The King Who Would Be Man

The Quality of One's Enemies

By the time Twilight was sure her answer was reasonably comprehensive, it was night time. She headed out , planning to go to Fluttershy's house to find Discord, since summoning him by calling his name seemed just... creepy. Almost immediately, she observed that it was far too light out.

The moon was up. The sun was down. Where was all the light coming from?

Possibly from those three extremely bright glowing red orbs hovering over the center of Ponyville?

Twilight followed the light to Mane Street, turned the corner, and stopped in shock.

Everything that was supposed to be on Mane Street, was. Each lane of the street was the same width it had always been. But now, impossibly, the lanes of the street split and bent into a circle, and in the center of the circle, there was a gigantic fenced-in swimming pool with multiple open gates, in which there seemed to be a raucous pool party going on. The three red orbs floated over the pool, leaving the night sky still mostly visible but lighting the area of the pool. It was bright enough to be almost like daylight, but the red light made all the colors strange and it didn't blot out the night sky like actual daylight would have.

As Twilight approached one of the gates to the pool, Pinkie Pie rushed up to her, dragged her up onto her hind feet and started pulling her with a forehoof clasped around Twilight's foreleg. "Twilight it's so great you're finally done for the day and you can come SWIMMING! You should see the swimming pool Discord made, it's so awesome! I could spend the whole day sliding on those sliding boards! They go upside down! And loop-de-loop! Just like an amusement park, except it's like what if you combined a roller coaster and a log flume and you were just doing it on your own rump instead of in a log and there are fish in the pool! And Rarity was showing off a whole bunch of new bathing suits and Fluttershy brought all her animals after lunch but she just left to put them to bed and Discord asked me to throw a party at nighttime because during the day it was just everyone having fun at a pool but it wasn't a party, and I couldn't throw a party because I was working because we had food vending and the Cakes had a booth, although I did take some breaks to go swimming, but now it's night so I'm throwing a nighttime pool party and everypony's invited! Though the foals have to go home before midnight 'cause it's a school night and besides that's when we're going to break out Applejack's really good cider if you know what I mean—"

Despite Twilight's best attempts to pull free of Pinkie, she was completely unable to stop the hyperactive earth pony from dragging her to the edge of the pool. At that point Twilight balked, pulling herself loose from Pinkie's grip and going back onto the stability of four feet again. "Pinkie, I just came here to investigate, not to go swimming. Also to talk to Discord, although I guess he's here somewhere."

"Last I saw he was in the middle of the pool lying on his giant floating rock. I don't know why he wants a rock! I told him an inner tube would be more comfortable but he said he's part reptile so he wants to sun himself on a rock and I said but the sun isn't even up anymore and you can't get a tan from those mini-suns he put up there and he said yes but the rock is warm and the inner tube would be chilly! But I think he could make a warm inner tube if he wanted to but he decided he wanted a sun-warmed rock so he's just making it float in the middle of the pool except actually it looks like he's not there."

At this point, someone shoved Twilight's rump, hard, and she skidded forward. She had time to note that the ground was impossibly slippery even for wet concrete – she was sliding forward as if it were ice, or glass – and then she pitched forward into the pool with a shriek.

As she came up, spluttering, she saw Pinkie Pie yelling at Discord, who was standing there with sunglasses and a brightly colored short-sleeved buttondown shirt on. "...not nice at all! If you're gonna push someone into a pool the least you could do was jump in after them so you're all in the pool together, otherwise it’s just mean!"

"Oh? Is that how it works?"

"Yes, it is!" Pinkie declared.

"Well then." Discord grabbed Pinkie in his mismatched arms, leapt into the air yelling "CANNONBALL!", rolled himself into an actual ball in mid-air with a shrieking Pinkie in the center of the ball, and landed next to Twilight in the water before she had a chance to swim, duck, or teleport away. What appeared to be half the pool splashed over her head from the weight of a ball-shaped draconequus hitting it.

Pinkie and Discord came up from under water just about at the time Twilight had managed to wipe enough of the water out of her face to see. "That was awesome!" Pinkie was yelling, waving her forelimbs wildly. "Let's do it again!"

"Naah, I hate repeating myself." He smirked at Twilight. "Do enjoy the water, Sparky."

"I came here to talk to you, you big jerk!" Twilight spluttered. "Because you asked me for a favor!"

"And so I gave you the opportunity to come swim in my swimming pool! One day only, open to all ponies and anything else that agrees not to eat ponies while here, disappears at dawn so pool party hard while you can!"

