Order and Chaos:
The Price of Power
Written by: psychicscubadiver
Edited by: Silentcarto and frieD195
Story Image by: wyrmlover
Disclaimer: Hasbro owns My Little Pony. I do not. This is fanfiction only and is in no way meant to be taken as canonical. Please don't sue; I don't have enough money for it to be worth the court fees.
Minutes ticked by as Twilight waited for Celestia to return. They had run out of tea, but the Princess didn't want to call any of her servants into this particular room. Twilight knew the delay was better than letting anypony know Discord was inside the castle, but she still found it hard to be patient.
At last the Princess returned with a large tea tray in tow. Twilight fidgeted as her mentor settled herself back into her seat, poured the tea, and set a pair of small cakes on each of their plates. Only after she had made herself comfortable and began to sip her tea did she finally speak. "Aren't you going to try a cake, Twilight? Iron Chef made them to complement the blend we're drinking."
Twilight bit back a frustrated sigh and wolfed down one of the pastries in two bites, hardly noticing its delicious flavors. She sipped her own tea, waiting for Celestia to speak, but her mentor seemed content to drink in silence. The Princess just stared out the window, her face a shadowed mask.
After several minutes of exasperated quiet Twilight finally spoke. "Princess, what happened after Order appeared?"
Celestia started, having seemed to forgotten she was not alone. The Princess blinked for moment before refocusing on Twilight and gave her an embarrassed smile. "My apologies, Twilight. I was caught up in memories of the past. It has been such a long time since I thought about those days. But, yes we had only just defeated Chaos when Order appeared…"
We were silent, still trying to understand why one of the most powerful and destructive entities the world had ever known would appear as such a tiny, seemingly innocuous being. Despite holding enough power to stand as equal to Chaos himself, she exhibited no awe inspiring aura, radiated no fearsome magic and didn't display even the smallest indication of her true abilities at the moment. If I hadn't already seen her destroy Chaos, I would not have believed she was anything more than a bizarre pony, perhaps one twisted by Chaos's magic. The three of us must have stared at her for several minutes before she spoke again.
"As I said," she stated, faint irritation coloring her voice, "we have much to discuss. I don't know if you are aware, but you are the last of your kind. Your names and titles, please." She paused, taking a step towards us. "You are part of the nobility, I should hope."
I open my mouth to respond, but Luna beat me to it. "I'm Luna and I'm a Princess, which is better than a noble. So is Celly. Dae is the crown Prince, which is doubly better than a noble!" I grimaced, hoping Order wouldn't take offense at her tone.
"Indeed?" she asked, sounding pleasantly surprised. "Then allow me to extend my regards to the Royal Family of Equestria. It is a pleasure to meet you, your highnesses." She sunk to one knee in a short bow, and once more I had trouble believing this creature was responsible for the destruction of an entire species.
Daearen waved off her greeting with a hoof. "Thanks for the sentiment, but you don't really need to." His voice turned wry. "Somehow, the devastation of your entire race makes social niceties less than a high priority."
"Oh, but they are," she said, her voice strangely intense. "Such formalities are the basis of an orderly society. But you are right to a degree," she admitted grudgingly. "We do have more important matters to deliberate. For instance, our shared defeat of Chaos."
I gestured to the puzzle-like block she had turned his statue into. "Did you … kill him?"
"Much better than that." She replied, her voice full of cold satisfaction. "I imposed order upon him, unmaking him at the most fundamental level. He is no more."
"But, how could you? I mean, without Chaos, how can there Order? They define each other." Daearen sounded curious, but I wouldn't have been particularly upset if destroying Chaos banished Order back to whatever ethereal plane they came from.
"That is an unfortunate truth. Despite our hatred, we do need each other. Soon, another being shall take up his mantle, becoming Avatar of Anarchy, and our battle will continue. However," and her voice took on a smug tone. "I have already removed all of the best candidates. It will be some time before the powers that be find a willing and suitable entity. In the meantime I will strengthen Order and further weaken Chaos."
Order gave a short, almost bubbly laugh. It should have fit her tiny frame far better than her cold words, but it sounded chillingly perfunctory, as if she were merely imitating the speech and habits of a normal pony. The longer she spoke, the more alien and unnatural she seemed.
"Though I require an enemy, there is no reason we should be equals. Whoever takes up his power will face a world of Order unlike anything they have ever experienced before."
"And that's a good thing?" Luna asked dubiously, echoing my own unspoken suspicions.
The spirit before us seemed shocked at my sister's doubts. Though her face stayed as blank as fresh canvas, her body tensed, and she stamped one hoof angrily. "Of course it is! Chaos begets violence, madness, and hatred. Within order there is peace. You should understand that best of all. Alicorns were one of the most structured and systematic species in this world."
Daearen's lip curled in disgust, unsurprisingly. He had always been very vocal about his distaste for the strictures of etiquette and formality among the court. Order continued on, seemingly unaware of my brother's views. "Only when everyone knows their true place does a society thrive. In my world, there won't be any more suffering." Her semi-metallic coat began to shine as she spoke, and the louder her voice swelled, the more powerful her aura grew. "Like gears in a clock, cogs in a machine, everyone will work together without error or conflict. It will be a world of purpose. A world of symmetry. It will be perfect!"
We watched in silence until Daearen coughed awkwardly. "That's wonderful and all, but why are you here? I understand getting rid of the competition, but you don't seem like the type to stick around for tea and conversation."
Order dimmed, returning to her unthreatening state. "You are correct, I do have another purpose here. You three are the last remnants of the foremost species of order. I will need your cooperation to rebuild the alicorn race."
