Quick note: I had anticipated updating this chapter about a month from now, but I suddenly caught the writing bug and just went for it. Strike while the iron's hot, I say! I don't know when I'll have a writing streak like this again, so I may as well go with it! Longer author's notes at the bottom of the chapter.
Zecora eventually returned to her home when the snow came, and it was not a moment too soon, for the night brought a heavy snowstorm which made parts of the Everfree impassible to anyone who didn't possess wings. She kept her hut warm with the cauldron boiling and the log fireplace. She melted snow everyday to get water and she lived off supplies she had gathered in the summer months; roots and wild nuts and berries and some things from Ponyville. Like Fluttershy, she occasionally used eggs to supplement her diet but Zecora collected them from wild geese and ducks, making sure not to take more than she needed and leaving a nest alone entirely if there were only one or two eggs.
The eggs were running low. She kept them in a pot of ash and dirt to preserve them for longer, but soon a diet of roots and nuts would be all she had until the snow melted and she could walk into Ponyville. She was just beginning to unearth the last egg for supper when she heard a distinct knocking at the door through the wind.
“What on earth? Who could that be. In this cold they'd surely freeze!”
She moved over to the door. “Who goes there?” she called cautiously.
“I'm a trapper!” came the reply. “We were tracking an animal in the woods and the storm hit. Can you let us in?”
Zecora balked. She wasn't fond of trappers. They still existed, she realize, but she questioned their reasons for doing so. Trapping was originally done to protect Equestrians from large and dangerous creatures, and that had been back when villages were very close to the wild. In fact, most ponies had once lived the way Zecora did, living off the land and not taking more than they needed to survive, but when dangerous wild animals such as timber wolves had started invading their camps, trappers and hunters were suddenly popular occupations. Modern day trappers sometimes had legitimate reasons for bringing down an animal. It could be carrying a deadly disease or had developed a taste for pony, but more often than not trapping was an excuse for poaching. Sometimes animals were sold abroad on the black market or worse, killed as curios. At one point in Equestrian history, snakeoil ponies claimed that manticore claws were an aphrodisiac and the demand boomed. It was only through conservation efforts that the manticore bounced back from extinction.
Despite all this, the zebra didn't feel she could refuse anyone shelter in this storm. She just hoped they hadn't caught anything and had it with them. She slowly opened the door a crack, keeping it on the latch so the wind wouldn't burst it open. She was met with a shivering mare and an even colder looking centaur.
“You may come in, this weather's foul. It is no good for folk to prowl.”
“Thank you!” said the mare, as Zecora opened the door, trying not to let it slam. “That's really good of you, lady!” As Zecora closed the door against the wind and locked it, she got a better look at the mare and her companion. They were both wearing snow boots and the mare removed her hood and moved closer to the fire.
“M'names Carmarella,” she said. “This here's Ox.” The zebra looked them over. Carmarella had a jet black mane, and her white coat was dappled with grey. Ox seemed a stoic sort of fellow, and like most centaurs was of stocky build.
“My name is Zecora,” she replied. “Why were you out in such bad conditions? What were you after, and what is your mission?” She spooned out some of the soup in her cauldron and handed the bowls to the weary travellers.
“You talk kind of funny, you know that?” grinned Carmarella, then she held up her hooves. “I mean no offense by that, y'understand. It's just unfamiliar to my ears. Since you ask, we were tracked a beast somewhere about a mile from here. We haven't spotted it yet but Ox here spotted its tracks in some mud about 2 months ago. At first we thought they were the tracks of multiple animals, because the way they looked didn't make much sense. But then we realized they repeated, and always in the same way. Anyways, storms came through, and the tracks are wiped out, but it was really strange. It was like a big cat, eagle, dragon and goat or sheep had all decided to stitch themselves together on one animal. Weird, huh?”
Zecora's blood had already run cold midway through Carmarella's story. Ox was quiet, except for the slurping sounds as he drank his soup.
“We think we may be dealing with some kind of chimera,” continued the earth pony. “Must be a pretty rare beast, since most chimera are kinda hybrid-like. Hey! Since you live around here you wouldn't happen to have seen anything...unusual, have ya?”
Zecora shook her head. “I have not seen of what you speak, and I have been holed up a week.”
“Yeah, well, if you happen to spot anything, we're currently based in Ponyville. Once the storm passes and we can be on our way, we'd really appreciate it if you brought any information on this to us if you happen to see anything.”
Zecora nodded, though she had no intention of doing so. Once the path back to Ponyville cleared and she could go to Ponyville for supplies, she would tell Fluttershy of this matter. Perhaps it was nothing to worry about. After all, they didn't seem to know who made the tracks.
“I have never heard of such a beast, not even from my home in the East. What is the danger to us folk, is the creature likely a joke?”
“You mean, like foals and stuff playing practical jokes? Nah, we don't think so. The prints were too neat. Besides, what foal would be out here on its own? Unless it had nutty parents. We're just checking the tracks out. If it's a new creature then we have to be sure it isn't dangerous to the residents of Ponyville.”
Zecora refrained from pointing out that the Everfree was a long distance from Ponyville, and that the creatures that lived here had more of a right to walk freely than any ponies that entered it. She was worried she might draw suspicion. Instead, she poured her own bowl of soup and added the egg, then said: “You are very welcome to spend the night, or until the storm clears and all is bright.”
“Thank ya, kindly!” said Carmarella and she and Ox began unwrapping their rucksacks and laying out sleeping bags. Zecora was thankful for an excuse to retire to her own bed, but she lay awake worrying as her impromptu visitors snored.
Fluttershy watched the snow fall down. The flakes seemed massive, and the white blanket outside continued to pile up, foot after foot. She was very thankful for a log fire and warm blankets and hot cocoa.
So was Discord, and he loved to add chili to his own mug of the sweet drink. He sipped the delicious mixture and stared out the window along with Fluttershy. He wasn't sure what she was thinking about, but she seemed to be staring into space as well as the snow.
It was boring. Being stuck in the cottage was boring. He still wasn't well enough to walk around on his hind legs, and his bones ached, especially in cold weather, which is what they were doing at that very moment. They felt hollow, and raw and sometimes the pain felt like it was pulsating.
He was very fond of the body sock Fluttershy had given him for Hearth's Warming for this very reason. That and it was all sorts of colours, none of which seemed to go together.
Discord's memory wasn't any better with regards to large and life-changing events, but he could remember general information. He knew what ponies were, and he knew his name, and he knew what things were. But beyond that he had to admit he didn't know much about himself, other than the pegasus had found him starving in the woods with a head injury, and he still didn't understand why she had taken it upon herself to look after him rather than depositing him with a doctor. There were other things he didn't remember. For example, he had been extremely surprised when Fluttershy showed him how to use a camera. He was convinced that some sort of magic was involved with producing the picture, but she had explaining to him it was merely technology, and then she had looked slightly uncomfortable. He also didn't know what Hearth's Warming was, and he wasn't sure if that was merely a pony custom that he was unfamiliar with or if it had been wiped from his memory entirely.
