1000 years ago
Celestia opened her eyes. She was positive a sound had woken her up, and she waited, bleary eyed until she heard her sister knocking hard on the door to her bedchambers. She pushed back the bed covers and groaned. What hour of the night was it? She knew her sister was more prone to sleepwalking and somnambulism but she didn't have to share everything with her!
The knocking persisted. “I'm coming” said Celestia. She pulled open the big oak door to see the face of her little sister. Luna looked troubled.
“What's the matter?”
“Sister, remember that story our nanny used to tell us about the poltergeist?”
Celestia sighed. Was this what she'd been woken up for? “Luna, we've been through this. There is no poltergeist. It's probably one of the kitchen boys playing a prank.”
“No it isn't! This time I saw it! I was in the library. I wanted to get a book out because I couldn't sleep again and then I saw books floatingacross the aisles.”
Celestia stared at her sister, deadpan. “So what? There are plenty of unicorns working at the palace. Surely it could have been one of them?”
“No, thou dost not understand! That's what I thought, until I followed the books round the corner and I planned to give the culprit a piece of my mind, except I was confronted by a dreadful face! It was like an imp or demon!”
“Luna, stop this nonsense. You're almost of age now. I know you are to be Princess of the Night but aren't you taking things a little far?”
“Then will'st thou come with me to the library? I can show thee!”
Celestia sighed. “If it means I can go to sleep soon, then yeah, I suppose so.”
They walked down the hallway, their horns glowing to light the way. Luna was shivering next to her sister, and Celestia wondered what had her so spooked. Maybe she'd had another nightmare? Luna seemed to be tormented by them lately. Starswirl had explained to them both that this was likely an adjustment period before Luna took on her full role as an alicorn and that they shouldn't worry about it too much, but it was beginning to get on Celestia's nerves.
They paused outside the library.
“Thou go first,” said Luna, pushing Celestia forward. She was trembling. Celestia grumbled. “Fine, I'll go first. It's not like there's anything there.” However, her brave words belied her current state of mind. Luna was beginning to freak her out and her fear was infectious. She pushed the door open and lit one of the oil lamps. The library filled with a warm, orange glow.
They moved forward, their withers close together, their eyes wide. Celestia checked each of the stacks as they walked. Suddenly there was a loud bang as a book fell off the shelf. Luna screamed, and then a rat bolted past them, almost slipping on the marble floor as it escaped out the library exit.
If looks could kill, Celestia probably would have had a dead sister. “So that's your demon,” she said. “Blasted Horsefeathers, Luna! I'm going to bed!”
A few weeks later Celestia was studying for her next exam in the library. She had several books in front of her including several volumes on Alchemy and Transfiguration. She wasn't at the level required to actually use this type of magic yet, but she hoped she would be in a few years. She was engrossed in a passage about how the author had metamorphosed into a phoenix and used the flames to light an army's way as they marched into battle, when she heard a noise.
Ugh, I hope the rat isn't back. Celestia wasn't fond of rats. They loved gnawing on things and last year she'd had a few garments destroyed by them.
She thought about calling someone to deal with it, but then remembered that she hated that kind of thing. She hated feeling completely dependent on others. Yes, she was a princess but there were limits. Father had said they were paid and that she needn't feel that way, but that wasn't so much the issue. She preferred to be alone sometimes.
She picked up one of the heavy books and cautiously tip-toed over to the source of the sound. It sounded like someone turning pages very quickly. Almost like they were flipping through a book, and then there was a loud bang. She steeled herself and peered round the corner, fully prepared to fling her book at the rat if she saw it.
Instead what she saw nearly made her heart stop. In the middle of the aisle was a tall tower of books. The books were not stacked neatly, and the tower was wobbling slighty, as if it might fall over at any minute. At the top of the stack sat a horned creature with a long snake-like body and red eyes. The demon! He was flipping through each book, his eyes moving over the pages quickly. When he got to the end he dropped the book and it slid under the stack, raising him higher. She realized the tower he was sitting on was being kept upright by magic.
Celestia's mouth fell open. She wasn't going to scream. She wouldn't scream. Instead, with all the bravado she could muster she said in her most commanding voice: “What are you doing in the library?”
The creature looked up at her, as if he had known she was there all along.
“Duhhhh,” he said. What do you think I'm doing. I'm reading.”
“No, I mean why are you in our library. And how did you even get in here?”
He put his hand on his hip and gave her a sassy look. “I've been using this library for a few weeks now. I need to catch up on a few things since I've been away and Canterlot Castle has one of the biggest libraries in Equestria. Not to mention several closed stacks.” He waggled his eyebrows at her at this last comment. He somehow looked less demonic now that he was speaking to her, and she realized he was a chimera.
“Since you've 'been away'?”
“Oh, yes,” he said, waving his paw at her. “I've been travelling the world. Seeing the sights and the people. But I've done that now, so I figured I'd come back and see how Equestria has changed in the past two centuries.”
“Centuries? Now I know you're throwing nonsense about. Only spirits and extremely powerful mages can live for centuries.”
“Mmm. That's true,” he said, grinning at her.
“You still haven't told me how you got in here.”
“Well your castle doesn't appear to have some sort of magical field around it and there aren't any powerful energies that can deflect basic intrusion magic. Really, you guys should look into that. Surely not all your enemies are going to be of the kind wielding spears and shields.”
“We have a mage among us,” said Celestia, who was still on edge. “He's our teacher.”
“Ah, so you're a student in the ways of magic too?”
“Trying to be. I'm going to be ruler of this kingdom and I want to be able to do it properly.” She looked up at Discord sharply. “And Starswirl is an amazingly proficient wizard, so don't get any ideas.”
“What sort of 'ideas' would those be?” asked Discord. “I'm just trying to read and I keep being interrupted by a mare who seems to have nothing interesting to say except that she's hot for teacher.” He buried his nose in his book again.
Celestia was furious. How dare he! Coming in here and telling her to be quiet in her own library as if she wasn't trying to study herself and he hadn't just waltzed in here and helped himself to books he didn't even own. “I am not 'hot for teacher' she said through gritted teeth. I'm betrothed if you must know, to a Prince.”
