Written by The Descendant
The birds sat chirping, their squeaks and squawks sounding out into the cool afternoon. As the little birds danced about their feet made skritch-scratch-skritch-scratch-skritch-scratch sounds upon the stone. As they roosted there and began to doze the sun fell upon them, warming the surface beneath them.
For few moments they stood there, letting the sun wash over them, resting in the meadow as the morning wore on into afternoon. They went on about their day, snapping at flies that came up from the margin around the little pond or grooming themselves, letting the dander and old feathers fall to the earth below or rest upon the stone.
The birds sat there, unaware of what they were resting upon, regaining their strength before they would wing off again and head south as autumn fell.
Long moments passed and soon the sounds of a creature struggling with something heavy began to reach them. With a rush the small collective of birds lifted into the air and flew out into the trees along the edge of the meadow. There they once again rested, calling to one another in uncertainty and alarm. Soon enough the interloper revealed himself, and the birds went quiet as he approached the stone upon which they had just been resting.
So it was that the birds would be the only witnesses of what would happen there, on the edge of the pond where the tall rushes were growing brown in autumn's spell.
Discord lay there, his unmoving eyes set in an constant gaze as the interloper, the trespasser who had disturbed the birds, came closer. Once more locked away inside a tomb of stone, a living statue, he sat there in the same pose in which he had been frozen months before. It was there beside the pond where he had been laid, dragged from the center of Ponyville and left there alone in that distant place, a place beyond the daily comings and goings of the ponies.
It was a quiet place… a place where memory of his brief, yet disruptive, rule would not trouble them. A place where the name of Discord could be disposed of, forgotten altogether in time…
This, then, was the scene that greeted the trespasser. He had been huffing and puffing, dragging something behind him as he slowly made his way through the tough going around the hills and finally down into the hollow where Discord's ruins lay quiet and still. Now, having reached the stone form the trespasser, he dropped his burden and then walked to the front of the statue. With grass growing around him and birds chirping nearby Discord hardly seemed like the imposing figure that had caused so much distress, pain, and fear. The trespasser regarded him sadly and then sighed. He cleared away some of the grass, carefully gathering up as much as he could with his small hands. After a few moments spoke to the unmoving draconiquis.
"Hi," said Spike.
The dragon slowly walked around the figure, the cold stone having sunk slightly into the wet earth during the months that it had lain there. He began to pull more grass away to reveal in full the grim figure of Discord. He looked down into a face still caught up in a twist of surprise.
Spike brushed away the debris that had accumulated upon the unhappy statue, using a bunch of leaves to wipe away the bird droppings. He stepped back and rested his head in the palms of his clawed hands, and soon he looked deep into the face.
"Hi," spoke Spike again, his head still resting in the palm of his hands. He ignored the creeping dampness of the earth that was moistening his feet. Instead he continued to look deep into the shocked features of the draconiquis. The knees were still bent reflexively, the lion and eagle arm and wing still attempting to shield him from a Rainbow of Light that had long since returned to its slumber.
"My name is Spike," began the little dragon whelp, tilting his head slightly, "but my guess is you probably already knew that, huh?"
"I mean geez… seems like, seems like you know everything. But, I… I guess that's really no big surprise, right? I mean, you are a really powerful spirit… thing, so you probably already know who I am. That makes this kind of, awkward…"
Spike looked down to the ground, ran his hands over his arms. He was quite wet now, the water pooling beneath him in a little puddle. Slowly standing he did a perfunctory job of wiping the water from himself, and then looked around for another place to sit.
He found none, and his expression dropped as he looked back to Discord. He looked to the unhappy object he had brought with him, and with another sigh he looked for a place for it to rest. He gently placed it behind the prostrate form of the spirit of anarchy and then sat himself down atop the statue, jumping a little bit to find his way up the long marble cylinder of the body.