"I did not come here to go swimming," Twilight snapped.

"Whyever else would you come to a pool party?"

"It could have been for cake!" Pinkie Pie said. "Twilight, did you want some cake? Because we've got some really awesome cakes up there! Also we have nachos and dip and there's a ton of apple stuff and cheese and you need to try the pretzels! And we did have mariachi cherries, but they're all eaten now."

"No, I came to talk to Discord," Twilight said, climbing out of the pool. "I'm guessing there is no point to asking why there is a swimming pool in the middle of Mane Street."

"Oh my gosh, Twilight, we thought you knew! Discord said you weren't here because you were busy researching something but I thought you knew about the pool and you'd just decided not to come but if you didn't even know about it and you spent the whole day doing research when you could have been at a pool! I am so sorry! I should have told you!" She grabbed Discord's beard, dragging his head down to her level. "YOU! You let us think Twilight already knew!"

"What are you blaming me for? Spike showed up in the afternoon and he could have gone and told her."

Twilight facehooved. "He did. He said there was a swimming pool and he was going to go because we'd already been working all day and he thought Pinkie might be having a party, except I was deep in an ancient text in an unusual dialect of Equestrian that was hard to translate so I wasn't paying any attention and I forgot. I didn't realize it was Discord's swimming pool, though."

Pinkie released Discord's beard. "Ok, mister, but I have my eye on you."

Discord smirked down at her. "Do you really expect me to run with such an incredibly obvious joke?"

"I was actually hoping not because it's rude to take people's body parts without permission even when it is really really funny because it's also sort of gross. Fluttershy told me about you stealing her nose and yes, I can picture that in my head and I bet it was the funniest thing ever, but you still shouldn't have done it because it's more funny-mean than funny-fun unless she was okay with you doing that. I mean, ponies are kind of attached to our noses."

There was a quick drumbeat riff and a cymbal crash. "Oh, come on, Discord," Pinkie said, rolling her eyes. "I don't actually need a sound effect for my jokes!"

"For a joke as terrible as that one, you needed all the help you could get," Discord said. "But now I fear I must have an incredibly dull conversation with Sparky here about her tedious research topics, so why don't you go stop Berry from getting into the good stuff this early in the evening? The Apples seem to have actually let their manes down to do some swimming, which is marvelous but it does mean no one's guarding the cider."

"Oh, yeah, I guess I better do that! Twilight, I'll see you around! Try the snacks, they're great!" With this, Pinkie swam off at improbable speed.

"My tedious research topics that you more or less begged me to look into?" Twilight said.

"Well, if I'd implied they were interesting, Pinkie might not have chosen to leave so easily. She's going to come back and demand you have some fun, you know. To be honest, this isn't a good time for this discussion."

"You seemed to think it was a pretty high priority."

"It is." Discord snapped his talon. Suddenly they were in the library, Twilight was dry, and the moon was much higher in the sky. Discord was dripping all over the floor, though.

Twilight restrained her first impulse, which was to complain about Discord being soaking wet all over her library, and went to the window instead. From the position of the moon and stars, it was very, very late at night. "What did you just do?"

"I jumped us to a more appropriate time. Don't worry, I'll take us back when we're done. But I don't like to mix partying with unpleasantness, so I've taken us to the day before yesterday... or rather, the night before yesternight."

"Wait, so am I here already?"

"Asleep in bed, yes. You're not going to wake up and see yourself. I've stopped time again." He sat down on one of the chairs, which suddenly transformed from being a tiny wooden chair to a large plush armchair. "Give it to me straight, doctor, will I ever play the violin again?"

Twilight sighed. "You want the good news or the bad news first?"

Discord considered. "Good news. I am definitely a proponent of eating dessert first."

"Mostly everyone seems to have forgotten you."

Discord's mismatched eyes widened ludicrously. "That's good news?"

