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

Warring Dusk - AlphatheGriffin17



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

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Crimson Rage

Chrysalis was the one who managed to land her strike. It was enough to send the little stallion careening backwards and slamming into the ground. He whipped his head up and growled at her, vanishing in a flash of light. She turned just as he appeared behind her and kicked her in the face. He landed, jumped back up and punched her in her jaw.

She chuckled and shook off the pain. Taking off into the sky, she hovered and fired at him with bolts of magic. He either teleported or dodged out of their way, with a few glancing shots across his face or legs. When he vanished again, she anticipated his next move and swiped out with her hoof just as the flash appeared in front of her. She was rewarded with an impact and a grunt of pain.

She laughed as he fell to the ground. "Really, Ray, you're going to have to do much better than that."

"Shut up!" he growled. "I'm gonna... beat you!"

"Well, you're very welcome to try," she offered.

Ray let out another roar and charged at her. She side-stepped his punch, danced away from a flurry of kicks, caught one of his legs and tossed him away. He teleported, but she flew up off the ground and he missed. He teleported after her, but she caught the next punch he threw and let him dangle before dropping him.

"Really, Ray!" she called after him. "I thought this was meant to be a battle, not a little foal's game of tag!"

"Shut up!" he roared again.

"Ooh, what a witty comeback," she laughed. "Very well, if it's games you wish to play. Tag!" She suddenly shot a bolt at him, making him stumble. "You're it!"


"You'll never defeat her playing around like this," a deep voice in his head growled. "Come now, Ray. Give in to your anger. It's the only way."

He shook off the burn he felt in his leg, trying to ignore the voice. No, he thought, he couldn't. He'd gone too far already, he couldn't be pushed further.

Chrysalis noted the red aura mist that had started to gather around his body, his eyes beginning to turn red. She didn't pay it much mind, only the next flurry of punches and kicks he tried to land on her. Even with his teleporting, she knew she just had to pay attention to her blind sides and weak spots to avoid his attacks. She was actually smiling at how easy this was.

Throughout it all, that strange mist appeared to be growing more tangible. With every growl and snarl, it grew stronger. How curious. At one point, he did manage to land a punch on her leg. Even though he swung hard, she barely had to stumble.

"You tagged me!" she gasped. "It looks like I'm it now!"

She swiped him away and took off into the sky. From her vantage point, she began to rain down magical bolts upon him. He moved quickly to dodge and teleport, but the sheer intensity with which she used meant that she was frequently landing hits on the stallion, laughing all the while. This really was too much fun.

The bolts were of varying magical effects. Some of them would burn him and make him yelp. Some would drain his energy and make him stumble. Some were the sticky adhesive her race produced and would fix him to the floor. She would proceed to shoot magic close to him while he tried to break free, only hitting him when he did.

It was especially funny when he would free one leg only for him to be trapped again on the other. Or when she hit him right in the face with a burn spell or make him lose a little energy, making it harder to get out.

"Oh, I do so love watching somepony dance!" she laughed with mirth. "You're quite the mover, Ray! Maybe I should bring you to my court and you can be my jester!"

Meanwhile, Ray was seething with anger. She was toying with him, mocking him. The red mist around him only grew stronger, the voice in his head growing louder with every passing second she played this sick game with him.

"Shut her up. Show her what you can really do if you let yourself go. Show her what real power is!"

In his anger, he stopped resisting. Chrysalis was powerful and he needed to match her if he was going to beat her, maybe surpass her. So he did it. He started to let it out more...

Chrysalis ceased her attacks when she saw the mist change. It seemed to become more like a thick cloak, enveloping Ray's entire body. It even started to take a shape of some kind, some sort of four-legged beast, equipped with sharp claws and a thick, long tail.

Interestingly, she saw him actually flex these claws like they were part of him, even if his hooves beneath had no claws with which to speak of. He ground up small patches of dirt and looked up at her, still seething with anger.

"This should be entertaining," she chuckled. "Let's see if you can still keep me amused. I'm enjoying this little session so far, I have to admit."

A growling laugh resounded in his head. "Now, this is more like it! Let's see how well she mocks now, shall we?"

Ray suddenly lashed out with one of the claws. Chrysalis had to almost dive aside to dodge it and barely had time to recover when another swung for her. The claws left deep grooves in the ground where she had been standing.

"Come on, are you trying to hit me or swipe an alarm clock?" she taunted, firing some more bolts at him. "Step it up a little more!"

He snarled, baring his sharp teeth. "Shut up and HOLD STILL!"

