WARNINGS: This story contains explicit torture, rape (not sufficient to warrant higher than M rating).

Harmony, 1 AM

In the middle of the night, Spike woke with an overwhelming need to belch.

This wasn't that shocking. While Princess Celestia had very rarely sent a letter this late at night, Princess Luna was also capable of sending letters, even if she almost never did. What was unusual was the surge of horrible nausea and the terrible taste in his mouth, the taste of spoil and rot.

One paw on his mouth and the other on his belly, Spike got to his feet. "Ugh..." He retched, and then belched. His flame came out a sickly yellowish green, and what looked like a badly mistreated scroll materialized and clattered to the floor before he could grab it.

Scrolls were not supposed to clatter. There was plainly something extremely weird about that thing.

The nausea passed, but if anything the terrible taste was worse. Spike picked up the battered, squashed scroll, and recoiled. It was wet. Saturated with some dark substance. Spike gagged again as he caught a whiff of the smell. Blood. Also a number of other disgusting smells he didn't even want to parse out right now.

He dropped the scroll, gingerly, on a desk, and ran for the kitchen, where he put on a kettle of boiling water. He pulled down a small ceramic container in the shape of a fat, grinning bear, which had been labeled "SPIKE'S TEA – DRAGONS ONLY!", and took out a pinch of the concoction within. It was cinnamon, and a mixture of the hottest peppers you could get in Equestria, and a mix of mineral dust consisting of gold, ruby, obsidian and diamond, all powdered so fine they looked like glitter. Spike put his tea concoction in a mug, poured the boiling water into it, poured a second cup of boiling water into a mug with no tea in it and drank that straight up because a taste this nasty needed some plain boiling water to burn it off, and then waited until his tea was done steeping and gulped it down as well, swishing it in his mouth to wash out every last trace of the bad taste.

Twilight was exhausted. Between the massive amount of studying history and court protocol she had to do before she could take her place in court on a regular basis, the frequent teleportations to Canterlot to assist the Princesses in some ceremonial duty, her research into the mysterious box and the potential location of keys for it, and her desperate attempts to still manage being the Ponyville librarian and spend time with her friends so they wouldn't feel as if she was drifting away from them now that she was a princess... Spike had seen her this tired before, but generally either final exams or the imminent end of the world were looming. There really were no major crises right now – the Discord situation was stable, in that he'd been missing for two months and no sign of chaos on the horizon anywhere; politics appeared to be going smoothly at the moment; no signs of Changelings, no mysterious mystic forces, everything basically as calm as things ever got in Ponyville. There wasn't any good reason for her to be working herself to exhaustion right now except that she was Twilight and that was what she did.

So there was no way Spike was going to wake her up to deal with this.

Spike carried the document out of the bedroom and into the main library, where he put on a lamp. There was no way he could sleep right now; the hot peppers he'd needed to wash the taste out had woken him up, and besides, he was intensely curious. What the hay was that thing? It looked like a scroll that had been beaten up badly and soaked in something gross, blood he thought, but it was much too heavy to be a scroll, and things rattled inside it. Gingerly, touching it only with the tips of his claws because wow was this thing ever gross, he pried it open. The ends of it had been smushed and twisted, so it was more like a makeshift package of sorts than a scroll.

When he got it open numerous pages fell out. At least he assumed they were pages. Several of them were crumpled balls that had been squashed as small as a sheet of paper could get. Some were folded, but no two were folded the same way; one had been folded lengthwise again and again until it was very skinny, and then had been squashed like a bendy straw. Another had been folded widthwise, then lengthwise, then widthwise, then widthwise again, then lengthwise. Another had been folded into triangles, badly, with corners sticking out all over. Two sheets had been rolled into each other like a scroll ought to be, and those had been on the outside rolled around everything else, directly under the outer layer of packaging. One appeared to be an attempt to make an origami pony head, if the pony in question was a weird mutant of some kind with three horns and an absurdly wide face.

Neither the outer scroll that had been used as packaging, nor the two inner sheets that had actually been rolled the way scrolls were supposed to be rolled, had any sort of address, salutation or signature to indicate who the document had been sent from or who it was being sent to. Sighing, Spike decided to do his best to solve the mystery, since he couldn't sleep anyway. Besides, part of him was thinking this might even be a little bit fun. Take on a task that might challenge even Twilight a little bit, while she was sleeping, and do the whole thing for her. Present her with the results of his research in the morning. Watch her beam proudly at him. Yeah, that sounded nice.

Carefully he started unfolding the pages. The first thing he noted was that the writing did not look Equestrian. And then he realized, yes, it did, it was just abysmally bad handwriting. The characters were a random mixture between the blocky characters of hoof-writing, used by pegasi and earth ponies, and the smooth flowing characters of horn-writing, used by unicorns once they'd mastered telekinetic control of a quill. The size of the characters varied wildly, the way a foal's writing might, and the writer obviously had no clue how to keep characters in a straight line without guidelines on the paper, because the writing bent up, or down, or hit the side of the page and then ran down it sideways, and there were sometimes what looked like entire clauses inserted into the openings left by lines of writing that bowed in opposite directions. Had a foal written this? But there were a lot of pages, and none of them had any margin; the writer had used up the paper entirely, writing things along the sides of the margins in tiny letters that probably a foal couldn't have made.

Okay. This was a really weird document, and now, Spike had a true mystery on his hands. Who was it from, who was it to, and why was it written in this bizarre way? The paper was strange; it appeared to be randomly mixed swirls of wood pulp and... vellum. Vellum was a durable but horrible writing medium made from animal skin; griffons used it almost exclusively, since their mountainous homeland was short on trees and they were meat eaters, but most ponies would find the thought of writing on a dead animal's skin to be horrifying. But this wasn't a skein of vellum, it was the substance of vellum randomly mixed with the substance of wood-pulp paper... with occasional rough spots that seemed like the wood pulp had gotten some bark in it, and occasionally fur embedded in the paper. The fur was earth-toned, some brown, some gray, some black, occasionally dark red. It was as if somepony had used magic to construct the paper out of a pile of dead bodies and tree limbs. They weren't always even pony bodies. Spike shuddered as he located a spot on the vellum where the faint shape of reddish dragon scales was plainly visible. Maybe that had come from a snake or a lizard... but he'd never seen a snake or a lizard come in shades of red like that.

It was a document being sent to the Alicorn of Magic, it smelled like blood, and the paper seemed to have been made by some sort of necromancy. Now Spike was more determined than ever to find out exactly who sent this message and why, before Twilight got her hooves on it. If it was some kind of evil magic that would mesmerize Twilight or something, well, Spike ought to be immune to it.

