Luna felt a pressure on her sides as she came back into the throne room with an audible pop. She stole a glance at the ponies still in audience with Celestia. "Mine sister, are thou almost done informing them of our true situation?"

"I am, Luna," Celestia agreed. She looked towards her student. "I was just waiting on Twilight to inform me on who she thought we could communicate with in order to find Ahuizotl."

"I doubt there are many members left, Sister." Luna shrugged.

"Except for a very prominent one," Twilight argued. "Discord."

Everypony in the room stared at the young mare.

"D-D-D-Discord?" Fluttershy stammered, unbelieving. "B-but... but... but..." She continued to say this to herself for several seconds, as the others spoke.

Rarity gave a shake of her head. "Twilight, dear, are you sure you know what you're saying? I mean, we've all been informed of so much tonight and-"

"-I said what I mean, and I mean what I say, Rarity. As Celestia pointed out, we can't just march through the Gateway and blindly search for him, and the only other creature I can think of associated with Ahuizotl is Queen Chrysalis, and who knows where she is right now."

Applejack scratched her head. "But how in the heck would we get Discord ta cooperate with us? That an' he's, uh, all stony right now."

"I have a plan to counter the petrification process. I'll explain how we can do that later. As for cooperation-we offer him an incentive."

"Such as?" the Sun Princess questioned, not enjoying where the conversation was going.

Twilight rubbed at her eyes. "Something that he could appreciate, but wouldn't effect Equestria." She put a hoof to her chin. "There must be something we can use..."

"Throw him a party?" Pinkie Pie asked.

"I don't think that'd work, my little one." Celestia wearily smiled.

"Why not?" the pink mare questioned, before realization dawned on her. "Oh yeah! That's right! Bad guys don't like parties!" She put a hoof to her chin in thought. "I wonder if they'd like anti-parties?"

Celestia ignored the pondering of the party mare, and instead set her gaze on Twilight. "I shall look through the royal archives, see if there is something we could use as a bargaining chip. For now however, I would suggest you rest. Dawn will approach in mere hours."

"As you wish, Princess," Twilight smartly bowed. "We will return tomorrow. Um, if that's alright with you?"

"Indeed it is, my precious student. See me whenever is convenient for you. Until then, you are dismissed."

The ponies turned to leave. One by one, they exited the royal chambers. All save for Big Macintosh.

"Is there something you need, brother of Applejack?" Luna questioned.

Macintosh glanced between the rulers of Equestria, and, despite his overwhelming strength, suddenly felt very weak and meager compared to the two. Regardless, he stood as proud as he could and stared directly at Celestia.

"Eyup."

Luna nodded. "We implore thou to speak freely."

"Miss Celestia. Miss Luna. I got a question fer ya. It's 'bout, uh, Nightmare Moon."

Luna seemed to become slightly ridged, but gave a gesture that implored Mac to speak.

"It's jus', uh, when me an' Tiltin' got down inta the basement, he pulled out a odd lookin' dagger outta some stone-"

Celestia and Luna both glanced at one another, frowning deeply.

"We should have expected him to have grabbed the blade, for he did not know its reason for being there," Luna quietly said.

"You are correct, Luna. I just wish this didn't complicate things," Celestia sighed, her eyes lulled up to her head in solemn thought.

Macintosh blinked. "What I wanted ta tell ya happened after he pulled out the dagger. Was he not supposed ta touch it?"

"Neigh, he was not, brother of Applejack," Luna addressed.

"It, uh, mess with somethin'?" he pondered.

"It messed up a whole lot of 'somethings,'" Celestia replied."I'll need to speak with Twilight regarding this as well. For now, I suggest going back to slee-"

"Jus' hold on. I ain't done—er, sorry 'bout the interuptin', Princess, but I wanted ta get this answered before I turned in. After Tiltin' got that dagger, we were attacked by a two pure black ponies. Pegasi an' Unicorns. They looked a lot like Nightmare Moon."