She flew up and felt the claw swipe beneath her, just missing her. He still stumbled from being hit, but the cloak of mist appeared to be protecting him and it didn't have quite the same effect. It was no matter, at least they still had an effect.

She added a little more intensity to the beams she fired, but again to lingering effects. Burns didn't remain for long, his swipes were still powerful despite her draining energy and he easily tore through the goo she trapped him in. Finally, a little challenge!

Chrysalis marvelled for a bit at this magical prowess, studying it carefully while she dodged and weaved around his blows. Though the claws and tail he now had appeared to be made up of magical aura, they appeared to be just as strong as if they were solid and he controlled them like they were a part of him. She actually saw him splitting trees with attacks he missed with and punching small craters into the ground from the impacts of them.

One claw swiped a little too close for her liking, slicing off part of her mane, so she took temporary refuge behind a tree and managed to slip away for a bit, leaving him searching for her, tearing up parts of the forest. Though his strength seemed greater, it looked like he was losing a lot of self control. His attacks were very spontaneous and uncoordinated, more like an angry animal lashing out at his prey than any rational being trying to fight.

While this did make them predictable, to an extent, she still had to be a little more careful if she was going to stay out of their way. Such recklessness as he was using might pay off for him in the end.

Perhaps it was time for a different tactic. She thought of the Elements of Harmony and decided the perfect one to play the part of. She had seen the way he'd been looking at her, how she acted around him, so there was no better.

"Stop!" she cried out in Fluttershy's voice, diving out from behind the tree. "Please, be more careful Ray! You could hurt somepony doing-"

WHAM!

He swiped at her with one of his phantom claws. She expected him to stop, at least hesitate and was caught completely off-guard and slammed into. How on earth had he managed to see through her disguise so quickly?

"You stupid Changelings...and your stupid TRICKS!" she heard him roar.

A different thought occurred to her. In his blinding rage, Ray barely even cared what he was hitting just so long as it was something. Especially her.

"I must confess, even I'm a little impressed by your efforts. You see what can be done now, if you just let go?"

Ray would have normally ignored the voice but in his state, even he couldn't argue with the results and growled in satisfaction.

He'd struck her with such force that the tree that she hit had actually splintered and fallen over. She applied a quick piece of magic to lessen the throbbing she felt in her entire left side. That attack had definitely been more powerful than his previous ones. Perhaps a little more caution would have to be applied.

She applied a strategy of simply flying out of his reach and using ranged attacks. With his reckless strikes and wild swings, they were relatively simple to anticipate and dodge while she stayed out of his way. She used her magical talents to both hurt and drain him little by little. Before long, he would be too tired to cope and would give in. It was only a matter of time, as she was more powerful than him.

After all, she had already faced down Princesses Celestia and Luna and brought Canterlot to its knees, with her changelings already besieging the rest of their lands. She could handle one stallion, no matter how supreme his anger management issues might be.

But when she dodged a claw swipe and prepared another spell, she was shocked when she saw his tail swing towards her. It hit her, leaving her feeling a little dazed from the impact. Before she could recover, a claw latched onto her and slammed her into the ground quite painfully.

She managed to whip up a small shield to reduce the impact, but her patience was wearing thin. This had been mildly amusing for her, but she had her tolerance limits and this stallion was really starting to push them. She saw him preparing to strike her once more.

"Yes," growled the voice in his head, "we have her now. Let her feel my rage!"

Chrysalis sniffed and smirked. "I'm through playing."

Calling on her magic, she sent a stream of green fire at the stallion. In the intensity of the battle, it seemed to take shape and almost looked like a dragon, opening its maw wide to swallow Ray whole. Acting quickly, he jumped into the sky to dodge it, his greater strength propelling him to an incredible height for a normal pony.

But there was less maneuverability in the air, she thought. Let's see how well he can fly without wings.

She sent three more streams of fire at him, each stronger than the last. Ray saw these coming as he fell and veered to the right to evade the first. For the second, he quickly pulled to the side, feeling the heat of it passing by. There wasn't any time to dodge the third, he was going to hit it. But he wasn't worried, nor was his tenant.

Using the mist-claws he had, he physically pushed past the burning heat of the flames, travelling right through its length and smacking Chrysalis in the face. His landing was so hard, it cracked the ground beneath his hooves and he sent her bouncing a few meters away.

A few moments of silence passed. Ray hissed through his gritted teeth, feeling the elation the other in his mind had, relishing in the battle. Yet still he wanted more...

However, he hissed even more when a distorted chuckle reached his ears. Chrysalis was rising back to her hooves and dusted herself off casually.

