On a technicality one could say Discord was in Canterlot. The truth was that wherever it was that he was, he could not have said to anyone, because pony language didn't have the right vocabulary and while the draconequus language was superb for making up new words to describe new phenomena, he hadn't bothered to try to come up with a word for the place he was in his birth language because the fact that he was the only being who could speak it made it an exercise in frivolity, and while he was fond of frivolity, there were much more entertaining ways he could be spending his time. He was in a place between places, a space that did not exist, somewhere you got to by turning sideways and stepping out of the universe. If he had to call it something, he would call it a pocket dimension, but that didn't accurately describe where it was, only what it was. At the moment, however, he was keeping the doorway back to reality in Canterlot. In the statue garden, because that was funny.
In this place that wasn't a place, Discord had decorated a comfortable, fluffy cloud that tasted like orange frosting but was actually made of cloud, so that it was covered with green, growing rocks and magnificent black, gray and pink petrified trees, whose crystalline leaves rustled in the breeze generated by a giant hamster wheel full of desperately running sleeping rabbits. The cloud was down in all directions, so if he were to roll himself over the side of it and onto the other side of the cloud he would still be lying down. He was sprawled in a very comfortable position, on his back with limbs and tail and wings all supported by fluffy delicious tasting cloud, looking up at the sky, where a sun shaped exactly like Celestia's cutie mark was making silly pouty faces that were obviously drawn by a foal. The breeze was warm and toasty, while the sunshine was cool and refreshing. Tiny stars, visible despite the cool sunshine, ran around the sky chasing each other with spears of light. Every so often one star was critically wounded by its fellows, and fell toward Discord's cloud, but a large turtle swimming through the air with a bucket on its back was always there to catch the falling star in its bucket.
It was boring.
Without ponies to see his chaos and react to it, Discord found that chaos felt pointless. He might as well have structured his little pocket dimension to be exactly like a five-star Manehattan hotel for all the good his creativity had done him. For a thousand years he'd lived alone in his own head, unable to tell the difference between waking and dreaming, creating fantasy worlds like this and making up imaginary ponies to be terrified of them, or thrilled by them, or ostentatiously bored with them, and there'd been times when he'd actually lost track of the fact that he was stuck in a statue and had started believing his fantasy world was real. But now that he had re-experienced reality, Discord could tell the difference between fantasy and actuality again... if he had ponies around. Or really, any sentient being would do. Someone who wasn't him, to talk to him, to have reactions to his creations.
He'd made his living quarters a portable pocket Chaos dimension so that he could create as much chaos as he wanted without upsetting Fluttershy, but it wasn't good enough. If nopony was looking at his chaos, Discord had no proof that it was real, that he was real, that he wasn't still a statue dreaming that he was free. Besides, breaking all the rules was only fun when there were rules to break. As soon as he started designing the laws of physics that a place operated under, then that was the established order of that place, and then he started getting antsy because even the rules he created were still rules and he wanted to break them.
He wanted to live in the real world. He wanted to create chaos in the real world. He'd come here precisely because the temptation to make Angel Bunny into a giant purple dinosaur made of felt and stuffing or make Fluttershy's house swing from a chandelier in the sky was getting overwhelming, and he was starting to feel extraordinarily resentful toward her, and himself for having decided that the loneliness of being hated by absolutely every pony in existence was worse than a life of minimal chaos. Oh, he still did his silly things, his costume changes, popping in and out of ponies' ears, riling up Fluttershy's friends with snide remarks or calculated faux sympathy, but it wasn't enough. The world was made of patterns and the patterns were so boring. So he'd come here where he could change the patterns any time he wanted to, and it was meaningless because they were his patterns and there was nopony to appreciate them and react to them. But if he made it rain heavy cream in Ponyville, his best and possibly only friend might decide she wasn't his friend anymore, and that thought hurt.
At that point, he sensed something in Canterlot. Discord licked a finger on his lion's paw and stuck it outside the door to his pocket dimension, checking the feel of reality. Something delicious was brewing. Chaos. Oh, he had to see.
He stepped out of his dimension, folded it up and stuck it in a pocket he didn't have, and spread his arms wide, feeling the currents of magic. Oh ho. So he had actually planted those vines. The fact that in a thousand years they hadn't come up made him think that possibly he'd just imagined that; without a lengthy conversation with Celestia and Luna that he didn't want to have, he wasn't sure he'd ever be able to tell the difference between his actual memories and what he'd hallucinated in his prison. The central runners had tunneled to Canterlot in search of the biggest concentrations of pony magic, and they had to have been at it probably all last night and all of today.
