soon as your palm presses against the moon the back of your head is invaded by a feeling of weightlessness
  3154. >The sensation spreads down your spine and across your entire body
  3155. >It’s as if you’ve stepped into a pool of still water
  3156. >Though unlike when you encountered Luna, the floating sensation does not overtake you
  3157. >Something holds it at the edges of your mind, keeping you rooted
  3158. >Your hand slowly drifts away from the mark of the moon, and it feels as though the sensation is flowing out of you, through your hand, and back into the tree
  3159. >The light dims and your vision is once again framed by a pale fog of light
  3160. >Turning your head up slightly, you come face to face with a crest depicting the sun
  3161. >Briefly, your instincts rage against the sensations of the harmony magic and try to force your body and mind to work normally again
  3162. >But you suppress them
  3163. >Again your hand crosses a familiar mark, and again, your sight changes
  3164. >The fog that had simply stood at the corners of your sight flood your eyes, and the world goes dark
  3165. >You hear someone exhale and a small candle is lit in front of you, and a familiar sensation fills you
  3166. >Heat
  3167. >The light of the candle grows, chasing away the darkness that threatens to consume it and snuff it out
  3168. >Yet the unfettered fire continues to grow into a great orb of twisting orange and yellow and red
  3169. >The scorching heat you felt just barely contained under the cool material of the tree has now come to meet you fully
  3170. >It threatens to eclipse your sight, and you can feel that it wouldn’t stop there if given the chance
  3171. >But once again, as if bound by invisible chains, it is restrained
  3172. >You’d never be able to see a star up close like this usually, so you bask in the sight
  3173. >Coronal loops grow out from its surface and reach out to you before being suppressed
  3174. >It occasionally breaks the limits of its reach as massive coronal ejections burst from it and creeps into the darkness that surrounds you
  3175. >Still though, it remains bound
  3176. >With the image burned into your mind both figuratively and possibly literally, you begin moving your hand away
  3177. >The sun begins to contort and shake, as if in protest, but as your hand crosses over the border of its glyph, it begins to be sucked back into the tree
  3178. >A familiar pale fog pokes at the edges of your sight, replacing the shade from before
  3179. >Looking up, you see the crown of the tree
  3180. >At the crown’s centre, where the branches stretch out from, you see a jagged star
  3181. >Your arm stretches as far as it can, but you can’t even brush the lower edge of the mark
  3182. >Still, you feel a slight pressure
  3183. >It reminds you of the brief sensation you felt when Twilight had teleported Rarity to your group all those days ago
  3184. >Your mind wanders to the other five and your eyes follow the branches to each mark engraved in them
  3185. >A fragment of each of their cutie marks lays at the tip of one of each branch
  3186. >Your eyes eventually fall to the branch at the far left
  3187. >The mark depicts a pink butterfly
  3188. >Focusing on the mark causes something to tug at the edge of your mind
  3189. >Any attempts to turn your head are obstructed though, by a slight resistance that tries to pull your eyes back to the tree
  3190. >As though a gentle being has cupped your cheek and is trying to keep you here, in this haze of pale
  3191. >You give a small smile and feel the resistance shift and finally turn away from the trunk
  3192. >The pale light may have been feint, but it was dense, and it takes several seconds for it to rush out of your peripheries
  3193. >Air floods your lungs and you feel a deep heat flush through your system
  3194. >Your sense of smell returns and you catch the faint scent of rainwater still hanging in the air
  3195. >Next, your sense of touch returns fully as you finally feel the entirety of your body freed from that magical swell
  3196. >With it comes the sensation of heavy sweat pouring from you, and your shaking, exhausted limbs
  3197. >Gasping for air to calm your burning muscles you turn your back to the tree and let yourself fall onto one of its roots
  3198. >Finally, your hearing
  3199. >Short, shallow gasps ring through your ears
  3200. >You keep your eyes closed as the world seems to spin around you, but you raise a shaking hand to the source of the noise
  3201. >A pair of gentle hooves grabs your hand and Fluttershy presses it to her fur
  3202. >The gasps and whimpers slowly fade as you move your hand back and forth, letting her know that you’re back from wherever you’d gone
  3203. >”Anon…” Her voice is wavering, like she’s on the brink of tears
  3204. >Your attempts to answer are met with dry gasps and coughs as you realise how dry your throat’s become
  3205. >Licking your lips and swallowing whatever saliva you can to wet your throat you let out one more dry cough
  3206. >Before you can answer a fit of soft laughter overwhelms you
  3207. >Fluttershy’s grip on your hand tightens, her worry has become palpable
  3208. >Drawing your hand back, you clasp both your hands over one of her hooves and squeeze as your laughter slowly fades
  3209. >Finally opening your eyes, you look up at the mare, who’s pleased to just see you open your eyes
  3210. “That was incredible” Her eyes shrink to pinpricks as you begin to let out another chuckle
  3211. >She pushes you back as she holds your head still between her hooves and inspects your face
  3212. >Raising an incredulous eyebrow to her, you see her chest heave up and down
  3213. >The sky outside is still dark, so you still can’t tell how long it’s been
  3214. “How long was I out?” Your voice finally gets Fluttershy to stop her frantic examination of you and she flutters a little bit away from you
  3215. >Her hooves are shaking, and she grips them in each foreleg to stop them “...hours, I don’t know how many”
  3216. >It takes a second for her words to process, and you feel your heart begin to quicken and your stomach drop
  3217. “What? How?” You stand from the root, but quickly sit again as your legs are still numb
  3218. >”I don’t know- I don’t-” Fluttershy presses her hooves to her face as she tries to suppress her whimpers
  3219. >You curse yourself in every way you know how, you can’t even remember why you let that thing encompass you anyway
  3220. >Now you made Fluttershy watch your half-possessed body stare gormlessly at a tree with no tell of what was happening to you
  3221. “Why didn’t you grab somepony?” Fluttershy gasps slightly as she forces her composure back
  3222. >”Who? Zecora doesn’t really understand pony magic, and I didn’t know what would happen to yo-” She begins sniffling and retreats into her hooves again
  3223. >The physical drain you feel is all the real explanation you needed
  3224. >Even if she flew straight to Ponyville and back, you’d have been stuck like that for maybe twice as long before the help got to you
  3225. >But still, you can’t feel completely upset, nothing could rival the sensations you encountered in that state
  3226. >Yet that very facet of your experience is what stops you from turning back to the tree
  3227. >The exhilaration made you yearn to experience it again, like the strings of a puppet had been wound around you, and were gently tugging you back
  3228. >The Tree wanted you to look at it again
  3229. >Looking back up, you see Fluttershy still curled up into herself
  3230. >Your heart aches at the sight, so you reach up to the mare and pull her down
  3231. >With one hand to keep your body braced, you encompass the shivering mare in a hug
  3232. >A harsh gasp escapes her as she allows herself to finally cry into your shirt
  3233. >No words come to mind that might consolidate the mare, so you simply tighten the hug and curl your torso over her, letting her feel as much as you as she needs to
  3234. >When her sobs begin to taper off, and you feel your shirt no longer being flooded, you whisper down to the mare
  3235. “Why’d you wait? You could have tried” You keep your voice up, to try and reassure the mare
  3236. >Her shifting beneath you makes you move and let her sit up “You didn’t leave me” Her words are broken up by gasps as she wipes her eyes
  3237. >You have to stifle a snicker at her
  3238. “There’s a difference between sleeping and…” You still don’t know how to describe your experience to someone else, so you leave your words hanging
  3239. >She seems to find some humor in your words as she chuckles slightly ”Still” Her face falls again and you cup the back of her head and press her to your chest
  3240. “Thanks Fluttershy, but don’t worry, I’m safe” She shifts slightly in your grips and sniffles again
  3241. >”You’re welcome” She just manages to choke out through gasps as she tries to calm down
  3242. >Stepping off of your lap she heads towards the mouth of the cave “Come on, it was silly to bring you here”
  3243. >You catch her bitterly murmuring about harmony magic under her breath and see her tense slightly, clearly beating herself up over what happened
  3244. “Not yet” She freezes in place and slowly turns to you, worry on her face again “I’m out of breath and can’t feel my legs, gimme a minute” You shoot her a wry smile and she makes her way back to you
  3245. >She looks calmer, knowing you’re not staying for the Tree
  3246. >You become aware of how late it must be as you hear nothing but the wind from outside
  3247. >The cicadas and birds must have gone to sleep
  3248. >This fascinating place, it defeats your sense of time
  3249. >”You know, today’s been kind of emaresculating” Turning your gaze from the mouth of the cave to Fluttershy, you see she’s rested on her hooves
  3250. >”Getting carried through the Everfree, waking up under your coat, you consoling me just now. Rainbow would have a field day if she found out” She lets out a small huff and lightly bats at a loose rock
  3251. Chuckling to yourself at the mental image you speak up “Oh I’m gonna have a field day telling her” Fluttershy’s head snaps to you as a small blush crosses her face
  3252. >”Please don’t” She meekly says as she hides under her mane
  3253. >Laughing again, you pull her mane back
  3254. “Don’t worry Fluttershy, that stuff stays between you and me” She smiles up at your assurance “Though I bet Twilight will wanna know about the Tree”
  3255. >Again, her face drops “I’m sorry for bringing you here, I should have remembered, I just-”
  3256. >With a few shushes you stop her from berating herself
  3257. >When she finally quiets down you feel another question poke at the back of your mind
  3258. “Why are we here Fluttershy?” A brief silence fills the cave before she turns her head to the left and begins floating up
  3259. >”I just… wanted to see my element again”
  3260. >You follow her path up to the tree branch and see the pale fog creep into your vision again
  3261. >Quickly turning away you let out a sigh
  3262. “Didn’t Eris get hold of those? And weren’t they in a box?” You wait until you hear the flap of wings before turning back to her
  3263. >Fluttershy has a pensive look on her face as she comes to rest besides you again “It’s possible Eris felt the traces of the elements in the box that Celestia used to hold them in. But they’ve been in the Tree for a while and, as far as I know, this is where Twilight’s been sealing them”
  3264. >You nod along with her explanation before she continues
  3265. >”The elements are actually what keeps the Everfree in check, like I said; pony magic can’t handle it” Her eyes drift up to her element and a nostalgic smile crosses her face
  3266. >The thought of an out of control Everfree briefly crosses your mind before you store it in the back of your mind
  3267. >You’d actually like to go to sleep without any nightmares when you get back
  3268. >Taking a deep breath you begin flexing various muscles
  3269. >Everything is fully receptive though you feel several aches from exhaustion
  3270. >Standing up, you nod your head towards the cave entrance, much to Fluttershy’s joy and make your way out
  3271. >Just as you begin to cross the threshold of the cave you feel the tug of the gentle being from before one last time, before the sensation falls away completely as you exit the cave
  3272. >Slowly making your way back up the stairs, the faint glint from the cave shines in your peripherals until you reach the top
  3273. >Turning to the rope bridge, you finally begin making your way to your intended destination
  3274. >”Anonymous?” Turning around you see Fluttershy half way down the path in the other direction
  3275. >You give her a toothy grin and increase your speed across the bridge
  3276. >She vocalises her chagrin as you step off the bridge to the other side
  3277. >”Honestly Anon, we need to go back so you can rest” Her tone is soft but you stay the course up the hill towards the castle
  3278. “Come on Fluttershy, you know that if I go back after that, Twilight will never let me have the chance to come here again, I wanna see what Celestia and Luna’s old home is like”
  3279. >Fluttershy looks down to the ground, seemingly weighing the options in her head
  3280. “Plus I know that you wanna be sure we checked everywhere for whatever’s freaking out the animals here” She perks up a little at the mention of that
  3281. >”That is true” She more says it to herself, as if trying to convince herself to go along with you
  3282. “So?” You wave your arms towards the castle ruins and raise your eyebrows at her
  3283. >With a sigh she deflates “Fine. But!” Before you can celebrate she flaps her wings and is now inches away from your face “If I think for even an instant that you’re in trouble, we’re going home! Even if I have to drag you!” Her more authoritative voice throws you off slightly
  3284. But you recognise the seriousness of her concern and nod “Even if you have to drag me” You echo to let her know you understand
  3285. >Smiling at you she lands and points her hoof towards the ruins “Stallions first”
  3286. >Giving a small fist pump you begin making your way over the crest of the hillock
  3287. >A faint fog is shrouded over the grounds of the castle as you approach
  3288. >Fluttershy sticks to your side like glue, out of your peripherals you see her eyes flicking up to check on you every few seconds
  3289. >You might have avoided the overbearance of Twilight, but now you’ll have to deal with Fluttershy
  3290. >At least she might be tolerably observant of you
  3291. >The fog clings to you as you approach it and breaks away as soon as you pass, like spider webs
  3292. >Rocks crumble and fall away from the archway that leads into the full castle
  3293. >Carefully you slow your pace and watch the arch, only crossing once you’re certain nothing will concuss you
  3294. >From the archway, a long hallway stretches in front of you two
  3295. >Cracks in the stone walls show the castle’s age in its ever withering state
  3296. >Approaching the walls, you trace your fingers over the split rock
  3297. >Now that you’re much closer to them, you realise just how deep the cracks really are
  3298. >They’re driven so deep into the stone that they seem like exposed wounds
  3299. >Turning your eyes further down the wall, they widen at the sight
  3300. >An indent bigger than your body runs across a far length of the entire wall like a trench
  3301. >The rubble from the half caved in wall is all piled up at one end of the line
  3302. >Like someone was slammed into the wall and forcefully dragged across it
  3303. >Inspecting the other walls and ceiling show similar scars in the castle’s architecture
  3304. >One wall though stands mostly unmarked in comparison, the one at the very end of the hall
  3305. >At its base sits a pair of thrones
  3306. >On the left sits one hewn from an azure stone, with jagged markings cut into the top of the seat, like a crown
  3307. >A depiction of the full moon lies behind it
  3308. >Or it could be a depiction of a new moon, the wear on what was once an immaculate display of art now leaves the difference indiscernible
  3309. >Opposite to the azure throne, is an equally impressive seat
  3310. >Were it not for the obvious signs of age and deterioration, you would have thought it was carved from solid gold
  3311. >The back of Celestia’s old throne is moulded into the shape of a teardrop
  3312. >Perhaps the intention was to depict a candle’s flame, as there are several layers of lighter shades painted onto the design
  3313. >Between the thrones is a small stone bridge, connecting the two
  3314. >Above both thrones, long banners hang from the ceiling
  3315. >Holes and other tears have formed in the absence of any staff to maintain them, but what they depict is clear
  3316. >On Luna’s banner sits the moon, and beneath it are images of various astrological objects and at its bottom it shows visions of waves so huge they threaten to swallow the constellations above
  3317. >Celestia’s banner shows the sun shining down on vast mountains and lush planes of farmland
  3318. >Back in the prime of this castle’s time, you imagine it was quite decadent
  3319. >The carpet that had once led all the way to the throne has collected so much dust and dirt that you have only just noticed it was there to begin with
  3320. >It felt the same as walking the dirt path here
  3321. >When the two of you finally reach the thrones you cast your eyes down to the cracked tiles that lead to the other parts of the castle
  3322. >To the side of each throne and at the very back wall is another doorway
  3323. >Just before the thrones, about half a dozen doors line the walls
  3324. >Most likely leading to kitchens, dining halls and libraries if Twilight’s castle is anything to go by
  3325. >”When I was last here, Rarity brought me because she wanted to fix the tapestries” Fluttershy’s voice breaks through the silence of the night “We didn’t get a chance to explore any of the rooms so I’m not sure where to start”
  3326. >Twilight has told you little of this castle, save for the events of Nightmare Moon that took place here
  3327. >The only doorways that seem to be of interest are the ones that sit apart from the rest, the one’s nearest to the thrones
  3328. “Let’s try those first” Pointing in the direction of the doors, you head to the left first “Maybe there’s some magical artifact in the princesses’ rooms they left behind”
  3329. >Before you can even suggest splitting up Fluttershy all but clings to your side as you head towards the darkened room
  3330. >Slowly you make your way through the narrow hallway past the door
  3331. >The further in you get, the darker it becomes
  3332. >Briefly you sweep your hand over both walls, but find no torches
  3333. “Please tell me I didn’t use all our wood up back in the cave Fluttershy” A small startled yelp reaches your ears, quickly followed by the sounds of rummaging
  3334. >Then you hear the sound of metal striking stone
  3335. >With a rush of hot air, a small flame springs to life and grows
  3336. >Crouching down, you lift the torch overhead so Fluttershy doesn’t have to hold the wood in her mouth
  3337. >You feel more confident walking through the hall now that you don’t have to worry about each step
  3338. >After about a minute of walking your torch illuminates an interesting sight
  3339. >Embedded in the left wall are two stone doors
  3340. >Turning to the right, you see a fractured and broken doorway and a deep darkness shrouds the room beyond
  3341. >The light of your torch stops just as it hits the doorway, as though the darkness were a wall
  3342. >”W-what happened here?” Fluttershy brushes against your leg as she moves behind you
  3343. >The darkness of the room seems to writhe and reach out to the flame in your hand
  3344. >Pushing forward you feel a slight air pressure push back against you
  3345. >Tensing your arm, you swing the torch down
  3346. >Like a knife, it cuts through the thick shadows and the darkness starts to clear
  3347. >Deep shades of black either fall to the ground or waft through the air and disperse into nothing
