• 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.

  • ...

A Bride Unveiled

It hadn't been an easy night of sleep for Dusk, once again in Twilight's old study suite at Celestia's School. He would have been sleeping in the castle suite he was meant to be sharing with Twilight, but having found the door locked when he tried to get in, he had to find somewhere else to spend the night. He just hoped nopony would mind the fact that he'd needed to sneak in.

The reason for why he had been kept awake would be obvious to anypony who knew him. It wasn't for this supposed threat on Canterlot or whoever might have issued it. It hadn't been for his nightmares that he was kept awake last night, although they had been steadily creeping back when he had tried to sleep. For these sins that kept him sleeping, it had been the result of a far more recent act.

All night he had battled in his mind, wandering if he'd done the right thing to give Cadence the benefit of the doubt regarding her indecent behaviour or if he should have banded with Twilight against her, when all the others had seemed to leave her. Even with that and the weighing guilt that pressed on his mind from the indecision, he still hadn't been able to figure out the answer.

He'd tried looking at it from both ways. On the one hoof, Princess Cadence's actions did seem justifiable when looked at from a reasonable standpoint. Of course she'd be stressed from having to handle all the wedding preparations, as well as for the wedding itself. Anypony could understand her attitude with that. He understood what a day of stressful situations could do to a pony, though he hoped Cadence wouldn't have the same problem he had…

The same could be said for Twilight, with her reaction towards the wedding and how easily she could make a problem from something. But then it was Twilight… with these things, it usually was Twilight…

He rose from the bed, not that he'd actually slept much and crossed over to the window. Celestia's sun was just breaking over the horizon. The wedding rehearsal would be in a few minutes, not long after the wedding itself. Twilight would be venturing today to stop the former before the latter could begin, to save her brother from the mistake he might be about to make.

Dusk sighed and stared down at his necklace half, gazing into its lavender, sparkling depths.

He hated being at odds with her. He always preferred to stand by her, whatever decisions she might make. He might occasionally disagree with her, but they'd usually find some way to compromise, especially considering what happened the last time they had a fight. He would always want to see her happy, rather than displease like he had done. He would want to join her, take her side on this.

But then that was the other problem. Cadence's actions could be both justifiable considering her stress, but also questionable considering what he knew from when he'd met her. Again, he just didn't know where to stand on it and therein lay the root of the problem. It had just managed to get itself tangled in everything else.

He just wasn't decided on Cadence's actions and what they meant. She'd been so nice when he'd met her, yet she'd been so rude as of late, among other things. Treating him with a kind of indifference she hadn't done last time. Could it be that she had just been putting on an act for that time and she had always been this unpleasant? No, that didn't seem to fit. Did she need to maintain an image? And yet ruin her reputation at the same time? Did she want to appear a proper princess? But Luna and Celestia were both so kind…

"I just don't know," he murmured aloud. "What am I supposed to do?"

At the minute, it didn't look like there was anything he could do. He didn't want to confront Cadence without proper facts and reasons, nor could he dissuade Twilight from doing so. He couldn't really ask the others, for they would all be too busy with the wedding and just repeat what they had said last night.

He gazed again out of the window, noting the increased guards and the barrier that surrounded the whole city. It might be tough on the citizens and he might not be comfortable with such a display of military force, but at least they'd be kept safe. It was a good thing that Edge and Tube had been captured by the Changelings. The last he thing he needed was those two causing problems here with their third party… whoever he might be…

He had a good idea as to whom, as much as he didn't want to think about it…

Deciding to take his mind off of it for now, he turned to Twilight's books. Since Luna had mentioned about learning about the other lands of Equestria and since it was a while he'd read something factual that wasn't about magic, it seemed sensible to do something a little more productive with his time. Maybe the answer would come to him while he worked.

He cast his hoof along the World Studies section, looking under C and came across a book entitled Changelings- A Comprehensive Guide to Changeling Society. He pulled it down from the shelf and crossed over to a table. Checking the contents, he turned to a section on their general culture, remembering how Luna had mentioned hives and colonies.