"It is when you don't want the ponies who remember you to kill you," Twilight said. "Right now, general public opinion of you is that you are annoying but mostly harmless. The Preakers down in Baltimare were calling for your head for turning Pimlico into a beach, but after Fluttershy got you to shrink it down to an inner sand track paralleling the main track, they're actually pretty grateful. Apparently you're right, running on sand is good leg training." Earth ponies held an annual race in Baltimare every spring, and the racers, called Preakers, would train on the track year round. Discord had originally turned the track into a sandy beach on the bay, never mind that the track was actually nowhere near the bay, claiming that it would be helpful on the grounds that ponies who trained on sand would be much stronger and faster on packed dirt than ponies who trained on packed dirt. This had not endeared him any to the Preakers, but once he'd turned it back into their race track and gifted them an inner sand track in place of his beach, now his popularity in Baltimare was surprisingly high. Possibly because he visited them rarely. "Ponyville parents still believe they should advise their children not to play with you or take candy from you, but stunts like the cheese fest last week or I guess like your swimming pool today have gone a long way to gaining you forgiveness for your chaos outbreak last year. Cloudsdale did not appreciate the tornado, and no one but foals are happy about the snowstorm that closed the schools last week, but apparently pegasus foals really enjoy training on the occasional cotton candy clouds you toss up, and their parents appreciate that, at least."

Discord smirked. "Why, it sounds as if I'm becoming quite popular."

"I wouldn't go that far. In Canterlot they're still highly suspicious of you, and your frequent meetings zxwith Princess Luna are both helpful and harmful; most ponies think better of you for being on good terms with at least one of our princesses, but some are concerned you're corrupting her back into being Nightmare Moon."

"We're actually just pointing and laughing at really absurd dreams ponies have."

Twilight found that difficult to believe. Well, not that Discord would point and laugh at absurd dreams, but that Luna would join in. "However, everypony's seen Celestia tolerate you, and that does help. There are some bizarre rumors that you and the Princess have a thing, which is just weird."

"A thing, Twilight?"

"You know. A thing thing. Like a romantic thing?"

"Ohoho. Bizarre indeed! Hmm." Discord stroked his beard. "I wonder if that could be because of the wedding invitations I sent?"

If Twilight had been drinking anything she would have spluttered. "Wedding invitations?"

"Yes, the ones inviting everypony to my wedding to Celestia! That could possibly be the basis of the rumors, do you think?"

This had to be a joke. "When was that?"

"Oh, twelve hundred years ago? Who can keep track?"

A horrible suspicion was poking at Twilight's head. "You didn't... you and the Princess aren't... really married, are you?"

Discord made an exaggerated expression of distaste. "Sparky. Didn't you ever notice that commitment is a term we use for locking up the crazy ponies in the happy house? Do you seriously believe I'd ever marry anyone?" He folded his forelimbs behind his back, clasping his paw in his talon with an expression of innocence as exaggerated as the expression of distaste had been. "My advisors were pressuring me to legitimize my reign with a political marriage. Why, I had to send out those invitations or they'd have pestered me endlessly. Fortunately, the wedding was canceled on account of a sudden oobleck storm."

This was a setup, but Twilight had to ask, "What's oobleck?"

"You mean you don't know what oobleck is?" Discord asked her, eyes wide.

"No,  I don't know—"

Abruptly a large quantity of sticky green slime fell out of nowhere and poured all over Twilight. Discord howled with laughter. "That's oobleck!"

Twilight scowled, wishing she had the ability to fire bolts of destructive magic from her eyes, and also that the bolts of destructive magic she really did have the ability to fire from her horn were likely to do anything whatsoever to Discord. "Are you done being completely foalish now?" She couldn't pull her hooves free of the sticky gunk. Great.

"Fine, fine. Be a spoilsport." He snapped his talon and made the oobleck vanish. "So who else loves me?"

"That's pretty much what I've got for right now. It doesn't appear, from any modern references, that anypony who's come to know you since you first broke out of the stone wants you dead."


"That doesn't mean it can't happen. Everypony knows you're impossible to harm without the Elements. If somepony in Ponyville did want you dead for something awful you did the day you broke free, they'd most likely assume it to be impossible, and not talk about it or pursue it. If they then found out you were powerless..."

"Then I'd still be three times their size and significantly stronger." He considered. "But ugh, fitting into rooms if I didn't have my powers to reshape perspective would not be fun. Maybe I should consider being a pony?"

"Well, there'd be pros and cons," Twilight said. "No one would recognize you, but you would have no experience at all with the true body of a pony... shapeshifting spells only go so far. Should I be assuming that this is something you think might happen to you slowly over time, or all of a sudden? And if it happens suddenly do you expect advance warning?"

He sighed. "I'm actually hoping it doesn't happen at all. This is just a contingency, Twilight. But it sounds like it might be workable, if worst comes to worst. If no one hates me all that much—"

"I didn't say that.  Remember I said good news and bad news?"

Discord sank back into his chair. "Oh. Right." He took a deep breath. "All right then, what's the bad news?"

