Starlight in a Broken Vessel

by the-pieman

Chapter 72

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Chapter 72

Two weeks later... ish

Today is the day. Cadence sent down letters to Twilight, Pinkie and I, that the Lookinglass Gate that leads from Canterlot to Wunderland would only be open for another two days on this side. As such, we’re all packed up, and ready to go, and we’re sitting on the train to Canterlot.

With any luck, we’ll only take a few weeks there, but I’ve been warned over and over again that the time we spend there might not be the time spent here.

In fact, Twilight’s going over that again, while Pinkie and I are playing a card game and ignoring her. Besides, I’m not stupid, I’ve read enough theoretical physics and sci-fi to understand that things can get weird when moving to a new world or whatever Wunderland is.

Anyway, I’m rather surprised, because Pinkie has the best poker-face ever. She never stops smiling, which makes it really hard to tell what she has. This is difficult.

“D’you have a three?” she asks.

“Yes...” I place the card down on the table.

“Wait, so do I go fish? Or wait, what are we playing again?” This is the other problem with playing against Pinkie - she knows too many games, the rules all there in full.

“At this point, we could be playing ring toss. I have no idea.” Then I get an idea and pull some coal out. For the trip, I upgraded from a pouch to a saddlebag Rarity modified into a satchel for me. I make a little loop about two inches in diameter and tossed it at Twilight, trying to get it to land on her horn... without cheating.

The engrossed unicorn doesn’t seem to notice until Pinkie lands the first ring, and Twilight goes cross-eyed to look at it. “Wha-?”

Pinkie and I jump up and yell “Score!” Our arms raised.

“What are you two doing? What’s going on?”

“It’s called ring toss.”

Pinkie giggled. “It’s a lot of fun, Twilight! Ooh, I just had an idea, can you shake your head?” Twilight lets out an exasperated sigh and rolls her eyes. Pinkie lands another ring on Twilight’s horn.

“Aw come on, Twilight, why are you only fun when you aren’t participating?”

Twilight humphed and lay down on the seat, her horn at the perfect angle for the ring toss. She used her magic to levitate the two rings off of her horn and drop them on my lap. “Spoilsport...” Pinkie muttered. Her moods seem more... moody than usual.

“So, now what? We’ve still got another, like, twenty minutes until we arrive.” Suddenly a thought hits me and I grin. “You know, when we get back from Wunderland, it’ll only be about five weeks before we release Discord!”

Twilight glared at me. “Might only be five weeks! Have you not been listening? The temporal-”

“Yeah, you’re right, he might think we forgot about him! Maybe we should free him and take him along...”

“No!” Twilight is such a grump sometimes... She needs to get out more.

“Well, I guess that’s your opinion. I can’t imagine being turned to stone is very comfortable. Rainbow Dash certainly hated it. I just don’t feel right imprisoning someone longer than we have to.”

Twilight looks uncomfortable, shifting in her seat. It doesn’t look like she want to think too hard on that, tucking her hooves under her chest like a cat. It’d probably be more adorable if she wasn’t having to sort through a moral conundrum.

I decide to just keep messing with her. It’s the only way I can have any real fun with her anyways. “You know, that might be something to write down. After all, the more we know about various forms of petrification, the better. For all we know, it could be different. Though Rainbow did mention it felt like constant suffocation.” I pause to let that sink in. “We should really do all we can to help Myrna. And if it’s the same for Discord...”

I shudder. “A thousand years of that, and now three more years...”

Pinkie and Twilight both looked deeply disturbed by the thought, and the air in the train-car turns sour with tension. Some start to a vacation this is... Hey, maybe there’s a chance I could at least go say ‘hi’ to Discord before I go, to at least say that I’ll be back as soon as I can. Rainbow said she could hear while stone, just not speak or move.

“Well, in any case, I’m gonna go for a walk around the train. I’ll take my opinions on the moral treatment of our adversaries we hope to befriend with me, I suppose.”

The two ponies shuffled in their seats as I left, shutting the dividing door gently. I turn and see that I’m in some kind of dining-car, and there’s a bunch of ponies in business suits and the like clustered around either a minibar or a few tables attached to the train itself. They’re all staring at me, and I get the feeling that they stopped their conversations when I walked in.

“So, what do you guys do for fun on train rides?” I ask, sitting down, addressing the ponies.

The entire car goes back to their business, the colt and the mare I’d sat across from shrugging. The mare glances at the stallion, and he glances back to her. “Mostly, we drink, or we wait. Ain’t much else to do for... business ponies.” he says. He’s wearing some kind of long coat and wide hat, and she’s wearing the same, but I don’t really care enough to eyeball their clothes.

“Really? You can’t be on business all the time. Come on, just relax. Sing a song, play a game! Live!”

The ponies glance left and right, almost perfectly in sync. The colt leans closer to me, while keeping an eye towards the bartender. “Listen, bud, we ain’t gotta thing to do, right now. We’re, uh, layin’ low. You got cards? We’ll play cards if you keep quiet.”

“You on the run or something? What'cha do, put hot sauce in someone’s coffee and they hire an assassin?” I whisper, keeping my voice down.

The two snickered. “Heh, sure, let’s go with that. Now, let’s play cards and not be conspicuous. I think the bartender’s already got us pegged.”

“You’re asking me,” I gesture to my very noticeably non-pony figure. “to look inconspicuous?”

The two look me up and down. “Howsabout you look more conspicuous than us? That’s a bit better than all of us being-”

The bartender, who had moved quietly and swiftly to the table, without me noticing, clears his throat. “Sir, madam.”

The two ponies groan and face-table. The Bartender leans forward, eyes narrowing. “I must ask you... May I have your autographs? My niece is a big fan of the Wonderbolts.”