Discord manufactured a handkerchief and dabbed at his eyes. "My little babies are all grown up," he said in a falsely choked voice. They were beelining straight for the only location in Equestria to have three alicorns... and, he supposed, himself, now that he'd stepped out of the dimensional pocket, but their magic was related so closely to his magic, the "don't eat yourselves" provision in their genetic programming would keep them from coming after him as long as he didn't threaten them or throw around any really massive quantities of magic, like the kind it took to raise or lower the sun. The kind that Celestia and Luna were always radiating, one or the other of them and at times both, every minute of every day and every night.
He took to the air, turned himself invisible and intangible, and teleported into the castle, phasing through the walls with ease. Yes, it was just as he thought. They hadn't noticed Twilight Sparkle yet because she wasn't throwing any power around; she was, ugh, checking a checklist. To see if she had left anything off the checklist! Oh, had Celestia recruited her specifically to be his nemesis? She was so horrifyingly orderly.
If the vines came for her, she'd fight them. If she fought them, they'd eat her magic. Twilight Sparkle was the Alicorn of Magic; fed by Celestia, Luna and Twilight, the vines would be utterly unstoppable. Even if the Tree managed to reclaim its Elements, which would be remarkably difficult given that the Element of Magic would be in the process of being eaten, it wouldn't be enough to save it.
Discord thought about a static world, a place of total peace and harmony and stagnation where no foals were born and nopony ever died and nothing ever changed ever ever ever and the ponies trapped in it lived in a hazy dream where there was no hardship and no lust and no triumph and nothing worth living for, and for a moment he considered letting the vines do the job he'd intended them to do. The Tree was evil. He'd believed it before its fruits had trapped him for a thousand years in a stasis even more profound than the one it would inflict on the world if he let it, and he believed it even more now.
But his best friend carried one of those fruits in her heart. The Tree might be evil but Fluttershy was not. Pinkie Pie was not. Twilight Sparkle was annoying, but not evil. Applejack and Rarity were not evil, and all right, he hadn't made up his mind yet about Rainbow I Am So Much Awesomer Than You Dash, but the fastest pegasus in Equestria could probably be counted on to stand up against the static world. For the first time in a very long time there was actual balance; he was free to do what he needed to do, and Celestia had actually kept the Tree under control for the past thousand years without him. Despite his no longer being present to fight the Tree, the static world hadn't happened. Things had gone too far in the direction of peace and harmony and control for his tastes, but there was still conflict, there was still disagreement, there was still creativity and variety and spice.
If he let this go through, if he let this ancient plan of his play out the way he'd originally intended... Tia and Luna would probably die. The Tree would die. The Everfree would expand beyond the boundaries of his chaos turbines without the Tree that it caged to counter balance it, and swallow Ponyville.
Fluttershy had told him, the day after he'd admitted to Celestia that he wanted a friend more than he wanted to create unrestrained chaos, that she didn't mind his chaos as long as it was safe. Safe chaos was something of a contradiction in terms, but then, contradictions in terms were his stock in trade, and he had discovered that she did, in fact, genuinely enjoy having novel and strange experiences when she felt secure enough in them to overcome the terror she felt about pretty much everything. He had turned the inside of her home into a zero-gee field with all the inanimate objects phased partially out of reality so they couldn't be harmed, given her bouncy hooves (and applied the traits of bounciness to most of the bodies of her animals), and they'd had a hilarious time flying around the inside of the house and bouncing off the walls and ceilings, literally. He had made her into various animals, at her request, because she wanted to see what it was like to live from the perspective of the creatures she cared for. He had miniaturized them both and taken them exploring her living room when it had become a vast and bizarre plain with near-unscalable furniture mountains scattered throughout.
Fluttershy was terrified of everything, but she wasn't afraid of him, and she wasn't afraid of chaos as long as she felt that he was protecting her and wouldn't let her get hurt. It had been so very, very long since a pony had shown him that.
He couldn't destroy her home and her way of life. And he didn't want to kill Celestia and Luna. He hadn't wanted to do it at the time, he'd actually agonized over the decision, but at the time he'd thought he might have to. He didn't have to now.
Discord sighed. "Daddy is very disappointed in you," he told the vines. "Why couldn't you have come out a year or so ago, when I could have used you? Now you're interfering with my current plans, and I can't have that."
