• Published 12th Aug 2013
  • 13,689 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.

  • ...

The Enemy of my Enemy

This was a scene like so many he'd read about in stories of a more medieval nature.

The aftermath of a battle with the enemy, in which the hero and those loyal to them look like they might fail. At the last moment, when all hope was lost, something had allowed them to drive back their foe and they had won their battle. Then, they would gather together in counsel to discuss and plan the next one, that would either win them the day or be their last stand.

At first, Dusk would be inclined to say that his own group of loyal friends weren't exactly the fierce warriors depicted in such literature. But then again, he didn't exactly look like the type to be leading such warriors and they'd never let him down before. Only in the stories, they always won. Here though, he couldn't be sure...

However, he brought his mind out of such ponderings and focused it on his own scene. He looked around the room at his fellow Elements of Harmony, Ray, Spike and Princess Cadence in the mayor's office. Since she was currently out of town, Dusk hoped that she wouldn't mind the use of the place. They stood in a circle, a space cleared in the centre, where Dusk used his magic to construct a layout of the coming battle.

He never thought he'd be surveying something like this. Then again, he never thought he'd have real friends either. Strange how life worked out, sometimes.

"Right, before we begin, I feel it best to clarify some things first," he started. "Fluttershy, how have treatments been going for anypony that was injured?"

"Just about everypony who stayed is already back on their hooves," she reported. "Some need a little more rest and treatment, but they should be fine. Zecora's tending to them now."

"Good to hear. Applejack, what about the volunteers from Hoofdale?"

"We got a good few of 'em, but not as many as ah'd like," she said regretfully. "Most of 'em ain't too keen ta get themselves involved in this. Ah can't really blame 'em, but it woulda been nice ta have a few extra hooves."

He nodded. "We'll just have to make do with what we have. Rainbow, still no word from Cloudsdale?"

"Nothing," she said, shaking her head. "I sent out a few Pegasi to check it out, like you said. They'll be back with news soon enough."

"Excellent." He noted a small hint of a worried expression. "I'm sure they'll be fine."

"Yeah, of course," she scoffed confidently. "You don't keep a Pegasus knocked down that easily."

"You always show that much," he smiled. "Very well then, now that that's done, if I could draw your attention to the centre of the room."

They did so, just as he was putting the finishing touches on his map. It was amazing how many advantages his special magic gave him.

"So," he continued, "I'm sure you are all aware of the current situation, but let's just recap anyway. We are here, secured in Ponyville, while the changelings have themselves fully established in Canterlot." He brought up the locations on his sparkling map. "It's clear they've outstayed their welcome and the time has come to let them know of this personally."

"Just show me where to hit 'em," Rainbow said, slamming a hoof into the other. "Just so the message is made clear."

"They do have a lot to answer for," agreed Ray. "But I'm guessing it's not going to be as easy as knocking on the door and asking them politely to leave."

"You guess correctly." He highlighted the royal city. "The city is built high up in the mountains on the steepest slope, making approach from any ground-based armies next to impossible, apart from through the mountains on the train tracks, which can be fortified. The city itself is built in such a way that any army attacking from the air will have to contend with the defenders on the ramparts and up in the towers. If they manage to get into the street, they'll have to fight their way upwards to the tower and the narrow streets don't allow much for large groups to rally together."

"Sounds like a lot of sweaty work for any attacking army then," remarked Rarity. "And we're not exactly trained soldiers to begin with."

"My thoughts exactly, which is why the attack would have to be on two fronts." He created small ponies from the town to move as he spoke. "If we were to attack Canterlot, it would have to be through the mountains, using the trains as transport. Even if the changelings have set up barricades, they should still be effective as battering rams. Once in the station, we would have to fight our way to the tower through the streets, hopefully freeing some of the city and royal guard along the way.

"Meanwhile, my hope when we get in touch with Cloudsdale concerns the other front of attack. They would be able to launch their assault from the air, giving the changelings two fields to fight on. With both groups on the attack, we should be able to gain enough ground to fight our way to the wedding hall, free the princesses, use them to open Canterlot Tower and use the Elements of Harmony to deliver the final blow."

