Chapter 40: The Rage In All Of Us
Flora watched as Fluttershy left the room for some fresh air outside. It was quiet now, with only the faint breathing of a sleeping Orion, Peach Cobbler, and Bucky keeping the room from absolute silence. Slowly, Flora began to approach the bed they shared together. Standing at its side, she held the hoof of her little sister tightly, and though she had cried herself to sleep earlier, her eyes found new tears to shed. A chill slithered though her as she began to weep.
“Well well well,” its snake-like words hissed. “Look who’s here! It’s the pity party herself, the oh-so-helpless Flora!”
Flora wiped her tears from her eyes, using them to scan the room for the source of the voice.
“Who said that?” she asked nervously. “Who’s there?”
“Oh, Flora. Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten who I am! We had a lovely conversation just a few days ago.”
The green pegasus backed up slowly.
“No,” she shook her head. “No! You’re not real!”
“Not real?” the voice said, shifting from a disgusting hiss to a very familiar playfullness “You hurt my feelings! How could you ever forget an old friend?”
From a darkened corner of the room stood a tall creature. Clattering of claws and a hoof scratched the floor below an elongated body of various features. Wings, arms, and horns all stuck out horribly from the body in non-symmetrical chaos.
“Discord!” Flora stammered. “How? How do you know who I am? What are you doing here?”
“You really never learn, do you?” Discord sighed. “Just like your dear sweet mother Fluttershy. Just as well, I suppose. You always were a bit of fun!”
“Why are you here?” Flora demanded once again.
He gave her an exaggerated frown.
“Tsk, tsk, tsk. So serious! That’s not the wide-eyed little artist that I know and love to tease! You haven’t been spending too much time with Twilight recently, have you? I’d hate to see her suck out any more creativity from this world. I had enough boring to last a lifetime when I was trapped in stone.”
Flora returned to the bedside and stared him down, her hooves planted firmly.
“If it’s chit-chat you want, go bug my mom! I want to be left alone right now. Is that so much to ask?”
Discord appeared by Flora’s side, scaring the green pegasus into a light jump.
“And why is that, I wonder?” his voice said, growing sinister once again. “Could it be because you feel guilt for what you’ve done?”
“What I’ve done? I didn’t do anything!”
“Ding ding ding! 10 points to Pegasi!” Discord exclaimed, shifting into a costume of Starswirl the Bearded. “You are right on the money, my naïve little friend!”
“What does that mean?”
“Oh, I think you know very much what I mean,” Discord chuckled, returning to his original look. “All of your friends have risked something to help the cause. Think about it! Andromeda works tirelessly to find a way home! Bismarck has been a protector and pulls his weight on the farm. Tempest has been a messenger, a spy, and a rescuer. Berry and Cherry sacrificed their ability to go into Ponyville in order to act as doctors and therapists. Radiance’s excuse was a broken leg and now morning sickness, yet she still does her best to work. But you…”
Discord drew close, lowering his head parallel to Flora’s until he could whisper near her ear.
“You were given the task of finding the children, but you couldn’t even get that right.”
“That’s not true!” Flora argued. “I found them and brought them back to us!”
“You compromised your identities!” Discord shouted with a booming voice that was unlike him. “Scootaloo and her friends caught you and discovered that you were Peach’s sister. Without you, they would have never figured out your true identities! Without you, history itself would not be in jeopardy!”
“That was beyond my control! Rainbow Dash found out who we were anyway!”
“My dear Flora,” Discord said, slithering around her until they were face to face. “Rainbow Dash confirmed her suspicions when she overheard you speaking to Tempest! Without you, she would have just been a paranoid little snoop with no evidence to back up her insane theories.”
Flora stood where she was, her dry throat making it hard to swallow.
“You can’t blame me for that. None of us knew that we were being spied on.”
“Maybe I can’t blame you for your obvious screw-up,” Discord said with a smug grin, “but I think we both know something else you blame yourself for. Don’t we?”
Glancing at her unconscious sister’s form on the bed, Flora’s heart felt like it stopped. Discord appeared next to the bed and rubbed Peach Cobbler’s forehead gently.
“Poor little thing,” he lamented. “If only her big sister could protect her for once in her life. Maybe she might have had a chance.”
“Don’t you dare touch her!!!” Flora screamed, lunging at him.
Seeing her coming, Discord disappeared before Flora’s fist could touch him, leaving her throwing herself into the wall. He laughed at the sight.
