Equestria from Dust

Celestia awakens to see an empty world, white sandstone stretching the horizon. She wanders the world as she builds it from her imagination, filling it with life, but as time passes, the world that she created begins to seem like little more than a lucid dream, conjured from the dust.

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15. Part 15: Fragment

Fragment

 

 

Equestria from Dust, by soundslikeponies

 

Discord’s condescending applause echoes throughout the wide, empty chamber. Celestia and Luna tense as he approaches, the copper glow of the mural at their backs.

Discord laughs at their expressions. “I say, you were awfully fast at finding me.”

Luna stares carefully at him, her wings flared as she sets herself in an aggressive posture, the kind with which you’d greet a highway bandit. “Are you really here?”

Discord suddenly freezes. With his paw and talon, he loudly pats himself down, staring at his own limbs in mock surprise. “Why, yes, yes I think I am,” he says, shortly before breaking into a grin and shrugging. “Honestly, I don’t know what I did to warrant such defensiveness at the mere sight of me.”

“You attacked our kingdom and abducted our students,” Luna reminds him, unable to keep the bitterness from her tone.

Meanwhile Celestia’s stare bores into Discord. Her steady expression doesn’t waver as he turns to her. “And what of you, other Princess?” Discord asks. “No royal greeting?”

Celestia’s eyes narrow, trying to discern what his game is. It suddenly occurs to her that Discord isn’t where he’s meant to be. “You said you’d be in your dream realm,” Celestia says. “You lied.”

“Not a lie,” Discord says, wounded. “More of a... bending of definitions. See, this is my dream realm.”

Luna glares at him. “We can’t be in your dream realm, we’re in Celestia’s—as you’re probably well aware of.”

A smile snakes its way up Discord’s lips. “Well...” He brings a paw to his chin, stroking his beard. “Hmm... how do I put this?” He glances up, his toothed smile lit with an idea. “You could say magic reacts strongly to strong emotions, right? When you’re angry, it’s a storm; when you’re calm it flows like water; and when you’re focused it’s sharp like a knife, right?”

“Yes, that is true,” Celestia says, hearing Luna groan at her humoring of him.

“Then what does that say about magic? Well, if you’re a short-sighted fool who takes things as they’re presented to them, you might say that magic is a whimsy mistress. But, the thing is, that wouldn’t be far off.” Discord slithers his way over to her, rising up then bending down over her, his stare boring into her. “Where does magic come from?”

Celestia remains unflinching even as he bears down on her. With the distance between them so short, she sees something in his eyes she didn’t before: an intelligent, calculating mind buried somewhere beneath the insanity.

Luna’s sharp voice snaps his gaze away from her. “You clearly think you know, so get on with it!” Her hairs bristle from seeing Discord so dangerously close to Celestia.

Discord looks at her and smirks. His relaxed smile only serves to harden Luna’s glare. “Some ponies seem to think magic stems from emotion.” He shakes his head and chuckles. “But oh no, that’s not right at all. After all, if it did, every hot headed unicorn would be the next master of the arcane. Not to mention Celestia here, unbending and made of stone, wouldn’t be able to light her own horn.

“No, see, I’m afraid that magic responds to will. Strong emotions can drive passion, which can drive will, but a calm, collected individual,” he says, pointing to Celestia, “such as yourself, can just as easily control magic through force of will. And it’s your will which is the most powerful in Equestria. It’s your will that created the sun, the mountains, and the oceans. And it’s your will that ultimately created me.That’s why I’m here. It’s where I was born.”

Celestia feels a lump form in her throat. “I had no part in creating you.”

“But you had every part!” Discord says with a boisterous laugh. “Of course it wasn’t intentional, but ultimately I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for how strong your will is.”

Celestia forces down the rising sickness in her stomach, the rising feeling that he is telling the truth. “How?” Celestia demands.

“I was once a part of your mind. Essentially, all things are, are they not? If you were the one who thought of them. Only, they were born new. Born clean. Born pure.” Discord’s eyes narrow. His facade drops to show a bitter anger. He holds his mismatched lion paw and eagle claw out, their palms facing upward. “I was not.”

Celestia grows uncomfortable under his accusatory glare, feeling vilified by his gaze. “What do you mean?”