"How can this be? We were redeemed by the Elements," the Night Princess asked.

"They said they were the remains of Nightmare Moon, or somethin' like that. But it brings me ta my question." He looked unashamedly at Luna, a hard grimace on his face. "Luna, is there a chance fer Nightmare Moon ta come back?"

She stood in silence, measuring the stallion. After a long pause, she meekly nodded. "We-I still hold her within our body. She is quelled inside me for the moment, but, yes. She still exists," Luna admitted.

Macintosh nodded slowly. "I hope the Nightmare never comes back."

"We hope that too, brother of Applejack."

He turned to leave, but stopped, looking back to them over his shoulder. "Miss Twilight woulda probably said this ta ya tomorrow, but I wanted ta be sure word got out: we didn't kill the ponies. We should of, but we didn't. Twilight froze 'em, or somethin' like that. I'd recommend somepony goin' ta get 'em, 'fore the spell wears off."

"Duly noted, Macintosh. I'll make sure it's taken care of," Celestia said.

"Are you rejoining the others?" Luna questioned.

"Eyup."

"May we accompany you? We wish to speak to thine sister."

The stallion didn't respond—he simply continued to walk. Luna took that as a good of sign as any to follow after him.

000

"Heavy stuff." Rainbow Dash grimaced as she slowly flew next to her friends. They hadn't spoken a word until they had made it back to the lower grounds near the inn everypony had planned on staying at.

"Yes... yes it was," Twilight agreed, her heart still hurting from seeing such a sorrowful face on her teacher. "It was a long night, and it's going to be a longer day tomorrow."

The group walked silently once more before Rainbow Dash opened her mouth again. "So, why do you think Tilting was one of them Knights? He didn't exactly seem..." She trailed off, but rocked her front hoof side to side to speak for her.

"He had a weak constitution?" Twilight guessed. Dash nodded in confirmation.

"Yeah! He just seemed so, I dunno, wimpy."

"I wouldn't call him that, exactly," Applejack disagreed.

"Are ya kiddin'? AJ, I'm bettin' you could pick 'em up in one hoof, for cryin' out loud!" Dash countered, gesturing her forelegs out in exasperation.

"I probably could," she agreed. "But he's got somethin' 'sides that workin' fer him."

"Correct you are, Jack of the Apple family," the voice of Luna proclaimed. Applejack looked behind her and caught sight of the alicorn walking in step with Macintosh towards the group.

"I didn't even notice he was gone," Rarity whispered to Fluttershy.

"The reason mine sister and We—I allowed him to become a Knight are several fold. For starters, he was not one to engage in combat. His weapons were the sheathed sword and the spoken word."

"The way you're describing him makes him sound like a waterboy for the Wonderbolts," Rainbow Dash said, smirking.

Luna stared blankly at the cyan pony. "We do not understand thine comparison."

"Right... generation gap. Forgot," Rainbow Dash said under her breath. "Uh, how's this: The Wonderbolts are similar to a sports team—you had those back then, right?"

"We had sports, yes."

"Well, a waterboy would be like a, uh, supporter. For the players. They don't actually compete, but their roles are to make sure the ones that are competing perform at the top of their game."

"Hmm, fascinating," Luna replied, not a trace of sarcasm in her tone. "Mayhaps We should see these games that are played on some far day."

Rainbow Dash though briefly to the two tickets for next weeks airshow sitting on top of her dresser at home. She was going to take Pinkie Pie, but...

Before Dash could offer the idea, Luna continued. "If thine definition is correct, Rainbow Dash, Tilting Windmills was akin to a 'watering colt' for his comrades at arms. He had neither the strength, dexterity, nor endurance to properly wield a blade. He was clumsy, and, as thou hath obviously seen, is prone to flights of fancy and an overly vivid imagination—one bordering on madness. Frankly, Tilting Windmills never should have became a Knight, if we judge him by those traits."

"Then why'd ya let him?" Applejack asked the question that was burning on everyponies mind.