“Ooooooh! Touchy! Take a look at that anger! You know, I’m disappointed in you, Flora. I thought your mother taught you better than that! But then again, maybe you’re more like her than ponies think. You both seem to bottle in your anger to unhealthy levels.”
“Shut the hay up, Discord!” Flora shouted, swinging at him again and missing.
“It’s funny how the quiet ones are often the angriest! It makes sense if you think about it. Shouting and screaming and punching and kicking can be so… therapeutic!”
Discord laughed while dodging another blow.
“Don’t you agree?”
Hate began to fill Flora’s eyes. She felt so much rage in this moment that it almost covered the gut-wrenching mourning she knew she was going through.
“I SAID LEAVE ME ALONE!!!!” Flora screamed at the top of her lungs, rushing at Discord and tackling him to the ground.
Sitting on top of him, she began to swing wildly at him. As she attacked, Discord began to shout aloud.
“Flora! Stop! It’s me!”
Flora ignored his pleas, continuing to thrash and scream.
“SHUT UP!!! Shut up, shut up, shut…”
“It’s me, Flora! It’s me!”
“Flora!” a new voice cried. “Stop it! You’re hurting him!”
Flora could feel herself get pulled off of Discord by Bismarck, but she resisted. Throwing an elbow in her new assailant’s stomach, she bought time to shove him off and return her attention to Discord.
“I’ll show you who’s a failure!” she shouted, trying to get past her large foe’s arms which shielded his face from her fury. “I’m gonna…”
A shock of pain ran through her body, forcing her to reel back. Looking to the side, she could see Radiance standing by a recovering Bismarck, her horn glowing bright blue. Behind them stood, Cherry, the Apple family, and Andromeda, all watching in silent fear.
“You’re not thinking straight, Flora!” Andromeda called out, having jumped out of bed to see what the commotion was about. “You need help! Let us help you!”
“I don’t need your help!” Flora shouted. “I don’t need your pity!”
“Please, I don’t want to hurt you!” Radiance said firmly, returning the attention to her friend’s victim. “Let him go! Now!”
Rage overtook Flora’s mind. All she wanted in this moment was to fight and Radiance was in her way. Flora growled and let go of Discord.
“I’ll kill you first!” she screamed.
Lunging at her unicorn friend, Flora was only able to take a couple steps before Bismarck intercepted her. With a vicious right hook, his hoof collided with the right side of Flora’s face with such force, her hind legs flew from under her. Falling onto and remaining collapsed on the floor, her weary body lost consciousness, but not before she heard somepony shout aloud.
“Berry!” the voice cried. “Berry, are you alright?”
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Cherry, Applejack, and Bismarck stood by Berry in the kitchen while he tried to keep his bleeding nose under control. He had managed to protect his face from Flora’s assault for the most part, but not without taking a hoof to the nose. While he was being taken care of, Cherry appeared to be in a worse emotional state than he was physically.
“Open wide,” Applejack said calmly, holding a small pinch of herbs. “Eatin’ this will help slow the bleedin’ down.”
Berry nodded silently and took his medicine.
“What the hay happened here?” Bismarck asked to nopony in particular. “Why did Flora attack you Berry like that? Why did she threaten to kill Radiance?”
“It’s this horrible spell!” Cherry exclaimed. “It’s messing with our minds and killing us!”
Applejack grew still.
“And if y’all start killin’ each other first?” she asked. “What then?”
“Then?” Bismarck said, trying to come up with something. “Then we’re goin' to have to do what ah’ve been fearin' fer a long time. We have to restrain our infected friends.”
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Inside Applejack’s bedroom, three guards stood around Flora’s still body. Radiance and Andromeda had each volunteered to keep watch of her and neither of them could find the courage to leave her side or Fluttershy’s. The pink-haired pegasus sat by her daughter’s bedside, face on its side and soaked with tears. Radiance and Andromeda remained quiet, but something was on Andi’s mind. Standing behind Fluttershy, she placed a gentle hoof on the grieving mother’s shoulder and spoke.
“I need to talk to Radiance in private for a bit, but if you need anything at all, just tell us.”
Fluttershy gave them permission to leave and closed her eyes again. Once they had exited the room and slowly closed the door behind them, Radiance and Andromeda let out a deep breath.