"It's not enough. She doesn't need to just be beaten. She needs to be finished, for good and there's only one way we can achieve that."

"Is that really the best you can do?" she taunted. "Look at you. All of that power, all of that rage and you still can't defeat me. Not that you even had much of a chance to begin with."

Hisses became growls, the elation from before steadily boiled into more rage.

"You know what to do, Ray. You know she doesn't deserve to live. Let's finish this. Let me take over..."

"I actually find it remarkable," she went on, "that you've been with your friends all of this time and they have no idea what you are. How would they react if they ever discovered this, I wonder? For how long would they be your friends if they had even the slightest idea of what you've got hidden away?"

His growling intensified, he could feel it inside his head, demanding to be released.


"You want to beat her, you know you do. Do it, do it, do it!"

"How do you think they might react, hm?" she asked. "Will they just stop seeing you, tell you to leave, that you never really fitted in with them to begin with? Yes, I think that's how it will go. After all, you're just a mindless, angry beast underneath all of the witty comments and big grin. Beasts like you don't have friends. They're always alone, but then again, I suppose you're used to that. It'll be just like old times."


"DO IT!"

She finished and waited to see his reaction. She felt a degree of satisfaction when he lapsed into complete silence. Even better, he was completely still, not moving a muscle. The forest became eerily quiet now. The stallion neither moved nor spoke.

When he did, it was in a deathly calm tone but she could hear the anger grinding on every syllable. The ground began to rumble loudly beneath him, cracks appearing along it while small pebbles rose into the air around him.

"You don't know...anything." Parts of his skin began to flake off like burnt paper, rising and dissolving into the air. "Don't talk about them...like you know them!" She could see a roiling mass of red energy beneath it, intimidating even her a little."Especially in front of ME!"

Everything seemed to freeze for a split second when he yelled this last part. For a split second, he looked straight at her with absolute fury in his eyes. Half of his face began to morph and she actually started to back away a little.

Inside his head, through all of the anger and the rage that burned inside it like an inferno, Ray heard one word. It was in a deep, growling tone that felt like it was shaking his bones from the weight with which it spoke, even though it was practically a murmur.

"Yes..."

Then the air around him exploded.

Such was the sudden magnitude of it, Chrysalis barely had time to throw up a shield around herself. Even then, she actually had a hard time maintaining it from the forces acting upon it. She could see its devastating effects through the transparent field, distorted slightly by the green shimmer of her distorted magic.

The shockwave was ripping up entire sections of the ground while simultaneously uprooting, if not outright destroying, the surrounding trees and sent a massive cloud of dust and debris into the air. Mixed in with it all was a vague hint of red like blood. It seemed to go on for an eternity, a sight of destruction and death.

Just when she thought her shield might collapse, the explosion finally died down. Letting out a small breath of relief, she lowered her shield. She had to squint through the lingering dust that filled the air just to see.

The entire area around them had become a massive crater, cracks in the dirt like a spider's web, without a hint of life anywhere, while the trees beyond the crater are bent away from the force of the blast. She swore that it felt a little hotter too, like a fire had just burned the ground beneath her hooves. No fire could have done this though.

And at the very epicentre of the explosion, where Ray had been standing, she could just barely make out something glowing. As the dust began to settle and she could begin to make it out.

A low growl emerges from within the depths of the fading dust. Guttural, deep, and purely animalistic. A figure slowly became visible. It was...not a pony. The creature had no skin or coat. Rather, its entire body was composed of that same dark red energy she had been seeing. Where once there were hooves, there were now claws and feet, each with four digits, digging into the earth as though excited. A tail more akin to a raging fire than fur emerged from his rear.

And the head... no longer was it the head of a pony. It looked more like a dog or perhaps a wolf, but even those seemed like poor comparisons to what she was seeing. The mouth had been transformed into a sharp-toothed maw that, when opened, showed nothing but bright white. The eyes had also transformed; no irises, no pupils, only two glowing white holes with no depth. The body's shape remained but the same as before...but it was no longer Ray Strike standing before her.

As she looked at him...whatever he was...she swore that she actually saw him...or it...grin.

She took a moment to try and gather herself. She was Queen of the changelings and she wouldn't be so easily shaken.

"I swear, this foal..." she began to mutter.

And at that moment, the creature released a roar that carried on for miles and shook the very earth itself.


"Here we are then, guys," Rainbow announced, leading them into the generator room. "Final stretch."

"Wow..." Thunderlane stared. "I didn't know how big this place was."

"Big just means more of a challenge, right Rainbow?" grinned Lightning.