“I remember when you wandered an empty plain for ages. I remember when you created the mountains and oceans. And I remember how you carried yourself throughout everything, up until recently. You became very good at crushing your emotions.” Discord’s tone is measured and weighed, like a finely sharpened point, meant to pierce her. “But you didn’t crush them. You didn’t crush me. And as time wore on you suppressed more and more of your feelings until I began to take shape in your mind.”

Celestia stares at the ground, deep in thought, her eyes flicking back and forth. “So then... that dark cloud that left me when I collapsed in my study was you.”

Discord’s lips curl up into a wolfish grin. “Correct. At that time I was but a part of that, and I had not yet taken a form.”

Celestia shifts, her mind racing as she tries putting more pieces together. “You’re the one who has been driving the dark spirit from my dreams mad.”

Discord clutches his stomach and lets out a loud, barking laugh. “I’m afraid I’m merely a result of that, not a cause.”

“Why then?” Celestia asks. She glances back at the mural, at the dark and light guardians who stand watch over the world. Despite the plainness of their black and white coats, they stand out to her more than anything. “What are they?”

Discord glances over her shoulder at the mural. “How many times have you seen that painting?”

Celestia’s eyebrows furrow. “This is the third time. Why?”

Discord chuckles. “Oh, no reason.”

“I know that not to be the case,” Celestia replies, glaring. “What are they? Why has the darker spirit been trying to hurt me?”

Discord laughs as if she told a joke. “You repel yourself! You don’t even know who you are, what you are, or why you are.”

Celestia ignores him and presses on. “Why are you in my dreams?”

“Because I don’t have dreams of my own.” Discord gestures to the cavern around them. “This is my dream world. I’m still tied to it.” His smile fades and turns to a scowl. “Still tied to you, unfortunately. As are the rest, probably.”

“The rest?” Luna says, cutting in.

“I only took form as a part of that darkness. The rest is scattered all over Equestria, but most of it is still in Celestia. Oh lonesome and dark, Celestia,” Discord says, grinding out each word of the last sentence with glee.

“Why are you telling us all of this?” Luna asks.

Discord crosses the floor in an instant, darting through the air like a needle, but stopping in front of Luna. He cups her face in his talon, squeezing her cheeks, and she’s powerless to stop him. “Entertainment, dear,” he says, voice thick with sarcasm. “I like seeing the looks of confusion on your pretty little faces.”

Luna struggles out of his grasp and glares at him, flaring her nostrils. Celestia steps forward, ready to intervene. Folding her wings at her side, Luna forces herself to appear calm. She gives Celestia a pointed look, telling her not to interfere.

Celestia hesitates, but eventually steps back.

Turning back to Discord, Luna clears her throat. “Our students.”

Discord arches an eyebrow, an amused smile still on his face from watching their little interaction. “Yes?” he says. “What about them?”

Luna’s lips form a tight line. “What will it take to get them back?”

Discords eyebrows rise, and he seems genuinely baffled by her question. “I don’t know, really. Haven’t given it much thought.”

“Show me them,” Luna says. She bites her lip, knowing she’s in no position to make demands.

Discord gives her an amused look, before releasing a chuckle and shaking his head. “Very well.”

He holds out his paw. A purple glow surrounds it, giving rise to an shining orb. An image flickers to life on it, showing a pair of fillies trapped in a small, dark room.

Luna’s breath hitches in her throat. “Rose Flame?”

One of the fillies in the purple orb blinks, before turning to face Luna.

“Luna?” Rose asks, her voice coming from the orb. “Princess! Is that really you?”

The other filly in the orb turns to give Rose a strange look, only to follow her eyes to see Princess Luna.

“Luna!” Storm Gale shouts, grinning ear to ear at seeing her.

Celestia’s ears perk up at the sound of Storm’s voice. “Storm Gale?” Celestia calls, rushing over to the orb. She sees them through the orb, sitting there in the empty room. “Are you two all right?”

“Uh, yeah,” Storm answers. “At least, I think so. We haven’t eaten for what feels like days, but we don’t really feel hungry for some reason, either.”

Celestia lets out a breath of relief, some of her fears from when they disappeared lying down to rest. “That’s because you’re in a dream realm. But we’re going to get you out.”

Storm’s face scrunches up and she gives Celestia an odd look from the other side of where the orb leads, wherever that is. “A dream? But then how—”

The magic scrying orb in Discord’s palm pops while Storm’s still speaking, cutting her off. The glow around his paw fades as he retracts it and makes a clucking noise against his teeth, shaking his head. “Time’s up. You now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they’re safe. At least, for the time being.”

