• Published 12th Aug 2013
  • 13,697 Views, 217 Comments

Warring Dusk - AlphatheGriffin17

A happy day soon descends into a war between two peoples. Canterlot is under siege, the princesses are captured and Dusk must take up arms or watch his home fall.

  • ...

Love and Light

Darkness took all he could see for the longest time. He wished that he could see some semblance of any shape in the void... a flash of butter yellow with a streak of pink. Shining, expressive blue eyes. When it finally started to clear, his first thought was that when darkness was all he could see, at least he knew what he was looking at.

There were colours, but he couldn't make out what they were. His vision was just one big blur, like somepony had spilled water on a canvas of wet paint. There were sounds, but he couldn't make those out either. His ears were ringing and the sounds were muffled. Not exactly the first time he'd woken up like this and it was just as bad as those other times.

Not only that, but he also became aware of a dull throbbing in his head, accompanied with a residual burning sensation. Since he'd only just started to comprehend basic senses, he didn't really have much time to think about it...

But some vague, very vague, memories started to come back to him. Those expressive eyes widened in fear as she screamed. Her butter yellow form lying helpless on the ground, scrabbling away from two leering black shapes. All he'd seen from then on was a storm of red that filled his whole vision... and his mind.

Other things started to blur together to form some semblance of shape. Yelling and snarling like an animal, the multiple impacts of his hooves on flesh and bone, the growing storm of red. Anger. Pure, unbridled anger, ending with a sudden, burning pain... then nothing. Nothing but the darkness and the state he was in now.

Now the world was slowly becoming clearer. He could make out a cloudy sky, damaged buildings, many coloured shapes all massed together in the centre. Black shapes were there too, some of them were flying, others were stationed on the ground. Two appeared to be directly in front of him. His mind was waking up, becoming clearer, and processing all of his information.

The cloudy memories he had, the flashes of anger and violence gave way to previous ones. Yelling and shouting from others around him, a sense of fear and companionship. A need to protect those around him from harm by fighting. He had been in battle... a very fierce, recent battle. In the town that he called home.

Ray blinked several times and shook his head for good measure. He could see more clearly now. He recognised where he was now. He was still in the village square where he remembered the battle taking place. Only it didn't have the same homely, welcoming feel he'd remembered when he'd first set hoof here. Craters in the ground, chunks of missing roof and wall. It wasn't good seeing it like this...

Actually, it seemed to end up in this state with rather worrying regularity now that he thought about it. It was actually amazing anypony still lived here.

The ponies in question were still here. The brave volunteers who had stayed behind to fight the enemy had now paid one of the prices that could have been expected from such resistance. They were now here, amassed in the centre of town, surrounded on all sides by their changeling captors. Thoroughly dispirited and beaten, matching the state of their home.

He looked around at them all. Some were slumped on the ground, crying at the unfairness of it all, others spitting in the faces of their captors, either bound and tied for doing so or just knocked down. Pegasi had their wings restrained, unicorns tried using their magic and failed, earth ponies unable to run or fight.

He cast his eyes around for any sign of the girls, but they were completely lost in the mass of ponies or maybe they'd been taken somewhere else. Occasionally, he thought he saw a flash of orange, heard a refined voice among those shouting, a faint, soft weeping of a gentle kind. He had to try and find them.

He tried to move his legs, but encountered resistance. He continued to struggle, looking down to see that they had been held in place by the green substance the changelings excreted. He could barely move any of his limbs. He noticed also he seemed to be kept apart from the mass of prisoners, watched over by two changelings who stood close by.

One of them glanced around at the sounds he was making and leered in amusement. He nudged his friend, who turned and matched his expression.

"Well, well, look who's finally awake," the one on the right hissed. "You have a nice nap, pony?"

"I hope you did," put in the one on the left, "because you're gonna wish you were still out of it by the time we're done."

Ray only growled back at them, focusing his energy on a teleport spell. They wouldn't be laughing by the time he was done. Only he couldn't. He tried with all his might, but it was like the energy to perform it couldn't be dipped in to. It was blocked. He could hear his horn fizzling pathetically from his efforts.

"Don't bother," Right sneered. "We figured you'd try that, so we gave a special little something so you don't run out on us."

