• Published 12th Aug 2013
  • 13,698 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.

  • ...

Carry On

Fluttershy hated to see anything or anypony in pain or discomfort. It would usually just extend to her care of animals, but ever since she'd learned friendship's magic, it had carried over to her friends too. In her eyes, it was something that no living creature should have to suffer through and she would take whatever steps necessary to alleviate it.

Those skills had been put to use a lot right now, with all of the injured coming in after the battle. Thankfully, nopony had suffered anything worse than some minor and major injuries. The changelings weren't looking to kill, as they needed as many ponies as they could to feed from. She wasn't sure if the same could be said for their side, but she liked to think of it that nopony she knew would be capable of... well, she didn't prefer to think about it.

Even if they were enemies, she couldn't help but feel sorry for the changelings too. They might be scary, but all they really wanted was a way to eat, even if it was off them. She almost wished they could learn why exactly they'd been driven to do this, if there was any way they could help them somehow. They couldn't all be scary and mean, not like the Paraserpents. How different from ponies were changelings really...?

But she had to accept the reality of what was happening. Even if they had won a battle against the changelings, things were still heated as far as the fighting went. The changelings still had Canterlot, it didn't look like they were ready to surrender it and it felt like there was a lot more that needed to be done before they could even consider sitting and talking things out. She didn't like it, but that was how things were.

Still, it would be good if they could just sit down and talk. She sighed sadly and her current patient picked up on it.

"Something wrong, little sister?" Dusk asked gently.

"Oh, um..." She tried to smile. "It's nothing, big brother. I'm fine."

He wasn't fooled by it, though he kept his understanding look.

"I know, I don't like this any more than you do," he said. "But you know why we have to do it?"

"I do," she nodded. "I just... I wish we didn't have to."

"None of us do, my dear Fluttershy," Zecora said as she passed. "Glory and honour, war does not provide. Only needless suffering, for both sides. The only true gain is striving to lessen that pain."

Dusk nodded. "Truer words were never spoken, Zecora and I'm content to know that it's you two that are able to do that."

"I am too," the zebra said simply, moving on to treat other injured.

"You... really mean that?" She smiled a little when he nodded. "Thank you, Dusk. I'm glad you're back."

"I'm sorry I ever tried to leave," he murmured, his expression darkening.

"It wasn't your fault, Dusk." She continued to dab his face with care. "None of us blame you for what happened."

"That's not what I'm worried about." He changed the subject. "How am I doing?"

She decided not to push it. "It looks much better. Zecora's remedy will make it so there's no scarring from the burn and, as for everything else, you just need a good rest."

"Yeah, you're not kept down easily, are you?" Ray had come over to join them, his own injuries already treated. "I gotta say, you're tougher than you look."

Dusk laughed. "I'll take that as a compliment."

"Good, it was meant to be." He paused. "At least, I hoped it would be."

Though he didn't appear to be acting any differently, Fluttershy had a small urge to keep her distance a little from him.

Even though she still got that pleasant feeling from seeing him, Fluttershy could also feel a twinge of fear from seeing him now. She could still see clearly that look of rage on his face, snarling like an angry wolf while he beat and pummelled any changeling within reach of his hooves. It may have been to protect her, which she was thankful for but...

She almost forgot about it when he smiled at her. Tried to ignore how sharp those teeth appeared to be when she'd last seen them.

"You feeling okay, Flutters?" he asked.

"Y-yes. Well, better now that the fighting's over," she admitted. "What about you?"

"Better knowing I had such a great nurse," he said honestly. "Thanks for fixing me up."

"N-no problem," she stammered. "It... it was the least I could do, after y-y-you saved me. Thanks..."

"You're welcome. Hey, did you notice something back there?" he said to Dusk, his smile brightened. "You went through that whole fight without that mask on and I didn't see you wearing your glasses."

Dusk's mouth opened, but he didn't say whatever he intended. Instead, he held his hoof in front of his eyes, squinting at it, bring it closer and further away for a few minutes. The corners of his mouth curled into a smile.

"I honestly hadn't noticed," he admitted. "I've spent so long wearing them I... I didn't really think about it."

"Does that mean you can see again?" she asked excitedly.

"A lot better than I could, yes," he affirmed. "It's still a little blurry, but I can at least make out what I'm looking at."

"That's wonderful!" She threw her hooves around him. "I'm so happy for you!"

"Me too," Ray grinned. "Now we know that you're not gonna be feeling blindly around the battlefield because you lost your glasses."

"Pardon my asking, but who was it who had to come and save you?" he countered.

"I'd have found a way out. Somehow."

"Really? How?"

