Chaos is a natural force that permeates throughout every fiber of reality. The strongest of castles crumble to pebbles under chaotic influence, the grandest of events are eventually lost to only vague memories, and normally peaceful individuals can be roused into great riots. But why, in the name of all that is good and just, why is a genuine deity of chaos on a first name basis with MY friends?!
"Nope," I stated as though my simple refusal could change the newest bit of madness that had been heaped on my plate. My wiry black mane and long ashen grey ears flopped in and out of my field of view as I shook my head back and forth. "Nope, no, no, nope, no. I do not like any part of this."
"Don't worry, Harry," whispered a soothing motherly tone from somewhere off to my right. "He really is a sweetheart when you get to know him."
Fluttershy calmly strode across the living room of her cottage, balancing a tea set on her outstretched wings. Her heavily patched field medic uniform lay hung on a hook beside the front door next to a collection of heavy winter coats, leaving Fluttershy's slightly frazzled yellow coat and pink mane free for all to see.
On the other side of the room and stretched across Fluttershy's green cushioned couch, lay a creature unlike any other I had ever seen. He had a several foot long serpentine-esque body that dwarfed even the demi-goddess Celestia for height. His limbs were a horrible amalgamation of various animals that warped my mind just by looking at him. I've had creatures of similar levels of disturbing try to eat my face, and this one was offering me a warm little smile.
"Oh come now, Mr. Dresden," the creature calling itself Discord chuckled as our host deposited her tea on the nearby coffee table. "I assure you I mean neither you nor your precious friends any harm. I have been rather gloriously redeemed, by my dearest of friends."
Directly to my right another, albeit more condescending, feminine voice muttered, "'Dearest of friends' might be a bit of a stretch."
Twilight Sparkle and I stood side by side in the entrance to Fluttershy's home. Like the yellow Pegasus, we both decided to forgo our protective spell layered overcoats and embraced the day with only our fur. Twilight's bright lavender coat offset my own ashen grey fur well, with both of our manes and tails slipping into darker versions of our respective coat colors. The only real thing that stood out as particularly odd about us, were the pair of grey feathered wings folded tight against my sides. While gifts from an amalgamation of vengeful spirits, the wings instinctively tried to make themselves as flush as possible against my fur, as though trying to escape notice from wayward eyes.
"Twilight!" Fluttershy actually snapped at her friend and shot her a harsh expression. "He is trying to be a kind pony, and that alone means we should be encouraging him." Fluttershy dropped her aggressive stance and returned to pouring tea with her hooves. "Also don't forget that Celestia herself sent him to help us."
Twilight brought a purple hoof up to her head and massaged her temple with a slight groan. "I know and I'm sorry, Fluttershy, Discord. This is just going to take a little getting used to."
"Well I'm not sorry!" I barked and continued to glare daggers at the draconequus happily stretching across Fluttershy's couch. "I've spent the last couple of days establishing a post in the Nevernever, and now I come back to find one of my friends' worst enemies just hanging out. What the heck happened while I was gone?!"
"Soooo many wondrous things my newest and grumpiest of alicorns," Discord cried out while stretching out his talons, claws, and single cloven hoof up in the air. After a short moment he let out an exhausted yawn and dropped his limbs to curl up into a demented little ball, all while keeping a quirked eye trained on me. "Which, by the way, how'd you manage to pull that off? You don't really seem to have the same aimless kindness Celestia usually seeks to reward."
"Isn't this the guy that messed with your head, with all of your heads?" I shouted while glancing fervently between Twilight and Fluttershy, completely ignoring Discord's question. "From what you all told me, I kind of figured that he would be in a pigeon roost in Canterlot for the rest of his very long life."
"Ouch," the draconequus chuckled with a mock expression of shock. "Words can hurt you know."
Twilight let out a short sigh and took a few steps further into Fluttershy's cottage before finding a cushion near the same coffee table the yellow pegasus was busily setting for company. Mere moments after Twilight sat at the table, a cup of tea appeared before her, followed swiftly by two more for Fluttershy, Discord, and a third placed at an empty spot for me.
"It really is alright, Harry," Twilight muttered while gesturing a foreleg to join them all at the table. "A few days ago after you left into the Nevernever, Celestia herself showed up here in town with Discord."
"She wanted us to try and rehabilitate him, to befriend him," Fluttershy added with a warm smile for the draconequus, which he returned. "I believe Celestia felt that Discord might be helpful to all of us in the near future."
Twilight smiled and nodded in agreement, "The Princess has always had good intuition into what a pony can become." The lavender unicorn hesitated for a moment before sheepishly rubbing her the hooves of her forelegs together. "Though I will admit, my first instinct upon seeing you was to make you into a lawn ornament. No offense, Discord."