  3348. As they disappear, you trace your hand over the doorway “Luna turned into Nightmare Moon in this castle, right?”
  3349. >Fluttershy gives a timid but affirmative hum
  3350. >One of the jagged edges of the cracked doorway catches the skin of your finger, but not deep enough to make you bleed
  3351. “If I had to guess” Stepping over the rubble at the foot of the doorway, you hold the torch up to inspect the room “I’d say that this is where Luna gave in, and she either used her magic or strength to break the doors open”
  3352. >Your mind briefly wanders to the darkness that had filled the room just moments ago, it was definitely magic, but it didn’t feel like Luna’s
  3353. >It also wasn’t very strong, seeing as a simple torch was able to disperse it
  3354. >Clearly the thousand years hadn’t just taken its toll on the castle but on the magic within it
  3355. >As the final wisps of black smoke-like magic disperses, your torch illuminates the entirety of the room and your breath hitches in your throat
  3356. >There isn’t a single inch that hasn’t been smashed, like some massacre took place here
  3357. >Briefly looking back to the doorway you see Fluttershy’s eyes rapidly shifting across the room, shaking hooves slowly stepping into the wreck
  3358. >You doubt you can do much more to help her nerves other than stay in her view right now
  3359. >With bits of smashed furniture constantly underfoot, finding stable footing isn’t exactly easy
  3360. >Slowly, you sift through the wreckage of wood and cloth
  3361. >Discarded cans of old make-up, fine curtains most likely from the now collapsed bed and rotting wood filled with termites
  3362. >With a grunt of disgust, you hurl those pieces of wood at the far edge of the room
  3363. >Wood roughly scratches against stone as you see Fluttershy has now joined you in your search
  3364. >What kind of magical artifact could be scaring the Everfree, you’re not sure
  3365. >Hopefully Zecora shared some ideas of what it could be with Fluttershy
  3366. >Minutes begin to bleed into each other and you reckon at least an hour has passed by the time you’ve upturned each piece of wreckage
  3367. >The centre of the room’s been cleared, and all the damaged furniture has been pushed against the walls
  3368. >Yet nothing of interest was found in any of it
  3369. >Once more you scan over the wooden rubble and you can’t help but wonder what caused it
  3370. >There’s no sign of the walls being broken inward, so you doubt that it was Celestia and Nightmare Moon’s battle that wrought this mess
  3371. >The tight space doesn’t seem ideal for two battling alicorns
  3372. “Maybe Luna and Nightmare Moon?” You mumble only to yourself, and Fluttershy doesn’t seem to catch it
  3373. >According to Twilight, even Celestia isn’t sure how long Luna had been tempted by her darker half
  3374. >Perhaps Luna tried to fight it once upon a time
  3375. >The thought makes you once again question the deep, tangible darkness from before
  3376. >Luna’s relationship with Celestia was strained back then, was the black fog a spell to keep her sister out
  3377. >Or did Luna create it to try and keep Nightmare Moon in
  3378. >The only thing you’re certain about is that you won’t get any answers here
  3379. “Well, let’s go check the other one” With nothing left here for either of you, you head out of the doorway, with Fluttershy very close behind
  3380. >You’re not sure if it’s from her fear of the castle or her worry over you
  3381. >The journey out of the dark hallway is much easier than the journey in, and you quickly pass by the thrones to inspect Celestia’s side room
  3382. >Just before you reach the door several quiet cracks causes your ears to twitch
  3383. >Shifting your foot, you feel a slight imbalance in the floor
  3384. >You take a few steps back and see something gleam in the light of your torch
  3385. >Crouching down you grab the sparkling rubble and bring it up to your face
  3386. >What once was the dirt and stone of the castle has turned into glass
  3387. >Most likely the result of some heat based spell used by Celestia in her fight
  3388. >Sweeping your eyes over the main hall you spot several more patches of glittering rubble
  3389. >With no further use of the glass you toss it to the side and continue to the darkened hallway to the right side of the thrones and Celestia’s room
  3390. >Several runes, weakened by time, activate in sequence down the hall as you enter
  3391. >Shaking the torch weakens the fire, and with a puff it’s full extinguished
  3392. >The runes let off a soft golden light, though some have been worn so that they’re incomplete and unable to activate
  3393. >Nonetheless they provide a suitable amount of light
  3394. >Celestia’s room is shut by a pair of ivory doors, gilded with faded gold leaf on their corners
  3395. >Thankfully the lock isn’t in place and there’s no kind of magic ward
  3396. >A much stronger rush of hot air hits you as you step into the room
  3397. >At the far side of the room sits a quaint fireplace that has lit itself
  3398. >In front of it is a plush royal purple mat with several pillows scattered about it
  3399. >Lining each wall is a bookcase that reaches the ceiling
  3400. >Sadly they’re all empty and what books you can see are molding
  3401. >Fluttershy still flaps over to the shelves to inspect whatever books remain
  3402. >Tucked away in the corner is a bed that you imagine would only be just big enough to fit Celestia
  3403. >Your eyes sweep to the side of the bed and a feeling of warmth fills you
  3404. >Briefly you focus on the feeling
  3405. >The gentle warmth that brings with it faint feelings of nostalgia definitely remind you of Celestia’s passive magic, though it lacks the usual pressure
  3406. >Approaching the bed you sweep your eyes back and forth
  3407. >The bed and a calming heat
  3408. >Your steps slowly stiffen the closer you get
  3409. >With a bit of exertion you force yourself forward another step and your body lurches forward as it registers the strain you’d put behind the step
  3410. >Tensing your legs, you stop yourself from tripping over your own feet and take in the new section of the room
  3411. >A large desk roughly hewn from a deep brown wood with tints of dark red
  3412. >It lacks any of the intricate etchings that you’ve found in what remains of the castle so far, like it were carved by hoof
  3413. >On the desk sits a single candle that flickers in the slight breeze that creeps into the room through the holes in the main hall of the castle
  3414. >Several quills from various birds and pots of ink are tucked into the other corner
  3415. >Above the desk is a long shelf, holding very few books
  3416. >Three drawers line the right side of the desk while the left side only holds two and an equally large chair sits in front of it all
  3417. >Gripping the chair is enough to tell you just how heavy it is
  3418. >The weight requires both of your arms to drag it out so you can slip onto it
  3419. >Unlike the fireplace, there’s no cushions to ease the discomfort of the wood
  3420. >Apparently Celestia wanted nothing more or less than to focus when in this particular nook of her room
  3421. >Recalling your memory of entering the room, you can now clearly see the desk in your mind, yet when you tried to look at it before, something stopped you
  3422. >Shaking your head, you lean down and pull out a few of the drawers
  3423. >On the right, the top drawer holds a horde of sweets, all of them having cultivated a culture of mold
  3424. >The next two have completely caved into themselves from what seems to be water damage
  3425. >Perhaps moisture from the sweets dripped into them
  3426. >You have a bit more luck on the left side
  3427. >The top drawer had already been completely removed but the second holds several cut envelopes and a knife with an engraved blade, most likely a letter opener
  3428. >Grabbing the envelopes you flick through them and the letters within, yet the writing is unfamiliar to you
  3429. >Most likely the language that predates modern ponish
  3430. >The more you look at the calligraphy, the more you recognise the familiar pattern of the written language, though you still can’t decipher it, save for the word you assume to be the old written form of “Celestia”
  3431. >Ponish was certainly an interesting language to learn
  3432. >It had all the same letters of english plus about half a dozen more, and was written in a different style
  3433. >The first few days were difficult but eventually the method clicked in your head and the pieces began to fall into place
  3434. >At least, reading it had become easier, you’ve only just started to get a real handle on writing it just before this day, but according to Twilight you still have a lot to learn before you should be writing letters
  3435. >The final drawer holds two items
  3436. >One of them is pot of deep red wax, as you move it back and forth, you see that the wax hasn’t hardened
  3437. >Holding it above your head, the candle light illuminates a rune, you can’t understand it, but the slight warmth of the pot tells you what its purpose is
  3438. >The next item is a stamp with a royal crest carved into it
  3439. >Grabbing the items from the left, you carefully lay them to rest on top of the desk
  3440. >Perhaps Celestia would like to see them again
  3441. >You’re especially delicate with the letters, though they’re made of parchment, and much tougher than paper, you can feel just how fragile they’ve become with age
  3442. >Standing from the chair, you reach up and pull one of the books down
  3443. >The hard leather that binds the book shows various crystalline patterns, coloured with pale and deep blues that mix and swirl together
  3444. >For fear of harming this ancient text you tentatively lift the cover with a finger
  3445. >Dust gently wafts up from the old pages to greet you, forcing you to suppress the coughs that it elicits from you
  3446. >”Are you alright Anon?” Fluttershy’s words briefly cut through your investigation of the desk
  3447. “Yes yes, I’m fine, just a lot of dust” With another cough you wave away the dust and turn your eyes back to the parchment
  3448. >More unfamiliar symbols written in an intricate text lie upon the pages
  3449. >Despite not understanding them, the book intrigues you
  3450. >Within the margins of the pages are more of the old language in a completely different calligraphy
  3451. >Several pages are dedicated to complex drawings
  3452. >A closer look at the designs reminds you of the spell runes Twilight used to illuminate your room and Celestia used to illuminate the hall
  3453. >But these runes have several layers, each one littered with various symbols and markings
  3454. >Some diagrams show a simplistic outline of a unicorn shooting a spell, with the correlating rune above them
  3455. >Besides them is the same unicorn firing a jagged twisted spear, above them is the same initial rune, but with several layers and symbols added deeper into it
  3456. >As you reach the end, an envelope falls out of the back cover
  3457. >Quickly looking over it, you still find no real meaning in the words, though you can’t shake the sense of desperation that you feel as you read it
  3458. >What you think are Celestia and Luna’s old written names appear several times throughout, and the writing has none of the elegance of the others, as though the words were scratched into the parchment
  3459. >Perhaps the pony had little time to write it
  3460. >Slipping the letter back into the envelope and back into the book, you glide your fingers over the two books that remain on the shelf
  3461. >Grabbing the smaller one, you find that your hand is big enough to stretch from one side to the other
  3462. >The cover is simply a blank but pristine white leather binding
  3463. >You skim through the book and scan the writing
  3464. >Pausing briefly, you reopen the crystal book and compare the marginal notes with the writing of the smaller white book
  3465. >The calligraphy between the two matches
  3466. >The book in your hand was written by Celestia herself
  3467. >Like the previous book, this one shows several spell runes
  3468. >Unlike the previous one though, this book cuts off halfway through
  3469. >With both books finished you stack them besides you and grab the last one
  3470. >”Anon, have you found anything?” You keep your eyes locked on the cover of the final book as you turn it back and forth
  3471. It takes a few seconds for you to fully process Fluttershy’s question “Y- yes Fluttershy, I have. Some interesting books” Delicately you trace your fingers over the various covers “But I can’t make out what any of them say, though I think I’ve seen Celestia’s name in them”
  3472. >”They’re probably written in Old Ponish, Twilight can probably translate them” You let out a hum as Fluttershy’s hooves click against the floor
  3473. >The book in your hand stands out amongst the rest, nearly twice the size of the others and three times as thick
  3474. >It’s cover is made of a darker, rougher material
  3475. >If the material didn’t slightly give at the pressure of your fingers, you would have mistaken it for stone
  3476. >The cover depicts the outline of a jagged pony’s head their maw opened to show several razor fangs, a crooked horn rises from their forehead, surrounding the image is a thick ring that juts up from the cover
  3477. >Again, you’re reminded of the differences in books as the cover takes far more effort to lift than the others
  3478. >No dust rises from the book’s pages, nor do they show any sign of aging
  3479. >The symbols still refuse to make sense to you
  3480. >Though one page shows an interesting sight
  3481. >Another jagged pony’s face, though this one is in far greater detail
  3482. >One word appears more frequently on all the pages before and after the image than any other
  3483. >Examining the word you try to compare it to what ponish you do know to try and find any similarities
  3484. >It takes a few minutes of mental deconstruction and reconstruction, but you’re rather confident of the old word’s meaning
  3485. “Arachnid” You murmur the word and trace the outline of the drawing
  3486. >”Did you say something?” Fluttershy’s words startle you slightly
  3487. >Pulling your fingers away from the drawing you turn the page
  3488. “Don’t worry about it, Fluttershy, just talking to myself. We should put these in your saddlebags anyway... then head back” You almost want to stay and study the book, even when you know it will do you no good with no foundational knowledge of the language
  3489. >”Alright, I’ll be happy to be home again” Her hooves slowly get louder before stopping
  3490. >With a sigh you continue studying the book
  3491. >Several pages depict outlines of the image from before
  3492. >There’s one page that compares the full body of the creature with another, smaller but similar creature
  3493. >A closer look makes you realise that the book is implying that the smaller creatures are roughly the size of an average pony, meaning that “Arachnid” would be close in size to Celestia, maybe bigger
  3494. >Their hides have no fur and appear to be harder than a pony’s, and their legs have several holes in them
  3495. >Suddenly your train ride with Eris flashes into your mind
  3496. “Changelings…” As you trace the depiction of their chitinous hides you try to recall as much of what Eris told you about them as you can
  3497. >”Um Anon… where…” Fluttershy’s voice is dull as it carries through the air
  3498. >Her tone slightly worries you
  3499. >Turning to the mare, you see her eyes slightly glazed over as her head sways between you and the bed
  3500. “Fluttershy?” No response “Fluttershy!” She finally snaps out of whatever daze she was in and snaps her head towards you “You really need to go home eh?” You and her share a chuckle as she begins approaching you
  3501. >You skim through a few more pages before stopping at another diagram
  3502. >This one depicts a mighty spire of rock, with several holes dotted through it, like some mix of a hive and a castle
  3503. >You’re still not entirely satisfied by what you’ve read, but you suppose you’ll have to wait for Twilight to translate them before you can fully understand the book’s contents
  3504. >Stacking the books you turn to Fluttershy and find her with the glazed over look in her eyes again
  3505. >Quickly setting the books down you crouch down and cup her face
  3506. >As soon as you step forward she snaps out of it again and her eyes focus on you
  3507. >”Oh, Anon, I-” She recoils slightly and lets out a pained gasp
  3508. >Rubbing her temple, she looks back up at your concerned face
  3509. >Turning between her and the desk you narrow your eyes in thought
  3510. “Fluttershy” Standing up, she follows your movement with no problem “You can see me right?” She gives a small, confused no at your question
  3511. “What about now?” Stepping back towards the desk, Fluttershy’s gaze holds for a second before a glazed looks comes over her face again
  3512. >Stepping forward again, Fluttershy’s eyes snap back to focus on you and she shakes her head “What?”
  3513. >You step away from the desk, unlike before, you have no problem seeing it now
  3514. “What is that?” Crouching besides Fluttershy, you see her trying to follow your line of vision, but she keeps turning her head away “Illusion? Hypnosis?”