Luna smiled. "Because there is much more than just the physical aspect of life." She nodded, serious once more. "Tilting Windmills, despite these traits, is somepony I look up to."

The ponies all shared a glance among one another, before turning back to their leader.

"He exemplifies the Knight's code. The stallion is loyal, kind, and no matter what the situation, he will not give up on anypony. Ever." She looked at the farmer. "Which is why We wish to speak with thou, Applejack."

"Uh, alright."

The two broke away from the group and ducked into a deserted alleyway to talk.

"We wish to humbly ask thou to take care of Tilting Windmills for us. He is currently distraught over the loss of his brother."

Applejack grimly nodded. "I was wonderin' when that'd hit him. Ain't everyday ya lose somepony like that."

"He could use somepony to fill the void in his life. We believe thou would work well," Luna bluntly said.

Applejack raised a brow at the others word. "By that, are ya tellin me ta..."

"We are not telling thou anything, Applejack. We have simply seen the glances thou have given him, and suggest to make your affections known."

"Affections? Ain't nothin' like that. I jus' worry 'bout him, is all," Applejack quickly argued.

"Are thou trying to convince us, or thineself?" Luna asked, the faintest trace of a playful smirk at her lips. "Regardless, We just wish for young Tilting to be cared for."

"That at least I can promise ya. I'll keep an eye on him."

"Very well, Jack of the Apple clan. We trust your word."

"An' rightly so. I'm the most dependable pony 'round."

000

It was hours later when Twilight arose from her old desk in her old room. She suppressed a yawn, moving to the window blinds and yanking them open. The unicorn winced as the glow of Celestia's splendor pierced her room; a headache was forming quickly thanks to her marathon study session and sleepless night, but it was worth it. After departing from her friends, Twilight had spent the entire time pouring over her research. The results were satisfactory to her, and she was elated because of it. It meant that she could continue on with her plan once she got Celestia's permission. She rubbed her aching back and trotted downstairs, eager to search the cabinets for something to eat.

000

Applejack looked crossly towards Big Macintosh. He nodded in a silent, sour agreement as they both turned their harsh gazes to Rainbow Dash, whose snoring had kept them awake for the entire night.

When they had got to the inn, the group was disheartened at finding out there were only two rooms available. They quickly divided up sleeping arrangements: Macintosh, Rainbow Dash, and Applejack all shared one room, with Macintosh being exiled to the floor; Pinkie Pie, Rarity, and Fluttershy all took another.

"I'mma kill her. No 'if' 'and's' or 'buts' 'bout it," Applejack whined, debating on smothering the mare next to her with a pillow.

"Eyup," Macintosh said. He rose, grunting as he put weight on his hooves. "The floor didn't do me no favors either."

"Coffee?" Applejack asked, practically begging for agreement.

"I'm buyin'."

000

They made an exhausted shuffle over to Joe's doughnut shop, where they both ordered black coffee and a doughnut each. After wolfing down the baked good, they both took a few moments to let the powerful beverage sink into their systems as the sun started to filter though the large windows of the shop.

"Lookin' ta shape up ta be a nice day," AJ said, taking a slow sip of her drink.

"Them fancy Canterlot ponies wouldn't have it any other way," Mac retorted.

"Eyup."

They both sighed in unison at the overly sophisticated ponies that thrived around the area, electing a small laugh between the two.

"How ya think Braeburn's takin' care of the workload?" the mare questioned.

"'Bout as well as we could take care of his job," Macintosh guessed. "He's smart, but he don't know the little tricks we do, sis." He took a deep drink of coffee, shaking his head.

"But ya left him ta come anyway." AJ observed.

He gave a small nod. "Ya saw what I did down there, sis." Macintosh gripped the ceramic mug tightly. "I wanted ta come with ya, an' make sure ya were alright."

"Why wouldn't I be? This ain't nothin' compared ta Discord. I'm bettin' that Az... Az... Darin' Doo villain'll be a cinch." Applejack said easily, resting her forelegs on the back of the booth they were sitting in. Macintosh shook his head.