Unfortunately, he did feel extremely empty. Some days there would be an overall feeling of emotional numbness, and at first he had chalked it up to boredom, but after a while he began to realize it was something deep and intangible. He really did need to know more about why he was here.
He slithered over to the armchair Fluttershy was perched on and said “boo” quietly as his head popped up next to hers. Even though he had been really quiet, she still started. He grinned.
“What's up, Discord?”
“Welll….” he said, running the word off his tongue delicately, “I was hoping we could...talk.”
Fluttershy put her mug on the coffee table. “What would you like to talk about?”
“I think you know.”
She sighed. “Look, Discord, there are still some things I can't tell you, but what I will do is tell you as much as a possibly can, okay? You seem well enough now to discuss them.”
“Will you ever tell me the things you're keeping secret as well?”
“I...I hope I'll be able to.”
“I see.” It sounded like she wanted to but had no say in the matter herself. That was interesting. “Okay,” he folded his arms. “I'm listening.”
“Well...where to begin? Um, Harry and I found you in the woods.”
“Wait...who the heck is Harry?”
“Oh! Harry is a brown bear. He's hibernating now.”
“Oh.” Discord relaxed a little.
“Yes, without him I wouldn't have been able to carry you back. When we found you, you were starving to death…” She trailed off because she wasn't sure she wanted to mention the fact that Discord had attacked her at this point. Instead she continued, “when I got you to the cottage I checked you over and you had some injuries, so you were taken to the hospital and we removed the object from your head.”
“What was the object?”
Fluttershy squirmed. “It...it was some kind of crystal.”
“Interesting. Do go on.” She looked at him. His expression didn't look sarcastic, as she had feared, but instead he was now rapt. “After your surgery you were brought back here so I could look after you, but the doctors at the hospital said that it was likely you were going to suffer memory loss. Most ponies...most beings suffer from temporary amnesia, but very rarely, some can have their memories lost forever. I—I'm hoping that you are in the former category.”
He was silent for a moment, then said “How did the crystal get into my head?”
“You told me one of your memories involved a crossbow and two ponies. Is it possible that's what happened?” She hoped to coax the memory out of him rather than planting it there. She didn't want to patch together a story that could end up being false and have him think he was remembering stuff correctly when he really wasn't. It wasn't her place to do that.
“Hmm. It's possible. But I don't know who those ponies were, let alone why they would shoot me in the head.” He stroked his beard with his paw and thought for a bit. “Would I be able to see this crystal?”
“Maybe. It's still at the hospital. I could ask.”
“Now,” he said, “If you can't tell me who asked you to continue to look after me, then can you at least tell me why said person did?”
What was it Princess Celestia had said? She wasn't to mention her name because it might disturb Discord. But she hadn't said that she couldn't relay other information. “She told me that you used to be someone very dear to her.”
Discord knitted his brow and Fluttershy leaned forward hopefully in case he remembered anything else. “So this person is female.” Fluttershy wondered if she should have revealed the gender of the mystery pony, but decided that was vague enough and nodded.
“If I'm someone very dear to her, or, at least used to be, then why I am I being kept here instead of with her?”
“I---I honestly don't know,” said Fluttershy, telling the truth. “I wish I did.”
“And you didn't think to question her?”
“I didn't think I could!”
“Aha!” said Discord, rubbing his hands together with glee. “Clearly this is a person in a position of authority, otherwise you wouldn't feel so embarrassed about asking.” Fluttershy gawked. Despite Discord's amnesia he seemed to be analysing everything she said very intently and trying to put the pieces together like some sort of intricate puzzle.
“So, this person in authority used to care about me, or in her words I was 'someone very dear to her' and you don't feel like questioning them because you feel you have to do this.”
“I don't just have to do this. I want to do this!”
“Mmmhmm. And what happens to me after I can walk properly again? Or I regain my memories?”
“Well, that depends...”
“On what, exactly?”
“On how you feel about the situation.”
“Fluttershy, am I a prisoner here?”
She looked up suddenly. “N—no!”
“So I can just walk out that door any time I feel like it?”
“Well, um, I hope you wouldn't?” She pulled at her mane nervously. It was a habit she'd never grown out of.
“And why is that?”
“You're not well for one thing, and it's very cold outside and...”
“So when the snow goes away, and it's warmer and I can walk, you'll let me go on my merry way?”
She was silent.
“Didn't think so.”
“You aren't a prisoner, Discord. When it's Spring we'll go for a walk. Some fresh air would do us both good and you'll need to exercise your limbs to improve your health.
“But what if I want to go for a walk by myself, Fluttershy?”
“Um, I'm not sure about that. Obviously I would want you to be able to, but...”
“But Miss High and Mighty probably wouldn't allow it. Goodness. It sounds like the person in charge is some kind of Lord or Lady.”
“I'm just scared you'll get lost or hurt yourself,” squeaked Fluttershy.
He laughed. “Well, I'm not one-hundred percent now, but I'm pretty sure once I'm healthy I won't need a little pegasus too look after me. Besides...” his voice grew low, like a soft purr… “If I want to walk out that door in the future, how are you going to stop me?”
Fluttershy thought fast. If she admitted to him that there was a way to stop him, then he inevitably would feel like he was being kept here against his will. On the other hoof, if she said he was free to go, he might vanish and never come back. And if he regained his powers things would get even more complicated.
“Discord, I'm hoping that you'll choose to stay here with me,” she said. “Especially since you can't remember many things. I'd like to help you. Like I said, I'm your friend, and I hope you consider me your friend too.”
“I wouldn't know. As far as I know I might have never had any friends.”
“I'm sure that's not true.”
But he had already changed the subject. “How long did I have that thing in my head for before you found me?”
Okay, now this was a difficult question to answer, and she didn't know how to word it without risking a lot, or outright lying to him. On the other hoof, he seemed to remember so little that surely it wouldn't hurt to tell him? She tried to weigh up the options quickly in her mind.
“Over a thousand years,” she said.
Discord laughed. “Very funny, now tell me how long I was in that forest for before you found me. Or at least give me an estimate. I know you weren't there the whole time, but I know there are ways to figure this out.”
“That's the correct number of years,” she said. “Or near enough.”
“What? Are you nuts, mare? Nobody lives for over a thousand years except for powerful magic wielders and spirits. It's utterly impossible.”
“It isn't.” She decided she needed to tell him the truth and steeled herself. “You are the Spirit of Chaos.”
He stared at her, then burst into hysterical laughter. “Oh, Fluttershy!” he cried, wiping tears of mirth away from his eyes as he held his ribs. “You looked so serious when you said that! Almost as if you believed it! Oh man, where's the camera?” He began looking around the room for it. “I need to get that expression before the moments gone...”
“But I'm not joking! You are the Spirit of Chaos! You've been missing for thousands of years! Ponies thought you were dead but you were living in the woods with brain damage.”
“Oh yeah? Prove it.”
“I can't! But if your memories return then maybe you'll be able to tell me more about it, because apart from the identity of the person who used to know you, I've told you everything I know! Except of course about the part where you attacked me.
He was still.
“You're really convinced about this, aren't you?”
“I know it's a lot to take in,” said Fluttershy. “I was reluctant to tell you because I wasn't sure how you would react to it.”
