• 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.

  • ...

What We Fight For

It had taken a little bit of effort to get Blaze up in the air again, with both Rainbow and Lightning working together to carry her down to a base in control of one of the other attacking parties. Fortunately, one of her wings was still working so they didn't have to support her much on that side and her constant training as a Wonderbolt meant that she was fairly light. That meant they could get her down quickly, something she was thankful for.

They arrived at a small command post that had been set up by the Wonderbolt Fleetfoot inside of a small suburb home. The mare reminded Rainbow quickly of how well known she was for her speed by being with them almost the instant they walked in the door.

"What happened?" she asked quickly. "Is she okay?"

"She'll be fine, she got her wing clipped by some of the bugs," Rainbow lied. She decided it wasn't best mentioning the actual reason. "You guys got anywhere here for treating wounded?"

"Yeah, just in the back," she answered. "Doesn't this mean that your stealth team is a member short now?"

"It's not a problem, ma'am," piped in Lightning. "We've already found somepony to fill in for her."

Fleetfoot looked surprised. "Really? Are they any good?"

The two mares exchanged a look. "We hope so," replied Rainbow.

"I do too." She jerked her head in a brief nod. "You two had better get going. Every second the changelings are in Cloudsdale is a second I'd rather not spend."

"Yes ma'am." They both saluted sharply and hurried out of the house. "Wow, that was over quicker than I expected."

"Well, they don't call her Fleetfoot for nothing," remarked Lightning. "Really though? What do we think of this Edge guy?"

Rainbow considered the question. "I think that he's our best chance of getting through this."

"Seriously?" Lightning looked like she'd been slapped. "This guy was fighting with the bugs! How do we know we can trust him?"

"I don't trust him," corrected Rainbow. "I just don't think he's as convinced by what he's doing as he was before, at least where Cloudsdale is concerned. So long as the city is under attack, I think he's fine."

She raised an eyebrow. "You think?"

"Look, you saw what happened, I have too," she went on. "He could have blasted me away when he had the chance, but he didn't. He could have hurt my friend when she was helpless, but he didn't. He might be a jerk, but this is where he was born and raised. We need to show him that there's still a chance for him to help save Cloudsdale from his mistakes."

"And then what? We're just gonna say it's all cool and let him walk away, after what he's done?"

"No way. Once this is all over, he's gonna pay for what he's done, I'm gonna make sure of that," she promised. "But right now, let's give him a chance. If he does try anything, you can have the first punch."

Lightning still looked hesitant about the idea, but she nodded and smirked. "You can count on me."

"I thought I could." She returned it and the two of them flew off.

In all honesty, Rainbow had been surprised when Edge had actually defected back to their side. He'd seemed to hell-bent on getting his payback on Dusk that she thought it was all he cared about. But she sort of understood what drove him. He'd wanted appreciation he'd never got, trodden on in his eyes by the elite of Canterlot, so much so that he'd actually struck back out of spite for them.

It wasn't difficult to understand. After all, she'd once been driven by the same motivation. In the end, she'd got what she deserved for trying to grab all of the glory. She sort of hoped he might learn the same lesson. If not, he'd have a long time to think about it in Canterlot's dungeon. It'd be a lot kinder than anything she was thinking of doing to him.

They had left Edge with Thunderlane up near where they'd been fighting him. Since his notoriety was likely to have been noticed, they decided it was best not to bring him with them while they transported Blaze. Fortunately, the two stallions seemed to have remained out of sight and they were both still waiting for them.

"How is he?" asked Rainbow. "Has he caused any trouble?"

"Nothing, he's just been watching the fights down below," Thunderlane reported. "Quiet as a cloud."

"Yeah, just wish I could still kick him," muttered Lightning. "I still don't like this."

"I don't either, but we don't have much choice." Speaking louder, she added. "Okay Edge, get over here!"

The stallion remained staring off down below for a few seconds before obeying. He trudged over, giving Rainbow a hard look which she ignored. As if he was in any position to be unhappy.

"Right, so here's how this is gonna work," she started. "We're gonna fly on over to the Weather Factory and get inside it to turn on the generator. Once we do that, we can use the machines to make weapons against the bugs and kick 'em outta Cloudsdale for good."

"Sounds good to me," he grunted.