"Well, the good news is that the bad news isn't all that bad. I searched ancient texts looking for references to any long-lived creatures or wholly supernatural creatures that might be holding a grudge against you. First one I found was a reference to a dragon named, uh, Horsefeathers."

Discord burst out laughing. "Good old Horsefeathers! I remember that guy. What'd he do, swear eternal vengeance on me?"

"Yes, actually." She blinked at Discord. "Why is a dragon named Horsefeathers?"

"Oh, it wasn't. It was something fancy-schmancy like Smeathor or Alguin or something like that. Horsefeathers was what everyone started calling him after I turned his wings into pegasus wings."


"Well, isn't it obvious? Really, Twilight. Horsefeathers because his wings are covered with feathers like a pegasus! Did I really need—"

"No, why did you turn his wings into pegasus wings?"

"See, it was all part of an important educational initiative I was promoting in dragon lands, called 'If It's Powerful Enough To Turn You Into A Fish, For The Sake Of All You Hold Holy Don't Start Insulting It For Being a Chimera.'"

"You gave him pegasus wings because he insulted you."

"It was for the honor of all chimeras everywhere. He was just a bigot."

"You got mad at a dragon for insulting your looks so you gave him pegasus wings. Can a dragon even fly with those?"

"With a little magical assistance, certainly. And I didn't get mad at him for insulting my looks. If you must know, the thing that irritated me was that he wasn't taking me seriously. I mean, it's perfectly all right to look at me and shriek, 'Help! A monster!' and throw things at me, but to stare a god in the face and insult him for having an unusual appearance?  It really takes some arrogance to pull that one off. He honestly thought that expressing his opinion was more important than not irritating the omnipotent being." Discord grinned. "Good old Horsefeathers. I'd forgotten about him. Is he even still alive?"

"Fifty years ago a dragon called Horsefeathers published a book about the magical weaponry of Equestria and the dragon lands, so... quite possibly. Who else would have a name like that?"

"Interesting. Probably not a serious threat, though. Any others?"

"Another dragon, Etain Basilica, is reported as wanting to personally turn you into stone. Legend has it she helped the Princesses in their quest to find the Elements of Harmony."

"Etain Basilica was the creator of the basilisks. Rather powerful mage, that one. But no sense of humor."

"What did you do to her?"

"Oh, nothing much." He stood up, and spoke in a dragon-accented variation of the Canterlot Royal voice. "WE ARE ETAIN BASILICA, DRAGON OF THE WEST, ANCIENT OF DAYS! LOOK UPON OUR WORKS, YE MIGHTY, AND DESPAIR! Hey, did someone just change the color of my scales and ruff so I look like I'm wearing pony clown makeup and a poofy red wig? INFIDEL! YOU MAKE ETAIN BASILICA LOOK LIKE AN EVEN BIGGER IDIOT THAN THE GREAT AND POWERFUL TRIXIE THAT I DON'T EVEN KNOW ABOUT YET BECAUSE THIS WAS ELEVEN HUNDRED YEARS AGO! I SHALL DESTROY YOU! Eeeek! Mice! Mice living in my ruff!"

"You made the inventor of the basilisk look like a clown and put mice in her ruff?"

"I was heroically protecting Equestria from the mad dragon's evil plans for world domination."

"With clown makeup?"

"There are two ways to intimidate your enemies, Twilight. Demonstrate your ability to do something awful to them by doing something awful to them, or to someone else so you show off your capability. Or do something that makes them look like a fool, while at the same time demonstrating that you could have done an awful thing, if you hadn't mercifully decided to make fun of them instead of replacing their heart with a baked potato." He stroked his beard. "What was that recipe again? Oh, right, basilisk paprikash. Delicious. Probably not safe for ponies to eat, but dragons do love meat."

"Basilisk paprikash?"

"For some reason it was the cooking her little creations in a delicious spicy stew and serving them to her as a peace offering to apologize for the clown makeup that really set her off. She'd made pets of those things." He shuddered. "Nasty creatures. And I thought so before I spent centuries being turned to stone."

"You made her a stew of her pets and made her eat it?"

"I didn't make her eat it. She tucked right in! And why do you keep repeating my stories back to me? I can't stand repetition."

"Is that why she swore to destroy you?"

"No, that's why she threw everything in her magical arsenal at me then and there. I think the swearing to find a way to destroy me happened after I turned her into rubber and dropped her from the stratosphere. I think she was bouncing across the landscape for days." He chuckled. "The rubberization wore off after the bouncing stopped, of course, I don't permanently transform intelligent creatures into anything that can't move its own body parts. Is she still alive?"