"Even Discord jus' tried ta change ya. Those... things down there were thirsty fer blood," Macintosh replied.

Applejack gave a grunt, staring out the windows.

"What's that supposed ta mean?" Macintosh questioned.

"I dunno, Mac," she honestly replied. "Do ya think one's worse than the other? I mean, once yer mind's gone, ya might as well be gone too."

Macintosh gave his weary eyes a rest, and he stroked his chin in deep long, pondering thought. "Eyup," he concluded after several moments. "I guess yer right on that."

"See?" AJ wryly replied. "Jus' business like usual fer me. Ya didn't need ta come after all."

"I reckon I can jus' wrap my mind 'round creatures tryin' ta physically hurt ya more than I can the mental side a things."

"You an' me both," Applejack said, groaning deeply. She glanced down at the last quarter of her cup, and absentmindedly began tracing the rim with her hoof. Macintosh watched this motion briefly, before smiling.

"Somethin's buggin' ya," Macintosh said, not even a hint of a questioning tone. He just knew his sisters idiosyncrasies too well.

She sighed, thinking back to what Luna told her last night. The farmer didn't have really any experience with romance, and thought that her big brother might have some advice, thanks to his new-found relationship with Zecora.

"I guess so, yeah."

He leaned his bulky frame forward, resting his hooves on the plastic table. "Let's hear it." He took another drink of coffee.

The Apple kin weren't known for their subtlety.

"How'd ya hook up with Zecora?" AJ asked bluntly. Macintosh nearly coughed his hot beverage out of his mouth, but barely kept it in check.

"W-wasn't much of an effort from my end," he drawled, still coughing slightly from the sudden drill for information. "She made a lot of the advances—ya know how she is. She's a real, uh, go getter." Mac smiled. "An I reckon she went an' got me after a bit."

"So she jus' sorta flirted her way inta yer heart?" Applejack questioned.

"I ain't exactly the bes' answer guy, AJ." He shrugged. "There was a whole mess of things that interested me. Her smarts, her good nature, her, uh, way with words. It wasn't jus' 'bout the physical side, Sis. It had a lot ta do with my respect fer her, an' how I felt when she was 'round." He gave a shake of his head. "I hate talkin' this much."

Applejack barely paid attention to him once she heard a word that stuck in her mind.

Respect.

Did she respect Tilting? Without a doubt. His determination to see things through was remarkable to the earth pony. Not to mention how he made her feel—when he talked of foalish nonsense, it actually made her felt good about herself.

She was happy with her lot in life; good friends, a loving family, and an honest day's pay for an honest day's work. But as much as she loved her life, it was fantastic hearing the Knight refer to her not as the plain, boring farmer Applejack, but rather a noble, upstanding guard; her courage the only thing protecting the Princesses from certain peril.

AJ gazed up to the ceiling in deliberation, before once again leaping headlong into a question Macintosh would surely despise.

"If, uh, I happened ta find a pony I liked... how should I talk ta them?" she asked, not sure how Macintosh was going to react to the question.

The giant rolled his eyes and took another sip of his coffee. "It's Pinkie Pie, ain't it?"

"P-Pinkie Pie?" AJ stammered back.

"I'm glad ya found somepony, an she's a good gal, but I'm dreadin' the parties that'll happen day an' night. An' don't even get me started on the singin'." He sighed, looking out the window once more.

"Mac, it ain't Pinkie Pie. I dunno where ya even got that."

He paused at her words, giving an embarrassed shrug. "Well, ta be fair, yer both earth ponies, ya both were raised on a farm, an' ya two spend a lot of time together. It jus' seemed like it'd work." He suddenly jerked awake, his eyes widened, and he gazed at his sister in alarm. "Please tell me it ain't Rainbow Dash."

"What? No!"

"Thank Celestia." Macintosh breathed out. "Yer both kin ta me, I didn't wanna even think 'bout the two of ya beddin' dow-"

"Ew. Ew. Ew." Applejack covered her ears, wincing at the mental image. "Mac, it's Tiltin'."