“I feel so bad for her, Andi,” Radiance sighed. “Fluttershy is so much more fragile in this time period. First Peach falls into a coma and now Flora goes crazy and attacks Berry. Every time I see her, I feel like a piece of her is dying.”
“She’s not the only one,” Andromeda replied.
“But what about you? Should you be up and about? I know you’ve been going through a tough time.”
“Yeah. Yeah, I’m okay. Flora needs the bed much more than I do.”
“I don’t even know what’s going on anymore. It seems like every passing day, someone goes crazy or gets hurt.”
Neither of the other two said anything in response. The hallway was silent.
“We’ve finally done it,” Andromeda finally whispered after some time. “We’re slowly turning into wild animals. Just like my mom’s journal said we would. Flora, Berry, Cherry… me…”
Her eyes fixated on her friend.
“And now Bismarck.”
Radiance stared back at her in shock.
“Bismarck? What did he do?”
“Not what he did. What he didn’t do.”
“What are you talking about?”
Andromeda nervously shifted her weight back and forth a bit while her mouth tried to form the words.
“Bismarck is… the strongest one of all of us, Radiance. He could have held Flora down and, to be honest, I thought that he would. I trusted that he would, but he didn’t. When Flora tried to hurt you…”
“He was just trying to protect me,” Radiance defended. “Bismarck did not mean to hurt Flora like that. He wouldn’t do that.”
“That’s just it,” Andromeda said plainly. “Bismarck wouldn’t do that because it’s not in his character. Just like Flora would never threaten to kill you because hurting others is not in her character.”
“So, what, are you saying that he liked taking her down? Flora, his best friend?”
“No,” Andromeda shook her head. “I’m not. What I’m saying is that I saw the look in his eyes and I recognized that intensity. Bismarck had the same look of rage that Flora did, but not when she was attacking him or even Berry. He went out of control…”
“…when I was in danger,” Radiance whispered, piecing the puzzle in her head.
Andromeda took a step closer to her friend and looked straight into her sapphire eyes.
“Bismarck did not hold back when he threw that final punch,” she said sternly. “He lost control, Radiance. Just like Flora did. Just like Berry and Cherry… and me.”
“What’s your point, Andi?”
“My point,” Andromeda continued, “is that Bismarck might have shown weakness to the spell.”
“Weakness? What weakness?”
Andromeda shook her head lightly and smiled.
“Me? How am I…”
“You know Bismarck is ultra-protective, Radiance! All his life he’s been a hard worker who gives more than he takes, and if he had the option, he would gladly give his life to save the lives of you and your baby. In normal circumstances his intentions would be noble, but with this spell warping our minds… he could end up being… dangerous.”
Tears began welling in Radiance’s eyes. She shook her head in denial, exhaling through her nose and clenching her jaw.
“No,” she whispered. “Not Bismarck. I don’t believe for a second that Bismarck would intentionally hurt anypony!”
“He already has, Radiance! Bismarck has been a close friend to Flora longer than any of us! The three of us were Crusaders together! Our friendship runs deep but that didn’t matter to him when she attacked you! Any ties he had were broken the moment you were in danger and he is too strong and powerful to get in the way of! Not even Tempest would be able to take him on if he lost control again, and you know that! I love Bismarck too, but right now I fear him even more.”
“I can handle him,” Radiance pleaded as she stared at the ground. “I… I can keep him under control. He listens to me!”
Radiance lifted her head again, tears rolling down her cheeks. Andromeda grew quiet and placed her hoof on her friend’s shoulder.
“And if anything happens to you? What then? Who’s going to protect us from him when you… and your baby... are dying.”
Radiance began leaning against the wall like her legs were giving out on her. In all the commotion of Flora’s actions, she had almost forgotten about the baby. It wasn’t so long ago that she promised Bismarck that everything would be fine, but now, hearing the absolute sincerity of Andromeda’s words, she didn’t know what to think anymore. In one fell swoop, her world was beginning to collapse around her. She could see the pictures of a family and a future with Bismarck begin to turn to dust, fading away from any and all possibility. Suddenly breathing was starting to get difficult and she found herself slowly inhaling and exhaling carefully. She knew exactly what was coming.
“Radiance, what’s going on?” Andromeda asked worryingly. “What’s…”
Before she could finish, Radiance had thrown up on the floor. Once again, morning sickness had taken its toll and the traumatizing state she was already in was not helping. Andromeda stood there watching in guilt and tried to comfort her friend.