  3515. >Grabbing Fluttershy, you lift her and step over whatever concealed the desk and feel her shiver slightly as you pass over the magic
  3516. >Setting her down, she takes a second to register the desk that’s seemingly appeared out of nowhere to her
  3517. >”So this is where you’ve been?” She inspects the small area as she talks
  3518. “Yes, could you really not see me?” Picking up the books, you carefully place them into one of her saddlebags
  3519. >”No I- I could definitely see you, but it’s like I didn’t want to” She lowers her back to give you better access to the bags
  3520. >Grabbing the knife, you don’t want it cutting the books so you tuck it in one of your jacket pockets
  3521. >As for the envelops, you don’t want them being crushed, so you place them in the opposite inside pocket
  3522. “Alright, another thing to tell Twilight about” Double and triple checking that everything is secure and won’t be damaged, you head back to the door
  3523. >”Does that mean we can go home now?” You smile slightly at her tone and simply nod your head
  3524. “Yeah, we’ll have to come another time with Twilight to find what’s scaring the animals”
  3525. >Once more heading towards the thrones, your path is lit by the previous golden light of the runes
  3526. >Doing one more sweep of the castle’s hall you look to the thrones, and to the tiled floors below
  3527. >As you head towards the door, you turn to take in the banners one more time
  3528. >Before you can though, your eyes turn to the carpet
  3529. >Stopping yourself you try again, and again your eyes turn to the carpet just as you look at the thrones
  3530. >Curious, you reach the entrance and try again
  3531. >This time, you feel no need to turn your head down
  3532. “Hold on Fluttershy” You hear a tired sigh from the mare as you turn back to approach the thrones
  3533. >Keeping your eyes on them each step, you hold the stare until you make it to the foot of the stairs that leads to them
  3534. >Finally, your eyes turn down
  3535. “Ooooooo, interesting. Fluttershy, there’s another one of those spells here” Looking besides you, you see Fluttershy has followed you but looks confused before a sudden realisation crosses her face
  3536. >Picking her up again, and with another bit of exertion, you push passed the haze that tries to make you ignore the thrones, and your head finally stops trying to appreciate the floor
  3537. >”This is fascinating, I wonder what else the princesses would try to hide” Fluttershy crosses the bridge over to Celestia’s side while you stay by Luna’s azure throne
  3538. “Dunno” You say absentmindedly as you inspect the surroundings
  3539. >Inspecting the throne and the wall something stands out to you
  3540. “Fluttershy, what do you think of this wall?” Placing your hand against the wall, you sweep it back and forth
  3541. >Barely any dust falls off of it
  3542. >”Um, it’s… nice?” Turning to Fluttershy, you see an incredulous look on her face and roll your eyes
  3543. “Well, think about” You sweep your arm to indicate to the rest of the hall “The entire castle is in ruins, there’s marks to indicate that Celestia and Nightmare Moon weren’t just casting spells at each other, but outright beating each other through the walls”
  3544. >Fluttershy nods to your words and her eyes narrow as she starts to see the puzzle
  3545. >”But this wall is intact” She’s now fluttered up to inspect various parts of the wall
  3546. “Exactly, and it’s not like it wasn’t touched- like here” Just besides Celestia’s throne you spot a handful of small craters clustered in the same area
  3547. >Several different cracks arc outward from the centre of the cracks
  3548. >”It’s like…”
  3549. “Like one of them was being hit against this wall continuously…But it hasn’t given way like the others”
  3550. >”Oh my” Fluttershy slowly steps away from the throne as you continue looking over them
  3551. >If the princesses didn’t want ponies to pay attention to their thrones, it would have been for a reason
  3552. >Running your hands along Luna’s throne, you inspect each part of it and eventually find a gap that slightly separates it from the wall
  3553. >With a bit of difficulty, your fingers manage to find a bit of leverage in the gap and you feel it shift ever so slightly
  3554. >Now that there’s more room, you can fit more of your hand into the gap
  3555. >Slowly, you work the throne away from the wall and eventually pull it away completely
  3556. >Hearing the scraping of stone on stone, Fluttershy joins you besides Luna’s throne
  3557. >As you’d seen from the entrance, it’s simply a painting of the moon on the wall
  3558. >”Can we go now?” Fluttershy’s disappointed tone causes you to chuckle
  3559. “Have faith Fluttershy” Tracing your hand up and down the wall, you feel an icy chill meets your fingertips
  3560. >Slowly, you trace the entirety of the moon, the entire time a gentle calm overwhelms you
  3561. >Any attempt you make to rid yourself of it proves fruitless
  3562. >With no indicator of any loose stone or trigger you try to pull your hands away
  3563. >But they keep tracing the rock, this time in a constant pattern
  3564. “Great volumes-”
  3565. >Your body begins to speak with no input from you and the moon begins to softly glow
  3566. “-of deep water-”
  3567. >Familiar sensations fill you as the world begins to dim and fall away into smoke leaving just you and the moon
  3568. “-serve as a grand bulwark-
  3569. >”-serve as a grand bulwark-”
  3570. >The voice that has intruded in your mind echoes your words and stars begin to dot the darkness that surrounds you
  3571. “-guarding sleep”
  3572. >”-guarding sleep”
  3573. >The last word leaves you and a rush of pressure snakes up one of your arms
  3574. >It’s so intense that it throws your arm back and hurls you off of your feet and into the throne behind you
  3575. >As your body collides with the hard rock, your sight clears, the vision of the night sky has dissipated as the door swings open, sucking in air as it does
  3576. >Fluttershy’s eyes are wide with fear and panic as you feel the chair begin to slowly tip
  3577. >Everything that follows happens so quickly yet so slowly
  3578. >The chair hits the stairs, and the sudden stop throws you off the throne and further down
  3579. >Colliding with each step, the throne slowly cracks until it breaks, bombarding you with shards of rock as you tumble down
  3580. >All the air in your lungs is forced out of you and before you can hear yourself gasp in pain, the world goes dark
  3581. <>
  3582. >It takes a few minutes before you even realise that you’re awake
  3583. >Not just that, but standing
  3584. >As your eyes attempt to adjust, you scan over your surroundings
  3585. >The old grey stone of the castle is gone, replaced by towering walls of red brick and mortar
  3586. >You crane your neck up to try and gauge how much time has passed
  3587. >Sadly you’re met with the sight of the walls of brick converging at the top and mixing with a shroud of thick fog
  3588. >The fog gently wafts down from the sky and pools around you, covering the entirety of the street
  3589. >Ahead lays nothing more or less than the walls
  3590. >No matter which way you turn you can only come to the conclusion that you’re trapped
  3591. >With nothing better to do you begin making your way down the fog laden street
  3592. >In the time it takes for you to blink, your body jumps to the end of the seemingly infinite walls
  3593. >Sadly, you’re only met with a turn into another infinite hallway of brick walls
  3594. >Again and again you blink, and each time you jump to the end of the street to another turn
  3595. >Sometimes you’re given multiple paths to take
  3596. >But all of them lead to the same infinite line of walls surrounding you
  3597. >To you, the walls seem to never end, you even strain to keep your eyes open until they burn and water
  3598. >But the walls only end when you blink
  3599. >How long have you been in this place, seconds, hours, more perhaps
  3600. >It doesn’t seem to matter, nothing changes
  3601. >One foot in front of the other, come what may
  3602. >There have been brief moments, where a feeling of ice so cold it paralysed you ran down your spine
  3603. >Out of your peripherals you’d see one, only for an instant, and as soon as you turned to them they’d vanish
  3604. >Another human, though their faces were shrouded by the same fog that hung heavy over this labyrinth
  3605. >Some were sat in the fog, a bottle in one hand, the other nursing an aching head, and the scent of smoke hanging over them
  3606. >Some were wizened and wrinkled and held each other close
  3607. >The other visions would make you turn your head, and in those moments, children would appear just below your line of sight, looking up at you
  3608. >Then they’d disappear too
  3609. >Sometimes you wouldn’t even catch a glimpse of the children
  3610. >But you’d hear their laughter carried on the wind
  3611. >You’re still not sure how long you’ve been here, but it’s been long enough that the phantoms in the corners of your eyes don’t bother you anymore
  3612. >A horn blares out through the silence of the labyrinth and a great wall of fog suddenly rises up in front of you
  3613. >Unlike before, this phantom doesn’t shy away from your stare
  3614. >Two dim yellow lights cut through the fog
  3615. >The fog hits you, passes you by, and takes the labyrinth with it
  3616. >You can’t really describe the place you’re in now
  3617. >However, you slowly become aware of one thing, there’s no sensory information whatsoever to process
  3618. >You’re only aware of that fact when you finally feel something
  3619. >The only warning you’re given is the great mass of air that sweeps over you
  3620. >Pain racks your body as you feel your body twist and shift in unnatural ways
  3621. >But just as quickly as it came, the pain is gone
  3622. >All that surrounds you now is crystal, lined with shelves, filled with books
  3623. >A faint light glows from beneath you, emanating from strange runes
  3624. >In front of you stands a purple alicorn, shock clear on her face
  3625. “Twi-” She gasps and brings a hoof to her face and she turns to smoke
  3626. >In the next moment, you and the smoke rise and stretch upwards
  3627. >When you finally land again, you’re surrounded by darkness
  3628. >As your eyes adjust you can make out the walls that line the new room you’re in
  3629. >What really draws your attention is the figure that stands in the centre of it all
  3630. >You’d recognise her silver grey head and golden brown coat anywhere
  3631. >She’s standing on the other end of a circular table, an open book in front of her
  3632. “Eris…?” You’re not sure if she can hear you as her name hangs in the air
  3633. >Slowly, her eyes turn up to meet yours
  3634. >She still looks tired
  3635. >With a wave of her talon the open book is set alight
  3636. >The fire spreads and engulfs the table, the floor, and the walls
  3637. >But you and Eris stand separated from it all
  3638. >She looks to you one more time, then turns away
  3639. >As the room burns away, the fire and smoke fills your vision until they’re all you can see
  3640. >Slowly, the fire begins to recede and contract into a raging ball of fire and remains that way, even as it fights against the black smoke
  3641. >Slowly, you shift your hand
  3642. >Your vision clears and the fire is replaced by a sigil depicting the sun
  3643. >The fire and smoke are sucked into the Tree of Harmony
  3644. >No pale light fills your peripherals this time as you take in its pale blue crystal and ivory branches
  3645. >Again, you begin to rise
  3646. >As you rise, the branches creep past the marks, and the tips rise towards the cave’s ceiling
  3647. >When you finally reach the top, they pause before viciously stabbing into the stone
  3648. >You’re jerked through the ceiling and find yourself hovering above the sullied carpet of the castle
  3649. >Despite there being nothing in sight, your fight or flight instincts shoot through your body
  3650. >Before you can begin to calm yourself, a crack forms in the air and shakes the world around you before one of its lines pierces your body
  3651. <>
  3652. >Your own scream startles you awake
  3653. >As your mind reels from its brief tug of war between dream and reality you force yourself to go stiff so you can figure out what’s going on
  3654. >You remember the door, and the voice and the fall
  3655. >But where you are doesn’t match what happened
  3656. >Cold sweat has drenched your entire body
  3657. >You’ve been purposefully sat up amongst a pile of rubble
  3658. >Something constricts your arm, head and chest
  3659. >Each breath is a struggle
  3660. >But it’s not like before in the Everfree
  3661. >Now it’s like cobwebs in your lungs
  3662. >Any successful breath you do take forces a cough that causes a great pain in your chest to flare up
  3663. >Each cough rattles your chest like something’s stuck halfway down your windpipe
  3664. >But the worst sensation is the total lack of sensory output from your left arm
  3665. >In the rest of your body, your blood runs hot, but you feel no heat from your arm
  3666. >The rock beneath you is cold and rough, but you don’t feel any rubble beneath your arm
  3667. >It responds to no attempts to twitch you send it
  3668. >You don’t want to look, for fear of what you might see
  3669. >Again you have to force your body stiff as you feel shock and panic flood your system as thoughts of what could have happened to it fill your head, each worse than the last
  3670. >With a few deep breaths you prepare yourself and force your right arm up and to your left
  3671. >Flesh slaps against flesh and you let out a thankful sigh
  3672. >Then you wince in pain
  3673. >Slowly, you gently press over the surface of your arm
  3674. >Gauze has been wrapped around it from your wrist to your shoulder
  3675. >Several rocks are embedded in it, each simultaneously causing and staunching the blood flowing down your arm
  3676. >Sitting up to get a better look, you immediately realise another problem as it hangs limp at your side, and you feel the bone inside being weighed down from gravity
  3677. >It’s been dislocated
  3678. >So that’s why you haven’t been crippled with pain yet
  3679. >Now sat up, you get a better look at where you are
  3680. >The princesses’ thrones are on the other side of the hallway, the archway that acted as the main entrance just besides you
  3681. >At your feet sits an empty and upturned first-aid kit
  3682. >Your mind still hasn’t fully processed your situation, so you take your time as you rise to your feet
  3683. >Gently you squat up and down and feel a bit of tension and aches in your kneecaps
  3684. >But you can definitely walk, or stagger, staggering works
  3685. >Other than the first-aid kit, Fluttershy is nowhere to be seen
  3686. >Briefly you peer outside the door and see her saddlebags discarded near the rope bridge
  3687. >A nagging anxiety fills you as you’re reminded of the millenia old books stored in them
  3688. >You stagger over the rough dirt and stone, down the hill and to the old bridge
  3689. >As you drop to your knees, you grimace and hold back a yelp of pain behind gritted teeth
  3690. >With your one good arm you open the bags
  3691. >All the books are still there, and still in good condition
  3692. >You didn’t even realise you’d been holding your breath until now
  3693. >With nothing in one of the bags you manoeuver the biggest book into the empty bag and sling the whole thing over your neck
  3694. >The weight of one of the bags is now constantly reminding you of your dislocated arm, but at least you can keep the bags with you and keep your good hand free at the same time
  3695. >Again, you feel shock run through you as you remember the knife and envelopes
  3696. >Patting yourself down, you shift your hand under your shirt and feel your bandaged torso
  3697. >Luckily, you feel no dampness save for your sweat, though you recoil in pain when you make contact with the middle of your ribs
  3698. >Everything is still secure
  3699. >Slowly staggering back to the castle, you find your vision blurring every now and then
  3700. >Shaking your head only makes it worse
  3701. >Once you’re back inside the castle walls you let yourself collapse and grasp at your head
  3702. >The gauze bandaging has been wrapped around several times and an especially thick but soft bit of padding is tucked under one side of it
  3703. >This time you feel a damp stain that couldn’t be your sweat
  3704. >Bile suddenly rushes up your throat and your involuntary reflexes almost makes you swallow it
  3705. >With a gag you force it up and out the rest of the way
  3706. >Your eyes peer back up the hall, towards the door that caused your current predicament
  3707. >Luna’s throne has been reduced to a pile of rubble like the rest of the castle, and the hidden door hangs open
  3708. >You should just stay where you are, lie back in an elevated position, and try to get some sleep
  3709. >No, you’re bleeding from the head, sleep might make your situation worse if you have a concussion
  3710. >So that means you should just wait until Fluttershy gets back with the others
  3711. >But how long has she been gone
  3712. >Did you wake up just as she flew over the bridge, or is she already on her way back
  3713. >If you’re gonna be awake anyway, it’s not like they wouldn’t see the wide open door and the shattered throne
  3714. >You’re not sure how many times you’ve cursed yourself throughout your life
  3715. >But as you limp over to the end of the hall, you curse your every step
  3716. >Your knees buckle as you climb the stairs but you still force yourself forward
  3717. >If you don’t bleed out, you imagine one of if not all of the girls will kill you for doing something this stupid
  3718. >Maybe Luna will charge you with treason
  3719. >You have just smashed her throne and opened some hidden door of hers
  3720. >Despite dragging your broken body this far, you can’t help but freeze as you stand before the door
  3721. >A darkness floods the room and the dim light that filters into the castle can’t seem to break it
  3722. >Tentatively, you step forward
  3723. >You’re reminded of the tangible darkness that blocked your entry into Luna’s personal quarters earlier, and some part of you hopes to be stopped here
  3724. >Sadly, the darkness does not impede you
  3725. >With nothing stopping you, and your curiosity forcibly keeping the sane part of your mind quiet, you continue
  3726. >You stand on a small stone outcropping and scan the room
  3727. >Both doors lay against the walls beside you
  3728. >Reaching out, you brush against the surface of the right one
  3729. >It’s still ice cold to the touch but now you realise that it’s made of metal instead of stone
  3730. >As soon as you make contact with its surface, the moon engraved upon it lights up
  3731. >Pale silver light fills the room and reveals a cylindrical shape
  3732. >The roof is barely a few feet above your head and below you, the darkness remains
  3733. >You’re stood inside a tower that leads underground
  3734. >Was it built to access the Tree or was it made before the Elements were discovered
  3735. >How far down does it go
  3736. >So many questions fill your mind but one forces its way to the forefront of your mind
  3737. >How are you supposed to get down
  3738. >The light reveals no staircase or primitive pulley system to lower yourself with
  3739. >Your stubbornness has brought you this far, maybe it can take you further still
  3740. >Briefly retreating to the main castle you gather up a handful of dust and return to the tower
  3741. >Shaking your hand, you release a small clump of dust in front of the outcrop of stone
  3742. >The dust falls and falls until it disappears into the darkness
  3743. >You receive the same result on your right side
  3744. >When you turn to the left and release the rest of the dust, it stops at your feet
  3745. >With your head injured you can’t shake yourself to check that you’re seeing things correctly
  3746. >Taking a deep, painful breath, you wince as you step forward and your foot lands on the open air and connects with something solid
  3747. >Still cautious, you lean more of your body weight onto your foot and slowly bring your other foot off the visible piece of rock
  3748. >You’re now stood on what appears to be nothing
  3749. >Taking another deep breath you wince again and step forward
  3750. >When your foot doesn’t immediately land you pull it back
  3751. >You might have been stupid enough to do all of this while injured, but you’re not stupid enough to kill yourself
  3752. >Crouching down, you half sit on the air and push your foot forward and let it dangle off the edge
  3753. >Again, it connects with the open air
  3754. >Pulling your foot back, you step down and you’re now mostly positive that this is an invisible staircase, but you still take it as slow as possible so you don’t accidentally worsen your condition
  3755. >Slowly you spiral further and further down the tower’s staircase and eventually find yourself completely encompassed by darkness
  3756. >It takes several minutes, but eventually the stone levels out and you find no more steps
  3757. >With a crackle, an ancient stone torch comes to life with a blue fire
  3758. >Then another, and another
  3759. >A dozen torches now brighten up the room
  3760. >The space hasn’t expanded despite being at the bottom of the tower, though you do spot two doors leading out of the room
  3761. >At its centre are two dozen ornate and grand seats set in a circle
  3762. >Stretching up the wall and past the lights of the torches is a mural of Luna, her wings spread upwards, framing a gleaming moon that hangs low in the sky behind her, the stars are only visible on her wings and in her ethereal mane
  3763. >It almost reminds you of a shrine
  3764. >”One of the great art works of old” The melodic voice snaps you to attention
  3765. >Spinning on your heels, you stagger back as you find Luna’s muzzle just barely a few inches from your face
  3766. “Luna! I- I- uh” The sudden appearance of the princess of the night causes your mind to stumble over itself
  3767. >”Forgive us Anonymous, our intent was not to frighten you so” Her lax demeanour and calm voice helps to settle your racing heart
  3768. “Oh. No, it’s fine, really. I uh- I didn’t mean to intrude” You’re calmer than before but still your mind races
  3769. >A nagging voice is constantly asking you how she snuck up on you so easily
  3770. >You were heavily injured sure, but you were still cognizant
  3771. >Maybe she finally suppressed her magic, but her metal shoes look heavy and the floor has no carpet to muffle them
  3772. >”Thou art wounded. May we?” She nods her horn to your stone riddled arm and leaves her unspoken question in the air
  3773. “Oh, yeah, that” You slowly stagger over to one of the chairs and allow yourself to collapse into it
  3774. >Despite their stone structure, they’ve been cushioned, making them far more comfortable than you expected
  3775. >With no way to hold it up yourself, you allow Luna to freely manipulate your arm in her magic
  3776. >Now maybe you can begin to get your brain to stop stumbling over itself
  3777. >This new place, the mural on the wall, Luna’s sudden appearance, you slowly go through it all in your mind
  3778. >Tension slowly builds in your arm, and then releases
  3779. >Several similar sensations flow through you as the tingle of Luna’s magic caresses your body
  3780. >”There, we have done what we can for now, but thou should seek medical attention post-haste” Luna shakes her hoof at you like a scolding mother before she glides off the chair to inspect the rest of the room
  3781. >She slowly flaps her wings and caresses the mural of herself
  3782. >Her wings hold her with all the majesty and practiced grace that only one with her power and age would be able to achieve
  3783. >You simply sit and watch her, you doubt anyone would know that she had been sealed in the moon for a thousand years if they saw her now
  3784. >For a long time she silently looks at the mural that reflects her, and you see her lose herself in her thoughts and memories
  3785. >What would these walls tell you if they could speak, and were inclined to humor the endless questions you’d have for them
  3786. >”So many moons have passed, since we last shared this room with another.” Her voice is soft and melancholic “It is… not entirely unpleasant”
  3787. >As gently as she rose, her wings bring her back to the ground, and her hooves trace over the thrones and tears prick at her eyes
  3788. >”They’re gone…” Her words and gentle sorrow hangs heavy in the air “Not a single night has gone by where we have not wished to share just one more night here with even one of them…” Her voice is slow, as the sadness in her voice nearly causes her words to slur “Even if it were for only a moment”
  3789. >She blinks and now it is as if her tears were never there
  3790. >Her head is held high again, and her eyes now only shimmer with the light of the stars that lie behind them, instead of the tears that threatened to invade her fur before
  3791. >”How twisted it is, that only half of our wish has been answered, in the form of a stranger amongst strangers”
  3792. >The candour that drips from her words causes a smile to tug at your face
  3793. >You still distinctly remember her resolute refusal to apologise for what her magic had induced in you
  3794. >A stark contrast with her sister
  3795. >It was somewhat refreshing, her blunt honesty
  3796. “Sorry if I disappoint, Luna” You see a brief flash of realization cross her face, though your smile is enough to tell her that you don’t feel insulted
  3797. >A small smile graces her lips, and she begins circling the thrones
  3798. “Can you tell me about this place? Before we leave”
  3799. >”I would not suggest any further delays, personally” You feel your ears twitch at the motherly tone
  3800. >Swivelling on the chair, you see Celestia stepping out of the darkness of another hall and approaching the two of you
  3801. >”Meeting an injured colt in a dusty old room hidden behind magical locks in the middle of the night? It is not the strangest place I have found you Luna” Celestia smirks at her sister and titters into her wing
  3802. >Luna’s face scrunches before rolling her eyes and dismissing her sister’s goad
  3803. >Your eyes narrow at Celestia and you tighten your grip on the chair
  3804. >Her eyes flicker briefly to your white knuckles before flicking up to meet your gaze “Is something the matter Anonymous?”