"I… I hope, I hope you don't mind if I sit here," asked the little dragon, "but, but I kinda need to talk to you… and, take care of something…"
Spike paused for a minute. He lifted his eyes and gathered in the autumn day that played out before him. Leaves of gold, orange, red, and yellow filled the hollow, more than a few falling down into the pond and being carried out on the cool stream to the rivers beyond.
"Well, it's a nice day for talk, I think… yeah, it's a nice day."
He looked back down to the twisted face of Discord. Spike grimaced as he looked upon the features. Perpetual surprise, shock, and horror filled the face of the draconiquis, the look captured there perhaps forever.
"I, I really hope you can hear me. I guess you can, I hope that you can. I mean, you figured everything out, you knew about everypony before you came back. Apple Bloom told me about her field trip, and I can guess the rest. I, I'm not the smartest little dragon in the world… but I do remember you. I remember playing in the garden with Twilight when I was little, when she would come gather me out of the nursey, back before we lived together. Even once we did we'd still go play in the gardens. I remember running around the base of the statue there that stood right outside the maze. Were you watching as Twilight lifted me up and spun me around? Were you already making your plans as the princess, Twilight, and I sat there having our little picnics?"
Spike looked around himself. Nearby a grapevine had already begun to grow up between the outstretched arms of the powerful spirit, locked as they were in a gesture of rejection. He pulled at the dried remains of the vine, revealing more of the statue, nearly freeing it entirely of the vegetation that grown around it in the months since it had been deposited there.
As Spike began to turn the vine over and over, shearing off all but the most perfect leaves and dry bunches of tiny grapes. He began to speak to the draconiquis once more as he did.
"I don't think you're a bad guy," spoke Spike as he began to wrap the vine around his own small arms, gathering it to himself. "I mean, I really didn't get to see that much, when you were doing your thing. It didn't seem like you were actually trying to hurt anybody, you were just, you know… having fun…"
Spike looked down to Discord once again. As he measured the length of the grape vine Spike's face betrayed pain as a memory reached out to grab at him.
"Of course, I like fun too. I mean, who doesn't? I even like pranks. I like to laugh…"
Spikes face became even unhappier, and he stopped fidgeting with the grape vine for an instant.
"I even laughed at Twilight. I laughed at her. I laughed at my friends when they were confused and hurt. I, I did that..."
Spike stared out across the pond, capturing the colors of the leaves in his memory, letting them drive out the unhappy memories. He turned back to address the spirit, and as he did the whelp began to turn the grape vine into a circle, wrapping around and around itself.
"Even if you weren't doing it on purpose, you were still hurting them. The ponies, you were hurting them. You were… ruining everything they worked for, driving a wedge between them. You were ripping them apart, you… you broke what they had accomplished. You broke up everything that they been working for since... well, since before the first time you tried this stuff, I guess."
Spike ran his claws over the encapsulated spirit, brushing away even more of the flotsam and jetsam that had accumulated upon Discord as he lay beside the pond.
Having cleared away all of the little flecks of vegetation and debris that had landed on the head of the draconiquis he placed the grapevine there, the shoot having now been turned into a crown.
Spike looked down to it and sighed. As he began to speak again he adjusted the crown to better fit the head of the entrapped spirit.
"How long ago was that? It… heck, it had to have been before Celestia fought Nightmare Moon, so, what was it? Like, maybe 2,000 years, 4,000 years? Was it 7,000…10,000? Well, whatever it was it was a long time ago I'm sure. I kinda wish that I could'a seen the battle between you and the Sisters. I'm sure you took it a lot more seriously than you took the fight against Twilight and my friends…"
Spike leaned forward, speaking to the spirit within in a series of nods.
"That's the only reason you lost, you know. You lost because you underestimated Twilight. You underestimated her friendship."
Spike stood and looked down into the face of the ensnared spirit dispassionately. He let his claws hang at his side unmoving, uninvolved.
"No one should ever doubt Twilight. No one should ever underestimate her," he said, his voice just on the soft side of a hiss.
After a moment though he stood back, and the youthful and exuberant part of him once more bubbled to the surface. "I bet it was awesome, though, your battle with the princesses! I bet there were explosions and magic all over the place. How close did you come to winning? I mean, before the Sisters used the Elements? Was it close? I bet it was amazing."