Luna looked confused, but I was horrified. Daearen, astonishingly enough, was trying to hold back laughter. "No thanks," he said, half-chuckling, "I really only like you as a friend."
Order snorted. "Please be more serious. We are discussing the survival of your very species. Your life spans may be measured in millennia, but unless careful plans are made, alicorns will someday disappear."
I glared at her, my eyes as cold as ice. "Neither I nor my sister will become brood mares for whatever 'plans' you have for repopulation."
She waved away my anger, seeming totally unconcerned. "Of course not. That would be both improper and inefficient. However, several cultures permit their kings to keep concubines. Since all three of you come from the same parents, only one of you actually needs to do most of the procreating." She paused. "Though, it would better if one of you had another line of heredity. Are any of you illegitimate, by chance?"
"A shame," she sighed. "Such low genetic diversity in such a small population is unfortunate. The limited allele variation coupled with your low rate of conception will make this difficult."
I glanced at Daearen, wondering if he recognized the terms she was using, but he was as lost as I. Order continued, paying no heed to our confusion.
"Luckily, you can interbreed with mortal ponies. We need to access genealogies and find out how many ponies from other cities have alicorn blood. There should be enough females of proper age to fill a sizeable seraglio. From there, a well-managed breeding program should produce some alicorns. The first generation won't have your life spans or power, but with careful purification and manipulation, you should see marked improvement within ten generations."
"So that's why nobles care so much about their pedigrees. I never understood the obsession with it before." Twilight interrupted.
Celestia nodded taking another sip of tea. "Yes, though they have become a tad too concerned with the so-called 'purity' of bloodlines. It has always amused me that Prince Blueblood's lineage, despite being the most closely related to the Royal family, has not produced an alicorn in fifteen generations, while Princess Cadance was born from a union of love rather than calculation." The monarch chuckled. "You remember Cadance, don't you?"
"Of course! She was the best foalsitter I ever had." Twilight paused, confused for a moment. "But she's a Princess as well. Wouldn't she be just as closely related to you as Prince Blueblood?"
The Princess bit into another small cake before replying. "Not necessarily. Her line has been royalty since before the founding of Equestria."
Twilight gasped. "You mean Cadance is Princess Platinum's heir?"
Celestia smiled. "Not quite. That title belongs to her mother, but one day Princess Cadance will inherit it. She is related to me nonetheless – most of the nobility are to one degree or another –but the relation is far more distant than Blueblood's. He is my first cousin many times removed, and Cadance is a fourth or fifth. I honestly don't pay much attention to the genealogists." Celestia sighed. "If only more of the aristocracy felt that way. Far too many ponies prefer a 'pure' bloodline over a partner who suits them."
Twilight frowned. "Shouldn't they marry for love instead? Producing an alicorn child would be highly unlikely even under the best of circumstances, and either way they would be married to somepony they didn't love. That would be miserable."
The Princess nodded sagely, placing one hoof over Twilight's. "Yes, but there are far too many ponies who believe that a higher rank will make them happy no matter what they give up to get there. I've tried to teach otherwise, but the lure of social stature can be quite strong. Not everypony listens, even to me." Her student nodded, well aware that some nobles had based their entire lives upon advancing their families and themselves.
"However, that bears little upon our story." Twilight flushed again and Celestia gave another reserved chuckle before launching back into her tale.
A chill went through me as she spoke, because it was then that I realized something about her. You see, Order was Chaos's perfect opposite. He was male so she was female. She was small thus he was large. He was emotional and sadistic; she was logical and dispassionate. Yet there was one thing that they held in common: they both believed that the end justified any means. I knew then and there she would have a world of order or none at all.
Order was still talking, so I caught Daearen's eye and glanced at my Elements, then nodded to the oblivious spirit. Daearen shook his head fractionally and put up a hoof for me to wait. I scowled, hardly believing he thought we could actually talk this out. But Dae always did see the best in everypony.
I turned my attention back to Order's continuing monologue. "We should be able to find the marriage and birth records without too much trouble. Really, it's lucky that Chaos's little flowers only removed ponies without damaging anything else." She paused, seeming to come to some realization. "Speaking of which, we should have an hour of mourning for the death of your city and parents before we move on to anything else." We were speechless, a reaction which she misinterpreted.
"I know the delay is regrettable, but such etiquette must be respected. Is there a garden or similar place of mediation within the castle?" She was a strange being, focused entirely upon the form of things without regard to their function. Order valued rules only for their own sake, barely caring for the intent behind them, but such is order without Harmony. It is little more than a mindless dedication to the status quo without consideration for what should be.
In the silence, Daearen took the opportunity to speak. "It's nice to know you care, but frankly, we'd rather solve this ourselves. In fact, I think the world would be a better place if you left us to our own devices. We may not have had the kind of order you want, but we had reached an era of unmatched peace and prosperity." He voice lowered almost to a growl. "Until, of course, you and Chaos showed up. To summarize, thanks, but no thanks."
Order stared at us. I held my magic at the ready and watched her carefully, prepared for whatever she threw at us. So when she began laughing, almost tittering, really, I was dumbfounded.
It only lasted a moment, but with amusement still in her voice she answered. "Oh, I forgot how funny you mortals can be. Did you really think I was giving you a choice? From now on, this world is mine. I'm merely letting you live in it." She spoke in an upbeat, cheerful tone which was completely at odds with her cruel words.
I was unimpressed. "The Elements of Harmony would argue otherwise. We defeated Chaos, your equal, without even exerting ourselves. What make you think you can stand against us?" I dug one hoof into the floor, and the stone stirred as easily as fresh earth. Dae snorted and his horn began to glow brightly. Even little Luna tensed herself to fight and gave a growl that was almost a squeak.
