Fluttershy had left shortly after Starlight had punched Starswirl. She didn't care to stay and hear whatever argument would ensue and had flown off to the castle entrance, the doors wide open to show Discord sitting on the steps of the castle, his form radiating his displeasure.
The softest of wings flaps and the barest sound of her hooves touching down was the only signal she gave for her arrival, taking a seat next to him without a word. She stared up at him in concern, but he just stared out across Ponyville, to the horizon.
It was almost kind of funny to her. When she had first met Twilight, she would have been terrified of Discord right now. She knew when a creature was lashing out in pain or fear, and her kindness would conquer her fears. But Discord was not hurt or afraid; He was angry, in every sense of the word. The old her would have been cowering before the draconequus like a filly before an Ursa.
The current Fluttershy, however, had grown a bit.
Discord's lips quirked upward ever so slightly as he felt Fluttershy nuzzle up against his side with a hoof around his back as a form of embrace. Without hesitation, he brought his talons down, stroking her soft mane in appreciation.
The irony was not lost on Fluttershy. These same talons could rip reality asunder. The digit that tenderly stroked her mane had just recently reformed an entire landscape with a mere flick. She was in the grasp of the most dangerous and powerful being she had ever known and had never been less afraid in her life. Never had she been so sure that she was safe.
"I missed you," she said, finally breaking the silence. He hummed, not deigning to say if he missed her as well. "I was worried, Discord. I thought something had happened to you, after what happened with Chrysalis's throne."
The petting stopped, his talons midway through her mane. Fluttershy wasn't scared, but she was very aware that her words had touched something fresh and raw.
Discord snorted his annoyance. "She still missing?" he inquired idly. Fluttershy nodded against him, waiting patiently. "...I honestly did lose track of time," he stated evasively.
"You probably shouldn't play with it then," Fluttershy joked with a soft smile before frowning again. "Are you leaving again, after this?"
"No," he answered, blunt and to the point. "I think I can afford to slow down and smell the poison joke," he added, smirking as he heard her giggles reach his ear. "...Sorry."
"You don't have to be," Fluttershy assured gently, placing a hoof on his oxen leg. "Just next time, leave a note?"
"I'll remember that," Discord stated, retracting his talons before turning to watch as the current heroes of Equestria exited the castle.
None of them looked happy, not even Pinkie Pie. The party pony tried, bless her, but her smile was just too awkward and nervous. Applejack and Rarity both had signs of exhaustion about their eyes, but more of a mental tiredness than anything physically taxing. Sunburst was just plain nervous. Rainbow and Spike seemed to be a strange mix of shocked and, if Discord wasn't mistaken, proud. The only one who did look even close to happy was Starlight's satisfied and definitely proud look, which was aimed at a very cold and stern faced Twilight.
"We're ready," Twilight stated without preamble, looking as though she was almost expecting him to ask her something.
Discord stood, turning to face them fully with crossed arms. It only took them another second to realize he was no longer looking at them, but behind them.
To the Pillars of Old Equestria.
"So are we," Starswirl said boldly as the group of old and new protectors stood before Discord. Twilight refused to even look their way, waiting patiently.
Discord, however, did not ignore the creators of the Tree of Harmony. "Like a filly, Starswirl. Like A Filly," Discord warned ominously.
Starswirl gave a hard, unyielding stare at the draconequus, who deemed him below the worth of his attention.
Everypony save Spike tensed as Discord's lion paw snapped out, as if swiping the world away. Twilight, Starlight, and Starswirl managed to spread their magic out over the group, save Fluttershy, who was held by Discord's tail. The magic kept the group steady as reality rushed by them at stomach churning speeds. Despite the unsettling feeling, the combined group was able to keep themselves mostly composed when the world came to a stop.
Except Spike, who promptly fell over face first and rolled over. "A little warning would have been nice," Spike stated, waiting for the sky to stop spinning.
"Sorry, Spike. We forgot you wouldn't know about that," Applejack stated as she helped the scaly youth up.
"Discord, I know you like tossing the planet around to go places, but could you please smooth out the transition some?" Starlight requested, shaking some vertigo off.
"Planet?" Discord asked, glancing at the reformed unicorn oddly. "What are you babbling about?"