Spike stood and ran the length of the stone tomb, making exploding sounds and mimicking the sounds made by powerful magic spells, his voice ringing out into the hollow and the hills beyond.
There was a long scraping sound, and it was followed by the sound of something falling to the wet, sodden earth.
Spike looked down and sighed. Lowering himself so that he was laying across the stone surface the whelp made little sounds of effort as he reached for what he had brought with him. He grasped at it and missed it several times before finally gathering it up into his clawed hands.
He tested it several times, making sure the unhappy thing could stand by itself. He looked at it for a great long while. Spike sighed to himself before once again sitting upright and rubbing his eyes.
He looked once more into the face of Discord, and inside Spike something moved that he simply did not like.
With a huff of emotion the dragon lifted his head to look at the horizon. A gentle breeze bobbed through the golden leaves, sending many more falling down into the pond.
"I've been trying to find a good way to tell you this, how I was gonna try to let you know why I'm here. The, well, the only way I can explain it is in the same way Twilight does when she's reading one of her science books."
He giggled to himself a little bit.
"Yeah, I know… I'm not the smartest little dragon. But… but I do listen when she's telling me important stuff, I really do, and I think I really get this part. You see, Equestria, it's kind of like an experiment."
Spike rolled his hands over and over themselves. The dragon fought for words as though remembering a line in a play or a practiced speech.
"Equestria is a experiment, you see, I think. I think it's an experiment that Princess Celestia has been nursing along for a long time. A really long time. A really, really, really long time. It's an experiment about friendship and interdeep…intradee…interdeprend…how we rely on one another."
Spike rolled his eyes, didn't bother to look down to Discord. He imagined the spirit smirking at him from behind the stone eyes.
"Yeah, I know. Well, you see, in an experiment there are these things called variables. I think. If I'm getting what it said in Twilight's books right," spoke the little dragon, becoming self-conscious as he did.
"I'm sorry if I don't get this part right. I-I hope I'm not boring you, but I think you need to understand where I'm coming from with all this. I-I need... I need you to understand why it has to be this way..."
Spike stood and began walking the length of the enchanted statue, his clawed hands behind his back as he looked down to the slick surface with a concerned look on his face.
"So, these variables, they're the parts of the experiment that can change. Now, if I've got this right there are two types of variables, one that you can plan for, and one that you can't."
Having reached the end of Discord's tail Spike spun around and began walking back up his spine, kicking debris off of the stone as he went.
"Now, Princess Celestia… she's really smart. She's really powerful, too. I-if Equestria really is an experiment, then she would've planned for you, you see, because you are really powerful too. And smart. Kind of scary, really."
Spike looked down again into Discord's face. He opened his hands, as though pleading with the forlorn figure below him.
"You, you and all of the other draconiquis, you were already around when it began, right? I mean, I don't know much about history, but it makes sense that the other draconiquis were there with you, and the spirits like the one that became Nightmare Moon, and The Witches, too. You were all already here in this world before the alicorns came, right? You were all already here when Equestria was placed into this world… I think, maybe, and you all pretty much got along."
Spike let his hands drop. Instead he simply stared down into the stone face as his expression became sadder.
"Well, that's what I could put together. I think it's mostly true, kinda."
Spike continued looking deep into the unanswering face. After a moment he slowly turned and began pacing once more.
"So, I think, that they knew you. I bet you were even friends, or at least on good terms. I mean, come on, chaos is a part of life. They knew that, they know life isn't any fun without the unexpected. They knew that you were part of the experiment, right? You were a variable that was part of the experiment, are part of it, an important part…"
Having reached the end of Discord's tail once more Spike simply stood and stared off into the distance, not turning back to face the draconiquis's face as he made his accusation.
"But, but that didn't work for you did it, huh?"
Silence reigned. The only sound that covered them was the distant chirping of the birds and the pat, pat, pat of the leaves landing in the pond.