Finding the page, he read:

Culturally, the changeling is diverse. While they share the same language (a series of clicks, whistles, and hums in varying lengths and tones) the vocabulary is somewhat different depending on the area or even the caste. Miners speak with different vocabulary than soldiers or breeders, for example, but the differences are small enough to make a large, centralized union possible. Changelings are capable of learning other languages, and have shown little to no difficulties in adapting to different styles of speech.

The details of Changeling government varies, and the Swarm is just one manifestation, but most commonly it is a form of communistic government and the individual values others before himself, making them very productive and allowing their populations to expand far faster than ponies or other races. There is no "hive mind" of any sort, every changeling works and thinks independently.

There are two distinct styles of changeling society, and this is important to note. There are colonies, which are small settlements or towns independent of the Swarm, or any other settlement for that matter, and there are hives, which are far more militaristic and brutal. Think of them like Athens and Sparta. Colonies are responsible for most of the cultural and technological innovation of the race, while hives seek nothing more than conquest and expansion. The most well-known hive is the Swarm, led by Chrysalis.

Dusk found himself intrigued by this, realising what Luna meant when she said that hives didn't have prisons. He had done some vague reading on the changelings one time, but it had been a long time ago and nothing in depth. Despite all that was going on, he was rather glad to make up for it now.

Remembering that Luna had also mentioned about ponies and changelings not having the best of relations, he turned to another section in the contents on that to find out why.

Changelings and ponies shared important interactions whether either side wants to admit it or not.

Early records of changelings from the perspective of ponies come from ponies' (admittedly well documented) accounts from journals and diaries as they travelled and spread out across the land. The earliest writings illustrated a cautious, but not quite hateful opinion. Changelings were described as "bug ponies" and their manner of speech was called "curious." Early ponies traded and exchanged ideas with the changelings, and for a while all seemed like it was quite amiable. But the good relations did not last, and ponies, for whatever reason, began to hate their changeling neighbours, calling them "demons" and "soul-suckers." Exactly why the sudden massive shift in relations occurred, none know. Changelings were forced into caves, burned at the stake, and lynched until there were few in sight, and in the generations that followed, they were known to little but the most studious of scholars, whom took an oath never to mention them for fear of public backlash at the sad piece of history.

Dusk sighed quietly, his feelings of shame coming back when he remembered how violent their race had been in the early days. Not that they were perfect, but he found himself feeling sorry for the changelings and could definitely understand why they'd feel more than a little hostile towards his kind.

It would be rather curious that Edge and Tube would attempt to flee to territory where they might actually be treated worse than if they stayed here… very curious…

All of a sudden, Dusk's mind was in a whirl. It wouldn't have made sense for them to hide in changeling territory if they were just on the run. They could have just gone somewhere far away from Canterlot and remained underground, relatively undetected. It didn't add up that they'd go somewhere they might be killed.

Unless they could somehow offer themselves to some sort of attack. That would mean a threat to the capital of Equestria, to Canterlot… like the one that had been made already. Tube might offer knowledge and Edge had access to Canterlot, was part of the guard. Such a person would be invaluable to an attack. He might not be a fighter, but he knew he would want first-hoof knowledge if attacking somewhere.

And if the changelings could take the form of anypony as their name said…

He flicked hurriedly to the section on changeling biology. He scanned the page until he found what he was looking for, a diagram of a changeling using its power to transform into a pony. A small caption came with it.

An example of changeling transformation, accompanied by a distinctive magical aura, commonly green among their kind.

Green… like Cadence's aura had been when she'd used that spell on Shining. Cadence, who had been acting sinister, rude and discourteous to everypony. Like she was above everypony, like she wasn't herself… because she wasn't.

A growing sense of dread gripped Dusk in that instant, as did very clear understanding as to what was going on. It might not be accurate to call her evil, but Twilight was definitely right to be concerned about Cadence. And she was going to confront her on her own.

Hoping he wasn't too late, Dusk shot up from the table and barged through the doors, galloping as fast as he could to the wedding venue.

Twilight was already striding down the corridor towards the door, armed with her certainty and fuelled by her anger at the sheer injustice of what was going on. She had chosen to do it now, so that Cadence would be exposed in front of everypony. With all that she had seen now, they would have to believe her.