"I told you, somehow. Isn't that enough?"

"Frankly, no."

He shook his head. "You're beating me in battles with words as well as hooves now. What happened to the unicorn I had to beat over the head with a pipe when he was feeling sorry for himself?"

"He decided to start wearing a helmet," replied Dusk. "I'm sure you'll find the opportunity to use it again, once you get it back from Spike."

He shrugged. "I might let him keep it. There are plenty of other things I can use to hit you with instead."

"You can't beat the classics though, but I do think we should drop this topic, considering present company," said Dusk, nodding to Fluttershy.

She only smiled. "It's okay, I know you don't mean anything by it. Just so long as you don't hurt him too badly."

"With the punches I know he can throw now, I'm definitely bearing that in mind," remarked Ray, rubbing his stomach.

"It does seem to have worked anyway," she noted. "Maybe you should try it on me instead."

"Heh, I don't think so..." He rubbed the back of his head. "I could never bring myself to hit you with anything..."

"I hope not," she murmured, remembering that livid look again. "Still, I'm just happy we're all safe."

"Not all of us..." At this, Dusk's face fell and he looked away.

"Oh..." She hugged him again. "I'm... I'm sorry, I didn't... I'm worried about her too."

"We all are," put in Ray, placing a hoof on his shoulder. "We'll get her back, Dusk. If you keep fighting how I saw you doing today, I'd be surprised if we didn't have her back by tomorrow, along with kicking every changeling out of Canterlot and beyond."

"I wouldn't really say that... What about you though?" Dusk asked. "I've been hearing from some of the others here that you really gave the changelings your all and then some."

"I... I guess," he muttered, rubbing the back of his head. "Not like you didn't though, right?"

"A fair point," he said with a reluctant chuckle. "Even so, from what I hear, it was quite a sight to see.

Ray suddenly went uncharacteristically quiet. After a moment of this, he perked up with a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes.

"You could say that," he chuckled, starting off. "Well, I'd better be off. After all that's happened today, I am in deep need of a hot meal and a nice long nap. Maybe a shower too."

"Oh, I'd love one too!" Her face flushed when she realised what she said. "N-n-not with you, I mean! I-I-I mean, i-i-in my o-o-own house, um... with my own shower. N-n-not that I w-w-wouldn't want, um... I mean, I-I-I wouldn't um... oh dear..."

"It's fine, I get it," he said, though he was blushing too. "I think I'd best head before either of us embarrass ourselves further. Not that that ever stops me."

She managed to return his smile before he vanished away. In the split second before he was gone though, she thought he saw that smile fall.

"Well, good to see he's still himself," she laughed nervously. "Right, Dusk? Dusk?"

She saw the look on his face too. The one he usually had when he was deep in thought, staring at the spot where Ray had vanished. Had he noticed something too? He saw that she was looking at him and the look was gone.

"Yes and I wouldn't have him any other way."

"Me neither. A-as my friend, of course," she added quickly.

"Of course. To echo him, I think I need a rest too." He got up from the bed. "I'll be at my house, if you need me."

"Okay," she nodded. "Have a nice sleep, big brother. I'm glad you're back."

He smiled at her. "Me too, Fluttershy. Good luck with the treating here, little sister."

Even as he left, Fluttershy couldn't help but feel they'd both given her the same kind of smile. Not the kind that said they were okay, but the kind where they only wanted to appear that way so as not to worry anypony. On the one hoof, she was happy they were still safe. On the other...

She went to work on another pony, her mind wandering between Ray's animalistic growls and the pain in Dusk's eyes he was trying so hard to hide...

"Well, they certainly didn't waste any time, huh?" Applejack remarked, walking outside and away from the celebrations. "Even in times like this, Pinkie still knows how ta throw a party."

The Pegasus, who was already outside, shrugged. "I guess..."

It was still night, some parts of the town were still wrecked and there were a few ponies who were getting treated for their injuries. But right now, the ponies of Ponyville needed to wind down and Applejack couldn't really blame them. She had seen though that Rainbow hadn't exactly been joining in on the festivities and had come out to talk to her friend.

Normally, she would respect anypony who wanted to have some time with their thoughts, but this was Rainbow Dash. She'd already been milking in the glory from taking down Hard Edge with Dusk, partnering with the Shadow Spectre and now she was out here, actually away from the spotlight. That alone was cause for concern.

"What's wrigglin' 'round in yer wings then?" she asked.

"I just don't think we should be throwing a party when there's still the main event." She looked over at Canterlot. "They're down, but they're not out. They can still make a comeback."