"Being part of a plan, especially one that would take a long, long, long, long, long time… it really didn't work for you, not your style. Who cares if it would all end up with every creature on this world living in peace, right? Snoozeville. It was boring… so, you had some fun with it."
Spike continued looking off into the distance, his back still turned to Discord's face.
"You're the reason why nature moves so differently in Equestria, right? You're the reason why the draconiquis turned on the spirits, why the spirits turned on The Witches… and why they all turned on the ponies, the ponies and the alicorns who had promised to protect them."
Something of a remembrance began to fall over Spike, and as he spoke he felt as though magic was moving deep within him.
"You changed yourself into a, oh, what does the book call it… an uncontrolled variable. You sparked off all this strife and hate, the wars that are still going on today… for fun? You're the reason Princess Celestia and Princess Luna are alone, aren't you? You, you are the reason why there no other alicorns, at least not until Princess Cadence came back, right? Maybe? I, I don't know how I know, but… but, I know that…"
At once Spike's vision retreated, and he felt himself being drawn down into a warm pool of thoughtfulness. He was standing on the high dais of Equestria as the sun rose, as Celestia's magic worked it across her realm. Before him the Princess Luna looked deep into his eyes. She looked over him sweetly and then laid her forehead to his and gently breathed a single word:
Spike awoke once more, still standing on Discord's tail, wobbling slightly. He placed his clawed hand to his forehead as he teetered. Inside himself he felt the direction the conversation had been going simply slide away. He shook his head and then turned back to face Discord, the stone face still unchanged and grotesquely bent.
He walked past Discord's legs, stopping to brush the leaves from between the toes. He stopped in the hollow space of the arch of the back, let his clawed feet make little circles across the marble surface as he thought of what words he should dare speak next...
... how he could possibly justify to the spirit what he'd come to do.
He once more let himself down, seating himself across Discord's abdomen.
"So, when you felt the time was right, you decided to let the big party begin. You saw the two little confused, scared, and orphaned alicorn princesses and decided it was the right time to blow apart everything that they and their kin had worked towards. Of course, you didn't count on the Elements, at least that's what Twilight told me."
Spike let his feet dangle a bit, and then rested them against Discord's outstretched arms.
"That was the variable, maybe, that you hadn't planned on, right, sort of?"
Spike felt his voice rise, felt it fill with emotion.
"I, I think you're a bully, Discord. You, you only do these things when you think that they can't harm you, when you think they won't find out. Y-you do them when you think you are not going to have to defend yourself. That's why you had to wait so long to try again, because you had to be sure that Princess Celestia wasn't in charge of the Elements anymore. You thought that they'd moved beyond serving her. You thought that they had come to some pony you thought you could easily beat!"
Spike turned his head. He let himself calm and then regarded the face of Discord slightly and with little emotion.
"You only tried again when the idea popped into your head of using the ponies… when you saw Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo having their argument, like she said that they'd had. Maybe their little fight gave you the power you needed to escape, or maybe it was just time… but you decided that if you couldn't beat the alicorns, well, you would go after their ponies. You decided that you'd come after my friends... after my Twilight."
Spike sat still for second. He breathed deeply, calming himself.
"Twilight, no one should ever bet against Twilight."
He sat still. The dragon looked out over the horizon once more. Behind him the birds began to chirp again and the afternoon sun lit the sky in shafts of color.
"Wow, what a beautiful day, huh?"
Spike slid down the front of Discord's chest with uncertainly. His feet played out before him, and he strained to reach the earth. He landed with a thud, made a little noise of pain as he hit the ground. Beneath him the ground instantly began welling up with water that squished among his toes and chilled his feet.
He stood before the twisted face of the draconiquis, trying as hard as possible to put himself directly into the gaze of the eyes.
"I'm a dragon!" Spike announced as he pointed to himself smugly. And once though he stopped and seemed to deflate, realizing the idiocy of the statement he had just made.
"But, you… you already knew that."