There was the hole. The vines had burrowed upward and snagged Celestia right out of this corridor, right near Twilight's room, and then retracted. With a thought, Discord wove a cloud of chaotic magic around Twilight's aura, designed to flow around it, repelled and attracted at the same time, so that it would never actually touch and thus Twilight would never figure out it was there. It would cloak her from the vines, keep them from draining her or disrupting her control, and deflect their ability to sense her magic and locate her even if she attacked them... at least for now. Good chaos magic never lasted; by definition, chaos was transient, that was one of the things that was so wonderful about it. But Twilight's protection would probably last long enough for her to get herself into Hero Mode, and he could always keep an eye on her and reapply it if needed.
And now to go find Celestia.
It didn't take long. He eeled down into the hole – even without using his powers, there was no such thing as a hole that could fit an alicorn that he couldn't go through easily – and followed down the tunnel. Before long he saw a faint light, and grinned. Tia was obviously putting up a fight.
A few minutes of crawling – the tunnel wasn't actually tall enough for him to straighten his legs, even on all fours, so he simply folded his joints sideways and, essentially, slithered, legs short and low to the ground and much of his propulsion actually coming from the writhing of his tail – and there he was. He grinned at the sight in front of him. Celestia's hooves, all four of them, were tangled in vines, and other vines had wrapped around her mid-section, pinning her wings. She was being dragged backward, but she was still fighting, her horn glowing and her legs bucking frantically, wings trying to beat against the black thorny vines imprisoning them. She looked up and saw him. "Discord!"
"Tia! Long time no see. How's it going? I could come back at a better time if this is inconvenient."
"Release me from these vines!" she snarled.
"Release... you? Why, Tia, it sounds like you think I'm the one who tied you up in vines. I'm hurt." He clasped his paws together and brought them to his cheek briefly; he'd have preferred his heart, but he was still on all fours so the gag would be less visible if he did it that way. "Did you forget so soon? I'm reformed!"
"Don't lie to me, these vines have the stench of your power all over them," she snapped.
"And to think, once upon a time you found that power exciting. Dare I say... arousing."
Celestia glared at him. "That was a long time ago, Discord. Your heart has since turned very, very ugly."
"Oh! She cuts me to the quick! I'm wounded!"
The vines pulled Celestia further down the tunnel despite her struggles. "I only wish you were," she spat out. "You lied to me. You lied to Fluttershy. I trusted you!"
"Yeah, you'd think you'd have learned not to do that by now," he said, padding after her. "But seriously, Celestia, I did not wake up this morning and decide to attack you with plunder vines. I swear to you that they aren't under my control, and that I am not hatching any new nefarious plots to kidnap you and attack the Tree of Harmony."
Her eyes went wide. "You're going after the Tree?"
"You didn't listen, did you. Well, I can see you're distracted there, so I suppose I'll forgive you. I'm not going after the Tree. I'm reformed! I haven't a devious plot in my head at the moment."
"Are you claiming you have no responsibility for these things?" She kicked at the vines wildly again. In response they slithered further up her legs.
"Oh ho ho no, I never said that. I planted these beauteous little babies the very day you and Luna turned me to stone. Don't you remember? The seeds made a delicious snack food. I did offer you some, if I recall. Although perhaps I've garbled the whole thing; after a thousand years in stone my memory is absolutely shot."
"You—" kick. "—telling me you planted—" squirm, attempt to beat wings, kick some more. "—these a thousand years ago—" blast with horn, throw head around wildly when horn sputters. "—and have nothing to do—" kick, kick, wriggle, pant exhaustedly as vines pull again. "—with them now?"
"By Jove, I think she's got it!"
"Then—" kick, wriggle, thrash "—help me fight them!"
He saluted. "Jawohl, meine Prinzessin! Already on it."
"I've already cast a spell to protect Twilight. These things are programmed to go after major concentrators of magic; when I first planted them, that would only have included you and Woona, but the moment Twilight wakes up and starts using magic... well, she would have stood out to them as a beacon, but I've blocked their ability to detect her magic, and without interfering with her magic in the slightest!"
Celestia sighed. The vines dragged her back again, and she fought them again, but it was obvious she was growing exhausted. "Discord, I'm pleased that you're protecting Twilight, but please, I'm asking you to help me get free. Or if not me, did you just say the vines went after Luna too?"