  3805. >Her tone has taken on an air of caution as she slowly approaches you
  3806. >Standing from your chair, you slowly circle around the princess
  3807. >Your stomach drops and you clench your teeth
  3808. >Something’s been nagging at the back of your mind ever since you entered this room
  3809. >But it’s constantly been pushed down as your attention was drawn back and forth
  3810. >The mural, Luna, and now Celestia
  3811. >One diarch sneaking up on you was pushed aside in your mind
  3812. >But you can’t ignore Celestia
  3813. >You could feel her pressure from the Everfree
  3814. >So why couldn’t you feel her now
  3815. >Heat begins to creep into your veins as you whip your hand up to your jacket pocket and pull out the letter opener you had taken from Celestia’s study
  3816. >You level the blade at the white alicorn in front of you, and Luna levels her horn at you
  3817. >”You are walking a dangerous line Anonymous”
  3818. >”Luna stop!” Celestia’s voice echoes off the walls, but you ignore the ringing in your ears to continue focusing on what’s in front of you “He has lost blood, he is simply delirious”
  3819. “No” Your voice is low but clear “I think I’m beginning to understand”
  3820. >Pivoting on a heel, you turn so that Luna is half in your view now
  3821. “Celestia healed me with ease, but I still can’t feel my arm after you finished with me” Luna’s eyes narrow at you and she begins circling you
  3822. >Not willing to turn your back on Celestia, you stomp forward, forcing Luna to backtrack, keeping them both in front of you
  3823. >”Thine breathing is unobscured now, thou should be gratef-”
  3824. “My breathing’s been fine long before you arrived” The air had indeed been clearer since you stepped through the door, your lungs no longer ached “Speaking of your arrival” You emphasise both princesses by swaying the knife back and forth “I haven’t been able to feel either of you, despite being this close”
  3825. >”Our magic-”
  3826. Again, you cut her off “Is suppressed? Sure, but what about her?” You once again place your full attention on Celestia “I’ve been able to feel her pressure from miles away, in places she hasn’t been in for millennia. I’m not even sure if it’s even possible for her to suppress her magic enough for me to not feel it”
  3827. >The two sisters slowly look to each other, worry and confusion on their faces
  3828. >Doubt starts to creep into your mind, but one last thought pushes through
  3829. “Then there’s this place, a spell that makes ponies ignore the thrones, and a sealed door; if Luna really wanted to keep this place secret, she’d do more than just that”
  3830. >Luna lets out an annoyed huff and begins approaching you as her horn lights up
  3831. >Tossing the blade up, Luna follows its arc through the air and you reach up and snatch it out of the air
  3832. >With your left arm
  3833. “And this just confirms it” You tilt the knife back and forth in your now fully healed and responsive hand
  3834. >Celestia’s previous worried face has turned to hostility as she too lowers herself and lights up her horn
  3835. “I’m dreaming” You whisper to the two
  3836. >Both princesses turn to smoke and leap at you
  3837. >With a slight jolt you force your hand towards your neck
  3838. <>
  3839. >The pain that shoots up your arm forces you awake
  3840. >Gasping for air you wheeze and cough and enter a vicious cycle of pained breathing
  3841. >Your lungs refuse to take in enough air, which forces you to take shallow breaths
  3842. >Each breath causes your chest to rattle and forces up a cough
  3843. >And each cough leaves you winded and gasping for air
  3844. >The strain causes your knees to buckle and you just manage to throw your right arm out to steady yourself
  3845. >Your finally freed from the cycle by what caused it
  3846. >Pain once again shoots up your arm and forces the last of the air from your lungs
  3847. >Bracing yourself, you force yourself to keep any air out as you try to regain any semblance of composure
  3848. >Slowly, you begin taking in, small, steady breaths
  3849. >As your body finally begins to calm down, you push yourself back onto your feet
  3850. >Looking around, you find yourself back where you started
  3851. >Stood upon a small stone outcropping, with cold metal doors either side of you and an abyssal darkness surrounding you
  3852. >Shifting your foot to the side it slips down for a split second, and stops on empty air
  3853. >The wall besides you lights up with a calm sea blue light as a rune springs to life
  3854. >You’re nearly certain that you’re not dreaming anymore
  3855. >Or maybe this spell is learning how to trick you better
  3856. >Again, the overwhelming weight of just how little you understand about this world hits you
  3857. >Heaving a tired sigh, you swipe at the rune with what little anger you can muster
  3858. >It doesn’t respond
  3859. >Turning to the edge of the staircase you sit down and let your feet dangle
  3860. >Maybe you should have just stayed motionless in the pile of rubble Fluttershy left you in
  3861. >At least you can stay here now, what you’ve done here will already make a story and a half for the others
  3862. >You’ve done enough today
  3863. >Haven’t you
  3864. >You really wish you had someone to tell you that
  3865. >Someone to stop you
  3866. >Because despite so much of you wanting to stay still, you get to your feet again
  3867. >No matter what you do, after what’s happened to you tonight, Twilight’s going to keep you in her sight for a long, long time
  3868. >You can already imagine it
  3869. >You’ll be like a caged bird
  3870. >There’s so much that you could experience and feel for yourself
  3871. >Language, culture, a whole system that defies human logic
  3872. >You could either wait, get treated and find the answers in Twilight’s books
  3873. >Or you could risk yourself further, for the chance of getting some answers now
  3874. >After all, what is bravery without a dash of recklessness
  3875. >Despite the pain from your shifting arm as you descend the steps, you can’t help but smile
  3876. >Your vision slowly becomes a blur of blue as you spiral downward, further and further
  3877. >Until finally you reach the bottom
  3878. >In your dreams, grand seats that nearly matched the thrones above stood in a circle at its centre
  3879. >Here, there’s nothing but rubble
  3880. >You can’t even tell what the pile used to be
  3881. >The walls however, are still decorated with grand murals, though they are vastly different from what you had seen before
  3882. >Rather than just one grand mural of Luna, the walls hold several, each depicting Luna and some grand feat
  3883. >One shows her surrounded by a swirling vortex of water, a giant, serpentine beast bearing down on her
  3884. >The one beside it shows her beaten and bloodied but stood firm
  3885. >Beneath her lies a pile of broken bodies
  3886. >You do a double take as you realise that they’re changelings
  3887. >Above her, at the top of a jagged, crooked spire, stands the gnarled form of a far mightier changeling
  3888. >The mural has made the monster look at least two, maybe three times Luna’s size
  3889. >Fluttershy’s saddlebags shift against your arm, causing you to wince and remember their contents
  3890. >Crouching, you duck your head and let the bags slide to the ground
  3891. >Flipping open one of the bags you grab the large book from before
  3892. >Quickly skimming through it, you land on the desired page
  3893. >Picking it up, you hold the drawing of the changeling you had translated as “Arachnid” against the towering figure
  3894. >The two figures match, and their eyes almost seem to follow you
  3895. >Eris had said that the Changeling’s were Celestia and Luna’s greatest allies
  3896. >Just how much had your two worlds diverged
  3897. >Shutting the book, you return it to the bags and leave them on the floor to give your aching shoulders some rest
  3898. >Looking up at a third mural shows Luna with a legion of heavily armed and armoured, winged ponies behind her, their wings spread out, blotting out the pale moon that you can vaguely see between the gaps
  3899. >You can only call them winged ponies because they certainly don’t seem to be pegasi
  3900. >These ponies have pale coloured eyes with slitted pupils, and their wings look like they’re made of leather instead of fur and feathers
  3901. >Finally, you spot a fourth, unfinished mural, it shows an incomplete crescent moon with a sapphire blue eye with a slitted pupil staring out from it
  3902. >Scanning the room, you see just one door leading out of the room
  3903. >Besides the changeling mural, there are no other answers here
  3904. >Perhaps there was something more beyond the door, but what was once a raging fire for discovery before has faded and flickered
  3905. >Your vision begins to blur and your knees grow weak
  3906. >They suddenly give way and you try to catch yourself
  3907. >As your injured arm hits the floor you topple on to your side
  3908. >The pain barely registers as a dull throbbing now as the rest of your body goes numb
  3909. >Your mind slowly approaches unconsciousness, and you find your mind drifting from what small thoughts remain
  3910. >You wonder how long it will take you to learn to read old ponish and what you’ll find in these books once you’ve learned
  3911. >How much is Twilight gonna freak out when you wake up
  3912. >How much is Eris gonna freak out
  3913. “Eris…”
  3914. >Her face lingers in your mind, and her name lingers on your lips as you finally allow yourself to sleep again
  3915. <>
  3916. “DAMN IT, ANSWER ME! WHAT HAPPENED!”
  3917. >Fluttershy shrinks away from your bellowing voice
  3918. >”Eris! That is enough! Give her a moment!” Your dad’s voice does nothing to calm you down
  3919. “YOU STAY OUT OF THIS!” His eyes slowly glow a deeper red as he snarls at you
  3920. >That might have worked on you eons ago when you were young, not so much anymore
  3921. >Turning to the yellow mare you’d been interrogating, you see she’s still crying
  3922. >You’d popped into Ponyville to visit Anon but apparently he and Fluttershy had been in the Everfree for half an hour
  3923. >When you reached the forest’s edge you peered deeper into it and saw a contained storm raging within it
  3924. >At the time, you had wanted to go in there and pull them out, or at the least lend them a helping paw
  3925. >But your dad had convinced you enough to trust Fluttershy, after all you are giving this whole “friendship” thing a try and it was certainly working out well with Anon
  3926. >You hoped
  3927. >So you were content to wait outside the forest to surprise him
  3928. >You waited, and waited, and waited, until enough hours had passed that night had fallen
  3929. >At least the storm inside had stopped
  3930. >Twilight thought nothing of it, reassuring you that Fluttershy could handle any creature within the Everfree
  3931. >But then again, the pegasus wasn’t the one you were worried about
  3932. >Your worry only deepened when you felt a massive shift in the harmony magic inside
  3933. >It permeated the air bordering the Everfree for three hours
  3934. >The magic made it so you had no way to get inside and stop whatever was going on
  3935. >And again, Twilight brushed it off
  3936. >Fluttershy was a bearer of harmony, so she could keep Anon safe
  3937. >Your anger at Twilight’s dismissal was overshadowed by the anger you felt towards yourself
  3938. >As soon as the Harmony magic cut off you should have gone in there to check on him
  3939. >But you simply sat, and kept waiting
  3940. >Then several more hours passed and another big wave of magic rushed out of the Everfree
  3941. >This one distinctly had Luna’s magical signature
  3942. >The two of them had officially been in there for two days and that was finally a long enough period of time that Twilight and the other four finally grouped up to check on them
  3943. >Before any of you could set hoof into the forest though, a blur of yellow, pink and red rushed out
  3944. >Through your questioning she had just barely managed to say Anon’s name a few times, the red on her coat made your heart sink
  3945. >Which leads you to now
  3946. “Fluttershy” Despite your calmer tone, the mare still refused to pull herself out of her hooves “Damn it!” Gripping the mare, you pulled her up so she was finally looking at you “Where is he!? Where’s Anon!?”
  3947. >Th- the cast- castle! He was hurt- magic- I don’t-” Everyone was trying to pry you off of the mare but you shrugged your shoulder and hurled them back with a force of magic
  3948. “YOU LEFT HIM BLEEDING AND ALONE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE EVERFREE!?” She shrinks away at your voice again, but with nowhere to go simply nods her head in shame
  3949. >“H- he was too heavy- I wanted to get here quicker”
  3950. >Your grip on her tightens and so many thoughts flash through your head
  3951. >One of them points out that it wasn’t an entirely illogical idea
  3952. >But you quickly kill that idea
  3953. >Right now you just want to be angry
  3954. >With a groan you simply drop the mare, you’d rather focus your anger on getting to Anon instead of hurting your Dad’s friend
  3955. >Turning to the Everfree you feel a tug of magic
  3956. >You fold yourself backwards and growl at Twilight as her lavender magic grips your arm
  3957. >”Eris we need medical specialist ponies to help stabilise Anon as soon as we reach hi-”
  3958. “I. Don’t. Care.” The venom in your voice is enough to actually make the purple princess step back “Anon needs me now” With a swipe of your talon, you cut through the magic, causing her to wince in pain
  3959. >With a flap of your wings you rush into the forest
  3960. >This place always messed with your magic, you’d always end up in the wrong place from teleporting
  3961. >So you simply use your magic to reach chaotic levels of speed
  3962. >The trees and beasts are an irrelevant blur as you follow the dirt path to the castle
  3963. >You’d been there plenty of times in your old world
  3964. >Seeing the place that Luna and Celestia were so fond of, collapsed into a ruinous heap, brought you a cathartic joy
  3965. >All those thoughts leave you as soon as the castle comes into view though
  3966. >You’re over the bridge and inside in an instant
  3967. >A dozen clones split off from and charge into the surrounding rooms to look for Anon
  3968. >Each of their eyes and ears feedback directly into you
  3969. >As you process all the information, you feel yourself getting more and more agitated as none of your clones see hide nor hair of him
  3970. >You meanwhile, begin approaching the door opened behind the ruined throne
  3971. >You’re impressed he was able to break a spell like that
  3972. >Even if it had weakened over a thousand years
  3973. >Definitely gonna have to ask him about it later though
  3974. >Again, you feel a bit of catharsis seeing Luna’s throne broken to pieces
  3975. >With a flap of your wings you slip through the doors
  3976. >The darkness is nothing to you, and you glide straight down the middle of tower and the invisible spiral staircase with ease
  3977. >Landing at the bottom you look around for the human
  3978. >Each second that passes where you don’t find him fills you with dread
  3979. >The last time you’d seen him was when he was smiling in wonder at your stories
  3980. >Your mind relentlessly conjures images of how he’ll look now, and you have to try desperately to crush them
  3981. “Anon. Anon!”
  3982. >Your calls go unanswered
  3983. >”Anon, Anon, wherefore art thou Anon?” You really wish they had stayed unanswered
  3984. >Half a wing, multiple scars, and a smug grin
  3985. “Luna. A dream curse. Of course, I should have known” You smack yourself at your own idiocy
  3986. >Your panic made you fumble
  3987. >”Curse is such a strong word Eris, we prefer… charm, or hex! Hex is a much better term” Her voice is laden with glib self satisfaction
  3988. “Yeah, whatever, I’m waking up now!”
  3989. >”Yes, wake from this dream into another”
  3990. >Her words stop you just before your finger can slide over your thumb to snap yourself out of this
  3991. >How come she always knew exactly what to say to goad you
  3992. >”Eris” This new voice stops you completely
  3993. >An ivory hoof, hidden beneath layers of plate metal hangs over your shoulder
  3994. >”Perhaps it’s finally time that you woke up, you’ll only hurt yourself here”
  3995. >The curse was just trying to keep you here, Celestia didn’t talk to you that way anymore, she hadn’t used that tone with you in a thousand years
  3996. >Pushing yourself away from her, you feel your breathing quicken as you turn to Celestia
  3997. >This was nothing like your dream Chrysalis had conjured
  3998. >The dream curse- hex- whatever had dug far deeper into your mind
  3999. >This Celestia, was exactly as you’d left her
  4000. >From head to hoof she was donned in heavy golden armor, its colour dulled from centuries of use, but none of its luster was lost
  4001. >Countless scratches and dents marked it from the centuries you had battled with her
  4002. >There was no sentimentality in its design, no ornamental styling to its structure
  4003. >The armor that covered her wings was a work of art in and of itself, it covered the back half of them so they could be brought to her chest to act as a shield, while the front half was left free to unobstruct her flight
  4004. >Her neck was protected by several smaller, layered pieces of plate metal, that rested above a flexible chain mail
  4005. >Her crown had been melted down into a helmet that could cover her face with a simple nod
  4006. >When she wasn’t in full battle-mode it simply covered the sides of her head and her horn, the familiar crown jewel now warped to act as a conduit to amplify her magic
  4007. >The diarch of the sun alone, was already a one-mare army
  4008. >But in that armor, Celestia was a living, breathing, war machine
  4009. >A true soldier, to her bones, as is denoted by the flawless back of the armor
  4010. >There was no dents to mends, no scratches to buff out
  4011. >For centuries you had fought her, and not once did she ever turn her back to you
  4012. >The lines of enchanted old ponish that had been etched into the rest of the armor still shone with all the glory and fury of the sun, though after you had broken enough of the text, the spells no longer worked
  4013. >It was strange to see her in that armor without the worry of her trying to kill you
  4014. >It felt wrong
  4015. >Your eyes were glued to her chest, where the armor was thickest
  4016. >It hid an ugly, ugly scar you had branded her with
  4017. >In the first years of the war, Celestia and Luna had fought you unarmoured
  4018. >It wasn’t surprising, their hides were stronger than most metals when tensed
  4019. >But you were always eager to break rules and so they quickly learned that their best wouldn’t be enough against you
  4020. >Luna learned that fact on the day you took her wing
  4021. >Celestia learned the day after, or more specifically, the year after
  4022. >She didn’t let you stop, hours turned to days, turned to weeks, turned to months
  4023. >Whenever you teleported she latched herself onto your magic signature and followed you
  4024. >You couldn’t run from her, and you couldn’t hide
  4025. >There was bloodlust in her eyes after what you’d done to her sister
  4026. >So you stopped her
  4027. >You’re still not proud of what you did, the thought of it almost drives you to retch
  4028. >As you stagger back from the impostor Celestia she approaches you softly
  4029. >”He’s not even real, you know that right?”