"None taken, Twilight, none taken at all," Discord chirped before taking a sip of his tea and adjusting a monocle that certainly had not been there seconds before. "I daresay my dear old dad used to do the same thing back in the day."
My head, already at a decent level of frustration induced pain, just about tipped into a full blown migraine by all the knowledge being tossed around, forcing me to rapidly process ideas I'm much happier letting fester in my subconscious. I cautiously stepped forward and took my seat in-between Twilight and Fluttershy, and opposite from Discord. The tea in my cup almost immediately went down my throat in the vain hopes that the small amount of caffeine therein would help my headache.
"You wrapped your claws around my friends' minds and twisted them to suit your needs once," I said after a short pause and with a carefully neutral mask over my face. "I'm also betting that wasn't the first time you've done something similar. Everything I know about magic tells me that your spells should have corrupted you and turned you into an incomprehensible madman driven only by power, yet Fluttershy claims this isn't true." My attention shifted from the God of Chaos over to Twilight. "You told me a while back that you used the Elements of Harmony on Discord before. Did they restore his mind like they did to Princess Luna?"
Twilight's eyes darted around inside her head slightly as she processed my question. "Well, yes we did," she answered, her voice thick with uncertainty, "but I'm not entirely certain if-"
"If the Elements had any actual effect on my thoughts, which they haven't," Discord interjected, drawing our eyes back to him. Discord only chuckled at the mares' shocked expressions and my own patented death glare. "The words 'corrupted' and 'restored' imply that my mind has been altered in some way."
Without a single word of explanation or preparation, Discord's paw shot up in a blur of motion that ended with his digits wrapped around one of his twisted horns. With a smooth wrenching motion, Discord pulled hard on his horn and the top of his head simply popped open like a trashcan lid. Each pony at the table, myself included, blanched at the sight and tried to turn our heads slightly so that the draconequus was in our peripheral view rather than under direct scrutiny. While he used his lion's paw to hold open his head, Discord's talon of a right hand reached up and began fumbling around in his own head.
"Ah here we are," Discord chuckled and then removed his hand from the inside of his skull, bringing a bizarre mass of some tissue along with it.
Discord's brain looked structurally similar to what I would expect from such an organ, it had two distinct lobes that stuck to each other and a long cord beneath it that ran back to the God of Chaos' still open skull. The only odd thing was that the surface of the brain was a swirling mixture of black and pink tissue. My magical senses almost immediately picked up on the energy radiating from the thing, and I was faced with very odd finding. The brain was corrupted by dark magic, but the corruption I felt wasn't inherently destructive. In fact the corruption seemed to work in tandem with the non-corrupted energy towards the betterment of the whole. Such an entity was the next best thing genuine alien physiology, though considering the source, alien was pretty accurate.
Discord smiled at our disgusted reactions, turned the brain in his talons to inspect it more closely, and idly picked away a few stray hairs that had fallen on it. "See, my brain is the same as it's always been. It has withstood dark magic, the Elements of Harmony, and several millennia of insanity. If that hasn't broken it, nothing will."
"That's great and all, Discord, but please put that thing away!" Twilight cried while decidedly looking at anything but the draconequus. "We're trying to have some tea!"
Discord shrugged and tossed the squishy mas back up into his open cranium before it slammed shut and seamlessly sealed itself again. "I would have thought you more than anypony would appreciate some decent grey matter, Twilight."
"My newest nightmare fuel aside," I said with my grey foreleg trying its very best to shield my eyes from Discord's freshly sealed skull, "How is this supposed to prove to me your good will? What's to stop you from turning right around falling back in old habits?"
"And betray dear old Fluttershy's trust?!" The Pegasus in question let out a short squeak as she simply disappeared from her seat and reappeared in the air directly in front of Discord, shortly before he seized her and hugged her to his chest. "I'd sooner turn myself inside out, and I can tell you from experience, that's not too pleasant."
An uncomfortable silence fell over the room after those words, if only just because we were too shaken by the mental imagery. Fluttershy in particular appeared to try and curl in on herself even as Discord straightened out a stray hair in her pink mane. Honestly, if half of what I'd heard about him was true, I wouldn't have put it past him to horribly maim himself out of simple curiosity.
"It's… I just…" I finally babbled out through grinding teeth. After a few more choice stammers, I let out a defeated sigh and sunk back into my seat with my head dropping down to rest on the table. "Nothing you say makes any sense to me."
