Order and Chaos:
When Hope is Lost
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.
The hour was close to midnight and the tea was long gone. Princess Celestia sat alone for the moment. Twilight had left for a much needed trip to the bathroom, a result of all the tea they had been drinking. Celestia didn't need such a break − the Royal Bladder was much stronger than that of a normal pony − but she appreciated the chance to organize her thoughts. She hadn't enjoyed most of what she had recollected this night, but it was what came next that hurt the most.
Finally Twilight returned, opening the door only a crack before scooting in as though afraid that somepony behind her might peek in. She settled onto her cushion and without preamble asked, "So that was the beginning of Discord's reign?"
The Princess nodded. "Yes. At that point the histories you are familiar with are more or less correct, though the books still hide Discord's origins and our true place in his court. And though it's true that the three of us worked together to build Canterlot was not because of the 'great plague', but because the Poison Envy proved impossible to remove from the old capital. It wasn't clear that the old capital was the ruined castle? Well damn.
Twilight blinked. "So the Castle of the Royal Pony Sisters was abandoned even before the Everfree forest spread to encompass it?"
Celestia turned to look out the window at the starry sky outside. "Maybe we could have saved it, but we never tried very hard. Too much had happened there. Too many lives were lost and too many memories remained. In the end it was easier to leave the place to fall into ruin. A new capital meant a new start, something which all of Equestria needed."
"Rebuilding was peaceful. A little dull and tiring, but still a fond time. Daearen was still the same brother I had always known, even though he looked so strange. The ponies of the realm were terrified of him at first, but after some explanation, they accepted him as king. There were a few who grumbled and hated him, but most ponies were too relieved by the end of the nightmare we had been trapped in to care. His subjects saw little of him during the first few years, though − even the nobles and guards. He spent most of that time creating the Everfree forest."
"Wait. What? Discord – I mean Daearen created that deathtrap? And you let him?" Twilight asked in disbelief.
Celestia nodded. "Yes, the Everfree Forest is actually vital to everypony's safety. Equestria, as Order was so fond to point out, is a place of order. We needed somewhere to keep Order where she could not draw power, and since none existed nearby, Daearen had to create one."
Twilight blinked. "You mean the whole forest is one giant prison? Just to contain Order?"
Celestia hesitated before replying. "While it was originally made for Order, there are certain other … entities contained there as well. It is no accident that the Everfree Forest surrounds the gates of Tartarus. However, they are stories for another time." Twilight wanted to ask more, but Celestia had moved on in a tone that brooked no argument. "In the very the heart of the forest, miles and miles from our former castle, there is a grove made of dozens of different trees. In the middle of the grove their branches warp and weave together to create an enormous, living bowl filled with water. The water spins in impossible currents that toss the shifting crystal that holds Order in every direction." Twilight's mind twisted in upon itself as she tried to understand how any magic could do such an incredible task for so long. Fortunately, she gave up before blowing a mental fuse.
Celestia smiled to herself and continued. "Despite our odd circumstances, everything was peaceful and happy. It wasn't until the second century of his reign that Daearen began to act erratically. Moreso than usual, I mean."
I think the first warning sign came thanks to a messenger during some summer afternoon. Daearen and I were suffering through a petition about some minor zoning issue from one of Manehattan's pompous city leaders.
After my years of tending to the more mundane matters of ruling while he worked his magic, it became custom for us to hold court together. I served as his aide and advisor, keeping him informed about the games and machinations of the nobles. While Daearen loved his subjects, he had little patience for the much of the aristocracy. A feeling I have grown to share over the years. I couldn't say I was disappointed when my brother dismissed the baroness before she was through with her petition to hear the message brought by a haggard-looking guard.
The gold-colored noble harrumphed and made her displeasure known at such treatment, but retreated without raising a fuss. Of course, Dae's tendency to turn annoying ponies into chickens for a few hours usually deflated even the most overbearing of egos.
"Your Highness! I bring grave−" The poor unicorn began before he was interrupted.
"Nope," Daearen remarked. "Not cutting it. Try another honorific." He paused to casually examine the back of his paw. "Maybe something a little more creative."
The guard flushed, but tried again. "My king, this is import−"
"Oh, that's even worse. Try again. You look like an intelligent fellow; surely you can come up with something." He gave the struggling pony a pitying look, and I had to hold back a sigh.
The guard stared in disbelief. While it was well known that Daearen had little sense of decorum, most ponies were quite unprepared when faced with it. It was one thing to laugh at the king's jest at the expense of another, but quite different to deal with his humor yourself. I gave the guard a nod and spoke. "You may as well play along or we won't get anything done."
Daearen stuck his tongue out at me, but I ignored him with practiced dignity. This guard was inexperienced, and I wondered who had sent him without proper warning. It was a common form of hazing, but irritating nonetheless. Fresh as he might have been, he proved adaptable.
Daearen shot me a triumphant smile, but hid it before our messenger would notice. "Not bad, but not quite there yet."
"Oh, exotic! But I think you can do better."
Exasperated, the pony shrugged. "How about Supreme Mugwump?"
Daearen slammed one fist onto the arm of his throne and a small collection of fireworks shot skyward. "Now that's a title! Where did you hear that one?"
Blushing furiously the guard muttered, "Just made it up on the spot, sir."
Daearen nodded appreciatively and turned to me. "Celly, I need you to get 'Supreme Mugwump' added to whatever titles I already have as soon as possible. Also, think up a definition for mugwump while you're at it."
I rolled my eyes. "Not a chance, brother dear. Now will you finally let him deliver his message?" Daearen sighed, but signaled assent. Visibly relieved, the young stallion took a deep breath and began.
"There have been reports of strange, terrifying weather all over Equestria, my lord. Local pegasi, even veterans from the finest weather teams around, have been unable to contain it. Thus far there have been no casualties, but since it shows no signs of stopping or even slowing down−"
"Rein yourself in, sergeant." Daearen interrupted. But this time, far from being bored, he was leaning forward, intrigued by the news. "Now start over and tell us exactly what this phenomenon is and what it has done." His eyes sparkled with interest and gestured for the guard to begin again.
"I'm, uh … actually a private, sir."
Daearen huffed impatiently. "You're a sergeant now. So get on with it before you're demoted back to private."