She shrugged tiredly. "I'll be honest, I could have done with just a big red button to turn this whole thing on."

"What's that supposed to mean?" She smirked. "You're not getting tired, are you?"

"No, of course not," Rainbow said with bravado. "I was just thinking about you, Light. You look like you could use some rest."

"Please, I got enough in me to run circles around these guys," she chuckled. "Appreciate the thought though."

"Anytime."

They stopped suddenly, falling silent. They could actually hear a faint rumbling, coming from somewhere below them.

"What was that?" Thunderlane looked back fearfully. "That wasn't the door, was it?"

"Nah, sounded like it came below us." Lightning nudged him. "Chill out, Thunder. We're almost done."

"Yeah..." A loud crash and a flurry of activity followed not long after. "Now, that was the door!"

"I guess we've lost our Edge," muttered Lightning. "Doesn't sound like there's too many of them left. Thunder and I can hold them off. Rainbow, you go and get these things going."

"Hey, you forget who's in-!"

"I know who's in charge, I'm just strongly suggesting you should!"

Rainbow thought about it. She really wanted to stay and fight with them, but Lightning was right. They'd had enough delays getting here and needed to get this done. If she was quick enough, they wouldn't have to be fighting for long.

She started to gallop. "You two better not die on me while I'm gone!"

"Wouldn't dream of it!" Lightning called back.

She heard them fly off to meet the buzzing that was growing louder. It was all she could do not to turn back around and join them.

She kept on sprinting and flying past the series of pipes and large, cylindrical turbines about the same size as a house in Ponyville, along the walkways the ponies here used for inspecting them. These pipes, filled with water, connected the turbines with one another and also went off to different parts of the factory. Even they paled in comparison to the largest one, smack in the centre of the room. She made sure to keep it in her sights. That was where she was going.

This was another thing they needed water for. The Weather Factory systems ran on a form of hydroelectricity. She didn't get most of the science behind it, that was for eggheads like Twilight, but the turbine churned the water and gave it a current, letting it flow into a series of similar, smaller turbines that then provided power for some of the other machines in the factory. All they had to do was get the turbine working.

To do that, there was a way to get into the bigger turbine to get the smaller ones working. A few Pegasi would fly inside, get some momentum to get the turbine spinning and get out once it had enough speed. Hopefully, it would only work with just one Pegasus. Luckily, that one Pegasus just so happened to be completely awesome, so they would be fine.

She heard buzzing behind her. She dived aside, just in time to avoid some shots fired from a pair of changelings behind her. She listened for the buzzing of their wings and stuck her hoof out when they were close. One smacked right into it while the other ducked. She grabbed the one she'd hit since he was still dazed and threw him into his friend.

Before he could recover from that, she galloped past and punched him down as she went. She didn't have time to deal with these guys and she couldn't waste energy on fighting more. She needed it for what she was planning to do.

She finally reached the end of the maze of mini-turbines and at the feet of the big one. She flew up onto the walkway that led to it and set down for a few seconds, actually glad to have a small chance to rest. She could hear Lightning and Thunderlane fighting with the changelings down below. She cursed not being able to be down there with them.

She could hear something else too. Something down below, maybe out of the city at ground level. Whatever it was, it sounded like a pretty big fight from all of the rumbling it was making. Was it from Canterlot or had the changelings gone for Ponyville again? Was it to do with that roar she heard before getting here?

She put it out of her mind and set off again. She could figure out later. Right now, she needed to focus. She watched out for the turnings and paths that would lead her to where she needed, going as fast as she could.

She saw at the end of the walkway something on the control panel. There! A porthole into the bigger turbine. All she had to do was get into it and this would be over. She half galloped, half flew towards it, her goal within her reach-

Something collided with the side of her head. She tumbled, skidded to a halt on the clouds. She raised her head, her blurry vision clearing to see Commander Sting striding towards her.

Even through her unfocused eyes, she could see he wasn't looking too good. His helmet was gone and he had burns all over his armour. His unscarred eye could now be considered formerly unscarred, because it now had a big, angry red burn over that. It kind of actually matched with the scar he had down his other eye.

It still didn't do much to improve his looks though.

"Back for more, huh?" she asked, backing away a little. "You guys just really don't know when to give up, do you?"

"Because I know how this will end." He punched at her, but she just managed to duck. "And it will be with my hooves around your throat!"

She shook her head to clear it and swung a hoof at him. It was clumsy and he easily blocked it, countering with a strike of his own. Rainbow tried again, managing to land a hit this time. The next one she followed up with was caught again and he jabbed her three times, twice in the face and once near her neck.

