• Published 21st Jan 2014
  • 11,482 Views, 588 Comments

Dread - bossfight1

Equestria becomes host to a being who can plunge people into their darkest nightmares with but a touch. He claims to have no ill intentions, yet the ponies are skeptical; how does one do good through fear?

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Chapter 14: True Potential

So there I lay; naked on Luna’s floor, curled up in a ball and shivering violently. I was still becoming reaccustomed to the sudden change—I’d gotten as far as moving my arms, twitching my legs and moving my face, but my body seemed to still be ‘booting up’. I was still breathing heavily, as if fearing that, if I stopped, even for a moment, I would forget how to do so again, having gone four years without needing to. The air around me felt freezing, yet I felt myself quickly warming up; I still remained curled in a ball, though, out of some instinct to cover my ‘bits’. I felt so… weak, so vulnerable

I was staring at Luna, Celestia and the unicorn as the three approached me carefully. The anguish Luna had seemed to be feeling before had, momentarily, subsided, as she looked at me with concern. Celestia didn’t seem as angry, now; she seemed to be waiting for me to say something, for the first words out of my mouth since being stripped of the mass...

My eyes fell on the mass on the floor behind them; it was forming a sloppy pile, as though someone had taken a shovelful of ash and just dropped it on the floor. It was… strange. The thing I’d known to be my body for the past four years looked so… alien, now.

I was unsure how I felt about it, betrayal notwithstanding; on the one hand, I had plenty of times in that form where I deeply missed being human… Nothing was complicated, I wouldn’t be looked at like a monster, I didn’t always have the stress of keeping people safe looming over my shoulder...

And yet, that form had so many… ‘perks’, it had quickly grown on me… I’d ended up living a more interesting, fulfilling life than I would as a human. I’d made plenty of friends in training and in the Department… I’d been brought here… Where I met--

That thought quickly crumbled when I remembered what had just happened. In retrospect, I wasn’t that surprised that Celestia had played a part in this… It was Luna who made this betrayal sting the worst… Luna, who’d been a friend. Luna, who I trusted… And now, here I was… Naked, depowered…


I looked up at the Princesses. “...What did you do…?” I whispered, my mouth slurring somewhat, like I was shaking off some numbing gel from a dental procedure.

Celestia stopped a few inches from me; Luna was standing some distance behind her, looking away from me. “You told us of how you became ‘Dread’...” Celestia said. “We theorized that your essence—your human essence—was bound to that of the strange substance. I used a spell meant to purge one entity—corporeal or otherwise—from another, and was able to remove you from the mass.”

I looked from her to the mass behind her. “...W-We were… bound…?”

Celestia nodded stiffly; she seemed to be holding back any judgment at this stage. “I believe that, when you were exposed to it, the mass… consumed you, in a sense—yet not in any permanent way. It simply… fused with you, granting it life and… binding it to your will. The spell purged your essence—while simultaneously reforming it—and separated you.”

I glanced to my hand, rotating it in front of my face. It looked… exactly… like it did that day… Nails short from biting, paper cut on the index finger… Physically, I’d been… preserved, while in that mass, not aging even remotely… I was the same man in body as I was on June 18th, 2021.

I glanced up at Celestia. “...Why?” I asked, my voice cracking with both confusion and pain.

Celestia narrowed her eyes. “...Because you betrayed my trust, Dread.”

I bit back a comment about wondering if I’d had it to begin with. “What?”

“You have plunged my subjects, my friends, my family, into pure terror…” Celestia said darkly. “You instigated an attack on Ponyville that nearly left my student and her friends dead. You made a grand display of friendliness to disguise your much crueler schemes—regardless of whatever they may be.”

Celestia leaned towards me; the anger in her eyes was quickly returning. “Yet, to me… your most hateful crime was in deceiving my sister, in one of the most sadistic ways imaginable…” I looked over at Luna; she was screwing her eyes shut to fight back another wave of tears.