"Yeah." Left started to poke his horn roughly. "Wouldn't want you to leave so soon before we've even started the fun."

At this point, he became aware of something cold and clammy around his horn. He couldn't see it, but he could feel it.

"You like it?" Right asked. "A little something we brought along for any unicorns who might give us some trouble. Suppresses your precious magic so you can't use it for anything."

"Call it payback," followed up Left. "You took out quite a few of our number in your little frenzy. Now, we're gonna make sure you don't go anywhere."

"So, get comfy, Mr Mean and Green," taunted Right. "You're gonna be here for a while."

But Ray had already started to blank out their talking, even his concern about his current predicament, only focusing on what that changeling had just said. He did remember all the fighting and pummelling of changelings, but could hardly recall any of the details. The sea of red, the purity of his anger, the burning in his head...

All of that could only point to one thing. Dread started to grow inside him at the thought of it. It had happened again...

The changeling was blinded by the sudden flare from his horn, staggering back and crying out. But Dusk barely gave her time to recover before he was on her, his hooves glowing orange and striking her as hard as he could.

Cadence had turned away the instant she suspected what would happen and turned back to watch, with growing horror, the scene that unfolded before her.

If he had less energy from the feeding the changeling had no doubt been doing, he seem didn't show it. The pain, the betrayal, the anger that no doubt surged through him now was enough to give him strength. His inhibitions were forgotten. The only thing he wanted now was to hurt this vile excuse of a creature and he was going to do just that.

The changeling tried to recover from the first blow, but was hit by another Cadence was sure should have knocked her head right off. Her disguise flickered a moment before Dusk barged into her, sending her flying into shadow tendrils which wrapped around her. She was thrown around, smacked into the ground a few times before being sent back into Dusk's hoof again.

Dusk's anger burned, the changeling cried out for mercy. She could see specks of green blood falling from the imposter. He grabbed her, held her up and drew back his hoof again to deliver another blow.

Finally, she remembered herself. "Dusk! STOP!"

"Why should I?!" His eyes seemed to burn when he faced her. "They took Twilight! They replaced her with this imposter and they need to PAY!"

"Perhaps they do, but not like this," she insisted. "Don't do something that you'll know you'll regret. You're better than this, Dusk. I know you are, now please... just stop."

He blinked slowly. He stared at her, then at the changeling. Something changed in his eyes, the fire that it was in it now dying down, like he was only seeing now what was happening. What he was doing.

Finally, he released the changeling. Its disguise left, revealing its true form. It stared up at Dusk with a mixture of hatred and fear.

"Go," he ordered in a low voice. "I won't kill you, nor will I attack when you run. Return to your queen and your people."

It looked confused. "That... that's it? You'll just... let me go?"

"I will." He looked at it with a lidded gaze. "I'll not stoop to the levels your people already have, that you have. I'm not like you."

It actually laughed, stepping forward. "Too cowardly to do what must be done? To do what is right?"

His expression darkened. "You really think what you've done so far is right? Because if you do, you've just lost the right to even speak to me, now back off!"

It did so, but it still tried to look defiant. "We are at war, Dusk. Are you scared to kill me, even when we are enemies?"

She could see him shaking again. "There's nothing brave about taking a life."

The changeling managed a sneer. "You had best hope you don't regret those words."

"GET AWAY FROM ME!" He fired a few shots at its hooves, making it cry out again. "GET OUT OF MY SIGHT!"

It didn't need much more incentive than that. It was gone seconds later, the only traces of its lingering presence being the faint buzzing of its wings and the receding dot of its form. Cadence watched until it was gone before turning to look at the pony that had sent it running.

His anger had passed now, spent on the changeling. Now, there was only despair. Hopelessness. His head was hung, the brim of his hat casting a shadow over his eyes. Even with that, she could still see the tears beginning to fall from them. Despite the injuries she'd sustained, it was hurting the princess so much more to witness this.

The well of compassion for him seemed to fill her up and she started to walk to him. But she put weight on her leg, which failed her and she fell again with a small cry. It was enough to get Dusk's attention, who was with her in moments.

"Cadence!" Even in his shivering voice, she could hear his concern. "Are you alright? Did it injure you badly?"