Order took a step back, but her voice was steady as she replied. "Chaos was overconfident, and let you prepare your attack as you pleased. Having seen your power, I won't make the same mistake. However, I don't intend to fight you at all." I hesitated, confused, and my horn dimmed as I tried to uncover the subterfuge in her words.
Could she have smiled, I suspect Order's face would have been dominated by an enormous smirk. Her voice was certainly smug enough. "No. If you three wish to challenge me I will leave, teleporting faster and further than any of you could manage. Your jewels take time to ensnare their prey, and I would always be one step ahead. From there I will select one of your cities and kill exactly one tenth of its population. Stallions, mares, foals, it doesn't matter who dies. Then I will tell the rest of city why I have slain so many of them. I will tell them that the deaths are on your hooves. That your pride and stubbornness necessitated the demise of your own subjects."
My mind was locked in horror at the mere thought of such a thing, and Luna was trying not to cry, but Order wasn't done. She spoke in a low, pleased voice, almost purring, as she delivered her ultimatum.
"Surrender to me here and now or the streets of some defenseless town will run red. Refuse me again, and I'll do the same thing tomorrow. And again the next day. I will continue until one tenth of Equestria lies cold and dead. Then, if you still defy me, I'll start over. This cycle will repeat until you yield or your Kingdom is a nothing but a field of graves."
She stepped forward, her tiny frame somehow dominating the stallion that towered over her. "Well, King Daearen? What is it to be? Life or death? Order or emptiness? Choose."
Daearen stood still, frozen by the cruel intensity of the spirit before him. Dozens of emotions, rage, despair, horror and everything between flashed through his eyes. Eventually they all gave way to resignation.
"I need to discuss this with my sisters. I won't make this decision without their council." His words would have been defiant if they hadn't been delivered in such a hollow tone. Daearen had already given up. His expression was weary, almost haunted, and even his posture sagged. Order could sense it too.
She paused, obviously irritated at the delay, but seemed to decide that it was a small enough boon to grant. "Very well. I will leave you to your hour of mourning. Use that time to discuss your terms of surrender. I think you'll find I can be very reasonable so long as you are willing to work with me." Then she disappeared with a flash of brilliant white light, and we were alone.
It turned on Daearen, furious. "You can't seriously even consider handing the kingdom over to a monster like her! It's−"
"Celestia, help me raise a soundproof bubble, if you would?" he asked calmly, his voice distant. I raised an eyebrow as he went on. "She might be listening in on us, and we're already going into this negotiation in a bad position. I don't want her to hear how we plan to bargain." I was still angry at him, but the listless look in his eyes made it difficult to refuse his request. Together we summoned a powerful shield around the throne room, cutting us off from the outside world. With a touch more power, Daearen made it opaque, concealing us from sight as well.
The moment we were hidden, Daearen straightened, shedding the subdued expression in favor of a determined frown. In an instant, he changed from the picture of defeat to a pony of unbreakable spirit. "Okay, she thinks she's already won, and for the most part she's right. We need a plan, something she isn't expecting. Ideas, anypony?"
I blinked in surprise. "That was all an act?"
Dae gave a mischievous grin. "There's a reason I'm not the Element of Honesty."
"Let's blast her with the Elements!" Luna cried, her expression fierce. "I don't care if she looks all pretty and sparkly, she's as mean as Chaos!"
I put a hoof over her mouth to quiet her. "We can't, Luna. She just told us what would happen if we tried." I turned to Daearen. "Unless you think we could trick her into fighting us. Your jokes seem to provoke her, do you think you could get her mad enough to stay and face us?"
Daearen considered that for a moment. He frowned and sighed. "I don't think so; she's too smart. If she gets angry, she'll just leave and take it out on innocent ponies. What if we just pretend to give in? We could gain her trust then strike when the time was right, catching her off-guard."
I shook my head. "Luna and I couldn't fake it. She'd know we were plotting something. Even if we could, the first thing she's going to demand is the Elements. There's no way she'll let us hang on to the only things that can defeat her. If we're going to do something, it has to be now, as soon as she returns."
"But we've only got an hour! And I don't know much magic." Luna sniffled quietly. "What can we do?" She began crying gently, her tears a steady trickle interspersed with soundless sobs. I picked her up, drawing her close. She was remarkably resilient for a child, but she had already been through so much that day. Almost everypony she knew and loved was gone and now she had to stand in defense of a realm she hardly knew. I hugged her tightly and willed myself not to cry with her. I needed to be strong for her; I could grieve for our city later.
Daearen joined us, enveloping both of us with his huge wings. He nuzzled Luna gently, but his mind was clearly elsewhere. Luna stopped crying after a few minutes, though she clung to me as tightly as ever. Daearen rose and began pacing, going over possibilities and thinking out loud.
"We could try to set a trap, but how would we keep her from noticing it? Maybe if we had a tempting enough bait … But what would she even want? What if I threatened to geld myself, unless she left us in peace? No, she'd either use Celly and Luna, or just give up on alicorns. She wants her 'perfect world' far too much to risk it just for our species. I wish we had more experience with the Elements." He growled in anger and stopped in his tracks. "Or at least that whatever's making that infernal racket would stop!"
I glanced up, confused. "What are you talking about?"
He grimaced. "That noise. It's not very loud, but it's sure as hay persistent."
I shifted Luna into a more comfortable position and listened closely. The throne room was silent other than the small sound of Daearen's hoofsteps. I shook my head, and he frowned, evidently puzzled.
"It sounds like the sea, or maybe a crowded room far away. It's almost like somepony's talking to me, but I can't make out the words." He shut his eyes, focusing on the noise, and lifted one hoof to point. "I think it's coming from over there."