“Okay, well answer me this Miss Flutter Nutter. If I am indeed some powerful Master of Chaos, then how come I don't have any magic, hmm?”
“I think...that may have been part of the brain damage.”
Now he looked angry. “How do I know you're not just trying to screw with me?” he growled.
“Why on earth would I do that?”
“I wouldn't know. I don't know who you're working for or what your motives are.”
“I honestly don't have any motives other than wanting to see you get better, and hopefully that you'll value my friendship.”
“Because that's what you do.”
“Because that's what I do.”
“Look, Discord,” she said. “I know this is hard, and I haven't given you much of a reason to trust me, but can you honestly say I've given you much of a reason to distrust me? Is there anything I've done to you to hurt you or cajole you into making you uncomfortable?”
He stared at the floor and sighed. “No...I guess not. There was that time with the pills...but...but you were just trying to help me.”
She moved off the armchair and walked over to him, placing her hoof gently on his lion paw. “I know this seems confusing and frightening,” she said to him. “I'd feel exactly the same way if I was in your position and I think you're doing marvellously.”
“Yes,” she said softly. “I don't know what I'd do if I had to go through what you're going through. I'm not as brave as you are. I—I'm scared of lots of things.”
He looked down at her, and slowly turned her small hoof in his paw, so that he was holding it, then knelt down to her level. “But you're not scared of me, and I'm supposedly the Spirit of Chaos.”
Fluttershy looked up at him. She found the image of the broken and scared draconequus before her hard to reconcile with what she'd read in the history book. She wondered again how much of it was accurate, and made a mental note to see if she could discuss any of it with Celestia. She'd have to ask Twilight; she felt nervous about asking the princess personally.
Discord gently let go of her hoof, then leaned across towards the coffee table. “Heh, my cocoa has gone cold,” he said. She smiled softly.
“I can heat it up again, if you like.”
“Oh, would you? I like it to be hot and hot at the same time. You know, like spicy hot with the chili and temperature hot? And maybe with marshmallows?”
She giggled. “I know,” she said.
They spent the rest of the evening in front of the fireplace, with Fluttershy reading on the armchair and Discord curled up on the bean bag. He felt a lot calmer.
Eventually he heard gentle snores coming from Fluttershy's direction and he knew she was asleep. He put another log on the fire and the ferrets chirruped in pleasure at the burst of heat. Then he padded over to the armchair and stood on his hind legs to get a better look at the pegasus. She had fallen asleep with the book on her chest. He read the title: Nesting Birds of the Shetlands by Barra McColtsky and chuckled. Fluttershy sure was into animals.
Despite topping up the log fire, there was still a chill in the room and he looked about for a throw or blanket. There was one on the sofa bed that he rarely slept on, and he dragged it over to the armchair, gently draping it over the sleeping pegasus. Almost without thinking, he pushed a strand of mane out of her face with his talon.
“I guess you saved my life, kiddo,” he said, then he stood there for a bit, and after noticing that Angel Bunny was giving him the stinkeye he retired to the bean bag and drifted off to sleep.
Unfortunately the night was not a peaceful one for the draconequus. His brain burned with feverish dreams; the first nightmares he'd had since the crystal was removed from his head.
He was in what looked like a forest, and he was running, but his legs were small and stumpy, and not the length they were now. He was reasonably sure he couldn't run in his modern state anyway, but the short legs exacerbated the problem. He was running on all fours, and the branches of the underbrush were hitting him in the face as he ran as fast as his legs could carry him. Then the scene changed. He was laying next to an animal that was larger than him, and crying. His paws and face and the fur of the animal were covered in blood and he kept burying his face in the larger animals fur and crying some more, until he heard the sound of a twig snap and turned and ran again.
Discord woke up screaming. The ferrets took flight up the stairs at the sound of the draconequus's terrifying cry. Fluttershy woke up with a yelp and pedalled her legs in the air like a bicycle, causing her to lose her balance and fall off the armchair. “Discord!” she shouted, when she had gotten her bearings. “Discord! Wake up! You're having a bad dream!” She ran over to him and shook him. “Wake up!” His eyes suddenly flew open and he stopped crying out, but his breathing was shallow. As he realized he was in Fluttershy's living room he sighed with relief.
“Are you okay?” asked Fluttershy. He looked up at her concerned face and said “I think I remembered something.” The pegasus felt like her heart was in her mouth, but she said “Yes?”
“Yeah, I was in the woods, and...and there was blood.” Fluttershy felt her breath hitch. “I was running from something, and...there was this kid. I think he was me, and there was another animal that looked sort of like me, only she was dead. She was dead, Fluttershy!” To her surprise he began weeping. “It was horrible. So much blood.”
“Shhh,” said Fluttershy, stroking his back. “You're safe now. It was just a bad dream.”
“Was it, though?” he sobbed. “Or was it a memory?”
“I—don't know for certain,” she replied. If it was a memory, she was surprised by it. She had expected his first longer memories to be of his time as ruler of Equestria or when he knew Starswirl and the princesses. This sounded like it went back much further than that. She sat down next to him on the bean bag.
A thought suddenly occurred to the draconequus. “Are there others like me, Fluttershy?”
“No,” she whispered. “At least...not now.”
“They killed her,” he whispered. “Stallions killed her. They came, with crossbows and they fired at us and I escaped. I escaped, but they tried to look for me but I hid in a tree. Then…then...” he broke down sobbing again.
Fluttershy hugged him and whispered reassuring words next to his ear. Discord couldn't bring himself to tell the pegasus the rest. He had watched them tie the dead draconequus by her hands and feet to a pole, and carry her off with them. He wanted to cry out to her but they would have heard him, so instead he sat in the tree and cried. The dream was so horrible. He could feel and smell everything as if it was real as being awake. “I don't ever want to be near stallions, Fluttershy,” he croaked.
“I know that dream was horrible, and I'm very sorry that happened to you, but not all stallions are bad ponies,” she whispered.
“They shot her.”
“Ponies are peaceful in modern day Equestria,” said Fluttershy. “We don't go around killing sapient creatures- or most non-sapient creatures for that matter, though some ponies eat fish and crayfish.”
“You eat fish?” he seemed disgusted by the idea.
“Well, I don't. But I do have some in storage to feed some of the animals. The ferrets need protein.” She decided not to tell him that he had happily gobbled up fish when she had brought him back to the cottage in a feral state.
As if on cue, the ferrets returned to the living room and resumed their warm spots on the bean bag next to Discord.
Fluttershy continued. “What happened over a thousand years ago wouldn't happen today. Over centuries equines have learnt to live in peace with other races and work together. In fact, someone I know is friends with a baby dragon!”
Discord began to relax a little and Fluttershy could feel his body slowly melting into the bean bag, but he was still wide awake. “I—I don't think I want to go back to sleep, Fluttershy. Can I have some cocoa?”
She patted him on the back and told him of course he could.
Zecora had the trappers with her for almost a week. It was a strain on the zebra. She was a loner, and used to doing things her way in isolation. Doing things alone helped her concentrate on spellwork and she found that difficult with the trappers constantly wanting to talk and eat. She ended up cooking for three daily instead of one, so she was relieved when the deep snow finally began to melt and the air became slightly warmer.