"He really is alright, Harry," Fluttershy piped up from behind Discord's paw and talon. "Are you okay though? You seem agitated, moreso than usual I mean."
"Yes, of course!" Discord cried out and pointed a claw high into the air, dropping Fluttershy with a soft wumpf.
My vision was suddenly obscured by a comically large dust cloud that spanned the entire room. Several small pops sounded off and I became acutely aware that I was no longer sitting on the small pouf I'd been given, but a much larger cushioned surface. My magic senses instinctively reached out to probe my surroundings, and while I could definitely detect the presence of an otherworldly force moving about, it seemed to detect my prodding and worked its weave to evade my senses.
As suddenly as it came, the cloud dissipated and I found myself stretched across the couch Discord had previously occupied. Fluttershy had been transported across the coffee table and sat on the same pouf I was sitting on. Discord, sporting a freshly made tweed jacket and holding a pen and notebook in his hands, sat in a large armchair beside Fluttershy.
"So, Mr. Dresden, do tell me what has been troubling you dear boy. We're all here to listen." Discord chirped and began scribbling in his notebook; beside him, both Fluttershy and Twilight looked at me expectantly. The whole situation was disturbingly similar to being analyzed in a psychiatrist's office.
"It's nothing too serious," I commented after a short pause. "The guardsponies and I just ran into a bit of an issue in the Nevernever. In actuality we managed to make first contact with the White Council in Equestrian territory."
"WHAT!?" Twilight shouted and slammed her forelegs down onto the coffee table. "Why wasn't I told about this? The diplomats that came back said that the White Council promised they wouldn't be making a formal appearance until next week! The Princess wanted us all to be there to make a good first impression!"
"Hmmm," Discord hummed and tapped his pen against his chin. "This White Council, the girls mentioned it to me earlier. They're some group of spell weavers correct?"
"My former employers, yes. They're a group founded on a noble goal, but with less than noble practices." I quirked an eyebrow in Discord's general direction, "You'd probably have fun with them."
"I have fun wherever I go!" the draconequus barked through a short laugh.
"Of course you do." I let out a short grunt and turned my attention back over to Twilight and Fluttershy. "Anyway, technically speaking, the White Council has held true to its promise. The members they sent weren't a part of a diplomatic escort."
"Then what were they here for?" Twilight questioned. "Were they scouts or something?"
A wide grin stretched across my muzzle and I let out a long rolling chuckle. "'Or something', I would say. They spotted the outpost the guardsponies and I were building, very politely introduced themselves as Wardens of the White Council, and then requested to meet with the highest ranking pony available."
"What did they say?" Fluttershy squeaked from her position ever so slightly beneath the coffee table.
My smile got a little wider before I attempted to put on a straight face and did my best to imitate a person who gargles gravel on a regular basis. "'Excuse me sir, but we believe that you are harboring a dangerous warlock by the name of, Harry Dresden. I'm sure you're not aware of the risk he poses, but it is our duty to secure him and return him to the White Council before he causes you or your people any harm."
Around halfway through my imitation, both Twilight and Fluttershy adopted widely different opinions on their very first, if indirect, contact with the White Council. Fluttershy's eyes popped up over the table and just stared at me as though she couldn't quite believe what she had just heard. Twilight was purely and simply furious. The lavender mare's face slowly turned to a dark red as she fought to spit out whatever colorful words were flowing through her head, but were unfortunately stuck somewhere in her throat.
"Hahahaha, oh wow, that's good!" Discord shouted into the spacious living room, snapping all eyes back to the serpentine entity. He spent a few more seconds giggling to himself like a madman before whipping a joyous tear from his eye. "Oh irony, my favorite form of everything. Please tell me you kept the rouse going on for as long as possible."
My opinion of him improved slightly as I shot Discord the first genuine smile he'd earned from me. "Against my better judgment, no unfortunately. One of my guards overheard the warden and spilled the beans before I could mess with them too much."
Discord slumped down in his chair a bit at that and pouted, "Awww, those guards never could just enjoy a good laugh."
"Nevermind that," Twilight shoved her way into the conversation. "They didn't try to take you did they?"
I sighed and shook my head slightly, "It was definitely on some of their minds, but no they didn't try. The Wardens may be fairly gung ho in enforcing the White Council's laws, but they wouldn't dare risk a political catastrophe over one person. In all likelihood, this was merely them confirming what Celestia's diplomats told them about me. The group just spent some time restocking some supplies and then left, most likely to report back."
Twilight visibly relaxed and planted her rump back down in her cushion, her cup of tea, seemingly forgotten, floated up to meet her. While not necessarily happy with the news, she did at least seem content that weren't already at war with another supernatural power. Beside her, Fluttershy likewise perked up at the news and offered me a small smile.
