It had been one week since Discord had awoken from his sleep, forty years since he’d gone to said sleep, over six hundred years since the deal had been struck, and a little over a thousand years since…
Well, everypony knew that part, didn’t they?
And it just so happened that today of all days was the day—or night, specifically. The one to remember! To celebrate! Where ponies of all ages played his game.
For this particular Seeking Night, he’d chosen to visit Ponyville, even though he often preferred trying his Seeking Night luck elsewhere. Ponyville was just… acceptable. Harmless. Actually, it was deplorable. He’d visited every single corner of Equestria these past thousand years, and if he were to write a traveling guide, this is what he would write about Ponyville:
Home to dull ponies with dull lives in Equestria’s dullest town. Things to do in Dullyville included leaving and not coming back, or visiting the wonderfully chaotic Everfree Forest, home to Princess Betray My Friends.
The latter was not intended to be mean, by the way. He’d long ago discarded all his ill will towards Twilight Sparkle, but as she’d said herself the night they’d debated the existence of the moon, facts are facts.
Disguised as a unicorn stallion wearing the most hideous neon green cape he could think of, Discord turned towards the shopkeeper addressing him.
The shopkeeper nodded, beckoning him over. “Yes, you! Come, come!” He proudly presented dozens of little paper maché figures of the princesses. “These are the finest figurines you’ll ever see! The best in Equestria!”
Discord leaned in, feigning intrigue. “Mmm. Are they, now?”
“But of course!” insisted the pony. “And if you buy all four of the princesses, you’ll get a figurine of the Spirit!”
“Oh!” Discord exclaimed, pleased. He examined the figurines of the Spirit, portrayed as… some sort of manticore-like beast? Honestly, it wasn’t the worst he’d seen. Phillydelphia thought he looked like a slug-like snake, and Manehattan decided to compare him to a bitter, old and weathered goat. “I assume he’s your most popular figurine?”
“Oh, no!” The shopkeeper gestured to a light blue alicorn. “That would be Princess Selene.”
Luna? Miss Broody? Really?
“Ah.” He cleared his throat. “Well, surely he’s next!”
“No, no. That would be Princess Sunshine!”
“Princess Sunshine?!” he gasped, only to compose himself quickly. Well! Well, well. Wouldn’t that make her happy. “And then?”
The shopkeeper hummed thoughtfully. “Princess Booky is usually our best-seller after the sisters.”
Of course. Of course! What was he expecting? Good taste?
At least he knew for certain he was left, because between him and Miss Pink-lame, the winner was obvious.
“And finally, after that, Princess Cadance.”
“Cadance?! Cadance? Over The Spirit? The Spirit of Chaos and Disharmony?!”
“Yep! The Spirit is always fairly unpopular here in Ponyville, though. Parents like to tell their kids he made the Everfree Forest to scare them into staying away from it,” he said, because he was wrong, and this town was terrible, and Discord hated them all.
“But—! But—!” He cleared his throat, trying to compose himself. Now, now, Discord. He was above these ponies. He wasn’t going to let one of them rile him up, now was he? “I mean. That’s ridiculous. The Spirit bested them all! He defeated them! That’s much more remarkable than anything they did!”
The shopkeeper snorted. “Come on! Everypony knows he’s the loser of the story! If they were real, the princess defeated him, too.”
He licked his lips. “How so?”
“Simple. He allegedly trapped the princesses so he could conquer Equestria, right? Well.” He winked playfully. “I don’t feel very conquered, do you?”
A moment passed.
And Discord smiled. Really smiled. “No,” he said. “I suppose I don’t.”
He moved on after that, maneuvering his way around the ponies enjoying the festivities, having fun. Look at them! Look at them all, laughing and giggling as though they were so good and wonderful. As though they weren’t two-faced and condescending.
“Discord,” Twilight had said, in that tone of voice he’d stupidly believed was sincere, “this takes time. Of course, they’re not going to like you now. Maybe they won’t ever. And you have to accept that.”
“But I’ve been nice! You’ve seen it! And they treat me like a monster, Twilight! Why?! Have you been lying to me when you’ve said I’ve made progress?!”
“No, you have! But you used to be bad. You hurt ponies—a lot of them. So what matters now is what you do next. And I’ll be here to make sure it’s the right thing.”
They thought he was the loser? Hah! He wasn’t. He’d done the unexpected. He had set out to trap the four most powerful beings in the realm, and for better or worse, he’d done so successfully.
“Children!” an older mare called, drawing his attention and that of a few foals next to him. “Hurry up! Or else we’ll miss the start of the event.”
He watched with mild interest as the foals rushed off, little satchels full of colorful beads bouncing from their necks. The Seeking event was starting already, was it? A frown marred his face. How soon! And how tragic, really! It was surely too late for him to do his task now, so why even bother?
Oooooh, if only he hadn’t spent five hours goofing off! Boo hoo! So sad!
“Maybe the pie-throwing event is still going on,” he mused aloud, heading away from the main square and deeper into the marketplace. He wasn’t in any hurry to leave, after all, and watching ponies throw pies at each other was always good fun.
Sometimes, they even got hurt, and it was always hilarious!
Fortunately for him, somepony asked him for directions at the exact right moment. What luck that just after sending the pony along on their merry wrong way, a little voice spoke up.
“It’s not fair! She never believes me!” it squeaked. “I know Princess Booky’s library is in the Everfree Forest! I know it!”
Frozen, he looked around and found a unicorn filly animatedly ranting to a pegasus filly.