The trappers seemed relieved too. She grinned. She had a feeling they would get tired of eating nuts and roots every day.
“Thank ya kindly for letting us stay, Miss Zecora,” said Carmarella. “Now that the storm's cleared we'll be back to tracking that animal and making sure it's not a threat.”
I need to tell Fluttershy, and soon, but I will wait until the time is opportune. She wanted to make sure the trappers were long gone before she headed into Ponyville to gather supplies and talk to the pony. She watched them disappear down the path, then made herself some breakfast.
“Whaddya think of that ol' witch Ox?” Carmarella was saying to her companion as they trudged along the path. Ox grunted.
“Yeah, I agree,” said Carmarella. “She was kinda weird. But seemed nice enough and at least we got food and shelter out of it, but that cauldron stuff was freaky. Doesn't seem one-hundred percent natural if you what I mean. Not like when unicorns do their stuff.”
“Hmm,” said Ox.
“Anyway, let's see if we can spot any more of these tracks. Hopefully the melting snow hasn't wiped them all out. Shame it was so deep. The creature might have left tracks in the snow. Hey...what's that?”
Ox looked up to where his companion was pointing. There was a log in sight, and some of the snow hadn't completely melted around and on top of it, but there was also something off-white poking out from under the felled tree.
Carmarella began digging at the snow and was surprised to discover there was a pocket under the log. She continued to move snow out of the way and then found what she was looking for.
“Will you look at that,” she said, grimly. “These remains look pretty old, but someone's been feasting on pony. Check here...the cervical vertebrae have been crushed; that must have taken some force. Kind of the calling card of a top predator, to go for the neck like that. Maybe a mountain lion.” Ox nodded.
“There's probably not mountain lions any more in the Everfree so that's another clue this happened some time ago. Poor fella or gal. Probably never saw it coming.”
“Fluttershy, it's all melty and slushy outside!”
“I know it is, but we can't go very far.”
Discord didn't care. He was practically wagging his tail at the thought of leaving the house for the first time since starting his recovery.
“We'll walk round the back. There's a field there, and the pond has frozen over but we might still be able to see some birds.” Discord didn't particularly care about seeing birds. He just wanted to be outside.
Though Fluttershy didn't have any boots that fit Discord, she had been able to knit him some fingerless gloves. She had considered not providing the latter option, until she realized his claws and talons would have probably rendered an entire mitten moot. She had also bought him an extra long scarf from the market
“Hurry up, Fluttershy!” he called.
She laughed. “Just a minute, Discord. She was struggling with her boots but eventually managed to get them on. Then they were out the door.
The field behind Fluttershy's cottage went on for a few miles. It was one of the reasons she had moved to the place. Apart from being quiet, plenty of birds and mammals nested there, and in the Spring, newts spawned in the nearby pond. Insects such as rare butterflies and moths made the field their breeding grounds and in the summertime, the amazing sight of hundreds of dancing fireflies could be seen during the evenings. It was also an ideal place to exercise animals, as long as she kept an eye on them, which was just what she intended to do with Discord.
They walked along together. Discord was silent for the first half a mile, padding along beside her. Then finally he said “I can smell the warmth.” and sighed happily. Fluttershy beamed at his reaction. They reached the pond. Most of the ice had melted but there were still a few thin shards floating on the surface. Fluttershy was about to push back the ice with a stick, to see if she could find any pond life, when Discord suddenly bounded forward. There was a loud shrieking and several wading birds took off into the air.
He laughed. A genuine laugh. A sound she had not heard from him in a while. Usually when he made that sound it sounded sarcastic, like an auditory shield. Discord watched the birds fly off and grinned. “Is there other stuff hiding in the grass?” he asked her.
“Um...there might be...but...”
“Great!” He bounded off ahead of her. While he wasn't quite running at full speed it was amazing to see. He had filled out and his ribs no longer poked through his feathery coat. His long body moved like a weasel's as he bounded through the grass. Suddenly he pressed his body low to the ground, and she saw his shoulders twitch. Then with a loud shriek of joy he jumped forward and six rabbits bolted out of hiding.
She wanted to scold him. She didn't like seeing animals being scared, but at the same time similar sorts of things had happened when she walked dogs behind her house. They had the instinct to chase, but very few of them actually meant to attack the birds and small mammals. Discord still seemed to be retaining some of those instincts from his time in the woods and she had to admit that she liked seeing him happy. She sat down in the long grass and watched him.
When Zecora reached the cottage she knocked on the door and waited. There was no reply. She knocked and waited again but once again there was no response. It seemed Fluttershy wasn't in. That was alright, she could leave her a note. She put down her bags of supplies, pulled a piece of parchment from her saddle bag and quickly scribbled a note:
His tracks were spotted in the woods. Be on your guard. I don't think they know what he is, but I just felt you should know.
She stuffed the note into Fluttershy's mailbox, hefted the bag of supplies back onto her back and made her way back up the path to the Everfree. She saw the mail mare coming up the path around the same time and nodded her hello to the grey pegasus who smiled back.
When Muffins reached Fluttershy's cottage she pulled out a medium-sized brown package and pushed it into the mailbox. It just about fit without her having to squash it, which was just as well as the package had “FRAGILE” marked on its surface with a red sticker. As she closed the mailbox and turned back up the path, she hadn't noticed that a small piece of parchment had fallen to the ground and was now blowing away on the breeze.
When Fluttershy and Discord returned to the cottage, he was grinning like a loon. To anyone who didn't know him it might have been a terrifying sight to see the rows of sharp teeth on display, but Fluttershy knew it was because he was happy.
“Can we go out again tomorrow?” he asked.
“I don't see why not! But right now I'd better let the chickens and ferrets out. They've been cooped up for a while too and I bet the chickens are dying to scratch at the dirt. Discord nodded, enjoying the breeze on his fur. He didn't care that it was still a little cold. Seeing the wide expanse of sky and the field had made him feel a lot better. Fluttershy let the chickens out and fed the ferrets and was just about to turn to go back into the cottage with Discord when she spotted the brown paper package sticking out of her mailbox.
“Oh my goodness!” she shouted, when she saw the address the package had been sent from. She quickly grabbed the parcel and carried it into the house quickly.
“What's got you so flustered?” asked Discord, who was now sitting at the kitchen counter and waiting for water to boil so they could have tea.
“This really shouldn't be out in the cold!”
He looked at her, deadpan. “Fluttershy, it's a box.”
“It's not the box, it's what's inside it! She closed the door behind her and joined Discord at the kitchen counter, sitting on a stool opposite him. She tore open the package and pulled out two pots. Though they had sealed lids, there were small holes punched in them. She peeled back the lids to reveal pots filled with moss.
Discord looked up at her with the same deadpan expression. “Fascinating,” he drawled. “Dead plant matter. Really, Fluttershy, I knew you were a bit odd but this is a whole new echelon.”