Sunburst repositioned his glasses nervously. "Umm, you said you brought "there to us," implying that you moved the entire planet?"
"Really? That's what you thought he meant?" Spike asked in amusement.
Discord snorted condescendingly. "I'm almost insulted."
"Dude, they're saying they think you can move a planet. What's better than that?" Rainbow asked flatly.
"At the moment, the solar system," Discord answered bluntly, turning away from the ponies to observe their surroundings.
Twilight blinked, twice, thrice, and promptly shook her head. "I, I can't deal with this right now," she decided, as she and the others looked around.
They were on top of a slanted rock formation, looking out upon a bleak valley filled with many more of the tilted landforms, the landscape dotted with withered grass and barren trees. And in the distance, amongst the formations, was what looked like a settlement of some sort. "I think we also forgot to ask where we were going," Rainbow chimed in, looking to Discord as he stood at the very peak of the stone, gazing down upon the land with impatient wrath.
"Hollow Shades," Discord answered simply, watching the gloomy settlement with eerie stillness about him.
"Hasn't this place been abandoned for years?" Sunburst recalled curiously, Discord only giving a nod as an answer.
"Have these lands always looked like this?" Mistmane asked in concern. "Or have they been twisted by the Pony of Shadows?"
"Very soon, it will be a rather moot question," Discord said ominously, glancing back to Twilight. "Everypony stays here. I can't promise you'll be safe otherwise."
While the Old Pillars were mildly annoyed by the claim, Twilight and her friends found themselves fairly nervous. Discord usually let ponies waltz into trouble, so a warning of caution from him was something to give serious heed to.
"So," Applejack started awkwardly. "What's yer plan?"
Discord didn't answered immediately as he looked forward again, pausing for only an instant before his wings spread wide open. The wind itself seemed to rush to his aerial limbs as he let out a great and thunderous call.
With his voice echoing across the lands, the Lord of Chaos took to the sky with a mighty flap of his wings. The pegasi in the group trembled and shivered as they felt the magic-rich air brush against their own wings. Higher and farther he flew across the sky, until he deemed himself far enough from where the mortals were observing.
He eyed the ghost town of a village, seeing a great, mist-like mass starting to form. Discord growled with impatience as he raised one hand, holding up his index and middle talon as the air became charged and jittery.
"Can anypony else feel that?" Rarity asked warily as they all watched the now-distant figure.
"Rarity, I can SMELL it!" Rainbow answered, eyeing the skies like the clouds were now predators.
"Oh, what's it smell like?" Pinkie Pie asked, grinning curiously.
"Like lightning, but, worse," Rainbow said with growing unease. "Way worse."
As if on cue, Discord's fingers pointed downward, right as the darkness had condensed into a large sphere.
Everyone, without exception, screamed as a positively blinding and massive column of bright energy crashed down upon Hollow Shadows, engulfing the entire settlement in an instant. Wood and stone was blown upward and vaporized within the attack as it barred down for the longest five seconds of their lives.
Everyone groaned and shook their head as they attempted to regain their sight. Twilight strained her eyes to clear the spots dancing across her vision. Reality faded back into her sight and-
-she paled. The very life seemed to leave her lungs. Her eyes dilated as her keen and intelligent mind processed the meaning and implications of what she was seeing, but her conscious and emotional awareness refused to accept the conclusions before her.
Hollow Shades was gone. In its place was a massive hole. Not a crater, not ruins, a HOLE; A pit that had to have a truly massive depth to it.
An entire town, not much smaller than Ponyville, utterly wiped away from existence. Not warped, not destroyed, but gone with no trace to ever prove it existed.
"W-wow," Spike summarized, stunned as much as the others. "I always knew Discord was powerful, but I think this is the first time he, um, how to put it?"
"Used it for pure destruction," Starlight summarized, throwing a dirty look at Starswirl. "And you thought antagonizing him right now was smart, WHY?!"
The Old Pillars did not respond, too lost in their own disbelief.
Somnambula was the only one to speak, to summarize the event in the most perfect of words:
"What horrific power."
Twilight's gaze turned back up to the distant figure of Discord, floating in the sky still as thunder rumbled and lightning danced across storm clouds, swollen from the aftermath of Discord's attack. She suddenly wished Celestia and Luna were here.
Because she wasn't sure how she was going to do this event justice, orally or literately.