"I didn't ask for your opinion," she snapped. "Now, you're gonna come along and help us. Just so we're clear, I trust you about as far as I can throw you and I'm really trying not to find out how far that is, so it would be in your best interest to act like a good little colt on this trip so that I'm not tempted to try. You got that?"

He gritted his teeth. "Got it."

"Good. Lightning, you're my wing pony. Thunderlane, you stay behind us with our new friend. Make sure he feels welcome." She walked towards the edge of the cloud. "Right, let's move out!"

They'd already covered most of the distance had to, but they still had to move quickly in case changelings felt like following them when they saw them. They were moving deeper into the part of town that they controlled, so they couldn't afford to stop again.

Rainbow now and again glanced back at Edge. He too looked like he was having a hard time watching all of this. He must really feel it for his home. She briefly wondered what made him want to fight for Cloudsdale above all else, even his own pride. What kind of life had he had here? What was it that made him proud to be a Pegasus?

She didn't exactly have the time to ask him, nor much of an inclination since he had still betrayed them. Maybe she could find out later, when he would be behind bars where he really belonged now.

As Spitfire had said, the route that she explained to them led them to the rear of the factory. She saw the giant cloud funnel where they would enter, keeping on alert. Most of the changelings were now occupied by Spitfire's team attacking the factory, so their entry inside should go unnoticed. She hurried them inside before going in, drowning out the sounds of battle and focusing on her team's task.

It was a bit of a tight squeeze, but even when they were built into shapes, clouds could be easily moved, so they made it in without any issues, emerging into the cloud generating room. It was weird, seeing the condensers silent and the bellows devoid of activity. That would all change soon enough.

"Okay," she whispered. "We keep it quiet and head down to the generators. We get there, turn those on and then we can-"

"Watch it!" He pushed her out of the way and fired at the wall. "Sorry, thought I saw something."

"What the hay are you doing?!" she hissed. "Are you trying to get us caught?!"

"That is precisely what his aim was," a rasping voice said.

She whipped around. A changeling wearing blue armour, with a green crest decorating his helmet walked into the room, flanked by several of his fellows. More of them were coming now, emerging from behind the bellows, through some of the other cloud funnels and surrounding them in seconds.

Rainbow stood in a ready stance, but felt something cold pressed against her head, the hum of magical energy in her ear.

"I'm real sorry about this, Dash." It actually seemed like there was some sincerity in his voice.

"Yeah." She looked him full in the eye. "I am too."

Two of the changelings had turned into her, thinking they would have a chance of equalling her. A lasso quickly whipped around one of their necks so she pulled him over, punched him and kicked him back into his friend soon proved them wrong. Though the farm pony didn't like to brag, she just felt she needed to show them they didn't have much of a chance.

"Sorry, fellers," she said, tipping a hat to their unconscious forms. "Ya tried yer best, but somepony had ta come out on top."

"Ai-yup." Big Mac walked over from a ring of prone attackers, having the last one in a headlock. "Ya mind?"

"Not at all." A kick in the head stopped his struggles. "That oughta do it."

"Ai-yup. One down an' jus' a couple hundred ta go," said her brother, looking up at the city.

"We'd best get back to it then," she replied, galloping on through the streets.

Even though it was the former home of her friends, Applejack had never cared too much for Canterlot. It was too glitzy and uptight for her taste and she much preferred the inherent peace, tranquillity and stronger familiarity Ponyville offered. Right now, having the streets swarming with appearance-changing, love-eating, vampire-fanged insects wasn't doing much to improve her opinion.

Still, there were a few upsides. Not only did she have the muscle of her brother helping her out, but also that of the diamond dog, Fido. The big guy sported a massive, bone-shaped club and was swatting away changelings like flies. His fellow dogs also helped give them some extra muscle, usually being the first to charge ahead, aided by their strength and protected by their armour. She had to admit, they were pretty tough and confident. Or stupid.

That did mean she was having trouble keeping them under control .There were under a dozen of them and equal numbers of ponies, enough for dealing with what she had to do. They were supposed to be moving up further into the city, but she just couldn't get their attention. That was why she was now galloping towards Fido in the hopes that he could.

Why couldn't they all be like Winona?

"Hey, Fido!" she shouted. "Mind helpin' me out a lil' gettin' yer furry friends in line?"

"Why, hat pony?" he grunted. "You wanted dogs to fight, we fight. What else you want us to do?"

"Ah want ya ta fight the way ah want ya to," she told him. "That means we gotta get movin'!"