"That sounds like a good plan to me," noted Cadence. "I notice you still seem rather unsure about it."

"Is it that obvious?" he asked with a slight laugh. "Even with that, there's still aspects I'm not happy about. The changelings are a properly trained army, there's a lot more of them and they have themselves established in a fortified position, not to mention Chrysalis herself. Coming at them with just a direct frontal assault has too many things that could go wrong."

Ray shrugged. "Well, I don't see what else we can do. We have them on the run from the fight here, we've shown them we can beat them. We have to take the opportunity now while we have the chance."

"I know we do." He sighed. "I just wish there was another way we could go about it."

The stallion chuckled. "Just too bad you don't have a lot of ponies like me. We could all teleport in and out before they'd even have time to make a surprised yelp."

Dusk echoed him. "That would be a blessing. It's just unfortunate that we don't."

"Yes, we do," Pinkie piped up. "There's a way we could have a group of ponies seem like a whole bunch of Rays."

A moment of silence passed before he spoke up again. "And how exactly would we go about this?"

"Simple." She popped on an army helmet and marched over next to him. "Tell me, Dusk, what is the best kind of party?"

"Um... a fun one?"

"Okay, what's the other kind of best party?"

"Uh... one with your friends?"

"Apart from those two, what is the best kind of party?"

"Pinkie, I really don't know. Not to sound rude but, if you have a point, please make it."

"Okey-dokey-lokey. Obviously, the best kind of party is a surprise party, so that's just what we'll do." She pointed at the mountain. "Cadence said that she was being kept in those caves by Chrysalis before all this happened and, if those caves go through this whole mountain, we can use them slip on through and give her a big surprise when we come out!"

Cadence smiled brightly. "You know, that's a good idea. She might have a few guards posted at the entrance, but they'd be too deep to guard the whole thing."

"I had considered that," admitted Dusk. "The only issue I have is that we really don't know these caves too well. I've been in them, Cadence has, but we have no idea how many tunnels there are or how deep they go. Without knowing where we're going, we'd only end up getting lost."

"Oh yeah." Pinkie's face fell. "It's not going to be a good party if we can't even get there to throw it."

"Don't worry, Pinkie," Applejack encouraged. "It was a good idea, we jus' need ta come up with a better one."

"Hold on a sec." Spike's brow furrowed. "Have other ponies used them before?"

"They were mined by greedy unicorns in Equestria's early days until they truly appreciated the real value of friendship," he explained. "After that, they were closed down and most even forgot they were there."

"Well, they had to have kept some kind of record at some point," he went on. "If they were being used, they had to have maps made so that they wouldn't get lost while they were down there. There might be something in a historical record about Canterlot or something. If it's in the library, we might be able to find it."

"Good thinking, my Spikey wikey!" The dragon blushed and mumbled after Rarity nuzzled his cheek.

Now it was Dusk's turn to smile. "You know, that's not such a far-fetched idea. It might take a while to find the specific book, if it even exists."

"Good thing you'll have me helping you then," he encouraged. "There's not a book that's escaped the keen eyes of these assistants."

"If he's not having his nap," remarked Dusk.

"Coming from the guy who had to wear glasses?" he countered.


Cadence giggled and stepped forward. "I know I probably don't have the experience you two have, but I'd be happy to lend a hoof if I can."

"And we'd be happy to have you," said Dusk. "Does anypony else have any other ideas?" Nopony spoke up. "Right, the three of us will get on with that. Rainbow, you wait for those flyers you sent to get back with news. Fluttershy, help Zecora with any other patients that need it. The rest of you, see to the volunteers. Have them ready to move out at a moment's notice, keep them informed of what we have planned so far."

They all nodded and proceeded about their duties without any hesitation or questioning. To Dusk, that spoke volumes of how much they trusted his judgement and he used it as further motivation not to let them down. This wasn't the time to have their spirits dampened.

All around town, he could see a variety of activities that the townsfolk partook in. A few celebrations were still going on, Octavia, Frequency and Vinyl were providing music to lift everypony's spirits, but most seemed to recognise that the rest would soon be over and were preparing for the next conflict. Some were training in small groups, others were resting or comforting loved ones and friends whom they fighting with, lending them their strength.