“It's not the moss, that's just to protect them.” He raised an eyebrow at her then turned his gaze down to look at the pots again. Then he noticed something was...moving inside them. A shiny almost chrome looking object poked through the bed of moss, followed by a small beady eye and a leg. Then the creature pulled itself out completely. It was about three inches long and a metallic green colour. Its head sported what looked like a horn that was almost as long as its body. It began to walk across the table on its six legs towards Discord.
“They're rhino beetles!” said Fluttershy happily. “And this is the female.” She moved the moss from the other pot gently and a smaller beetle crawled out. She still had a shiny, metallic green body but she lacked the horn of her male counterpart. “I'm glad they're moving,” said the pegasus. “It seems pretty cold for insects to be sitting outside in a box in this weather.”
Discord smirked. He decided that despite his misgivings, he quite liked how strange this girl was. He could have been saddled with a carer that was into doing taxes or interior decorating.
“What are you planning on doing with them?” he asked. “Are they abandoned pets?”
“Oh, no,” said Fluttershy. “These are from the Equestrian Entomological Society. They sent them to me because I wanted to study them.”
“So you don't just care for animals. You find things out about them?”
“Well one is very important to the other,” she explained. “The more I know about an animal the more I can find out how to care for a particular species.” Both beetles were pootling across the table now and seemed to be searching for something.
“I bet they're hungry,” said the pegasus. “I'll get them some fruit.”
After she had chopped some banana up and the tea was ready, she and Discord sat sipping from their mugs and watching the beetles eat happily. They were indeed hungry and the male even flexed his wings while taking chunks out of the fruit.
Discord had stopped looking at the beetles. He was looking into his cup of tea and running the tip of one of his furry fingers in circles over the kitchen counter top. “Hey, Fluttershy,” he said. “Can...can I come with you to the market next time?”
She looked up at him sharply. “Oh...um. I don't know if that's such a good idea,” she said.
“Well, um. Ponies might not be used to seeing...you.” She cringed as the words left her mouth. They sounded so awful.
“But I thought you said modern day ponies were fine with living alongside other creatures?”
“I did say that...but I...I'm not sure I'm allowed to take you to town.”
“Then why didn't you say that in the first place instead of claiming it was about how other ponies see me?” He looked angry now.
“I'm sorry,” she said. “I...I just meant that you're the only draconequus they will have seen in centuries, and I don't know how they're going to react to that, and I want to make sure that I can protect you.”
He laughed, but this time it was his sarcastic one.
“You, protect me? You're not even half my size!”
That hadn't been what she meant. She wanted to protect him emotionally. It was true that she had no idea how other ponies were going to react at the sight of Discord and if they frightened him or disturbed him it could lead to him being even more distrustful.
“I just mean...it might not be good for you at this point. Maybe later.”
He seemed to calm down a little. “So, eventually I can go to town with you?”
“I...I'd need to ask, but I want you to, don't get me wrong. I just think for the moment it might be good to have our walks nearby in the woods and field.”
Discord blew air hotly through his nostrils, then he got up from the chair, walked over to the front door and opened it. “You can't stop me from walking out this door.”
Fluttershy's heart felt like it was going to stop. Using the Elements now would be a disaster. Besides, she wasn't in danger, Discord was and if she called upon the others to use them then he might never trust her again. She chose her next words carefully. “Y—you're right, I can't, but I need you to trust me right now. I don't think this is the right time. I'll try my very best to get Pri—to get the person who told me to look after you to let you walk around freely when you're better. But you need to get more memories back first, Discord.”
He closed the door. At first she thought it was her speech that had gotten him to do so, but he was looking at her intently. “Pri…?” he asked her. “Were you by any chance about to say the word 'princess'?”
Oops. Her tongue appeared to have betrayed her several times over the past few months.
He chuckled. “So it's royalty that's keeping me here. No wonder you're afraid of questioning them.”
He thought for a moment. If he left the house and went to town, would he be arrested? Was Fluttershy keeping that information from him? The thought of being surrounded by heavily armoured stallions wielding spears sent a chill down his long spine and he gave the pegasus a wary look.
Fluttershy felt very frustrated that the peaceful mood had taken a turn for the opposite. She wanted more than anything to reassure him that he wasn't a prisoner in her home, but she was finding it difficult. Technically he was under guard, and she had been instructed that if Discord were to ever turn dangerous again that she had the right to protect herself and others, but she hadn't seen any evidence yet that he wasdangerous post-surgery. She knew he hadn't gotten all his memories back yet, and that when that happened, he might have a different opinion of her. She hoped that her offer of friendship was enough to mitigate that.
“Fluttershy, I get that there are things you're not telling me and that you're probably under Royal Order, but I'm finding it pretty difficult to do as you asked me to and trust you.”
“I know,” she said softly. “As I said, I promise I'll do my best to change things. Remember, you were someone very dear to the Princess.”
He grunted non-committally at her, removed his scarf and mittens and flung them on the floor. “I'm going to bed,” he said. Then to her surprise he trudged up the stairs and into the bedroom, slamming the door. She sighed with frustration, rubbing her hooves on her temples. Discord had just locked himself in her bedroom and had decided he was going to sleep in her bed. Fine, if he wanted to behave like a stroppy teenage colt two could play at that game. She had nothing to be sorry for and there was no way he was going to let her feel guilty. She drank the rest of her tea, then placed the moss in a glass bowl along with the leftover fruit and pair of beetles.
Discord flung himself hard onto the bed. He was furious with the pegasus, but he was also angry that his brain wasn't working fast enough to recoup his memories. He felt like a scared and lost child, and the only memory he could recall was of being a scared and lost child. He sat up and looked around the room. He wanted to kick something, or shred the mattress again. He spotted the wardrobe. Maybe he would run his claws down it and enjoy the satisfactory feeling of shard of wood peeling back. He began walking over to it, but made the mistake of trying to do so on his hind legs and tripped. He hit the wardrobe head first and papers and books rained down on him from above.
He rubbed his sore head and groaned, then looked down at the documents surrounding him. He spotted his name at the top of one of the sheets of paper and began reading. It was his medical record. There was nothing untoward in the report. No mention of guards or royalty or being kept prisoner. All it detailed was stuff Fluttershy had already told him.
He peered down at the books that had hit him and a sudden grin spread across his face. “Well, well,” he chuckled. He was also amused to see there was a magazine along with them. After flicking through it, he picked up one of the books and brushed it off. The embossed title read:Love on the High Seas by Passion Promise.
He turned to a random page and read the words:
He pulled her close to his keel and she felt his feathery body embrace her as his beak groomed her mane.
'Oh, Gerard,' she whispered. 'I never knew it could be like this.'
'Nothing could keep us apart, my lady. I will do anything to make sure of that. It's why I became a pirate.'
Discord snickered. This was so badly written. Is this what mares were reading nowadays? He lay back down on the bed and turned to another page.
'My love,' said Gerard. 'Your mane shines as bright as the sun and you make my heart soar higher than any wings could hope to take me. Will you be my wife?'
'But no community would ever marry us!'
'We don't need a community. We will get married on the high seas and I will guard you until the end of time, my dear heart.'