He laid the pages out as flat as he could get them. There were seventeen of them, not counting the envelope, which was so thoroughly saturated with blood that if it had ever had writing on it, the writing was long since blotted out completely. The rest of the pages were double-sided, more or less, though two of them stopped randomly in the middle of the page and left the rest empty, and one had a giant green stain in the center that the writer had managed to mostly avoid writing in. The ink, whatever it was – it appeared to be varied shades of dark brown or maybe dark red – had soaked through the paper in multiple places, which made it even harder to read because the writing from one side interfered with the writing on the other. None of the pages had anything at the top or the bottom to indicate who they were being sent to or from. And there was no page numbering, so no easy way for Spike to get this in order.

Spike started puzzling out the top lines of the pages, hoping he could use them to fit the document into the correct order.

As he attempted to read, he noticed that the writing material appeared to be changing without pattern as well. Most of the letters seemed to be formed with a stylus dipped in dark reddish-brown ink, where often the lines were thin and fine, made by the point of a sharp object, but then often thickening as if the writer's stylus was slipping sideways and part of the line was being made by the side of the stylus, the lines growing wider and wider as the stylus laid more and more of itself on the paper. Some of the letters appeared to be made with a quill that seemed like a magically stiffened caterpillar, something wide and fuzzy. When the wide fuzzy quill was in use, the handwriting changed slightly and the letters pointed in the opposite direction, and the smearing pattern indicated the writing wasn't being done by a hoof or a horn but by a paw, something that would accidentally drag across the page and smear the ink, just like Spike himself did sometimes by accident. Occasionally the ink would change to something more akin to a dark brown crayon, especially when the fuzzy quill was in use.

When he finally deciphered the first line of the first page he looked at, it was unhelpful. "not that stupid, I saw it coming... I was not at all prepared for what Twilight did." The second equally so. "because ponies think they look funny. I ask you how could something like that ever come from my DNA?"

Then the third chilled Spike, reading as it did like something so much more appropriate for a possibly necromantic and horrifying document written on dead animals in completely chaotic handwriting. "Have you ever eaten something that is so awful, your gut is heaving even as you put it in your mouth and you're actually crying from how unbelievably awful it tastes but if you don't eat it you'll lose control of your muscles and they'll start just eating it without"

The fourth page Spike looked at made him wonder if maybe he was up to this, if maybe he shouldn't save the document for Twilight after all. "and I'm hungry and I hurt all the time and somepony who looks and sounds exactly like my best friend, my first and closest friend, the pony who taught me the value of love and friendship, is raping me on a regular basis."

He pushed that page away for a moment, horrified by the mental images. Up to now, the creepy paper and the terrible handwriting and the outer wrapping soaked in blood had made Spike think of some document created by an evil unicorn necromancer to possess Twilight's soul or something. With that paragraph his perceptions shifted. This was a document created by the prisoner of the evil unicorn necromancer. A prisoner who was probably female, given that somepony was raping her... but she was writing with a paw, not a hoof, so she was probably a griffon or... maybe a dragon? A dragon filly, being held prisoner by an evil necromancer who made evil paper, because a full-grown dragon couldn't possibly be victimized by a pony that way but Spike knew all too well how helpless a young dragon was in comparison to a full-grown pony, particularly a talented unicorn mage.

This was horrible and twisted, and he wasn't sure he wanted to know anymore, but someone was in trouble. Someone was hurting and desperate, someone was a prisoner being tortured, and maybe she might even be a young dragon like him. Now Spike had to decipher the rest of the document. He picked up the next sheet.

"slipping on the soap in the bathtub and cracking your skull. Universes where I am dead usually got to be that way because someone murdered me.

In this universe it was Spike. Yes, little Spikey Wikey. He took a sledgehammer to me."

Wait, what?

Spike bore down on that particular page. He hadn't killed anypony, ever, certainly not with a sledgehammer. Who was claiming that he had killed somepony? Wait, if he was reading this correctly, the writer was claiming that Spike had killed her. Which begged the question of how she could possibly be writing this. And besides Spike hadn't. Could it be a different Spike?... nicknamed Spikey Wikey? What were the odds?

Instead of going on to a different page, he worked on deciphering that one in full.

In this universe it was Spike. Yes, little Spikey Wikey. He took a sledgehammer to me. A sledgehammer that doesn't exist in our universe because when I found a weapon lying around that could destroy gods, I turned it into a sword and chucked it into another dimension where it very nearly landed on and killed some poor lake naiad, who fortunately then stepped up to the plate to guard it so only heroes could get their paws, or hooves, or hands, on it, and not bratty little dragons who want to prove how manly they are, or something. I don't actually know why he did it, because he thinks I already know, given that he thinks I am the same guy he took a sledgehammer to and he apparently monologued about his intent for some time before doing it (which by the way talk about your Fridge Horror, maybe you can't comprehend this because when you got turned to stone it was a cockatrice and cockatrice stoning knocks the victim unconscious, but when I was in stone I could hear everything, so I'm just imagining being there trapped listening to this pathetic little dragon monologuing about why he is going to kill me and being completely unable to move or escape or even speak to defend myself and thinking SWEET CELESTIA'S FLANK JUST SHUT UP AND DO IT ALREADY, LISTENING TO YOU GO ON AND ON IS SHEER TORTURE!)

Oooo... kay. So the writer was claiming both that she (or he? The writer did say "thinks I am the same guy") had been murdered by Spike with a sledgehammer and that someone else had really been and that maybe this whole thing was happening in her (or his?) imagination and that either she (or he) had been stoned by a cockatrice when it happened, or... or something. It didn't make any sense. And what were the references to universes?

He picked up another sheet, hoping it would shed some light.

"Which hurts more than you can possibly imagine when she changes midstream from one to the other, because you can't tell the difference. They don't sound different, they don't look different." Not helpful.

"to try to rescue me, in part because this is all my fault and in part because you despise me and will probably enjoy hearing about how I have been humiliated here..." Okay, so that fit in with the hypothesis that the writer was a prisoner being tortured and was writing for help. But "you despise me?" Who did? Was this writer someone Twilight knew? Spike knew? The princesses knew?

"sweetness and light, black and white mentality, and excruciatingly bad dialogue that mark these universes. So I can't go to a universe where I never existed and I can't go to a universe where I currently exist;" More talking about universes. The letter had to be for Twilight, to be discussing such abstruse and strange concepts as multiple universes. Although, earlier the writer had referred to Twilight in the third person, saying she (or he) was not prepared for what Twilight did. So... now Spike was totally confused.