"Rumors suggest... maybe?"

Discord sighed. "Well, that would be less than pleasant, but she's two thousand years old. Even for a dragon with a lot of magical experience, that's getting on in years. I'm sure if someone came up to her and said 'Hey, did you know Discord's living in Ponyville?' she'd probably respond with 'WHAT'S THAT SONNY? PULL THIS CORD FOR SOME VAUDEVILLE? I LIKED THE SHOWS IN THE OLD DAYS WHEN WE MADE PONIES DANCE BEFORE WE ATE THEM! THESE MODERN PERFORMANCES ARE JUST AWFUL!'"

"Did dragons really do that?"

"Did dragons really kidnap ponies to be their slaves, demand entertainment from them, and then eat the ones who weren't sufficiently entertaining or obedient? Yes, they did. Until Celestia sat them at high noon for three weeks. And I bounced Etain Basilica off the landscape. Oh, and who else, that's right, Borgorath! What a war monger he was. Had the oddest phobia of drowning. I imagine he must have gotten over that eventually after I turned him into a sea serpent." Discord smiled with way too many teeth. "For some reason they respected the borders of Equestria after that, and stopped taking slaves."

"I haven't seen any references to Borgorath."

"You wouldn't. He got eaten by sharks about two centuries after I made him a sea serpent."

"Well, those are the two major ones I've found who appear to possibly still be alive. Most of everything else I've found is just rumor or legend or obvious tall tales, like the pony with all its organs on the outside of its body."

Discord went very still. "The what?"

"It's a legend. There's supposed to be a necromancer called the Horrorse, with all his organs on the outside of his body, and either he steals children to feed them to you, or he steals children to feed them to Nightmare Moon, and in one version of the legend he says he was a Chaos worshipper who was so evil you banished him to Tartarus, or possibly to the realm of the spirits, and now he walks the world in eternal pain and devours the souls of living ponies and he cannot rest until he destroys the god he once worshipped, which apparently was you. Kids tell each other the Nightmare Moon version of the story on Nightmare Night, but the older books all have the version where it involved you. The legend that he was a Chaos worshipper actually only appears in fiction, but it appears in two different fictions by two different authors, so unless they were plagiarizing each other they were probably both drawing from the same oral myth of the time period." Twilight looked up from her scroll, observing Discord's rigid posture, his eyes staring into nothing, for the first time. "Discord? Are you all right?"

"Why is that legend an obvious tall tale, Twilight?" Discord asked, not looking at her. "A lot of myths and legends revolve around things that really happened. How do you know about this one?"

"I don't know for certain, but it's illogical and ridiculous and obviously just intended to be creepy. I mean, a pony with all his organs on the outside? How could he live? And if he worshipped you why would you have killed him or sent him to Tartarus? Plus these stories were written as if they were contemporary, but six hundred years apart. How could anypony but an alicorn live that long?"

"It's just a legend," Discord said, but he was breathing slightly harder and his voice was slightly higher pitched. "As you say. Just a creepy story to frighten foals on Nightmare Night. Nothing else."

Twilight's eyes narrowed. "Discord, you're not acting like it's just a legend."

"It has to be. I... I killed them all. I... the same day Silver Eyes asked me to. I sent them into nothingness. None of them could have possibly come back."

"Discord, are you saying the Horrorse is real?"

"Was real," Discord said distantly. "Until Silver Eyes asked me to release them."

"Who was Silver Eyes?"

For the first time in several minutes Discord focused on Twilight. "Your ancestor."


"No, the ancestor of the other Twilight Sparkle in this room." He sighed. "She had her own daughter after  I was already locked in stone, so I never met the child you descend from. Silver Eyes was... a story for a different time. So! Anything else?"

"Is this thing actually something we need to worry about, Discord?"

"No. Probably not. I mean, there isn't any way. I destroyed them all. Only another god could have brought one back, and..." He trailed off.

"And what?"

"And nothing! There's no reason to believe anypony would have interfered with Equestria while I was... restrained from involving myself here. No reason at all. None."


"It's just a story, Twilight. When I kill things, they stay dead."

"You've said you don't kill ponies."

"I don't kill ponies for fun, because killing things isn't any fun. What's less chaotic than death? Only living things can get up and move around and do things."

"Actually, death is the ultimate chaos. Entropy is the destruction of information," Twilight said, "and an increase in disorder. When the order that allows life to exist is disrupted, that's when death happens, so isn't death inherently chaotic?"