“Well, marriage is punishment for shoplifting in some countries,” said Discord, never taking his eyes off what he was reading.
“Do you have anything to say that doesn't involve being insulting?”
“Celestia, I'm trying to read. That's all. I don't want anything from you, or Starswirl or your 'betrothed' or anything along those lines. Just knowledge. Is that a crime?”
“No, but breaking into a palace is, and I can have the guards here in seconds.”
“So why haven't you yet?”
Why hadn't she? She thought about it. She was curious about the stranger, that was true. She had never seen anything like him before. It looked like there was some pony in his ancestry, but there was also dragon, and an amalgamation of other animals, though the former two stood out the most. His body was covered with brown feathers that were similar to those of a griffon, but his head and long neck were covered with grey fur. And he had seen the world! Celestia hadn't seen much of the world yet. She suspected she would once she was ruler and had to travel and cement treaties with neighbouring kingdoms, but for now she was a mare that had just come of age and most of her life involved learning royal customs. Studying magic was one of the few things in her day that interested and enthralled her.
“You're a mage?” she asked.
Discord put his hand on his hip again and gave her a look as if to say “Really. Can't anybody get any peace and quiet in here?” But then he smirked at her and said “Why are you asking?”
Celestia thought fast. “I want to know more about the magic you use.”
“Well you can't. It's not really something that you can learn in textbooks.”
“Yet you seem to be thoroughly interested in my textbooks,” Celestia pointed out.
“Was that a euphemism?”
“Be serious for just one second!”
“That would be painful,” he said, chuckling. “But I'll humour you. I'm intrigued. What could you possibly want to learn from little ol' me?”
“First of all...what are you? I've never seen a creature like you before. Not even in Asturcón's Bestiary.”
“Aren't bestiaries for non-sapient animals?” He licked his paw and slicked back his mane. “I'm a draconequus,” he said haughtily, pointing his snout in the air. “Clearly the most beautiful and graceful of Equestria's creatures.” As he was saying this he had leaned back and it had been too far. He plummeted off the top of the book stack, flapping his small wings furiously and hit the ground before he could react with magic. Celestia heard a groan. “Ow.”
Before she knew what she was doing she ran towards him. “Are you okay?” she asked. “Are...”
He suddenly vanished in a flash of white light.
Celestia didn't see the draconequus again for a few days. In fact, she had almost forgotten about him and was on her way to class with Starswirl after getting a book on crystal magic out of the library when she saw him come through the hallway walls and she shrieked.
“Shh! Are you trying to get me spotted?” he hissed.
“What are you doing here? This isn't the library.”
“Well spotted. I got bored and wanted to explore the rest of the grounds for a bit.”
“You shouldn't be here. How do I know you aren't trying to do something illegal?”
“Moi? Why I wouldn't dream of such a thing,” he said, placing the back of his paw over his forehead. “Unless your kitchen has some particularly tasty treats to pinch.”
“I can bring you some food after your lesson. Then you won't have to steal anything.”
He stared at her. “Why?”
Celestia shifted. Why was she planning on bringing him food? She wasn't sure herself. Was it because she still wanted to know more about him?
“If you wait for me after class I can get you some food.”
“And why would I do that when I could just take it from the kitchen myself?”
“Because...because if you wait we can talk, maybe?”
“Hmmm,” he said, looking at her intently. “I'll think about it,” and he vanished back into the wall.
Celestia found it hard to concentrate during Starswirl's lesson. Her thoughts kept drifting back to the patchwork stranger. Who was he and what did he want? He seemed harmless enough and had mostly restricted himself to the library, and at any rate if he was to try anything she had a spell that would alert the guards instantly. Then a field would go up and it would be difficult to escape. But of course, she hadn't told the draconequus that. Was he really simply here to “catch up on knowledge?”
“Celestia,” said Starswirl, clearing his throat.
“Oh! Um...yes?” She cursed herself for not paying attention.
“What are the main symbols for the three primes of an Alchemical spell?” He pointed to the blackboard with his hoof. “Um...” said Celestia. “Could you repeat the question?”
“What do these symbolize?” said Starswirl, trying again and pointing to the chalk writing.
Celestia looked at the symbols. “Oh!” she said. “Mercury, sulfur and salt!”
Starswirl sighed. “Very good Celestia. You have been studying after all. But perhaps we could have a little less daydreaming, hm?”
She nodded. It was so hard to pay attention to the rest of the class.
She found the draconequus in the kitchen, as expected, and he had already helped himself to various things from the pantry and was how building a humongous sandwich with several slices of bread, cheese, olives and various spreads. He used his telekinesis to piece it all together like a tower.
“I told you I could have gotten something for you,” she said.
“I know, but my stomach was growling and I couldn't wait,” he said to her. He pushed himself up on the kitchen counter and dangled his legs back and forth. “So...” he said. “You wanted to talk to me about something?”
“How can you be two hundred years old? You're not even wrinkly.”
“I think it's because of the chaos. I age very, very slowly. In fact, I guess physically I'm closer to your age.”
“Wait, the chaos?”
“It found me when I was little,” he told her. “It looked after me. It kept me safe. I don't know why it chose me, but hey,”--he motioned with his hands as if to say 'here I am'--“what you see is what you get.”
“I don't understand. You're a mage but you practice chaos magic?”
He glared at her. “Is there something you find objectionable about that, Miss Prissy Pants?”
“No, it's just...unusual. And don't call me that.”
He grinned. “It's magic in its rawest form.”
“Doesn't that make it harder to control?”
“I haven't had any trouble so far.” That wasn't strictly true. When he had been younger there had been incidents that had frightened him, but as he grew so did his hold on the power, and besides, he didn't want her to know that he once hadn't been competent; She was pretty.
She realized he knew her name, but she hadn't asked him what his was. “What's your name? I can't just keep calling you 'the draconequus.'”
“Well there is only one of me.”
“Far as I know.”
“My name is Discord,” he said.
“Discord. That means “disagreement.”
“It means lots of things. And it's not the only thing I've been called, but on the whole I prefer this name over others.”
He used his magic to squish the impossibly tall sandwich down so he could fit it in his mouth, took a bite, chewed then said “So you're a princess, huh? What does your cutie mark mean then?”