"Nothing serious, I'm sure," she winced. "I'll be fine... just a little tired."

"I think I know the feeling..." She could see his body quivering faintly, his eyes drooping. "We need to get somewhere safe, somewhere secluded where the changelings won't find us."

"Sounds like a good idea," she agreed. "Do you know somewhere like that?"

He nodded. "I think I might. Can you stand?"

"I'll try..." She did, but her legs gave way again. "Sorry."

"Don't be, it's not your fault. Here..." He went to her side, helped her up and propped himself against her.

"Such a gentlecolt," she smiled. "What about you then, Dusk? Are you alright?"

He looked away from her. "I'll feel better once we get you treated."

"If you insist." She waited for more, but nothing came. "I suppose we'd better get going then."

Dusk didn't say anything else. He just nodded again and began to lead her off, supporting her carefully against his side. She let him have his silence. The changeling's influence may have been gone, but she had a feeling that wasn't all he needed to get rid of.

While he supported her, she looked towards Ponyville. The fighting had stopped now, but she could still see changelings up in the air or patrolling the streets. A sense of loss came over her at the thought. They had won. All those brave ponies who stood up to them were now prisoners, soon to be used for feeding. What kind of a fate was that?

She looked down at Dusk, who had his eyes resolutely fixed on wherever they were going, like he couldn't bear to look at it. Maybe with all that he'd been through, seeing the town he called home being taken over like this would be too much for him. She honestly couldn't blame him one bit. She had broken him from the spell, but she could still see the pain in his eyes.

So much pain for one so young. He really didn't deserve it. She wished she had the energy to do something more. There was only so much her magic could do though.

They kept carefully to the outskirts, heading further away from the town and out into the fields. It wasn't long before Cadence could see where they were going. At the top of a small hill in the meadows, she could see the trademark dome-shape of an observatory, the lens pointed up at the sky. A small house was set next to it, hidden behind the hill. Secluded and out of the way. Good thinking on Dusk's part.

He reached the door and knocked on it. After a few seconds and some hushed whispers within, the door opened carefully, a pony peering through the crack.

"Dusk? Is that you?" he asked in a hushed whisper.

"Don't worry, Nightfall, it's me," he assured. "We need your help. Can you let us in?"

"I... I don't know. I need to be sure, to make sure you're not an imposter," he said cautiously. "Prove to me you're Dusk. Tell me something only he would know."

Dusk barely hesitated. "When I first met you, I was worried that I'd ruined one of my friendships , but you taught me that as long as you're willing to make up for what you've done, there's no such thing as a ruined friendship. Life's too short to worry about things like that."

He seemed to relax a little. "That's definitely you. What about her though?"

"She's fine too," he promised. "This is Princess Cadence. She's been injured and we need to use your observatory so we can tend to her. Please, will you let us in?"

"I'm... I'm not sure." He scrutinized her. "She could be an injured changeling, trying to fool you."

Before Cadence could interject something to alleviate his fears, a different voice cut in. A mare with a soft, kind voice, yet with a tone that accepted no nonsense.

"Nightfall, that's enough," she berated. "I think it's quite clear that they're not changelings."

"I'm just being careful, Shimmer."

"I know you are, but he's proven that it's him and they both look like they need our help," she reasoned. "Now come on, let them in."

There was a moment of silence before he stood back and let them in. Cadence smiled at the dull-grey stallion which he returned, along with the pink-coated mare who watched them closely, supporting the princess on her other side.

"Come on, we'll rest you here," she offered. Carefully, they set her down on a comfortable couch. "There. It's not much for royalty, but I hope you like it."

"It's just what I needed, thank you," she smiled. "Your kindness is appreciated, Shimmer."

"It's our pleasure, your highness," she bowed. "And you're Dusk Noir? Night's told me a lot about you. It's good to finally meet you."

"Likewise," he returned, though there wasn't much brightness in his tone. "Right, I need to go somewhere. I won't be long."

"Are you sure?" Nightfall asked. "I'm sure it's not exactly safe out there."

"I know, but I have to," he replied. "I need to hurry quickly to the Everfree Forest. There's somepony there that can help. Stay and watch over her, I'll be back as quickly as I can."

"We will. You can count on us, Dusk," promised Shimmer.