I stared in shock at the stone block, the former statue of Chaos, and only just kept from cursing. Seconds later, Daearen opened his eyes and came to the same conclusion. His hoof faltered, then slowly fell back to the ground. The puzzle-like cube was no different than it had been only minutes ago. In fact, it appeared innocuous to both my normal and magical senses, completely belying its bizarre origins. Somehow, though, both light and shadow bent strangely around it, implying a greater nature than its appearance suggested.
Daearen stared at it, more intent than I had ever seen him before. He seemed to weigh his choices and then spoke softly, more to himself than either of us. "A willing and suitable entity, huh?"
"Don't do it, Dae." He glanced at me, surprised that I had guessed his thoughts. "Nopony is meant to hold that much power."
He grinned. "Says the sun-raising Princess to an immortal King."
I flushed, growing angry with him. "Neither of us is truly immortal, you know that. Besides, this is different. Chaos was a monster."
Daearen shook his head. "He would have been a monster with or without his power. Power is just a tool. It's the pony who uses it that makes it good or bad."
Luna looked up. Her tears had dried and now her eyes glittered with curiosity. "What are you two talking about?" she demanded.
I glared at my brother, he had gone back to studying Chaos's remains. "Daearen wants to take up Chaos's power and fight Order with it."
Luna gaped, floored by the news. "B-b-but he can't! They hurt a lot of ponies every time they fought. Dae couldn't do that." He turned to stare at him, her bottom lip quivering. "Could you?"
Daearen shook his head, barely taking his eyes off the stone block. "There's nopony here to hurt anymore, Luna. We only have half an hour until Order returns. Our only other choice is to surrender or get a lot of good ponies killed. What would you have me do?" His tone wasn't harsh, but Luna flinched all the same.
"You realize," I said quietly, "that this could get those ponies killed too. There's no guarantee, even with Chaos's power, she won't give us the slip and go on a rampage." I left the darker possibility unspoken, but I couldn't banish the thought from my mind. There was no guarantee that the power of chaos couldn't force Dae to rampage just as easily.
"Maybe," he replied. "But do you know what father always told me? 'The only way to never do anything wrong is to never do anything'." Daearen sighed, the stress on the day threatening to overwhelm him. "I am King now, and the king has a responsibility to his people. If you have a better idea, tell me." He turned away from the tempting stone and I could see the weary determination in his eyes. "Because I'm more scared now than I've ever been. I don't want to do this, but I feel like I have to. We can't give into Order's demands. She may be more subtle than Chaos but the end would be the same. Being choked by a garrote is slower than a sword wound, but both are just as deadly."
Luna stepped forward, her face serious, almost despairing. "You'll change, though." I glanced at her, surprised. She was even more precocious than I had thought. "A-and I love you just the way you are." She looked ready to cry again. Daearen knelt to until his head was level with hers.
He locked eyes with her, his emerald irises reflecting the tears welling in her cyan eyes. He spoke calmly and intently. "You're right. I will change, but everypony changes sometime. And I can promise you this: no matter how much I change, I will always love both of you. You and Celly are my whole world now. I promised that no matter what happens, I'll still be the useless, eccentric and irreverent pony you've always known." He broke into a smile. "Now tell me. Who's the number one big brother in Equestria?"
Luna darted forward wrapping one of his legs in another hug. "You are."
"Nope," he replied. "It's actually a unicorn named Comet, but since he's not here, I guess you'll have to settle for me." Luna stared at him for a moment, but he waggled his eyebrows expectantly, and she burst into a fit of giggles. I shook my head, but couldn't keep a smile off my face. It was difficult to imagine Daearen being anything other than the ridiculous goof he'd always been, but I wasn't sure if that made the idea of him taking up Chaos's powers less frightening… or more.
Daearen didn't give me time to decide. He set Luna aside once she had finished laughing. With a bright glow from his horn he took off his Elements, setting them carefully and respectfully to the floor. He caught my look and explained. "I don't know if they'd try to protect me from the power of Chaos, but I don't want to take any risks." His mouth curved into a wry smile. "I don't think this is the kind of thing that comes with second chances."
I held out a hoof to stop him. "Hold off for a moment. I want to set a shield spell just in case."
He thought for a moment but eventually nodded. "Alright, but make it quick. We don't have long until Order returns."
I went to work immediately sketching out a rough circle on the floor with magic. I added another layer then a third, carving lines and interlocking rings between each of them. With minutes we were surrounded by a complex series of geometric shapes, all designed to focus and strengthen defensive magic. I wasn't sure how long even this would hold against Order, but I liked our chances better than if I held the shield with my mind alone, making it a pure contest of wills.
I poured my power into the spell, and a translucent yellow dome flashed to light around us. I continued to add my magic to the spell matrix, reinforcing it. The color deepened from a bright gold to dark amber and finally the shield was done. "We're ready, Dae."
I was in an uncomfortable position, facing the shield, almost kneeling to touch my horn to the wards I had carved, and I couldn't see Daearen. But I could hear his hoofsteps as he approached the stone block. The room was quiet. For a long moment my brother stood silently, and I almost began to think he wouldn't go through with it. But then he took a deep breath, and spoke quietly, "All that is required for evil to prosper is for good ponies to do nothing. And I'd like to think I'm a good pony."
There was resonant impact as his hoof met Chaos's rocky remains, and the world vanished.
Every one of my senses went into frenzied madness. Phantom lights and images played across my eyes, even as I heard sounds that weren't possible. My nose was assaulted by hundreds of smells, each more bizarre than the last and my skin crawled with contradictory sensations. Everything was loud and quiet, bright and dark, wet and dry, reeking of perfume and sterile as windswept snow. All at the same time.