Spike drummed his claws across Discord's nose briefly, pondering his words, and then looked back into the perpetually stunned eyes.
"I wanted to tell you that because, well, you see… dragons, we are supposed to be big and strong. We're supposed to be all frightening and powerful and, well, really awesome and stuff…"
Spike's expression fell down even further, his clawed hands resting only lightly against Discord's stone face.
"But… but, but I'm not. I'm just a baby dragon. I'm not strong enough… I'm not strong enough to defend the ponies I love, not big enough to carry away the things that hurt them."
Spike looked back into Discord's face. As he did he felt his eyes watering. The baby dragon, the little whelp, realized that he was on the verge tears as he admitted his own inabilities, and knew he would soon have to admit why he journeyed to this beautiful, lonely spot.
"I… I really hope you can hear me, because I really don't know why I feel I have to do this. All, all I-I could do as you turned Ponyville inside out was mop up the books that you had turned into pudding and do my best to help Twilight gather up the Elements, defend them from her own friends. Y-you made me fight my friends!"
Spike's countenance became harder, and he fixed the unmoving Discord in his sight.
"In the end I wasn't a good substitute for a Rainbow Dash. In the end all I could do was vomit up all of my old letters as the princess begged Twilight to remember who she was. In the end all I could was sit in my little bed as my tummy burned up and watch through the window as only your own big ego let them finally beat you."
Spike took a deep breath. He turned so that he was leaning upon Discord's face as though the ancient Spirit of Chaos were but a countertop in bar. The little dragon surveyed the area around them, a look of hurt across his face.
"And then, Twilight, Applejack, Rarity, Pinky Pie, Rainbow Dash, and Fluttershy received the thanks of Princess Celestia, we had a big party, and the next day we dragged your big stony butt out here into the meadow. Out here... where you could wait patiently for your next trick, am I right?"
Spike turned back to face Discord once more. His expression was deeply sad, and he wiped the tears away slowly.
"I am, I am just a little dragon… but a dragon must always be true to his heart. At least that's what the princess tells me. My heart almost ripped open, Discord, when I saw what you'd done to my friends, what you turned Rarity into, how you treated the princess… but most of all what you did to Twilight."
Spike stepped back, letting his feet sink slightly into the marshy ground.
"I never want to see her like that again… I never want to see her so unhappy, so hurt, so sad."
Spike stepped back further, the water completely covering his feet.
"I don't think you're a bad guy Discord. I think you're… lost. I know that chaos is a part of life. Chaos is the part of life that has one acorn land in the water and die, and lets another reach land and grow to be hundreds of years old. It is chaos that blows the storm to the north where there are floods instead to the south where there's a drought. Or, well, at least it did, until you changed it. That's the problem, you see, you don't realize who you are anymore. You lost yourself the second you sat on your throne. You, you were a powerful spirit, one that was a part of life itself. Now, now you're just a bully… one who only cares about himself…"
Spike took another step back, the water reaching up to his ankles.
"You're, you're in there… waiting, taking your time and being all patient and stuff, aren't you? When you come back next time, are you going to come after Twilight again? Are you going to wait for her to be old and weak? For Rarity? Are you going to come for the foals of my friends, their grandfoals? I may already be dead by the time you come back, maybe thousands of years… who will you come for then? Who will you use next? Are you simply going to wait until the princess can finally see the end of the experiment? Are you going to jump out of the stone just as peace is ready for everyone to share? Are ya' gonna bust it wide open and laugh in her face just as it looks like everyone in the world finally gets a chance to be happy?"
Spike turned, saw how he was slowly sinking. He looked back to Discord with something resembling uncertainty growing behind his eyes.
"I mean… if I'm right, if that is what this is all about. I mean, maybe it all has to do with the reason Princess Celestia has Twilight studying the magic of friendship, the reason it was so important that she raise me, something we're gonna accomplish. It has to be… part of the experiment, an important variable, you know? There's, there's a really strong magic in it. A magic that you don't like. Why, why is that?"