  4030. >The bile in your throat is forgotten at her words
  4031. >You might not have been proud of what you did to her
  4032. >But you don’t regret it either
  4033. >An almost feral growl erupts from your throat as you lash out at the fake Celestia
  4034. >The figures of the dream level their horns at you
  4035. >”Eris…”
  4036. >You turn your head and twitch your ears
  4037. >You’d recognise that voice anywhere
  4038. >Even with how weak he sounds
  4039. Though they’re not real you still can’t let either of them get the last word “I don’t care”
  4040. >With a snap, they and the world disappear and you feel your body being tugged
  4041. <>
  4042. >With a swipe of your talon, you will the magical defense weaved over the doorway to become tangible, and rip it to shreds
  4043. >Back in the waking world you once more dive down the tower, light runes flashing to life as you pass them by
  4044. >Reaching the bottom, you see Anon, collapsed in a bloodied heap, drenched in sweat
  4045. >Rushing over to him you slowly shift him onto his back
  4046. >The state of his arm almost brings tears to your eyes
  4047. >But he’s been bandaged properly
  4048. >You’re definitely gonna have to apologise to Fluttershy
  4049. >Maybe not face to face, maybe just a singing fruit basket or something
  4050. >Gently, you sit him up, and slide under him
  4051. >He folds over your back and you snap your talon, magically sealing him to your body so he doesn’t slip
  4052. >Just as you’re about to leave, a speck of pink catches your eyes
  4053. >Fluttershy’s cutie marks on a pair of saddlebags
  4054. >That’ll be a good way to start your apology at least
  4055. >As you hover over to them, a shaking hand reaches out to them
  4056. >Your talon shoots out and you gently cup the hand
  4057. >It’s fingers twitch sporadically, and eventually settle as they interlink with yours
  4058. >”Eris…” He just manages to croak out your name
  4059. >As much as you like it when he says your name you shush him
  4060. “You need to rest Anon” You don’t receive an answer but the hand goes slack in your talon and flops to your side
  4061. >As it swings, one of the fingers slowly points towards the bags
  4062. >”Need- need ‘em”
  4063. >Reaching down to the bags, you pull them up and rest them on your pack
  4064. >The arm slowly draws itself back and you feel it wrap around the bags
  4065. >After a shuddering exhale, you feel his body go slack against yours
  4066. >You bring your talon up and run it through his hair
  4067. >It isn’t helping him but it’s stopping you from doing anything stupid
  4068. >Right now, you just need to get him out of this castle and out of this forest
  4069. >Just as you begin making your way out of the room your eyes are drawn to one of the murals on the wall
  4070. >It shows Luna, surrounded by the bodies of Changelings, and a Changeling Queen stood upon her hive
  4071. “Arachnis?” The name leaves your lips and you have to stop yourself from inspecting it further
  4072. >This place can wait
  4073. >With a flap of your wings, you pull the two of you out of the room and back into the main hall
  4074. >As you pass over Luna’s ruined throne you grab a sizeable chunk of the wreckage
  4075. >Maybe when Anon wakes up it’ll make a good souvenir, he could use it as a paper weight or something
  4076. >Your wing beats are practically silent as you make your way out of the castle and back into the forest
  4077. >Anon may be sealed to you so he can’t fall off you, but if you blitz out of here, it will still affect his body, so you’ll be leaving the forest a lot slower than when you entered
  4078. >Visions of could-have-beens but never-were flood your mind as you fly down the dirt path
  4079. >You see yourself rushing up the hillock
  4080. >She rushes into the castle before Fluttershy has even finished wrapping Anon’s bandages and takes them both back to Ponyville
  4081. >As you fly over the rope bridge you see another echo of what you could have done
  4082. >She flies down the stairs, this version of you doesn’t let her fear of harmony magic stop her
  4083. >More and more phantom versions of yourself pop into your mind, mocking you, reminding you of your failure
  4084. >They hover besides Anon and Fluttershy
  4085. >They’re who you could’ve been if you had ignored Twilight and just listened to your instincts
  4086. >These feelings are very new to you
  4087. >Or maybe you just forgot how to feel them
  4088. >Fighting a war for a thousand years would make anyone forget certain things, even emotions
  4089. >But you’re not to blame
  4090. >Twilight should never have stopped you, none of this would have happened if she just listened to you
  4091. >Fluttershy should have tried harder to bring Anon out of here
  4092. >Luna should have stripped away those spells when she returned
  4093. >Celestia should have stripped them away during Luna’s thousand year absence
  4094. >Anon should have-
  4095. >A pang of guilt pierces you gut as you cut off the thought
  4096. >He’s been so still ever since he passed out
  4097. >Neither his arms or legs have shifted since you placed him on your back, he hasn’t even twitched
  4098. >The only thing that’s assuring you that he’s still there is his breathing and his heart beat against your back
  4099. >Both are so weak
  4100. >And it’s all your fault
  4101. >You involuntarily twist your neck at the thought
  4102. >It was so much easier back then, to blame everypony else but you
  4103. >But there’s no war here, and now you’re being forced to see everything you’re doing wrong
  4104. >The only thing your pride and ego have done since you got here is cause harm to the only one in this place that you could call friend
  4105. >You can’t help but wonder how he feels about you
  4106. >Are you his friend too
  4107. >Does he trust you
  4108. >Or are you just the mad mare he’s trying to reform
  4109. <“Because I- I needed something to do!”
  4110. >You had kept an eye and ear on them both while the storm raged inside the Everfree
  4111. >After all, you needed something to distract you from all the boring waiting
  4112. >Maybe you’re just a distraction to him
  4113. >Something to help him adjust to this place
  4114. >The rumble of thunder draws you out of your mind
  4115. >Looking up, you see no sign of a storm
  4116. >The thunder’s in your head
  4117. >Another phantom
  4118. >The storm is raging in the Everfree
  4119. >Anon and Fluttershy are holed up in a cave for shelter
  4120. >The phantom decides to find them, and she stays with them
  4121. >She stops Anon from being overwhelmed by the Tree
  4122. >She destroys Luna’s magic before it can hurt him
  4123. >She actually helps him, and she isn’t you
  4124. >Shame fills your gut again as you continue flying through the forest
  4125. >Hooves beat against the ground, and the girls, except for Fluttershy, round the corner to meet you
  4126. “What took you so long?” You sneer at the five of them and float past them, back towards town
  4127. >They’ve all been shocked stiff by the state of Anon’s body
  4128. >”Is- is he-”
  4129. “He’s fine!” You cut off Rainbow Dash before she can finish her thought
  4130. >Your talon shoots up to grip Anon’s arm
  4131. >He doesn’t stir even slightly at the contact
  4132. >Placing your thumb and finger together, you prepare to teleport yourself to the hospital, only to feel a small magical tug on your arm
  4133. >”Eris, he needs to go to the castle” You raise a confused eyebrow at Twilight “Remember the medical specialist pony I was talking about before you left?”
  4134. >Despite her words, you’re reluctant to do as she says, you’re still internally fighting yourself on whether you should blame her or not
  4135. >Sighing, you snap and the world warps around you
  4136. >The forest disappears and you’re surrounded by gaudy crystal walls
  4137. “Where?” Your voice is low, and slightly trembling now
  4138. >You slowly cast your eyes to Twilight, who looks at you with bewilderment at your tone
  4139. >Shaking her head to clear her confusion, she points down a hallway
  4140. >You see her lips moving to give you instructions but the words don’t really register
  4141. >All the same, you drift down the winding corridors
  4142. >Stopping in front of one of the more ornate doors, you give it a few firm hard knocks
  4143. >Some unicorn you don’t recognise comes out to greet you
  4144. >Her features aren’t very important, so you only just glimpse at her slightly
  4145. >She’s wearing an old doctor’s coat, the patches of mismatched cloth sewn on to cover the tears are a clear show of its age
  4146. >An iron chain made of large rings is attached to the chest of the garment and runs diagonally down the coat
  4147. >A golden needle and thread cutie mark sits on her flank
  4148. >Safe to assume that she’s the doctor
  4149. >Completely unphased by you, she pushes you to the side and pulls you downward to get a better look at Anon
  4150. >After a second, her horn lights up and pulls him off you
  4151. >A part of you didn’t want to undo the spell that sealed him to your body
  4152. >You wanted to keep him as close as possible
  4153. >Luckily you’ve calmed down enough that the logical part of your brain finally got a chance to speak
  4154. >You couldn’t heal Anon even if you wanted to
  4155. >And you desperately wanted to
  4156. >To simply snap your fingers, make everything better, and then...
  4157. >Actually you hadn’t planned that far
  4158. >Maybe you could go to Sugarcube Corner
  4159. >The foals there seemed to like him at least
  4160. >Echoes of the door slamming in your face bounce off the walls while you continue to absentmindedly stare
  4161. >She hadn’t even given you her name
  4162. >Not that you really cared to learn it anyway
  4163. >Anon’s breathing and heartbeat has gotten worse in the brief time between the castle and here
  4164. >His shallow breaths and the weak pulse of his veins stick in your mind
  4165. >Those ever so faint noises repeat in your head, over and over
  4166. >Any strength you might have had to be angry at yourself or others is gone
  4167. >Replaced by the monotonous rhythm in your mind
  4168. >For the first time, in a very long time, you feel exhausted
  4169. >Slowly, you drift the rest of the way down to the ground
  4170. >As you land, a soft fabric brushes against your fur
  4171. >With a cursory glance, you see that it’s Fluttershy’s bags
  4172. >You brush against the metal butterfly clips and you’re back in the old castle again
  4173. <”Need- need ‘em”
  4174. >You turn your head away from the memory and the castle disappears in an instant
  4175. >He sounded so weak, so small
  4176. >Nothing like how he’d spoken to you before
  4177. >Initially he was nervous around you
  4178. >But quicker than anyone else before, he seemingly got used to you
  4179. >During your little bet you had gotten used to his playful tone
  4180. >You’d enjoyed how he sounded like he was worried about you, after the ponies had called you freak
  4181. >Dare you imagine that he was actually interested in the stories you told him of your old world
  4182. >But would he still be interested if you told him about what you did to Luna, or Celestia
  4183. >How would you even begin untangling the web that led to you bringing everything in Equestria against you if he ever got curious
  4184. >The time you spent with him was short, but he seemed observant enough that your two day absence wouldn’t go unnoticed by him, and he’d have questions
  4185. >It didn’t matter how many times you imagined it in your head
  4186. >Ever since that damned dream you couldn’t stop picturing it
  4187. >Initially you had imagined what would happen if you told him once you got back
  4188. >This incident makes you imagine yourself telling him after he gets his strength back
  4189. >Both end the same way, it’d be too much information, too quickly, and too soon
  4190. >Sometimes you’ve imagined what would happen if you waited months, or years, if you gave yourself time to develop your relationship with him
  4191. >But in those scenarios you see him feeling angry and betrayed that you hid it for so long
  4192. >Every time, it always ends the same way, for one reason or another, you lose him
  4193. >Your mind has allowed you less than a pawful of ways that he might actually accept you for what you are and what you did
  4194. >But all of them were infinitesimally unlikely
  4195. >So you pushed them all aside, and created a new scenario in your mind, a truly impossible series of events in which he held you close and refused to let go
  4196. >It made you happy, to live in that imagined world for a few moments
  4197. >But all too soon you’re pulled back to reality, and the dull rhythm in your head
  4198. >One beat every two seconds
  4199. >As you rest against the cold crystal you start tapping your talon against the floor in tandem with the rhythm in your head
  4200. >You count each beat, and the time until the door opens again
  4201. >Behind you, the girls have gathered and are having some quiet conversation
  4202. >A muzzle pushes against your paw, and a pink cupcake is slid in front of you
  4203. >Begrudgingly, you turn your eyes away from the door to the baker mare Pinkie Pie
  4204. >Admittedly, the cupcake did smell good
  4205. >Pulling off the wrapping, you eat the sweet paper and the bits of dough that had stuck to it
  4206. >With a flick of your tail, you slide the rest of the cake back to the mare who gives you a smile at the gesture
  4207. >Still determined, she splits it in half and hands you one of the pieces
  4208. >Sighing, you languidly consume the confectionary
  4209. >A minute has passed
  4210. >Finishing the sweet, she raises her hoof, as if she wanted to say something
  4211. >But as her gaze meets yours, her face falls and she steps away and moves back to the girls
  4212. >Closing your eyes, you will your focus into the room
  4213. >While you were able to spy on Anon and Fluttershy with relative ease, they were in an open cave
  4214. >This doctor mare however, is behind a locked door, in a castle littered with faint traces of harmony magic
  4215. >Not enough to incapacitate you
  4216. >But enough to limit you in the smallest of ways
  4217. >You could always manifest an eye and ear inside the room, but you’d rather not distract the one trying to fix Anon
  4218. >Her magic cascades off her horn and envelops the room from floor to ceiling, from wall to wall, but barely leaves an imprint
  4219. >An assortment of sterilised tools, held gracefully in a practiced web of telekinesis
  4220. >Faint traces of the magical properties contained in the various medicinal herbs, poultices and potions she’s brought stick to the air like cobwebs
  4221. >Medical magic thrums through her and into Anon
  4222. >The arcane technique of burning up one’s own mana in order to restore the natural mana flow of another to facilitate an increase in reconstruction of broken tissue
  4223. >Something that your magic was incapable of conjuring
  4224. >Healing yourself was one thing, you essentially replaced your injured self with a previous version, from when you were uninjured
  4225. >Healing someone else was an entirely different matter, it required absolute, constant focus, so it wasn’t exactly easy for a chaotic being to replicate it
  4226. >You can feel it though, as it pokes at Anon’s body, it shifts the tangled, volatile magical mixture of the Tree and Luna’s door that twists inside him
  4227. >First, it traces over him with all the pressure of a feather
  4228. >When no reaction comes from it, the pressure is increased
  4229. >She needs to know what she’s dealing with
  4230. >Like a scholar solving an equation, she needs to know what causes the problem in front of her to fluctuate
  4231. >Even when lifted off the table itself with magic, Anon’s body does not react
  4232. >She’s nervous
  4233. >Not only is she dealing with an alien species
  4234. >She’s dealing with magic she’s never seen before
  4235. >Steeling herself, she latches her magic onto one of the fragments of Luna’s throne
  4236. >Magic isn’t really alive, to you, it’s never been anything more than dead air until you wrapped it around one of your claws
  4237. >But as soon as the shard inched out of Anon’s skin, you could have sworn you heard the magic screaming
  4238. >It unsettles you enough to break your focus
  4239. >Despite not feeling the pulse of magic from Luna’s door earlier, Twilight did feel that
  4240. >Lazily, you turn your eyes to her
  4241. >She’s hunched over slightly and taking deep breaths, her friends are crowded around her
  4242. >All their lips are moving, but it’s like you’re in a fog, everything besides what’s beyond the door in front of you is faded, and you can’t be bothered to pay attention on them
  4243. >Once more, you turn back to the door and focus
  4244. >Rarity didn’t notice the heavy onset magical flux that just occurred, so you doubt the mare did either
  4245. >But her magic noticed, and it’s wavering
  4246. >Unbeknownst to the mare, her magic has created a sort of net around the room, and it’s caught the released magic
  4247. >The air’s gotten heavier, so you exert a greater amount of your will and magic over the room
  4248. >Her caution and years of experience has made the mare go still
  4249. >Anonymous hasn’t stirred, and her magic is too weak to pick up on the shard’s residual magic
  4250. >But her instincts have told her to stop
  4251. >Her eyes flit around the room, looking for something that isn’t there, her magic swells as she examines her patient again, but finds nothing
  4252. >Once more, though with greater hesitation, her magic wraps around the fragment of azure stone and begins to pull, and that awful screaming fills your head again
  4253. >The released magic threatens to crack the walls, and shatter the glass
  4254. >You may not be able to heal Anon, but you can help that mare, and you won’t allow yourself to hesitate this time
  4255. >Your magic weaves through the door and strangles Luna’s residual mana before it can do any harm
  4256. >Though it feels off as you do
  4257. >Closer examination causes a feeling of gentle cold to wash over you, like the night suddenly fell upon the world
  4258. >Echos of the battle that caused the old castle to fall to ruin was absorbed by objects that had the strongest connection to the princesses
  4259. >It’s not just Luna’s magic that rests in this piece of stone, but Nightmare Moon’s
  4260. >Luckily, it has faded to only an echo, but it remains
  4261. >Piercing through the echo of the alicorn, you twist and warp it so it no longer is bound by the traditional laws of magic
  4262. >The great pressure that had pressed on the doctor’s magic fades
  4263. >You make it truly ethereal, and it wafts through the magic, through solid matter and disperses into nothing
  4264. >20 minutes have passed, and only one shard has been removed
  4265. >Her caution remains, but your assistance has stopped the echoes of magic from interfering with her work
  4266. >The mixture of Luna and her corrupted-counter part’s magic tries to fight you, but Luna herself being here to stabilise it, the magic is pitifully weak
  4267. >But the mare has been given no answers as to what just happened, so she’s still cautious and slow as she removes the stones
  4268. >The screams of the echoes don’t stop until they’re finally pulled loose from Anon’s body
  4269. >They try to latch onto him, like leeches, like a pickaxe stuck in a brick wall
  4270. >When they feel you tearing them apart they try to stick to you
  4271. >Luna’s magic always did have a penchant for wrapping itself around the minds of those she used it on
  4272. >You know that better than most
  4273. <>
  4274. >”Monster!”
  4275. >The air pressure increases
  4276. >You warp yourself through the fabric of space with the same ease as every time before
  4277. >Luna crashes into where you just were, the ground cracks and splits beneath her hooves and the shockwave roars like a dragon
  4278. >The sickly sweet scent of smoke and the crackling of fire dances through the air
  4279. >With a tired yawn, you turn to the blue mare
  4280. >You only wish you could see her
  4281. >Sadly your last bout with her has left your eyes out of commission
  4282. >You’re not sure how she did it, maybe you slipped up last time and she snuck a blinding spell past your magic defences
  4283. >Perhaps it’s some sort of post-hypnotic suggestion she left in you over the years
  4284. >Whatever it is, you reckon you’ll have it undone in a few days, the magical structure is unfamiliar to you, it wasn’t like Luna’s usual magic
  4285. >Of course, you’re not the only one who’s been affected by this little war between you and the two princesses
  4286. >In these first few years you’ve already left her slightly scarred on the barrel
  4287. >You can’t see them, but you remember what they look like, and you can feel her passive magic angrily pouring out of the wounds, trying and failing to heal them
  4288. “Moon Cheese, so good to see you” Your lips curl up in a smug grin
  4289. >”Cease your revelry creature, thou shalt be brought afore the courts for thine transgressions” Luna’s voice drips with the same venomous hatred that she’s had for you ever since you turned this place to kindling
  4290. >But she isn’t the biggest threat
  4291. >Manifesting a pair of your arms on your back, you tap against the air
  4292. >Like a stone breaking water, the impact sends a ripple outward, scanning for any sign of Celestia, any trace of her magic, but you find none
  4293. “So where’s your dear sister Blue Bean? Don’t tell me I’ve scared her off” Your voice trails off into a mocking laugh
  4294. >Growling at you, Luna’s horn lights up and fires a spell at you
  4295. >It phases through you harmlessly, but as it passes, you feel a part of it snag on you
  4296. >You can feel it try to slither towards your mind, but you quickly crush it
  4297. >”She is protecting our ponies from your blighted fire, something a deviant such as thou could never understand” Her words are so simple, but they bring your blood to boil
  4298. “I did understand… once”
  4299. >Luna’s eyes narrow at you
  4300. >Your ears twitch as one of the great trees besides you creaks and groans
  4301. >Turning to the purple wood, you feel a crack split the tree in half, and all its branches snap and fall to the ground, and begin burning into cinders
  4302. >They were everywhere, these trees
  4303. >Like weeds, they crept into every nook and cranny they could find and they brought with them beasts like Timberwolves, Chimera, Manticore and Hydra
  4304. >It honestly impressed you that ponies were able to coexist in such an environment
  4305. >But you always hated it, all of it
  4306. >Before everything boiled over, you endured their presence, they had become ingrained into the lives of the ponies so none of them were eager to be rid of the trees
  4307. >So when this war first started, and all bets were off, your first choice was to burn them all, down to their roots
  4308. >They’re much sturdier than you thought, even your magic is having a bit of difficulty eating through them
  4309. >But you’ve rid the far north, south, east and west of this country of them, and scattered all the beasts that used to live in those parts as well
  4310. >Like a ring, your fire’s been slowly creeping inward, towards a central point of the forest
  4311. >The closer to the centre the fire gets, the longer it takes to burn away one of the trees
  4312. >Of course Celestia tried to force your fire to obey her
  4313. >It almost did, but in the end it bowed to no will but your own
  4314. >And so Equestria burned, and burned, and burned
  4315. >The two of them have been maintaining barriers around every town, city and settlement ever since
  4316. >You tried telling them it was pointless, you had no interest in hurting their ponies, but of course they wouldn’t listen to you anymore
  4317. >It wasn’t much of a change, they seldom did before, least of all Luna
  4318. >”Eris, this is madness!” Another spell, another miss, another tug at your psyche
  4319. >You can’t help but laugh at Luna’s choice of words
  4320. “You call it madness, I call it trimming the verge” Stretching out your paw and talon, the claws turn to scissors
  4321. >Clipping away at one of the trees, you mould it into the shape of Luna, before it collapses in on itself and becomes a smouldering heap “This place is long overdue, wouldn’t you agree?”