She nodded. "Ah can see where yer comin' from, Rainbow, but ah reckon we should let 'em have this one." She looked back to the celebrations. "These ponies see enough-a what we have ta deal with as it is, first time they've ever gotten involved in it, ah reckon."

Rainbow considered briefly. "I guess you're right. We gotta do something to keep everypony going, when you put it like that, but I'll be happier once these guys are gone for good. Then I'll put on my party hat."

"Better make sure Pinkie Pie don't hear ya say that," she chuckled. "She'll be over here an' havin' ya Pinkie Promise on it before ya know it."

"Don't say that," she hissed. "Otherwise it might really happen."

"Oh come on, she's busy enjoyin' herself," she dismissed. "There's no way she can hear us gabbin' over here with all that goin' on."

"Never underestimate Pinkie Pie," she said wisely. "That's a mistake I've made too many times."

"An' how." She looked out at Canterlot. "Ya think they'll make another stained glass window-a us after this?"

Rainbow smirked. "Getting a little ahead of yourself there, aren't you?"

She raised an eyebrow. "Are you, of all ponies, tellin' me about gettin' ahead-a maself?"

"Yeah, but I'm awesome, I'm allowed to," she countered. "Why, do you want another glass window? You starting to like the spotlight of being a hero, AJ?"

"Ya mean like you did?" She laughed again. "Ah'd jus' be fine with a hoofshake an' a well done, ta be honest," she shrugged. "Ah don't need much more praise'n that."

"Good thing too, otherwise we'd have to track the length of Equestria to bring you back from starting work in a... I dunno, banana orchard or something."

Applejack laughed. "Gotta admit, that does sound temptin'. Never worked with bananas before, but ah think ah'll stick ta apples."

"You'd better," she chuckled. "But I sorta stand by what I said. We still got a way to go before we think about stained glass windows or getting our hooves shaken."

"Never thought ah'd see the day when you were bein' cautious," she said. "Way ah see it, buckin' the firs' tree in the orchard is jus' the firs' step-a buckin' 'em all."

"Yeah, but it helps when you've got more ponies doing the bucking," she replied. "We did fine here, but we didn't even face the full changeling army. We're going to need a lot more ponies if we're gonna take 'em on."

"Ah see what you mean," she nodded. "Well, now word's gotten ta Hoofdale, ah'm sure they'd be wantin' ta send a few volunteers our way, 'specially since we jus' won."

"That's a good start, but it'd be good if we got some more backup too." She frowned. "It's kinda hard to think of where though."

"Well, there's Appleloosa," she proposed. "Them settlers are tough, hardened folk and the buffalo even more so. Be nice ta have Lil' Strongheart with us again too."

"Yeah, she is pretty cool," agreed Rainbow. "But Appleloosa is also a day's travel from here in the middle of nowhere. It would take too long for somepony to get there with a message and then to get back."

"We could get some more air support from Cloudsdale." She nudged her. "Bet ya'd love ta be with the Wonderbolts in a fight like that."

"Oh, man that would be so awesome!" she cried. "With all the moves and formations they know, they'd fly circles around those bugs!"

"There ya go!" she grinned. "So, why don't ya zoom on up an' give 'em a holler?"

"But that's the thing. Next to us, they're closest to Canterlot." She looked up at the sky. "I think they should know about this by now, considering both us and Canterlot have been attacked and they're practically right on the doorstep. Maybe send some kind of official.

"And ya haven't tried jus' flyin' up an' checkin' it out?"

"I figure that if they do wanna help, they'll let us know. Besides," she added, "Cloudsdale can handle itself if the worst comes to worst. They can handle themselves if anything happens."

"What an' we can't?"

"Not without your friendly neighbourhood Rainbow Dash." She smirked brightly. "I wouldn't leave my friends in a bind."

"Ah know that well enough," she said honestly. "We'll get back at the changelings soon enough."

"I wish I knew just how soon." She fidgeted irritably. "We need to hit 'em soon, while they're still recovering from this fight."

"We all need some time ta recover," she noted. "Fer now, ah'd say we're managing that jus' fine."

Rainbow glanced back at the party fondly. "Yeah, can't argue with that."

"But hey, it ain't jus' the number-a ponies but the ponies ya already have. Don't ferget, we got Ray on our side," remarked Applejack. "If he keeps up what he was doin' before, ah'd be surprised the changelings don't surrender the moment we're in Canterlot."

"Yeah, remind me never to get on his bad side." She looked around. "Where is he, anyway? I thought he'd be in on all of this."

"Last ah heard, he was gettin' himself a rest at home, along with Dusk," she told her. "Personally, ah'd say they've both earned it."

"Yeah, they're gonna need what rest they can get. We all do." Her smile grew. "Good thing he came back when he did, huh?"