Celestia stares at his paw, hoping a lost hope that she’ll hear a few more words from their lost students. When it finally settles in that she won’t, she meets Discord’s eyes from under the roof of her brow, sending him a fiery glare. “What do you want?” she spits, sick of trying to play his games.

“You two have asked a dozen or more questions since you saw me,” Discord says, not reacting well to Celestia’s anger as he stares at her down his snout. “It only serves right that I get to ask you some of my own.”

“You’re leveraging us for asking them, now?” Luna asks, her lips stretched thin. “What about us being ‘entertaining’ to you?”

Discord chuckles heartily at her. “There’s no such thing as a free question. They all must be paid, either with answers, silver, or pain.”

“I do this and you’ll free them?” Celestia asks. Discord nods. She takes a deep breath, calming her features and puffing up her chest. She eyes him for a moment, wondering not for the first time why he’s doing all this. “Ask,” she says, finally, and with great reluctance.

Discord takes a breath and opens his mouth, a talon pointed towards the ceiling as if he’s about to ask something. But he pauses as if he forgot the question. His brow knotting with a troubled look, he begins pacing. He mutters to himself, too quietly and incoherently for Celestia or Luna to hear.

He stops. He turns to Celestia, his lips pursed as he stares at her. “Since you created me...”

Celestia watches him trail off, the silence growing too long for her liking. “Yes...?”

“Should I technically call you mum?” Discord asks.

Celestia blinks, then blinks again, not sure whether or not he’s being serious. “You were an accident.”

Discord throws a paw over his heart and cries, “Oh, mum, it pains me to hear you say that!”

“Do you have another question?” Celestia asks, huffing.

“Oh, come now, I was only trying to lighten the mood.” He pauses, seeing both of them scowling. “Very well then, I do have another question,” he says, clearing his throat and moving on. He turns to Celestia, with another question for her. “I have been wondering why you decided to help them.”

“Them?” Celestia asks, raising an eyebrow.

“Your subjects, of course,” Discord says, shrugging. “You made it a point to remain hidden from them, knowing that once you revealed yourselves things would only change for the worse for you. So why?”

“The truth is I don’t know why I did what I did back then.”

“Well of course not. I have most of your memories. What would be the point of asking you a question you know the answer to?” A frown slips across his face. “Now, you’ll have to actually answer the question if you want me to uphold my end of the deal.”

Celestia bites the inside of her mouth, trying to quickly think of a better answer. “I did it because I felt responsible.”

“That’s better,” Discord says, “but I’m looking for a bit more detail.”

“I did it because I saw that young colt shivering and starving,” Celestia answers, without thinking. “The ponies in his village were driven north by the battles in the south. If I hadn’t ever created the three pony races, he wouldn’t have been born just to lead such a short, painful life. I felt responsible for his pain.”

“And the boy and his village lived thanks to your intervention,” Discord says, smiling. “Doesn’t that give you pride, or something like that?”

Celestia shakes her head.

Discord stares at her and taps his chin thoughtfully for a moment. “Very well, let’s move on to a related question. Why do you continue to give up your personal freedom for their sake?”

Celestia shifts. “I...” She tries grasping for a reason. It’s as futile as trying to grasp air. “I don’t know.”

“Then think,” Discord hisses.

Celestia stares at the ground and bites her tongue. Somewhere in her there’s a deep, almost instinctual urge to protect the pony races. She can feel it, but it’s impossible to put into words. “I can’t,” she answers, finally. “I feel bound to help them. Like it’s the right thing to do. I don’t know why.”

“Right thing to do?” Discord says, incredulously. “Who could possibly judge you? There is no right or wrong for you, only what you decide. If you decide to wipe everything clean and start again, who’s to say different? Who would know?”

Celestia glares at him, the sides of her mouth tugging downward into a distasteful frown. “I would know. And I am the one who decides what I consider right or wrong.” Her eyes narrow. “Your line of questions is running thin.”

An ugly grimace forms on Discord’s face. He combs the white hairs of his goatee with his claws, giving her a thoughtful stare. After some time, he stops. “Three,” he says, holding up as many fingers. “I get three more questions, then your little friends go free.”