“It means...wait! Are you looking at my flank?”
“How am I supposed to see your cutie mark without looking in...that direction?” he asked, but his face felt hot.
“Okay,” she said. “Well, I'm the Princess of the sun. It will be my royal duty when I'm queen to raise the sun every day for my subjects.”
“Is that all?” he said, taking another bite of his sandwich.
“It's a very important job! Without the sun no crops would grow and there would be no warmth and...”
He chuckled. “I'm only teasing, Celestia,” he said. He could see her blushing through her pale coat.
“I have to go for a dress fitting now,” said the Princess. “Will you be around tomorrow? I'd like to talk more.”
His sandwich was halfway to his mouth, and he stopped and looked at her. “You want to talk more?”
“That's what I said, are you deaf?” she grinned, pushing him playfully on the shoulder with her hoof. “See you outside the library at ten o' clock tomorrow?”
“Um, sure...but...I'm not too good with keeping to schedules.”
“I'll be studying in there for a while anyway.”
“O—okay,” he found himself saying.
“Great, see you then!” she turned and pranced out the door. He snuck a glance at her flank as she left.
The scene changed again in a silvery haze. Now Celestia, Luna and Discord were both giggling and running through the dimly lit hallways of the castle. In mid run Discord snapped his fingers and the floor turned into ice. Luna screamed with delight as she slid quickly down the hallway.
“Shhh! They'll hear us!” laughed Celestia.
“Nah, they won't,” said Discord as he skated past her on his hind legs. “I put up a silencing spell.” He began circling her “But...” he said, each time he completed a rotation… “If….you…really…want...me...to...I...can...take…it...off.” He skidded to a halt in front of her. “It's more fun that way!”
“Thou will get us in trouble!” called Luna, giggling as she fell on her flank.
“Why does she talk that way?” Discord asked Celestia.
“Luna takes tradition pretty seriously. And that includes keeping the tradition of the Royal Canterlot Speech alive.”
“Oh yes, she's totally full of tradition right now,” he said grinning, as he watched the blue alicorn rubbing her sore bottom.
“Stoppit, you,” said Celestia, and she nuzzled against his cheek.
The silvery haze passed over and the scene changed again. This time Celestia and Discord were in the hallway, but they were alone.
She kissed him, and he almost fell over from the shock of it, but quickly collected himself and kissed her back, his paw and talon slipping under her wings and caressing the soft fur there. There was awkward fumbling, and giggling, and then they stumbled into Celestia's bedroom, Discord almost tripping over the rug in the middle of the floor. Celestia flew over to her bed and watched him, laughing behind her hoof.
Discord looked up at her. Her big, violet eyes shone in the candlelight and her pink mane looked soft and framed her delicate face. Her smile made his heart twist in his chest and he realized something surprising—he was nervous.
“Um...you...sure you wanna do this?” he asked.
“Oh yes! I just wanted to make sure you did.” He wrung his paw and talon awkwardly, then looked up at her.
Her eyes took on a seductive, half-lidded look. “Come here and I'll show you,” she whispered. The feathers on Discord's back were standing upright with excitement. She was so different from all the people he had been with. She intimidated him. He wanted her approval and part of him was suddenly worried he wouldn't please her the right way. She was a princess. She could have anyone she wanted, really. She could have taken a secret lover from the Royal Guard, or maybe even another member of Royalty, but instead she had invited him into her bedchambers.
She smiled softly and her horn glowed, a tendril of magic reaching out to Discord and caressing his face. “Don't be afraid,” she said.
“I...I'm not afraid. I just...” The tendril of magic gently wrapped around his middle and he found himself being pulled towards her. She pressed her forehead against his and smiled at him, and he found himself relaxing a little and smiling back. He couldn't help but feel amazed. Celestia was relatively inexperienced and he was very experienced, yet he was the one who felt extremely nervous. What did that mean?
“You look like you've seen a ghost,” she giggled.
“I thought I was supposed to be the poltergeist,” he said, sprawling out next to her on the bed. She turned and faced him, resting her head on her hoof.
“So, you have to marry that Prince, huh?”
“Is that what this is about? Are you jealous?” she teased.
“N—no, I just...What's the point of it all? You both have lovers. I guess I just don't get the whole tradition thing.”
“Because Equestria needs a King and Queen.”
“Would you rather not do this?”
“No! I mean, yes! I mean...of course I want to do you..uh...I mean it...I mean...”
She giggled. He was so adorable when he was nervous. He usually gave off an aura of confidence, and she wondered if that was a shield. He was practically curled up into a ball. She wondered how alone he felt in the world, being the only one of his species. Is that why he always tried to appear cocky? He didn't look cocky now, far from it. He looked vulnerable.
“Discord,” she said softly. “What happened to all the draconequii?”
He looked at her warily for a long time, and she waited, not wanting to push him. “They were hunted,” he whispered.
She looked aghast. “That's awful!” she said. “Who hunted them?”
“Ponies,” he said, and Celestia felt a chill run down her spine. “I didn't want to come back here because of them. But...horsefeathers, I don't know why I came back. I guess I just wanted to know how things had changed.”
“Well they have changed,” she said softly. “Ponies don't hunt sapient species any more. I've never even heard of such a thing.”
“The thing is, Celestia. I still don't...I...except for you, Luna and Starswirl I'm not really comfortable around ponies and I'm still not even sure I like them.” He grinned. “Okay, maybe I only tolerate Starswirl.” In truth he did like the old wizard, but he still kept him and even to some extent Luna at paw's length. But Celestia was different. She wasn't like other ponies. She was kind and intelligent and listened to what he had to say.
“Do you regret coming back?” she asked him.
He reached out and stroked her mane with his paw. “Absolutely not,” he grinned, practically gobbling her up with his eyes.
“Hey...” she whispered softly, and she reached out and touched his cheek with her hoof. “No matter what happens, I love you.”
She watched his eyes relax and soften at this and she realized what was troubling him.
“I love you too,” he said, in a barely perceptible whisper. Then she leaned in to kiss him.
After they had made love for the first time, he curled up against her tenderly, his face buried in the nape of her neck. She turned to face him, a warm contented smile on her face, her cheeks rosy.
“You okay?” he whispered, looking at her in wonder.