But as terrible as the physical effects were, they couldn't hold a candle to the turmoil Daearen's transformation was causing to the supernatural. Erratic energies swept around us, all of them theoretically impossible yet unimaginably potent. They gathered and swarmed and drained into Daearen. He was the heart of a vicious psychic maelstrom, and I believe that only the Elements of Harmony protected us against it.
The princess paused to take a long sip of tea, her voice somber when she looked up at the purple unicorn. "I sincerely hope you are never present for the transfer of such a mantle of power, Twilight. Not only for the greater implications that such a thing would have for Equestria, but also simply because of how unpleasant the process is." Her mouth twitched up in a mirthless smirk. "For an entire week afterwards, no matter what I ate, everything tasted purple."
Twilight glanced down at her coat and raised an eyebrow at her mentor, causing the Princess to chuckle for a moment before replying. "Not that there's anything wrong with that."
I don't know what Daearen felt, nor do I truly wish to know. But through the noise and confusion I could hear him screaming. It was strange, almost musical, the tone rising and falling, twisting and changing as his voice changed with it. He didn't sound anguished or terrified, but neither did he sound happy or triumphant. His scream was more like the first cry of a newborn, an announcement to the world that something new had entered it.
I don't know whether it took Order seconds or minutes to sense what had happened. My sense of time was badly skewed by the reality warping power surrounding my brother, but when she arrived, I was instantly aware of it. From beyond the throne room I heard her voice, more commanding and possessive than that of any natural creature.
"YOU CANNOT. YOU WILL NOT. YOU ARE MINE." Order did not scream, cry, or shout. She merely spoke in a voice so powerful that it shattered the soundproof barrier we had first raised like it was fragile glass. With the opaque shield gone, her light shone through, stabbing painfully into my eyes and hiding her form from view. I quickly shut my eyes and poured more magic into the shield, turning an even darker shade of yellow. Even through my barrier and closed eyelids I could still feel the light she was putting out. I had stared into the fiery heart of the sun itself, but I couldn't bear to look at the being that now stood across a thin wall of magic.
Something slammed into my shield, and I gasped in pain. I quickly learned that the immense pressure I had felt had only been Order's attempt to test the shield. She began attacking my barrier in earnest after that. Powerful strikes rocked me, and I could barely hold the shield against them. The only thing that allowed me to withstand them was Order's predictability. She used only pure magic, ignoring more creative means of attack, things which my shield would have crumbled under, and she struck it head on over and over again, allowing me to focus all of my power there. But even then I couldn't hold her off forever.
Daearen still screamed unceasingly. He never paused to take a breath, somehow already defying the natural order. Order spoke as she fought, no longer as loud, but still with just as much authority and intensity.
"He cannot. It is unnatural. He is a creature of order. He will father my lieutenants and lead the armies of Order to glory. It cannot be otherwise. I will not allow it." She spoke in an emotionless rush, sounding more alien than ever. Her anger was a strange, distant thing. She didn't hate us for defying her, we hardly seemed to matter. She just couldn't imagine a world other than the one she had planned.
My head and horn, which had ached since her first blow, exploded into fresh agony as Order redoubled her efforts, still speaking madly. My mind throbbed with pain, and I knew I couldn't hold the shield much longer. I could feel my knees buckling, my vision slipping into darkness.
But even as I fell somepony pulled me back. They were rough and untrained, but they poured their magic into me, returning strength to my mind and limbs. I stood tall once more, the shield pulsing with fresh life, fixing fractures I hadn't even been aware of in my damaged state. And by my side was Luna, her brow furrowed and eyes shut in concentration. Her horn was glowing and her aura had surrounded me feeding me all the power she could. I glanced at her in surprise.
"Luna. What are you doing?"
She gave a very un-princesslike grunt, and her aura flickered. "Helping," she answered crossly, obviously having trouble talking and concentrating.
"But how?" Sharing magic was different even among well-trained mages, how she had done it I couldn't imagine.
"You needed me." She said quietly. "I had to help, and I didn't know how the put magic in the shield. So I put it in you."
Before I could say anything else, a blast suddenly struck the shield from the side. I was unprepared, and my defensive magic failed. The lines on the floor were scored by invisible claws of force even as the shield cracked like an egg. Our Elements absorbed most of the blow, but enough of the momentum remained to send us tumbling across the room. I wrapped my wings around Luna, hoping to soften the impact, but we still hit hard.
I lay there, blinking as my eyes opened, and realized that the room had gone quiet. Not only had Order stopped speaking, but Daearen's scream had cut off as well. I raised my head, weary beyond speaking, and watched as the dust settled.
Where my brother had stood there was now a new Draconequus. I shivered in fear instinctively, but it was easy to tell this new individual was different from the monster that had destroyed our parents. While still tall, he was much shorter than Chaos, and he exhibited no bloodthirsty presence. Instead of madness, his red eyes and toothy expression were filled with mischief. He was better groomed as well; distinctly less bestial than his predecessor. When he finally spoke, it was very strange to hear Daearen's voice come from that mismatched mouth.
"I've thought long and hard about your offer to use my blood and race as your shock troops for your whole 'world domination' scheme, and I've decided that while I am a stud," at this he struck a pose and flexed several muscles, "I am not your stud. Once more, thanks but no thanks."
Order had dropped her blinding lights and now stared at him. At last she spoke, her voice as expressionless as her face. "I would not have you now. You have gone too far and taken Chaos into yourself. Even if it were possible, nothing would come from you now but dark and twisted creatures. I will have to content myself with your sisters, despite the inefficiency."