"But we can fight here!" He rounded on her. "Why should we listen to you?"

Big Mac looked him right in the eye when he strode up. "You arguin' with ma sister, dog?"

"What are you going to do about it, pony?" he growled.

"Ya wanna find out?"

Applejack tensed even further. The last thing she needed was the dogs and ponies in her group getting into a scuffle with each other. Fortunately, Fido didn't seem to think it was worth it.

"Have it your way." He pulled out a dog whistle, blowing it to get their attention. "Come on, dogs! More bugs this way!"

They all howled and thundered off in the direction he pointed. Fido glared once more at Big Mac and Applejack before running off with them.

"Thanks fer that," she murmured.

"No problem. Jus' hope we don't have ta deal with them once we're done with our common adversary," he said.

"You an' me both." She set off again. "Come on, let's get after 'em."

They were like a drill the way they tunnelled through the city. With the bulky diamond dogs in front crashing through any changelings that got in their way and the ponies behind them eliminating any stragglers, the two groups really compensated each other. All they had to put up with was the smell of the dogs downwind, but Applejack and Big Mac had put up with worse stenches on the farm. They could handle it.

They kept up this charge through the city, but they were soon stopped by another obstacle. She glimpsed green flashes in the air. Her group was already scattering and dividing when the changelings hit the ground like falling stars, rising up and pouncing on the nearest ponies. Those who tried to keep on running were prevented by another obstacle.

The changelings had formed a defensive wall in the street before them. They stayed together in a tight formation, steadily advancing closer. A few diamond dogs and ponies lay on the ground while they stepped over them, clearly having tried to break the line and failed. This combined with that air bombardment could really cause them problems if they didn't have a way to punch through, right now.

"Ah got this!" Applejack pulled out a party grenade. "Pinkie let me borrow a few. Jus' hope they work."

She pulled the pin on them like she'd been told and threw them at the changelings. She grinned when they reached them, but that soon vanished when one picked them up and threw them back. Didn't she say they had five seconds on the fuse?

"Everypony, down!" They all ran or hit the deck.

She was about to cover her head with her forelegs and hope they wouldn't hurt too badly... until she saw a yellow flash appear next to the grenades and Ray kick them back before vanishing again. They flew right towards the centre of the wall.


It completely broke apart, scattering changelings and sending them flying. Ponies cheered and dogs howled before pushing on, knocking aside any changelings who were unlucky enough not to have been taken out by the blast.

She grinned when she heard the flash behind her. "You, sugarcube, pop in weirder places at stranger times more'n Pinkie Pie herself."

"I'll take that as a compliment," he said, returning it. "Need a little help here?"

"It's what we pay ya for. The others make it through okay?" she asked while they started a run.

"Pretty much. Spot's hanging back with Pinkie at the station and Rover went off to help Rarity." He laughed suddenly. "They actually did rock paper scissors to see decide who should go."

"Can't blame 'em," she said. "What about Cadence an' Dusk?"

"She's gone off to free some guards, like we planned and I don't know where he's gone." He looked momentarily concerned before his grin popped back up. "Maybe we'll bump into him too."

"Would be nice ta see him," she agreed.

They advanced a little further into a view-top cafe. Looking around, it was clear that some of the fighters needed a break and she needed one too. She assigned two of them to watch the doors and looked out at the city below. She took off her hat and wiped the sweat that had formed on her brow while she tried to make out some of the other battles below.

It wasn't an entirely disorganised rabble, as they did have a plan. They had all been divided into groups again and had been given specific objectives. Pinkie Pie and Zecora headed a team who had the task of keeping the train station secure, in case they needed to retreat and would have a clear line of escape open. Rarity and Spike were heading an attack into the surrounding area, with the intent of expansion into the lower town.

Applejack, along with her brother, had the task of leading a team to find and link up with Cadence. They were rather small compared to the other two, but they hoped to combine their numbers with the guards that Cadence intended to rescue from one of the prisoner camps. With those combined forces, they would then help more with their aggressive expansion, pushing the changelings back until they took the royal palace.

"So far, so good," she said. "At the rate we're goin', we might actually take the city back. Be good when all this is over, won't it, Ray?" He didn't reply. "Ray? You there, hon?"

"Huh? Yeah, fine," he replied absently.

"Now, ya know not ta lie ta the Element-a Honesty, sugarcube." She placed a hoof on his shoulder. "Tell me what's wrong."