Discord made gagging noises and tossed the book aside. He felt very tired all of a sudden and remembered that he had come up here to nap. Though reading the medical records and the amusingly trashy books had cheered him up somewhat, he still felt a little down. He decided not to think about it for the moment. The fresh air had likely tired him out and soon he had drifted off to sleep.
That evening the first warm front blew through Ponyville. The pegasi had been working hard to clear the remaining winter clouds and the warm winds were a very welcome addition to their work. Discord had left the window in Fluttershy's room open just a crack to let some air in, and when the front began to blow through he sighed in his sleep. The smell of Spring approaching calmed his head and soothed his soul and he began to dream.
Fluttershy was surprised to find Discord in the kitchen the morning, and she was even more surprised to see he had a smile on his face. She had expected him to still be angry with her, and had even worked herself up preparing to have an argument. So it was both welcome and confusing when Discord turned to her with a grin and flipped a pancake in mid-air.
“You're awake!” he said happily. “I made breakfast!”
“I—I can see that.”
“Have we got any more bananas? They'd be good with the maple syrup. And marshmallows if we have any. And maybe some hot sauce.”
She didn't question his odd tastes any more, and she climbed up onto the stool. “Pancakes would be lovely,” she said, “but...um...no hot sauce or marshmallows for me, please.”
He flashed a smile at her and began spooning out the pancakes. He even put some banana to one side for the beetles.
After a moment of chewing and swallowing happily, the draconequus said: “I had another dream last night. I think they are more memories! Only this time they were good ones!”
“Discord, that's wonderful! What was the dream about?”
“Chaos,” he said, grinning. Fluttershy's fork stopped midway to her mouth.
“Oh?” she said.
“Yes, and Fluttershy it was beautiful. You can't even imagine. I felt it running through my veins and it was like I was part of the stars, and the earth and everything.” His eyes were bright and alive. She didn't think she had ever seen them look so full of life. “I was actually able to run among the stars and move them across the sky. And then I floated back down to earth and landed in a swimming pool that was miles across, only it was filled with Neighapoliton ice cream instead of water! I swam up and down the different flavour stripes, only I was in a race against super fast turtles and then I lay on my back and looked up at the sky and a giant crocodile floated across it and ate the moon! It was glorious!”
Fluttershy shifted in her chair. She wasn't sure she would describe what had just happened as glorious. Seeing a huge monster eat the moon was likely to frighten most ponies, including herself, but she didn't say so. He looked so happy.
“But it was the feeling more than anything,” said Discord, stuffing another forkful of pancake drenched in hot sauce into his mouth. “Oh, and I was travelling all over the world! I could go wherever I wanted. And...” he leaned towards her and waggled his eyebrows. “There were ladies...”
Fluttershy felt a blush spread across her face, but she giggled nonetheless. “Ladies?” she asked, suddenly fascinated at what Discord was telling her.
“Oh yes. All sorts of ladies. One of them even became ruler of Anugypt.”
“Was she a jackal princess?”
“Oh, goodness, no! She was a many-tailed cat, and very beautiful.” He grinned at the pegasus. He had noticed the blush on her face. She didn't ask him if he'd had...encounters with any of these ladies.
“But, Fluttershy! It was amazing, and I'm so excited about getting the rest of my memories back! I can't wait!”
The pegasus was surprised. Discord had dreamt about chaos, and though it sounded kind of scary, there was no mention of the horrible things described in the history book. Was it simply that he hadn't gotten those particular memories back or was the book wrong?
Discord finished his pancakes, licking a mixture of maple syrup and hot sauce off his plate. “Fluttershy, it's really warm outside. Can we go for a walk today? I know we can't go to the market but can we go somewhere different, like the woods?”
“I don't see why not,” she said, smiling at him. She was glad that he seemed happy enough today to let the business with the market and the princess go. “I just need to feed the animals first then we can go.”
The weather was warm enough to walk without winter gear, and Discord and Fluttershy started down the trail. At first the pegasus was nervous that they might run into somepony on the way, but they managed to walk along the path of the open trail without seeing anyone before they turned into the wooded area.
There were quite a few birds singing already, announcing their joy at the sudden warmth. Some of the trees had buds growing on them, and some types of plants had even started blossoming. Along the way, Discord continued chatting eagerly about his chaotic dream.
“There was a river made of melted mozzarella,” he said. “And on the river were anchovy boats, where the anchovies had a hollow in their back and mice could sit in them and steer them, but the anchovies were alive and they even smelt of anchovy. The air was filled with the smell of cheese and anchovy!”
Fluttershy didn't think that sounded like a very pleasant smell but she smiled anyway.
Eventually they came to a clearing in the woods, where the sun shone through. There were even wildflowers beginning to grow in the clearing, hardy plants that seemed to be able to endure the colder spells.
Discord began bounding around, the way he had done in the field.
He ran around on all fours, not seeming to care that months earlier he couldn't stand on his hind legs.
"Hey, Fluttershy!" he yelled over and over and each time she looked up he flung his body into the wild flower patch and cloud of pollen rose up into the air.
She laughed at his silly display, and laughed even harder when the pollen started making him sneeze.
Suddenly she saw a flash of colour fly over her head, then another and another. The colours stopped moving and landed on the nearby branch of a tree overhead.
“Flowerpeckers!” said Fluttershy.
“What?” said Discord, who thought he had heard Fluttershy say a rude word and he stuck a finger in his ear and rubbed it around to clean it in case he had misheard.
“Flowerpeckers,” explained the pegasus. “They're rare birds. I've only seen them a few times. They drink from flowers but I've never been able to get them as close as hummingbirds. I can get hummingbirds to sit on my shoulders, but Flowerpeckers are skittish. They must have just come back from their winter home in Mexicolt.”
“Hmm,” said Discord, looking up at the colourful birds. Their beaks were long, but unlike a hummingbird, slightly curved. “Hang on, let me try something. Come here.” He shook the pollen from his feathers, prompting another sneeze and beckoned to her. At the sound of his sneezing the Flowerpeckers flew upwards then resumed their spots on the tree branch.
Discord began plucking the flowers off the bushes and she felt his paw and talon begin delicately working them into her mane. She blushed, thankful that he couldn't see her face from where he was sitting. He continued to place flowers in her tresses. It tickled a little. She was surprised at such close contact from a male. Was he flirting with her?
Don't be stupid, Fluttershy. He's in your care, you shouldn't even be thinking such things, even if they're not from your end.
It was stupid to think it came from his end too, though. He was only putting flowers in her hair. Wait...why was he putting flowers in her hair? He didn't think that…
"There," said Discord, standing back to admire his handiwork. "Now, just wait a moment. Keep still,” he said. “I'll wait in the bushes.” He walked into a more wooded area and watched. She looked up at him and he nodded to her and gave her a thumbs up.
“Wha...” She felt a soft poke near her ear then noticed a flash of colour near it. Then another. Then suddenly she was surrounded by five birds and they were all drinking nectar from the blossoms in her mane. She laughed. Why hadn't she thought of this before? And how did Discord know this trick? She wondered if he'd encountered Flowerpeckers before on his travels. Suddenly he bounded out of the woods and the birds scattered.
“Hey!” said Fluttershy, but she couldn't help smiling.