Discord was not a patient god. He could be, sometimes. But not right now. Right now, all he wanted to do was vent. And while he could do that just fine without using the Pony of Shadows as a punching bag, he really, really, wanted to use the Pony of Shadows as a punching bag.
He almost smiled when the planet started rumbling.
"Oh, what NOW?!" Sunburst exclaimed in fear. Starlight felt a little bad for him. This was his first major adventure, sans Flurry Heart's crystaling, and it just happened to be when Discord was throwing his weight around more than normal.
Discord drummed his talons against his arm as shadows erupted from the gapping maw he had created. It was not a beam or an attack, but a great accumulation of blackness that refused to allow any light to pierce it, tendrils of it spilling out in all direction like an umbrageous geyser. It blotted out everything, even the moon, even the stars. A great rumbling laugh shook the land even harder as Discord continued his wait.
He didn't even flinch when eyes of unholy whiteness shot up, and the great fanged jaw appeared to continue the cackling properly. Discord just glared impatiently as the titanic bulk of shadows condensed down slowly to form the Pony of Shadows in all his overblown glory.
He was very much the same, yet so different. His body was a size or two larger and somehow appearing more solid. As if it was a solid, physical substance now instead of magical shade. With every moment, shredded shards of blackness evaporated away from his form, as if even the Pony of Shadows could no longer contain them. These escaping bits of umbral might darkened the sky even further, turning what was already darkness into an almost tenebrous abyss.
"Ohhh, I must thank you, Discord!" The Pony of Shadows declared, his voice hungry and bloated with raw power. "If I had known that I could access my full powers just by destroying the Shrine of Shadows, I would have done it ages ago!"
"Are you done?" Discord asked, tilting his head as silence came over them. "I'd rather not hear you complaining about you not having a proper chance afterwards."
"You insolent-! Gahh! I am more powerful than even I ever imagined!" the Pony of Shadows declared, his dark powers churning violently.
"Then you have a very small imagination," Discord retorted as magic curled in the coils of his tail. "I originally just wanted to get a warm up, Stygian. But I recently learned that your former comrades are directly responsible for a great...displeasure of mine."
"Hard to imagine what they could have ever done to hinder you," the Pony of Shadows remarked tensely.
Discord ignored him though, a cruel smile working onto his face. "And after thinking about it a bit more, I realized that they never would have created that Weed if not for you," The Tyrant concluded, every playful word dripping with wrathful poison. "Congrats. You've been upgraded from warm up to stress relief."
They attacked in sync, a screaming laser of darkness rushing from Stygian's horn while Discord's tail sent a slashing wave of volatile orange magic at the faux-Alicorn. Neither one was very surprised by the other dodging, the dark attack leaving a deep gash in one of the large hills, while Discord's left a fractured scar in the very air.
Stygian narrowed his gaze before rushing forward in a gaseous form, instantly reforming to strike Discord in the side, but the draconequus batted it away with his talons. With a snarl, his lion paw came crashing down as a fist, the Pony of Shadows falling like a Star of Darkness into one of the large rock formations. The impact alone shook the lands while nearby stones crumbled under the shockwave.
With a great roar, a blast of shadows sent the rocks and boulders flying upward as Stygian emerged unharmed. Discord eyed the magically propelled objected uncaringly. With a single clap of his hands, he dispelled Stygian's magic and sent the debris crashing back down to earth.
Stygian glared as he dodged a rather giant rock, attempting and failing to keep Discord in his vision. He stopped in midflight as he got around the boulder, finding the skies clear.
Stygian inhaled sharply, looking down to see Discord was DIRECTLY in front of him, in the blind spot just below his head. Discord didn't give him time to attack, grabbing the Pony of Shadows with both limbs, his wings unfolding and legs tensing. With a great jump and mighty flap, he was barreling Stygian towards and THROUGH one of the miniature mountains.
"They're just going to destroy everything at this rate," Rarity summarized as they watched on in awe as the titans shot through at least three more land formations before the quaking stopped.
"Are we sure we're safe up here?" Rockhoof questioned warily.
"Those boulders were getting pretty close to us," Pinkie Pie noted, but with an innate lack of fear.