He sank down further, the cold water reaching up to nearly his calves. Spike though did not notice. As the tears began he called out the fears of the last few months, let the draconiquis have a little bit of satisfaction, let him know that his efforts had at least unsettled this one little adherent of the hated alicorn…
"I… I'm afraid of you, you know. Well, not of you yourself… actually I think you're cool. But, but when I think of how easily you could rip everything apart, and how you wouldn't care as everything I love, all the ponies I love, had everything they held dear smashed… then I'm afraid."
Spike wiped his eyes, looked back to Discord as the grapevine crown slipped from the head. He looked at it as it lay on the wet ground before continuing.
"You are really big, and powerful. You are old, and smart, and maybe the only thing in the world other than The Witches that worries the Sisters. But, but I don't think you meant it that way. I just think you don't care… and that's the worst of it. Y-you don't care. You never have, it's all just a joke to you. And you are going to try again, aren't you? The third time, the third time could be the charm. You aren't going to make the same mistake again. You're too smart… you're too clever…"
Spike stepped out of the marshy water, the mud staining him up past his calves. The dragon fought to come forward, making sounds of exertion as he struggled to pull himself free.
"That's why, that's why I have to do this…"
His face was bound in emotion. Pain, fear, and something resembling desperation and guilt battled for a place across his features as he sank to his knees before Discord. He lifted something from the ground and looked up into the plaintive eyes. As he returned the grapevine crown to the head of the ensnared spirit he prepared himself for the admission of his sojourn to the solitary spot beside the lake.
"I'm, I'm a little dragon… but, I'm a variable too. I have a say in how this is going to turn out, I think."
He tilted his head, matching the twist of Discord's face.
"I don't hate you. I swear I don't. I have to be true to my heart though, I have to try to protect the ponies that I love. I have to try to defend all that they have worked for, even if that means doing something… something I usually wouldn't even think of doing. I'm sorry, but… this might be my only chance, this might be my only chance to stop you. I have to take it…"
There was silence. Not even the birds in the distant tree chirped, and only the sounds of the leaves hitting the pond sounded out softly.
As Spike looked up into the face of Discord he imagined that the ancient spirit trapped within had already begun to giggle at him.
As a muddy Spike grasped at the stone that made up Discord's face he pulled himself up and left muddy tracks along the chin and mouth of the statue, and the mud from his clawed hands left a stain across the eyebrows.
Spike imagined Discord's voice. He believed that the spirit within the stone had already been laughing at the idea of him, the little dragon whelp, being able to end his immortal existence.
Spike continued to hear the laughter, if only in his own mind, as he crossed behind the statue and grabbed up that which he had brought with him all the way from the city, dragging it at times against the weight.
The laughter continued as Spike went around the outside of the statue, using the higher and drier ground to assist in carrying it.
The laughter stopped immediately as Spike finally stood before Discord with the sledgehammer in his little reptilian hands.
"I read the books in the library, you know. I grew up around books. I know places in Canterlot where…artifacts…"
Spike simply stopped. There was no need to continue. If the draconiquis was half as powerful and intelligent as he feared, as he knew he was, then Discord would already know what he held there in his trembling clawed hands.
Discord would already know who had wielded it, and knew who had forged it. Discord knew who had already fallen to it...
The little dragon took a series of long deep breaths, filling his reptilian blood with oxygen, fueling his body, mind, and soul for the sin that must come next.
He opened his eyes and looked down to the hammer. It was as long as he was, and it shone with a special magic… one both deep and horrible. It was a magic that he knew must be visible and knowable to the immortal trapped in the stone before him.
Spike looked up to Discord, gently fixed the grape vine crown once more so that it lay lightly upon the ancient brow.
"Please forgive me. I'm so sorry…"
He closed his eyes, and with a great bellow that sent the birds in the distant tree flying into the air he managed to lift it above his head. As it hung there in the autumn sun the deep magic flashed across it, competing with the golden leaves in their brilliance.
"I don't hate you, I really don't. Forgive me."