He was silent for a moment. "Just hoping Dusk is okay."

"Ah am too," she murmured. "We're all doin' what we gotta do, Ray. He can handle himself."

"I know, but still... he's gone off to face Chrysalis, with none of us watching his back. I know he said he'd find some guards but... I wanna help him out too," he admitted. "I wanna help him end this thing. Chrysalis has a lot to answer for."

"Get in line, hon," she chuckled. "Well, ya got yer teleportin', so ah reckon ya could get up there pretty quick, if ya head off now."

"You guys sure you don't need me here?"

"We'll be fine. 'Sides," she added, "when Dusk finds Twah'light, ya might wanna be there fer that too. Might make a good addition to yer book."

"I hadn't thought of that." His grin soon returned. "Well, time to go recklessly seeking some inspiration then. Good luck, AJ."

"You too, Ray," she wished. "Ya know, this cafe's pretty nice. When ya come back, ah'll buy ya a cider, see how well Canterlot makes it."

"Yours is still the best." He grinned one last time before teleporting away.

She saw him appearing on and galloping along one of the streets that led towards the palace. It would have been good to have him along, but she couldn't make him stay. He wanted to help a friend and had the power to do so. Who was she to stop something like that?

"Applejack!" One of the guards called her over. "We're about to have company!"

She nodded. "Okay everypony, form up an' help reinforce the exits. We keep 'em out, 'til we can push back out onta the street."

"No, it's not them!" he corrected. "They're on our side!"

Curious, she hurried over to the window, hoping it would be what she thought it was. Her face broke out in a smile when she saw Cadence arriving, a whole load of royal guards following in her wake. Not wasting any time, she galloped out to meet her.

"Got us a lil' more muscle, huh?" remarked Applejack.

"You noticed?" Cadence returned. "We'll keep a good few of the fighters here, but the rest of us will be going on to the wedding hall, to free my aunts. Feel like tagging along?"

The farm pony nodded. "Gotta do some hard work 'fore the end-a the day and these guys just ain't makin' me work a sweat."

"Ai-yup," agreed Big Mac.

"Well, there'll be plenty more where we'll be going." She flew higher again. "All of you guards, follow me! To the higher town!"

"Everypony who's in ma group, follow me ad Cadence!" chorused Applejack. "We got some princesses ta rescue!"

As those ponies began to flock towards her, Applejack turned to look once more back at the path that Ray had taken. She silently wished him luck again, tipped her hat in the general direction and galloped back out into the fight.

They had been making good progress, Dusk and the royal guards who were assisting him. Much like when he had been fleeing the city, Dusk led the team on a furious sprint through the city. They only stopped very briefly to fight and they were very exemplary when they did.

He watched Blossom and Skipper, the latter using his spear to strike changelings at a longer distance while the former slashed at any who got too close with her knives. He watched Bulkhead heft Cliffjumper off his hooves and throw him towards flying changelings he rammed with his horns. Knockout used the shine of his armour to blind changelings so that Dreadwing could finish them off.

They worked perfectly as individuals and as a team. It reminded Dusk a lot of him and his friends. They knew that their goal was to make it to the palace as quickly as possible and showed that they were going to help him achieve that.

They'd lost Cliffjumper when he saw an example of that. He had just rammed his horns into a changeling when another, falling from the sky, had crashed right on top of him. He had heard sounds of struggling coming from the crater and had tried to double back for him, but Midnight had forced him back on.

"Focus on the mission!" she yelled. "He knows what he signed up for!"

Dusk knew she was right. But that didn't make running on ahead any easier.

Dreadwing became lost to them too. Some changelings landed right in front of them to block their progress down a narrow street. He had charged in front of them, engaging them and leaving a brief gap that Bulkhead was able to tunnel through for the others. When Dusk had looked back, the night pony was already being surrounded by changelings.

"Go!" he urged. "Make safe this city! For the love of Princess Luna!"

Even more began to arrive. He lingered for a few more moments, tore his gaze away and resumed the charge with the others.

He'd hoped it would be fine when they reached the palace until they emerged up from the streets. How wrong he was.

A massive horde blocked their way, among their number were members of the queen's guard, recognisable by their blue armour. Dusk looked back and saw another equal horde coming from behind that had been following them through the city.