She nodded, still smiling. He smiled back and buried his head in her shoulder. For the first time in ages he felt truly happy, needed and wanted. And strangely, protected.
The scene was a year later. Discord was in Celestia's bedroom again, but this time their voices were raised in argument.
“That wasn't funny, Discord,” she was saying.
“Oh come on, it was flipping hilarious!” he grinned, floating next to her. “Each time he tried to put food into his mouth it fell down his front.”
“Because you were controlling where the food went!”
“Well I never said I wasn't. Besides you were smirking.”
She blushed. She had smirked. She hadn't been able to help it, really. “Th—that's not the point,” she said, clearing her throat. “If that had happened to me at a royal dinner I would have been mortified.”
“Well I would never do that to you, would I?”
“That's not really the point. You shouldn't be doing things like that to Stellarium.”
Discord rolled his eyes. “It's not like you're in love with him, Celestia.” His ears pricked up slightly as he waited for her reply.
“It doesn't matter that I'm not in love with him, Discord,” she said, noting the draconequus' ears had relaxed slightly. “He's to be my husband and you really shouldn't be treating him this way. Neither of us asked for this. It's just the way things are when you're a royal.”
“So why don't you make it a law when you are Queen for things to not be this way?
“Because it isn't up to me. I'm doing it for my subjects. They expect a united couple to rule over the kingdom, even if that means our private lives are never really revealed to them.”
“He smells funny,” said Discord.
“Maybe that's all the food you spilt on him,” she said. He grinned at her. No, she wasn't going to let him get away with this. He always tried to get her to laugh when it came to this sort of thing and she often succumbed.
“Just, don't do that again, okay?” she said.
He sighed. “Okay, I won't,” he said. “But you have to admit it was priceless…”
Discord and Celestia were in the library, and this time they were arguing again.
“I can't believe you lied to me,” she hissed.
“I just...didn't want you thinking he's 'all that', Celestia. He's not perfect!”
“Neither are you. Neither am I, but you can't make stuff up about people. You could ruin his reputation! And that was a particularly nasty thing to say—that he was a changeling. What is wrong with you?”
The draconequus crossed his arms. “It's not like he's nice to me Celestia.”
“Well maybe that's because you were never very nice to him the first place.” Celestia had been up front with Stellarium that Discord was her lover. She knew the Prince had his own consorts and that it was all kept hush, hush. Royal Marriage wasn't cemented by romantic love. It could be, in rare cases, but over time ponies realized that it was just that—rare, and that they needed to be able to be free to love who they wanted, regardless of the outside persona they projected to their subjects.
“This is the fifth time you've lied to me in some way about him,” she said. “Do you have any respect for me at all? Can't you control your jealousy?”
“It—it's not jealousy!”
“Oh, really? Then what is it? Please tell me because I'm dying to know.”
He shifted his feet on the floor. “Okay, maybe I am a...little bit jealous. But can you blame me? You're a Princess marrying a Prince. What if you forget about me?”
She moved towards him. “I'm never going to forget about you, okay? Your home is here, with me, and Luna and Starswirl. But we need mutual trust in this relationship. You knew I was getting married to someone from the beginning.” He watched as her eyes looked up at him, wetly, and a wave of tenderness overcame him.
“Hey,” he said softly. “I—I'm sorry, Celestia.”
“No more lies, Discord. If you truly respect me then you won't do this any more.” He pulled her to his chest and embraced her. “You're right,” he whispered. He didn't like the idea of sharing her with anyone, but that wasn't her fault, was it? And he felt angry every time he thought of Stellarium, but he was going to have to get used to the idea. Besides, Celestia loved him not the Prince. He felt dampness on his feathers and he knew she was crying.
“Don't cry,” he whispered, feeling guilt wash over him. “Celestia...I...I promise I won't lie to you any more. I won't make any more stuff up.”
She looked up at him and smiled softly. “I'll hold you to that,” she said.
“As long as you hold me,” he grinned.
A week later Discord was surprised to find an invitation under his bedroom door. He opened it and was met with intricate handwriting:
Prince Stellarium requests your presence at his Estate. 2pm sharp two days from now.
Discord made a groaning sound. There was a knock at his door and he opened it.
“Celestia,” he said, his heart leaping. She always seemed to have that effect on him no matter how many times he saw her.
“Did you get the invitation?”
His eyebrows shot up. “This was your idea?”
She nodded. “I spoke to Stellarium and while I know he knows about our arrangement, I realize the two of you have never really gotten to know one another. Maybe you should have some guy time together.”
Discord groaned, and leaned against the door. “Celestia, must I?”
“Even if you only do it once, at least you know you've given it a try. Who knows, you could even become friends.”
“Really? And what would we talk about? Swapping bedroom tips? 101 ways to pleasure a princess?”
“Don't be such a guy!”
“I am a guy.”
“No, I mean, of course I don't expect you talk about that. But he's going to be living at the palace just like you and you are inevitably going to run into one another. You should at least learn to communicate. Also, I've heard the estate is quite beautiful.”
“You're not going to let me get away from this are you?”
She smiled warmly at him.
He sighed. Celestia always did know what was best, and he trusted her.
“I'll do it,” he said.
When the day finally arrived, Discord teleported outside the grounds to the estate at exactly 1:50pm . He figured if he was going to avoid the insufferable “2pm sharp” rule then it would look less rude to arrive early rather than late, and while normally he had no problem with being rude, he wanted to make sure all was well with him and Celestia.
He heard the sound of gravel crunching underhoof and looked up to see Prince Stellarium approaching him. The white unicorn smiled warmly. “Discord,” he said. “Good to see you! Come in!” The guards opened the gate and the draconequus stepped forward cautiously. Stellarium clapped Discord on the back in greeting, almost knocking the wind out of him. He hadn't been prepared for that, but he mustered a grin. “Hello,” he said.
“I've got lots planned,” said the unicorn. “We can walk in the gardens, and then retire to the recreation room for some drinks.”
“Uh...sounds...fun,” said Discord, who didn't think it sounded very interesting at all.
They walked along the gardens, Stellarium pointing out various statues, even one in the shape of a cocktrice. Discord nodded. Well, this was boring but it wasn't so bad. The Prince seemed nice enough.