"silent as often as I can. Hasn't worked so far; apparently no matter how many times they humiliate me I can't get it through my head not to make sarcastic comments that lead to my being forced to admit to things I never wanted to admit to, like that I'm afraid and I hurt so much I'd do almost anything to make it stop." Not new information. The writer was a prisoner, being tortured; the writer had a tendency to make sarcastic comments, but some of the passages Spike had read proved that much.

"deliver them herself. If she's dissatisfied with me, she'll just tell Fluttercruel.

Although honestly, given the choice between Applejack punishing me herself and Rarity tattling on me to Fluttercruel so she'll do it... I prefer Applejack."


Who was Fluttercruel? Some sort of evil doppelganger of Fluttershy? Why would Applejack or Rarity be involved in punishing the writer of the document? Spike had had a mental image of an evil unicorn captor in his head, but now he was even more confused than before. Applejack and Rarity weren't holding a prisoner, and Fluttershy was not an evil doppelganger... oh, no, was this document from the future? No! That would mean Applejack and Rarity would start working for the evil unicorn who might be an evil doppelganger of Fluttershy or might have made an evil Fluttershy or might be a changeling pretending to be Fluttershy and Spike himself was going to kill someone! With a sledgehammer!

No, there had to be a better explanation! Spike picked up the next page.

"actually perceive it as being like another dimension or something, and there he is tortured eternally. Not until he dies, redeems himself, serves his sentence, or goes catatonic or feral, like in Tartarus. Eternal torture, of the most horrible kind they could think of, and believe me, the creatures that invented this concept are great at thinking of horrible things. I'm not, of course, literally in hell any more than I'm literally in Tartarus, but it's a metaphor so I was hoping my geas wouldn't force me to spell that out. Apparently not." No, that wasn't helpful.

"I'm afraid I have to admit it, this is entirely my own fault. Now I'm told that many individuals in a situation such as the one I find myself in might engage in a bit of unproductive self-blame, such as 'If only I'd been'" ...Not helpful either.

"When I discorded her I basically had to just overwrite the top of her personality via brute force, rather than bringing something out that was already within, so I'm pretty confident that this is the case and there is no part of my Fluttershy that would enjoy tying me down on my back with my wings pulled open so far it feels like they're going to tear loose, whipping me (on my chest and belly, given that I'm tied on my back) with a diamond-studded hemp rope, and then ordering me to perform sexual acts on her. Pretty confident."

Spike dropped the paper he was holding, stunned and horrified.

Discord. The writer was Discord. It made sense – the terrible handwriting, shifting penmanship, lines going all over the page and completely disorganized method of packaging the document, the bizarre paper... the sarcastic commentary, the reference to "you despise me"... it made sense, it made horrible, horrible sense, but then it stopped making sense completely, because... because an evil doppelganger of Fluttershy was torturing and... and raping Discord? How? How did that even work? Wait, Spike didn't want to know how that would work.

But seriously, how? Discord was probably the most powerful being in Equestria. How could Discord be held prisoner and tortured by ponies? No, wait, it had to be changelings, he'd mentioned Applejack and Rarity so it wasn't just an evil doppelganger of Fluttershy involved, it was a whole lot of them... including Spike himself? Was he an evil doppelganger too? And... it still didn't make sense. Which was usual, when dealing with Discord. But the changelings weren't powerful enough to hold Discord prisoner... were they?

He read through the top lines of the next several pages rapidly, trying to find something, anything, to tell him what was going on here.

"rain fish in Canterlot Fluttershy would be furious with me, and when you have only one friend she has quite a lot of psychological leverage."

"showers her friends with absurd numbers of gifts, but she's also avaricious, much more ambitious, and keeps the gems she finds, or sells them for large sums. Also she has no problem having the former God of Chaos as a slave."

"I miss cotton candy so much. I dream about it. You'd think I'd dream of taking bloody revenge or something, but no, I dream about floating on a cloud of cotton candy, nibbling at it."

"But after Fluttercruel hurts me and uses me for her own depraved purposes... then she tends my wounds. Then she's kind, and sweet, and behaves like Fluttershy, and I'm so alone and I miss my friend and sometimes I close my eyes and pretend."

" I can cast a spell on Spike so his fire redirects, one time, to his cognate in my universe. I think I can guilt him into letting me send this letter. He's going to think he's sending it to Celestia. It's going to be really really hard but I think I can possibly manage to not tell him I'm casting that spell."

And with that it clicked. Somehow. The strange yellowish green fire, not his normal color at all; the feeling of nausea he'd gotten when he'd belched the document up; Discord talking about universes and evil Fluttershy and Spike himself had killed Discord with a sledgehammer except apparently he didn't and "his cognate in my universe..." Spike understood now. It was a weird abstract theory that Twilight had mentioned a few times, and also it had appeared in one of the Daring Do comics which weren't even canon, where Daring Do went to a universe where she was evil and Ahuizotl was good. Alternate universes. The stuff of abstract discussions and comic book fantasies.

Discord was in another universe. Where, apparently, all the ponies Spike knew and cared for were evil. Not that he would rule out basically decent ponies inflicting some pain on Discord, but there was no justification for rape, ever (seriously how did that work? Fluttershy wasn't a unicorn; even if Discord had no powers how could she make... him... okay, Spike needed to stop thinking about this right now because it was horrifying and gross and also completely gross and oh no he was never going to be able to unread any of that stuff...)

Spike considered folding up the pages and leaving them for Twilight now. Now that he knew what the message was, he could guess that it was for Twilight or maybe Princess Celestia, and Discord hadn't thought to write down who it was for on the envelope probably for the same reason he hadn't thought that his paper would fit better if he'd folded it all neatly. Maybe Spike didn't want to know any more about this. He didn't owe Discord anything; after what Discord had done to Twilight the first time he'd broken loose, Spike had hated him for some time, and although he was reformed now, he was still annoying as all getout.

But no. Here Spike had bits and pieces of a story. He'd spent his entire life as a librarian's assistant, surrounded nearly every waking moment by books and inundated with the theories of documentation and classification and storytelling technique. He couldn't just go to sleep with these fragments of a story in his head. He had to get them together into the correct order and read the whole thing, so he had the full picture. And maybe it still wouldn't make sense after that, because it was Discord, but at least Spike needed to know.

So he began the laborious process of trying to match pages to each other based on the text on the bottom of one page seeming to belong to the text on the top of another. It did not help in the slightest that it seemed Discord hadn't done something normal, like written on one side of a page and then started on the second side; no, he'd done things like written three pages and then written on the backside of each one of them, but not in the same order. So Spike had to actually stamp the documents with numbers in order to sort them correctly for reading.