He nodded once, then left a moment later in quite a hurry. Almost like he wanted to get away from them. She wasn't the only one who noticed.

"Is he okay?" Nightfall asked. "He seemed rather... preoccupied."

"He'll be fine. He's just..." She paused, searching for the right words. "He's lost something very precious to him. Or rather, somepony."

"Oh dear." Shimmer grimaced sympathetically. "I hope he finds her again."

"The feeling is mutual," she sighed. "Somepony like that isn't easily forgotten."

Shimmer nodded. "And what about you, princess? Is there anything else we can do? Can I get you anything?"

"You're very kind, but I'm sure I'll be fine." She sat up a little and hissed from the pain in her side. "Maybe a cup of tea would help though."

"Of course, you'll be right as rain after that, as any Pegasus would tell you," she smiled. "I'll be back in a few minutes."

"You know," Nightfall remarked as she left, "this is the second time that I've had a princess in my observatory. Perhaps I should consider turning it into a royal venue."

"I think I know one princess who would be very happy to hear that," she giggled. "Thank you again for offering us refuge here, Nightfall."

He shrugged modestly. "Well, Dusk is my friend and you're a princess. I couldn't just leave you out there, highness."

"Not without some persuasion otherwise, of course." She nodded at Shimmer. "It's a good thing she was here."

"I guess." Nightfall smiled after her when she left through the door. "I have to admit, even if I would have preferred it that she was somewhere safer, I'm glad she chose to stay."

"I know she is too." She smiled at the love she could feel radiating from the two of them. "You're a lucky stallion, Nightfall and I can tell she's a lucky mare."

He blushed a little. "I'm not too sure about that last one, but... I know I wouldn't be who I am today without her."

"I won't dispute that." She smiled a little. "So, are you two...?"

He blushed deeper when he caught her meaning. "We're just coltfriend and marefriend, so no. Well, not yet anyway..."

"I see," she said with a conspiratorial wink. "Don't worry, I won't say anything."

Nightfall nodded mutely, but he still managed to smile through his blush. She returned it, reminded of that special pride she always felt from the fact that she was the Princess of Love. Something she'd been proud of the moment her horn had been gifted to her.

Shimmer returned with a cup of hot tea, which already began to make her feel better the moment she started to drink it. While she sipped on her tea and conversed politely with her hosts, she could almost forget there wasn't a war on outside. Until she was reminded of a lack of familiar presence that should have been at her side. Even so, she kept her smile and tried to cope with the pang in her heart.

"So, why are you both still here?" she asked. "I'm sure you must have heard about the changeling attack, even if you are out of town a little."

"Well... I did know about the attack and the evacuation," he admitted. "I didn't really want to fight, but... I couldn't bring myself to leave either, so... I hunkered down here, hoping they wouldn't come this far out."

"I see." Others might have called such behaviour cowardly, but Cadence wasn't one to judge. If he had his reasons, she was sure they were good ones. "And what about you, Shimmer? You don't really look like the kind of mare who gets herself into scrapes."

"I suppose not," she laughed. "I could have left, I suppose, but once Night said he was staying here, I knew I was too. Something he's not entirely happy about."

"I'm happy you're with me," he corrected. "I just... I would have felt better if I'd known you were somewhere safe."

"With all that's going on, there's only once place in all of Equestria that I'd feel safe and it's right here." She reached across and took his hoof.

A smile tugged at the stallion's mouth and he took hers in return. He gave Cadence an abashed look. "She's stubborn, but I admit, I couldn't live without her."

"I understand perfectly," she murmured, feeling again the pang in her heart for the one she couldn't live without.

Not long after, Dusk returned from the Forest with the help he promised. This came in the form of a zebra named Zecora, who specialised in herbal remedies with a little bit of added magic from her homeland.

"I will have to examine you first though, from what I can see, it could have been a lot worse," she noted. "Never fear, I shall do my best, to heal your injuries, your highness."

"I'm very grateful to you," said Cadence, letting her run an experienced eye over. "It was just lucky you were in your hut when Dusk came looking for you."

"I was in my home, in a deep meditative trance, so to hear about this fight, I never had the chance," she explained. "Though this is to a good end, I regret not being there to aid my friends."