Her windpipe contracted and she suddenly couldn't breathe. He spun her and tossed her back down the walkway, further from the porthole and now standing between it and her. She got some of her breath back, waited until he was right in front of her and quickly kicked up. He swiped it down and punched her in the gut. He kicked her again, sending her a little further away.

She felt like she'd been fighting and flying forever. She was reaching the limits of her strength with all of the stuff she'd been doing and the injuries she'd received. While Sting wasn't looking great, he seemed to be faring much better than her.

She could actually see the hate in his eyes burning cold.

"I knew, you know," he growled. He grabbed her by her neck and hefted her up. "From the moment I saw him, I knew he couldn't be trusted. I should have killed him sooner."

"Guess so." She noted the burn on his right eye. "See you got a new battle scar though."

"Just another reminder of the crimes your race has committed against mine!" he snarled. "And I shan't be forgetting this one!"

He threw her aside, her head smacking off the metal rail. She coughed and tried to raise her head when he approached.

"What did... we do to you, Sting?" she spluttered. "What... did we do to make you... hate us like this?"

"What do you care?" He grabbed her again, his icy blue eyes boring into her. "You're going to die and you'll never know. How does that make you feel?"

"I dunno." She kicked upwards and he dropped her. "Because I'm not dying. Not today."

Before he could recover, she turned around again and galloped into the turbine. She wasn't going to let herself get distracted from this. She had to finish this!

She practically dived inside and started flying in a circle as soon as she got in. She had to gather enough wind to turn the fan directly below her. Her limbs were burning, her wings felt like they were going to drop off and her head was pounding from all of the hits she'd taken. She kept flying though. She had to finish this, once and for all!

The world began to blur while she flew. She could see the fan below, it was starting to turn. The wind around her was getting stronger. Come on, she urged herself, keep at it. Feel the burn, you can do this. Come on!

Something green whizzed past her head. She glanced back and saw Sting flying after her. He must have followed her inside. Amazingly, the changeling was keeping up with her in the wind currents she was generating and managing to fire off his weird magic at her.

And she thought Pinkie Pie had been determined to chase her.

She ignored him and tried her best to dodge the bolts. If she deviated from her course, she could lose control of the tornado and spin out of control. With how fast those fan blades would be spinning, that was not a situation she wanted to be in. Hopefully, his aim wouldn't be great and she wouldn't have to worry about it.

The fan below her was whirring louder and louder. She could hear the water splashing below being churned up. She was in the home stretch now!

Something cold hit her leg, faltering her flight. She saw the green goo clinging to her hoof. She willed herself to get back in control, but a pair of legs wrapped around her waist. She tried to pull away, but they were too strong. They had her legs constricted, she couldn't fight back...

And they were pushing her down. Slowly towards the rotating fan blades. She tried to resist against it, but she didn't have a lot left in her. She'd been flying so fast...

"It's over, Rainbow Dash," Sting hissed in her ear. "You lose."

For a moment, it looked like he was right. She couldn't get free, the blades of the turbine were getting close as they flew...

Until she felt a familiar energy crackling around her body. Had she really been flying that fast?

Sting seemed to notice it too. She heard him cry in surprise, felt the grip around her lessen. She slipped out a leg, jabbed him in the chest with her elbow and managed to reverse it so that she had a hold of him instead. She flew him out of the turbine, bursting through the cloud wall and up into the sky.

It was really building now, so she changed course and shot towards where the changelings were still defending the entrance to the factory. Sting was struggling, but she wasn't letting him go. She didn't want him to miss this.

"One thing you should know about me, Commander," she called, the energy reaching its climax. "I hate losing!"

BOOM!

She saw the rainboom appear behind her, felt her speed increase tenfold. Sting was actually screaming now and he was still screaming when she threw him away in mid-flight. He shot through the sky, his screams becoming fainter and fainter until he was just a little speck in the distance. She actually saw a little shine where he vanished completely.

Now, she let herself breathe a sigh of relief. Her head still hurt, her wings still ached, but she'd done it. Like she knew she would. Even better, the goo around her rear hoof was gone, blown away from the force of the rainboom. It wasn't like she was grossed out, but she could have done without it anyway.

All around her, the other changelings were scattered by the rainboom, careering away in every direction. A cheer sounded off from the attacking Pegasi, who now charged forward and stormed the factory. Rainbow let herself grin and shot meet them, leaving a rainbow trail behind her while her energy faded away.

She managed to make out the captain at the head of the pack waving her over.