In his mind he was that massive and powerful dragon, defending his friends and generations of Equestrians yet unborn from chaos, pain, and loss. As the tears came he convinced himself once more that he clearing away the uncontrolled variable, letting the experiment go on.
He opened his eyes quickly, had one last look at Discord's horrified face, and then clamped them down tight as he gripped harder upon the hammer's handle.
"I am so sorry. I'm so sorry…"
Out across the meadow squirrels chased each other from tree to tree, scampering up one and down another as they tussled over the crop of acorns that lay about in abundance. Among the branches of the affable old oak the birds returned to their roost, once more chirping and squawking in their little speech.
A family of ducks came up the rivulet and out onto the surface of the pond. The little ducklings of the spring had now almost fully grown, and they raised themselves up to beat powerful wings, testing them for the migration soon to come. As they bobbed about, sinking their heads to search the muddy bottom or calling to one another in small quacks, they avoided the leaves that continued to fall around them and slowly drift out to the marsh and river beyond.
Soon a sound reached them, and their instincts did not like it. Slowly they paddled away, their bodies making overlapping waves that spread beyond them and gently out to the distant marshy shore of the pond.
It was on that shore that a dejected figure sat, the muddy water covering him up to his waist, the sledgehammer across his lap as he rubbed his eyes and wept softly to himself.
Spike wiped his hands across his face, the mud streaking down his cheeks, across his chin. Before long he simply sat still and looked out across the pond.
He turned and looked over his shoulder.
The figure of Discord sat there, unblemished, the slick surface of the stone shining in the afternoon light of the autumn day.
Spike looked back out over the pond for a long time before sighing a deep sigh, a great huff of unspent energy leaving his little body.
"It's such a beautiful day," he said, watching the colors of the trees reflect in wobbly streaks across the surface. "It's such a beautiful day."
There was a wet sloshing sound as he heaved himself up and out of the sodden earth. He leaned across the sledgehammer as he struggled to his feet, and the deep magic within reacted to the presence of the earth and water, the magic shining out again in a series of confused pulses.
Spike dragged himself back up to Discord, the hammer carving a furrow in the wet ground behind him as he totted it back up to where the draconiquis sat unmarred.
"So," he said, his shoulders falling down in defeat as he began to speak, "I couldn't do it. I guess you know that."
Spike sighed and ran his forearm across his eyes before leaning himself against Discord's chest and looking to the ground. He looked back out to the horizon for a moment before speaking.
"The first time I lifted the hammer I saw... saw the princess looking down at me. I was back in our room in Canterlot, the place Twi and I used to live. All, all that the princess could do was look down at me with these big wet tears. These big tears were just rolling down her cheeks..."
Spike continued looking to the horizon as he spoke, not even perceptibly moving as he continued.
"The second time I lifted it, it seemed a lot heavier... but then all I could see was Rarity. She kinda did that thing that you do when you see something that makes you jump, like if something surprises you, you know? She, she was afraid of me... of me. Rarity was afraid of me, and I dropped the hammer."
Spike lifted his arms to his shoulders, tried to wipe off the flecks of mud. A breeze was strengthening across the meadow, and the dampness that somehow clung to his scales chilled him.
"The third time I had to try so hard... so hard to lift it. The hammer was so heavy. But all of the sudden I saw Twilight. She was there, in the library. She was asking me over and over what I had done, why I had done it, begging me to explain myself. She, she looked sick, angry, horrified. So, I couldn't do it."
He turned to face Discord.
"I couldn't do it. The fear that they would be upset by what I'd done, that I'd done something so unlike what I'd ever usually even think of doing, that was a whole lot worse to me than my fear of you. They... my friends, the ponies I love, they kept us from finding out if the hammer could really crush you."
A very muddy dragon whelp looked deep into the eye of the immortal spirit of agony and ran his hand along the eyebrow with small, uncertain motions.
"They saved you. Please, please keep that in mind, okay?"