"You're confusing chaos with entropy, my dear."

"They're synonyms."

"So says the little unicorn to the god of chaos. Trust me, I think I know what I am talking about."

"But entropy is a decrease in order! And chaos—"

"Is not a decrease in anything. Order is a decrease in chaos. Entropy results in stasis. All things come to equilibrium. You know, the moon is very peaceful. Very harmonious. No pesky life forms to interrupt the cool perfection of the moon, not now that Luna's back down here anyway. Everything on the moon is a rock. Very orderly." Discord was pacing. "Everypony makes this mistake and I'm tired of it. Chaos comes first. Chaos is plenipotentiality. No rules, nothing's stable, but the possibilities are endless. Then order imposes rules, and lines, and laws, and well I suppose some of them are all right, like gravity occasionally, but why does it have to always be on? What's wrong with a little variety? But chaos is potential. Order is realized, expended potential. Entropy... is nothing. It's decay." He leaned down into her face. "Entropy is a decrease in energy! Not order! It takes energy to maintain order, but not nearly as much as it takes to maintain chaos. Everything comes from chaos!"

"So... it takes energy to maintain order, so a decrease in energy causes a decrease in order, thus, chaos. How is that not how it works?"

"Argh!" The draconequus yanked at his horns in frustration. "It doesn't work like that because it doesn't work like that. There are three states. Chaos, order, and entropy. Look here." He snapped his finger and there were buckets of paint all over the floor of the library. He picked one up and swung it at a rack of books. "Whee!"

"Discord! Stop it! You—you're creating a temporal paradox and you're RUINING THE BOOKS!"

"Glad to see you've got your priorities straight," Discord said. "But I'm not doing either, because reasons. Wait and watch!" He sploshed another can of paint onto the floor. "Chaos! All the colors, in potential. They can be anything! There are no rules constraining them, no reason you can't have green and blue and chartreuse all mixed together in giant blobs. Every possibility is here!"

He then handed Twilight a glowing paintbrush. "Okay, avatar of order, strut your stuff."


"Make something out of the paint. You don't like giant blobs of paint all over the floor and the books, do you?"

Twilight discovered that the paintbrush was magic – when she channeled just a tiny amount of her own magic through it to activate it, she could point it at the paint and make the paint take the form of any picture she could visualize. She couldn't get rid of the paint, but she could at least make it look like something. She painted Spike and Princess Luna, since the colors Discord had tossed on the floor were various shades of green, purple and blue.

"There we go. That's order. First we had beautiful chaos that could possibly be anything whatsoever. Then we have orderly paintings, which are paintings. They'll never not be paintings. You can't take that paint back and make something else with it; order has structured the paint and now it will never be anything other than that painting."

He snapped his talon. The paint started to crack and peel. "Until it becomes nothing."

A wind blew in the library. The paint faded, and the wind got at the cracks, pulling peeling sections off, until in a few minutes there was nothing but dust. "And that's entropy. The disorder that follows the energy running out isn't chaos. Chaos can be anything. Entropy... can only be nothing." He sat back down in his chair. "And that is why I don't kill ponies unless they really, really, really need to die."

"And how do you define ponies really needing to die?"

"Murdering your daughter to sacrifice her to a god of chaos counts. Especially if said god of chaos emphatically does not want ponies to be sacrificed, to him or to any other god."

Twilight had to acknowledge that if there was ever any good reason to kill a pony, that sounded like it. She sighed. "I still think you're using those terms wrong."

"I still think that if mere mortals get into a dispute with the spirit of chaos over what the terms chaos and entropy mean, only an idiot agrees with the mortals."

"Well, I guess you have a point." Something he said clicked. "Wait, did the Horrorse sacrifice his daughter to you? Is that why you killed him?"

Discord looked at Twilight with eyes that were suddenly very cold and hard. "Yes and no," he said, and there was for once no joking in his tone. "There were six, and they sacrificed seven. Silver Eyes was the only unicorn out of the foals they killed, the daughter of two of the cultists. And I didn't kill them... then. I'd planned to give them eternal life, actually, but Silver Eyes asked me to release them."

"Wait, you just said Silver Eyes... didn't you just say they sacrificed her?"