The stallion paused, jaw dropping. "Him?" he questioned.

"Eyup." AJ nodded. "Him."

He gave an incredulous look towards his sister. "He's a stallion, ain't nothin' complex-jus' talk ta him like ya always did before." Macintosh offered, staring at her as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. "Maybe be a bit more... uh, forward with him, ya know? Us stallions ain't always the sharpest knives in the drawer."

"There's a truth," Applejack said under her breath.

000

After their drink, AJ and Mac went back to the inn, and were surprised to see Rarity and Fluttershy were already up and ready to face the day.

"Morning, darlings!" Rarity cooed. She gave a quick brush over her mane curl, and smiled.

"H-hello," Fluttershy quietly whispered to her hooves.

"Mornin' gals. Sleep well?" AJ asked.

"Fine, save for the fact Pinkie Pie talked non stop in her sleep," Rarity scoffed.

"It was kind of nice... she kept speaking of recipes." Fluttershy showcased a few pieces of paper. "I know how to make mint chocolate chip cupcakes now."

"At least ya got somethin' out of Pinkie. I'm pretty sure I've heard hacksaws with more subtlety than Rainbow Dash's snoring." AJ yawned, showcasing how tired she was.

"Eyup," Macintosh crossly agreed.

The mare in question stumbled down a small flight of stairs and into a lobby, clutching her head painfully, and using her wings to shade her eyes from the bright daytime light.

"Uggggh," she painfully stated, recoiling from the windows lining the room.

"Well good mornin', sunshine!" Applejack drawled with mock cheer. "Ya sleep good?"

"Anypony else hear that marching band?" Dash asked, seeming to sink even deeper into the shade her wings provided.

"No! But I'll go get my cymbals and join them!" The exuberant voice of Pinkie Pie yelled as she entered from the front door and slid into the lobby, stopping inches from Rainbow Dash's unblinking face.

"How in tarnation?" Macintosh whispered to himself. The farmer was positive that he hadn't seen the pink mare outside moments ago.

"Per-perhaps we can listen to your cymbal playing some other time, dear," Rarity said, tensely looking at the rest of the group. "For now, we should rejoin Twilight and converse with Celestia once more."

"Lets get to it," AJ said.

000

The ponies traveled to the castle, where they were greeted by Twilight Sparkle.

"Morning everypony! I hope you all had a fantastic night."

"I sure won't be fergettin' it," Macintosh said to himself.

"Now, dear, what exactly are we going to discuss with Celestia today? You never really said what your plan was last night, after all," Rarity said.

"I'll save time and explain it to everpony all at once. Is that alright?"

"Whatev," Rainbow Dash grunted, still irritated and exhausted as she rubbed at her eyes. "Let's just get to it."

The group passed by the guards and silently made their way into the royal throne room, where Celestia sat.

"Good morning, my little ones." Celestia smiled weakly. She gestured around the normally bustling room. "I instructed the servants to take a day off so we may speak in private."

"I'm grateful for that, Princess." Twilight bowed. "Because what I'm suggesting may frighten some ponies who are unfamiliar with the arcane arts."

"Judging by the secrecy, it may frighten ponies who do use magic," Rarity addressed. "Please Twilight, would you tell us already?"

"I would like one more pony in attendance, if I may." Twilight boldly asked, looking up to Celestia for permission.

"Of course. Who else is needed?" the alicorn granted.

"Your sister."

000

Luna walked the dank and black caverns underneath Canterlot. She could have teleported to Tilting Windmills' side, but did not wish to intrude upon the Knight after he received such a fresh wound. After countless years and countless deaths, she had learned a few things about tact.

The alicorn would have gave him even more time than this, but she wished him to return to the world. They had much to discuss when he was able; modern culture, history, and most importantly, personal memories. Thanks to times steady, uncompromising toll, the memories and stories she had with the stallion were vaguely abstract paintings at best, impossible to decipher jumbles of mixed emotions at worst.