"Ya can say that again," she agreed. "Say what ya like about the feller, he always comes back in the end. Even if ah still haven't completely ruled out ma plan-a hogtyin' him ta keep him from leavin'."

"Hey, that's your business," she laughed. "Though if you need help holding him down, don't hesitate to ask."

"Thank ya kindly."

"Rainbow Daaaaaaaaaash!" a perky voice sang. "What was that you were saying about you putting on a party hat?"

Applejack sniggered while Rainbow frowned and prepared herself when the pink pony came bouncing over. Honestly, the farm pony was surprised she didn't hear them earlier.

Dusk awoke from his sleep at home to see the sun just starting to break over the horizon, a red glow burning with its arrival. He recalled reading somewhere in folklore about what this signified and soon began to wish he hadn't. Instead, he focused on the sensation of still feeling drained, despite his rest and treatment.

He lay silently in his bed for a long while after he woke, something he very rarely did. He would normally be up and raring to go, ready to do what he always enjoyed doing every day. He could almost believe the events of last night had all just been some terrible dream. But he couldn't. He couldn't ignore the fact of one, vital thing that he was missing now, that made the hole in his heart seem so much bigger.

He could almost feel her next to him, whispering softly in his ear and playing with the hair on his chest. Then he would look, thought he saw a flash of green, the glint of white fangs...

Suddenly, he wasn't as keen to just lie here in bed anymore. He got up and went into the bathroom, splashing his face with some cold water to wake himself up. He stared at himself in the mirror for a long while. His fur was ragged, his eyes looked tired and baggy, his demeanour hunched. It looked what little rest he did get hadn't exactly helped him. How could he rest with all that had happened recently plaguing his mind.

It wasn't just the violence that disturbed him. It was how willing he had been to participate in it. It hadn't been long before he had been able to almost completely ignore the feeling of revulsion he had whenever he hurt another living thing. In that battle, the way he had just settled into it, how willing he was to throw the next punch, cast the next spell. And this time, there was no Doom to blame it on.

He looked around his house, now not even comfortable here. Maybe it was being without Twilight or just that he couldn't stand the silence that even Ophelia couldn't break. She was asleep now anyway, so she wouldn't be much in the way of company. He needed somepony to actually talk to and it didn't take him long to decide who.

Again, maybe it was his the recent loss of the pony she'd helped him win the heart of, but he soon found himself knocking on the door of Carousel Boutique. He could barely even remember his walk across town to get here, but he put on a smile when the debutante came to greet him at the door and welcome him inside.

"I'm sorry if I'm disturbing you," he said, while she led him upstairs.

"Don't be silly, Dusk," she insisted. "I've already had my rest and have been spending my time looking to fix your fabulous costume. I'm serious, it truly is a masterpiece, perfectly form fitting and suitably stylish. Where ever did you get it?"

He smiled. "Let's just say I have friends in high places."

"Alright then, keep your secrets. Regardless, I did the best that I could with your costume." She held it up, showing all the holes completely stitched over. "I managed to repair the superficial damage, but I couldn't restore whatever enchantments have been placed on it. It's magic far beyond what I can do."

"You've done a great job, Rarity," he said. "I've managed just fine without the Spectre in the past, I think I can do without him this time. Besides it um... it gets kind of tight to wear after a while."

"I imagine it would." She giggled from how deeply he blushed. "Oh, darling, you and Spike are both quite becoming in that shade of red."

"I imagine he would," he echoed, chuckling at the result. "May I say that the same sentiments can be extended to you?"

"Oh, hush you," she giggled. "On the subject of looks though, may I say that it is quite a remarkable sight to see you without your glasses?"

"Thank you." He reached for them out of habit. "I have to admit, it does feel rather strange not wearing them anymore. I'd gotten rather used to them."

"I understand, but considering what we're going to be doing, it's good you know longer have something that could be easily knocked away to render you sightless," she reasoned.

"I suppose you have a point," he agreed. "Still, I don't think I should give them up. I may still need them if I have trouble reading or something along those lines. My eye sight still isn't completely perfect."

"Perhaps you don't need to wear them all the time then," she suggested. "Perhaps you could wear them when you're having a little brainstorm and you feel the need to make yourself look more intelligent. Or like me, only wearing them for work."

"I'll bear that in mind," he chuckled. "I've learned never to question your opinion when it comes to appearance."

"A lesson well learned." She smiled at him. "I think I speak for all of us when I say that you came in right when we needed you."

"I just hope that I can pull it off again..." He didn't need to explain who he was talking about.