And then, once they were sorted, Spike began copying out the letter onto a real scroll, in his own neat handwriting, so that Twilight and Princess Celestia wouldn't have to struggle through the horrible handwriting and total disorganization and the ink bleeding through the paper (literally, since according to Discord and the smell of it, the ink was blood) that Spike had had to in order to read it. It took him twenty pages, mostly because his handwriting was much neater and more even than Discord's, so what had taken Discord thirty-three pages (some of which had giant empty spaces in them) took Spike a lot less... although Spike's version took more sheets overall because he wasn't writing on the back of them.

When he was finally done it was morning, Celestia's sun was peeking over the horizon, and Spike felt like he might never sleep again. He was exhausted, but the horrors in that document haunted him. A world where, instead of (or maybe in addition to) discording the Bearers in the maze, that world's Discord had corrupted the Elements themselves, and it had changed the Bearers. Rarity, selfish. Applejack, a manipulator. Pinkie Pie... Spike didn't even know, because he was trying very very hard not to think about what Discord had been implying when he'd talked about Pinkie Pie. Rainbow Dash, obviously so disconnected from her friends that Discord never even saw her.

Fluttershy, a torturer. And... and rapist. (How did that work?)

And Twilight, who had done something to herself so that she could beat her world's Discord even with her now evil friends, and now she was evil, turning a blind eye or actively participating in the torture of someone who... okay, he was a big jerk, he really had discorded the Element Bearers and plunged Ponyville into chaos, but he had gone to their world to make it rain fish in Canterlot and for that they were beating him with diamond-studded whips? And making him eat bird poop? And... Spike didn't even want to think about what else the letter had talked about.

He could understand them really, really hating Discord. If he, himself, and apparently it sounded like he hadn't been changed, if he could have picked up a sledgehammer and destroyed the living statue of Discord, he who'd never ever wanted to kill anyone or anything... and they didn't know this was a different Discord... okay, he could understand them hating him. Whatever the other Discord could have done to make the other Spike kill him once he was stone and helpless, it had to have been horrible beyond imagining. But put him in stone, or... kill him quickly and cleanly if you were a killer and that was a thing you did, not... not torture. Not rape.

Fluttershy couldn't be allowed to read this. He wasn't sure any of them should except for Twilight. She'd know how to handle it. She'd know what to do.

It had occurred to Spike more than once that this could be some kind of a sick joke, a bizarre and twisted prank. Certainly Discord wasn't above playing such a prank. But Spike was positive it wasn't the case. Discord might pretend he was being held prisoner as a joke, but talking about being forced to vomit and being beaten and being raped (did he actually say the evil Fluttershy had had Angel Bunny rape him? Now that sounded like a sick joke, but not one Discord would tell on himself.) Discord was too proud. He wouldn't say these things as a joke. He probably wouldn't say them if they were true, except that apparently he was under the effects of a spell that forced him to spill his guts verbally or he'd end up doing it literally.

Plus. Discord had claimed he was using his own skin to make the paper... and there were places where fur, in the colors of Discord's fur (or the color of Discord's fur when it was soaked with blood, apparently), or dragon scales in a very, very faded version of the color of Discord's scales, were embedded in the paper. He'd said he was using his own blood and the dirt of the floor for ink... the dark reddish-brown ink and the crayon-like writing. He'd said he was writing with his fingers, his talon or the fingers on his lion paw, and that was consistent with the sharply pointed stylus that every so often got longer, like Discord's talon was lying against the paper instead of pointing straight down, and the fuzzy quill, which did, now that Spike knew, look exactly like Discord writing with a furry finger from his lion paw. The blood-soaked envelope didn't just smell like blood; there was a difference between Spike's own blood and the smell of pony blood, and the blood he smelled on the packaging was like the two were mixed up together.

Discord was smart, and an excellent liar, but Spike just couldn't believe that he could possibly be detail-oriented enough to construct such a consistent fake.

They couldn't leave him there. Spike didn't like Discord, but... they couldn't leave him there. They couldn't leave anypony to suffer like that. In the letter he kept saying he didn't really believe Twilight would come to his rescue... but Spike knew better. He knew his Twilight Sparkle, the real one, not the evil one from that world, would never leave anypony in a situation like that.

Harmony, 7 AM

It was much, much too early in the morning when Twilight felt her shoulder being shaken by a small dragon paw. "Twilight! Twilight, get up, it's morning and I have something important to show you!"

Twilight dragged herself upright. "Is there tea?" she mumbled.

"Yup. Double-black plus ginseng, ginger, cinnamon, and a lot of honey."


"On the kitchen table. Last time I gave you your tea while you were in bed, you drank it and then fell back asleep and then you got mad at me for letting you oversleep."

She shoved her hoof through the unruly mane falling in her eyes, trying to push it back, because it was way too early for magic, not without her tea. "Can you go to Sugarcube Corner and get—"

"Croissants, got'em, fresh baked, raspberry and cherry flavors with icing, plus I fried you an egg, plus apple juice for when you burn your tongue on the tea."

"Okay, okay. Just give me five more minutes."

"Did I mention fresh-baked? Like, gonna get cold if I give you five minutes? Just like the egg I fried you?"

Twilight moaned. "Spike, I'm so tired..."

"I know," Spike said. "I know just how you feel, I was up all night. But this is important."

She blinked at him. "You went to bed before I did..."

"Yeah, but a document came in during the night and... well, I had to stay up all night deciphering and re-copying it so it was readable."

Twilight shook her head, both to get mane out of her eyes and because that didn't make any sense. "Spike, who sent a document to you in the middle of the night? And why did you have to decipher it? Was it some kind of secret code?"

"No, just... really, really, really bad handwriting. Pages and pages of it. And I can't show it to you until after you've eaten, but it's important."

A document Spike thought was important enough to stay up all night deciphering, but he didn't want to give it to her right away? "You can give it to me and I'll read it during breakfast."

"Uh, Twi... no, no you won't. 'Cause there is no way I am letting you read this thing until you eat."

"Spike, you said it was important!" She stumbled out of bed. "If it's important, how can it wait until I've eaten?"

Spike sighed. "You'll... uh, you'll know when you read it. It... it's bad, Twilight, it's really bad. You won't be able to eat if you read it before breakfast. I could barely make yours."

"What? Is it an invasion? A plague? An invasion of plague-carriers? Parasprites? Wait, somepony isn't dead, are they?"

"Nopony's dead yet, but..." His voice cracked. "It's not any of those things, Twilight, but you just gotta read it for yourself, okay? It can wait until you eat breakfast, but please just get downstairs and eat? I don't want to be the only one who's read this..."

She sighed heavily. "Fine."