He could see the doors to the palace, they were so close, just like when they'd tried to get the Elements when all of this began. If they could just fight their way through these changelings... there were so many of them...

He felt something grab him and haul him up off his hooves. He was about to lash out, unsure if it was Bulkhead lifting him up or a changeling posing as him. Again, it was Midnight who got his attention.

"Dusk!" He looked to her. She nodded grimly. "Go get her."

Before he could even yell, the massive earth pony flung him over the changelings on the ground. Dusk turned his hooves orange, barrelling his way through the ones that got in his way in the air and used a colour cloud to land right in front of the palace door. He paused, glanced back at the guards as the changelings surrounded them. He saw others beginning to pursue him.

He whipped back around to the doors and threw them open, hurrying inside and slamming them shut. They had given him this opportunity and he had better not waste it.

It was strange. He could still hear the sounds of battle muffled outside, see explosions flash across parts of the city through the windows. Yet inside the entrance hall, it was mostly quiet. Everything felt unnaturally still after all of the activity he had seen in the streets. He almost expected something to leap out of the long shadows cast by the sun streaming in through the windows. Perhaps more of Chrysalis's guard waiting for him.

But there was nothing. No guards, no movement, not a sound to be heard from within. He found that unsettling somehow. Had they engaged most of the ponies outside? Were they all fighting elsewhere? Why would they leave their queen completely unguarded like this? Something wasn't right here...

He resolved to remain on guard and keep moving. The key to ending all of this was finding Chrysalis. Once she was defeated, the rest of her minions would surrender, he hoped. He would have preferred not to face her alone, but he was confident in his abilities. Perhaps he might find Shining or Twilight or both and free them. They could defeat the queen together. It wasn't just that...

Just seeing her again, holding her... the thought of that drove him on down the hallway, his hooves echoing all around.

He stopped before the doors. He didn't have to open them to know that Chrysalis was right behind them. He briefly considered turning away. Very briefly. Then a little more light was provided when his aura surrounded the doors and flung them open with another echoing sound.

Sure enough, there she was. She was sat upon the throne, staring across the room with her hungry, wide-eyes. Again, there was no sign of any guards or soldiers. It was just her, waiting for him with that smirk on her face.

"How nice of you to join me," she purred. "Shall I have one of the servants fetch us something? Perhaps some tea and cake so we can have a little sit-down, get to know each other better? I feel that we got off on the wrong hoof."

"That's hardly due to any fault of mine," he countered. "It's over, Chrysalis."

"Is it?" She cocked her head to one side. "Because from what I can hear, my changelings are still putting up a fight. I'd hardly call it over, wouldn't you?"

"It soon will be." He was in no mood for her tricks. "You still have a chance to surrender and leave."

She laughed. "Why would I want to leave? I'm quite comfortable here."

"Because that throne isn't yours."

"Oh really?" She morphed into Celestia. "How about now?" A second later, she was Luna. "Or perhaps this would be more to your liking?"

He shook his head. "You can change your form as much as you like, but that doesn't change who you are beneath it."

"I suppose you would know?" Another flash and he was looking back at himself. "You can come here, little Dusk, all dressed up for war and leading your friends off into battle with all of your noble ideals, all of the time trying to hide fear you're so desperately trying to ignore. I have conviction in my goal, Dusk. Do you?"

He tried to ignore that she was mostly right, "I'm doing what I know is right."

"So am I," she returned. "If that's the case, which of our goals truly the right one?"

"I didn't come here to argue philosophy. I came here to put an end to this invasion and to find somepony that you took from me." Rising above that fear suddenly became easier at the thought of her. "What have you done with her?"

"With who?" she asked innocently. "You'll have to be a little more specific."

"Enough games, you know exactly who I mean!" he snapped. "What have you done with Twilight?"

"Oh, well why didn't you just say so?" She raised a hoof to her left. "She's right here."

He turned to look. He could hear hooves coming from the shadows next to the throne, saw a flash of lavender against the black. Something caught in his throat when she stepped into the light. He didn't even care that there was something very wrong about this.

"Twilight...?" His voice was almost a croak. "Is it... really you?"

"The one and only," confirmed Chrysalis, still with that smile. "Though I think you'll find she's a little bit... different."

"What have you...?!" His words died when he saw the faint, green glow in her eyes, a vacant expression. "No... no..."

"Yes, yes," his own voice replied. More hooves sounded from where she had come from. "Don't worry, I've been taking good care of her."