Now and again, he might hear somepony crying, like a mare he saw on a couch in the embrace of her stallion or another who just stood in complete silence, staring off into nothingness. Dusk could see the growing fear in his eyes as he passed. Was it of the changelings or something he dreaded might happen? The two different sides of war. It could bring ponies together... but it could also drive them apart and not just from each other...

Most ponies greeted him as he passed, ranging from a simple nod to a whooping cheer to an icy glare. Cadence and Spike were also offered similar reactions to similar greetings, though probably a lot less of the worse ones. Dusk reacted accordingly when he felt he needed to as well, understanding the feelings they would have towards him, even the negative ones. Along with the others, he had to keep strong in order to keep them fighting. Once the leader started to fall, his soldiers wouldn't be too far behind.

He felt a sense of comfort when the library came into view. Even if it was for the business of war, he could return to being the scholar he preferred to think of himself as, even if it was just for a few minutes.

"So, this is it then," said Cadence when she stepped inside. "This is where the magic all began."

Dusk looked at her curiously. "Excuse me?"

"You and Twilight." She gestured around the room. "This is where your friendship first started to blossom into something wonderful and still goes on to this day."

"As I'm reminded of every day they're in here," remarked Spike.

She giggled, placing a leg around him. "You sound grumpy, Spike, but even you can't deny that this place does have a certain special feel to it."

"I guess." He followed her gaze around. "This has been our home for a while. Lot of good memories here, even if there has been a lot more mushy stuff lately."

"Exactly. You might want to groan at some of the more mushy stuff, but I'm sure that you wouldn't want to be without any of it. Am I right, Dusk?" she asked.

He nodded absently. "No... not any of it."

"Yeah, I wouldn't either." Spike gave an understanding smile. "So, where should we start looking?"

"Well," he said, trying to keep his composure, "I would start looking through historical records, preferably anything directed to Canterlot. You two look through the ones down here, I'll check upstairs."

"Will you be okay with that?" asked Cadence.

"Yes, there's more books down here than... up there and it shouldn't take me long to go through them all." He tried to smile. "I'll be fine."

"Okay then." She looked like she wanted to say something else, but let it go. "So, want to show me where we'll be looking, Spike?"

"Yeah, just through here." He led her to a different door. "Don't worry, you're in good claws."

"I'm sure I am." Dusk could still feel her eyes gazing intently at him while he made his way up the stairs, trying to fight back the tears that threatened to fall.

They started to once he arrived in her study, her room. Cadence was right, this place was full of memories. He could almost hear her laughing when she stole his hat, her quill scratching away from notes she was making, occasionally looking up over at him, the smile that she always gave him when he walked in every morning, that shone brighter than her teacher's sun. He almost expected to see her now, studying away like nothing had happened.

But she wasn't. Her writing desk had nopony at it, her bed was empty. Just memories existed here. Even though he held onto hope that they would build more, that same comfort he felt arriving here was steadily drifting away...

He wiped away at his eyes. This wasn't the time for that. He had to focus on his task. This would help to get her back, so they could experience those times once more. He had to have faith that he could save her, as she had saved him.

He walked over to her shelf of personal books on history. He scanned it for the few volumes he knew she had on Canterlot and its history. He was just about to pull one out, but he felt a prickle on the back of his neck. Faintly, very faintly, he thought he could hear something, moving behind him. It would be easy to dismiss it as the wind or his nerves, but another thought crept into his head.

He wasn't alone.

He started to turn his head.

"Please, don't turn around." The soft tone of the voice made him comply. "Thank you. I confess, I'm a little surprised."

"Why would that be?" asked Dusk. "Apart from a certain anonymity, you seem to be a reasonable sort."

"Why would you assume that?"

"Because, if you wanted to harm me, you would have done it before I noticed your presence. That means you must want to talk, yet something is preventing you from doing it openly."

"And you would be willing to speak openly."

Dusk thought for a moment. "I would."

"I hoped so. Very well." The speaker appeared to consider. "If you do turn around, may I ask that you remain calm and not do anything rash. Do I have your word on that?"