“Sorry,” he grinned, in a way that implied he wasn't sorry, “but it was difficult to resist.” He lay down on his back and folded his paw and eagle talon over his chest. She didn't think she had ever seen him look so relaxed. He wiggled the toes of his dragon foot and twitched his tail back and forth contentedly. He sighed, enjoying the warmth flooding over his feathers and fur. He turned his gaze to the pegasus sitting alongside him. She was looking back up at the tree branches to see if the Flowerpeckers were still around. Her mane pushed to the right of her body and her shoulder was exposed. Discord turned onto his side. “Hey,” he said, “there's some sort of mark on your upper leg, just here,” he reached out with his paw to run his fingers down the scars and she turned at looked at him. Discord was just stretching out his fingers as if to show her what he meant when he saw them line up with the three lines dug into her skin. She watched as the carefree smile on his face changed to an expression of horror and she realized that he had figured it out.
He sat up quickly.
“Discord...” she began.
“Why didn't you tell me?” he growled.
“It doesn't matter,” she said.
“Really? It doesn't matter enough for you to hide it from me that I attacked you?”
“You weren't in your right mind! You were starving!”
“Is that supposed to make me feel any better? The fact that I was starving? That means I tried to kill and eat you, and if I was starving for that long who else did I eat?”
“There's no proof you ate anyone!” she shouted.
He looked sick, then he started talking rapidly: “Fluttershy, we have to go up to the Everfree. Take me to the Everfree. We can go up there today, the weather's good. I need to go.”
She knew what he wanted to look for and shook her head. “We can't go up there today. It'll be dark in a few hours and it would be hard to find our way back.” She didn't want to go up there. She didn't want to upset him further. He was bafflingly mercurial and she wondered if his moods were unstable because of the injury he had suffered to his head.
“But I need to,” he said.
“We'll go up there eventually,” she said. “I have a friend who lives up there, but it's too late today, and I want you to calm down a little before we do go.”
“Can we go tomorrow?”
“Tomorrow's too soon. I need you to be calmer.”
“I'm calm,” he insisted. “I'm very calm. I've never been so calm in my life.”
She knew he was lying. His voice sounded rapid and clipped and he looked like he was shaking.
“We should go home,” she said, picking the flowers out of her mane. “I don't want you worrying about this. It isn't good for your recovery.”
He flopped down on his belly. “I feel sick Fluttershy.”
She moved closer to him and spread a wing over his back.
“Shhh,” she said. “It's okay.”
She rested her head on his neck. “We'll make sure it's okay,” she said softly.
The light was beginning to fade when they arrived back at the cottage. Angel Bunny clanged his tin plate against the floor angrily.
“You'll have to wait,” said Fluttershy firmly. She was in no mood for anyone's nonsense right now. She watched Discord carefully as he entered the house. He almost seemed to be dragging his body behind him. He curled up on the bean bag and closed his eyes, his ears flat against his head. She moved across to sit next to him.
“Listen, Discord,” she said. “Whatever happened, you were only doing what your instincts were telling you to survive.”
“So you're totally okay with sapient creatures killing other sapient creatures.”
“I'm not, but this is a different situation entirely. I look after all sorts of creatures in my adoption business. Some of them eat things no pony would eat, but I understand they have different needs. Sometimes I have to be careful, like if I'm looking after an owl and I have pet mice at the same time, but there's no way any of those creatures are evil. They're just doing what they need to.”
“But none of them killed anything sapient,” Discord pointed out.
“Well, no. But as far as we know, neither did you.”
He ran his paw across his face and sighed. “Can I have some time to myself?”
“Sure,” she said softly. She got up to prepare the feed for Angel Bunny and the rest of the animals.
Discord was quiet for most of the evening, but she stayed near him. She had gotten the beetles out of their enclosure and had a sketchbook in front of her. The female beetle was busy eating the remaining banana, which had turned to mush, and the male walked back and forth across the floor. Fluttershy worked quickly each time the beetle did a circuit.
“Um, excuse me, Mr. Beetle sir,” she said softly. “But if it's alright with you I'd quite like to draw your mesosternum. Would it be possible to turn onto your back for just a teeny tiny second?”
The beetle paused, then tossed its horn haughtily and walked away from her.
“Oh, okay then. That's okay...” said the pegasus.
Suddenly Discord was on his feet and he quickly picked up the insect and turned it on its back in front of the pegasus.
“Discord, no!” she cried.
“Why not? Isn't that what you wanted?” he asked her. “You're going to let an insect be that upstart towards you?”
“I don't care if he's upstart towards me. I only want to study him, not frighten him!” The beetle scrabbled, waving its six legs in the air desperately.
“I'm sorry, Mr. Rhino Beetle!” she said, and tipped him over so that he was on his feet again. The beetle spread its wings and took off across the room, away from the draconequus. Its wings made a sound like a motorbike. The female followed soon after.
“There was no need to do that,” Fluttershy told Discord.
“It's just a bug,” said the draconequus.
“It's a beetle, actually. Bugs have sucking mouth parts and beetles have jaws and elytra.”
“Whatever. A bug, a beetle. It's just an insect so what's the big deal. I turned it on its back because you wanted to draw it.”
“But you can't force a creature to do something it doesn't want to do! How would you feel if I made you do something that made you extremely uncomfortable?”
“Oh, Fluttershy, what would you know about being uncomfortable?” he spat.
“A...a lot, actually...”
He suddenly remembered what she had told him about her parents. “I—I'm sorry,” he mumbled.
“It's okay,” she said softly. “But maybe you should apologize to Mr. Rhino Beetle instead of me.”
“Oh...um. Okay.” He walked across the room to where the beetles were clinging to the window blinds. “Uh...bug. I mean, beetle, I'm sorry I turned you on your back. No hard feelings?”
The beetle squirted banana fluid at the draconequus. “Oh, for the love of...” he wiped his face but looked up sharply at the sound of a snort. Fluttershy's face was read.
“Sorry!” she squeaked, “It's just..." She smirked and snorted again and then laughed outright.
“Oh, very funny,” said the draconequus, placing his hands on his hips. “I do the polite thing and apologize to your vertically challenged friend here and he repays me by emptying the contents of his digestive system on my face. And you seem to find this hilarious!”
“I'm sorry,” she said again, trying to cover her mouth with her hoof, “I can't help it.”
“Oh? So you want to laugh eh?” he said, grinning. “Well wait right here!” He ran up the stairs. She watched, puzzled and wondered if he was going to lock himself in her room again. Instead, to her utter horror, he came down the stairs carrying one of her romance novels and the magazine she usually kept hidden away.
He laughed at her. “Shall we start with a passage from this fine novel?” he said, opening Love on the High Seas. He cleared his throat and began to read:
'Jasmine, you make me as happy as a songbird, but your lovely flank makes me feel like a rooster on the prowl!'
Fluttershy's face was burning.
Discord changed his voice to one that more feminine sounding:
'Oh, Gerard,' blushed Jasmine, 'Take me now, under the moon and stars while the Easterly wind is blowing!'
Discord switched to a masculine voice again:
'That won't be the only thing that--
“Stop!” shouted Fluttershy. She was sure her face was the colour of a ripe tomato now.