“Deal,” Celestia says, before he might try to rescind it.

Discord grumbles slightly. “Very well,” he says, his eyes shifting to Luna. He turns to her, smirking. “How does it feel living in your sister’s shadow?”

Luna gives him a glare that would melt stone. “I live in no one’s shadow.”

“No? You think ponies are grateful when day ends and night comes? Do you think they are grateful when the cold seeps in, the world goes dark, and predators come out to prowl?” Discord asks, wearing a taunting smile. “I’d imagine after several centuries that the attention and praise she receives must dig at you. You, who were her equal for so many centuries prior, now a step down. A mere reflection of her.”

“I am no reflection,” Luna says, the hairs of her coat bristling. “I don’t need acknowledgement to reaffirm the ways in which I’ve helpedour kingdom.”

“Well, if that’s what you tell yourself,” Discord says, slowly. “Maybe you’ve even told yourself that so many times you’ve started to believe it. The noble, humble protector: who requires no reward but knowledge of a deed well done.”

He walks up to Luna, throwing an arm around her. She stiffens at his contact. He ignores it, continuing, “But I know, believe me. When there’s a celebration in the princesses’ honor, it must sting seeing so many pairs of eyes watching her, and almost none of them watching you. So, I ask my question again, reminding you that if you don’t answer honestly, I won’t keep up my end of the bargain.”

Luna stares at him, seemingly caught in an internal struggle. She sighs, letting go of her anger. “Sometimes, I resent them,” Luna says, reluctantly. “Other times, I feel jealous of my sister. But I’ve never blamed her for it.”

Celestia steps toward Luna.

“Please, don’t speak, Celestia,” Luna says, before she can say a word. “I’m fine.” Her tone holds a sense of finality to it, silencing Celestia. She turns back to Discord. “You have two more questions, serpent.”

“I’m only about an eighth serpent, actually,” he replies.

“Not to me, you aren’t,” Luna says, coldly.

Discord wrinkles his nose at her with a small amount of disdain. “In that case, I think I’ll ask Celestia my second question, instead of you.” He stares at Celestia, considering. After a moment, he asks, “Do you believe in destiny?”

Celestia immediately shakes her head. “No, of course not.” She pauses, her lips pressed thin. “But you already knew I’d answer that, so why ask?”

“Do you make your own decisions? Or are others making them for you? If so, who?” Discord stares past her at the mural, his face brightly lit under the golden glow of its luminescent paint. His eyes focus on the spirits. “Is it those two?”

Celestia steals a glance over her shoulder. All the beasts and ponies and other paintings seem to face inward, pointing at the two spirits.

“How long do you think they’ve guided your hoof?” Discord asks, his gaze still locked on the painting.

Celestia breaks away from it, casting her sight off into the dark distance. “They were not always there.”

Discord arches an eyebrow. The way he looks at her makes Celestia feel foolish. “Do you know that?” he asks.

“No,” Celestia admits, begrudgingly. “Are they what you would call fate, then?”

“Fate?” Discord asks, placing his paw over his chest and raising both his eyebrows at her. He lets out a chuckle. “You think I, of all creatures, would believe in fate? Fate is a set of rules. I abhor rules. They’re the death of fun and all interesting things. I like to think that destiny can be shaped and changed through our actions—even if that’s not strictly what it means.”

“Why believe in destiny, then?” Celestia asks.

“I think we’re all destined to have to eventually make certain choices in our life, don’t you?” Discord circles around her, his tone taunting. “At some point or another you were destined to create other intelligent life. And after that, I think you were destined to make a choice whether or not you would stand with them. Now, you’re here. And you’re at another choice in your very long, winding road of life, and my last question.”

Discord’s smirk widens, his jagged fangs poking out from behind his lips. “What would you do if I killed your precious brats?”

Luna stomps the ground. Her legs spread, ready to charge Discord, as she bares her teeth. “If you harm a single hair on them, I’ll singe a thousand of yours, you vile mongrel.”

“We had a deal,” Celestia says, narrowing her eyes at him.

“Oh, well then I guess that makes me a liar. Who would’ve thought?” Discord chuckles and shakes his head at Celestia. “Honestly, so naive, Celestia.”

Celestia’s eyes narrow further as she adopts a stance similar to her sister’s.

“So then,” Discord says, smiling down at her. “How do you answer?”

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