"Well, I'm sure you'll get the chance soon enough. Right, Dusk?" There was no response. She looked, but there was no sign of the stallion. "Where's Dusk? I thought he came back?"

"He's just outside, I saw him walking up to the observatory," said Nightfall. "I asked him what was wrong, but... he didn't say anything."

She looked out of a nearby window up the hill. She could just make him out next to the observatory, staring off in the direction where Ponyville was. The sun was starting to set though, so it was getting harder to make him out.

"I would give him some time on his part." Zecora was following her gaze. "No medicine I can make can mend a broken heart."

Cadence nodded. "Believe me, I know the feeling."

The sun had almost set below the horizon. The moon was starting to take its place, as were the stars that accompanied it. Normally, he would have been in awe at the sight of them as always. Now however, without the one who raised them watching over them, they seemed rather... empty. Bereft of their beauty.

Part of him wondered at the fact they were even out. It seemed that even Chrysalis recognised the natural order of things and had allowed Luna to carry it on. Or she was using the cover of night for her own nefarious purposes. With the power she probably possessed, maybe it was she who was bringing them out now.

The mere thought of it made him feel sick at heart. As if he didn't have enough eating away at his mind like the imposter had been.

He'd tried to recall any of the details from when he'd been under its control. He couldn't remember everything, but he saw brief moments. Being lost in what he thought had been Twilight's eyes. Fighting Ray in a fit of anger, a moment of guilt when he realised what he'd done. Then he'd run. He'd run away when his friends, his home, had needed him. He'd known this, yet he'd still run.

He could see it now, even in the dark. Being a student of Luna had its benefits. Or perhaps it was a curse, considering what he was looking at. Ponyville, overtaken by the changelings. First Canterlot, now this. Both of his homes had fallen to the changelings, his friends were prisoners and his marefriend had been replaced by one of them.

And what had he done? Nothing. He'd just stood by and let it happen, let himself be used and probably made it even worse. He didn't even know about it until it was too late. Then again, perhaps part of him had... the part that had been scratching away at his mind knew there was something wrong, but he'd just ignored it.

Now, the consequences of his ignorance were shown before him and he couldn't tear his gaze away from it. Until something else got his attention.

"They are beautiful, aren't they?" He glanced around to see Cadence, minus a good deal of her cuts and bruises. "There are times I'm kind of jealous of my aunts. I wish I could make something so beautiful appear like this."

Despite his mood, Dusk tried to be polite. "I'm sure... you manage that in your own way."

She smiled. "That's sweet of you to say so, thank you, Dusk. I know you can manage it just fine with your particular talent."

"Thank you. Twilight thought the same..." It slipped out before he realised it and it certainly didn't help here.

Cadence noted this and joined him by his side. "I know how hard this has to be for you, finding out like this."

"It's just... I..." His voice broke when he tried to speak. "I really thought... it was her. I was... so convinced it was her..."

"I know, I was too." She draped a wing comfortingly around him. "That's what they do though, it's what they're good at. But we beat it and we can beat all of the others too."

He let a bitter tone enter his voice. "Forgive me if I don't share your optimism."

"Dusk, don't be like that," she soothed. "Isn't you that's always telling others to have faith?"

"But how much good will faith do us against the odds we face now?" He looked out at the town. "How can we be strong enough to stand up to that?"

"But you said it yourself, Dusk," she encouraged. "Ponyville has had worse from this and has always come back. It can do so again and so can you, no matter what that changeling may have done."

"But I let it use it against me! It used the weakness it knew I had and I was powerless to stop it!" he shouted. "Their strength is our weakness. They know that and they've already used it, will continue to use it! I know what I said before but... maybe we can't come back from this one. How can we?"

Cadence was silent for a long while in the wake of this outburst. "A weakness? That's what you think love is?"

"The evidence all seems to point that way..."

"I see..." She scrutinized him for a few minutes. "Have you seen Nightfall, Dusk? What would be your opinion of him?"

The question caught him off-guard, but he answered it. "He's a good pony. He has intelligence, a good heart, loyalty to friends and the one... the one he loves."

"I'd agree with you. And Shimmer? What would you say about her?"

"The same for her."

"Would you say then that either one of them look capable of fighting?"