"Yes, sir! At exactly oh-seven hundred hours this morning, aerial recon from multiple cities reported the sudden appearance of patches of anomalous weather. Several pink clouds began to form, seemingly out of thin air, and grew rapidly. By oh-seven thirty, the clouds had swelled into a storm front almost precisely wide enough to cover each city they approached."
I considered solutions for the bizarre problem. Perhaps if there was some sort of pattern to it. "Which cities were covered and what do they have in common? I couldn't help but wonder what force could be causing this. There were still several … unpleasant entities at large in those times, but the fact that there had been no casualties seemed to rule out most of them.
The guard shook his head. "The only pattern we have been able to establish is that every target is a major population center. Thus far Roam, Coltenhagan, Manehattan, and Trottingham have been completely covered, and several smaller cities are now reporting similar events."
I was shaken. Who, or more importantly, what had the power to reach so many separate corners of Equestria with such powerful magic? Daearen seemed concerned with other matters. His fingers steepled, his intent gaze bored into the guard. "What about the clouds themselves? Describe them and their actions."
"They are of normal appearance, other than their coloration, but of strange composition. To all intents and purposes, they seem to be made of cotton candy. Between oh-nine hundred and oh-nine forty-five hours, depending on the city, they began to precipitate. The rain was composed of chocolate milk instead of water, but otherwise behaved normally. In Roam, a strong wind resulted in malted milk ball hail, some pieces reaching the size of large jawbreakers." This new piece of information made this event even more confusing. Were we being invaded by some sort of candy ponies? While any kind of war is abhorrent, there was a part of that possibility that intrigued me. Or least my sweet tooth. The guard, however, wasn't done.
"The clouds are somehow capable of moving under their own power, and smaller ones can reach speeds greater than the average pegasus. Despite that, they can be herded with careful cooperation and even brought to the ground with proper anchors. However, nopony has been able to stop them from raining or to disperse them. Weather pegasi tried everything they think of, even bringing in normal clouds to shock the pink ones, but nothing worked."
"What happened when they shocked them?" Daearen asked.
"The cloud transformed into a large flan that somehow remained airborne and began pouring banana pudding instead of chocolate milk." Daearen started laughing, but the guard ignored him. He was a very fast learner in that regard. "After the pegasi were unsuccessful, powerful unicorns in several cities attempted to disperse the clouds magically. Their spells had no effect other than to draw the clouds towards the caster, leading us to assume that they are attracted to magic. So far nothing has worked, which is why they all have begged for your majesty's help."
"Has anypony tried eating them?" Daearen asked casually, far too casually. I recognized the look in his eyes and in a flash of insight I realized what was really going on. The poor guard still hadn't caught on, though.
"Eat them? Would that be safe?"
"Ponies have been drinking the chocolate milk without any harm, haven't they? I suppose you could have a few ponies taste test them first just in case, but there shouldn't be any problems. They certainly seem to be working exactly as designed."
I sighed, hoping that I was somehow mistaken. "How long have you been planning this?"
My brother grinned in response. "For the past month. It was so tempting to let them go early, but I wanted to be sure they'd work correctly."
The guard, shocked by this revelation froze. Eventually when he spoke it was in hushed tones. "You mean, you did this, your majesty?"
"Yes, of course! I wanted to give all of Equestria a treat, and who doesn't love chocolate milk? I just hope there's enough to go around for everypony.
"Sir. There has been so much of it that several parts of Manehatten are flooding, and Roam's aqueducts and public baths are overflowing with it."
"Great! This−" Daearen began, but this time it was the guard who interrupted him.
"Of course, it has also caused multiple evacuations, ruined countless food and water stores, disrupted the weather schedule for almost every town in Equestria, cost several cow herds their livelihoods and ignited a mass panic, as some ponies fear that the world is ending." The guard spoke in a neutral tone, but still managed to insert a note of accusation into his list of damages. "There has been chaos across the entire land, and it's a miracle that nopony has been seriously hurt in the confusion. Even so, hospitals have been filled to capacity with minor injuries – most notably, pegasus crashes from gummed up wings and severe stomachaches from young fillies and colts gorging themselves on the rain. This is quite literally the worst thing to happen to Equestria since the parasprite invasion three decades ago."
Silence greeted his speech.
Finally, Daearen broke the tension with a guilty cough. "Yes, well… I suppose I've got places to be, then. Can you keep things together here, Celestia?" I nodded, and with a snap of his fingers, my brother disappeared.
The moment he was gone the previously stoic guard all but collapsed in relief. "Thank goodness! I thought he was going to turn me into a chicken or something for a moment there."
I smiled, and descended from my post to speak with him less formally. "You're rather lucky in that respect, I will admit. The last pony who corrected him got turned into a newt."
"A newt?" he echoed.
"Yes, although he got better. My brother may be fond of his pranks, but he doesn't really mean to harm anypony. Still, it must have taken a great deal of courage to confront him with the consequences of his actions." The guard nodded and blushed, uncomfortable with the praise. I gave him another smile, which only caused his flush to deepen. "So what is your name, soldier?"
"S-silver Sparkle, Your Highness."
"I realize that Daearen only promoted you on a whim, but given the qualities you displayed, I think we should look at confirming it as permanent. Find your Captain and tell him I wish to see him."
"Yes, Your Highness." Sergeant Sparkle snapped off a smart salute and began to leave. Before he could, though, I spoke once more.
"But I hope you understand that what was said in this room does not leave it."
He paused and turned back to face me. "Your Highness, I know some ponies dislike King Daearen. I know that some wish you would replace him as ruler. Even in the barracks, there are discontented whispers, but you do not need to worry. He is my king, and I am faithful to my vow."
It wasn't until after dinner that evening that Daearen finally reappeared. He climbed out of the teapot and flopped into his seat, letting himself sink far deeper into the thin cushions than should have been possible. His coat was messy, with bits of pink fluff and chocolate stains all over him, and his expression was exhausted. His stomach bulged several inches past his normal waistline, and he gave the exotic sweet I was eating a nauseated glance. A twitch of a finger made a pear slowly float to him. After sending for different pot of tea, I stared at him, waiting.
He sat there, slowly and tiredly munching away at the pear which had changed at some point to a watercress sandwich. Finally I took the initiative. "How was your day?"
Daearen winced. "I had to eat them. All of them. That was the only way I'd designed to get rid of them safely. Nopony else even wanted to touch them. I got rid of all of the chocolate milk too, but at least that part was easy. How was yours?"