“But I'm not done!” laughed Discord, and he dropped the book on the floor and opened the magazine. Fluttershy suddenly wished that the floor would open up and swallow her.
"Ooh! Lookie here!" he grinned, turning the magazine sideways to a page with a male griffon. "He's got a pretty big wingspan, hasn't he...among other things."
"Give it back!" she shrieked in mortification.
Discord laughed. "But I haven't gotten to the end yet! I..." he glanced down at the pegasus and the grin on his face faded.
She was in floods of tears.
She screamed at him wordlessly in anger and fled to her room. Discord dropped the magazine, looking fearful and perplexed.
He didn't understand; she was just a normal girl as far as he was concerned. Why was the magazine such a big deal? He needed to know.
The bedroom was in darkness and he reluctantly pushed the door open a crack. The light from the hallway showed a pegasus sobbing with her muzzle buried in her pillow.
"Fluttershy, I was only teasing. Like with the bunnies. I..I didn't realize this was going to upset you that much."
She sobbed harder, her shoulders shaking.
He stood in the doorway awkwardly. He really didn't want her angry with him, but the crying made him feel even worse. Reluctantly, he made his way over to her and knelt by her bedside. He wanted to reach out to her with a comforting paw but thought better of it.
"Fluttershy," he said. "I...I honestly don't know what I did to upset you, but if you tell me I can make sure not to do it again?"
She took a deep breath and sniffled. "You...you think I'm a pervert," she said.
His ears pricked up in surprise and alarm. "No! What? Because you have some romance novels and a magazine? I just thought the writing was bad!"
"Because they're not about ponies," she whispered.
"So?" Discord was genuinely confused. “Ponies and other species live and work alongside each other, don't they?”
"I don't know anyone else who has an interspecies attraction," she said.
"Yes you do."
"You're talkin' to him."
She rolled over to face him. Her face was streaked with tears.
"Now, somehow I think I missed the memo, but in MY eon, interspecies relationships weren't a rare thing at all. Probably because there were a lot more races and species. Now there seem to be mostly ponies...so I'm guessing it's not as common a thing now?"
She nodded. "I...I guess so."
"Why does it not being common make it wrong?"
Her face turned scarlet. "I...I don't know." She was torn between wanting to talk about this with him, and still being angry with him that he had gone through her private things. He seemed to have a lot of wordly wisdom despite his childishness. He was a plethora of paradoxes.
"Have you ever told anyone about this?"
She shook her head. "I...I'm afraid about what other ponies would think."
"Ever met any hunky griffons?" said Discord teasingly, batting his eyelashes. "Maybe a big strong bird like King Grover?" Despite herself, she giggled. "Um...no," she said, smiling. "I...I don't go to bars or anything like that."
"Ah, I see," he said, remembering the romance novels. It was more likely that was the type of thing she was seeking. "I'm probably not to best person to ask for advice on the relationship side of things. What I can tell you, however, is that you're a normal, healthy girl who has needs and you aren't hurting anyone, so why the shame?"
She shook her head and shrugged. "I had a coltfriend but, it...didn't work out. I'm just not that attracted to stallions. We broke up. I'm worried I hurt him and that makes me a bad pony."
This time Discord did reach out to her and patted her back reassuringly. "Fluttershy you are not a bad pony, trust me on this. No one can choose who they're attracted to. It's a very....chaotic thing," he finished with a grin. "Also, if interspecies relationships are as rare as you say in modern day Equestria, then it's very likely anyone else who feels similar kinds of attraction keeps it hidden too. That's why the bars exist, but they might not always be safe for a mare on her own. My point is I'm sure there are others like you out there, but they're just as afraid to talk about it. But hey, if you ever do wanna talk about it, I consider myself the authority on such things." He raised his antlered head haughtily.
She snort-giggled at his bragging and his smug face. Discord could be so silly looking sometimes. He raised his eyebrow at her in confusion which made her laugh harder.
He was about to ask her what was so funny when he felt her arms wrap around his middle and her head rest against his chest. "Thank you, Discord," she whispered.
"Erm...you're welcome?" he said. At least she wasn't crying anymore. She let go and sank back onto the bed. "I...I'm really tired," she said. She decided she would calmly explain why going through someone's personal things was considered rude tomorrow. Right now she wanted to go to sleep with the comforting notion that someone understood her a little.
"Good night, Discord. And thank you."
"Good night, Fluttershy," he said softly as he pulled the door shut.
He walked down the hallway and stairs to his own bed made up on the sofa. He pulled the blanket over himself and sighed. He was pretty tired too. He placed his talon and lion arm on his chest and stared up at the ceiling. Then he held up his forelimbs and stared at them. Yes, they were very griffon-like and he did share some features with griffons, the talons especially. He had a feathery body and—why was he even thinking this?
He turned onto his side and placed his hands under his head.
Whatever, he thought. It had been a while, that was all. He'd dreamt about beautiful ladies he'd met on his travels the night before and he was getting stronger every day so it was only natural that his mind was travelling in that direction. When he had been an animal in the woods, he had rarely thought about his needs in that particular regard because he had been too unhealthy or desperate for food for it to be a priority. Now he was healthy, and growing healthier by the day. He pushed the thoughts out his his mind and curled up, pulling his limbs and tail close to his body and making himself as small as possible. Maybe the chaos would return when he walked in dreamland.
Carmarella and Ox arrived back at Ponyville that evening.
“We're gonna have to tell the authorities about that skeleton,” said the mare to her companion. “I dunno how long it's been up there but if we've got an even better reason to be up there trapping then I'm gonna take it.”
They were staying at an inn called the Hippocampus Arms. As they walked into the lower floor of the inn that served as a pub, the other patrons turned to look at them and mumbled amongst themselves. Carmarella ignored them. She walked up to the bar and sat down on one of the high stools.
“Some cider for me and my buddy here,” she said to the bartender, tossing some bits on the counter, then she leaned forward and dropped her voice so that the others wouldn't hear. “I'll give ya extra if you can do me a favour.”
The bartender was silent, until he saw the mare push more bits towards him. “I'm listening,” he said.
"I'm trying to get in contact with a guy called Sokolsky Snare. You heard of him?"
The bartender was silent. Carmarella sighed and pushed more bits across the bartop.
"Come back when it's quieter," he said. She nodded and sipped at her drink, but inside she was filled with glee.
Usually when I write about Discord's childhood his mother is literally Mother Nature and is more of a force than a corporeal being. In this story Discord actually had a draconequus mom. I'm not going to go too deeply into this because I think Alara Rogers has already done a much better job than I could ever do with regards to draconequus society and family units (see her stories The Last Draconequusand parts of Not The Hero.) What happened with Discord and the female draconequus are important to his psychology in this story though.
A keel is the breastbone of a bird, and is only found on birds that can fly. It's not a euphemism!
Flowerpeckers are real birds, but I'm kind of writing them as an imaginary Equestrian species. For one thing, actual Flowerpeckers are native to Australia and thus live nowhere near the pony equivalent to America. Also my versions have longer beaks and can fly in a way similar to hummingbirds.