“Tell me about yourself, Discord,” said Stellarium.
Okay, now this was difficult. There were many parts of his life he didn't wish to go into detail about with the Prince. He tried a non-direct approach. “I'm a mage,” he said. “Chaos magic, mostly. Well, pretty much exclusively chaos magic.”
“Fascinating,” said the Prince. “I am surprised one of your species is able to wield such powerful magic.” Discord shifted. That had sounded like an insult, but he couldn't be sure, and he didn't want to have an argument with Celestia's future husband. He was pretty sure when it came to a battle of sarcasm and underhanded comments, he could win it easily, but he had to be careful.
“I would say my species is built for it, Stelly Ol' boy,” he said, not able to resist a harmless dig at the Prince's name. “But I notice you said 'my species.' So you've heard of my kind?”
“Oh yes, my father used to tell me stories about the draconequii. I must admit I thought they had gone extinct, but you are evidence to the contrary.”
Discord puffed up the feathers on his chest. “I am indeed, one of a kind,” he said, grinning.
“Yet you do not look the way my father described them to me. He did not mention lion paws or bat wings in his stories.”
“Yeah, that has something to do with the chaos,” replied Discord. “I think it gives me the roguish charm girls find irresistible.”
“Yes, speaking of girls. I...I wanted to make sure we didn't get off on the wrong hoof. I know we've...had our differences. But I also know we both want what is best for Princess Celestia.”
Discord squirmed. Their 'differences' had involved Discord spreading rumours among the palace staff that Stellarium was a changeling that was trying to infiltrate the Crown and that he planned to lay eggs in their chests. That had certainly caused a lot of panic, until Starswirl told them they were all being ridiculous. Then there had been the incident when Discord had told Celestia that Stellarium actually wanted to outlaw education for mares. That rumour had been quashed much faster and she had seen through his jealousy quickly.
“So, I figured we should just...know where we are,” continued Stellarium. They had reached the castle, and Stellarium beckoned Discord into the recreation room. He started pouring them drinks.
“Where we are?” asked the draconequus. “We're fine, aren't we?”
Stellarium sipped his drink and smiled warmly at the draconequus. “Of course, Discord. But being a royal entails certain duties and of course one of those duties means putting an heir in Celestia.”
Discord tried not to gag. Did he really have to use the words “put” and “in?” Surely he could have said “had foals?”
Discord stirred his drink with his claw. He still hadn't taken a sip.
“I just want to make sure that there is no misunderstanding between us,” continued the Prince. “Celestia would of course be very disappointed if there were further...skirmishes.”
“Yeah, she would,” said Discord, looking at the ground.
“Indeed. And she has a reputation to uphold. As do I. So, I guess what I'm trying to say to you is make sure you're careful, okay?”
“Yes, these are going to be my heirs, and I want to make sure they look like my heirs if you get my meaning.”
Discord stared at the unicorn. “You don't want them to be draconequii is what you mean.”
“Oh, perhaps I would have no problem with it as such, but I know the public would and Celestia loves her subjects dearly, doesn't she?”
Discord grit his teeth. It was so very hard for him to resist flinging the drink in the Prince's face, but the last thing he wanted was Celestia getting mad at him again. He gave the Prince a fake smile.
“Your highness!” a servant entered the room and whispered quietly in the Prince's ear.
“Sorry your highness but it will only take a moment.”
Stellarium sighed. “Please excuse me”, he said to Discord, who now had a terrifying grin plastered on his face. “It seems that the servant boys have stolen food from the kitchen again. Most disagreeable. I'll only be a few minutes.”
Discord watched as Stellarium and the other pony left the room and walked down the garden path.
As soon as they were out of sight he poured his drink directly onto the Saddle Arabian rug on the floor. “Oops!” he said, in mock outrage, then he tip toed further into the room like a ballerina. Further on the recreation room divided into a hallway lined with books, and further on there was another door. Discord browsed the books. He wondered if there was anything here that he could use as dirt on Stellarium. Physical evidence of the Prince being a horsehole would be much more useful than his words.
After a while, he became bored, and decided to move into the room down the hallway. He floated along then pushed it open with his lion paw. A musty smell greeted him and he squinted in the dim light. His nocturnal vision quickly took over and he looked around the room.
There were stuffed birds in cases, and a few fish mounted on the wall, but what was most surprising was the long articulated skeleton of a dragon. Discord knew that in the past, dragons and ponies had been enemies, and that during war time, sometimes the body of a dragon was taken as a trophy, but that was very long ago, and he hadn't even been born at the time. He had only read of such accounts in books. He looked at the skeleton curiously. He wondered how old it was.
Then he turned the corner, and his jaw dropped.
He was face to face with a draconequus, and it took him a fraction of second to realize that what he was looking at was taxidermy. It was a skin, mounted over an armature and form. The pose was one of a predator, a draconequus about to attack. The lips were pulled back in a snarl and both sets of claws were extended. The gums were hard resin and the eyes were glass, but other than that he was looking at one of his people.
Shaking slightly, he reached out to stroke the dark feathers with his paw; Feathers so like his own. He ran his paw on them, going with the grain, then felt them give way. He pulled his paw back and looked at it. Feathers had come loose, along with frass and dust. The mount was being moth-eaten.
He felt his stomach turn and he ran down the hallway, past the recreation room outside, his heart pounding in his chest and he collapsed, only just holding himself upright with his paw leaned against the wall. He retched forcefully. After he had finished puking he had only a momentary respite before he began to feel nauseated and panicked again. He looked up to see a guard standing not too far away, smirking at him.
He felt sick and confused. Celestia had said this sort of thing didn't happen any more. On the other hand the mount could have been really old, but that didn't make Discord feel any better. It was still one of his kind, stuffed and positioned in an everlasting mockery of its life. He shivered. He had to tell Celestia. She would understand. She had told him this kind of thing was awful and unconscionable. He glanced up and growled at the nearby guard, who suddenly looked a lot more nervous and yelped in terror as his spear turned into a snake that hissed fiercely at him. He dropped the snake and fled around the corner.
Discord teleported straight into Celestia's room, making her jump. She was about to chide him gently when she realized he looked absolutely terrified. His eyes even looked bloodshot, and in a way that had nothing to do with his naturally red pupils.