"Mission completed, ma'am!" she reported. "The generators are coming online, the defensive perimeter has been broken and the changeling commander is out of action."

"Excellent!" praised Spitfire. "Your team all did a great job. I can see I made the right choice by letting you lead this mission, Rainbow Dash."

"No problem, ma'am," she saluted. Normally, she'd make some kind of cocky comment, but she figured to show some proper respect for the captain.

She looked around in confusion. "Didn't you say you found somepony? I heard the report from Fleetfoot. Where are they?"

She hesitated, looking for the right words. "He... didn't make it, ma'am. But I can confirm that it was thanks to his efforts we were able to pull this off in the first place."

"I see..." She nodded grimly. "Well, we'll make sure he's given the respect he deserves for what he's done."

Rainbow actually smiled. "He'd appreciate it, ma'am. I know he would."

Spitfire nodded, gave her a salute and raised her voice to the Pegasi who were now flooding into the factory.

"Alright, listen up ponies!" Spitfire called. "Let's get ready to show these changelings who really own the skies! Get on the bellows, kick up some storms, make it rain and bring the pain! We're taking our city back today!"


When they had been running and fighting before, it was because they were just trying to get through without getting pinned down. The changelings had still put up some heavy resistance along the way, but they'd still managed to make some good progress despite that. It had still been a challenging effort though.

When they'd started their advance this time, it was practically effortless with the aid that they had this time. She only had to look up at the sky to see that the odds had tipped in their favour, though it was rather strange to see the lower city bathed in the warming glow of the sun, while the area above the palace was enshrouded in the black of night.

Changeling resistance was dissolving away. She could see those in the lower town fleeing out of the city while pillars of fire pursued them and huge flares of sunlight scattered them. Those who still tried to take up positions to stop their advance to the palace also began to flee when jagged bolts of lightning struck the ground near them and showers of meteors rained down upon them.

Cadence could see them in the areas they were fighting, soaring majestically. Celestia, her regal magnificence shining through the beams of her sun. Luna, her righteous rage and fury a terrible sight to behold while shadows and stars gathered around her. Their eyes were aglow, their manes billowing, their power unleashed.

Honestly, she would be surprised if any of the changelings remained behind after seeing all of this. She was actually hoping they wouldn't. Since Chrysalis had been feeding off of them to gain more power while they were her prisoners, they hadn't had much time to recover all of their strength. Hence both because of they thought this had gone on long enough, they aimed only to scare the changelings into retreating without actually hurting them.

Fortunately, it seemed to be working. The fighting must be getting really intense, for she could feel a faint rumbling in the earth. Until they reached the palace and found a large group of them waiting for them. She could see a few guards there too, held in place by their goo.

"That's far enough, ponies!" declared a member of Chrysalis's Guard. "You shan't get past us! We'll make sure of it!"

"Stand down!" she commanded. "This had to end!"

"Not while we're still breathing!" he screeched.

"Is this really worth it?" she asked them. "Your forces are scattered and you can see what the Royal Pony Sisters can do now they're free. Just leave now and we won't retaliate."

"You think us fools? You think we're scared by some sunshine and lightning?!" He threw his hoof back to the door. "Soon, our queen shall join us in battle! Your princesses will be our prisoners and Canterlot will be ours once more! Perhaps it's you who should be thinking of surrender!"

"Then where is your queen?" she pressed on. "Why hasn't she joined you? Why isn't she taking up arms with her loyal soldiers? I think it's because even she knows that this cause is lost."

"Never!" he insisted desperately. "She would never abandon us! It's only a matter of time before she joins us!"

Cadence was about to speak again when the doors of the palace flew open. She couldn't see what was inside, as it was too dark. The changelings, however, all began to cackle, preparing themselves for another fight.

What most of them didn't see were some shadows in the centre of their group. They were moving, like they were alive...

"You see?" hissed the guard. "Our glorious ruler has come!"

"I'm afraid I'll have to correct you on that," familiar voice said within the shadows. "We're not really rulers..."

"... just a couple of students," finished a mare's.

Before the changelings could react, the shadows lashed out like tentacles, swiping away the nearest changelings and smacking them into the walls. They all turned to see Dusk Noir and Twilight Sparkle in their midst, their horns and necklace halves glowing in the dark.

"And class is in session!" they declared together.

The changelings dived at them as one, but they were repelled once more by a cream and violet shield that suddenly expanded from the two unicorns. It exploded in a great flash of light, blinding them and scattering them further. They both charged, Dusk striking high and Twilight striking low, taking down two changelings separately. They struck together on one directly behind those two and sent him flying back into his friends.