"Of course."

"Please, say it."

"You have my word that I'll remain calm."

"Thank you." Another moment of silence. "You can turn around now."

Dusk did so and, for a moment, he struggled to keep his word. He stepped out of the corner of the room, a place where he wouldn't have seen him coming in. Though his expression appeared different to the others he had fought so far, he couldn't ignore that he looked the same as them. Black chitin, ice blue eyes, pointed white fangs.

Even though he appeared peaceful, Dusk still tensed as the changeling stepped into view. He stopped, watching the unicorn with wariness.

"I expected a reaction along these lines," he commented. It was strange hearing a voice so soft from something so sinister in appearance. "Admittedly though, I expected a lot worse."

"I'm sure," he replied, trying to keep his voice even. "I do consider myself to be of a... reasonable sort myself."

"Again, I hoped as much." He paused. "If I may, why haven't tried to attack me?"

"Apart from my word not to? If you had any hostile intent, you could have struck while still in hiding before I noticed anything. You could have even been disguised as another pony so I wouldn't be suspicious. Yet you appear to have waited here, in your true form, evidently for me to arrive and have approached me peacefully. Either this is a very elaborate assassination, or you're here to talk."

"The latter," he confirmed. "You still think this could be a deception then?"

"It's a possibility, but due to my... reservations about violence and my word, I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. I admit though," he added, "a small part of me really doesn't want to."

He nodded sadly. "I understand. My people have a lot to answer for, as of late. I really don't blame you but, for what it's worth... thank you."

"You're welcome," he returned. "Very well then, if we're to talk, I need to know who I'm talking to. You obviously know who I am."

"I do, Dusk Noir." He inclined his head. "My name is Parlix, Ambassador of the Swarm of Queen Chrysalis."

"I see," he said slowly. "And why have you come here, Ambassador. To negotiate? To threaten?"

"To help," he answered simply. "I can see that you mean to retake Canterlot. Have you considered contacting the Pegasi in Cloudsdale?"

"The thought had occurred to me." He was careful with what he said. This could still be a trick.

"Then you might discover what I'm about to tell you, but I shall tell you regardless. Cloudsdale is under attack, by our forces."

"I see," he repeated. He had suspected this, but he still didn't like hearing it. "For how long?"

"Since the attack on Ponyville began. It was thought that your town would be less of a military threat than Cloudsdale, so our queen sent the bulk of our forces there and a smaller number here, thinking it would be an easy victory." Was it his imagination or did he smirk? "Evidently, she was mistaken."

"Evidently," agreed Dusk. It did explain why there were so fewer changelings attacking Ponyville. "And how is the battle going there?"

"The last I heard, the two sides had battled to a stalemate. My college, Commander Sting, is a skilled leader, but the Pegasi are putting up more of a fight than we suspected," he explained calmly. "He has requested additional reinforcements, that our queen has granted him and which may turn the tide of the battle. If we do manage to take the city..."

"Yes, I think I get the picture," nodded Dusk. "Why are you telling me this though?"

"It's not just that," he went on. "I take it that you've also considered the possibility of using the caves beneath Canterlot for a surprise attack?"

"Possibly," he murmured, still trying to determine his motives.

"Then you'd be looking for a map for what's in those tunnels. I know somewhere you'd be able to get not only a map, but also those with experience exploring those tunnels."

"You do?" This sounded too good to be true. "Who?"

"In preparation for their use in our queen's plans, a few of our soldiers helped to clear out the previous tenants," he explained. "They said they chased them away to an older hideout they had, disguised as Canterlot guards and ensured that they stayed there."

"I know who you mean," he affirmed. "So, if I were to find them, do you think they'd be inclined to help us?"

"They may need some persuasion, but I'm sure you'd be able to manage that." He smiled, yet Dusk didn't feel threatened by it. "You are the reasonable sort, aren't you?"

"I'd say so but again, I must ask, why are you doing this?" he repeated. "Not that I'd expect you to tell me, but has Chrysalis sent you to try and trick me? Because it didn't work out so well the first time."

His smile fell. "Believe me, if she did know what I was doing, I can guarantee that she won't be pleased."