“Discord, what's wrong?” she asked, running up to him and holding him. He whimpered into her shoulder.
“Stellarium,” he said. He felt her embrace go slightly more slack.
“Discord,” she warned. “We talked about this.”
“No, Celestia you don't understand! He's...he's a murderer! He has one of me in a room in his estate!”
She blinked at him. “You're not making sense.”
“He has one of my kind stuffed and mounted in his trophy room!” he snapped.
“Discord, that's not funny.”
“I'm not trying to be funny! There's a dead draconequus on his grounds! Stuffed!”
“That's enough! I told you to stop making up stories. This is going too far! You're basically accusing someone of a horrendous act and that's pretty sick!”
He grabbed her by the shoulder. “I'll...I'll show you! I can show you!” he said. “We can go there right now and...”
“And what?” she said. “You could just conjure up any number of visions to make me believe there's a dead draconequus in his house? Discord, this is all too much.” She suddenly looked sad. “I thought you had more respect for me. You must think I'm really stupid if you think this will work.”
“Celestia, I'm telling the truth. For the love of gods please believe me!”
He looked so desperate. He looked so small. But she was at the end of her tether with him. He had behaved more and more appallingly the closer it got to the wedding date. She was tired of his manipulating her emotions. She loved him, but she was beginning to doubt he loved her. He was constantly lying and trying to prevent her from doing her royal duties. She wanted to believe him...
“Celestia, I'm begging you, please listen to me. You can't marry him...he...”
“Enough! Discord, I can't do this any more. Is this what you're going to be like when I get married?”
“You're not listening to me!” he shouted.
“Maybe I'm not,” she whispered. “Not any more.”
“I can't cope with this, Discord. I've got a lot on my plate.” She had tears running down her face now. “How dare you do this to me right now. It's not like I even wanted this. Your lies make me want to trust you but at the same time they are just that...lies. And it's messing with my head. I love you and you keep lying to me.”
“I'm not lying this time! I swear! I'll never lie again!”
“Get out,” she sobbed. “Just stop and get out. The fact that you would even try to use this against me. You clearly have no respect for my mind.”
He couldn't believe this. “Celestia...”
“Get out or I'll call the guards,” she whispered. She didn't want to. She really didn't, and she was pretty sure what she had just said was a bluff, but she needed him to leave or she'd probably run into his arms and the cycle would just begin again.
She didn't turn around to look at him, but if she had she would have seen his hurt face turn into one of anger. “You call your guards,” he said, in a voice that sounded void of any emotion. “You do that.” Then he vanished.
It took him a while to find the cave, but in the end he rediscovered it. It was partially overgrown with vines and overhanging tree branches, and he squeezed through the natural netting the plants had made.
The cave smelt musty, and there were bats roosting inside it, but Discord paid them no mind. He really couldn't pay anything any mind any more apart from the tumultuous churning in his stomach and heart. It felt like his insides were burning. Burning through him and itching to come out. He sat with his back against the wall of the cave. His heart beat felt irregular, and it felt like he couldn't breathe. He rested his elbows on his knees and buried his face in his hands and he could feel the dampness on them. He knew he was crying, he didn't care any more. He thought of the dead draconequus and felt sick again.
From deep within the cave came a noise that sounded like a whisper. Discord's ears pricked up and he peered into the darkness. “Who's there?” he called. There was only silence.
He continued trying to battle the nausea that overwhelmed him. Throughout Discord's life, he had struggled with emotion. However, he'd had no one to tell him that what he felt was much stronger than what other beings usually felt and obviously had therefore never tried to compare his emotions to anyone else's. Sometimes he had a ferocious temper and he had once burnt an acre of forest around him in a fit of rage when he had been frustrated that a meal he was roasting over the fire was taking ages. Other times he had become so enraptured with the chaos it felt like a glorious high caressing every part of him. And he had loved Celestia fiercely. He still loved her fiercely, but she had told him to leave. She hadn't believed him. She had left him. He felt a tremendous stab of pain in his heart.
And that was when he heard it again. The whisper. Only this time it didn't stop. It got louder and louder. It wasn't actually speaking in words. The language it spoke to him was purely metaphysical and a fresh wave of pain overtook his heart. The noise became louder and louder, until it was at the level of a hurricane blowing at full force. He glanced down at his eagle talon, and with the claws of his lion paw, began to scratch mercilessly at his wrist. He scratched until he bled. Everything was completely overwhelming and he felt like something was breaking inside him, yet at the same time it was a force he couldn't contain, and for some reason he felt that if he scratched he might be able to get it out. The noise was deafening. He scratched.
He was flying through the air, dodging blasts of magic heading his way. It was all a game to him though. Celestia was the most fun opponent to battle against. He loved the way she gritted her teeth at him, her now aurora-like mane flowing behind him as she dived for him. He could have easily destroyed her, but he would never do that to her. Despite everything he couldn't do that to her. But that didn't mean her subjects weren't fair game. After all, he had once been game to them.
He circled her and waved his paw, and all of a sudden her legs and wings were bound with magical ropes, but he didn't let her fall. She floated in mid air before him.
“You're beautiful when you're angry with me,” he said.
“Discord,” she growled. “Stop this now!”
“Or what? You'll 'call the guards?'”
He cupped her face in his paw and leaned in close, whispering. "Oh, Celestia. You don't get it do you? I have a love."
The alicorn struggled against her bonds. "If you mean the chaos then I don't think you realize what it's done to you."
"What it's done to me? Why, Celestia what an unusual thing to say. It's done nothing to me but make me happy, which is more than I can say for your kind."
"I didn't know! I thought you weren't telling the truth! If I had known we could have outlawed that kind of thing, and…"
Discord was laughing. "Outlaw it? It's a bit late for that. They're all dead, Celestia. For all I know that mount could have been my father." He pulled her closer. "And you did nothing he snarled.
“I'm sorry, I truly am, but this has gone too far Discord. Ponies are suffering.”
He laughed, again wiping mock-tears of mirth from his face. “You think I care that you're sorry? Oh, Celestia. You always knew how to make me smile.”
His smile had no warmth in it.