Panic, confusion and desperation were quickly flooding my mind; I wasn’t thinking about what they were going to do to me—imprison me, turn me to stone like they had Discord… I was afraid of what had made them do this—the suspicion, the thought that everything I’d done for them being meaningless. I was afraid of my relationship with them—with Luna—suddenly turning so antagonistic… Even knowing that I’d be here for the rest of my life, I’d known it would be a good one… I’d be with good friends, good people… With Luna...

Luna, who had had been there for me since the beginning. Luna, who had been a friend when others would only be suspicious. Luna, who I’d… fallen for…

The thought of her suddenly turning on me like this… Of her leaving me... Of me being alone here, either imprisoned or in exile...

I looked back up at Celestia; for the first time in years, I felt tears start dripping down my cheeks. “...P-Princess, please, I don’t understand!!” I said, my voice quickly rising in desperation. “I haven’t… I haven’t done anything!! I don’t know what you’re talking about!! I didn’t… I didn’t ‘instigate’ anything, I’ve done everything I can to make up for what I did to Applejack and Luna!! And I… I didn’t deceive her!! Princess, please, you have to believe me!!! I never wanted to hurt ANY of you!! I WOULD NEVER HURT LUNA!! PLEASE!!

Celestia shook her head, almost in disappointment. “We will hear no more of your lies, Dread.”

I looked over at Luna desperately. “Luna!” I cried; I tried inching towards her, reaching for her. “Luna—Luna, please…”

Luna glanced at me; our eyes met.

Luna closed her eyes and turned away, walking back towards the window.

I stared in horror at her before Celestia straightened up. The crystalline unicorn turned and approached the mass, examining it.

“Dread…” Celestia said, speaking in a tone appropriate for dispensing judgment. “By my right as Princess, I hereby charge you with terrorism of the populace, and intended treason against the Kingdom. You will be imprisoned, and shall stand trial for your crimes.”

She narrowed her eyes again. “No longer shall you instill terror upon the good citizens of Equestria.”

“Indeed,” the unicorn finally spoke, his voice deep, casual, and malicious. “Let somepony else have the pleasure.”

My eyes widened, as did Celestia’s; I practically heard glass shatter as I realized exactly what was happening.

I looked at the unicorn, who was grinning maliciously before he, dramatically, stamped a hoof into the mass.

“NO!!” I bellowed.

The unicorn’s horn began glowing a bright, blood red. The mass reacted violently, hissing as it quickly climbed up the unicorn’s leg and began enveloping him. Celestia and Luna both spun around, gasping in shock. “Bulwark?!” Celestia cried.

The mass only took a couple seconds to completely envelope the pony called Bulwark; now it was left as a large, convulsing, egg-shaped collection of ash. The occasional red flash from parts of the mass made it look like a black storm cloud, with crimson lightning raging within. Bulwark’s cruel, cruel laugh began rumbling from the mass, sending a chill down my spine.

Celestia was staring, agape, at the sight, taken aback by this, the true betrayal. Luna, however, was quicker to act. Her eyes began glowing, with a fury that can only come from true pain and anguish; her wings flared, and her horn lit up. “MONSTER!!” She shrieked, charging forward.

The mass suddenly extended a thick tendril, swinging horizontally from the left. It collided with Celestia, who had just been regaining her senses; it was meant to be more than a physical attack, it seemed, because it let loose a volatile black spark upon impact, evoking a pained shriek from Celestia. The blow sent her flying, a smoking burn in her side, into the charging Luna. The sisters grunted as they collided with the wall, and fell to the floor in a heap. “NO!!” I yelled. I tried to stand, but my legs were numb and, for the moment, unresponsive. I fell to the floor again and, desperately, began furiously crawling towards the dazed Princesses.

A black tendril suddenly reached out and wrapped itself around my neck—not tight enough to choke, but a firm enough grip that I couldn’t escape its grasp. The tendril tensed and, with a twirl, flipped me onto my back before pinning me to the floor.