Anticipation and worry made the egg tasteless, the croissant dry, and led her to drink her tea too fast, burning her mouth. She wished Spike would have just given her the document; whenever she was anxious, food didn't even taste good.

"Okay, I've eaten. Where is it?"

"Here's my copy." Spike handed her a sheaf of scrolls. "I've got the original over on your desk, but trust me, this is a lot more readable."

She glanced it over. "Who is this from?" With it recopied by Spike, there were no handwriting cues to suggest the origin.


Twilight stopped dead on her way to her desk, the scrolls still floating in front of her head, and turned back to Spike, who was walking behind her. "Discord? It's from him? Does he say where he is or what he's doing? Did he turn evil again?"

Spike's voice cracked. "He did something dumb, but I don't think... I don't think we could've called it evil, really. Just kind of a really big, stupid, mean prank. And... and they're torturing him, Twilight."

She stared at him. "Who is?"

"We are. Evil us. Twilight, just read it, it's... it's so weird I don't wanna try to explain it, I'm afraid I'm gonna mess it up. You're smart enough to understand it. Just... it's not about him being a danger we have to stop. It's about him being in danger and he's asking for help."

"I don't understand how we could help Discord. Anything that could threaten him is much more powerful than we are..."

"You'll know when you read it."

So now she needed to read it more than anything else, but probably not while walking or she'd stumble over her own hooves, not that she hadn't done that many times before. The first thing she wanted to do, though, is get the original document. Because Spike might have copied it perfectly, but she always felt she could get more of a sense of a text when she read it in the original writer's pen.

Except that when she got a look at the original document, she saw exactly what Spike meant. It couldn't be from anyone but Discord; nopony else could have such total disregard for niceties like the size of the characters or how they lined up with each other. She was actually somewhat shocked that the words she could make out were punctuated correctly, though the capitalization was almost completely random.

Spike's version had fixed all that, and didn't smell terrible, so she decided that this time, she would read his version. And then she'd read Discord's version. After casting a spell to block her sense of smell.

The first thing Twilight noticed was, as she might have expected, Discord couldn't stick to a point and kept tossing things out as if he'd already explained them when he hadn't yet. Also that his opinion of her was very low for someone who was apparently asking for help. She frowned as she read "...well, if you knew, you probably wouldn't care. In fact I'm having a hard time believing I should bother mustering up what little energy I have to write this message, because I'm almost entirely certain you won't care and might even laugh and certainly won't lift a hoof to try to rescue me, in part because this is all my fault and in part because you despise me and will probably enjoy hearing about how I have been humiliated here... but on the other hand I have very few options". It was true that if his situation really was all his fault, he probably had it coming to him, but that didn't mean she wouldn't help – what –

"Literally I am in the basement of an alternate universe version of Fluttershy, chained to the floor, scraping together what very little magic I am able to use to transform the bark off tree roots and loose-hanging flaps of my own skin into parchment, which is why some of these pages will be part vellum, part wood paper."

Discord didn't have loose-hanging flaps of skin. He was lean and seemed to be made entirely of long thin muscle, like a snake. Nothing about him bulged or flapped (aside from wings, which were supposed to flap, obviously.) To have loose-hanging flaps of skin, he would either have had to have lost so much weight he was skeletal, or... or the skin had been cut loose from his body and was a literal hanging flap, not just a place where the skin was loose. And... he was pulling his own skin off to make it into paper? Chained in a basement? Fluttershy's basement?

Spike had said this was bad, but the first page of the letter had been so sardonic, even flippant in places, that when Discord had talked about not believing she'd help him she'd perceived it as whiny. As if what he was suffering was only all that bad in his own head. But this—

" tried gnawing my way out of the basement but there are spells on the dirt walls and I'm too weak to dig a deep hole to get around them. Also if evil goateed Fluttershy caught me I don't even want to imagine what she'd do to me. She doesn't really have a goatee, that's a reference to a joke you won't get, but she really is evil. I shall henceforth call her Fluttercruel because I am trying very very very hard to separate her in my mind from my dear friend"

"I almost think I'd rather be—


No, I'm not going to say that, I'm not going to believe that. I am not better off dead. Once I start thinking that way I've lost. Where there's life there's hope and all that. I got out of that damned statue, I can get out of this."

Get out of what? What was happening to him? Why couldn't he write this damn thing in order, or stick to a topic? He was chained up in the basement of an evil version of Fluttershy in an alternate universe, and his skin was hanging loose, and he was struggling not to believe he was better off dead, but how? How could ponies take Discord captive? He wasn't even vulnerable to Fluttershy's Stare.

"I want to go home. I hate it here. I'd hate it here even if I weren't chained up in a basement being routinely beaten with diamond-studded whips."

"I think maybe she is trying to make me associate terrible tastes and nausea with chaos, because she smiles cheerfully as she brings me the most disgusting things possible to feed me, tells me I should like it because it's not what any normal pony would want to eat and therefore it's chaotic and different, and then orders me to eat it and I have to. The obedience spell keeps me from disobeying a direct order. Have you ever eaten something that is so awful, your gut is heaving even as you put it in your mouth and you're actually crying from how unbelievably awful it tastes but if you don't eat it you'll lose control of your muscles and they'll start just eating it without your input, and at least if you can control your muscles you can keep your tongue out of the way of the food so you don't have to taste it so much?"

Twilight was not naïve. She was very well read, and among the things she had read, there had been accounts of war, of savage violence between ponies or between ponies and other species, of slavery and rape and torture and cruelty. But none of what she'd read had ever impacted anypony she knew. They were tales of ancient times, recorded history for the sake of making sure such things could never happen again. Nopony she knew had ever been beaten with a whip (diamond studded whips? That would be like... being hit with a whip and cut with thrown shuriken and battered with flung rocks, all at the same time. How could anypony do that to anyone, even Discord? Discord had never physically tortured anypony she knew of.) Obedience spells? Being forced to eat horrible things? Why?

Who could do that, even to Discord? Why would anypony do that? How...

Now she was riveted, horrified but compelled to keep reading. She read as Discord wrote about why he'd gone to an alternate universe, and why he'd chosen one where his counterpart was dead, and what a bad idea that had turned out to be. She read about the alternate Spike killing the alternate Discord, and part of her mind keened for her dragon baby, her little brother, an alternate who had to be someway, somehow like her Spike because ridiculous stuff like that comic about Daring Do going to the universe where she was evil and Ahuizotl was good couldn't possibly happen. Ponies' personalities, and other creatures, couldn't possibly just be completely different for no good reason. Events led to changes in personality. She'd raised her Spike to be like a pony, to turn to the answers of friendship and harmony first, never murder. What could have changed, what could have driven Spike to kill a helpless, neutralized foe?