It wasn't just what was happening with Cadence that made her angry. How could Dusk not be on her side for this? The others might be all caught up in what was going on, but she expected him to agree with her and to support her in this. They'd both seen what had happened and yet he continued to deny it, just like her friends. Being stupid again like he could be at times.

She forced herself not to be disappointed. She said she would do this, with or without him and she would do just that. She didn't know what had happened to the Cadence who'd smiled while she told her everything she loved about Dusk, who had comforted her after Dusk had succumbed to her darker side. All she knew was that her brother was making a mistake and she would have to act before he did.

As she approached, she could hear Shining's voice echoing from inside.

"Hey... has anypony seen Twilight?" he asked.

She timed it just right, opening the doors and glaring over at them.

"I'm here!" she announced. "I'm not gonna stand next to her! And neither should you!"

Shining grimaced uncomfortably to his bride. "I'm sorry, I... I don't know why she's acting like this."

"Maybe we should just ignore her," she muttered darkly.

"You have to listen to me!" insisted Twilight, determined not to be put down.

"Oh, goodness! Are you okay?" asked Fluttershy.

"I'm fine," she replied shortly.

"Ya sure about that?" added Applejack pointedly.

Pushing her Stetson over her eyes, Twilight pushed past her. "I've got something to say! She's evil!"

Shining stood protectively in front of her, while her friends murmured with concern behind her. The guards at the door also exchanged some disapproving words. She ignored them and pressed on.

"She's been horrible to my friends," she accused, teleporting behind her and advancing, "she's obviously done something to her bridesmaids, and if that wasn't enough, I saw her put a spell on my brother that made his eyes go all-" She demonstrated by rolling her eyes.

The others all looked at Cadence expectantly. She tried to smile, but Twilight got right in her face and backed her against the wall, smiling triumphantly herself. There was no way she could back out of this now she'd been exposed. She was ready for anything she might do.

Until she started crying. "Why are you doing this to me?!"

"Because you're evil! Evil!" she repeated, teleporting to the door when Cadence ran out crying. "And if I don't stop you, you're gonna ruin my brother's life!"

Satisfied that she'd proven her point, Twilight strutted back up the hall… only to bump right into her big brother. He was giving her the same look he'd given to Dusk one time. Only this time it was directed at her and she couldn't say she liked it.

She tried to smile, but he remained in a visage of anger.

"You want to know why my eyes went all-?" He rolled his eyes and cringed from another headache. "Because ever since I started having to perform my protection spell, I've been getting terrible migraines. Cadence hasn't been casting spells on me. She's been using her magic to heal me!"

She tried to take a breath to speak, suddenly not feeling as certain, but he ploughed on.

"And she decided to replace her bridesmaids because she found out the only reason they wanted to be in the wedding was so that they could meet Canterlot royalty! And if she hasn't been on her best behaviour with your friends, it's because with me being so busy, she's had to make all the decisions about the wedding!"

"I was just trying to–"

"She's been completely stressed out because it's really important to her that our big day be perfect! Something that obviously wasn't important to you!"He gasped from another migraine. Twilight tried to reach for him but he pulled away. "Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go and comfort my bride. And you can forget about being my best mare. In fact, if I were you, I wouldn't show up to the wedding at all."

Those words hurt her more than the most horrible of tortures. She looked to her friends, but they were all staring in shock from her outburst. None of them had any pity to give her.

"C'mon, y'all. Let's go check on the princess," suggested Applejack.

They didn't even look at Twilight while they hurried out.

"I was–"

But Celestia's icy tone finally hammered in her mistake. "You have a lot to think about."

She could already feel the tears start to flow down her cheeks when the doors slammed behind her. Maybe they were right after all about her being overprotective. She could have gained a sister from this but instead… she'd just lost her brother.

"Looks like Dusk was right," she murmured, lying on the stairs in a heap.

He was my big brother, best friend
And now, we'll never do anything

In her despair, she looked up at the sound of hooves, of another hoof brushing her comfortingly. At first, she thought it was Dusk, but looking up she saw it was Cadence. She'd somehow gotten back in and she was no longer crying.