I took a careful sip of the fresh tea and replied calmly. "Very busy. I organized refugee camps for several thousand ponies, and given the ruined food and water supplies, that wasn't very easy. Incidentally, we now owe the Queen of Dragons several favors. You need to fix everything as soon as possible before we announce that those clouds were yours, or there may be calls for your head."
Daearen groaned and sank even lower into his chair. "I hope that can wait until tomorrow. I spent the last hour coughing up sugar cubes and gumdrops. Besides, they can't have my head. I'm still using it."
I grinned and nudged him with one of my wings. "You could have fooled me."
Daearen gave me a weary chuckle. "I knew I'd corrupt you eventually."
"I have no idea what you mean." I turned back to my tea and began to sip it, studiously ignoring everything else. Until Luna came in.
"GOOD EVENING, LORD KING AND ELDER SISTER. WE ARE MOST PLEASED TO FIND THEE STILL AWAKE. WOULDST EITHER OF THEE PERHAPS DESIRE TO WATCH US RAISE THE MOON INTO THE FIRMAMENT?" A spider-web of cracks shot across the cup I was holding, and only a quick spell keep it from shattering completely. Some of the more delicate dinnerware didn't fare quite so well.
I facehoofed, my exasperation beyond words. Daearen continued chewing, his eyes dull and flat, as though his mind had survived the sonic assault only by retreating to a more defensive mental position. Luna flushed as she noticed the broken glasses and dishes. "Oops. I can fix that. Er, we mean, worry not, siblings! This task is not beyond our ken." Her horn began to glow and the dishes began to mend themselves, the ceramics fusing into their former shapes. Or at least a good approximation of their former shapes.
"Daearen." I said glaring daggers at him. "I thought you told her to stop that."
Daearen gave me a sheepish smile and shrugged. "No. I told you I'd tell her that. I must have forgotten to mention it last night."
"Pray tell, what should we cease doing?" Aside from her poor choices in vocal habits, Luna was doing well. She had gotten her cutie mark a century or so ago and had quickly adapted to a more nocturnal lifestyle to better suit being the Princess of Night. She was still too young for most royal responsibilities, but she had taken to raising the moon like a duck to water.
She had also grown in the past two centuries. She was more mature, more clever, and had shot up a whole foot. Unfortunately she was still far too gullible. "You know," I told her, "there's no such thing as the Royal Canterlot Voice."
"But tis tradition! A long and honored manner of speech. Our elder brother said as much," she protested.
"Luna. You were there when we built Canterlot. The only traditions this city has are the ones we've made up. Dae was just joking with you."
"Well, we think it is a fine tradition despite its recent origins. We wish we couldst parley with thee further, but the moon shall not wake from slumber on her own. We bid thee good night and pleasant dreams." With that she left, my ears still ringing from her voice, but at least she had lowered the volume enough to no longer pose a threat to glassware. I glared at Daearen, who was massaging his temple, trying to forestall a well-deserved headache.
"Really, Dae? Even I thought it was funny when you convinced Luna that talking like a Shakesmareian actor made her sound more dignified, but this is taking things a bit far. Half of the staff are going deaf, and this is the third time she's broken the dinner plates."
Daearen sighed and answered in a disgruntled tone. "I was just having some fun with her. I don't know why she took it this far."
I rolled my eyes at him. "You haven't noticed how Luna looks up to you? When she overheard some minor noble insult you, she burst his eardrums telling him off. But that's not important right now." I sighed and put a comforting hoof on his arm. "What's important is that you aren't considering the consequences of anything you do. You come up with a 'great' idea and pursue it without even thinking about it. You can't do that. You're the king, Dae. You have to always keep your subjects in mind."
At first he bristled at my words and gave an undignified pout, but after a minute or two he sighed and rose from his chair's cushioned depths. "I know I'm not the most popular or well-loved king, but I do keep them in mind. I thought I'd give them a treat, something to show I care."
He smiled as he watched the moon rise into the night sky. "I'll get it right next time."
But he didn't. Not the next time or the time after that. Chaos by its very nature can't be controlled, and most of Daearen's plans went spectacularly wrong. The ponies of Equestria grew more and more discontent as his disasters shook the land. His love of pranks and his jovial attitude even in the face of his failures convinced many ponies that was failing on purpose.
Not that everything he did went wrong. After much effort, he finally created a safer form of Poison Envy that could outcompete the old variety. While Poison Joke is an annoying plant, it was a major improvement over Chaos's cruel little flower. He also defeated and bound the Windigoes, prevented war between the Griffin kingdom and Diamond Dog tribes, and drove the changelings into the wastelands, forbidding them to feed upon his ponies.
But, for all of his accomplishments, he still wrecked the country often enough to disappoint even the lowest of expectations. He wore a smile throughout, always striving to do better, but at some point the smile stopped reaching his eyes. Something within him hardened over those years, and I wish to everything holy that I had not been so blind to it.
As time passed, his attempts to help everypony tapered off. He still worked his chaotic magic, but he no longer tried to improve anypony's life. Instead he played pranks and jokes upon the world with no intent beyond getting a laugh. One night he switched the genders of everypony in Equestria, including himself and his sisters… or brothers, for that odd week. Another time he shifted the entire world, changing the seasons suddenly from summer to winter. All because he wanted Hearth's Warming Eve to come early that year.
If it were not for Luna and myself, I believe that our nation would have erupted into open revolt. We tempered Daearen's magic, fixed what he could not, and cared for our subjects. They loved us even though we would scarcely listen to anypony who spoke ill of our brother. But we could not remain willfully ignorant forever.
My eyes were finally opened about three and half centuries after he first created the rain of chocolate milk. Daearen told Luna and me that he had a surprise to show us. I was cautious, but hopeful. If it was anything too disruptive, we at least had the chance to talk him out of it this time.
I wasn't sure what to expect when I opened those doors, but it certainly wasn't a pony literally throwing herself at my hooves sobbing uncontrollably. I backpedaled quickly, surprised at the bizarre assault, but the crying pony crept forward. Her head bowed and wings tightly folded, as she shuddered and begged at our hooves.
"Please, Your Highnesses. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry for all those times I've been rude, callous, or cruel to all those ponies. I know I'm not worthy of forgiveness, but please, could either of you find it in those vast, beautiful hearts of yours to show some mercy to a wretched creature like me?"