"And, you know, the magic attacks can go pretty far when they miss," Applejack reminded, eyeing the crack in the sky Discord had created as his opening move, idly worried it was getting bigger.
"We'll be fine," Twilight stated simply.
"What makes you so certain?" Starswirl asked with a scowl of his own.
Twilight debated ignoring him before sighing. "Discord said we're safe here. Not at this distance, here. Until proven otherwise, I'm assuming he set up a shield or something around us that we can't detect."
"I can buy that," Rainbow accepted with a shrug.
Stygian managed to pry himself out of Discord's grip as they impacted into the fourth mountain. In an instant, he brought his mighty hooves crashing down upon the draconequus, but Discord caught the attack with his own claws, holding the dark pony in place, cracking the ground beneath them. Stygian grunted at Discord's unphased glare and raised his wings to strike at his chaotic foe like blades. Discord retaliated by bringing his own wings up, locking them against the shadowy appendages as sparks flew from the four flying limbs.
As if tiring of the Pony of Shadow's attempted show of physical strength, Discord deflected the hooves to the side, as they made impact with the ground.
The top of the mountain exploded, turning it more like a plateau. Like a lava-less volcano, the dust and debris climbed for miles into the air as sand and pebbles rained from the sky.
Before Stygian could rip his forelegs from the earth, Discord's tail swiped at the faux-Alicorn, slamming into his face as the tail wrapped around his neck. Discord leapt into the air, pulling his tail down to throw Stygian into the dirt before bringing his feet down on Stygian's head.
The earth gave way and caved in beneath the Pony of Shadows, said shadow gasping and choking as he found himself in a deep pool. But it was not water that clung to his shadowy form as he took to the sky once more. It was silvery and metallic. He couldn't see through it, only the misshaped reflections on its surface. "Wh-what is this?!" Stygian demanded as the gleaming substance dripped over his form, almost surprised he still needed air, being that he was made of shadows now.
"Liquid metal," Discord answered bluntly, floating nearby with his arms crossed. "Before you ask why it's not hot, I lowered the melting point. By a lot."
"Should I even bother to ask why?" Stygian answered in annoyance.
Discord raised an eyebrow, as if the answer should be obvious. "So I could raise it back up."
That was the only warning had before Stygian felt the liquid grow rigid and hard on his hoof. With a glare, he blasted his encased hoof, only to grow surprised. Only the immediate area of the beam's impact was destroyed. "Magically reinforced," he realized with a growing sense of dread.
"By my magic," Discord confirmed with a small smirk, making a sweeping motion with his arm.
Stygian instantly tried to fly away as the spring of liquid metal erupted towards him, but the hardened metal already upon his form slowed and hindered his movement even as he tried to break it in midflight. The magic bonds of the substance clung to him even if he tried to turn into pure shadows for evasion. Like living serpents, the streams of liquid rushed around and ahead of him, as they began to encircle and entrap him. The Pony of Shadows roared, blasting at the melted metal, even as it sprayed against him, hindering him more as it too hardened.
As he fruitlessly struggled, the streams began to expand, and interlock. Seeing the prison forming around him, Stygian attempted to slam through one of the gaps. He struggled against it, forcing the metal apart for a few seconds.
Then Discord flicked him, the impact sending him back into the newly formed sphere as it finally closed around the Pony of Shadows.
"...Does anypony have any idea what's still happening?" Rarity asked curiously, head tilting. "They got rather far away."
"I think Discord just won," Sunburst answered as he held a telescope up to his eye.
"I doubt it," Spike stated expectantly.
"What makes you say that, little Drake?" Meadow Brook questioned idly.
"Discord hasn't come back yet," Spike answered pointedly.
Said draconequus stood on the edge of a rock, tapping the claw of his draconic foot expectantly as he eyed the metal sphere lying on the ground. "Look, if you take too much longer in there, I'm going to start playing pinball with you!" Discord called in warning
Discord was eminently certain that he heard a sigh within the armor ball before it shook briefly. Cracks and fractures formed as darkness began to leak out. Then, with one great roar, it exploded. The force sent the fragments flying, burying themselves deep into the earth.
One particular fragment went spinning through the air, heading straight for audience to this titanic clash. Faith or not, Twilight preemptively put up a shield around them as ponies moved around where the projectile's apparent path was headed. Twilight braced herself, the other unicorns prepared to aid if needed.