I looked up as best I could as I wrapped my hands around the tendril, in a vain attempt to free myself. The mass began… deflating, the red flashes quickly ceasing, and Bulwark’s laugh growing louder.

The mass began taking a coherent shape… one of a pony, a unicorn to be exact. The body and legs formed first, leaving a trailing, cape-like tail that billowed ominously behind Bulwark. The head formed next, initially becoming a pure black, featureless unicorn head. The horn was curved upwards, quickly turning a thick, blood red. The mass shaped to add an unkempt black mane, and a cruelly shaped crown. The pony’s mouth took a shape similar to my own as Dread—a simple black maw, lined with savage teeth. The mouth was curved into a monstrous grin as Bulwark cackled; the head gained a pair of piercing red eyes, each with a thin, snake-like pupil.

Bulwark’s crazed laughter had reached its crescendo; he reared triumphantly, the mass rippling excitedly. “It… is… MINE!!”

I’d stopped struggling in the tendril’s grip, only watching in terror. Celestia had stirred, and was now staring, horrified, at the monstrosity before us.

“Sombra…” She whispered.

The door to Luna’s chambers shuddered as someone knocked on the far side. “Princess!” Came the voice of a guard. “Is everything alright??”

Sombra scowled as he glanced over his shoulder at the door. From his back, a thick tentacle rose up and flew at the door with terrifying force. It smashed the door off its hinges and pushed it out into the hall, where I heard several guards yell as it collided with them. The tentacle then pulled back and deformed. It draped itself over the doorway like a curtain and latched itself to the doorframe, barring access. Sombra looked back at us, his cruel smile returning.

Celestia and Luna had stood up, now, scowling furiously at Sombra. Celestia’s horn sparked, but sputtered out as she fell to a knee, the wound in her side clearly worse than it seemed. Luna’s own horn lit up, a fireball forming in front of her, ready to be hurled at Sombra.

Sombra shook a hoof condescendingly. “Now, now, dearest Luna…” he said, his voice deep, cruel and almost hungering. The tendril around my throat suddenly pressed down, choking me; I flailed my legs and tried, again, to free myself. “As I’m sure ‘Dread’ here would attest, there are many dangers in toying with fire…”

Luna’s eyes flickered my way. I kept trying to pry the tendril from my throat, yet a part of me remembered, all too well, how futile it was.

A small part of me hoped she would just fry the prick.

Luna hesitated… then clenched her teeth, screwed her eyes shut, and dropped the spell; the fireball flickered out instantly.

Sombra gave a mild chuckle. “Good.”

The tendril suddenly lifted off of me and flew to the side, colliding with Luna and slamming her into the wall again.

“NO!!” I roared, sitting up.

“LUNA!!” Celestia cried, running forward in spite of the pain in her side.

Sombra laughed as he whipped the tendril upwards. It met Celestia’s jaw in an uppercut and flung her upwards, slamming her into the ceiling; the ceiling cracked from the impact, scattering dust and chips of paint as Celestia fell to the floor.

Cackling joyfully, Sombra split the tendril in two and began slamming them, repeatedly, on both Celestia and Luna, evoking cries of pain that grew louder and louder with each blow.

“STOP!!” I yelled, getting on my hands and knees and crawling towards Sombra. “STOP!! STOP IT!!”

I made a mad swipe at one of the tendrils; the moment my hand made contact, they both suddenly fused back into a single tentacle and rounded on me. The tendril slammed me back to the floor, pressing down hard enough to constrict my breathing again.

Sombra loomed over me, all signs of his sadistic amusement gone from his eyes as he glared at me. He leaned closer, stroking the tendril with a hoof like it was a loyal pet. “And why do you care what happens to them?” He asked, jerking his black head towards the Princesses. “If it were me, I’d be thrilled to see a traitor get their dues… But then, of course, I may have had something to do with it…” He grinned darkly, clearly taking pleasure in the hateful glare I was giving him.