I turned to Luna, startled and confused, but she was as puzzled by the bizarre behavior as I was. Before I could ask the strange pony just what she had done that was so wrong, another pony wearing a formal servant's uniform approached her. The new pony lifted the head of the crying supplicant and struck her across the muzzle. "Of course they won't forgive, you selfish, stuck-up little brat. Spoiled rotten by mommy's money and contemptuous of everypony beneath you. You don't even deserve to touch their hooves."
Both ponies were grey, without even a hint of color in their eyes, coats, or even their cutie marks, and the crying pegasus was wearing the tattered remains of what must have once been a lovely, if ostentatious, evening dress. Although it took a moment, I recognized the pegasus's monochrome cutie mark. Her bejeweled key could only have belonged to Duchess Nexus, one of the proudest, most arrogant ponies it had ever been my misfortune to meet. Daearen had already turned her into a chicken twice, but that had done surprisingly little to improve her manners. The pony with her must have been her maid, but far from serving her mistress, the angry earth pony was doing her best to wound the weeping noble both physically and emotionally.
"Always pushing me around, never considering the feelings of others. Doesn't it make you sick to finally realize the kind of monster you've always been?"
"Yes." The duchess choked out quietly between sobs, and her attendant was on her again.
Sickened by the display, I grabbed the descending hoof before it could connect with Duchess Nexus's unresisting form and lifted the struggling servant into the air. Luna, equally disturbed, shouted angrily at the floating earth pony. "What in the name of all things harmonious has transpired?"
Neither of us was fond of the Duchess, but whatever was happening here was unacceptable. All the more so once the source revealed himself.
"I told you I had something to show you, didn't I?" Daearen chuckled and phased into existence a few feet away. With a snap of his fingers, we were shoved fully into the room and the door closed behind us. "Now, let's not show off my latest project to the rest of Canterlot. I'm trying to perfect the process, but it still needs some work."
I dropped the servant in pure surprise, shocked. Luna stuttered, speaking normally for the first time in decades. "Y-you did this, Dae? But why? How could you?" Her voice was hurt, betrayed even, but Daearen didn't seem to take any notice of it.
"It was actually pretty simple, once I realized I could do it. Imagine a pony's personality as a mixture of liquids. The 'heaviest' sink to the bottom and can't even be seen unless there's powerful form of agitation. In Duchess Nexus's case that would be repentance and humility. What I've done is to invert the glass. Or maybe gravity… hmm, this might not be the best metaphor. Anyway, I flip things such that what used to be the 'least likely' emotions and actions are now 'most likely' and vice-versa. For instance, Gentle Smile used to be a quiet, kind and forgiving servant, but now she's violent, abusive and loud. It's fascinating." He finished with the satisfied flair of craftspony after a job well done.
I felt sick. "Dae, this is wrong. You can't do this to anypony else."
He blinked in confusion. "Whyever not? The process is safe, and I can reverse it whenever I want. I've taken to calling it 'discording'. Imagine doing this to a few of the nobles and watching them go to town. It'll be hilarious!"
Luna was on the verge of tears. "You need to stop, big brother. They're ponies, not toys! You can't just play with their lives like that!"
Daeren stopped laughing and turned to face us, pity in his eyes. "I understand. You two haven't realized it yet." He waved one hand and the two grey ponies behind us returned to their normal colors. A snap of his fingers and they were gone as well. Daearen settled himself into a large chair, and leaned forward to speak.
"Normal ponies are to us what butterflies are to them; pretty little creatures that brighten up your life for a few days before dying. Don't deny it, every time you get attached to a pony they wither in a few decades and leave you with nothing but memories and loss. The only thing you can do with them is have fun. Spice up their dull little lives with some excitement!" He chuckled darkly. "And if there's one thing I have a talent for, it's excitement."
"Daearen," I told him sternly, "that is the basest arrogance I have ever heard. That kind of superiority complex is exactly what you used to hate about other alicorns."
His chuckle changed into a full laugh at that. "I don't know if you noticed, Celly, but I'm not exactly an alicorn anymore. I'm the living embodiment of all Chaos. So long as there is even the slightest bit of random chance, that essential bit of anarchy, I will exist. I used to joke about being immortal, but now I truly am. Knowing that I'm going to live millions of times longer than any pony, knowing that each one, no matter how special, is only a drop in the bucket of my existence, how can I treat ponies any other way?"
He still smiled at us, warmly and cheerfully as though he hadn't just told us that the life of every single pony in his kingdom, ponies that he should shelter and protect, was almost worthless. Valuable only in their ability to amuse him. Luna and I were shocked into silence, quiet tears rolling down Luna's face.
He sighed and put a surprisingly gentle hand on each of our shoulders. I flinched, afraid to get close to him anymore, but he was only giving us a hug. I hadn't ever noticed just how mad his voice had become, until dropped back its normal tone. "I know you're probably afraid that I'd think the same thing about you two, but don't worry. I made a promise that I would love both of you forever, and, spirit of Chaos or not, I intend to keep it." For a moment, I truly believed he was still my brother. That this story could end happily. But he stopped hugging us and a mad smirk split his face. The moment passed, and I knew our brother was gone.
I tried again anyway. "Daearen, don't. Please?"
He shook his head sadly. "I'm sorry, but needs must when the devil drives."
"What does that even mean?"
He grinned like a maniac. "I have no idea, but it sure sounds fitting, doesn't it? Now if you'll excuse me, I think Equestria is overdue for a little chaos." He snapped his fingers and suddenly we were outside in the middle of the Royal Garden. Specifically, in the one of the larger fountains, giving the ponies enjoying it quite a shock.
Luna blushed at the embarrassment and flew away in a hurry, but I took my time. After shaking off the water I trudged back to my private quarters. I had a promise to keep.
It turned out to be almost shockingly easy to arrange the coup. Yes, I use that word. I never lied to myself about what I was planning to do, no matter the circumstances.
It was simple enough to find supportive ponies. I just let it become public knowledge that my brother and I weren't getting along, and several ponies approached me with their plans to depose the king. It wasn't just nobles either. While it's true that they were the most common targets of Daearen's – no, Discord's – mischief, they also had the resources to recover from most of his pranks. Common ponies however, had their lives ruined.
Discord had never killed anypony directly, but the number of deaths that could eventually be traced back to his causal acts of cruelty was astounding. I had never known just how much damage my brother had done until I began planning against him. The knowledge had always been there, but I had refused to see it, refused to admit what he had become.