And then she read about how. It didn't sound like Spike had been directly affected, but her friends' counterparts had been turned evil by the alternate Discord doing something to the elements themselves, tying them to their opposing principles so that they were permanently transformed into beings that contained their opposites as well as their original selves, and how badly must that be tearing them to bits? Was it that bad? Had the alternate Spike really been justified? She remembered Fluttershy yelling insults and laughing, Pinkie insecure and paranoid, Rarity obsessing over Tom the not-a-diamond... but even if they'd become those things for the rest of their lives, that couldn't be terrible enough to justify killing Discord, could it? Or torturing him? Not if the Elements had been an option, not if they'd gotten him into stone anyway... it sounded like they weren't that bad, Discord was saying that Fluttershy was still the animal caretaker and veterinarian, it sounded like it couldn't have affected them as badly as what he'd done to them in the maze—

"somepony who looks and sounds exactly like my best friend, my first and closest friend, the pony who taught me the value of love and friendship, is raping me on a regular basis."

Twilight almost dropped the scroll.

Was this a joke? She remembered an incident, after Discord had reformed but before she became an alicorn, when she woke from a horrible dream about Discord raping her to find that he'd seen the dream, having accidentally gone into her mind while he was sleeping as well, and he'd seemed genuinely insulted, as well as actually embarrassed. He'd told her then all kinds of outlandish things about how attractive he was and how some ponies with tastes he referred to as "refined and discerning" and Twilight referred to as "weird" would obsess over him, and she hadn't been sure she believed any of it. The idea of Fluttershy raping Discord was so outlandish, so incredibly unbelievable, that it almost had to be a joke... didn't it?

"I actually didn't mean to write that.

I hate this spell.

At least I managed not to write the thing I didn't want to write about above, but at the expense of telling you something I thought I'd rather die than tell you, but blood doesn't erase worth a damn and it turns out that when you go into convulsions when you try to tear up your own paper because you want to not reveal something you've just stupidly put down on the paper due to a compulsion to tell the truth, you decide that the humiliation of admitting things like that is more bearable than the alternative."

There were rips in the paper, small ones. No. This wasn't a joke. If Discord was joking about a thing like this, he would be melodramatic about it, he would go into embarrassing details (at least as embarrassing as some of his claims had been the day he'd been telling Twilight that he was too awesomely attractive to stoop to raping ponies), he would take it to the point of absurdity... he wouldn't say that he'd never meant to say any of that, that he'd tried to unsay it but couldn't, that he'd thought he would rather die than admit to it. It was impossible, but she believed it anyway.

The letter described the others. It sounded as if Pinkie Pie had turned into an ax murderer or something. Applejack manipulative and weaselly, Rarity selfish and avaricious, Rainbow Dash a cipher because Discord never saw her. But it was Fluttershy her mind kept coming back to. Evil Fluttershy. A Fluttershy who could beat somepony with a whip, or rape them.

She wanted to cry. She wanted to find her Fluttershy and hug her for just being Fluttershy. She wanted to kill the alternate Discord, except he was apparently already dead. And she wanted to get her Discord out of there. As he described more and more of the tortures he was suffering and how they worked, she felt more and more protective, possessive and enraged that these others, these twisted parodies of herself and her friends, were doing this to him. Yes, he had gone there of his own free will, yes, he'd antagonized all of them, yes, apparently for some reason he was trying to conceal that he wasn't their original Discord, but... nothing justified this. Nothing.

And then he started talking about his theories about what they were trying to accomplish, how he believed they were trying to turn him into an unquestioningly obedient tool, which... could be right. The things he said they were doing to him were consistent with what a pony would do to another to accomplish that goal, based on things she'd read.

And then he wrote about the ways it was starting to work.

"But after Fluttercruel hurts me and uses me for her own depraved purposes... then she tends my wounds. Then she's kind, and sweet, and behaves like Fluttershy, and I'm so alone and I miss my friend and sometimes I close my eyes and pretend. And this is the absolute worst thing I can do because seriously, Stockholm Syndrome anyone? If I don't want to be broken I have to remember at all times, I hate her. She's not Fluttershy. She's hurting me and I don't deserve it.

But if I did deserve it I could make it stop by not doing the things that make me deserve it.

And I hurt so much and it's all you ponies' fault that I'm vulnerable to the emotional manipulation, that I want a friend so badly in my time of need that I pretend my captor is my friend, I let her pleasure me (not that I have a choice in what activities I have to let her perform, but I can resist in my mind, if I'm not so worn out that I just don't bother), I let her hug me and pet me and tell me I'm doing so much better, I'm being such a good colt... and I fall for it. I know it isn't real but I want it to be and honestly I'm used to making the things I want to be real become so and I admit I know that won't work here but I'm sorry, all right? I'm weak. I've never been tortured like this before. I've certainly never been tortured before while I had any psychological dependency whatsoever on another sentient being.

I need someone to care about the fact that I'm hurting. I'm fairly sure it's not going to be you. But if I give in and pretend that it's her, she'll break me. I'm trying not to break, I'm trying. But it's so hard."

Twilight had to stop for the moment. She couldn't see anymore, with the tears in her eyes blinding her. Fumbling around on her desk, she found a handkerchief and wiped her eyes with it.

She'd never sincerely believed Discord actually cared all that much about Fluttershy, or having a friend. He was, from all she could see, kind of a rotten excuse for a friend; he did things like pretend he'd forgotten Fluttershy's name for a joke. He'd been almost no help whatsoever dealing with the plunder vines, which had turned out to have been his own creation, even though they would have destroyed Fluttershy's home. Well, okay, his taunting Twilight about thinking she was better than her friends had led her to go back into the Everfree to help, and if she hadn't, her friends would never have figured out what to do to save the Tree, but on the other hand, she'd almost been eaten by the vines, and she had no way to know which outcome Discord had intended, or if he'd just been taunting her for amusement and hadn't had any deeper purpose for good or ill. He had skipped out entirely on the Welcome to Ponyville party Pinkie had tried to throw for him, causing her to have to change it to a celebration for Fluttershy's success after it had already started, and then he'd gone to apologize to Pinkie for discording her in the maze and the result of that had been Pinkie declaring that she was not, in fact, going to be friends with him. Pinkie, who insisted on being friends with every pony in Ponyville. Pinkie wouldn't talk about what Discord had done to earn this status, except to say that she was not not friends with him, she just wasn't friends with him... but from Pinkie that almost sounded like a declaration of eternal enmity.