"I'm sorry!" she sobbed.

Cadence continued to smile… even as something green flashed in her eyes.

"You will be." Her horn too flashed green.

Twilight's eyes narrowed when she realised, too late, that a circle of green flames flared around her, trapping her in place. A barrier surrounded her, making it impossible to escape while she sank into the floor.

The last thing she saw was Cadence leering through the flames… and the sound of Dusk calling her name reached her ears before she descended into darkness.

Barrelling through the next set of doors, Dusk picked himself up off the floor, ignored the throbbing in his head and galloped on. He needed to find Twilight and enlist her help to convince the others that Cadence wasn't who she said she was. With any luck, there was still time.

He dived around the corner, almost knocking over a suit of armour and saw a white-furred pony look up in shock.

"Dusk! My word, darling, you gave me quite a fright!" remarked Rarity as he galloped up. "Whatever is the matter, dear? You look like you've just run a mile."

"Feels… like it…" he panted. "Twilight… where…?"

"Ah, I see." She nodded in grim understanding. "I can see why you feel you'd have to support her in her accusations against Cadence, but you really did do the right thing by staying out of it."

"You mean… she's said?"

"About how her soon to be sister-in-law is evil? Yes, you missed that part I'm afraid," she said sourly. "Really, I know he's her brother, but I expected Twilight to have a little more decency than that. Poor Cadence, ran straight out of the rehearsal weeping floods, the poor dear. We've all split up to try and find her, help calm her down."

He was too late then. "No…"

"I'm afraid it's true. She should still be in the hall and I suggest you go in there after a few minutes and try and talk some sense into- Dusk! Dusk wait, come back!" she called, when he shot off again. "I really think she's best left alone for a bit!"

He ignored her, rounded a corner, ran up the stairs and shoved open the doors with his magic. The first thing he saw was a ring of green fire descending into the floor, a flash of lavender in its poisonous depths.

"Twilight!" He practically dived after her, but hit the empty floor with a hard smack. She was gone. "NO!"

The spot still felt warm from the flames. He really was too late… he should have realised this sooner, been here to help back her up. Now, she was gone and Celestia knew where she was. But he wasn't the only one to blame here.

"Oh… oh my goodness! Did you see that?" He raised his head slowly to look at Cadence. "Something happened to poor Twilight! We need to-"

"Drop the act," he said sharply, his fury taking hold. "I know it was you who did that."

"Me?" Her innocent expression faltered a moment. "Why would I do such a thing? I'm-"

"An imposter," Dusk interrupted. "One who would strike at Canterlot at its very heart, by posing as the blushing bride and leave you in the perfect position to attack from the inside. You wouldn't get the suspicion of the guards, you could find a way to drop the barrier and nopony would be any the wiser. If anypony tried to stand in your way, you could easily get rid of them, like you did your bridesmaids, like you did with Twilight. And I advise you to think very carefully before you try and do the same with me, changeling."

Silence followed as his last word seemed to echo around the room. Cadence's expression remained impassive for a few moments, before twisting into a horrible smile.

"Well, aren't you a clever little thing?" she sneered. "Would you like me to give you your reward?"

Dusk saw her horn glow and made the shadows around him move slightly, summoning a few balls of light around his body. They glowed violently and she hesitated when she saw them, obviously not recognising the magic.

"Like I said, I advise you to think carefully," he warned. "I'll not like it, but I will fight you if you give me no other option."

"And the guards will come running, to find you assaulting the princess in Canterlot itself," she gasped dramatically. "What will they think of that?"

"I think they'll be more interested when I wear you down, enough so you'll drop your disguise and show us all what you really are," he countered. "What will they think of that?"

She paused again. "Do you want to risk that?"

"Do you?" She didn't answer.

Dusk shook his head at her, creating light forms of ponies around him to act out his words while he sang.

This day is going to be perfect,
The kind of day of which you dreamed since you were small,
Everypony will gather 'round, see you look lovely in your gown,
What they don't know is that you have fooled them all

The imposter Cadence looked around at them and only smirked all the more, acting in the parody of a pampered princess.

