The two ponies sat near the giant rock pile; it was one of the few sheltered places to hide and there was no telling where the beast was going to come from next, or what form of attack it had planned for them. Commodore was under no illusions that it would try something. As a hardened battle-worn stallion he'd seen his fair share of enemies. Things had been terrifying under King Sombra and it had taken months of fighting to regain peace.
But this...this was a different kind of horror. There was never any of telling what kind reality one might wake up to. The loss of control was terrifying. The sky was a different colour every day. Gravity would often disappear, and ponies would be flung upwards, until they hit a barrier in space and had to come back down again. Then there was the time no one could go outside without stepping into a dimension full of angry flying sharks. And all the while the beast laughed.
He turned to the grey, dark maned mare next to him. "I don't understand why we have to go to all this trouble. It would be easier to just kill him while he's down."
"You know we can't. Celestia wants him back alive."
"She's too soft hearted, that's why. For goodness sakes, how long has this been going on for now? We can't let it continue. There's no order, no society. No law. I don't want my foals to grow up in a world like that. Do you?"
Cleo shook her head. "'Course not. But we're under orders."
"Sometimes you have to question authority."
"Isn't that what started this whole mess?"
"Quite. But...this time we have the crystal."
Then the ground began to shake.
"Buck!" exclaimed Commodore.
The draconequus rose up out of the ground on a cloud of chittering, purple locusts. He was prone, with his chin resting on his balled up talon and a bored look on his face. He reached down for one of the insects and seemed to examine it.
"Any reason you wanna tell me why you're bothering me?" He was looking at the insect, but his words were directed at Commodore. "Not that I don't love it when you ponies try to fight back. I suppose it makes it more interesting, but you're always so easy to defeat. It would be nice to have a challenge for once..."
Commodore aimed the crossbow at Discord's head. It was now or never. Cleo and the rest be damned.
Discord sat up and laughed.
"Ha! It's like you..."
There was a dull "thunk" sound, then everything went white.
Discord flailed in confusion, thrashing his snakelike body viciously. He fell of his locust cloud with a thump and scrambled to his feet. He couldn't see or smell or feel anything except the blinding pain in his head. Confusion quickly gave way to terror, and he put his arms out in front of him instinctively to fight off whatever might be heading towards him and to feel where he was going. He could hear the mare shouting something at her partner. He didn't even care.
Another object whizzed by him , grazing the fur on his neck and he yelped in terror, stumbling forwards. His lizard foot caught on a tree root and before he could reach out to grab anything he could feel himself falling. He hit the ground and felt sharp sticks and roots poking into his body, then he began to roll uncontrollably down what he could only guess was a hill. He hoped beyond anything that it was merely a hill, and didn't end in a cliff. On the way down his feathers seemed to be picking up pieces of plant matter that were painful- things like thorns and brambles and the ends of broken roots that would be harmless enough on their own, but with the force his body was travelling at they may as well have been shot at him. When his journey finally ended, it was because he slammed into the base of a tree.
Discord winced in agony. The trunk had hit him straight in the ribs and the pain in his side suddenly felt sharp and evil. He hoped nothing was broken.
Broken? Wait, how could he be broken? He laughed a little then instantly regretted it when he felt the sharp pain wash over him once more.
When it subsided a little he concentrated his mental energy on healing himself, reaching for the comforting, swirling chaos that was always there for him. Nothing happened.
"C'mon..." he growled desperately.
He tried pooling his magic towards the source of his pain, but once again he couldn't get a grip on his power. Panic started to grip him.
"Okay...okay. Let's not jump to conclusions..."
He decided less talking was in order, as that hurt very much and perhaps laying still for a bit while he recouped would be the best course of action. He lay there, breathing as softly as he could. He realized with horror that he hadn't felt pain since he had been a colt. That had been before he had managed to harness and control the chaos, which he felt was a contradiction in terms. Chaos wasn't exactly something that took to being controlled, and it was actually less that he controlled it and more that he was it. Either way, the chaos had kept things like physical pain at bay, until now. Then he felt a metallic taste in his mouth and realized that he still couldn't see, and he started crying. He instantly regretted that too. He couldn't even curl up to make himself smaller because of the way his ribs were hurting him. He knew the ponies were still close, even though he couldn't smell them, and he flattened himself against the ground, hoping desperately that they wouldn't find him when he was down. If they had shot something into his head then who knows what else they were planning for him, so he kept very, very still until he felt the air start to change and become cooler, which could only mean night was falling.
He whimpered as the cold made his pain worse. It felt as if it was creeping into his marrow and he gritted his teeth, trying desperately to resist the urge to curl up into a ball. He picked the cruel, sharp splinters he had gathered on the way down out of his feathery body, almost welcoming the relief the lesser pain gave him as it dragged his attention away from his ribs. He moaned and rubbed his antlered head against the ground, sobbing when he couldn't be silent anymore. Eventually, his agony gave way to exhaustion, and he was still.
He didn't know how long he lay there, and it didn't matter, because after a few hours he couldn't even remember who he was or how he had gotten there.