"I did, and they have." He sighed deeply. "You know what's hilarious about this whole thing? I'd heard that you were hunting for the Tree, so I made these things to kill the Tree so that you couldn't use it against me." The princesses had been with him when the three of them had discovered the Tree of Harmony, when Celestia and Luna had been drawn in by its beauty and its lying promises of safety and peace, and Discord had seen the living death of everything he held dear held in its terrifying crystalline branches. They'd known he feared it, that it could probably hurt him, that in a world where nothing could harm him and he could no longer die there was nothing else he feared... so he had assumed they were going to make weapons out of it and come to kill him, or bring a cutting of the Tree to him to disrupt his power, push him toward stasis, and then kill him. It had hurt, to make the decision that Celestia and Luna had to die, but if they were finally out to kill him with the one thing that could harm him, he had no choice.
And then they'd showed up when he was still planting his vines, before he was ready for them... and instead of a cutting of the Tree, or weapons made from it, they had pretty magic gems. The contrast between what he'd feared and what they were actually doing, the fact that he'd been gearing up to kill them in self-defense and they'd brought trinkets into combat instead of the one thing that could truly harm him, and the relief he'd felt, had overwhelmed him with the hilarity of it all. Really, it wasn't that funny that they'd come after him with magic gems, just kind of pathetic, but after he'd been expecting something from the Tree, to be confronted with magic gems instead had seemed like the funniest thing imaginable.
It hadn't been until after he was turned to stone that he'd realized that the gems were the fruits of the Tree, that he'd been right to be afraid, that he should have run.
By then, it had been too late, of course.
"That's the problem with Chaos, you know," he continued. "Poor timing. If I'd started a week or two earlier or you'd been delayed getting to me with the Elements, my plunder vines would have had a chance to start growing. And they find your magic absolutely delicious. You'd have fought them, they'd have fed well, and you'd have empowered them to destroy the Tree, thus taking the Elements out of commission. How does it feel to know you won by dumb luck?"
"Like destiny had a hand in it," Celestia retorted, kicking again. "Discord. Get me out of this thing."
"Hmm." He stroked his beard, making a show of thinking about it. "No."
"What?" She thrashed even more wildly now. "You said you were reformed! You said you were going to help fight them! So help me!" Her eyes were full of terror. "Please, Discord! Let me out of this!"
"I've got a funny joke for you, Celestia. What's the difference between an alicorn being dragged off by plunder vines and a draconequus who's just been turned to stone by the Elements?"
"The stone draconequus can't yell, 'please, let me out of this,' no matter how much he wants to!" Discord guffawed ostentatiously, and then pretended to sober up. "Oh, wait. That's not funny, is it?"
"I'm sorry! We didn't want to do it, but you left us no choice!"
"Yeah, yeah, you told me that ad nauseam. I could hear you, you know. All those times you came out to the garden and cried and told me you were sorry but I gave you no choice, blah blah. It got really tedious around the four hundredth time you did it."
"So you claim to have reformed, but you'll let the vines kill Luna and myself for revenge?" Her voice was bitter.
"Kill? Who said anything about kill? I'm sure your former faithful student is up to the challenge of saving the Tree and freeing you! Why, Celestia, have you no faith in Twilight?"
"You'll send..." More kicking. "...Twilight..." Thrash. Twist. "...into danger, to clean up..." Attempt to dig hooves into dirt to brace against the pull of the vines. Fail. "...your mess?"
"And she'll perform splendidly as always, I'm sure. I tell you what, though; I'll give everypony a little hint that you and Luna have been kidnapped by raising the sun and the moon at the same time! If that doesn't give them a gigantic hint about hmm, maybe your princess is in a different castle, then I don't know what will."
"You... promise... you'll help her?"
"I solemnly swear on my honor as the last draconequus that I will make sure Princess Twilight Sparkle has the tools she needs to solve this puzzle and save the Tree, and you and Luna as well."
"But... you're not... going to... help her yourself?"
"Well, how could I?" He sniffed. "It's bad enough you're asking me to help Twilight to kill my own babies. Do I want them to suffer with patricide on their delicate consciences as well?"
"Chaos doesn't last, Tia, else it's not chaos. The plunder vines were never intended to live longer than a week or two. They eat magic, and they truly enjoy getting up close and personal with major league magic sources and sucking them dry. So my original plan was to skip town while they were doing their work." He shrugged. "I can block them from detecting Twilight, and I can block them from detecting me if I don't threaten them, but the moment I direct magic against them, they'll recognize that I am not actually one of them, and therefore I am food. Not particularly thrilled with that concept, as you might imagine."
"Didn't think... you were... coward." Celestia's struggles were slowing, her voice growing weaker.
"And I didn't think you'd have so little faith in your dear, dear student. Don't you trust in Twilight?"