He thought about it. "Not really, no."

"Would say that, if a fight were to come along, they would prefer to just stay out of its way?"

"Their course of action seems to prove that." He shook his head in confusion. "I'm sorry, Cadence, but what's your point?"

"That is my point." She looked towards their house. "If they didn't want to fight, they could have fled along with everypony else who evacuated. They didn't though. They chose to remain here, Shimmer chose to stay here with Nightfall. And why? Why did she choose to stay?"


"You know the answer, don't you? I think you do." She turned back to look at him. "So tell me, Dusk. What is it?"

"Because... because she... she loves him..." he murmured.

"Exactly. For the one she loves, she would risk her own life to remain by his side and give him the same strength that allowed her to make that choice. And they're not the only ones who found strength from this. Do you know who those ponies are? What they did with that strength?"

"I... I don't know..."

"Oh, I think you do. When a young mare and her friends were in danger in the Everfree Forest, one stallion, all on his own, braved its depths to save them. When that stallion was consumed by darkness, another gave him the power to rise above it and when it happened again, that young mare used the same power to vanquish it forever. Even now, what the enemy can use against us we can use against them in return and you know what that power is.

"It's love, Dusk. Every time you or Twilight or any one of your friends has felt beaten, your love for one another, as friends and as lovers, has given you the strength to overcome whatever force opposes you. It took me a while to realise it, but that was what allowed me to save Shining from Chrysalis's control and you from that imposter Twilight. Pure love allowed both you and him to beat the control they had over you. The changelings, they only see it as food, but for us... for us it gives us a strength that nothing can defeat. And that's what will bring about their downfall."

"But... but you've seen it. Feeding off it makes them strong too..."

"And who says we can't use it for the same potential, but not just to fuel our magic, but our hearts too. I know it's what gives me the will to keep fighting." Her eyes shimmered. "I love my Shining Armour and I don't care if I have to fight my way through a thousand changelings. I'm not going to rest until he's back with me, where he belongs because I know he would do the same for me."

The conviction in her voice didn't give Dusk any cause to doubt her. Hearing this and her next words awoke something inside him once again.

"You did the same for Twilight once and she for you. You can do it again, Dusk. I know you can."

She was right. He had done it before, when things had been at their bleakest and most hopeless. Despite his fear, he had still rescued her and the girls. So had she, defeating Doom and bringing him back to the light. The memory, the love of her had broken the imposter's spell and given him back his free will.

Cadence had lost Shining, but she wasn't willing to give up. Maybe there was something to be said about that.

"You really believe in that power?" he asked her.

"Of course I do," she replied without hesitation. "I'm one of the few who truly possess it, after all."

"You think it'll be enough to save Shining?"

"More than enough. And it can save Twilight too, just like it has before."

"Then who am I to doubt it now?" Already, a familiar feeling grew inside him, spreading through his whole body. "Together then? For the ones we love?"

"Together," she vowed. "The changelings might be strong now, but they need to keep feeding. For us, it never ends."

"With you on our side, that will certainly be true." He held out a hoof. "I'm sorry, Cadence. With all that's happened, I just..."

"It's okay." Instead of shaking it, she wrapped her forelegs around him in a hug. "I don't blame you at all. I was the same at first, until Twilight found me in the caverns. She helped renew my hope. I'm glad I was able to do the same for you."

He returned it. "So am I. I hope we can save them. Both of them."

"We have to hold onto that." She pulled away and stood up. "Now then, I think the changelings have had their fun for long enough. It's time to start thinking about giving them a much needed time-out, starting with Ponyville."

"Sounds good to me," he agreed, following her lead. "You think we can take back Ponyville?"

"Why not? You've beaten the odds before and you didn't even have a princess with you," she smiled. "Maybe we should wait until morning to start some kind of planning."

"Yes..." He frowned thoughtfully. "Or maybe we shouldn't. Maybe we should use this to our advantage."


"Because I've just had a thought." He turned around. "The town is in danger, under threat. Its citizens need protecting, saving. They need a hero."

Cadence's smile grew. "So, what are you going to do?"

"Simple." Dusk saw how the shadow appeared to be covering half of his face when he turned around. "I'm going to give them one."

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