This day is going to be perfect,
The kind of day of which I dreamed since I was small,
And now my dream's come true, nopony not even you
Could even hope to bring about my fall.

Dusk took it up again, continuing to circle her, again making his forms appear in time with his words.

You could care less about the dress,
You won't partake in any cake,
My Twilight was right to say
That you're a fiend unseen, your thoughts and deeds obscene
I was blind to try and doubt it all.

This was all part of your plot
To take over Canterlot
But I can still stop you here, right now!

The imposter only laughed in his face, almost making him back off a little. She held up a crystal and showed it to him, terror gripping him when he saw a familiar form materialise within it, trapped and surrounded by crystals.

You think to fight fate before it's too late
Find a way to save the day?
Hopes will be dashed when I say
The mare that you so care for, the one your heart beats for
Will never again see the light of day!
Yes Twilight Sparkle is now doomed
Trapped down in the gloom
Keep your mouth shut or watch her be consumed!

Dusk looked back and forth between Cadence, the changeling, and Twilight, trapped down in the crystal caverns. Those caves ran deep and he had no idea where she was down there. She was in danger and he needed to keep her out of even more. He did the only thing he could.

Fine! I'll keep quiet, play along!

See you do or her pain, I'll prolong.

But be sure my vow is heard, if you do not keep your word
Rest assured I will…

You couldn't be more wrong!

Cadence laughed again and Dusk couldn't do anything except glare at her. And hope he might actually get a chance to do as he'd just promised.

Twilight opened her eyes to all-encompassing darkness. Scared, her knees shaking a little, she lit the tip of her horn and yelled when she saw somepony else staring wide-eyed back at her. She scrambled back before realising that it was her reflection. The light off her horn seemed to reflect off hundreds of faceted surfaces.

She was surrounded by crystals, some like large mirrors, others pointed wickedly at her. She couldn't see anypony else at all. She wished her friends were here. That Dusk was…

"Hello? Is anyone there?" she called. She heard a loud thud and echoing laughter, spinning around for the source. "Where am I?"

The answer came in the form of Cadence, appearing in one of the crystals. "The caves beneath Canterlot, once home to greedy unicorns who wanted to claim the gems that could be found inside. And now, your prison."

"Help! Help!" she cried, galloping away.

Cadence laughed again. "It's no use. No one can hear you. And no one will ever think to look for you, either."

"Somepony might!" she yelled, though her voice sounded small down here.

Another mocking laugh echoed in her ears. "Oh, is that what you think? You think your handsome stallion will ride in to rescue you? A nice dream, but I'm afraid he won't be going anywhere. Right, little Dusk?"

All of a sudden, his face appeared in the crystal. It gazed at her, imploring and desperate.

"Twilight! I'm… I'm sorry." He looked so ashamed, making her forget completely why she had been angry with him, just wanting him back. "It looks like you were right… as usual."

He reached out at almost the same time he did. She parted her lips to speak his name, as if it would summon him here with her, but it was replaced by Cadence's leer again.

"You see, it's hopeless," she sneered. "Most ponies have forgotten that these caves even exist, which is why they are the ideal place to keep the ones who try to interfere with my plans."

"Plans? What plans?" she asked fearfully.

"The plans I have for your brother, of course," she said brightly.

She forgot her fear a moment, her temper flaring. "Don't you dare do anything to my brother, you... you monster!"

"And after that, who knows? I might make something up for your little sweetheart, just so he doesn't feel left out."

"YOU LEAVE HIM ALONE!" she roared.

"Only way to stop me is to catch me!" She laughed while Twilight fired off a bolt of magic, which reflected off a crystal and bounced around. "Over here!"

She didn't stop, wouldn't stop laughing and each laugh only made Twilight angrier. It was irrational, it was stupid and she didn't care at all. She fired shot after shot, trying to hit her while she mocked her and her laughter echoed in her ears.

Finally, one of her bolts had an impact, blowing away part of the wall. The smoke cleared, revealing the one who had trapped her down here. She looked up and her eyes widened at the livid expression on Twilight's face.