He floated in front of her, tilting himself until he was upside down but level with her face. “I've figured it all out you know,” he said, grinning at her and displaying his rows of sharp teeth.
“Have you,” she said in a voice that implied she was humouring a madman.
“Yes. I don't need anybody, really. What had always kept me safe? It was the chaos. It wasn't people. That's where I made a mistake….you see...”
He was suddenly hit in the back with a blast of magic and he plummeted sixty feet down until he managed to collect himself and looked up at Luna, who was practically giving him daggers.
“Foul wretch!” she snarled. “Traitor! To think I ever thought of thee as someone who loved my sister!”
“I'm puzzled about it myself, Luna,” he growled.
Celestia had managed to release herself from her bonds and both alicorns swooped down and charged at him. He grinned and leapt to one side, holding a red cape and donning a matador's outfit. “Torro, torro!” he shouted. Then he felt his tail being pulled up and he went into a free fall spin. He snapped his fingers and teleported above them to see what had happened, and spotted Starswirl glaring at him below.
“Dirty trick, old man! Using my own spell against me. Well, it's a pretty remedial one. Maybe I should teach you something more fun.”
They clashed again, and so it went on for years.
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 peered at Zecora. She was drooling, and he was beginning to feel uncomfortable looking at the way her eyes were rolled back in her head, but then she shuddered and collapsed on the floor in front of him.
He shifted and moved across the floor towards her. He placed his paw on her back and shook her. “Hey,” he said. “Wakey, wakey!”
She lifted her head and looked at him. Her face was streaked with tears and she looked exhausted.
“So...” said Discord. “What did you see?”
Zecora was silent. Discord mused that maybe she just needed a few minutes to collect herself. She got to her feet, shakily and moved towards her water pump. Discord waited while she drank several cups.
He was beginning to get fidgety. He really wanted to know what the situation was.
“Did...you...did you see any of my memories.”
Zecora looked at him silently, then finally she said. “I did, Discord but I'm afraid I fear, I cannot tell you what I saw there.”
“What? Why the hell not? They're my memories. Surely if anyone has a right to know what's in them it's me?”
“Of this it's true, I do agree, but I think you need to listen to me. I only have your point of view, I need the stories of others too. Without them your memories are incomplete, and for now I will have to be discreet.”
“Others? What others?”
“Others that were there at the time, and...”
Suddenly there was a knocking at Zecora's door.
“Hey, Zebra lady?” came a familiar female voice. “You in there? Because we need to talk.”
Zecora whirled round. “Hide!” she hissed at Discord.
He looked around her small hut. “Where?” he hissed back.
She motioned to the huge cauldron in the middle of the room, thanking the gods that she hadn't been in the middle of brewing anything.
Discord clambered into the huge iron bowl, coiling himself so that he'd fit more neatly, and waited.
Zecora pulled the door open. “You wish to talk, but please be swift, I have a lot of herbs to shift.”
“Good day to you too,” said Carmarella, tipping her hat. “Not to worry, I don't really wanna linger myself. But I'm wondering if you knew anything about a trap I put out yesterday. You see, it seems someone has cut it down.”
“I know not of what you speak, I think perhaps it is someone else you seek.”
She began to gently shut the door but Carmarella propped it open with her hoof. “You think I'm playing games here, Ms. Zecora, but I assure you I ain't. There's a dangerous creature in these woods and we have a permit to shoot it on sight.”
“Creature?” asked Zecora.
“Yeah. Guy we're working for says it's a draconequus or something like that. It's super rare. He wants it alive but if that thing takes a dive for me, I'm firing.” She didn't say that she would likely be firing tranquilizer darts. She wasn't about to lose her share of money that easily. “We gotta be real careful. We're dealing with an apex predator here. And if you're messing with us, you're putting the lives of ponies in danger. We've found...remains out in these woods.”
Zecora's eyes went wide. “Remains?”
Discord held his breath inside the cauldron, trying not to give any any sounds. The great iron cauldron magnified sound.
“Yeah,” said Carmarella. “They look pretty old. Just skeletal now, but if it's any indication of what this thing is capable of, then we have a situation on our hands. So you better not be lyin' to us.”
“I have no idea of what you say, now if you'll excuse me, I must get on with my day.” She closed the door.
“If you see anything you'll be sure to contact us, won't you?” called Carmarella.
Zecora opened her window and smiled. “Oh, of course!” she said sweetly.
“Ah...good. Sorry, hope we didn't get off on the wrong hoof an' all. Just under a lot of stress, you know?”
The zebra nodded, and waited until Carmarella was out of sight.
“You can come out. She is no longer about.”
Discord's head burst out of the cauldron. “What the hell was that, Zecora? I'm being hunted?
“I told you there were trappers in these woods, and that you must go home, like you should.”
“You didn't tell me it was me they were trying to trap!”
“I wasn't sure, but there is no doubt any more.”
A horrific thought suddenly occurred to Discord. “So...there are the remains of ponies. Is that what you saw in my memories?”
Zecora shook her head. “I saw nothing of the kind. I saw a different time in your mind.”
“And you're not going to tell me about it.”
“One day soon, perhaps I might. But for now we should wait until cover at night. It will be easier to get you home to Fluttershy if darkness hides both you and I.”
Fluttershy was in tears. “I can't believe I lost him, Twilight!” she cried. “I was supposed to take care of him! That was what Princess Celestia asked me to do and I failed completely.”
Spike patted the pegasus on the withers. “Come on, Fluttershy. Don't beat yourself up. Discord left of his own free will and he said he was coming back. It's not your fault.”
“What if he doesn't come back? What if he fell somewhere and is hurt and he's broken something, what if...”
“Shhh,” said Twilight. “Look, we've been looking for hours and it's pitch black now. We aren't going to make much headway in the dark. Why don't we go back to the cottage and we'll search again at first light.”
Fluttershy whimpered softly. She knew her friend was right. Pony eyes weren't designed to see the dark and Twilight's horn didn't give them a very big pool of light.
“Hey,” said Spike, looking up suddenly.