But it was all unneeded. Before it ever even made contact with Twilight's purple shield, it made contact with...something else. Something that appeared to be nothing at all, despite the sparks flying as the shard screeched against the unseen shield, rushing over the ponies before crashing into the ground many yards behind them. "Okay, shield confirmed," Twilight stated in relief.
Meanwhile, Starlight had moved closer to Fluttershy, who watched the entire fight with a solemn look. "You expected this?" Starlight asked quietly.
"Nothing specific, but yes: I always knew Discord would do something like this," Fluttershy answered with a small smile.
"Why? From everything I know and heard, Discord's never been this serious or angry! He always just laughs everything off and turns it into a joke," Starlight remarked with a confused frown.
Fluttershy tilted her head. "Discord's an animal," she stated simply.
"Umm, yes, I suppose as much as the rest of us," Starlight agreed hesitantly.
"More, actually," Fluttershy corrected with a soft sigh. "It's...hard to explain. Sapient creatures, we form cities and communities as we create bonds and tools we need to better survive. Discord's not like that. He needs friendship to have a life, but...he's never needed it to survive, really. He's always been so far above everything, even other immortals, that his mindset is almost primitive; At least in terms of his desires and motives. Given that, he's not too different from an Apex Predator."
Starlight blinked at the rather in-depth analysis of Discord from the pegasus. "Okay, wow, that...actually explains a lot, but doesn't really answer my question?"
Fluttershy sighed. "Do you know what happens, Starlight, when an Apex Predator feels like no other creature respects it?" she asked softly.
Starlight's eyes went wide, starting to dread where this was going. "No?" she answered uncertainly.
"Nothing," Fluttershy continued with a frown. "At first. Creatures at the top of the food chain grow very used to being up there. They don't care if a few creatures don't realize how dangerous they are. It's only after it starts to feel its place in nature is threatened that it does what, honestly, it was always going to do."
Starlight didn't speak, didn't dare interrupt as she waited for Fluttershy to finish.
"He reminds everyone Who He Is."
Discord glared as he was launched backwards by the pointblank attack from Stygian, impacting with a mountain. Even with physics literally dying around him, he couldn't nullify all of the pushback from that attack. He cracked his neck, staring up at the floating Stygian. "So we're both aware this all amounted to an overpowered game of Magic Tag, right?" Discord asked sardonically.
Stygian glowered, sending two crescent-bladed attacks down with a great slash from both his wings. Discord merely raised his arms, deflecting the attacks. One went off behind him and cleaved off the top of the mountain, while the other rushed to the sky-scar, promptly breaking it with an audible shattering noise, shards of shadow floating in place.
"How?!" Stygian demanded bitterly. "How, How, HOW?! How could you possibly get this much more power?! What source of power could you have claimed, to become even stronger than you were before?!"
"There's a story to that, Stygian," Discord answered with a small, mocking smile as he crossed his arms. "But you won't like it."
"A story? You want to tell me a story, in the middle of a battle?" Stygian questioned in frustration, feeling more insulted somehow.
"It's not a very long one," Discord assured. "It's called 'I Never Trained a Day in My Life.'"
There was a deep, great silence throughout the land. Yet, somehow, inexplicably, there was one sound in the silence.
The Sound of Fear.
"I...don't want to know that story," Stygian decided, feeling rather unnerved. As if he was only now truly seeing the entity before him.
"Too late," Discord said with a cruel smile. "It's the same mistake every creature always makes about me. You all think that I'm some ancient master of the arcane arts that spent eons learning the intricate secrets of magic and chaos. The punchline is that what you fought a thousand years ago? That wasn't my peak. That Was My Baseline."
Stygian took a step back in midair as the comprehension started to set in. "But...but why now? Why would you try to get stronger-?!"
"That's none of your concern," Discord interrupted harshly. "Instead, you should focus on the comet I'm about to hit you with."
End of Chapter
And there we go! Most of Discord's "fight" with Stygian. This fight was actually really fun to write, but so was the cozy little fluttercord scene at the start.
Fluttershy's speech about Discord is largely inspired by "The Lion Speech" from Poolhall Junkies. Have no idea if the movie is any good, I just found the speech and liked it.
Hope you all enjoyed this.
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