In the end, a vast majority of ponies were not loyal to Discord. The few who did not join with us were either those who refused to choose sides, those who made their living profiting off of Discord's chaos, or those very few who were loyal simply out of their sense of duty. I had insisted that any transfer of power be bloodless, but with the numbers at my disposal, that wouldn't be a problem. Provided, of course, that Luna and I could subdue Discord. If not, I'm sure there would have been quite a bit of blood.
Convincing Luna proved to be the hardest part. Despite what she had seen, Luna remained fiercely devoted to our big brother. If it hadn't been me, I don't think she ever would have agreed, not until Discord did something truly horrendous… and by then, it might have been too late. With time, patience and careful argument I finally made her realize what our loving brother had become. It still took a lot of convincing to compel her to act on it, but after he 'discorded' half of his court she finally gave up all resistance.
There was only one thing left to do: obtain the other two Elements of Harmony. Discord had stopped wearing them centuries ago, even to ceremonial events. In those days, they remained under watch at all times in one of the most heavily guarded parts of the Royal Treasury.
We made our move in the small hours of the morning. Discord had been asleep for hours and would be for several more. A quick Seeming made it appear that I was in bed, and Luna had told everypony she was spending the night in her observatory and was to be left alone.
Luna's magic had improved by leaps and bounds the past centuries, and she easily shrouded us in a cloak of shadows. Most of the guards on duty were with us, but it was better to be sure than sorry.
Together we snuck past multiple checkpoints, both mundane and mystical sentries unaware of our presence, eventually leaving the castle altogether to descend deep into the mountain upon which it was built. The ponies who had built the vault and laid its spells had been masters of their craft, but Luna and I had studied their blueprints in detail for the past week. Armed with that knowledge and more magic than any unicorn, we were able to disable, even if only temporarily, all of their security measures.
Less than an hour after we entered the treasury, we stood before the heavily bejeweled, and more importantly bespelled, chest containing Magic and Laughter. Luna let her shadows fall away from us so we could focus with upon opening the strongbox without setting off half a dozen spells. For a moment, I almost thought we wouldn't succeed, but finally the lock clicked open while the enchantments remained dormant. I opened it with more than a little trepidation, and we got a look at the last two Elements for the first time in ages. We gasped. It was hard to blame us given the sight with which we were faced.
The Element of Magic was no longer a lush viridian. Instead, the jewel had turned jet black, darker even than obsidian. There was no shine, sparkle or depths to the stone anymore. It seemed to suck in light rather than give it back. The Element of Laughter had also lost much of brightness, but in comparison to its sibling, the blue gem was pure and clean as new fallen snow.
We had found the only things that could let us fight Discord, but now I wasn't even sure if we wanted them. The jewels that had once shone so powerfully, were tainted, twisted by what our brother had become. Neither of us had any idea what would happen if we were to use them.
Could we survive the backlash of all that negative energy? Or would it be worse than dying? Would we live only to be warped into dark reflections of ourselves? In the end, though, all of that speculation was unimportant. We needed the Elements, and we could not leave without them.
Neither of us dared to speak, but we didn't need to. A brief hug and a briefer look was all we gave each other. Then, Luna and I stretched out our hooves to touch them. I'm not ashamed to admit that my hoof trembled as it clinked softly against the cold surface of the Element of Magic. Then, without warning, I dropped into oblivion.
There was nothing. The distant sound of patrolling guards was gone. The ancient storeroom, carved out of the living bedrock, had disappeared. The stuffy, slightly musty smell of long kept secrets was missing, and I no longer felt stone, or anything, really, beneath my hooves. Every sensation outside of myself had been severed with a grim finality.
I was alone.
I wondered if I had died, if this was death. It didn't matter either way, really. I had failed. Discord would reign over a land of chaos. Until Order found a way to get free, at least. Then they would battle again and again. And all of our subjects, all of my little ponies would suffer for it. All because I had failed.
I felt something flare to life within me. It was a tiny, guttering flame, but within that darkness it felt as warm as a bonfire.
It grew stronger. My coat began to shine, illuminating the endless abyss around me. But there was a force that consumed my light, a hunger that couldn't be filled.
There were too many ponies that depended on me; too many lives would be destroyed if we failed here. I was Celestia, the Princess of the Sun, daughter of Awdur and Musica and one of the last alicorns. I would not, could not give in.
With that, the darkness faded away, a gentle light replacing the emptiness. The world around me hesitantly resolved into a silent meadow beneath the shining sun. A black stone lay on the grass in front of me. The Element of Magic had lost its terrible aura, but its former power was still hadn't been restored. It was only a lifeless stone. I picked up the former gem and stared into its depths, but I found no answers there. The Elements only accepted those they judged worthy to hold their powers, so what was I missing?
What was it to be the Element of Magic? What had my brother lost?
And with that I realized the truth. The meadow was beautiful, but it was as empty as the darkness that had come before.
Real strength doesn't come from being alone or from having nothing to lose. Real strength comes from the faith and love ponies have in each other. From knowing that you can never give in, never back down, never surrender so long as the ponies you love still need you.
Discord had lost himself in the power of Chaos. He had forgotten that true power comes from the bonds we share. Because that was the truth at the heart of the Elements…
Friendship is Magic.
Light blossomed from the black stone, rich and pure. The darkness vanished, leaving it clear as a diamond for a moment, but then color began to fill the gem, turning it a beautiful, rich magenta. Gold sprang into being around it, the metal twisting itself, not into a crown, but instead a shining circlet. I stared in wonder as the Element reshaped itself then hung before me in the air, waiting. I carefully levitated it onto my head, the jewel settling below my horn and between my eyes. There was a gentle pulse of magic, and I felt its power join my own. I had been accepted, judged worthy to wield the Element of Magic.
I shut my eyes, breathing a sigh of relief, and when I reopened them, I had returned to the hidden vault. Luna stood beside me wearing not just the Element of Laughter, but her other two as well. Laughter was set in a matching circlet, but hers was made of glimmering Mithril. Her torc was still set with Kindness and Generosity, but its metal had changed to Mithril as well. With some surprise I realized that I too, was wearing all of my Elements and that my torc had become gold as well.
It was too soon to celebrate, though. We still needed to escape unnoticed with the greatest and most powerful treasures in the kingdom, but I couldn't suppress a grin of triumph. Luna mirrored the expression, but only for a moment. She could not forget the purpose for which these jewels were bound.