From Twilight's perspective, it had seemed as if the whole thing with Discord reforming and being friends with Fluttershy was one of his games. That apparently he'd decided he could cause more entertaining chaos and remain free and safe from retaliation if he claimed to be friends with Fluttershy, and could therefore have civil conversations with Fluttershy's friends that nonetheless were emotionally traumatic. She still burned with the kind of humiliation that made her want to sink into the floor when she remembered him taunting her about her dream. He didn't really show any signs of caring about anypony, even Fluttershy herself. Fluttershy claimed things were different when they were by themselves, that Discord wasn't willing to show emotional weaknesses around ponies he didn't trust but that he was much more genuinely nice to just her when the others weren't present.

Apparently the truth telling spell and the utter desperation he must be feeling had driven him to expose himself in ways he never would have when he was powerful and free. There was no longer any doubt in her mind at all that the letter was sincere, that everything Discord was writing about was at least true to his perception, because... Discord would simply never, ever admit to breaking down and pretending his torturer was his friend because he needed a friend too desperately to keep himself from doing it, unless it was both true and he was somehow compelled to say it. If this was a prank or a joke, he wouldn't have said any of that. Pretending to be a captive being tortured was... well, possibly something Discord might find funny, given how weird and broken and sometimes incredibly dark his sense of humor was. Pretending to be suffering from the beginning stages of Stockholm Syndrome wasn't funny at all. He just looked pitiable. Pathetic, in the literal, non-derogatory use of the term.

As much of an utter jerk as he'd been virtually every time she'd dealt with him, it looked to Twilight now like Discord's feelings might have been sincere all along, that Fluttershy was right and he really did care about her. And, possibly, that the reason Discord had been an utter jerk around Twilight herself had been that he apparently thought she despised him and would snicker behind her hoof at the thought of him being tortured. How could he think such a thing about her? Didn't he know she would never want to see anypony suffer this way, no matter what they'd done?

It seemed he didn't. Somehow he'd gotten the idea into his head that she hated him so much she would laugh at his pain. If that was how he'd been feeling the whole time since Princess Celestia had asked Fluttershy to reform him, no wonder he'd taunted her and mocked her and been as annoying as he could manage without ending up back in stone. And that made her feel horrible. Discord was broken and desperate and begging her for help, not because he thought she would help him but because she was his only option, and somehow the things she'd said and done to him had led him to think she hated him and would laugh at his situation. He couldn't even have the confidence she would have if she was in such a situation and had sent a letter home asking to be rescued. He didn't seem to believe his letter was going to do him any good at all, and he was just writing it because otherwise he had no hope whatsoever.

She couldn't imagine how that would feel. To believe that nopony would want to help you, to believe that your only hope was to beg a dire enemy who would probably laugh at you and that therefore you had basically no hope at all. To know that the people you knew and cared about were alive, and safe, and that they'd gotten your cry for help, and to believe they would do nothing anyway.

Twilight remembered the incredibly awkward conversation Discord had forced her into after she'd had that dream. He'd been deeply offended that she'd dreamed him as a rapist, not because he seemed to have a moral problem with rape but because his self-esteem depended on an image of himself as someone that some ponies could actually find attractive, and he thought that a pony imagining him as a rapist was assuming that he was too bizarre and hideous to find a consensual partner. At the time she'd been much more concerned with his outrageously self-aggrandizing claims as to how attractive some ponies found him, and her own anxiety and humiliation over him taunting her about that dream, but she saw a connection now. Discord didn't, deep down, think ponies would ever want or like him or react to him in any way but fear and enmity.

He'd actually bragged to her about the fact that none of his claimed sexual exploits had been anything other than meaningless physical interactions, one-night stands based on lust, and now that she thought about it, his entire criteria for who he'd said he'd been willing to sleep with had been based on how much they made him feel wanted. (He'd phrased it as how desperately they'd begged, but it was the same thing.) He'd been willing to give up his villainy, more or less, despite the fact that he plainly still didn't really care that causing mayhem wilfully was simply wrong, on the strength of one shallow friendship based on mostly nothing except a single pony being kind to him and claiming friendship with him. And now, based on what he wrote when he was being tortured and he was desperate, it seemed as if he was interpreting that friendship to be as deep and meaningful as her friendships were, and as if he was interpreting Twilight's irritation with his antics and wholly reasonable distrust of him as if she still saw him as an evil nemesis and felt nothing but hatred for him.

For the first time it occurred to her how awful his life must have been, how lonely and empty it must be to love and depend on something that virtually everypony hated and therefore to be rejected by everypony, completely alienated. To have never had a friend, in thousands of years, and to want one so badly deep down inside that you'd give up your entire lifestyle to keep your first one... and when you couldn't give it up after all, to put yourself in danger to get what you needed without losing your friend. He'd pointed out himself what a dumb idea it had been to go someplace where his alter ego was dead. But he'd done it anyway because he needed Chaos, and he needed Fluttershy, and now what he had was horrible parodies of both that were causing him nothing but pain and despair, driving him to expose his most humiliating emotional weaknesses to someone he thought was an enemy who would laugh at him.

When she was done with the document, she was shaking, and there were still tears in her eyes despite repeated dabs with the handkerchief.


He handed her a second, drier handkerchief. "You see now why I wanted you to eat first?" he said.

She nodded. There was no way she'd have an appetite after reading this. "How did this come in? Did he really send all those sheets?"

"He had them wrapped in an envelope kind of thing. Which was completely soaked with blood. I don't even know how so much blood ends up on a piece of paper." Spike sighed. "After we rescue him, can we teach him how to fold paper neatly into itself? He had, like, twelve different ways he was folding the paper, so it was all totally disorganized."

"Chaotic, you mean?" Twilight managed a weak smile. "Spike, I don't think we're going to teach Discord how to fold paper neatly."

"Um, yeah, good point."

"Take a message for Princess Celestia?"

"Yeah, sure!"

Dear Princess Celestia,

Last night Spike received a multi-page document from Discord. He claims to be in a parallel universe, where evil versions of us have bound him to obedience and captivity with their versions of the Elements of Harmony. Spike re-copied the document because the original was very difficult to read.

What Discord is describing that they're doing to him is horrible, Princess. We have to rescue him.

I am confident that the document is really from Discord and is sincere. I am sure you will want to read it for yourself before authorizing a rescue mission, and I don't know the best way to go about that anyway. It sounds like the evil versions of us still have their Elements, so I'm not sure if we would be the most effective rescuers, ourselves, or if you have a special team of ponies that does that kind of thing, or how you want to handle it.

Let me know when you're prepared to receive a multi-page document. I'll send you Spike's copy because it's easier to read.