“Radiance,” she whispered. “Are you…”
“Please!” Radiance cried. “Just… go away!”
Since they arrived in the past, Radiance had dealt with a leg fracture, the stresses of secrecy about her relationship with Bismarck, the sudden and unexpected news of her own pregnancy, and the constant knowledge that these days may be her last. Despite it all, she held onto the hope that they would all make it through. Even her battle with morning sickness was not enough to discourage her, instead (for all the misery it gave her) reminding her that she and Bismarck would have a reason to fight, survive, and live happily together. Now she laid on the floor, devastated and sick to her stomach. The spell had taken its toll. She had finally been broken.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Andromeda reluctantly backed away from her distraught friend and entered Applejack’s room. Passing by a resting Flora and Fluttershy, she picked up the envelope the twins had given her earlier, exited, and made her way outside. While she walked to the barn, she stared the piece of paper down, inspecting it carefully. Radiance’s morning sickness had reminded her of another mother who had been speaking to her as of late, and just like with Radiance, Andromeda felt guilt from the words she had said.
‘Why would you even write to me?’ she thought to herself. ‘I’ve done nothing but hurt you.’
She desperately wanted to see what was inside, but her hooves stayed away from opening its dry rectangular form.
“She couldn’t give it to me herself,” Andromeda whispered, giving verbal answers to her thoughts, “which means she wanted me to open this without her nearby.”
Her analytical mind began to race through possibilities of the reasoning behind this. If it was a hoof-written letter, what kind would it be? Happy or sad? Encouraging or serious? Perhaps it wasn’t a letter, but a card. No, no, no. Why a card? Giving a “get well soon” card didn’t seem Twilight-like, especially when her future daughter was involved.
“But am I really a daughter to her?” Andi asked herself, feeling a light chill.
Minutes passed as Andromeda continued to ponder, but each passing second felt like an eternity while she continued to stare. Finally succumbing to her curiosity, she slowly opened it up to find a letter.
‘Just as I figured,’ she thought to herself, unfolding it.
Taking a deep breath, she exhaled slowly before reading. It said:
“My Dear Andi,”
Andromeda stopped right away. Twilight had called her Andi. Before, the abbreviation had annoyed her, but now? She couldn’t explain why, but something about this particular choice of wording seemed genuine. She continued to read, hearing her mother’s voice with every word.
“It’s still so hard to believe that I am actually writing this letter to you, my own daughter from the future. Even though we have been working together for some time, I still feel elation in the fact that I have had the opportunity to spend time with you. My only wish is that the circumstances had been much different.”
Andromeda sighed in a moment of agreement before reading on.
“I know that things have been difficult for you since you arrived in the past. Your friends depend on you to save them and they cannot possibly understand the complexities of what you are trying to accomplish. They look to you for leadership, but though they are your friends, they do not fully understand the weight that a leader must bear. Putting others above yourself is a monumental task and taking care of yourself in the process is an even greater one. I know these feelings because I’ve been there. I’ve had to protect my home, my friends, and the kingdom on multiple occasions. I know how it feels to be tired. To feel like the struggle is never ending. To feel overwhelmed from it all. I know these feelings, Andi.”
Andromeda could hear the pause of Twilight’s words in her head. Several words afterwards had been crossed out before deciding on what to say next.
“But I don’t know you,” Twilight continued. “I can’t possibly understand all the things that make you who you are. Everything inside me wishes that I could know what has gone on in your life. I wish that I had the memories of my future life to help you with these difficult times. I wish I knew your dreams and your ambitions, your fears and your quirks, but I don’t. I wish I could know the times we were happy together and the times where I was there to comfort you. If only I could understand like I wish I could. Just as you feel helpless in the face of danger, I feel helpless when I am with you. Some days I feel more like a hindrance than a help, as if I am a constant and painful reminder of something that happened to you.”
Three words in ink followed these sentences. Andromeda could feel a lump in her throat.
“I’m sorry, Andromeda,” it said. “I am so sorry for everything you’ve gone through, now and in the future. I don’t know if I become a good mother. I hope I do, because if I don’t… the thought that you might ever come to hate me terrifies me.”
Andromeda’s hooves clung to the paper tightly.
“I know that, in my world, we have only just met, but I want you to know that I love you. I will always love you and I will always do everything I can to be there for you. You are as beautiful and bright as the stars I named you after and I am so proud to call you my daughter. I hope you never ever forget that.”
With all the love in the world,