"I know you can save her. You should have seen Ray when the changelings were threatening Fluttershy..." She trailed off a moment. "I don't think I've ever seen him so enraged."

Dusk could hear the concern in her voice and he felt some too. He'd tried to hide it, but he'd seen before he left a look in his eye. It had been very brief, but it was there and it had felt all too familiar when he had seen it...

But he didn't bring it up. Instead, he nodded. "I hear that it was... something."

"Indeed it was," she replied absently. She snapped back a moment later. "But my point is that if he can find the strength to protect the one he cares for, I'm certain that you can."

"Maybe... if I could bring myself to stand with her again," he murmured.

"Oh, Dusk..." She guided him to her couch and set him down. "Tell me what the matter is, darling."

Normally, he would have tried to say no, shrug it off and tell her not to worry. But he'd also learned he couldn't dissuade his friends if they thought there was something wrong. He was quiet for a while, thinking of how exactly to say it. He told her about what he had been thinking about when he'd woken up a few minutes ago in his home. What he feared he would become if he went on.

Rarity listened in silence until he was finished. He gave her a little time to think about the appropriate response, a part of him hoping that she would prove him wrong.

"Dusk," she began gently, "the thoughts that drove you during the battle don't have to mean anything."

"I'm sorry to disagree, but I think they do," he muttered. "Before any fight in the past, the one thing I acknowledged was how much I hated having to do it. This time... I barely gave it a second thought. I just went and did it..."

"But you had other things on your mind and there were other things to focus on," she said. "Just because you didn't question what you were doing doesn't mean your personal views are changing at all."

"But that's it, that's what concerns me." He cast his eyes to the floor. "Maybe the reason I didn't question it is because... I'm beginning to enjoy it. It might be that I've never even noticed the change, until now because I got so caught up in it. Maybe... there is still darkness inside me."

"No, I'll not have you thinking that." Her eyes locked on his. "You are not like that, I know you're not."

"Why though?" he asked, almost desperately. "What makes me different from Hard Edge or... or Doom?"

She thought for a moment. "I'll tell you. Why would you say they fight, Dusk? What do you think drives those individuals to seek battle?"

"Um... with Edge, some need for personal glory, to satisfy his vendetta against me. For Doom..." Even saying his name still made him shiver. "Because he likes it... and he is me."

"He isn't you, not in any complete sense," she insisted.

"Why do you keep saying that?"

"You tell me," she posed. "Why are the reasons you fight, Dusk? When you are called to take arms, what stops you from turning and running?"

"I suppose... my duty as an Element of Harmony, because I want to protect you all, the land I live in, my home, my friends and, recently..." He faltered when he thought of her. "To... to rescue Twilight."

"And that's exactly why." She gazed deeper into his eyes, never looking away. "The reason you're like this now is not because you're enjoying violence, far from it. It's because you believe that the causes and the reasons you fight for are good and just. You know what you have to do and you won't hesitate to do it, so long as you battle for those reasons you told me, that's what drives you on now. It's not a will to fight. It's a will to protect."

"You... you think so?"

"More than that," she went on. "You've never sought battle, Dusk. You've only ever confronted it when it's confronted you. Like you have before, like you have now and like I know you'll continue to do. I've heard it said that the best soldiers are those who never enjoy violence. I can think of no better personification of that than with you."

He felt the sensation of some of that weight being lifted off his mind. There were times when Dusk would wonder if he would be where he was today without these ponies in his life. He might still be living on, but without them in his life. He would probably still be leaving but without them... what kind of an existence would that be?

In the end, he didn't think about that. Instead, he just smiled at Rarity and embraced her gently. He could feel the warmth of that embrace, for it was the same he could see in her smile.

"If that's the case," he murmured, "I hope I can continue to be the best I can."

"I know you will." She pulled back. "Don't doubt yourself, Dusk. I can tell you right now that none of us do and certainly Twilight doesn't."

He laughed a little. "Is that so?"

"It is so," she nodded. "I'm sure she's just waiting for you to come and rescue her. And, as always, I will be there providing a little helping hoof."

"I wouldn't want to ask any more of you." He glanced out of the window. "It's strange. When you think about it, maybe the changelings are fighting for almost the same reasons."

"You might not be far from the truth there," she agreed. "If it makes you feel any better, I too have my hopes that this ghastly affair won't go on for much longer." She looked at her scarf. "It pains me to use something as fabulous as fashion to harm others."

"It certainly doesn't do it any justice," he said. "But you're still willing to go on? Even at the possible cost of fashion?"

She tittered. "I would say that my friends mean more to me than a scarf at this present moment."

"Good to know. Right then," he said, pulling out his glasses and placing them on, "let's get to work."

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