"They did. She got better." He closed his eyes. "Chaos opposes entropy as much as it does order. It's the natural way of things for ponies to die and stay dead, but I really didn't think that was fair. She was just a filly. There was so much chaos left for her to create! So many pranks and messy rooms and broken hearts and shattered paradigms she had yet to produce in her lifetime, so much candy to eat and broccoli to refuse and broken curfews and stolen road signs and, given her level of power, absurd magical mishaps. So I fixed it. And her six friends, but they weren't unicorns. They just went off and lived their earth pony and pegasus lives. Silver Eyes became a mage, so she... lived a long time."

"I didn't know you could bring the dead to life," Twilight said, feeling slightly cold. She knew Discord was powerful... but that powerful?

"I can do lots of things, Twilight. Most of the things I don't do, it's because I choose not to, not because I can't. However, for the record, I cannot make a rock so heavy I can't lift it. Believe me, I've tried."

"So... if you saved the children who was sacrificed... why would you have wanted to give the cultists eternal life? I don't understand."

Discord smiled. It was perhaps the most terrifying smile she had ever seen on his face. "What was that description you gave of the Horrorse again, Sparky?"

"He's a necromancer with... his organs on the outside..." It clicked finally. "Oh Celestia."

"Celestia had nothing to do with it, she begged me to just let them die. But she wasn't the one they tortured to death. Silver Eyes was. So when she asked me for mercy for them... I dispersed them into nothingness. So you see they cannot possibly still be around looking for me. I disintegrated them. And the only magic that was keeping them alive after I inverted them was mine, anyway."

"You're evil," she whispered, thinking of ponies with their skin turned inside out and all their organs on the outside of their bodies, in perpetual agony, unable to die. Yes, a pony who could sacrifice a foal to a Chaos God deserved death, probably. At least, Twilight would have understood executing them. But nopony deserved that.

"Sometimes, Twilight. Sometimes I am, yes." For the first time, ever, he looked to her old and exhausted, a creature worn down by his own past.

And then he took a deep breath and looked back up at her, face animated and mismatched eyes wide and cheery again. "So! Is that all of them? The entire We Hate Discord Forever club roster, as far as you know?"

"Not exactly. The nation of Sibearia has been rattling sabers, threatening Princess Celestia that since she released you, they may release Bearba Yaga."

"Oh, do the bears really think I'm gonna mess with them worse than she would? Have they forgotten my treaty with Koschei so soon?"

"You actually made a treaty with Koschei the Deathless?"

"I was, technically, considered the ruler of Equestria for nearly a thousand years."

"Yeah, but I have a hard time imagining you doing something as orderly as signing a treaty."

"Well, it wasn't so much a treaty as we got drunk together and agreed not to mess with each other's territory. Much." Discord shook his head. "Nopony has ever drunk me under the table before. I know he's deathless, but sun and sky, so am I and I've never seen any entity hold their liquor like that. Pretty sure we might have agreed to a whole lot of other things, too, but honestly neither of us remembered any of them, which is probably just was well because neither of us really wanted to know why he was sleeping on top of a flagpole with my underwear on his head."

Twilight reflexively rejected that image on the grounds that Discord didn't wear underwear and therefore it was just a joke and therefore she didn't have to break out the brain bleach. "Well, Koschei was deposed a hundred years ago by the Communursist Revolution, so they probably don't think you consider yourself bound by the treaty anymore."

"They deposed him? Good for them! Did they find his heart or something?"

"I don’t know very much about the bear nations. I know there used to be three of them, Sibearia, Bearussia and Bearalus, but now they're the Ursoviet Union. However, it's specifically Sibearia where Bearba Yaga is supposedly imprisoned under the ice, and they've threatened to release her to maintain the balance of power."

"That would be hilarious. Firstly because only in the mind of bears would Bearba Yaga ever be a match for me on her best day – I mean, ok, she's more powerful than an alicorn but only because she's a lot meaner – and secondly because she would cause so much wonderful, beautiful chaos in the Ursoviet Union that I'm half tempted to go mess with them just so they do release her, except then Celestia will whine at me and who needs that. And you forgot the Urskraine, but don't worry, everyone else does too."

"So that's probably not going to happen, then?"

"It's not an issue. As long as I have my powers, Bearba Yaga's no match for me, and if I didn't, Sibearia would be fools to release her. And since bears can't talk in Equestria, it hardly seems likely that they'd send a team of assassins or something."

"Do you know why that is?"

"Why they might feel like they need the power of speech before they undertake a dangerous mission?"