She came to the abyss that they crossed, and noted that he sat blankly at the opposite end, staring placidly at the shadows.

The Sister of the Night carefully moved around the pit and wordlessly sat by him.

"Tis not an easy situation," Luna said.

"Neigh," Tilting agreed, his voice ragged and sore.

The two sat in stony silence after that, neither sure what to say in regards to the other. Finally, Tilting snorted, giving a measured look towards Luna.

"Does thou remember the time when we were children at all?"

The mare shook her head. "As much We wish We could, my Knight, We cannot. The memory tis as clouded in our mind as an early morning fog."

"We used to run through the Elysian fields of wheat and rye together and drink from the bountiful streams of nectar in the forests without a care in the world. 'Twas five of us in total, and every day was an adventure for us all. Even then, I knew you would become quite the girl." The Knight gave a small, fatigued smile. The action seemed to briefly melt away the hurt from his face. "I am pleased that thou still retain your kindness."

"You flatter us, Tilting Windmills. Even though We have only the vaguest recollection of life before Discord, know that We—I," she corrected. "Consider thou a most reliable friend. Thou art a special stallion."

His expression faltered slightly, and he returned his gaze back towards the pit.

"We wish of you to return from thine reprieve if it doth please you." Luna rose, gazing expectantly towards Tilting. He swallowed.

"I... I understand. Tis selfish of me to waste away in the dark while the wicked still roam the lands."

"We do not speak of the wicked in regards to thine return. We speak of thine comrades who worry about your condition. We are sure that thine absence has gone noted by Applejack."

He gave a small nod. "Twould be unseemly for a Knight to push aside a fellow guard," he admitted, quietly musing to himself. "Very well, Luna. Let us leave this realm of the dead, and ascend."

"With pleasure," she agreed. With the briefest glow of her horn, she coated herself and Tilting in an aura of magic. A popping noise and bright flash of light, and they were gone from the black depths.

000

As quickly as they were gone from the cold of the caves, they appeared in the throne room, instantly coming into existence from the perception of the ponies gathered there.

"My, that was sudden," the Sun Princess said. "I hadn't even called for you yet."

Luna gave a small raise of her brow. "We simply return with the Knight-Errant. We had no idea that thou were in need of us."

"I don't, sister. However, Twilight wanted to discuss her plan with everypony present." Celestia gave an encouraging smile to the student.

"It's about removing the petrification spell from Discord," Twilight said. "I know how we can do this safely. Celestia, would you do us the honors of gathering the Elements and meeting us at to the gardens?"

"Of course, my friend," the Sun Princess agreed, rising to retrieve the gems.

000

The group traveled to the castle gardens and came upon the statue of Discord, still frozen in an expression of shock and bewilderment.

Pinkie Pie looked over at Twilight. "Can he rain chocolate safely? Or is that a no-go?"

"Sorry, Pinkie. What we're doing is a sealing spell I researched last night—he'll be able to talk, but the most he'll be able to cast is illusionary spells."

"Meanin?" AJ questioned.

"It means they're spells that can't actually hit you. Just pretend," Rainbow Dash explained.

"Exactly!" Twilight chirped. She moved over to Discord and pulled out a piece of chalk. The mare began to methodically draw evenly spaced circles in the earth around him. "Now," she explained as she finished marking the ground. "I need everypony to stand in the marks I made." She gestured to the seven circles surrounding Discord.

Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy took circles facing opposite of each other. Rainbow Dash and Applejack did the same. Twilight and Rarity faced his front and back, respectively. That left one circle open beside Rarity. Tilting took a hesitant step forward, only to be promptly stopped by Twilight.

"Actually, I believe Luna would be a more prime candidate for this excursion," the mare reasoned.

"O-oh. Of course." Tilting replied sheepishly as Luna brushed past him, moving to stand in a circle.

Celestia watched with worry from the sidelines, standing next to Macintosh and Tilting Windmills.