Spike took a step back and measured Discord with a deep stare of adjudication. He couldn't decide what the immortal was doing inside the stone prison, couldn't make up his mind whether Discord was laughing at him, taunting him or perhaps, just perhaps... thinking. There were so many... variables. Spike looked at himself, then to Discord. When he had arrived the draconiquis had been covered in the waste of months, and Spike had been clean of any entanglements.
Now, perhaps not even a full hour later the stone had been cleared by his own clawed hands and crowned with a new crown of vine. Now it was Spike who was covered with mud and uncertainty. Uncertainty... doubt, fear, chaos. Discord. He knew then that there were too many variables, that it wasn't just about Discord, himself, and the hammer. It was about everything he believed about himself, and everything he'd been taught by the ponies he loved. They were variables too. They were not victims.
There was only one immutable part of the experiment here beside the pond, and that was that he must be true to his heart. Spike took a deep breath and looked around himself. There must be a way. There had to be a way to let the immortal trapped within the stone know why he had come, to make his point. There must be a way to do so without losing himself... without losing them...
He cast his eyes over the hammer. Perhaps, perhaps there was one more variable, one that he hadn't thought to place in play...
"It's not fair, you know... the way you play your game. You, you can't lose... really. You... you don't have to deal with what they do, you don't have a sense of watching crops die or have to deal with rancid chocolate milk standing in pools around your home. That... man, that's only when you're being nice about it. I, I can't imagine what it was like when you ruled over Equestria, when the princesses didn't know what had become of their realm..."
Spike leaned up against Discord's chest again, this time leaning on his left shoulder to look the spirit in the stony eyes.
"You... you don't know what it's like for them, because you control chaos. So, I'm... I'm gonna try to help you understand..."
Spike stood and grabbed the hammer. He tugged at it with little sounds of effort, lifting it once more.
This time though he grabbed it up and, with some effort, laid it among the lion paw and eagle leg.
"Can, can you see it? Is it where you can see it? I-I'm going to leave this here, okay? How random is that? Maybe...just, you know, maybe someday somepony, or any other thinking creature, could come along and find it..."
Spike ran his clawed hands over his arms. The breeze was indeed coming up, and soon he would have to be off.
"Maybe, just maybe that creature, the one who finds the hammer, maybe they won't know that there's a living thing inside the stone. Maybe they'll just wanna take a whack, just for fun... just for a little bit of, fun."
Spike shuddered a bit.
"Maybe it will be soon. Maybe in a couple of thousand years. Hey, it might never happen, it might never happen...probably won't..."
Spike scowled, realized how stupid this must seem to the immortal spirit. As the breeze continued to blow he sped up his reasoning.
"It's just... that it can. It can happen. And, it would just be that random, that one chaotic chance. That, that's what I want you to think about, okay? The idea that you too were under the control of chaos. For the centuries or millenia that it takes for you to be free again, that any of those days some creature could just have come along and, well... you know."
Spike looked over the still, silent form of the spirit of anarchy and the hammer that now sat so close by. With that he looked up to Discord's eyes once more, and as he did he breathed one earnest hope.
"I hope that, before you're free again, that you realize that you too, Discord, can get wet in the chocolate milk that pours from the sky. Maybe, just maybe, I hope, you'll remember who you are. I hope that you'll be a spirit of life again, and not just be a bully anymore..."
Spike took a few steps back, tilted his head.
"Goodbye," he called, trotting up the hill. With one look back he called "Goodbye!" again, and with that departed from the scene.
The breeze shifted, and soon the gold, red, orange, and brown leaves began to fall upon the statue. As they did they began to cover the spirit of anarchy with their multitude, and the deep magic of the hammer beat a slow beat in rhythm to the life around it.
So it was that the hammer, like the albatross around the neck of the condemned mariner, sat firmly in the gaze of the immortal as he laid beneath his crown of grape vine.
The count towards the arrival of whatever variable would determine the outcome of the experiment began.
The soft falling of the leaves could be heard as they brushed against the stone and the autumn day slipped further into the golden afternoon. Overhead geese called to one another as the little birds in the tree continued to roost and prepare for their journey.