Luna bit her lip and whispered in a tone so low I could barely understand her, "Art thou certain such a plan shall succeed?"
My spirits, which had been rising since we reappeared, fell again. I had my own suspicions about what the power of Harmony would to Discord, but I couldn't share them with Luna. She was already reluctant to challenge him. "The Elements of Harmony are the strongest force in Equestria. If anything can help our brother, it's them."
Luna nodded, her face turning back into a smile. I forced myself to smile back, but thankfully it was too dark for her to notice how strained it was. Honesty dimmed slightly, in what almost seemed a rebuke, but Loyalty's shine was undiminished.
It was a nerve wracking week after our raid on the treasury. I avoided Discord whenever I could, knowing that I wouldn't be able to conceal my guilt. Thankfully, he was so caught up in his latest scheme that he barely noticed Luna or me.
Then, finally, it was time for his monthly review of the guard. Typically, Discord breezed through the ranks, playing a minor prank or two on his soldiers before leaving them alone for another month. While you might think he would have paid them more attention, the guards had long ago made stoic acceptance their greatest virtue. Discord had found that it wasn't much fun to prank somepony who wouldn't even give you an annoyed glare when you turned their armor into live squid. Not when there were easier targets elsewhere.
Luna and I would occasionally accompany him on these reviews, and on that day both of us were in attendance. Discord made his entrance by bursting forth from the stone underhoof riding a geyser of confetti. A few ponies in the ranks gasped, but most watched impassively. Still, it was more of a reaction than he usually got, so he bowed and waved.
"Thank you! You're a wonderful audience! I'll be here all week!"
Maybe if Discord had paid more attention to his guards, or actually spoken to them on a regular basis, he would have noticed something odd about the ponies that had reacted. They were mostly pegasi and unicorns, and didn't quite fit in with the rest of the guards. The pegasi were smaller and leaner than most of their well-muscled brethren, and they had on much lighter armor.
The unicorns stuck out even worse. Many were well beyond the standard age for Royal Guards, and all of them fidgeted uncomfortably in their armor. As little as Discord cared about mortal ponies, even he would notice eventually. Unless of course, Luna and I held his attention.
"Yes," I replied in the icy tone I had been favoring those days. "We will be here all week if you don't hurry up."
"Ouch!" Discord threw his hands to his chest, overdramatically pantomiming a wound. "You wound me to the quick, sister dear. I take it you didn't enjoy my little prank a few weeks ago?" He didn't wait for a response before bulldozing straight ahead. "Well, you should be pleased, then. I set all of the nobles back to normal, and even did a few favors for the ones I'd really inconvenienced. I still can't believe Duke Riser actually proposed to his butler and demanded that I officiate their wedding that very evening." He chuckled. "Though the look in that stallion's eyes when the Duke offered him that ring in front of the entire court was priceless."
He glanced at his mismatched body and waggled his eyebrows. "I'm a lot of things, so who knows? I might just be." He smiled, innocent as foal with a hoof in the cookie jar. "Anyway, I've got something even funnier in works. I think even you'll like this one, Celestia."
Luna frowned and tried to draw Discord's attention. "A good afternoon to thee, Dae."
Discord gave her grin and ruffled her ethereal mane, turning all of its stars into one messy nebulae. "Okay, I'll bite. What so important that it has the two of you plotting together?"
I cleared my throat and gestured to the far end of the courtyard. "Luna and I have been working on something, and we wanted you to see the results." His eyebrows shot up and a curious expression overtook his face. We lead him to the crux of our plan, two long lines of thick-linked chains. Seven of the chains, each seventy-seven feet long, were made of flawless silver, and another seven were made of grim, grey iron. The silver chains were lined in shifting, flickering runes that radiated power. They were meant to hold and bind, sealing even ephemeral flesh. The iron chains, in stark contrast, had no bright finish or obvious care, but they were even more powerful in their own way. Some of Equestria's finest mages and metalworkers had been working on them for years, but with my help and resources they had been finished little more than a month ago.
"Well, well, well," Discord said curiously examining the long lengths of metal. "Spelled silver. Hmm, mostly restraining magic, but it looks like you could use it as a conductor for other spells as well. And … is that cold iron?" Cold iron, a specially prepared alloy of normal iron and several other metals, was also known as the Mage's Bane. Humans had originally invented it as a means of fighting magical creatures, since they had no powers of their own. Thankfully, the secret of its creation had not vanished with them.
Discord frowned, and I began to sweat. There were some subtle movements from the guards as they moved into position, but had he noticed them? Discord pondered the chains a moment more before speaking. "These things are neater than an obsessive-compulsive pony's bedroom, but what's their purpose?"
I blanked, unable to think of a believable lie, but Luna picked up the slack. "Such constructs can restrain powerful beasts with little harm to the surrounding environs."
His eyebrows shot up as he jumped to the wrong conclusion. "You're talking about dragons. Tiamat wouldn't be pleased if she found out about that." He chuckled, finding her imagined rage more amusing than frightening. Our co-conspirators were almost there, only a few more moments. Discord bent forward and picked up one of the silver chains, discovering that it was surprisingly light. "So, this is what you've been all secretive about? Honestly, I'd half expected−"
"Now!" And the plan erupted into motion.
The pegasi, each of them reputed to be one of the fastest flyers in Equestria, had positioned themselves at the ends of each chain. Now they shot forward, dragging the chains along to entangle Discord in a web of metal. Their speed had not been overstated. In less than a second, too quick even for a being of his power to react, Discord was shackled by all fourteen. The cold iron chilled the moment it came in contact with his flesh and frost began to form wherever it touched.
The pegasi passed their loads to the rest of our force. Enormous earth ponies, some almost as large as me or my sister, pulled the iron chains taut and held them with every ounce of their considerable strength. The silver chains were taken up by the unicorns who'd looked so uncomfortable in their armor. They were the strongest mages in Equestria, and their horns burst into furious light as they focused on the chains before them. A gleaming aura surrounded the silver links, and they tightened of their own accord. The combined assault stopped Discord from using his magic and prevented him from simply muscling through the comparatively soft iron.
All their efforts, though, would only hold until the unicorns's magic was exhausted or the earth ponies tired. Nothing save the Elements could hold Discord for long, but the chains had bought us a few precious minutes. I had expected Discord to look shocked, and he did, but I had not expected his surprise to shift into amusement.