They started to swarm them again. A purple flash consumed them both and they reappeared in the air, landing on top of two changelings each. More flew after them, but they used their heads like stepping stones back down to the ground, Dusk punching a changeling before he hit the ground while Twilight kicked one in the head.

"Uh, ya think we should help 'em?" asked Applejack unsurely.

Cadence ducked to avoid a changeling that was punched away. "I think they're going to be fine."

Taking half of the group each, they bowed their heads and mowed them down with bolts of magic, easily reducing their numbers. He whipped off his hat and threw it around in a circle, a resounding clang going off whenever it hit a changeling. It was caught by Twilight who swung at three changelings charging at her and handed it back to her coltfriend.

There were only a few more to go now. Dusk's hooves suddenly turned blue and he sped away, galloping past changelings and hitting them while he ran by. Twilight teleported him randomly to keep the changelings guessing until he arrived back in the middle with her. Hooves turning pink, he bounded into the air and hit a changeling directly above him. Twilight was levitated up on a colour cloud next to him and took out another.

Dazed from their beatings, seeing they were beaten, the changelings took off. Even then, the two unicorns fired off a few more shots to make sure they didn't come back. Confident they wouldn't be coming back, they moved to free the guards and Cadence now motioned for their group to move up.

The guards galloped away to secure the area, while Cadence and Applejack went to meet the two-pony army. She felt that faint rumbling from before while they were.

"'Class is in session?'" Cadence giggled when she came up to meet them. "Honestly, you two."

"It worked, didn't it? Anyway, I didn't see any of you helping," countered Dusk.

"You two looked like you had everything under control," she returned. "I didn't want to cramp either of your styles."

"If it makes ya feel any better, ah suggested that we should help," put in Applejack.

"I knew you would." Beaming, Twilight caught her friend in a hug. "It's good to see you again, Applejack."

"Likewise, Twah." She looked at her with concern. "Ya ain't hurt too bad, are ya?"

"Don't worry, I'm fine." She smiled at Dusk. "He's seen to that."

"I knew he would." She gave him a satisfactory smile while Twilight hugged her next. "Didn't I tell you that love wasn't a weakness?"

"Yes, I think you've proved your point," he chuckled. "Although I think you've proved it long before this with your own actions."

"I'd definitely say so." Twilight smiled all the more. "There was one thing that kept you going all of this time. We've had our reward, Cadence. Now it's time for you to have yours."

Cadence followed their eyes to the palace entrance. She actually felt her heart stop when she saw who was coming out to meet her. They both froze, him on the castle steps, her waiting at the bottom, almost disbelieving the evidence of their own eyes. They had been through so much to see this moment, that it didn't seem real.

But it was. It really, really was. The earth rumbled again, but she ignored it. She only focused on him.

"CADENCE!" He was galloping down the stairs full pelt to meet her.

"SHINING!" She was galloping too. She almost didn't expect to reach him, to find out that this wasn't real, that it was just another changeling trick.

But he didn't fade away when they were feet from each other. When they embraced, his fur didn't suddenly melt away to revel the changeling underneath. When they kissed, she that this taste, this sensation that only he gave her, it could only be him. This was actually happening. She had him back, at long last.

And it was wonderful.

"Shining, my Shining," she murmured happily in-between kisses. "You're here, you're here, you're back."

"I am, of course I am. You saved me." He held her close and she already felt safe. "You did it, Cadence. I knew you would."

"Of course I would." She laughed a little. "I'm thinking somepony made a mistake. Maybe I should have been the captain of the guard and you should have been the princess."

"Nah, I wouldn't have the hips for the dress." He traced a hoof across her face. "I don't think I could do well to match the looks needed either."

She tapped the end of his muzzle. "Well, I think you would make a fine princess."

"Thanks. I think." His smile faded when something else came to mind. "I'm sorry for not coming with you when all of this started. If I had..."

She shook her head. "I don't care about that anymore. It doesn't matter now."

"But I..."

She placed a hoof on his lips and kissed him again.

"I'm just glad to have you back. Even if the only reason I lost you was because you acted like an idiot," she added.

"I did not!" he insisted, putting on a bold voice. "I acted like the brave hero you know and love."

"The line between bravery and stupidity is a very a fine one indeed," she countered. "Then again, it's like Twilight said. You stallions may be idiots..."

"But you're our idiots and we'll make sure you act less stupidly," finished Twilight.

"Even though you did the exact same thing he did." Dusk laughed, but stopped when Twilight punched his leg lightly. "Sorry..."