My table companions groan again. “I’m sure she is.” The colt sighs, and doffs his hat, revealing a powder-blue mane and blue coat. A wing snaps out from under the coat, gripping the proffered quill and signs the picture shoved at him by the bartender. The mare follows suit with a sigh, her hat coming off to reveal a literal fiery-looking mane and orange fur.

I pause. “Why don’t you just say no? You wouldn’t believe all the fans I have, and I usually just say no. Why all the hiding?”

As the words left my mouth, I see that the dozen or so ponies have all pulled open their own coats, are now using old flashbulb cameras to snap dozens of pictures a second. The light is blinding, even to me.

“Okay, I’ll handle this.” I Spark up and rush across each of the paparazzi, and taking their cameras, before returning to the table, Powering down, and removing the film from each of the cameras. “As I said, why don’t you say no?”

The orange mare smiles gently and gives a quiet laugh. “What, and leave some poor little filly crying, because she got turned down by the Wonderbolts? It’s a tradition to sign it all, but ponies have been getting more and more inventive on tracking us down for autographs. It’s why we rarely stay still anymore.” She glares over at the paparazzi, who all back off, sheepish grins in place. I’m tempted, if only for a moment, to smash their cameras, but they’re just doing their jobs.

“So do what I do when I have to. I tell them that unless they ask first and are polite then they can take pictures or get you to sign stuff, or they get nothing. I only do it for nice people.”

The colt sighed, crossing his hooves. “Yeah, the last time we tried to limit our autographing, it took three wings of Stormbringers to stop the fires. Chickago hasn’t been the same since.”

“Well, I guess that is a problem, but technically that’s their fault. Eh just forget it, I’m probably not much help. Different kind of fame and all.”

The two ponies nodded, as I hand back the now-empty cameras. The film is mine now, and I’ll probably burn it once we’re somewhere I can safely dispose of it. The Wonderbolts offer me a drink from their bottle of whiskey.

“Canterlot’s only about a minute away, might as well have a drink to part with, eh?” the stallion asks, sliding a shot glass to me.

“Yup, I suppose so.” I pour some whiskey out into the glass and knock it back at once. I shiver from the sensation, but it’s not the hardest drink I’ve ever had. “Not bad stuff there. Guess when you’re famous you get the good stuff.”

The orange mare shook her head. “Nah, that’s just the normal stock. My uncle makes Firewhiskey, he’s named after it.” She pauses for a moment. “Or it’s named after him. I’ve never really looked into that.”

The whistle blows to announce our arrival at Canterlot. I get up and head back to the train car with Twilight and Pinkie. Technically I could just phase out of the side of the train and wait for them, but I’d rather not if the train is still slowing down.

Within half an hour, we’ve assembled, met up with Cadence, who shares the strangest greeting with Twilight. I say ‘hi’, and decide to excuse myself to check up on Discord. I get there and I take a look at the statue.

According to the princesses, his first time, he was laughing. When I saw him first, he was scared. Right now, he just looks confused and peeved.

“Heya man.” I obviously get no answer. “Yeah, sorry about that, I really only did that ‘cause I didn’t want anyone to get hurt. You understand, right?”

Still no response, I just get that frozen, annoyed face. “Yeah, yeah, I’m a party-pooper. Seriously though, I really would love to do that again, we just need to get the others to trust you. And that’s gonna take some work.”

I sit in silence for a bit, and Celestia walks up to me. “And what are you doing here?”

“Saying hello to Discord.”

“Well, forgive me for a bit of skepticism. When a guard reported he saw you coming this way, I assumed I had to fear the worst.”

“Hey, it’s not my fault I feel bad for a guy who’s been turned to stone. I’ve got a few ponies with experience who say it’s absolutely dreadful.”

“Dreadful or no, he should be punished for his actions. I’m aware that we will attempt to reform him within the next month, and I hope you are right that he can be trusted.”

“Well, trustworthy or not, I can’t imagine how it would feel to be stuck standing in a garden, unmoving, unable to see or speak at all for a thousand years. I mean, just a hundred would be extreme torture in my opinion. Petrifaction is not something to joke about.”

Celestia just looks up at Discord’s statue, her face a mask as usual. We stand in silence for nearly a minute, before she turns back to me. “We all have our sins to bear, Anthony. Do not assume I made the decision to return him to stone lightly.” She sighed. “We knew each other well, before he ruled this world, and before my sister and I first turned him to stone.” She said nothing more.

“Yeah, yeah, I remember. You told me all about him years ago when I first got here.” I think for a moment, sighing. “I just don’t really think of him as a bad person... or whatever he is. I don’t like curses like this. The way I see it, nobody deserves it. If what they’ve done is truly, truly unforgivable, I’d say just kill them. But in the case of Discord... I don’t think he really knew how much danger he was causing.”

I recall his comment when I confronted him at the top of Town Hall. “In fact, I know he didn’t. He just needs a lesson in the mortality of others. I don’t think he really wants to do any real damage to anyone.”

I feel Celestia’s wings enfold me in a hug, and I start for a moment at the contact. She’s extremely warm, and really fluffy. She whispers in my ear. “I can only hope, Anthony, that you can return my friend’s mind to him.”

“Oh, returning a lost mind is very difficult, I’d even say impossible. What needs to happen is that he must be taught a lesson in control, that’s all.”

Celestia sighs, and lets me go. “I do believe that Cadence and the others are waiting for you. I hope your trip is pleasant.” Her gentle, smiling mask is back in place, a lone tear running down her cheek.

Next Chapter: Through the Lookinglass Gate Estimated time remaining: 25 Hours, 14 Minutes

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