"Fantastic! Oh, top notch! Chains aren't really my things, but for your first real prank it's not bad! You've got to tell me how you kept the silver and iron from canceling each other out." He gave us a smile, bright and proud, and he looked so pleased I hesitated. Luna took in a sharp breath, and I felt her shudder against me. Discord didn't notice; he just kept rambling. "But first I gotta know: what's the punchline? A rainbow afro? Clown make-up? Throwing me into the moat? Don't leave me in suspense!"
"This is no prank, Discord." I told him, focusing upon a spell I had laid earlier.
He blinked, confused. "Then what is it?"
Luna spoke, her voice quiet. She had left behind her archaic accent and booming tone. "It's an intervention. We want to help you."
With that I triggered the summoning spell I had laid on the Elements of Harmony. They materialized on our heads and necks, flowing shards of light outlining their forms as the powerful gems burst into existence. Discord stared, his jaw hanging slack for a moment. Then he leapt into furious action, fighting his bonds for the first time. The silver glimmered brightly, and iron groaned as frost spread further and further across his body. The unicorns cursed and their horns flared again with light. The Earth ponies pulled ever tighter, one of their number thrown to the ground by Discord's exertions. They were holding him for now, but I could already see tiny cracks beginning to form in some of the links.
The Elements flashed with all the brilliance of wild lightening and a crack of thunder split the air. I spoke, pouring every measure of authority I had into my voice, and the entire courtyard was instantly dead silent. "King Daearen, also called Discord, we have been chosen by the powers of Harmony to bring justice to you. You have betrayed your subjects' sacred trust by treating them as playthings, crushing their hopes, fanning their fears and bringing them misery. You have even trespassed so far as to warp their bodies and minds merely for your amusement For these and other crimes, we now call you to task."
Discord licked his lips nervously, and stared at us in disbelief. "You're supposed to be loyal, Celestia. And you're supposed to be kind, Luna. How could either of you do this to me?"
Luna stepped forward, giving him a short nuzzle. "Don't worry, Dae. It might seem bad, but now we can heal you. You'll finally be yourself again."
I winced, and though Luna couldn't see it, Discord caught it all too clearly.
"And you were supposed to be honest as well. Why? Give me that, at least."
The light surrounding me dimmed to nothing and for a moment I was not a centuries-old avatar of Harmony. I was just a pony, one who had worked long and hard for something she never really wanted. I bowed my head and replied in a whisper. "I am loyal. Do you remember the night after we defeated Order? Remember sitting together in front of that fire? Remember my promise? Everything I have done has been because of that." I looked up, meeting his eyes with equal measures of pain and determination. "I'm sorry."
Luna cocked her head, her confusion evident, but Discord's reaction stole back her attention. He began to laugh. It was not his usual cheerful tones, nor his mischief-laden chuckles. It was not even one of his maniacal cackles, which more than one pony had learned to fear. It was the hollow, mirthless laugh of a pony waiting for the noose. The truest sort of gallows humor.
The guards shivered as a chill swept through them, and I was a little unnerved by the display. But we had no time to waste. I nodded to Luna, and we began to focus upon our Elements. Discord renewed his struggles, and the guards cursed as they struggled to contain him. He managed to get his arms partially free, but chains still wrapped his hands and prevented him from snapping his fingers. Somehow, though, that didn't seem to be his intent.
But worldly concerns soon left me. There was a power building within me. It felt wild, less controlled or stable than I remembered, but it was Harmony. Nopony could mistake the sensation of that magic. A horn-thin beam of light sprang from each of the Elements, meeting at a point several feet above us. Brilliant, blessed light erupted from that nexus, and a rainbow of magic, far more pure than any refraction of light produced by nature or pony refraction, poured upwards.
The flood of polychromatic magic crashed into our brother, smashing the chains to pieces and surrounding him in swirling maelstrom of irresistible power. The transformation started at his feet, turning them into plain, gray stone. From there the change raced upwards solidifying him at an impossible pace.
He gave us one last, sad smile as the magic reached his chest.
"I'm sorry." And for the first time in centuries I think he actually meant it.
Discord stretched his arms skyward, and opened his mouth wide with a joyous expression, as though he had been caught in song, and the transformation was complete.
Silence ruled the courtyard with an authority that no mortal pony could match. After minutes of watching and waiting, Luna finally broke it. "He struck a pose. He knew this was going to happen." She turned to me, her eyes desperate. "We've got to reverse it! We can't leave him like that!"
I bowed my head. "We can't. The Elements of Harmony have spoken. There's no way to turn him back." I felt tears begin to rise, but I forced them down. I had to be strong.
Luna looked at me in shock, but it quickly gave way to anger. "You knew this would happen. You knew what the Elements would do to him! How could you? He was your king! He was your brother!"
I drew in a ragged breath. The guards, both true and false, remained silent and motionless. I might have thought they had become statues as well. I raised my head, accepting Luna's anger. She had every right to be furious, to rage at me. I would not defend myself. I couldn't claim innocence, but she needed to know why I had done it.
"I promised him on the night after he took Chaos's power, so very long ago, that if he ever became a monster, if he ever abused Chaos's powers, I would stop him." My voice faltered it took everything I had to force out the final words. "No matter what it took."
The stars in Luna's mane went supernova, but their rage was nothing compared to that of their mistress. The earth around her hooves cratered and a wind, wild and vicious, sprung to life around her. Magic, raw, emotional and uncontrolled poured off her like steam. Her voice returned and she screamed at me in a volume that shattered every window in Canterlot. "YOU'RE THE MONSTER! I HATE YOU!"
With that, she shot into the air faster even than sound could carry. An explosion of light marked her departure, a disk shaped rainbow that rippled across the sky. She flew far and fast, to nopony knows where. I just stood there, watching, regretting, wishing.
I stopped watching the sky and looked in surprise at the pony that had interrupted my reprieve. He was a huge Earth pony, shorter than I only if you counted my horn. He was covered in layers of muscle; it was easy to see why he had been included in those tasked to hold the chains.
"Beggin' yer pardon, but I think most a' us could use some orders." I turned and realized that the guards, flyers and mages were milling around, waiting for me to address them. I wanted to collapse. I wanted to climb into bed and sleep for the next decade. I didn't want to complete what I had started, to take control of my brother's kingdom. But Discord was sealed away, Luna had gone, and my ponies needed leadership. I could not refuse them.
"Thank you, mister …?"