Dusk saw the flicker of fear in his eyes that "Chrysalis doesn't know you're here, does she?"

He looked away. "We changelings to have a forte for deception, do we not?"

"But why tell me this? Why betray your queen like this?"

"Though she is my queen, Chrysalis has gone too far with this invasion." He hung his head shamefully. "She has already betrayed our kind, souring relations between your people and mine even further than it already has."

"If you don't agree with this invasion, why did you let it go ahead?"

"The Spirit of Earth hasn't been kind to us recently," he said sadly. "Our resources are low, the death rate is higher than it ever has been, our producers are trying to get as much food as possible, but it still isn't enough. Chrysalis incited the Swarm, stirred discontent into hatred and convinced them they were fighting for the freedom of all changeling kind. Anger and desperation are a volatile mix. If you saw what it was like, you'd understand what I mean."

Dusk could hear the pain in his voice and he felt compassion for them begin to rise. Until he remembered what they'd done, what they were still doing.

"You can try to justify it. All I see now is my people suffering and yours instigating it."

"So do I. That's why I can no longer stand by and allow this to continue." He looked back at Dusk. "I was in the minority, who thought there had to be a better way, but my words fell on deaf ears. I want what's best for my people and it isn't this war. Yes, I feel we must help our people... but not if it means harming yours."

Dusk tried to find some hint of deception, some clue that would betray him and expose his true purpose in telling him this. But there was none. The pain and guilt he could see in Parlix's eyes couldn't be faked to any extent.

"And what about Hard Edge?" he asked. "Where does he stand in all of this?"

"Not just him." He scowled. "He came to us, with his two companions. They offered the queen further means to help her achieve her ends. Edge, the scientist Test Tube and... him."

"Him?" Even Dusk felt a chill from the way he said that. "Who's him?"

"We're still not sure." His voice had lowered to a whisper. "He would barely tell us anything. I had my reservations about this conflict before but him... he only confirmed them."

"Why?" Dusk persisted. "Who was he? What did he do?"

"He... he..." He suddenly looked alert. "I've lingered here long enough. Forgive me, but I must return to Chrysalis before my absence is noticed." Dusk wanted to ask more, but Parlix was already making for the window. "If you trust what I've told you, Dusk, then I urge you to act upon it. You're not the only one who wants this war to be over."

"I'll try," he said, already finding himself moving towards the stairs. "Thank you for telling me what you have. I... I hope it helps bring this war to an end."

"I can think of no better purpose. And Dusk?" He looked back to Parlix, who stood at the window. "When this is over and you have to decide what happens after... remember what happened here between us. I hope you'll keep in tune with the Spirit of Mind, as you already have."

"I will and... I do too." He even managed a small smile. "Good luck to you, Ambassador Parlix. You keep yourself in tune too."

He returned it. "I will."

He flashed briefly, taking the form of a Pegasus pony and flew off into the sky. When Dusk went to watch him leave, he was already gone.

Back underground. Back in these dirty, filthy, humid, repulsive caves. They looked so vile, so horrid that it was quite difficult to believe that there were actually gems concealed down here under all of this... dirt.

Rarity tried her best to remember that while she trod through the dust. That and the fact she and Dusk were here for a good cause. She promised herself a thorough wash when she was out of here and managed to ignore her revulsion as they pressed on. The stallion was lighting the way ahead, now and again pausing to wait for her.

He'd returned from the library with two pieces of important news: that Cloudsdale was under attack and that he knew where to find those with experience in the crystal caves. Rainbow was even now gathering a good number of Ponyville's Pegasi to help reinforce her home and she was down here with Dusk to follow up on the caves. Hopefully, it would be worth it.

"Do we really have to go searching for those vile diamond dogs?" she asked.

"Yes, we do," he replied patiently. "If they were based in the caves, they must have made maps of them or at least learnt the basic layout. It's our best bet for securing passage through the tunnels."

"And how do you know for certain that they'll be down here?"

"It only makes sense. The changelings wouldn't want them getting in the way if Chrysalis was using the caves, so they would want to get rid of them. The only other place they could go was one where they already knew there were gems in abundance and hope they might have better luck there. They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks. I'm hoping that'll ring true here."