Another changeling wearing Dusk's form stood beside her. He placed a foreleg around her, his eyes glowing the same colour that hers were. He had to control his urge to run up and hit him.

"Get away from her!" he shouted.

"But I couldn't do that." He traced a hoof down the side of her face. "She loves me. She just wouldn't be able to go on without me, nor I without her, since you rejected me."

Dusk's eyes narrowed. "Not you..."

"Yes, me," he confirmed. He pressed himself against Twilight. "We do make a good couple, don't we my love?"

She nodded mutely in response, her eyes unfocused and still glowing green. That urge was becoming harder to resist.

"Stop it, right now!" He snorted aggressively. "Get away from her or I swear I will make you!"

"Do you hear that, Twilight?" he purred in her ear. "He's threatening me. He wants to keep us apart. He's a changeling, here to take you from me. Are you going to let that happen?"

"No..." Her voice was distant when she shook her head. "Won't... let it... happen..."

"I didn't think you would." He stepped back and moved his hooves in a gesture of offering. "Whenever you're ready, my love."

"I'm ready..." Her eyes suddenly fixed on him. Her horn started to glow. "I won't let you hurt him..."

"Twilight, please, don't listen to him," he begged. "It's me, it's Dusk-"

He ducked when a magical bolt whizzed over his head. He rolled to the side when another shot at him, raised a shield to block another. Even though he flinched when they struck, he could still see Twilight striding towards him. Even then, there was still something dead-like in the way she moved.

"I won't... let you hurt him," she repeated, firing off more bolts.

"Twilight, listen to me, he's the one tricking you." He removed his shield, looking right at her. "Look at me, you must know it's really me."

"No." He stepped back when she swung her hoof at him. "You... won't trick me, changeling."

"You're being tricked already!" He stepped back again to dodge another. "I know how it feels, but you have to believe me! You have to fight it!"

"I already am," she responded dully, pressing him against the wall. "You... can't beat me."

"I don't want to try." He flashed an orb briefly in front of her, pushing her off when she faltered. "I'm not going to fight you."

"Unfortunate..." She rubbed her eyes and looked back at him. "Because... I will."

She vanished in a flash of light and he whipped around when he heard her appear behind him. He managed to block the punch she threw and pushed her back. She was open for an attack, but he didn't take it. Instead, he put more distance between them, blocking and dodging when she fired more bolts of magic.

She started to walk towards him again, firing as she came. He could at least stop her getting close without hurting her. He tried wrapping shadows around her legs to keep her back. She struggled for a few moments before her horn flared. He lost concentration from the sudden shock and ended up releasing her, only just managing to block her next bolt of magic.

Dusk had to dive aside when his shield lost power. He tried to get up, but felt something stop him. Looking down, he saw the floor bubbling like quicksand. And he was sinking into it. He reached into the shadows, a tendril wrapping around his leg and pulling him out just as she appeared before him, more bolts shooting after him. He scrambled away from her again, placing up another shield.

He just had to keep away from her, wear down her strength. Once she tired, he might be able to restrain her, get her away from the changeling and try and break his hold on her. At the minute, her more advanced training was becoming evident. The magic she used meant he had to put more power into his shields than normal. With little chance to recover from the fighting before, his energy reserves were dwindling.

He had many opportunities where he knew he could attack her. But he just couldn't. This was no changeling, this was the actual Twilight. Even against a changeling, he had really push himself just to fight back. Here, that push was gone. How could he bring himself to hurt her?

So their fight went on, his imposter and Chrysalis watching it gleefully. It went on, him steadily growing weaker, her not letting up.

He became aware of something else. The sounds of battle outside seemed to have gotten closer. He thought he could hear a commotion out in the hallway, yells and sounds of magic being cast. Changeling or unicorn, he couldn't tell. Twilight turned her head toward the sound, the Dusk-changeling looked apprehensive while Chrysalis remained calm.

"Pay it no mind," Chrysalis assured the tense changeling beside her. "My guards won't let them get in here. If they somehow do get in here, we'll deal with them."

"Of course, my queen," he murmured, adding loudly to Twilight. "Don't worry, my love! We're safe in here! Hurry, stop him before his friends arrive!"

"Yes... of course..." She turned her attention back to him.

She looked confused. "Why? Why... won't you fight me?"

Cadence had tried this with him. Was it working now with her?