"Well that's good I suppose," Fluttershy whispered only barely loud enough for us all to hear. "Were they nice when they weren't accusing you of being a warlock?"
"Nicer than they ever treated me when I was one of their own," I responded back with small chuckle. "It might have something to do with my new political position, but I like to think it's because I am significantly fluffier than the last time I've seen a warden." The hoof of my right foreleg reached up to stroke my chin quizzically, "It felt extremely weird. I never thought I'd say it, but I actually kind of miss the paranoia of watching every little corner for one of the Warden's signature grey cloaks. It kept me sharp at the very least."
"Oh well if that's all you want," Discord finally spoke up and reached out a cruel looking talon towards me, "I'd be happy to help. One pretty little light show and I can make you as paranoid as you want!"
"If you think for one second that I'm just going to let you into my mind…" I growled, my muscles automatically tensing as my fight or flight instinct kicked in.
The self-proclaimed God of Chaos reared his head back and let out a bellowing cackle. "Oh Harry, please don't mistake me for some petty demon or spirit looking to make a deal."
Discord's back straightened to lift him higher and his head lowered until he was glaring down at me from above, completely dwarfing any pony I had ever seen for sheer height. His fanged smile and glaring eyes brought to mind a king cobra eyeing its prey.
"I don't need your permission to reach into your mind," slithered from Discord's fanged mouth.
Almost immediately the room became blanketed in bright crimson and purple energies as both Twilight and I ignited our respective horns. Twilight moved forward so that she was halfway standing on the coffee table while I simply stood up on the couch, my wings automatically flaring out slightly to make me appear larger than I was. Fluttershy, bless her heart, didn't offer any kind of directly hostile action, but instead just glared at Discord exactly how you would expect a mother would to her misbehaving child.
Discord who at least seemed to realize that he'd said something wrong, glimpsed between Twilight and I with a look of supreme confusion on his mismatched face. It wasn't until he looked around to Fluttershy beside him that he finally came to the realization of what he just said.
"But of course I would never do that to you guys," Discord cried through a clearly fake laugh and visibly shrunk down into chair. "I'm your friend, buddy, pal, and chaotic acquaintance all rolled into one!"
"That's very good, Discord," Fluttershy crooned and reached over to pat the draconequus on his back.
Twilight and I shared a quick glance before we each stopped channeling magic through our horns and sat back into our seats. In unison, the two of us returned to drinking our rather delicious sweetened tea and casting suspicious glares at the creature being mothered by Fluttershy.
"Oh, but that does remind me of something," Discord suddenly snapped and sat back up to his full height, causing several of my muscles to twitch slightly. "Dresden, what can you tell me about this other world of yours?"
That threw me off a good while. For several stunned seconds I just sat there as my brain struggled to fix the derailment caused by the sudden change in topic.
"Excuse me?" I lamely managed to sputter out.
Discord tilted his head off to the right and just kind of stared at me with an expression of extreme bemusement. "Dear old Celestia thought that I could be of some use out in the Nevernever, and wanted me to learn as much as I could about my soon to be playthings. You didn't think she just sent me to say 'hi' did you?"
"I, uh, honestly didn't think too much about it," I admitted and quirked an eyebrow back at Discord. "What can you do to help exactly?"
"I am chaos incarnate! Use your imagination, Celestia certainly doesn't!" Discord laughed and threw his claws into the air, to another disapproving glare from Twilight. "A little misinformation here, some plotting there, maybe an uprising or three, and a whole lot of whoopee cushions!" Discord leaned back in his chair until he propped his head on his paw against the chair's armrest. "All I need are some ideas and basic information on this Red Court; where their main bases are, common paths they use, and which of their members are the most vulnerable to insanity. Think you could help me out?"
All of my apprehension with Discord vanished on the spot when I started picturing the havoc he could inflict on the Red Court on our behalf. Delightful little images of vampires hunting down a stray pony or human only to find themselves teleported into an interrogator's cage, or a Red Court safe house suddenly becoming wallpapered with holy symbols blessed by all of the world's spiritual leaders. Needless to say, my mood improved in direct proportion to the number of tactical options Discord gave us all.
"I am more than happy to fly under the proverbial radar of course," Discord quickly added in. "No widespread panic, plenty of Red Court mishaps, and no interfering with your White Council." The draconequus paused and considered something for a short moment before shrugging. "Unless I feel like they deserve it."
A massive grin spread across my face and I gave Discord a slow nod, "Okay yeah, I may have one or two ideas on how you could entertain yourself."