"Now, I'll take care of the channeling of the magic barrier. All I need from everypony else is one thing: do not leave the circles I drew." Twilight explicitly warned. She looked at her crew. "We ready?"

"Piece of cake," Rainbow boasted, beating her chest.

"Of course, darling," Rarity agreed disinterestedly, filing at her hoof.

"Mmm," Fluttershy whimpered.

Pinkie Pie giggled, nodding enthusiastically.

"Dunno what us non-unicorns can do ta help ya, but I'm ready ta go." AJ gave a slight bow.

"Verily, We stand ready and at thine service, young Twilight Sparkle," Luna proclaimed gazing stoically at the statue.

"Alright, girls. Just follow my lead. Close your eyes." Twilight glanced around, noting that the others had done as she instructed. "Good. Now... focus. I need you to picture a single, pinprick of light. Concentrate on it." On seeing a few of their brows furrowed, and Pinkie Pie squinting hard, her tongue sticking out from the side of her mouth, Twilight began concentrating herself—focusing the power in her horn to awaken.

Small lavender lines began to form on the ground, inching from Twilight's circle and forming into nigh unintelligible symbols that expanded into two lines from either side of her, one connecting to Pinkie Pie, and the other snaking towards Rainbow Dash. Once the colored symbols formed a protective seal around the chalk line, they pressed on, moving from Pinkie Pie to Applejack, and from Rainbow Dash to Fluttershy. It soon connected to the last two ponies present, and made a solid, shimmering barrier of illuminating magic around them.

Twilight smiled despite the strain on her body. So far so good. She then pointed her horn towards the statue of the Chaos God and fired a small beam of violet light. It hit the stone, and slowly swarmed over the rock, saturating the statue in her powers. It was mere moments later that the ponies heard a deep, maniacal laughter ringing through the stone.

The draconequus erupted from his imprisonment, his laughter turning to loud, whooping cackling as he clapped his paws together in unrestrained glee. Discord stood in the center of the ponies, taking account of each of them in turn.

"You fools! I can't believe you let me out!" he shouted. "Thanks, by the way," he added in a more subdued, casual tone. "Was getting tired of sitting in there and listening to the gossip." He put a paw to his chin, pretending to lean on an imaginary chest high stool as he looked at the leader of the group. "So, Twilight... read any good books lately?" Discord asked, looking over his nails. "I figure I might as well catch up before I start the usual—the chaos and the like. It's nice to just sometimes take a breather, you know?"

"There's not going to be any chaos this time!" Twilight heroically spat back, before pausing. "And yes, I have read some fantastic books about the advancement of pony rights from the-"

"I don't care. Sheesh." Discord interrupted."What's with ponies nowadays? You give them an inch and they take a mile." He raised a finger toward the mare. "Let's just cut to the chase, shall we?"

He smiled devilishly and waited. On nothing happening, he turned his finger towards his eye and looked it over. "Hmm. It isn't jammed, so why isn't it working, I wonder?"

"Because thine magic is sealed away whilst we control the circle, Curved Tooth." Luna spat to the side in disgust.

"Luna!" Discord shouted with false, overbearing glee, gesturing his arms towards her. "Why, how many centuries has it been since I saw you last! I love what you did to the mane-"

"Silence, beast! Thine words are soulless, just as thou art!" she snapped.

"Such anger for an old friend. Here," he said, reaching out behind his back and pulling flowers from nowhere. He tossed the bouquet of flowers to the Night princess, and she wordlessly watched as they rose in an arch... and vanished the instant they touched her head, leaving her cross eyed briefly.

"So... since I clearly can't get myself out of here, what exactly were you needing little ol' me for?" the Chaos God asked.

"Information. And make it snappy," Rainbow Dash curtly replied. "Your breath stinks, dude."

"Excuse me for not having a mint in a millennium's time. Been busy, what with the imprisonment and all." He crossed his legs and sat down, putting on a pair of glasses he seemed to have pulled from nowhere. "Very well. What sort of information are you wanting?"