Daearen gave her a smirk and raised one hand to the side of his mouth. Then in a stage whisper he said, "See, now that's where you went wrong. You just gave the hero, me by the way, the perfect motivation-slash-reminder of why he, in other words me, needs to defeat you. Now just as we're going into the final battle, the climax of this story, you've made the classic villain error of giving your enemy, once again me, something to fight for. Really? If you fall for clichés like that, how can you expect me to take you seriously? In fact−" Daearen seemed more than willing to go on – taking on the powers of Chaos seemed to have put him in rare form – but Order was done talking.
Two beams of white light, the same unearthly lines that had sliced the statue of Chaos to pieces, shot from where her eyes should have been. They darted across the room, moving at perfect right angles, impossibly quickly. I opened my mouth to give Dae a warning, but I was too slow. Then as they reached him, my brother's arms shot out and, in complete defiance of every law of magic I knew, grabbed them out of midair and tied them together to form a giant bow.
He chuckled and waggled one of his fingers back and forth. "That was rude. I thought you were all about manners and rules, Order. Was I wrong?" His voice turned almost syrupy at the last sentence, heavy with insincerity. Order only growled in response before exploding into light once more, launching a barrage of glowing balls of magic.
Daearen snapped his fingers, and a pair of dark glasses appeared over his eyes, accompanied by a helmet and a long wooden bat. As the incandescent projectiles neared him he swung the seemingly mundane weapon connecting with a loud thwack. He managed to repel every one of the incoming missiles, at the cost of several new holes in various parts of the throne room.
"And he does it folks! Unbelievable as it sounds, the hometown hero has just finished a perfect at-bat. The crowd goes wild!" The sound of cheering, hysterical ponies echoed throughout the room, without any real ponies to provide it, and Daearen bowed theatrically to his imaginary audience.
From within her haze of light, Order hissed angrily. "This is not just some game, you foolish creature."
"Life is a game, Order." Daearen replied. He grinned even wider and with a careless gesture the stone beneath Order sprang upwards on an enormous spring, sending the spirit rocketing through the rapidly weakening roof. His smile turned smug as his foe was sent flying away, and he murmured softly, "And I'm winning."
Without warning he imploded with a soft pop, hopefully teleporting to continue his fight with Order. I lay still for several more seconds, trying to shake off the effects of Order's last blow with little success. Luna, at least, had weathered the attack better, and she bounded to her hooves, quaking with fury.
"C'mon Celly!" She growled. "We've gotta help Dae!"
I groaned at the mere thought of getting up, but a careful inventory of my pains told me there was nothing broken or bleeding. I had a few bruises, and an aching soreness in my head and horn, but otherwise I was fine. At Luna's urging, I shakily dragged myself to my hooves.
As I did, a gentle light pulsed from both of my Elements, washing over me, lending me fresh energy and renewed determination. The sounds coming from outside the throne room told me that Daearen and Order had already restarted their battle. I squared my shoulders and readied myself as well. I had expended too much magic maintaining the shield while Daearen was still absorbing his new powers, but I still had enough left to challenge Order one last time.
Through the holes in the ceiling I could see flashes of light, both Order's blinding beams and colorful flares that could only have belonged to Dae. I stretched out my wings and smiled at Luna. "You're right. Let's go help our big brother." I sprang into the air, grabbing Daearen's Elements in my telekinetic grip, and soared easily through the opening left by Order's sudden departure. I had worried briefly that I might not be able to find them, but as it turned that particular fear had been rather unfounded. What they were doing was impossible to miss.
Free from the confines of the throne room and, I suspected, from concern over my and Luna's safety, Daeren and Order had well and truly cut loose. I no longer had any trouble believing that Order and Chaos had accidentally destroyed whole cities in their fights. Daearen had only been going at it with her for a couple minutes and several blocks had already been flattened.
A perfectly symmetrical tree had grown hundreds of feet tall and was trying to smash Daearen with its powerful branches. Dozens of ice shards, most of them bigger than a pony rained down upon him and several chattering, cruel-faced birds surrounded my brother. They were made of the same bright material as Order and they circled him, darting in quickly, seeking to wound and slow him. Order herself was a hundred feet away, still shrouded in her blinding light, though she had at least toned it down slightly. It must have taken a lot of focus to control so many disparate spells, but even then she occasionally shot beams of pure energy at Dae with incredible precision. It was a terrifying display of magic. I couldn't think of a single alicorn, not even my mother or father, who could duplicate it. The worst part, though, was that I knew she was holding back. Order was too smart of spend all of her power in the opening minutes of their battle. What I was seeing now was a fraction of her true abilities.
But then, the same held true for Daearen.
In one of his hands he held an odd sort of tube which shot out foot-long termites. The gigantic insects tore through the wooden limbs of the hostile tree with the sound of a buzzsaw, leaving nothing in their wake. Daearen's eyes glowed a brilliant red and shot twin beams of superheated plasma, reducing any ice shard within reach to steam. He puffed on a comically large cigar, surrounding himself in a thick veil of smog. Any of the birds that neared him were forced back, coughing and wheezing from the miasma that guarded him. His new tail held what looked like a tennis racket, but its center was dominated by a silver mirror rather than strings. He used that strange device to reflect Order's energy beams, sometimes at the tree or the birds but most often at Order herself. His other hand glowed a sickly green and a twisted maelstrom of stone and wind, began to gather beneath Order. Daearen was smirking as he worked, obviously enjoying himself.