  4322. >She attempts a binding spell, but with a flex of your wrist you begin using it like a skip rope
  4323. >Furious, she screams and lunges at you
  4324. >You brace your legs and catch her hooves in your claws, the shockwave from the collision causes your fire to falter before it begins consuming the forest again, and you’re pushed back several hundred meters before her momentum finally stops
  4325. >”Look at this! Look around you Eris!” You do as she bids, burning trees and fleeing beasts fill your vision “What, do you want to be empress of ashes?”
  4326. “Empress? EMPRESS!?”
  4327. >Again, her words boil your blood
  4328. >All these preconceived notions she had about you, even after all this time she can’t even imagine you want anything else
  4329. >With a flap of your wings and a shift of magic, you pin Luna’s wings to her side, leaving her dangling from your paws
  4330. >Rearing your head back, you slam it into her muzzle, sending her down to the ground with enough force to make a crater
  4331. “I never wanted to rule! But you... you and Sombra and Celestia. You refused to even let me live a life here!” Flashes of the countless nights you spent in your dreams answering her interrogations pass through your mind
  4332. >Growling, you pour pure chaos magic into the air, and slam it into the princess of the night, multiple times, each time you pour a greater concentration of magic into the air
  4333. >She gasps at the impacts, and her body contorts at the influx of foreign magic
  4334. >Her whole body glows with ice blue veins that spread into the air
  4335. >The veins begin to crack and eventually shatter, breaking your spell and allowing her to get back to her hooves
  4336. >”So you would burn the world I love for your imagined slights!?” She attempts to fly at you, but crashes into a barrier of condensed air you’d created
  4337. “Imagined?” The gall behind her words has shocked your voice to a whisper “You took… everything… from me Luna” For once, she actually pauses at your words to look at you “You couldn’t handle so little as one town wanting me, instead of the two of you”
  4338. >Her gaze hardens at you “And now they’re all gone”
  4339. “Them-” You nod solemnly at the memory “-and the wendigos your sister’s dear little dark prince took as well” You sneer at the nickname
  4340. >Luna’s face shifts slightly, her mouth twitches upward and her eyes soften
  4341. >A chuckle escapes her
  4342. >”Tears, really?”
  4343. >Bringing a claw up, you do feel a wet patch beneath your eyes
  4344. >Memories of those days gone by cross your mind, and you feel a new wave of them leave your eyes
  4345. “It’s not like you cared enough to mourn them” A smile of your own tugs at your mouth as you see Luna’s body begin shaking in anger
  4346. >With a snap of your fingers you force up the dirt to wrap and ensnare her
  4347. >Her magic blasts away into the dirt, so you contort her horn like a silly straw, and make multiple horns grow out from the main one, causing her magic to malfunction
  4348. >Now she’s not only struggling against your magic, but her own
  4349. >Stepping over to her, you bring your cloven hoof down on her spine, causing her to cry out in pain
  4350. >Leaning down, you take hold of her wing and unfurl it
  4351. “You know something, Moon Cheese. I’ve always believed that one good turn deserves another”
  4352. >As you begin to pull you can feel her smirking
  4353. >She thinks you’ll use your magic
  4354. >But as your grip tightens, and the tendons in her wing start to strain and tighten, her smirk falls and she begins to fight back
  4355. >”Eris?”
  4356. >The world shifts around you, and you see a portrait of yourself and that day all those centuries ago
  4357. >It’s hung upon a pillar that is coloured like static, in the middle of what appears to be a gallery
  4358. >Anonymous is to the side of the pillar
  4359. >You turn your eyes down to him and he stares at you with confusion, blinking multiple times
  4360. “Did you see it?” Your voice is low, and full of fear
  4361. >Not like this, you’ll tell him anyway the world wants you to, but not like this
  4362. >”See what?” Concern crosses his face as he looks at you
  4363. >He begins approaching the front side of the portrait, but you slam your talon into the side, stopping him
  4364. “Don’t…” He wraps his fingers gently around your shaking claw “Please don’t look at it”
  4365. >You let your head droop, but you can feel his eyes staring into the side of your head
  4366. >The seconds seem to stretch endlessly
  4367. >”Okay” Once more, he shocks you to silence
  4368. >Without a second of hesitation he wraps his other hand around your wrist and pulls you away from the portrait and dismisses it
  4369. >You both wander the halls of the gallery for a while, he seems to be looking for something
  4370. >He finally stops dragging you when you find a bench made of simple black metal
  4371. >Sitting down, he heaves a sigh and rolls his neck
  4372. >Like everything was normal
  4373. >But this is what you wanted, so you try your best to act natural
  4374. >Sadly you misjudge the metal and slide off its surface, landing on the ground with a thud
  4375. >Anon chortles at your display “Did your magic stop or something”
  4376. Standing up, you brush off your fur and murmur “Shut up” Before properly adjusting yourself as you sit
  4377. >Another round of chuckles escapes him and you feel your lips tug upward
  4378. “Are you real?” The question slips past you before you even process the words
  4379. >Brief images of Anon melting away to reveal Luna’s scarred visage fill your head but never come to pass
  4380. >Instead he simply tilts his head at you “Funny, I was gonna ask you the same thing”
  4381. >If it looks like Anon, sounds like Anon and acts like Anon, is it Anon
  4382. >You desperately want to trust your mind not to trick you anymore
  4383. >”Unless I’m still in that damned castle” You see a shiver runs up his spine, and down yours
  4384. >Of course the dream curse hit him too
  4385. >His eyes suddenly shrink and dart around the room
  4386. >He clutches an arm that, as far as he’s aware, should be dislocated, riddled with dilapidated rock and bleeding
  4387. >Far stronger than before, his heart beats like a drum and his breathing becomes ragged
  4388. >If, somehow this actually is his mind in front of you, then his body on the outside will be attempting to mirror him
  4389. Clasping your talon and paw around his arms, you shift him towards you slightly “Hey” His eyes briefly dart to you and the way he looks at you nearly stops your heart “Hey!” Bringing your paw and talon up, you cup his face and force him to look at you
  4390. “It’s just me” You lower your voice and his breathing becomes more steady
  4391. >With a shaking hand he brings it up to your head and brushes your neck
  4392. >Letting out a shaky breath he chuckles and pulls himself back before doubling over in laughter
  4393. >A content sigh leaves him, and he recomposes himself “Well, i just made a complete ass of myself, eh?”
  4394. You give him a small smile as you feel your gaze soften “Not to me” He turns to you with a nervous smile “Luna… That spell was one of her favourites”
  4395. >Before you can be dragged into your memories, Anon grounds you by taking your talon in his one of his hands
  4396. >He opens his mouth to say something, but closes it and simply stares at you
  4397. >There’s sympathy in his eyes, a silent understanding
  4398. >Or maybe you’re reading too much into his eyes
  4399. >Are you staring too much
  4400. >Have you been holding his hand for too long
  4401. >When did your claw get so clammy
  4402. >Awkwardly pulling away from him, you readjust yourself, but he keeps looking at you
  4403. >You’re not really sure what normal ponies or humans do in these situations so you just try to figure out where you’ve ended up
  4404. >”Where are we, Eris?” Anon asks, voicing your own curiosity
  4405. “That… is a good question” One you’re trying to figure out
  4406. >You were in the castle, and you were helping the doctor mare by warping-
  4407. “Luna’s magic” You cut off your own thought as the pieces start to fall into place
  4408. >”So we’re in a dream?” He stands from the bench and looks around, pressing his hand against some of the walls
  4409. >As he pushes harder against it, it doesn’t give, but he does pull his hand back and rub the back of his head
  4410. >With that, the final piece clicks
  4411. “We’re i-”
  4412. >”Are we in my head, or mind?” He may have cut you off, but the fact he almost figured it out from that much makes you smile
  4413. “Nearly, but not quite” He gives you a quizzical look at your choice of words “It will be easier if you know how we got here”
  4414. >He turns to you, and his face slowly twists in confusion
  4415. >His mouth opens and closes a few times before he shuts his eyes and rubs his temples
  4416. >You feel a little worried as you see him begin to strain himself
  4417. >Drifting over to him, you pull one of his hands down
  4418. >He lets out a sigh and rubs his eyes “I don’t know, I feel like I’ve got a mild hangover”
  4419. >Stumbling slightly, he walks past the wall and a new frame manifests itself
  4420. >Anon’s memory
  4421. >The wood that frames it is poorly crafted, clearly not a vivid memory
  4422. >There’s also a noticeable amount of rot just on the edges, so not one he’s proud of either
  4423. >Through the haze and static you can just about make out the old castle, arms stretch out to catch themselves on the old metal door
  4424. >”What the hell was I even doing?” He stumbles on his feet slightly, and you’re besides him in an instant just in case he trips “I don’t even-” The memory begins to fade and blur, before jumping at random “It’s like I was in a drunken stupor… kept making the stupidest choices”
  4425. >Grabbing the saddlebags
  4426. >Staggering up the stairs
  4427. >The dream curse, and finally breaking it
  4428. >Anon’s memory finally stops jumping as he sits on the staircase
  4429. <”Maybe I should have just stayed in that pile of rubble Fluttershy left me in”
  4430. >Your eyes widen at the words
  4431. >Initially your anger flares at the mental image but when you turn to Anon he’s staggered over to the portrait, the confusion on his face cools your anger slightly
  4432. >”I- I never said that” He places his hand against the frame and traces it up and down
  4433. >Sometimes you forget that magic is a completely foreign concept to him
  4434. “They’re your thoughts” You clarify to him as he turns to you “What you said in your head back then, is said aloud out here- in here?”
  4435. >Before you can ponder the matter, Anon’s memory rings out again
  4436. <”At least I can stay here now, this’ll certainly make a story and a half for the others”
  4437. <”I’ve done enough today. Haven’t I?””
  4438. >Anon begins to grimace as the portrait clears and he starts to remember it better
  4439. >The words that were in his head back then make your heart ache
  4440. >It just adds another reason you regret not finding him sooner
  4441. <”I really wish someone would tell me that”
  4442. >Anon’s memory shifts as he stands from the stairs and begins to descend
  4443. <”That someone would stop me”
  4444. >With a grunt, Anon lashes out at the portrait and it disappears into smoke
  4445. “Anon” You hover over to him while he turns away from you
  4446. >”I’m fi-”
  4447. “Don’t…” You cut him off and pull him to face you
  4448. >Hesitantly, his eyes meet yours, and you slowly shake your head
  4449. >He raises his arms up and tries to say something, but the words die in his throat as he drops his arms
  4450. >”Fine fine… but just-” He turns his eyes to the floor “Just not now, ok?” His voice is hushed but you hear him well enough and nod
  4451. >”So” Almost immediately perking up he turns back to you “All that… happened” He waves a dismissive hand towards where the portrait was “How does that fit in with all this?” He gestures to the entirety of the gallery
  4452. >Now faced with explaining his current situation, you’re a bit unsure of how to approach it
  4453. “Just… don’t freak out… ok?” Your words are slow and careful
  4454. >His eyes widen slightly as he leans towards you “That makes me worried but alright, ok” He brings his hands up and pushes down as he takes a deep breath “I’m calm”
  4455. >That wasn’t convincing at all, may as well just rip off the band-aid
  4456. “You’re in surgery right now” You hold up your claws when his nostrils flare and his eyes widen again
  4457. >He paces back and forth, clearly trying to keep calm “H- how- how bad am I, exactly?”
  4458. “Ummmm depends- is your heart supposed to beat once every two seconds or....?” You can faintly hear the rhythm in your head again
  4459. >Somehow, his eyes widen even further and he begins to shake slightly ”No, no it is not supposed to be that low. That’s about half of what it should be actually, give or take” He buries his head in his hands and lets out a groan and begins walking down one of the hallways
  4460. You quickly hover down the hall too and follow beside him “But you’re fine-”
  4461. >”Yeah. Yeah!” He says the second one with more confidence, probably more for himself “Just not used to being told I’m being operated on, but- but there’s like doctors working on me?”
  4462. >He turns to you and you immediately nod
  4463. >You really need to damage control and calm him down
  4464. “Yes, I mean- she really doesn’t know what she’s doing-”
  4465. >”She what!?”
  4466. Frantically waving your paw and talon in front of him you talk over him “Bad choice of words, you’re just a different species is all”
  4467. >He lets out another groan and increases his pace down the hall “Ok, move away from that, how are we here?”
  4468. >This is really not gonna get easier to tell him
  4469. “Well, you know how Luna’s magic was still in the door?”
  4470. >”Yes” He nods along with you and finally begins to slow down again
  4471. “It was also in her throne-”
  4472. >”Which is currently residing in my arm” He tenses and grasps his arm before letting out a small hiss of pain
  4473. You gently place your talon on his hand and slowly pull it down “There was residual magic in it, I maybe, sort of, kind of, had to step in so the magic didn’t run rampant”
  4474. >He tenses again but let’s you continue
  4475. “Since Luna’s magic affects minds, and I was warping her magic-”
  4476. >His eyes seemingly snap into focus as he stares at you “And since her magic was in my body…” You hold off on finishing the sentence as his eyes narrow in focus “You think that mix… connected us?”
  4477. >You slowly nod along with him and he starts to take deeper breaths and calm down “Ok, I- that- that’s still a lot to take in, but ok”
  4478. >His hands fidget frantically with themselves and his clothes as he breathes
  4479. “I’m sorry” Your words finally snap him out of his own head and make him focus “I’m really, really, really new to this, so I’m probably gonna be bad at it for a while”
  4480. >Anon takes another deep breath and puts one of his arms on your lion arm “It’s alright Eris, I appreciate the effort, really”
  4481. >You nod to him and he begins walking down the hall again “You know, I think I was here before you got here”
  4482. “Oh yeah?” Focusing on a new topic is definitely a good idea “How so?”
  4483. >He looks between you and the gallery several times as he tries to put the words together in his head
  4484. >“I… remember this place, sort of- there was lots of fog, I was- I was looking for something” He scans the area, as if expecting it to pop-up “But I don’t remember what”
  4485. >You coil your body over to him and raise an eyebrow
  4486. >”Then you came, and the fog cleared” He smiles up at you as he says that
  4487. >You can’t help but smile back at him, he’s as close to back to normal as he can be now
  4488. >His arms go slack at his side as he heaves a tired sigh
  4489. >Gently, you hover your talon just besides his shoulder, and start guiding him back to the bench
  4490. >As you sit down again, his body goes slack and he rests against you
  4491. >It causes you to freeze up and stiffen immediately
  4492. >The last time you were this close was the train
  4493. >As with before, a new portrait appears
  4494. >This one is much different from the last one, the image it paints is clear as crystal and it’s framed in sturdy metal
  4495. <”This is new”
  4496. >Your voice begins to ring out through the gallery, and you try and waft the frame away, like a bad smell
  4497. <”He’s actually listening to me”
  4498. >Anon’s eyes are focused on the frame while you’re still subtly trying to force the memory to the back of your mind
  4499. <”And smiling too, I like that smi- focus on the story Eris”
  4500. >He chuckles at the words and gives you a much bigger grin
  4501. >It’s rather infectious as you feel your lips tugging up
  4502. <”Tirek, that bastard nearly tore my magic out of me, if I meet him again I swear I’ll snap off his horns and-”
  4503. >The memory finally flashes forward and you breathe a small sigh of relief, now if you could just get rid of it
  4504. <”Sombra… the wendigos-”
  4505. >Another jump, Anon’s on his feet, clearly taking interest in your thoughts
  4506. >Well, fair is fair, you did the same
  4507. >The picture sticks on the point where you hugged him
  4508. >You know exactly what you were thinking at that point and you bolt towards the frame to try and physically remove it
  4509. <”Luna, please… please don’t take him from me”
  4510. >The frame turns to smoke in your talon and paw
  4511. >Staring at your claws, you stay completely still
  4512. >A gentle tug of your arms causes you to stumble over your cloven hoof
  4513. >You steady yourself, and Anon begins guiding you back to the bench
  4514. >Slumping down on the bench you look everywhere but at him
  4515. >The silence lingers, only occasionally interrupted by the sound of Anon’s feet shuffling on the floor
  4516. >Clearly he wants to ask
  4517. >”Well… I’ve seen yours, you’ve seen mine, who goes first?” His question hangs in the air and you tighten your talon into a fist
  4518. >Its quickly wrapped in his hand and pulled towards him
  4519. >Facing him again, he has a small smile on his lips “How about you tell me about Sombra and those wind-things you said” You pause at his words “Instead of whatever you meant by Luna”
  4520. >You want to ask him why but now you find that you’re the one with words dying in their throat
  4521. >Apparently gauging your unasked question, he continues “I admit that I spotted a shade of blue out of the corner of my eye before”
  4522. >He wraps his other hand around your talon and squeezes gently “The look in your eyes when you told me not to look at it...” His words hang in the air “Just tell me when you’re ready, ok?”