“Adults are dumb,” agreed the pegasus. “Maybe we should just go find her ourselves, and then they’ll believe us!”
“Yeah! Maybe we should!”
Heart beating fast, Discord rushed behind a nearby stand, keeping an eye on the scheming fillies as he frantically assessed the situation.
Could this be it? Could these fillies be the answer he’d been looking for?
No. No, no, no. How many times had he been here before? And how many times had they failed, again and again? Like with that ridiculous shopkeeper obsessed with the owls! Discord had put his hopes on him and been rewarded with that idiot getting his leg gnawed off by a timberwolf. Or what about that zebra and the book geezer, always refusing to actually go inside the damned library?
If he couldn’t trust an adult to do the job, he certainly couldn’t trust two little fillies.
Besides, he was fine. He had won. He was winning, all things considered. Why risk the status quo?
“But… how would we even find her? I don’t know,” said the unicorn, slumping back onto her hind legs. “Maybe this isn’t a good idea.”
“…Yeah, I guess not. But it’s okay, Sweetie, we can do other fun stuff,” said the pegasus. “C’mon, we better find Fluttershy before she gets upset.”
And yet, and yet, and yet…
And yet, the moment the first filly stood up, Discord jumped out into the open, fully transformed as the great Book Geezer himself.
“Why, hello!” he greeted kindly, smiling as warmly as he could. “I’m so very sorry to admit I was listening in on your conversation, but…” He leaned in, his voice falling to a whisper. “Are you looking for Princess Booky?”
The two fillies blinked at him, a hint of concern in their eyes, so he continued to speak before they could. “She’s real, you know.” He straightened himself up. “I’ve seen her with my own two eyes when I was but a young stallion.”
“Really?!” gasped Sweetie, eyes sparkling. “Where?!”
“In her library, of course,” he said. “Right in the middle of the Everfree Forest.”
“I knew it!” she exclaimed, her hooves stamping on the ground. “I knew it, I knew it, I knew it!”
However, the other filly’s eyes narrowed.
“I’ve tried telling so many ponies, but alas! They never believe the princess is real or that I really know where she is,” he continued sadly, his eyes drifting towards the pegasus. “Just like your little friend here. I was going to tell you how to find her library, but maybe it would be best to go on.”
“No, no! Wait!” begged Sweetie before turning to her friend, irate. “Scootaloo! You’re just like Rarity!”
“N-No, I’m not!” retorted the pegasus, embarrassed, before turning to Discord. “I totally believe you, Mister! Totally!”
“I hope so! Or else you cannot find her. The princess only reveals herself to those she deems worthy, and how can she deem you worthy if you’re just like all those other ponies, chalking her up to be a fairytale.”
“How do we find her?!” pressed Sweetie.
In her excitement, she rushed over to him, reaching out to grab his foreleg with her hoof. Or would have, had he not almost violently retreated.
“Don’t touch me,” he snapped, forcing the two fillies to step back in turn, their ears downcast and their eyes afraid. He cursed himself, quickly clearing his throat and offering an apologetic smile. “A-Ah, I’m sorry! I’m rather ill, you know. Moving these old bones can be quite painful at times.”
“O-Oh, I’m sorry.”
“Wait, but, how will you take us to the princess if you’re all hurt and stuff?” asked Scootaloo.
Discord hummed. She had a point, and even if she didn’t, he couldn’t very well just take them to the library himself. Twilight would sniff him out in a second and it would be more than just bad. But if he couldn’t take them, then who?
Oh ho ho!
Yes. That would do.
“There might be a way.” He ambled off, gesturing them over. “Quickly! Follow me!”
Careful to avoid other large groups of ponies, he led them near the outskirts of town, specifically to a rather large tree near the ink shopkeeper. To his great relief, a small white owl sat on one of the branches, carefully preening her wings.
“Look, there!” he whispered urgently, pointing to the bird. “That owl belongs to the princess. She can lead you straight to her if you follow it. That’s how I used to get there in my youth. Oh, and look! Next to her on the branch!”
The two fillies squinted their eyes, catching sight of the owl-shaped inkwell carefully balanced on top of the branch.
“An inkwell for the princess!” he continued. “If the owl has it already, she’ll take it to Princess Booky any minute now.”
“Let’s go now!” Scootaloo urged her friend. “Before Fluttershy or your sister come get us!”
“Are you sure you don’t want to come with us?” Sweetie asked Discord. “If you do, we can prove to everypony together that the princess is real! They’ll believe you, too!”
Discord smiled gratefully. “That is kind of you, child, but my time has passed. I entrust this mission—and my honor—to you and you alone. Promise me, please. Promise me you will find her. This very well may be your destiny. ” He glanced at their blank flanks. “I daresay you might be the first fillies to earn a cutiemark in princess saving?”
“…A cutiemark in princess saving?” they whispered in unison, hesitation clear in the fillies’ eyes as their gaze drifted towards their blank flanks.
“Yes.” He leaned in. “So? Will you do it?”
A moment passed. A second, really, and then their expression hardened and they both firmly nodded because they were wonderful! Truly wonderful dumb fillies, eager to believe and do anything they’re told!
So Discord smiled. Really smiled. “Thank you.”
“I must go now,” he continued, taking a step back. “But I’ll be watching over you if I can. The owl will lead you to the princess. Find her. Save her. You must. For all our sakes.”
With that, he trotted off towards the marketplace, losing himself amongst the dozen of stands until he was completely out of sight. The moment he was, he quickly shape-shifted into a mouse, scurrying towards the fillies and waiting alongside them for the owl to take flight.
Finally, all was going according to plan.