“So it was you…” I said through clenched teeth. “You were the one to make Pridefall attack Ponyville…”

Sombra nodded eagerly. “Yes, very good… You see, I knew our beloved Princess of the Sun was the only one who feared you enough to be willing to part you from this… glorious creature you were attuned with…” He gazed at a hoof in wonder for a moment. “I simply worked on that fear, gave her sufficient reason to act.”

“So you could take it from me…” I said, gazing at the tendril that was pinning me to the floor. If I thought it had looked unfamiliar before as a lifeless pile of ash, it was completely alien now that it was being used against me…

Sombra stroked the tendril again. “I believe it’s for the best, though…” He said, almost cooingly to the tendril, before looking back at me. “After all, you weren’t exactly letting it live up to its potential…”

I frowned. “What are you talking about?”

“You would have restrained it… controlled it… Kept it from its purpose, from spreading glorious, glorious terror to the weak, the foolish, those who would be fortunate to serve as slaves!!” His jaw was clenched furiously now; he looked ready to plunge the tendril straight through my chest. “Fear… is one of the most, if not the most potent form of magic, of control, in this world or any other!! Your childish, foolish ideals left this… this gift, WASTED, under YOUR control!!”

I stared in his eyes, unflinching. “Excuse me if your scorn doesn’t leave that great an impact.”

The tendril lifted me up and hurled me back; I smashed through one of the banisters surrounding Luna’s four-poster bed and rolled to a stop, tangled with the curtains that had surrounded it (yet also thankful for having some coverage, now).

I rolled onto my back and made to sit up, but found a large black blade, formed at the end of Sombra’s tendril, hovering over my throat. It slowly moved up and down, aiming its strike. I turned my head towards Sombra, who was grinning hungrily at me. Luna and Celestia were barely stirring, trying to stand but quickly falling with gasps of pain.

The blade pressed down on my throat; one strong enough push, and it would cut right through my neck with ease. My breathing quickened, panic threatening to seize control…

The blade lifted. “No…” The tendril retracted, being absorbed back into Sombra. He began walking towards the window, his tail lingering behind to keep obstructing the doorway with mass. “This is my gift to you… ‘Joel’... Your life, as thanks for this offering.” He glanced at me darkly. “Though I don’t see how much it will be worth in the days to come…”

He turned towards the window and thrust several tentacles forward, shattering it. He planted a hoof on the windowsill and gazed out into the evening skies before turning towards the Princesses, still laying on the floor yet quickly regaining consciousness. “I’ll be reclaiming that which is rightfully mine. Move against me, or don’t… it matters little in the end.”

Sombra turned around and backed towards the window; he began laughing again. “Fear the days to come… Dread what tomorrow brings, beware every shadow, let your minds be flooded with TERROR!!”

He prepared to leap out the window. “For these are the last days where fear will be your choice.”

Cackling, Sombra threw himself backwards; the mass that had barred the door quickly trailed behind him. Like a large, tightly-knit swarm of black locusts, Sombra flew over the Canterlot skies and vanished into the night, his laugh resounding throughout the entire city. With the blockage removed, guards hurried into the room; a pair of them—pegasi—immediately spotted the shattered window and took off after Sombra, though I somehow knew they wouldn’t be able to catch him. The others either stood guardedly near the Princesses, or surrounded me, wary of the second alien creature to arrive in Equestria in the past month.

I barely noticed them, though; I had sat up and was staring at the window, mouth agape. Celestia and Luna were gazing at it, too, the consequences of their actions not lost on them.

I only barely noticed a flash at the doorway; out of the corner of my eye, I could see Discord glancing about, a gallon of milk in his talon and a look of confusion in his eyes. “...Ugh, I leave for twenty minutes…” He sighed. When he noticed that his presence was only barely noticed, he glanced at Celestia, frowning with a concern I didn’t expect of him. “...Celestia?”

Celestia looked more terrified than any of us, her eyes wide, her breathing shallow and quick.

Slowly, she turned her head towards me.

I met her gaze.

“...What have you done?” I asked.

Author's Note:


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