"My name's Big. Mr. Apple, iffen' you're gonna get formal 'bout it."
"Yes. Please find Commander Mason and tell him to get started. We need to seize control and ensure that nopony tries to use the chaos that will result to their advantage. Also, tell Professor Amulet, the little jade unicorn with the white mane, and Captain Gale that I need to speak to them." The large soldier smoothly sank to his knees.
"Sure thing, yer Majesty."
He left carrying my orders, and I was alone again. Not for long, I knew. Daearen had always joked that I would be a better ruler than him. It looked like I was going to find out.
It was the early hours of the morning, and Twilight, even with her nocturnal habits, was feeling the strain. But she was far to gripped by the enormity of Princess Celestia's story to pay any heed to her body's simpler requirements.
"Luna came back a few days later. She had seen the celebrations in the streets, heard stories firsthoof of the terrible consequences of Discord's actions, and came to realize that I had done what was necessary. She said she forgave me, but things were never the quite the same between us. I can't help but think that this planted the seeds of her hatred. That Nightmare Moon was born that day, not centuries later."
Celestia turned to stare at the bright moon hanging in the sky outside. "Sending her to the moon was the last time I used the Elements of Harmony. After that I returned them to the old castle, and did my best to forget."
"I … I had no idea." Twilight whispered, her voice subdued and her eyes watering. Suddenly she rushed to Celestia's side, throwing her forelegs around her mentor's neck. "That must have been awful. I can't imagine having to do that to Shining or Spike. I'm so sorry we had to do it again. I-I hope we didn't hurt Luna or Daearen. Well, aside from him being calcified. Or would that be petrified? I mean …" She trailed off, her voice a confused jumble.
The Princess, though startled by her student's hug, leaned down and nuzzled her gently. "It's all right, Twilight. I'm not angry. You saved Equestria twice over, and don't ever think differently. But I think it would be for the best if you were to head to bed. I shouldn't have kept you up so late, not when you have to catch a train in the morning."
Twilight smiled. That was the Princess − always thinking of other ponies ahead of herself. Twilight wanted to stay and talk more, but Celestia's suggestion seemed to have increased her drowsiness exponentially. Stifling a yawn, she rose to leave, but one last question demanded an answer. "Princess? How did you know?"
Celestia considered the question for a moment. "Know what, my dear pupil?"
"How did you know that my friends and I were the new Elements of Harmony? How did you know that I could actually meet the right ponies and connect with them at just the right time?"
Celestia hesitated for a second, then chuckled. "I'm afraid that I'm not quite ready to give up all my secrets just yet, Twilight. But maybe I'll tell you another time. Now, you'd better get to bed before you fall asleep standing up."
Twilight pouted at the evasive answer, but the piteous look was ruined by a huge yawn. Conceding to both Celestia's authority and logic, Twilight left headed for the small suite she was sharing with her friends in the castle.
The Princess sat silently for several minutes, watching the door, until she was certain her student was out of earshot. "I know you can hear me. The only way you could have known so much about Twilight and her friends was if you're somehow aware even while trapped in stone."
The statue remained silent, but Celestia turned to it anyway, addressing it directly. "Do you know why you lost this time? Why you were defeated so easily? You underestimated my student and her friends. All of that time frozen in stone, and you still didn't realize just how powerful mortal ponies can be."
His face was frozen in an expression of fear mixed with disbelief. His arrogance had blinded him to the true power Twilight had in her friends. Celestia stared at her brother, and her mind wandered back, not to millennia past, but to only days ago. Did you miss me, Celestia? I missed you.
At last, in the privacy of that room, her tears came. They were a slow trickle; she couldn't let go of her control even as she finally gave vent to her emotions, the habit too strong to shake easily. For a while that was all she did, but with a weary chuckle she answered him.
"Every day. It wasn't so bad when I still had Luna, but after I lost her, too? I can't tell you how many times I wanted to break your seal. To let you out, even though it meant throwing Equestria into chaos. I resisted, but only just. I think if I hadn't found Twilight, I might have."
At that she broke into a sad laugh. "That girl, that precious little pony. I know you're probably wondering the same thing as her. How did I find all six of the Elements of Harmony at just the right time? How did I know?"
"I didn't. Twilight, and everypony else, thinks I sent her to Ponyville and told her to make friends as some sort of grand, intricately orchestrated scheme to save all of Equestria from the return of Nightmare Moon. But it wasn't. It was one of the most selfish things I've ever done."
She sighed. "One thing I never understood is why nopony was surprised by how easily Nightmare Moon was able to overcome me and stop the sun from rising. I guess most ponies think I was caught by surprise, or she cheated somehow. But neither of those make much sense if you think about them. I knew she was coming back. I was the one who left that 'prophecy' at the time of her imprisonment. I knew very well how long her cage would hold her, and I had a thousand years to prepare for her return. Why couldn't I have defeated her?"
The Celestia looked into Discord's stone eyes and murmured. "Because I let her win. I left all of Equestria to suffer because I couldn't bring myself to hurt her. The Elements no longer responded to me, and despite centuries of searching and study, I couldn't find a way to cure Luna of her madness. The only options were to imprison her again, leaving me alone for another millennium, or to kill her, which was even more unthinkable."
Her head dropped and tears dripped from her eyes again. "So, I took the easy way out. I let her win. I sent Twilight away so she wouldn't have to suffer Luna's wrath, and I told her to make friends so that somepony would be there for her when I could not."
"But," Celestia lifted her head, beaming through her tears. "She did the impossible. She made five friends, led them through danger and temptation, discovered the true power of the Elements, and freed Luna from her insanity. You see, for all their mortal failings and flaws, despite their short lives and limited perspectives, those six ponies are far better suited to bear the powers of Harmony than we ever were."
Celestia smile changed, becoming smaller, more composed, and she began to dim the lights in the chamber, preparing to leave. "Do you know what they are to me?"
"They're hope. The first I've had in a long time."
The lights were out, but the soft glow of the moon was enough to illuminate the expression on Celestia's face as she made ready to leave. It was hope and sadness, mixed with a love strong enough to move mountains. The Sun Princess blinked away another tear, and turned to leave, but paused.
"Against all odds they brought Luna back to me. I have every faith that someday, they can do the same for you. Just wait a little until then."
The door closed, and Celestia made her way down the stairs. But the statue still heard, in its own impossible way, her final words.
"Good night, Dae. I love you."