"No! Wait!" She dived and pinned her to the floor. "Please! Don't hurt me! Twilight, it's me! Please, you have to believe me. I've been imprisoned like you. The Cadence who brought you down here was an imposter."

"Likely story!" she snapped.

"What if I told you something only I could? That she would never know about?"

"Like what?"

"Like when I helped you right when you needed it the most, when only I could." Twilight froze at those words. "I can still remember that day, when you thought the one you loved was lost forever, consumed by darkness. You looked so helpless, so heartbroken, because you blamed yourself and you thought there was nothing you could do to help him. It even broke my heart to see you like that. I don't think I'd ever seen you so upset."

Twilight remembered too. She'd never forget when she thought her heart would just stop beating altogether.

"But you made it and you pulled on through. You found your strength again, the strength that I've only seen has now grown and you used it to rescue him." She managed a nervous smile. "All with a little help from me, of course."

"Right after I told you the how and the why," she whispered. Now, she returned that smile and threw her hooves around her again, like she did that day. "It really is you."

"Yes, it's me." She pulled back from the hug, looking contrite. "I'm sorry for any harm that the imposter caused in my place. If she did or said anything to you, I promise that I'd never say anything like that, especially not to you."

"It's okay, Cadence," insisted Twilight. "It's not your fault that this has happened. I don't blame you for… for anything."

She felt a catch in her throat when she was reminded of why, until she had found Cadence, she was down here alone. It might not be her fault entirely, but she still felt an amount of guilt for the words that had been exchanged between them.

Cadence didn't miss it. "Something did happen, didn't it? Please tell me it wasn't anything between you and Dusk."

"Actually… it was." A small tear flowed down her cheek. "With all that the imposter was doing, I thought she was… evil. Looks like I was right, but Dusk insisted it was just your nerves acting up from the wedding. We had a bit of a fight and… he left me alone, so I left him alone."

"Twilight, it's not as bad as you think," she soothed. "Even the best of couples have a fight now and then. Shining and I have a few times. What's important is that you find a way to forgive each other and to make sure it doesn't happen again."

"I don't know, Cadence," she sighed. "I just… I practically accused him of abandoning me to face this alone. I know I'm sorry for what's happened but… I'm not sure if he is."

Cadence thought for a moment. "I could hear everything that the imposter was saying, before you found me. She showed you Dusk in the crystals, didn't she?" Twilight only nodded. "Well, that settles it then. She could only have done that if he was in the room with her, like you had been."

Twilight caught her meaning. "Before she trapped me in here… I heard him calling my name."

"Doesn't sound like he abandoned you to me," smiled Cadence. "I think he came to his senses and realised you were right. Stallions usually do in the end. He was just a little late this time."

Twilight couldn't help but giggle. "That certainly doesn't sound like him. I suppose we can't blame him. Stallions are kind of idiots."

"As I've noticed," laughed Cadence. "Still, that's what we mares exist to do: keep them on the right track."

She felt another pang of guilt. "Even so, I still might have hurt him for what I said.

Cadence cupped her cheek. "Do you feel sorry for it now?"

"I do…"

"And do you think he does?"

"I hope so…" She remembered the look on his face in the crystal. "No, he does."

"Then there's no problem. You two can just talk about it when all this is over." She smiled softly. "I can sense the love between you has only grown stronger. I don't think you're going to let it break over something like this."

"No, I don't think so either." She hugged her again. "Thank you, Cadence."

"Happy to do it," she said sincerely. "Just remember that if you ever have any doubts or you need advice, you just drop me a line, okay?"

"You do seem to be very good at this," she remarked. "Maybe we should send you our relationship letters instead of Celestia."

"Who says I haven't been getting them?" She smiled a little wider. "Well, I am the Princess of Love after all."

Twilight was about to respond when she heard the laughter echoing through the caves again and was reminded of what was at stake.

Her expression hardened when she looked at Cadence. "We have to get out of here. We have to stop her! You helped rescue my love, now I'm returning the favour."

"And I'm very grateful for it," replied Cadence. "It's too bad Dusk isn't down here with us. He could have found a way out."

Twilight was confused. "What? Why would he know a way out of here?"

Cadence only smiled. "You should ask him sometime where exactly he got that Lover's Diamond. I think you'll be surprised."