Your former student, Princess Twilight Sparkle

She watched as Spike scrawled a PS at the bottom. PS: This is Spike. Twilight is not joking. I was up all night deciphering and copying that document and it was so awful I don't want to go to sleep even though I'm really tired. Then he breathed on it, and it burned, vanishing.

Expecting that the Princess might respond quickly, Twilight started putting the pages of Spike's copy back together in order, because she'd left them somewhat scattered while she read it. The response came back before she'd organized more than three sheets.

Dear Twilight,

Please send me the original document. I can read Discord's writing.


Spike looked at the note in bemusement. "Um... does she know what she's getting into? I mean, probably his writing's always bad, but right now..."

Twilight shrugged. "She's the Princess. If she ends up wanting the second document instead, we can send it then. She probably wants to verify for herself that it really is from Discord."

Spike breathed on the stacked pile of sheets that had been Discord's original letter, and then grinned with relief. "Oh, good. That tasted so bad coming up, I was worried about what it might taste like when I burned it to send it back out."

Twilight finished reorganizing Spike's copy of the letter. "We can't let Fluttershy read this," she said.

Spike nodded. "Yeah. I don't think anypony should read this except Princess Celestia, really. I kinda wish I hadn't had to read it, but it was so weird looking, I was afraid it was like some kind of magical necromancy mind control document and if you read it it would take over your brain, so I wanted to make sure it was safe first. And then I saw the part about the other me, uh, killing Discord, except I didn't even know it was Discord yet, so then I had to read the whole thing."

"Well, I think you did a great job, Spike. I saw what a mess that document was. I can understand why he wrote on both sides of the paper if he had to use his own skin to make paper with, but it made it really hard to read even if it was printed neatly, and it wasn't."

"He changed hands," Spike said. "More than once. He was usually writing with his talon but then sometimes the letters got all fat and fuzzy and they started to point the other way, and the paper gets smeary when that happens."

"Maybe his talon just got tired," Twilight said, suspecting very strongly that that wasn't the reason, and that Spike had the same suspicion. If they allowed Discord the ability to heal himself, but only when they commanded him to, how many times might they have broken that limb? Discord's talon was both more fragile looking and more dexterous and useful to him than his paw. Anypony who was torturing him, who was aware that snapping his talon was his primary method of channeling his magic, would probably see that limb as a target, because breaking his primary forelimb would make him feel more helpless.

How did she know these things? Twilight took a shaky breath. She was a researcher, a student of magic and history. She'd read so much, but she hadn't realized she knew as much as she did about torture and what it was used for and how it worked until she read Discord's letter, and realized that she understood why their counterparts were probably using those strategies. Which suggested to her, awfully, that it was her counterpart who was orchestrating this.

What had her counterpart done to herself to turn evil? Discord hadn't known; he'd said the spell his alternate had cast on the Elements had only affected the other five, and that whatever it was that had happened to the Element of Magic, the alternate Twilight had done it to herself so she could harmonize with the other Elements again.

Or was it what she'd done to herself at all? She remembered how broken she'd felt when Discord had destroyed her friendships. What if that had lasted? Could she have turned into this, a mare who could justify torture and mind control, out of a desire for vengeance? She didn't want to think so; she wanted to think it was a spell gone wrong. But how would incorporating the opposite of Magic into her element make her into this? What was the opposite of Magic anyway?

"You did a good job," Twilight said again. "I wish you hadn't read any of that, though. Spike, you're so young; you shouldn't have had to be exposed to something like that..."

"I'm not gonna disagree," Spike said. "But... I'm not really a baby, like a baby baby, Twilight. I mean, maybe dragons my age are babies because we live so long, but I've been living with ponies. I don't think my body's grown much in a few years, but I feel like my mind has. It's kinda frustrating, actually."

"Yeah, you're not a baby, even if you technically are," Twilight said. "But you're still my dragon baby. I don't want you to have to see things like this."

"But I'm also your number one assistant."

"Right." She sighed. "Which, I guess, means that some of the terrible things I have to see, you'll end up seeing too. I wish I could protect you better, but I guess I can't."

Spike put a hand to his mouth. "I think Princess Celestia's replying."

He belched out a scroll. Twilight caught it and opened it.

Dear Twilight,

Please gather the Bearers of the Elements, and Spike, and come to Canterlot immediately.

I do understand that you no longer carry the physical representations of the Elements and cannot use them to spellcast, but you still bear them in your hearts, so forgive me for continuing to refer to you as such.

I am going to attempt to reach your brother and Cadance in hopes that they may be able to provide support, but they have their own realm to govern and protect, so I don't think it is likely.

Don't attempt to teleport. Although this matter is urgent, it is also very important that you preserve your stores of magic to the greatest extent possible. I believe you will need them.



She didn't sign "Princess Celestia" anymore. Probably because Twilight was a princess herself.

"Ok. Spike, take letters. Owlowliscious, please wake up, I need you to take a letter to Fluttershy. Spike, you run the letters to Rarity and Pinkie Pie; I'll run one out to Applejack and see if I can find Ditzy to take one out to Rainbow Dash, since the Princess wants me to conserve my magic."

"Right." Spike pulled out his quill and a pile of blank scrolls. "Short notes, right?"

"Yes. First note, to go to Fluttershy. "Fluttershy, Please come meet me and the others at the library. We think we have a lead on Discord, and it sounds like he's in trouble. -Twilight Sparkle"

"Sounds like he's in trouble?" Spike said skeptically as he wrote. "Isn't that kind of understating things?"

"I'm not going to tell her he's in an alternate dimension being tortured by an evil version of her," Twilight snapped. "Not... in a letter, anyway. We can explain everything once everypony's here."

Owlowliscious took the note in his beak and flew off. Hurriedly, Twilight gave Spike dictation on the rest of the notes. If Discord had been over there for two months, he could probably survive another day or two, but she felt a sense of almost panicked urgency. He wasn't her friend, not really, in fact he thought she hated him... but he was genuinely Fluttershy's friend. For her sake – and for his, because nothing he had ever done that she knew of could possibly justify what he was enduring – she wanted, needed, to save him.

Harmony, 9 AM

In Canterlot, the Princess of the Sun calmly cancelled her morning court, firmly and peaceably dismissed her guards, locked herself in her study with the blood-soaked document, and then, when no pony could see her any longer... she broke down and wept.


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.

For updates and notes about my work, visit my Livejournal at alara-r dot livejournal dot com. (Fanfiction dot net strips links, so I have to write it out like that.)

Support my writing and see sneak previews, incompletes, outlines and working notes! Maybe even vote on what I write next, or get me to write you a fic. See my account at www dot dot com slash alarajrogers.