  4523. >He turns his head up to meet your gaze and he squeezes your talon again
  4524. “O- ok” You manage to choke out and nod to him
  4525. Pulling your talon away, you close your eyes “The wendigos, not the wind-things” You correct him with a smirk as you close your eyes “It… will be easier to show you”
  4526. >A new portrait appears on the wall, framed by sculpted ice with shallow, but visible cracks
  4527. “Wendigos-” You hear their call as clearly as you did when you first met them “-are creatures of ice”
  4528. >Opening your eyes, you begin to watch the memory with Anon
  4529. “They take on the form of a pony, whether they’re actually a kind of pony, or some magical spirit I don’t really know” The wendigo shakes its mane and a blizzard flows off of it, surrounding several ponies
  4530. >The ponies try to stave off the cold, extra clothing, a fire, magic, but none of it works
  4531. >Slowly, the ponies begin to argue, and ice creeps up their legs
  4532. “Wendigos feed off of disharmonic magic” You feel Anon relax against you again
  4533. >Steadying your breathing you focus back on the memory to try and distract your mind
  4534. >A swirl of multi-hued magic flows off of the frozen ponies and to the wendigo who lets out a triumphant neigh
  4535. >”That’s a little brutal if I’m honest” Turning your eyes down to the human he looks up at you, clearly a little unsettled
  4536. >Sighing you slump forward and stare at the image
  4537. “Yeah, but it’s not just magic, it happens whether they want it to or not- it’s instinct” Anon nods at you and relaxes a little bit, knowing the wendigos weren’t intentionally harming ponies
  4538. “Of course, I’m a wellspring of disharmony” You feel a small smile of pride tug at your lips as the scene shifts
  4539. >It now shows you, back in your old Equestria, before everything went wrong
  4540. >Wendigos swarm to you, they cling to your body and gallop around you happily
  4541. “When I got to the old Equestria I visited the north, met the royalty” You see a pony you haven’t seen in a thousand years appear on the frame
  4542. >Queen Amore of the Crystal Empire, nearly as tall as Celestia, with a pale pink coat, and a glittering mane and tail that starts as deep pink and flows into a deep purple at the end
  4543. “And him” Sombra appears besides the two of you
  4544. >Dirty grey coat, black mane and that ridiculous red cloak
  4545. “The wendigos had been giving them trouble, what with the endless snow storm” You see yourself leaving the protection of the Crystal Heart magic field
  4546. >A swarm of dozens or possibly hundreds of wendigo charge through the atmosphere above, a cacophony of hail and snow filling the air
  4547. >Then the horde of ice spirits rushes down to meet you, and they stop, and then tentatively approach you
  4548. >One of them bites down on the air around you, as they pull back the air stretches and snaps
  4549. >With your magic detached from you, the wendigo begins to eat and assimilate it
  4550. >A gust of cold air rushes off their form as the wendigo lets out a pleased whinny, and the snow begins to part
  4551. >After that, each wendigo approaches you and absorbs some of your magic, each one clearing a bit of the snow as they do
  4552. >When the last wendigo had ate its fill, the storm had died down considerably
  4553. >It was still a heavy storm, but you could actually see far into the distance, and the sky had begun to clear
  4554. “After that, I decided to live there” The memory shows you shaking hooves with Amore, and living in a cave as days and nights fly past
  4555. “I must have been there for decades, and I felt like I found something in the wendigos” The memory slows down and you see the times you spent playing with the spirits
  4556. >You build great monuments of art out of the ice and snow with the wendigos
  4557. >They chase you through the mountains, a game to see which was fast enough to get the first taste of your magic
  4558. >All of them trying to stuff themselves into your far too small cave
  4559. >The first time you ever showed them fire
  4560. >So many memories
  4561. >Then it all falls apart in a flash of black
  4562. >Sombra’s dark magic eats away at the wendigo, destroying some and causing the rest to flee
  4563. >You try so many times to find them and help them
  4564. >But the wendigos either attack you or flee from you now
  4565. >Your anger was swift and cruel
  4566. >It flashes to Sombra’s broken body, and you being yelled at
  4567. “I fixed their problem” Your hiss out your words, and you feel Anon wrap his arm around your back “I fixed it, and they thanked me by destroying the closest thing to friends I had, and then they berated me, for hurting him”
  4568. >You turn your head down and choke back a hiccup as you feel your eyes start to water
  4569. “Because they never really cared” Your breath hitches in your throat as Anon wraps you in a full hug
  4570. >”I’m so sorry Eris” You don’t even know why he’s apologising
  4571. >The portrait fades to nothing again
  4572. >Sniffling, you wipe your eyes and nose
  4573. “It’s a thousand years in the past, I’ll be fine” You smile at him and he unwraps his arm from your back
  4574. >Now without it, you’re noticing how cold it is in this mind connection of yours
  4575. >Anon’s face falls to a mix of pensive and sad “Ok… my turn” The previous, slightly rotted frame comes back
  4576. >The memory doesn’t move, frozen on the image of him sat on the stairs, looking into the surrounding darkness
  4577. >”I can’t seem to stop myself” He leans forward as his brows furrow “I knew what harmony magic did to me”
  4578. >The frame goes completely black but a clamour of Anon’s voice overlapping itself flows out of it, distress clear in every word he says
  4579. >”And yet…” The scene shifts to the Tree of Harmony
  4580. >The picture is now framed with pale light and a whirlpool of magic swirls around him
  4581. >Slowly, he limps towards the Tree on unsteady feet
  4582. >His hand hits the Tree and the memory speeds up, star filled clouds one second, a ball of fire the next, and then it stops
  4583. >”I’ve been able to feel Celestia’s magic for a while” The frame shifts backwards and shows the ball of fire again
  4584. >The ball of fire becomes a deep violet colour and shifts into the gentle eyes of this world’s Celestia
  4585. >Anon sits in Twilight’s castle, he freeze in the chair and fire begins to flicker into the frame from a corner
  4586. >Twilight speaks, Anon snaps out of his daze, and the flame retreats
  4587. >The same occurs in the cave Anon and Fluttershy stayed in
  4588. >“It was in the castle, but I didn’t stop myself” A handful of old books sit in front of Anon on a desk as he studies them
  4589. >His eyes show interest, but a lack of understanding
  4590. >”Then… there’s Luna” The frame’s light fades and an azure hoof steps into view as Luna reveals herself
  4591. >So many parts of you want to hate her, but a lot of you wants to try and get to know this one after your previous encounter with her
  4592. >The picture shows Anon’s hands weaving across the door in a constant pattern, and he’s speaking a small chant
  4593. >It almost seems like an incantation
  4594. >You tuck that particular thought away for later
  4595. >There’s a brief pause before he’s blown off the door
  4596. >The memory cuts off and scrambles into incomprehensibility afterward
  4597. >But the frame rewinds, and repeats the moment he was blown off the door again and again
  4598. >Each time makes you recoil slightly
  4599. “Where did you learn those words?” You hope that you’ll be able to get him to stop by asking
  4600. >Luckily, he does stop the memory
  4601. >The portrait itself fades, and a new one arrives
  4602. >This one’s frame is made of smoke, yet the picture is clear as daylight
  4603. >”A cold and dark, and very gentle place” His eyes have a thousand yard stare as he focuses on the memory
  4604. >”Pale sands” The once dark frame reveals the beach, the sands appear white at first, but on closer inspection, it’s not so much that they’re coloured white, but simply devoid of any other colour
  4605. >”Black water” Like ticking off items on a list, his voice seems to go on auto-pilot
  4606. >Standing from the bench, he walks over to the frame as if in a trance
  4607. >His hand brushes against the picture and something leaks on to his fingers
  4608. >It’s almost impossible to see, but a sheen of light bounces off a wave
  4609. >”Small patches of ice” Pieces of white dot the sea but Anon shakes his head “No, stars in the sky” The ice fades and stars begin to blink into the sky “No. Stars in the sea- ice in the sky- both!” The frame shifts and shifts until it shakes from his voice
  4610. >It’s weird hearing him talk like this, and almost worrying
  4611. >Slowly settling down, the picture now shows a night sky and a sea just as dark, to the point where you can’t tell where one ends and the other begins
  4612. >“Above it all… the moon” Manifesting from the centre of the frame, the moon grows and grows until it begins to blot out some of the stars and ice
  4613. >”It’s absorbing the light and distorting the ice until all of the world is caught in the tide” A great wave rises up and eclipses the moon “No” Before it can shift an inch it shatters into water droplets that rain over the beach  “The moonlight is kind, there will be no more nightmares”
  4614. >”Then a voice- no- vines” A double of Anon appears in the frame, staring up at the moon and vines begin to creep up him “They coiled and hugged, pulled and pushed. Stay here, it’s safe” The vines in the frame shift around him into the shape of a gazebo
  4615. >”Curious and playful like a filly, so young.” An ethereal Luna appears beside Anon “No longer a filly. But not a thousand years older either. Something new. Curious, but weary, everything else that was new all hurt, it isn’t the same.” Anon cups his hands to his mouth and drops his voice to a whisper “It isn’t safe”
  4616. >Worry begins to fill you again and you rise from the bench
  4617. >You exert your magic over Anon, but you don’t feel any traces of Luna’s magic on him
  4618. >Keeping your magic on him, you watch as he continues
  4619. >The vines in the frame have twisted again to resemble a cage now, while the Anon in the frame stands still, blissfully ignorant
  4620. >”It wasn’t long ago” The picture splits in the middle and the old castle appears on one side
  4621. >Grand chairs sit in a circle and the ethereal Luna walks over to them
  4622. >”They were here, they were just here, just heard, laughing, grieving, caring. They’re not gone, just hiding. Bring them back”
  4623. >The vines creep out from the beach and coil around the thrones
  4624. >You can’t fully understand what he’s saying, but you can almost feel it
  4625. >It’s like Luna’s magic went wild and accidentally entwined the alicorn’s thoughts into his head
  4626. >You can’t imagine it’s pleasant
  4627. >You are definitely gonna have words with Luna after this
  4628. >“I just want to learn, why should I apologise?” A third picture appears, when Anon first met them both, Luna’s eyes staring into the frame
  4629. >”But I didn’t want it” Shaking his head, Anon grasps at his temple and gasps, and the portrait returns to just the beach “I said no”
  4630. >The vines turn to dust
  4631. >”The sea fell into the sky and the moon retreated” One of his eyes still stare off into the frame as the beach begins to collapse in on itself
  4632. >With a shuddering breath, the frame disappears and Anon doubles over
  4633. >You catch him and sling one of his arms over your shoulder and slowly bring him back to the bench
  4634. >He takes in several deep breaths and you see his body start to pour off sweat
  4635. >”It happened again didn’t it?” He looks up at you, and nods at your confusion
  4636. >”There it is, the same look Fluttershy gave me after the Tree” A simple picture this time, in a frame you might put on a desk
  4637. >It shows Fluttershy expressing a mix of confusion and worry
  4638. >You twist the picture in your paw, and the light reflects your face
  4639. >Like Anon said, you match
  4640. >”I can’t… stop it” He breathes deeply one last time before finally straightening again “Or maybe I can and I just don’t” He presses his hand to his face and slowly drags it down
  4641. “Do you remember what you were just saying?” He looks at you, confusion and fascination mix in his eyes
  4642. >”I do... but I can’t repeat it” He raises an eyebrow at you and sighs when he sees you still confused
  4643. >A scratching noise slowly builds
  4644. >Looking down, you see Anon scraping his fingers against the bench
  4645. >”It’s like… a wall” Pulling one of his legs up, he hugs it to his chest and rests his chin on it “I’ve got a language in my head that I don’t understand, I can speak it fluently, but I can never remember how to say it properly”
  4646. >Sighing, you see his eyes shift to frustration, he wants you to understand too
  4647. >You at least understand what it’s like to want someone else to understand you
  4648. >Still unsure, you take a calming breath and slowly wrap your arms around him
  4649. >He goes stiff briefly before relaxing and wrapping you in a hug too
  4650. >You really should have stuck around the train, if hugging him feels this good
  4651. >Again, the solid metal frame that locks the train memory in your mind appears
  4652. >This time however, half of it is made of a carved wood, shaded like dark honey
  4653. >The smell of the air after lightning hits fills the air and you feel Anon’s mouth twist up against your fur
  4654. >”I really like that memory” No voices come off of the portrait this time, but you hear the clicks of the steel wheels against the polished rails, the huffing of smoke and the shuffling of coal
  4655. >Before you can fully relax into the hug, you feel Luna’s magic tugging against you
  4656. >Half of the gallery falls away and you and Anon get off the bench
  4657. >”What’s happening?” He looks to you, but you smile at him to reassure his worried tone
  4658. “I should have figured this out before, this place will only last as long as Luna’s magic throne is in you” Sighing you shrug at him “Guess our time’s up”
  4659. >He reaches to you, but pulls his hand back and smiles “So… see you on the other side?”