Twilight giggled and kissed his cheek. A smile returned to the stallion's face and he nuzzled her. Cadence smiled at the sight and looked back to her stallion.

"At least you're back safe with me, where you belong. But just remember," she warned. "If you ever try to act heroic like that again, I'm going to find the strongest binding spell I can to make sure you never try it again."

He laughed. "If you say so, but we both know it's one of those things you love about me."

"I'd be lying if I said I didn't," she purred. "It was very brave, I have to admit and heroes deserve a reward for such bravery."

"Oh really?" he asked sensually. "What kind of reward?"

"I have a few ideas, but I'd prefer to show you when we're alone," she said, matching his tone.

He gave her a half-lidded gaze. "I'm looking forward to it..."

"I am too," she said, returning it.

"Shining, Cadence, please, your sister is standing right here," reminded Dusk.

Cadence rolled her eyes and laughed. "Oh come on, like you two weren't any different when you reunited."

"What?!" Twilight flushed. "What are you saying?! That we... that we just... because we didn't, we wouldn't! I mean, not ever, but just not yet and not um... well..."

She stammered on while Dusk lapsed into embarrassed silence. Enough so they could hear some sounds of distant conflict that didn't appear to be coming from the city, along with that faint rumbling in the earth again.

Fortunately, they were both saved from the possible onslaught of playful mocking by another source.

"DUSK!" A booming, yet joyful voice filled their ears. "MY STUDENT! MY FRIEND! IT GLADDENS ME SO TO SEE YOU UNHARMED!"

"I'm happy to see you too, Lu-" He was cut off from the huge hug the princess gave him, squeezing him like a python.

"I AM MOST PLEASED TO HEAR IT! AND YOU TOO, TWILIGHT SPARKLE!" A second later, she was swept in it too. "THE DAY SHALL SOON BE OURS AND WE SHALL ALL BE UNITED ONCE MORE! REJOICE, FOR THIS A HAPPY DAY INDEED!"

"We're happy to be back together too, Auntie Luna, but you might want to leave those two some air so they can rejoice when this is over," she hinted.

"BUT OF COURSE!" She released them, though she was still smiling. "MY APOLO- I mean my apologies for being slightly enthusiastic."

"Slightly...?" gasped Twilight.

"It's... no trouble, Luna," said Dusk, taking deep breaths. "You are right though. I think we've nearly finished this conflict."

"Then we are of the same mind. Look there!" she pointed. "A messenger comes, no doubt with glad tidings!"

"Dusk! Other ponies!" Rover scampered in, even managing a quick salute. "I am here, bringing report from lower town!"

"Go ahead then," he prompted, surprised at how far they'd come.

"Thank you. Miss Rarity and Supreme High Commander and Super Awesome Warrior Master Spike sends me to tell you that-"

"Hold on," Twilight said, "what was that you just said there?"

"It's what he wanted me to call him." A long silence followed in the wake of this. "What? I'm not exactly over the moon about it either, you know!"

"Okay, never mind," Dusk dismissed quickly. "What's your report?"

The dog nodded, thankful for the return to the subject. "The lower town is mostly secure. The changelings are in full retreat out of the city, but we has another problem. Message from Cloudsdale says that they have beaten back the invading changelings there too."

Dusk's brow furrowed. "I don't understand, how is that bad news?"

"Because the changelings who are leaving Cloudsdale are being reported to be joining forces with the ones from here!" he said frantically. "That means more of them will be coming back for another round. A lot more."

"Then we don't have time to waste." Shining immediately stepped back into the shoes of being captain. "Get back to the lower town, tell everypony and everydog there to dig in and be ready for another attack. Send some flyers to Cloudsdale, tell them we need every possible Pegasus they can spare. This is gonna be a tough one."

Dusk was about to comply, as was everypony else present, when he stopped. He was struck by a sudden inspiration.

"Permission to speak, captain?" he asked.

"You don't need permission, Dusk," he said sincerely. "You're one of the reasons I'm even back to giving orders. Go ahead."

"Thank you. You said this was going to be a difficult battle. Actually," he said, "it might not be."

"What is your plan, my student?" asked Luna.

"Firs of all," he began, "we let the changelings into the city or at least let them get within its borders. Everypony else will retreat back inside the palace, except for Shining, Cadence and a small number of guards to wait for them."

"Okay, I'll buy this for now, even if it does sound insane," Shining said a little sceptically. "Then what?"

"Then..." He let his gaze linger on Cadence, then on Shining. "You two are going to work a little magic."

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