"I've already hurt you once." He blinked away the tears in his eyes. "I could never bear to hurt you again."

"W-what...?" She blinked rapidly. Was it his imagination or were her eyes flickering. "I... I don't understand..."

"I think you do," he whispered, focusing on her and not the sounds outside. "If I really were a changeling, wouldn't I be fighting back? Wouldn't I stop you from attacking me? But I haven't. I haven't tried to hurt you. So what could that mean?"

He could definitely see purple replacing green again. "That... you..."

"Yes," he nodded, stepping closer to her. "I'm the real Dusk. He's the imposter, not me. You know that, don't you?"

"I... I..." The glow of her horn lessened, life returning to her eyes. "D-Dusk...?"

"Yes..." He reached out for her. "It's me, Miss Sparkle. I'm here for you, just like before."

Her leg twitched ever so slightly. Like it too might slowly rise up to meet his. Her eyes were almost back to their lustrous shade of purple once more...

"That's just what he would say," said the hypnotic voice of the imposter. "Don't let him trick you, my love. He knows he can't beat you in a real fight, so he's resorting to cowardly tactics."

"No." He shook his head desperately when he saw the green begin to return. "No, I'm not, it's really me."

"Don't believe him, Miss Sparkle," he purred. His horn was glowing too. "You have him now, quickly! Do it!"

"No, don't listen to-!"

Another flash went off, followed by the feeling of his hooves leaving the floor. He tumbled through the air before hitting the ground again, sliding across the ground before coming to a halt. He recalled the last time he felt a spell like that hit him, fittingly from the same unicorn.

His vision was blurred from the spell, his thoughts unfocused. He could see her, make her out striding towards him. The glow from her horn was even stronger. Through his ringing ears, he could hear the imposter and Chrysalis laughing. He tried to move, but felt her magic bind him in place. He didn't have the strength to break free.

It was becoming clearer now. She was standing right over him. At least he could see her one last time before the end.

Then the door burst open.

The changeling Ray had punched was knocked right off his hooves. He actually flew backwards into the door, knocking it open and saving Ray some effort. He'd already had to fight his way through a few more of his friends to get here, they could at least be nice enough to open the door for him. He wasted no time in galloping into the throne room.

Chrysalis looked up from something she was watching as if he were only a minor distraction.

"Ah, and here's the non-Element, come to save his false hero. How fitting," she laughed. "I'm sorry you missed the big show, but you're just in time for the finale."

"Huh? What the heck is...?" He trailed off when he noticed something.

Dusk was standing next to her. Was he sneaking up on her? No, he was practically in full view of her. So what was he doing? He had a sudden thought that maybe he'd defected, but put that aside instantly. His friend wouldn't betray them, it had to be a changeling. Perhaps Chrysalis was expecting him and told one of them to morph into Dusk.

Then he saw what they were looking at. A battered, beaten Dusk, lying helplessly on the ground. Twilight, standing over him, her horn glowing, about to cast a spell. Was she a changeling? No, her magic wasn't green. Why was she attacking Dusk? He saw her green eyes looking vaguely at him, her zombie-like expression.

Just like the one Shining had.

"It's delicious, isn't it?" the queen said. "Isn't it amazing how something you claim makes you so strong in truth makes you so weak?"

Her laughter grew louder. It echoed in Ray's ears and it stirred something inside him. Something he was very familiar with.

Rage started to rise inside him, bubbling away like molten magma in a volatile volcano that had ust been waiting to erupt. Posing as Twilight and tricking Dusk into leaving was one thing. But this... posting as Dusk and manipulating Twilight's emotions to trick her into fighting the real Dusk? That just tore it!

He looked away from them, focused only on Chrysalis. She was still laughing, at the state Dusk was in and at the confusion he had before, like this was some sick way of getting her kicks. She was the one responsible for all of this pain and suffering, she was the one to blame. In that moment, all the pent-up anger he felt was directed at one thing.

And in a voice that wasn't entirely his own, he let it out.


That rage drove him on, galloping at her with unnatural speed and quickly closing the distance. The fake Dusk moved to stop him, but he easily knocked him aside. Chrysalis wasn't laughing anymore, her eyes widening in surprise. She stood, preparing to meet Ray's attack with her own, still looking confident.

But he didn't. A flash filled the throne room, just before he made contact with her. And they weren't in the throne room anymore.

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