Twilight would have asked further, but she dismissed it for now, knowing they had more important matters to attend to.

"You think we can find a way out?" she asked, galloping alongside her.

Cadence nodded once. "Even if we do have a bit of trouble, I'm not going to give up. After all, you didn't."

"Don't you feel privileged, little Dusk? To be one of my Shining's groomsmen as well as providing your magic for our dance?"

"He's not your Shining and this isn't your wedding."

"He is now, since he's under my complete control. He does love me so."

"That's not love, that's twisted."

"I'm sorry that you see it that way. I thought you were supposed to be a romantic."

"Surprisingly, kidnapping the bride and replacing her at her own wedding doesn't strike me as very romantic."

"Well, since there doesn't appear to be any other brides willing to marry Shining, I'm sure Cadence wouldn't mind me stepping in. We wouldn't want the cake to go to waste, would we?"

"How considerate of you. Even with me, giving me a position in which I'll have to stand with you up on the alter."

"I just want you where I can see you. It would be a shame if you had to suddenly leave the wedding without telling me first. That wouldn't be very considerate, would it?"

"Of course not. With you being so generous, it would be ungrateful if I did anything of the sort."

"I knew you'd see it my way. Now, get dressed. I'm sure you look very dapper in a tux."

"Just tell me one thing. You're obviously not Cadence, we're agreed on that. So who are you? Really?"

"I suppose I might as well, since you figured it out. I am Queen Chrysalis."

"Of the changeling hive, the Swarm?"

"You have done your homework, haven't you?"

"I pride myself on my intelligence, as I do my promises. Just so you know, the one I made to you still stands."

"I'm sure it does. Well, I'll see you at the wedding, Dusk. I'll try and toss you the bouquet. Maybe I can come along to your wedding too."

He was still seething a little in the wake of that exchange. He cursed himself for not acting sooner, for siding with Twilight when he had the chance. Now, he was as much a pawn in Queen Chrysalis's game as the rest of them. They didn't even know…

Dusk's necktie felt a little tighter, adjusting it again. The guests were already starting to file in for the wedding. Everypony was taking their seats and he now and again caught the eye of some of them. In particular, Twilight's parents were near the front. Her father smiled genuinely, while her mother's was more strained. He returned it, wondering how they'd react if they knew what had happened to their daughter.

He tried to keep himself calm. Chrysalis had made it clear that he was to be on his best behaviour, lest anything else happen to Twilight. Since the girls were outside with her, waiting to come up the aisle and Ray would be somewhere in the sheer mass of guests, he hadn't the time to warn anypony about what was happening. He didn't really want to risk it either, in case Chrysalis spotted him.

Even now, he felt like she was watching him somehow…

"To say you look a little nervous would be an understatement." Dusk flinched a little from Ray's comment. "And I think that proves my point."

He took a deep breath. "Sorry, Ray. You just startled me."

"Yeah, I tend to bring about that reaction," he shrugged. "What's up, bud? Wait a sec, where's Twilight?"

Perhaps this was his chance. "I um… I don't know. Everything's fi-"

"Yeah, you're not even really trying to lie this time," he noted. "Don't try denying anything. What's wrong?"

"Ray, there's-"

"Excuse me, sir, shouldn't you be in your seat?" a guard asked gruffly.

"Hm? Oh yeah, sorry," Ray apologised, though he remained a moment. "We'll talk later, okay?"

"Yes. Yes, of course," replied Dusk hollowly, watching him be escorted away.

Looking down the aisle, he glimpsed her through a crack in the door, smiling deviously and pressing a hoof to her lips before moving away. She really wasn't taking any chances. But this was Ray, he must have noticed something.

He didn't even know. Right now, there was nothing else he could do. He had to have faith in Twilight. She'd find a way out, she always did.

Author's Note:

Thank you again to Thyrisom for letting me use his guide in this story. The lyrics were obviously my re-worked version of This Day Aria.
Just so you know, my writing may become hampered soon, due to me having to get ready to go to university and then settling in once I get there.
Okay, I think we’ve had build-up long enough, don’t you?

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