"No, why bears are talking creatures in the rest of the world but they can't talk when they get to the borders of Equestria. I was talking with Harry the Bear – he makes paw gestures, Fluttershy says it's called sign language and she was translating – and he said he comes from Bearussia originally, and when he came to Equestria he lost the ability to talk, but he wanted to be here anyway because this is the home of the sun. I always thought it was because of different races, like the pony races; Equestria has the brown bears, most of the Ursoviet Union is black bears and polar bears so I thought possibly they talk and brown bears don't. But Harry's a brown bear. And what about Ursas?"

"Ursas can't talk because they are magical monsters, not fully sentient creatures. They're not actually related to bears, they just look that way. Rather like windigos were not actually related to ponies."

"Oh, that makes sense... but then why can't bears talk in Equestria?"

"Because bears never shut up otherwise."

Twilight blinked. "Discord... did you do something?"

He whistled, looking at the ceiling.

"Discord. Are you responsible for taking speech away from talking creatures? Do you know how awful that is?"

"No, I only lost the power of speech for years and years because I was a stone statue, obviously I can't imagine how horrible it must be to be able to walk around and eat and stretch and see the sights but not be able to talk except with your paws, that you can actually move around because you aren't made out of stone. Can't comprehend at all."

"Why did you deprive bears of the ability to talk in Equestria?"

"Because they'd have invaded otherwise. Bears are as social as ponies, and some of them have as much magic as any unicorn, but they're bigger, stronger and more carnivorous. Dragons can't get along with each other well enough to invade anyone usually and griffins have less magic than ponies, so when the griffins go to war with Equestria it's just hilarious because they're totally outclassed. They think, ooh, we're predators, we can defeat these little herbivores no problem, and then they get their tailfeathers kicked, and then two generations later they forget and start the whole thing over again. But bears have sufficient numbers and magical strength and ability to, bleah, harmonize with each other that they can give ponies a run for their money, and they're omnivores so they're capable of savagery that puts anything a pony can muster to shame. Oh, and they don't care about Celestia's greatest weapon because they're used to going without sunlight for months at a time... and without nightfall for just as long. Anywhere else in the world, she can threaten to deny them the sun or keep it shining on them long enough to destroy them... the bears just laughed at her when she tried."

"Why do they go without the night for months at a time? I know they hibernate so I figured that's how they go without sun... but even if you're awake at night, it's still night."

"I could tell you magic... but you're actually capable of comprehending the real explanation, except that I don't feel like teaching you basic astrophysics right now, so remind me one of these days. Or ask Celestia. The point is, the bears were dangerous. I was perfectly happy to let any other creature invade Equestria so I could watch my little ponies kick some serious backside, because watching ponies fight is wonderfully entertaining. But if I'd let the bears invade Equestria they could possibly have won. So..." He shrugged. "Hard to organize an army when you can't talk, and no one wants to take territory they can't live in without losing speech. I might have taken the restriction off in a century or two except somepony decided it was a good idea to turn me into a rock, and I don't trust the Communursists enough to take it down now." Discord stood up. "How about now, is that everyone?"

"There's only one other thing. I talked to Princess Cadence, because even though she wasn't around when you were controlling Equestria and she's not too much older than me, she's learned a lot of Equestrian history. She didn't know anything from Equestrian history, but she did say that the Changelings worship a Spirit of Love, who supposedly created them, and they believe you drove their goddess away from this world and that's why they have to steal love to feed instead of just feeling it. You were a statue at the time, so it didn't come up much, but she was trying to talk to them, to find out what they believe and what drives them, while she was a prisoner, and they told her that story. If they really do believe you drove their goddess away, they might have a grudge against you."

"I'm sorry, my mind goes blank anytime anyone mentions the Spirit of Sappiness. Can you actually tell me what the point you were making was?"

Twilight sighed heavily. "Changelings have a legend that you drove their goddess away from this world, and so they might have a grudge against you."

"Now are we done?"

"Yes, that's everything my research was able to identify. As I said, it's not a huge number of potential enemies given how much trouble you've caused over the centuries, since a lot of beings who might have hated you from your past days probably died while you were still in stone. But it's enough that you probably need to be careful."

He nodded. "Thank you, Twilight Sparkle, you've been an enormous help." He snapped his talon.

And Twilight suddenly found herself in midair above the deep end of the swimming pool.

"No, no, NO!—” she shrieked as she fell, managing only to twist her body enough that when she plunged into the pool, it was mostly sort of face first and not a belly flop. She struggled frantically in the water for what felt like a very long time before finally managing to break the surface. Discord was floating in the air where he'd popped her back into reality, laughing uproariously.

Twilight shook the water out of her eyes as best she could, and glared upward. "DISCORD!"

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