It was an awe-inspiring battle in the most literal sense of the word, and for a moment I was afraid to involve myself. But I held the Element of Loyalty; I forced down my fear and prepared to dive in. Daearen was holding his ground for now, but Order had more experience and had already put Dae on the defensive. Even if he could beat her, or make winning too costly to be worthwhile, the moment she remembered her threat I was certain she'd leave and begin her killing spree. She had promised as much to Daearen, and I had the feeling she was the type of being to keep her promises. We needed to disable her quickly and end this battle before she gained the upper hoof or retreated. We needed the Elements of Harmony.
"Dae!" I yelled as Luna and I swooped down on him. I focused on the sun, and with a roar its light focused on the city, a relatively small area for all of that energy. The whole field of ice shards melted and with a woody moan, the leaves of the mobile tree burst into flame. It took most of my remaining power, and I couldn't hold it for long, but I had bought Daearen a precious chance to counterattack. He dropped his termite-launcher, reaching out with both hands glowing a twisted viridian. The rocky whirlpool rose suddenly to its full height and surrounded Order, pounding her with gale-force wind and flying stone. The birds shrieked angrily as we neared them, but Daearen snapped his fingers and they were suddenly encased, from beak to claw, in wax.
As they plummeted to the ground, Daearen dropped the cigar. The smoke surrounding him followed it as it fell. He turned to us, smiling. "I was wondering when you two would get here. That rocknado isn't going to hold her long."
I arched an eyebrow. "I didn't want to interrupt your fun."
Daearen grinned sheepishly. "Sorry, I got a little caught up, but I think I got most of it out of my system."
Luna leaned in to hug him. "I'm just glad you're still you." I saw a flicker of guilt, or maybe sadness, cross Daearen's face, but Luna had her head buried in his fur and missed it. By the time she pulled away to beam up at him, not a trace of the emotion – whatever it had been – remained.
"Of course. Now here's the plan. It'll take a lot of power, but I think I can keep Order from fleeing. That's when we hit her with the Elements." A worried frown crossed his face. "You did bring mine, right?"
I realized belated that I'd let the Elements drift while I was busy with the sun, but a hurried burst of energy brought them back to us. Daearen reached out to take them and, I will confess, I held my breath.
I had no idea whether or not the Elements would still accept him. He held the power of Chaos itself. Could he even be a part of Harmony, anymore?
Laughter sparkled even more brightly than usual as he took hold of it, and Magic, while not as enthused, still seemed to accept Daearen as its wielder. I breathed a sigh of relief, and turned to face the rapidly deteriorating tornado.
The rocks had been pulled out of it and were instead orbiting Order in the opposite direction of the dying winds. As Order's blinding light began to shine through, Daearen snapped his fingers again and both Luna and I were suddenly wearing sunglasses much like his. The glasses cut out all of Order's brilliant aura, allowing me to actually look at her. That feat should have been impossible for such mundane objects, but I had quickly learned that the Chaotic powers not only refuse to make sense, but in fact seem to delight in subverting whatever understanding of reality anypony already has. I wisely choose not to question that as Order began to spin her rocks faster, presumably to throw them at us, or perhaps to use them as armor while charging us.
Either way, it didn't matter. Daearen had already readied his next move. A saddlebag appeared at his side, and after digging into it far deeper than the bag's size would indicate was possible, he pulled out a rope made of taffy.
Don't give me that look. You've met Discord.
He mumbled something over it and I felt a staggering rush of power move from Dae into the candy cord. It twisted and writhed like a living thing then shot across the field of battle faster than anything I had ever seen move before. It wrapped around Order's midsection and melted into itself, creating one smooth band of taffy. Order only had time for a panicked yelp before the rope retracted, dragging her toward us.
She fired a few powerful but ill-prepared barrages at us, but the Elements flashed to life and easily deflected the strikes. If the blazing lights hadn't told her, Order was soon close enough to see the Elements around our necks and resting in the crown on Daearen's head herself. Her primary emotion seemed to be disbelief, but I think amusement was a close second.
"Now what?" She taunted. "You've spent your power on a spell that won't take more than two minutes to break. You've made a serious mistake. You can't use those stones anymore. You're no longer a part of Harmony." Her voice lowered and she hissed angrily, "You are Chaos, now and forever."
Daearen regarded her calmly even as the Elements began to glow and their power flowed through us. Order was struck dumb by the display, and Daearen took the opportunity to reply.
"I am not Chaos. It's a part of me, sure, but I'm also a part of Harmony. I am neither rhyme nor reason," he said gesturing to Luna and I, "but instead something different. I am the jarring note, the moment of transition, the essential change." He smiled.
"I am Discord, and you are not welcome in my kingdom."
With that our Elements exploded into light, and a rainbow arched high above us. Order teleported away in a flash of light and crash of sound, but the taffy rope traveled with her and pulled her back to us with an audible crack. Just in time for the rainbow colored magic of the Elements to twist back and plunge down straight into Daearen. There was an explosion of light which even Daearen's conjured shades fail to stop, but when it cleared, everypony seemed unchanged.
There was a stunned moment in which nopony spoke. Then with a small 'ding', Daearen's feet and shins, along with the bottommost portion of his tail, turned purple.
I stared at the bizarre sight, stunned silent, but Luna managed to ask, "What just happened?" Even as she spoke, another 'ding', this one slightly louder than the first, sounded. Now he was blue from the top of the purple area to his mid-thigh.
Order began attacking her bonds, trying desperately to destroy them, but Daearen had put too much magic into the taffy rope for her to break it easily. As she tried, a green, then a yellow stripe appeared, each accompanied by the odd noises.
Whatever they were, the stripes were appearing faster and faster. It only took a few seconds for the orange one to appear next, covering everything below his neck. With a quick ding Daearen's head turned red, and I realized that he had taken on the colors of each of the six Elements.