  4660. Smiling, you nod at him “Just try and stop me”
  4661. >The magic tugs at you again and you begin to be pulled away from Anon
  4662. >Just before you’re fully pulled away he calls your name
  4663. >Willing out some of your magic you rivet yourself into the gallery and cup your ear
  4664. >”Tell who ever’s operating on me to use something to reduce pain, my arm’s killing me” He yells at you
  4665. >Laughing at his words you give him two thumbs up and let yourself be pulled out fully
  4666. <>
  4667. >Groggily, you open your eyes
  4668. >Your finger’s still tapping against the floor
  4669. >Four hours have passed
  4670. >The doctor’s magic is still thrumming through the air
  4671. >You have to stop yourself from pushing the doors open to see him
  4672. >He was just here
  4673. >Just in your arms
  4674. >So close, but not close enough
  4675. >You wonder how it would feel when you’re not in a connected mental state
  4676. >You wonder if you could wrap the entirety of your body around him
  4677. >Briefly your mind flashes to the night of the train, and you recoil slightly at the invading thoughts that follows
  4678. >Opening your body up like that, no magical defence in place, no physical enchantment to protect yourself
  4679. >Raw fur against the soft, cool fabric of his clothes and small patches of exposed skin
  4680. >His heart was strong, each beat was like a warhammer that pounded against your chest, but it was comforting
  4681. >It made you feel safe
  4682. >All of the feelings are gone as soon as they come however, overwhelmed and crushed under the oppressive weight of your memories
  4683. >There were few times that you had ever let your guard down like that
  4684. >One in particular, stuck to your mind like a parasite, the memory nearly drove you to retch
  4685. >You were made sick by the smell of smoke, but this smoke wasn’t from your fire, it was black and heavy and made you choke
  4686. >The taste of blood suddenly stains your tongue and you have to fight yourself not to gag
  4687. >Your own wicked laughter resonates inside your head
  4688. >Flashes of burning gold and deep blue start to distort your vision and you feel your body begin to fill with dread
  4689. >It isn’t real, it isn’t there anymore, it was a thousand years ago
  4690. >You repeat the mantra in your head, desperate not to relive those days, you frantically try to pull your mind back to where you are
  4691. >Slowly, the stench of smoke clears, replaced by the scent of sterilising agent and medicinal herbs
  4692. >Your tongue loses the taste of blood and you realise how dry your mouth has gotten
  4693. >Snapping your fingers you warp the oxygen inside your mouth into water and swallow
  4694. >The cool liquid clears the last of the bitter memory’s bitter taste and refreshes you somewhat
  4695. >You try to ease your mind with the train memory, but it just causes the sickening feeling to return
  4696. >Mentally, you will your mind to silence
  4697. >You couldn’t let yourself associate your old memories with that day
  4698. >You wouldn’t let what you’d done in the past stain that moment
  4699. >You refused to let what happened back then hinder yourself now
  4700. >So, with a heavy heart you let the memory fade from your mind and tuck it away
  4701. >If it remained, your old world would sully it
  4702. >Deeper entrench in it, and you, feelings that didn’t belong
  4703. >The mantra had served you well
  4704. >It was a simple trick you had learned a long time ago
  4705. >Being capable of altering reality, your will was made manifest by your thoughts
  4706. >So it was useful to have at least something to keep your emotions and mind it in check
  4707. >At least, as in check as they normally are
  4708. >Maybe Luna could teach you some actual mental spells
  4709. >A heavily scarred leg of deep blue flashes in your mind
  4710. >This new world was going to be harder to deal with than you thought
  4711. >Whenever you saw either of them, your mind forced up memories of what you knew them as to the forefront
  4712. >But you might be able to get over that some day
  4713. >What’s really making things difficult is that you can’t seem to make up your mind on how to deal with them
  4714. >Keep your distance, and try to distance them from who you knew
  4715. >Or get to know them and have a more concrete understanding of what makes them different
  4716. >Either had a chance to backfire
  4717. >You can ignore Celestia, for now, but Luna is an entirely different matter
  4718. >You’re definitely gonna get answers as to why her thoughts are in Anon’s head, and maybe get some spells to help you sleep better too
  4719. >The dream-catcher helps, a lot, but it isn’t perfect
  4720. >One moment you want to interrogate her, the next you want her help
  4721. >It suddenly strike you that you may not be as ready to handle a world where the princesses aren’t trying to kill you as you thought you were
  4722. >But Anon is making it better
  4723. >Little by little
  4724. >In his own little ways
  4725. >You’re snapped out of your reverie by a horn poking into the small of your back, just between your wings
  4726. >You let out a small yelp of shock and bolt into the air
  4727. >Now hovering above the ground, you turn to glare at the pony who poked you
  4728. >The white one, Rarity if you’re remembering correctly, you made her Carousel Boutique into a carousel boutique
  4729. >A smirk crosses your lips at the thought, then falls
  4730. >Perhaps Fluttershy wasn’t the only one you owed an apology to
  4731. >It’d be easier if Anon was here
  4732. >He seems to have a knack for interacting with this lot
  4733. >”-if you’d like dear” She was talking, and you blanked
  4734. >Great start
  4735. “Sorry, could you repeat that, I’m a little groggy” You feel a wave of fatigue roll over you
  4736. >That mental gallery must have taken more magic out of you than you thought
  4737. >”Of course, I was just wondering if you’d like to join us for dinner darling. Spike is just about to serve up” She gives you a warm smile as she points down the hall
  4738. >Several tails are just moving out of your view around a corner, and into a deeper part of the castle
  4739. >Turning back to the white unicorn, you try to answer but the thrumming of medical magic interrupts your thoughts
  4740. >You turn back and forth between her and the door
  4741. >Before you can think it over properly, a hoof pokes against your dragon leg
  4742. >”I know that you’re worried about him Eris” Her eyes narrow and a small sadness overtakes her smile “We all are, but Twilight has assured that he’s in excellent hooves”
  4743. >Dismissively snorting you float a little bit away from the mare
  4744. >Your tail bumps against something
  4745. >Looking down, you spot the saddlebags where you just were
  4746. >With a shift of your tail, you coil it around the bag straps and lift them to your chest
  4747. >Again, you look to the door
  4748. >Anon’s been in there for a long time
  4749. >You’d rather be here when he wakes up
  4750. >But, then again, maybe getting to know the ponies he knew wouldn’t be as bad as it sounds
  4751. >Despite your jumbled thoughts, you manage to nod at the mare
  4752. >Her warm smile returns and she begins trotting down the hall
  4753. >Pressing a claw to your face, you run it through your hair and float after her
  4754. >Slowly, the two of you catch up to the other four
  4755. >Pinkie is bounding down the hall, chatting the ears off the others
  4756. >And you, as you feel your ears clatter to the floor
  4757. >Eventually, Twilight turns to a door and the rest of you follow
  4758. >Everything here looks like the same cut out of crystal, so you’re surprised anyone can make their way through it
  4759. >It’s not even a chaotic layout, it’s overly organized, to the point of absurdity which makes it just as confusing to you as anyone else
  4760. >But, then again, it is her castle
  4761. >After a few more doors, you all enter a very spacious dining hall, which of course is covered in crystal
  4762. “Of for the love of-” With a grunt you snap your fingers and warp the crystal
  4763. >The once gleaming colours dull to a much more pleasant shade, one that no longer offends your eyes
  4764. >Of course if you changed too much then Twilight would get into a huff, and demand you change it back
  4765. >Your bickering would have the chance of distracting the doctor and causing her to make a mistake, a chance you were unwilling to take
  4766. >Even if you didn’t disturb the doctor, Twilight would nag into your ear endlessly
  4767. >Her complaints would mean nothing to you, so nothing would change
  4768. >But eventually, Anon would wake from his injuries
  4769. >And you’d prefer it if the first sight he saw wasn’t you and Twilight bickering
  4770. >You do get some sidelong stares from the ponies but you merely hold your claws up in mock surrender
  4771. “I was just trying to make it so that the walls didn’t burn our retinas out while we ate” You give them a sincere grin and float over to a random chair
  4772. >Twilight lets out a sigh, and scans the room once more
  4773. >She turns quickly, but not quick enough for you to miss the smile that tugged at the corner of her lips
  4774. >Now the walls looked like well painted, roughly hewn stone, there was no shimmer or shine to indicate that they were crystal
  4775. >It would honestly make your dining experience easier
  4776. >Speaking of, as soon as the thought crossed your mind, a door slammed open
  4777. >Rammed through it was a small trolley, packed with eight plates
  4778. >That seems a few too many
  4779. >Yourself, Twilight, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, Rainbow Dash and Applejack
  4780. >Oh and two clones of yourself just appeared
  4781. >How could you have forgotten them, that makes eight
  4782. >”Hey, where am I supposed to sit?” A small voice pipes up from the ground
  4783. >The three of you look down to see a small dragon
  4784. “Ah yes, Twilight’s little dragon helper, brother thing. Apologies” With a flourish of your wrist one of your clones is dismantled limb by limb and carefully placed in a box and teleported away
  4785. >With an indignant grumble, the dragon.... Spike, that’s his name
  4786. >He begins handing out the dishes
  4787. >You and your remaining clone stare at your dishes, then each other’s dishes, and switch them
  4788. >They’ve both got lids on, so you don’t actually know what your clone had, but your gut told you that she had a bigger portion
  4789. >”Um, actually Eris, one of these is for Light Sutures” You flick your wrist and dissipate the other clone
  4790. >You didn’t like sharing the spotlight anyway
  4791. “Light who?” Your mind snaps to the golden needle and thread cutie mark and you interrupt Spike before he can answer you “Oh, so that’s her name”
  4792. >The girls share a look and raise their eyebrows at you
  4793. >”Eris, we’ve been talking about Light Sutures for the past four hours” Twilight says, she’s sat across from you
  4794. >Was she just naturally sat at the head of the table, or was she just as far from you as she can be
  4795. >Who are you to judge either way
  4796. “And I’m sure it was a fascinating conversation but I was… otherwise occupied” You push off the table and lean your chair back and forth
  4797. >You weren’t even using your magic, having it wobble back and forth, messing with its centre of gravity, risking falling back
  4798. >It was the simple things that had the most chaotic possibilities
  4799. >”What in the hay is that supposed to mean? Cause ah’m a might bit confused as to what ya’ll coulda been doin'’” Applejack tilts her hat back to get a better look at you
  4800. >Still tilting on your chair, you absentmindedly detach your talon from your body and begin filing your claws against the table
  4801. “Well if you must know” You give a teasing shrug and relax your legs, letting the chair come down hard on the floor “Me and Anon were sharing some… quality time”
  4802. >You exaggerate the words, and the resulting expressions are priceless
  4803. >Twilight and Pinkie are confused, Applejack and Rainbow are trying to figure out what you mean, and Rarity has remained poised, save for a raised brow
  4804. >“Now darling” The flair she puts behind the accentuation and clear enunciation of her words really do help to build up her posh persona
  4805. >Even though you’re pretty sure she was either born and raised in Ponyville, or somewhere that is just as backwater
  4806. >”Such words can leave so much up to the imagination” She gives you a playful smirk, you’re glad at least one of them can keep up with your teasing “Whatever is the context of this little… private soiree you two indulged in?”
  4807. >You give her a full-toothed smile
  4808. >Admitting it wasn’t easy, but she was becoming endearing to you
  4809. >Which only made remembering what you had done to her hurt a little bit worse
  4810. >Heaving a sigh your shoulders droop, and of course she immediately notices
  4811. >Before she can say anything you force the word out
  4812. “I’m sorry”
  4813. >It was hard to build up to it, but you found saying it to not be as taxing as you expected
  4814. >Confusion crosses everypony’s (and dragon’s) face, but before any of them can question you, you speak up again
  4815. “I sent you on.... a bit of a wild ride, on my first day here, Rarity” She finally catches your meaning, but relaxes into a smile “So, yeah, sorry, I uh-” Why did no one tell you that saying sorry and apologising are two entirely different beasts
  4816. >Before you can sputter any further, the fashionista shushes you “I need not hear anymore Eris” Looking up, you see she’s still wearing her smile “I have heard sparse tales of what you’ve done since that day, but from what I did hear and…”
  4817. >She pauses and her breath seems to hitch in her throat as she finds the words
  4818. >”... and after what I saw with you carrying Anon in such a way” Her words cause your chest to shudder slightly “I can see that you’re not wholly a miscreant”
  4819. >You and her share a smirk at her use of ‘wholly’
  4820. >”Uh, that’s great and all but, do I get an apology or…?” Turning to Rainbow Dash you quirk an eyebrow at her “You know, for stuffing me in a paint can!” She’s put her forehooves on the table now and lets out a frustrated snort
  4821. >”Ah reckon ah’d like an apology for what ya did to the farm’s roads too”
  4822. >”Well, you did take Sugarcube Corner, but you also put it back, so I’m fine”
  4823. >You turn to Twilight and raise an eyebrow, wondering if she’s been offended in some way that you can’t remember
  4824. >Honestly you don’t even remember most of these
  4825. >Nonetheless, you apologise to the best of your abilities
  4826. >While Rainbow huffs at your attempt, she does sit back down, and Applejack begrudgingly accepts the flimsy apology because she can tell that you’re at least being honest when you say it
  4827. >”So, are you girls done? Cause your food’s gonna get cold” You perk up at Spike’s words and remember the dish in front of you
  4828. >Your round of apologies had apparently distracted all of the girls as well, as they turn back to their food as well
  4829. “So what did you cook for us Spike?” You enquire as you lean towards him
  4830. >”Pasta alfredo with mushrooms, we’re having baked alaska for desert” He beams a proud smile at the girls, Rarity from one side gives him a head pat while Twilight does the same
  4831. “If it’s all the same to you, I think I’ll have the desert first” Before anyone can object, a flash comes from under the lid covering your plate
  4832. >Pulling away the lid shows a miniaturised landmass, covered in snow and forestry sitting atop a tectonic plate
  4833. >Grabbing the cutlery, you cut through the snow and rock and begin your dish
  4834. >The ponies all stare at you in perplexion
  4835. >Twilight is the first to recover, simply sighing and shaking her head and choosing to dismiss your chaos
  4836. >If your dad’s been here as long as you think, then you’re glad at least one of them has figured out the best way to stay sane around you is to ignore what you do
  4837. >Eventually the rest of them pick up their cutlery and begin eating
  4838. >For a while, the table goes quiet, everyone content to sit in silence
  4839. >The silence is heavy, everyone has a look of uncertainty or worry on their face, and the dinner and desert plates are finally pushed away after an hour
  4840. >Pushing away her own plate, Twilight quirks an eyebrow at your torso and her horn lights up
  4841. >A weight lifts from your chest and the saddlebags begin to float towards her
  4842. “Nope” Quickly snatching the saddlebags out of the air, you hold them out to the side
  4843. >Another you in a bellhop uniform takes them and disappears in a flash
  4844. >”Eris, those are Fluttershy’s” You see her horn light up again as she tries to find and teleport them back to her
  4845. >She’s got next to no chance of actually achieving it but you let her burn herself out anyway, it’s amusing to watch if nothing else
  4846. >When she finally releases her magic, she shoots you a small glare and you simply shrug
  4847. “Sorry Princess, but Anon wanted them, I’ll bring them back when he’s awake” You feel a painful twitch in your stomach as your thoughts go back to him
  4848. >”It’s been five hours now, maybe it would be best if we... left?” Pinkie says assuredly “I mean I did kind of leave Mr and Mrs Cake on short notice” She shrinks into herself with a guilty smile
  4849. >Twilight, now showing clear signs of fatigue, shakes her head slightly and leans over to Pinkie
  4850. >Wrapping the pink mare around the shoulder, Twilight gives her a hug “That’s ok Pinkie, you can go back, I’ll be sure to tell Anon you came by if he wakes up tonight”
  4851. >You grind your teeth a little at her use of ‘if’, it made you uneasy
  4852. >All the other girls begin stretching their legs and necks, each giving their own explanation to why they need to leave as well
  4853. >Still tired, Twilight half-heartedly nods and waves them all off as they begin filing out of the castle
  4854. >Gathering up the plates, Spike slowly begins packing them on to the cart
  4855. >With a snap of your talon, the plates come to life and begin floating off to clean themselves
  4856. >He gives you a wayward glance but you wave him off
  4857. “You patched up Anon after he got blasted by Celestia, consider it thanks for that” The dragon nods at you and scurries after the others and out the door
  4858. >Most likely gone to relax now that his chores are doing themselves
  4859. >All the boring paperwork your dad showed you back then, regarding the accord you had to agree to nearly drove you mad
  4860. >So when he wasn’t looking, you’d pulled the air down like a pair of curtain blinds and watched what Anon was doing and saw him being tended to by the dragon
  4861. >Your thoughts are interrupted by Twilight’s sigh “Eris, I- I’m so sorry”
  4862. >That immediately grabs your full attention
  4863. >Turning your head down, you tilt your head at the mare and she continues “If I hadn’t tried to stop you from going into the Everfree then maybe…” She heaves a heavy sigh as if attempting to unburden herself “...maybe none of this would be happening”
  4864. >You’re surprised to say the least
  4865. >Of course you expected Twilight to feel some guilt, but you didn’t expect her to admit it to you
  4866. >Either way, it’s not like her apology is gonna fix the problem so there’s no point addressing it, but there is something else you want to talk about
  4867. “Why was he in there in the first place?” Your question catches her off guard as she snaps to attention “Are you really saying that none of you would have been better suited to- whatever you had sent them in there for?”
  4868. >Guilt washes over Twilight’s face as she retreats into her seat “The Everfree… wasn’t the original decision”
  4869. >Again, you tilt your head, how much had these mares been hiding
  4870. >Twilight drops her head and casts her gaze to the floor “Anon’s miserable here” You suck in a lot of air and let it out in a hiss “It’s nothing to do with you!” She quickly rectifies the statement and you let out a snort “It- it’s nothing to do with any of us… I don’t think”
  4871. >Her uncertainty at her own words does not give you any confidence
  4872. >”Let me start again” Shaking her head, Twilight takes a deep breath while bringing her hoof to her chest, as she exhales, she extends her hoof out “Anon… misses home- I think”
  4873. >You recall your time back in the shared gallery, it would have been good to get some more answers from Anon there
  4874. >But that opportunity has sailed, so you’ll have to wait for him to wake up
  4875. >”I know he wouldn’t admit it if I asked so I came up with a plan, so to speak” She rubs one of her forelegs with the other awkwardly “I thought, with how Fluttershy is, Anon might be willing to let down his defences” A sorrowful look crosses her face
  4876. >Clearly she’s regretting how this plan of hers has turned out
  4877. >”I just wanted to know what he didn’t like about this world, so I could help him acclimate better. Then the girls joined in and well, Rainbow Dash and Applejack had ideas” Your starting to regret apologising to those two now
  4878. >Twilight horn lights up and, after a few seconds a large, brown leather bound book floats into the room
  4879. >She flips it open and hovers it in front of you
  4880. >Skimming over the book you spot a few details that stick out, something to do with increased sightings of Everfree creatures
  4881. >”There’s… something in the Everfree, that’s scaring the animals out to the near the border of the forest and the town” Twilight pulls the book back to herself, and a look of worry crosses her face “Fluttershy was already going there, so Applejack and Rainbow Dash suggested she take Anon with her”
  4882. “How would that have helped get Anon to talk?” The logic of these ponies baffled you, and that’s really saying something
  4883. >Twilight’s eyes twitch with regret as she closes the book “In Applejack’s own words ‘colts like strong mares, show him that Fluttershy can handle the Eveerfree and he’ll be more likely to spill the beans on what’s troubling him’”
  4884. >Unbeknownst to Twilight, you’d hovered a copy of Applejack’s hat above her head to complete her little monologue
  4885. >Luckily, you were a master of poker, so you’d just managed to keep a straight face
  4886. “I’m still confused as to why you couldn’t just, you know, ask him yourself? Even if he was defensive you could have just poked him about it” Twilight’s shrinks into herself at your words
  4887. >”I couldn’t because I still don’t know how to send him home” With a burst of magic, a small purple book is teleported into the room and floated over to you
  4888. >Hesitantly, you take it in your talon and flip it open, several runes and magic scripts have been written, re-written and crossed out
  4889. >Some of the pages shows where she was pressing the quill to the page with far too much force, anger clear in the sloppy, frustrated writing
  4890. >There’s barely enough to fill three pages
  4891. >”I’ve been trying to recall how the spell felt, or worked but nothing I’ve come up with has seemed right” She buries her face in her hooves and wings and you spot a small shudder run up her body “He won’t tell me what’s wrong, even when I can see it, and I can’t send him home. I’m -I’m worth-”
  4892. >Before she can finish the word you’ve wrapped an arm around her
  4893. >It feels a lot more awkward than when you did it with Anon, but she looked like she needed it
  4894. >How do ponies comfort each other again
  4895. Stiffly you pat her on the back and give her an uncertain “There, there” and retract yourself just as awkwardly
  4896. >Twilight bursts into a fit of giggles at you and slowly rises back up, wiping the tears that had begun to form “Y- you REALLY are new to this aren’t you?” Another wave of giggles escapes her and you can’t help but join in
  4897. >With a shrug from you, she finally begins to calm down, and rest her chin on her hooves
  4898. >You feel like you should say something, so you just go for the first thing that comes to mind
  4899. “I don’t think he’s as miserable as you suspect” Twilight sluggishly turns to you, the fatigue having finally hit her fully “After all, he’s got us… right?” It feels weird to say ‘us’ but not bad
  4900. >A genuine smile spreads on Twilight’s face and she wraps her hooves around you “Thanks, Eris” You’re completely still at her touch
  4901. >Yep, you definitely prefer it when it’s Anon
  4902. >With a yawn, Twilight begins heading out the door too “I’m gonna check on Light Sutures before I go to bed, make sure she has everything she needs. Feel free to stay the night if you want”
  4903. >Another yawn and a flash of magic later, and you’re left alone in the room as the doors creak shut
  4904. >Stay the night, but where would you stay
  4905. >A certain part of the castle suddenly springs to your mind and you can’t help but smirk
  4906. >Teleporting yourself, your feet and tail don’t make a sound as they hover just above the floor
  4907. >Anon’s room
  4908. >It’s much darker than you expected, and with very few pieces of furniture
  4909. >Luckily there is a light source
  4910. >A crackling bottle of lightning
  4911. >Floating over to it, you pick it from the bedside and hold it up
  4912. “He actually kept it” Seeing the little trinket you’d made in his room makes your chest feel a little warm
  4913. >The lightning hasn’t lost any of its energy, still violently striking against the glass rapidly as it tries to break out of the prison you put it in
  4914. >Softly smiling at the jar, you gently place it back where it was
  4915. >With your lion paw, you begin rummaging through your fur until you find a jagged piece of dense rock
  4916. >Pulling out the shattered fragment of Luna’s throne you place it next to the jar of lightning, the pale white cascades over the stone and illuminates its deep azure colour
  4917. >Well, if you’re going to be staying the night, you’d prefer to be close to Anon, so you begin floating out of the room and towards where Anon is being treated
  4918. >Before you can get far though, two shivers runs up your spine
  4919. >One is icy cold, the other burning hot
  4920. >Twitching your ears, you faintly hear the beating of powerful wings approaching, reaching a crescendo as they pass over the castle and fade into the distance
  4921. >Towards the Everfree
  4922. >So even they felt Luna’s door opening
  4923. >As much as it pains you to leave Anon before he wakes up, you want answers
  4924. >Making a break for the main door, you fly out into the open air, and slowly follow behind the twin princesses
Anon Discord Eris Twilight Sparkle RGRE

A Lifetime of Dreams

by Sunn

The Eris Plan

by Sunn

Breaker of Day

by Sunn

Last Immortals

by Sunn

The First Day

by Sunn