In the distance, they could see an orange light dancing around. “Wh—what is that?” said Spike fearfully. He remembered last Nightmare Night and the story Applejack had told him about the will-o'-the-wisp and how it led travellers to their doom. Twilight had scoffed at that and explained to him that the light was caused by decaying plant matter and the emissions created the ignis fatuus. Spike hadn't been sure what that meant, but he hadn't slept well that night anyway. He felt a chill go down his spine as the light came closer and was ready to run as far away as his short little legs could carry him, when Twilight placed a hoof on his shoulder. “It's them,” she said.
The tall form of the draconequus and striped form of the zebra were more visible now, as was the lantern Zecora was carrying.
“Discord! Cried Fluttershy. She ran forward and embraced him, then she looked up at him and said in a cross voice “I told you not to wander off on your own!”
To her surprise he sounded equally cross. “ And now I know why! Fluttershy, you told me that ponies didn't hunt sapient animals any more.”
“Then why are there a pair of trappers looking for me up in the Everfree?”
Fluttershy looked up at Zecora, who nodded. “I'm afraid it is true, and on me you can quote. I am confused, did you not get my note?”
“Note?” asked the pegasus. “What note?”
“I left a note for you earlier this year, warning you to be aware. There are trappers further up the peak, and it is the draconequus they seek.”
“I didn't get a note! You don't think...it could have been stolen?”
“I know not. But that is a thought.”
“Look, I don't know about you guys,” said Discord, looking around furtively, “But I'd rather not get shot in the head right now. Can we get a move on?” They were far from the Everfree now, but Discord had been on edge the entire time the zebra had led him out of the woods.
“Yes, of course!” said Fluttershy. “Oh, this is my friend I was telling you about, Twilight Sparkle. And this is Spike.” Discord nodded to them but he wasn't really interested in greetings right now. At any moment he worried an arrow was going to come flying through the air at his chest or head. As they walked along quickly, Discord got a better look at the unicorn mare and the small dragon resting on her back. He seemed to be completely comfortable with the pony and even laughed a little as she spoke to him. But someone was out there looking for him. Fluttershy had said ponies no longer hunted sapient animals, but maybe they didn't realize he was sapient? Twilight and her dragon looked like they were friends. Surely draconequii could be friends with ponies? He looked down at Fluttershy, to see tears dancing in her eyes.
“Shy?” he asked.
“I was so worried about you!”
He picked at the skin around his talon. “You were?”
“I thought something had happened to you.”
“I left a note.”
“But you didn't even say where you were going!”
“Oh. Yeah, I didn't...”
“Discord, I promise you eventually you'll be able to move around freely but you have to listen to me when I say the time isn't right yet. For one thing I had no idea you were being hunted!”
“Well, me either. Do you think they've been looking for me since I lived up there all those years?” he asked.
“I don't know. But it's a possibility. If they thought you were still living as an animal, hunting for food, then maybe.” He nodded quietly.
Discord was extremely relieved when they finally reached the cottage, and even more so when Fluttershy opened the door and turned on the lights. Home. He was safe. He collapsed on the sofa, flopping his long body over the arm rests.
Zecora turned to Twilight. “If it is ameanable to you, and it's alright, I need somewhere to spend the night.”
“Of course, Zecora,” replied Twilight. “Spike and I would be happy to have you as our house guest, wouldn't we Spike?”
The little dragon nodded. “Just...no ghost stories, okay?” Zecora smiled. “I promise you, hoof on heart that there will be nothing that will make you start. As a matter of fact, if we need to disperse, it is with Twilight I wish to converse.”
“You're leaving?” asked Fluttershy. Zecora nodded. “I will check on you both soon, perhaps even as early tomorrow at noon.”
“Ugh, make her stop rhyming,” groaned Discord from the couch. Zecora smiled and shook her head. She smiled at Twilight and Spike. “Let us go,” she said. They waved goodbye to Fluttershy, and headed into the night.
Discord watched as the small pegasus positioned herself in front of him so that she was staring straight at his face.
“I sense you are mad at me.”
“A little,” she admitted. “I want there to be trust between us. We talked about that.”
“I didn't know about that! And there must be something about that I'm missing. I'm pretty sure trappers shouldn't be up there unless it's for a good reason. Parts of the Everfree are protected areas. I'll try to get in contact with the local gamekeeper. I'll bet he'll have something to say about unlicensed hunting in the woods! And I won't let anyone hurt my friends!”
Discord looked at her with tired eyes. She looked angry still, but not at him. Instead it was a fierce, protective anger. She climbed up onto the sofa with him and hugged him. He coiled his body closer to her, and used his tail to pull a wool throw over them both. “I was so worried,” she whispered, burying her muzzle in his feathers.
Discord looked around at the warmth of the cottage. The familiar fireplace, the birdhouses on the walls, the bean bag. He was safe now, he was home, and Fluttershy didn't hurt animals, she looked after them and kept them safe. He sighed with relief and wrapped his arms around the pegsus, nuzzling her mane. He was safe with her.
"Marriage is punishment for shoplifting in some countries" is a quote from the movie Wayne's World.
I use the phrase "1000 years ago" but don't necessarily mean it to a tee. In the show, Celestia often tells of incidents that happened "1000 years ago" but she's used the same phrase for Nightmare Moon, Tirek and Discord's backstories and they couldn't have possibly all happened at the same time, so I interpret that as "roughly" 1000 years ago with decades/centuries on either side.
Zecora's travel through Discord's memories are mainly meant to be his point of view, but I added some of Celestia's so that the narrative would flow better. Besides, when Twilight uses the Flashback Potion in "Princess Twilight Sparkle" she's immersed in the scene overall.
As in all of my fics, Discord feels all emotions much, much more strongly than a normal person would. This is because of the chaos, which amplifies everything. I partly drew this from my own experiences with Bipolar Disorder, in which it doesn't matter how much logic you use to convince yourself otherwise, the emotion will overwhelm you because the chemicals in your brain are amplifying them, whether it's a good or bad emotion, and as such your behaviour is highly influenced by it. Except with Discord I've cranked this up to 11. When he's angry, he's ballistic. When he's happy it's like a wonderful drug, and when he falls in love with Celestia, he REALLY falls in love with her, so having his heart broken while simultaneously having to accept that there's the mounted skin of one of his people in the house of someone she's going to marry is something he just cannot cope with.