"Just stop fighting, Tia. Let it knock you unconscious." He came as close as he dared without her trying to bite him or gore him with her horn, and brushed her mane, filthy from being dragged across the dirt, away from her face with his lion paw. "Just sleep until Twilight comes for you. You believe she will, right?"
"Then sleep. You can't help her, and you'll be a lot happier if you sleep through this."
"...make you pay for this..." she whispered.
"Already did, Tia. A thousand years on the layaway plan. Pretty sure I overpaid, but you know, I've always had a weakness for pretty mares, and they were such insistent salesponies, I couldn't refuse."
He finished brushing back her mane so it was out of her face. Which was going to get it much dirtier because now the whole thing was dragging through the dirt, a fact that amused him. She'd be more comfortable and her mane would be more disordered! Win-win!
Now to watch the fun.
He hovered invisibly over Canterlot, watching with delight as everypony lost their minds over the fact that the princesses were missing and the sun and moon were up at the same time. Ponies were just so easy to freak out. With another part of his attention he kept a watch on Twilight, making sure that his spell held up and that the vines didn't identify her as a tasty snack. And a small part of him watched out for Fluttershy; the vines wouldn't target her specifically because of her lack of active magic, but she was exactly the sort of pony who would get into trouble trying to save a cute little hamster or something.
But the great thing about being the god of Chaos was that he could split his attention many different ways and still fully appreciate what he was seeing. Canterlot was hilarious, and watching Ponyville was just a joy. Oh, he hadn't seen chaos like this since he'd been the one creating it. Technically he'd created this, but the fact that he had completely forgotten about this plan meant this was totally unexpected chaos, his favorite kind. He was almost sorry he was going to have to help Twilight and pals destroy the things... but he couldn't let them run their course. They'd do too much damage to things that right now, he wanted to preserve.
And then he sensed Twilight beginning the summoning spell. It was powered by the Elements, which made it very hard to resist; his own magic simply slid off the Elements and their abilities. This could get seriously annoying in the future, except for the part where most likely, the Elements wouldn't be in pony hooves anymore by the end of the day.
Well, today wasn't the day he was going to try to resist the summons anyway. He wanted to be there where he could advise Twilight, and he wanted her to think it was her idea. So he manifested a shower around himself and started singing "Winter Wrap-Up" because it would be much funnier if it looked like they'd pulled him out of his bath, and would probably embarrass Twilight enough that she'd think twice about using any summoning spell without first contacting him to ask if now was a good time.
The rainbow energies took him, forcefully, yanking him through space that wasn't space. He carried the bathtub with him, riding in it rather than letting the spell pull him alone. The use of harmonics set his teeth on edge and if there weren't water running all over his fur, his hackles would be raised; he hated the feeling of that stupid rainbow even when it wasn't turning him to stone. But he put on a cheerful expression because it would never do to let any of them know that they could cast a spell that would make him uncomfortable, and looked around gleefully at their serious faces. Oh, they were all so mad right now.
This was going to be hilarious.
This story is in the same continuity as "The Last Draconequus", "Princess Twilight Sparkle Endcaps" and "Elements of Opposition." The fic sequence for this particular continuity goes like this:
Last Draconequus and related fics: Discord's childhood and history
Awkward Conversations: Post "Keep Calm and Flutter On", pre-Alicorn Twilight. Discord has conversations with several other characters. Most of them do not go well.
Princess Twilight Sparkle Endcaps:
- Vines: Pre-"Princess Twilight Sparkle". Discord decides to help with the vines. Mostly.
- Detente: Post-"Princess Twilight Sparkle". Zecora comes to Discord with an offer from the Tree of Harmony, and some advice.
Light Rain: Discord has something to show Fluttershy. Bridge between "Princess Twilight Sparkle Endcaps" and "Elements of Opposition".
Elements of Opposition (series):
- Discord in Hell (Not Literally): Discord travels to an alternate universe to wreak entertaining havoc, and picks the wrong one. After being enslaved with twisted versions of the Elements of Harmony that his now-dead counterpart had corrupted, thus corrupting their Bearers, Discord writes a desperate plea for help.
- Twilight Sparkle's Report On The Entropic Gradient: Technically happens before "Discord in Hell". The corrupted Twilight Sparkle outlines her plan for Discord to her version of Princess Celestia.
- Dragonfire and Sympathy: The alternate Spike is trying not to have any sympathy for Discord.
- World Without Harmony: Stories of the alternate universe.
- Elements of Opposition: The Mane 6 from the regular universe go on a mission to rescue Discord from the alternate universe.
These are not hyperlinked because fanfiction dot net strips hyperlinks, but all of them either are or soon will be available on my author page.