"Tell me how to make chocolate rain!" Pinkie shouted in a sing-song voice.

"Shh!" Twilight snapped. She turned her attention back to the draconequus. "We need a location. One I think you'd be able to provide."

"Oh?" He raised a brow, lowering his glasses to look at the unicorn.

"Ahuizotl. Sound familiar to you?"

He whistled. "Now there's a name I haven't heard in a while! Why the sudden interest in him?" The draconequus looked past Twilight, towards Celestia. "Did you spill the beans or something?" he called out. "Or, better yet, did you tell them everything that happened?"

"I told them all that was needed. They know what sort of monster they face." Celestia answered, her tone only slightly less commanding than the Royal Canterlot voice.

Discord rolled his eyes. "And there she goes, being all cryptic." He sighed, shaking his head towards Twilight. "Don't know how you can put up with her." He reached for the mare, but a force seemed to physically shock him as soon as his paw crossed over the symbols adorning the ground. "Ow!" he yelped, putting the appendage into his mouth. "That. Hurt."

"I hope so," the unicorn replied. "Now talk."

"Why should I?" he easily asked, shrugging and looking cheekily up to the sky. "What would I get out of this? I mean, I don't want to get on my master's bad side if the profit isn't good."

"An island," Celestia shouted, drawing the attention of Discord. "An island where you could be sovereign ruler. It's decently sized, and has abundant food supplies. You could live in luxury forever."

He put a paw up to his chin, stroking the hair underneath. "A decent proposition. Is the island inhabited?"

"What?"

"Come now, Princess. I know your vocabulary is better than that. Does. It. Have. Ponies?"

"N-no."

"Then it's settled!" he earnestly said, putting his paws together. "No deal!"

Twilight scowled. "Then it's back to your imprisonment." She raised her horn, and began charging a blast.

"Woah, woah, woah! Wait just a minute!" he quickly backpedaled. On seeing her relax the spell, he continued. "I suppose I can tell you something."

He walked inside his circle, giving each pony a glance over. Twilight's determined grimace. Applejack's cautious gaze, Pinkie Pie's slight adoration. Rainbow Dash's bravado. He finally set his sights on Fluttershy, who averted her gaze, opting instead to stare at the ground by her hooves.

Discord's expression fell, and he somberly frowned. "I learned a lot during my many, many years alive. One thing that's stuck is that sometimes, chaos isn't the answer. There's another force just as powerful."

He covered his face with his hands. For a long moment, he stood like this in front of Fluttershy. She swallowed, finally gaining the courage to look up.

When she did, Discord whispered one single word.

"Fear."

And with that, he removed his hands from his face, and it was changed—altered to abominable proportions. What was once the fairly docile and horse shaped head of the draconequus was now a nightmare of mashed bloody meat with empty eye sockets, the rims riddled with pus discharging sores. Through his rotting cheeks, worms swam in and out, sleek with ooze.

The timid pegasus screamed, recoiling back instantly from the garish image and tripping out of the circle.

"Fluttershy!" Twilight desperately cried out as the archaic symbols that were surrounding the ponies vanished in a heart beat.

With a snap of Discord's fingers, sudden gusts of wind began to blow, increasing in speed as they circled the ponies in a menacing blur. Macintosh tried to make his way through, but was instantly thrown away by the swirling vortex, landing on his side and skidding to a stop in the grass. Soon, the whirling vortex darkened, turning into pitch black storm clouds of energy. Inside the chaotic winds, the light outside slowly vanished as the clouds grew larger, forming a dome shape around them. Then, as the doom was complete, there only remained one light. The dark nocturnal glow of Discord's eyes.

000

AN: The next several chapters are going to be short little things, and will be a bit dark in tone. However, don't worry guys. The author is sorta on the good guy's side, so I'm sure it'll get more hopeful. I hope you all are still enjoying it-I know I'm still having fun writing it, haha.