A confused look crossed his face. "I don't know why, but for some reason I've got this crazy urge to yell, 'I'm a firin' mah lazer'−" But he was interrupted as a rainbow beam erupted from his open mouth. The shaft of prismatic light twisted into a helix, the raw power of harmony mixing and fusing with whatever chaotic essence it had absorbed from Daearen. The blast rushed forward, plowing through the last desperate shield Order had raised and struck her head-on. Order didn't have a chance of resisting it.
I blinked, and she was gone, sealed away much like Chaos before her. Instead of stone, though, Order went through a more interesting change. We were left with a twisting ball of smoke contained within a slowly shifting crystal. At first I didn't understand, but later I came to realize that while stone held Chaos in bonds of order, it took an anarchic form to contain Order. The crystal constantly changed its shape, but it was really just a container. The smoke, chaotic and formless, was what truly imprisoned her.
I turned to Daearen and gave him a tired smile. "That… was utterly ridiculous. There is no possible way something like that could have happened, much less actually work."
Dae gave me a satisfied smirk. "And that's why it worked so well on Order." I glared at him and he chuckled. "Just remember, Celly. If you have no idea what you're doing, then there's no way your enemy will ever figure it out."
All of us chuckled at that, and a small breeze sprang up blowing away the smoke from some of the more damaged buildings. I fell silent as I stared at the ruined city beneath. My siblings stopped as well, and Luna asked the question we were all thinking. "What do we do now?"
She and I both turned to Daearen, who gave us a shrug and a weary grin. "I don't know about either of you, but I could use a nap."
I woke at some time past midnight. It was difficult to tell time without the moon to measure it, but Dae had gone straight to sleep, and I had never learned how. Luna offered to, but somehow that didn't seem like the best idea.
I shifted, trying not to wake up the sleeping filly next to me. None of our own beds were big enough to hold the three of us together, so we decided to spend the night in our parent's bedroom. We didn't want to be apart from each other just then.
But as I woke, I noticed that somepony was missing. Daearen wasn't there, but the crackling sounds of a fire coming from the next room gave me a good clue where he had gone. I rose as quietly as I could and entered the room. He was sitting in a strange chair, one actually fitted to his new form, and I wondered if he had conjured it.
"Shouldn't you be asleep?" Dae asked as I sat down next to him. He was watching the fire dance and burn. He seemed strange, distant.
I smiled. "Couldn't I say the same thing to you?"
"Touché." Somehow the reply lacked his usual vigor. He was so worn down, far more so than he had been earlier.
"What's wrong, Dae?"
For a minute he didn't answer. When he spoke, it wasn't to answer my question. Not directly, at least. "Do you know what I'm doing?" He didn't wait for a response to continue. "I'm watching the fire. It's strange. The flames are always moving, never still, never predictable, but the fire itself is contained, unchanging. Change without changing. Movement without moving. Chaotic, but ordered." The room was silent save for the soft pops and gentle crackling from the fire.
Finally, he turned to me. "I'm afraid, Celly. I know I joked about it before, but you were right. This really is more power than any pony should have. I could change the world without even trying. A snap of my fingers could throw all of reality off its axis. And the worst thing is, that there's a part of me that wants to. A part that doesn't want to use this power for the greater good. A part that just wants chaos for the sake of chaos."
"Dae." I said softly. He turned towards me, and I locked eyes with him. "That is the best news I have heard all day."
He stared at me in confusion, obviously not understanding. I smiled. "I'm relieved because you should be afraid. If you weren't, that would mean you either had an ego the size of the castle or you were already lost to chaos." I paused giving him a gentle pat on one of his arms. "And either way, it would mean that everypony would be in terrible danger. As long as you recognize how wrong it would be to use your power like that, I'm not afraid."
"But what if I can't resist the temptation? I'm not perfect, Celestia. I don't want this power." He sighed. "If I knew how to get rid of it, I'd give it up in a heartbeat."
"Those who do not seek power are often the ones most deserving of it."
Daearen turned to stare into the fire again. "Who said that?"
I shrugged. "I have no idea, but it sure sounds nice doesn't it?"
Dae blinked at me, shocked that for once I didn't have an answer, Then he laughed. There was relief, strong and deeply needed, in that laugh. I joined in with him, and frankly, it was amazing that we didn't wake up Luna with the all the noise we were making.
At last we stopped, and Daearen wiped tears out of his eyes. I stared at him and had to school my face into a serious expression. "That speech you gave Order. You had the whole thing planned out in advance, didn't you?" Daearen shrugged and smiled, but the guilty look in his eyes told me everything. I gave him my best glare, trying, and failing, to keep from smiling. "You did, didn't you?"
"Ever since I first got the idea to use Chaos's power. Pretty cool, wasn't it?"
I rolled my eyes. This was my king and the single most powerful alicorn left, and he had planned his victory speech before he had even begun the battle. "Really though, naming yourself 'Discord'?"
He stuck out his tongue. "I think it's an awesome nickname."
I shook my head; he had the strangest ideas sometimes. "I doubt it'll ever stick, but whatever makes you happy."
We both chuckled again, but this time it was brief. Daearen fell silent shortly afterwards. His face turned serious again for a moment, but no longer was it lined from fear. "Celly, I want you to promise me something."
"If I ever lose control. If I give in to temptation and become a monster… I want you to stop me. By any means necessary. Can you swear that?" He searched my eyes and I stared into his. I found hope, faith and love in his eyes, and I think he found something similar in mine. Despite everything that had happened, we were happy. We were family, and that was all we really needed. All three of us had been through so much, but at last there was light at the end of the tunnel.
"I promise you, Dae. Whatever it takes."
Never before, and never since, have I regretted a promise more than the one I made that night.