"And what makes you think they'll want to help us?"

"You're here with me," he answered simply. "I'm sure you'd be able to persuade them."

She couldn't help but smirk a little. Yes, those uncouth brutes would certainly not have forgotten her in any hurry. If they did get aggressive, both she and Dusk would prove to be a hoofful for them this time.

It wasn't long before they started to hear the sounds of barking and growling. Rarity tensed as they approached a side passage. She peered around the corner, along with Dusk. She wrinkled her nose from the smell that hit her along with the sight of her former captors.

"So, do we have a plan?" she whispered.

"We do." He started forward. "We're only here to talk to them, so that's what we'll do."

She caught his shoulder. "Are you sure that's all together wise?"

He gave her a comforting smile. "Trust me, we'll be fine."

He continued forward. Rarity hesitated for a moment, took his words to heart and followed behind him. She was already starting to unravel her scarf as a few of the larger ones already began to notice them.

"Good day to you, diamond dogs," Dusk greeted casually. "I hope your search for precious stones has been bountiful."

"What?!" The one with the red jacket turned and snarled. "Ponies?! How did you... you!"

"Hello again, Rover," he said. "It was Rover, wasn't it? How have you been since I last saw you?"

"Better since there hasn't been any thinking ponies stealing our gems!" he snapped. "You is not getting anymore!"

"What does he mean you stole their gems?" Rarity whispered.

"I'll explain later," he replied. "For now, let's just say that it's thanks to them I got Twilight's birthday present."

"What, who is that? Who are you...?" His eyes widened in fear. "Oh no, not you again!"

"Nice to see you too," she returned, just as casually. "I hope you don't mind us dropping in. We were in the neighbourhood and thought we'd stop by."

"As a matter of fact," Dusk went on, "we'd very much like to talk to you, if that's not too much trouble."

"It is too much trouble!" growled the biggest one. "Go away, we don't want you ponies here!"

"Oh but boys, surely you wouldn't want to disappoint me, would you?" she asked with big eyes. "I thought we were friends."

"We is not your friends!" snapped the shortest one. "Go away now! Don't come back!"

"But it's dark down theeeeere!" she whined. Already, they clutched at their ears. "I'm scared of going back down in the daaaaaaark!"

"NO! No, shut up, stop making noise!" squealed Rover.

"And my hooves are killing me!" she went on. "We've walked all this way just to find you and now you're going to send us all the way back? That's not faaaaaaaair!"

"Okay, okay, fine!" Rover hissed. "Tell us what you want, just shut up!"

"You are most gracious hosts," she said pleasantly, stepping back. "As you will, Dusk."

"Thank you, Rarity," he said. "Now then, I'd just like to clarify something here. The last time I saw you, you were in the caves under Canterlot, but now you're back here. Why is that?"

"Why do you care?" snarled the bigger one.

"You were chased out, weren't you? Chased out by ponies from the big castle drove you out of the caves and back here."

Rover blinked. "How do you know?"

"A reasonable assumption. Perhaps you'd care to confirm it?" he asked.

The dog nodded. "Is true, yes. We thought they was ponies, but I got in a scuffle with one and..." He trailed off. "He change and he not a pony. More like big bug that look like pony somehow. We smells them too and they don't smell like ponies. Something was wrong, but we don't know what."

"You're not far from the truth," Dusk confirmed. "And you just ran away and let the big bugs take your treasure?"

"No, not run away!" he insisted. "We diamond dogs have saying: no point in getting jewels if you're not there to see them."

"Profound. So, if you had the chance, would you still want to see them? To get them back?"

"We would!" He nodded eagerly. "Oh yes, we would!"

"Well then, Rover," he said brightly, "I definitely think we can help each other. You do something for us and I'll make sure you can have all of the gems you could ever dream of."

His eyes shone. "Really?"

"Really. You remember how much there was in that cave. You could get all of that back and much more, I'm sure." He paused to think. "We'll throw in some steaks for you too."

A greedy smile worked his way onto his lips. "Okay then, thinking pony. We is listening."

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