• Published 9th Jan 2015
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Hold Your Color - Quillery

The fate of colors in Equestria are in Dash's hooves as an ancient artifact tied to her family is stolen. Old enemies are rising from the darkness, vying for her life, and time is running out.

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Bastion of Twilight

Hold Your Color
by Quillery
Chapter Twenty-Three
Bastion of Twilight

Rainbow Dash’s would never had believed she would witness the day where color would vanish before her eyes. Even when Celestia demonstrated the overwhelming effects of the Prism’s might and what would happen if it were displaced for too long, Dash didn’t want to imagine it. Color was her life, it was her identity, her namesake. Without it, she was just Dash. Sure it was a simpler way of addressing her at times, but that was only between friends. To the rest of the world she was Rainbow Dash, future Wonderbolt, Element of Loyalty and daredevil extraordinaire.

Now, she was nothing. Helpless, cold. The dim tint of the umbral crystals faded all around her into grey as the Prism fell silent. Khroma’s icy coat and golden eyes blanched. His own rainbow tinted mane faded away like Dash’s own had. The colorful glows of Twilight and Ditzy’s eyes were next, as as if a great wave emitted from the Prism, robbing the last breaths of color from the world one by one.

Nocturne chuckled quietly to herself as she stared up at the Prism, watching the light disappear from its depths. “Ah, what a delightful sound it is, to feel the very colors die from this wretched world. Such an appropriate herald of what is to come, don’t you think?”

Nocturne turned and looked to Dash, still pinned on the ground by Twilight. Dash tried to wriggle free, but Twilight, with her added strength from Nocturne’s corruption, had the clear advantage.

“I’ll stop you!” Dash grunted while bracing against Twilight’s strength. “Just you wait! This isn’t over!”

Nocturne blinked in amusement. “Such tenacity. Admirable. Even in certain defeat you think you have hope. Clearly I hadn’t extinguished it nearly enough by dealing with Celestia.” She brought a hoof to her chin and hummed contemplatively. “Perhaps I should have killed her after all?”

Anger rose in Dash’s heart as she struggled harder. Nocturne rolled her eyes and waggled her hoof at Twilight. “Please silence her, dear, her struggling is wearing on me.”

Twilight nodded and turned to Dash, teeth bared. She snarled as her horn began to glow. Dash struggled harder, grunting with all her might to get free, when a whip crack brought a sudden silence to the room.

“Not like that!” Nocturne bellowed. “Do not harm one more hair on her, little one. Or you will face my wrath.”

Twilight jerked back slightly with a frightened yelp. Her magic ceased and instead she repositioned her grip on Dash, standing obediently and waiting for Nocturne’s next command.

Dash frowned. “What, you wanna keep me around long enough to gloat? Can I just pass on that? Listening to you talk hurts my ears.”

Nocturne released a venomous giggle. “Oh, so feisty! I admire that, truly I do. It will make you all the most useful to me, little host…”

Dash growled. “Will you stop calling me that? We all know I’m the Prism’s host. I have real name, y’know!”

Nocturne blinked and began to laugh. “Oh… Is that why you think I call you that? Oh my dear sweet child. You couldn't be further from the truth.”

She walked over to Khroma. He was resisting against his binds beside Aurora, who still hadn’t regained consciousness. Ditzy stood overtop of them, watching the struggling stallion carefully.

Khroma kept a close eye on Nocturne as she approached, slowing his movements as she did.

“Dear, sweet Khroma. Your family has done a wonderful service in keeping the Prism safe. I am truly sorry to relieve you of your burden at long last.”

Khroma spat at her hooves, sneering. “If you harm my daughter I swear to the seven realms of Tartarus I will destroy you with my final breath, Koshmar!”

Nocturne smiled, repeating her caustic cackle. “Oh my, no! I would never dream of harming her, dear Khroma. She is far more valuable to me alive.”

Khroma frowned, eliciting another laugh from Nocturne. She turned towards the Prism and walked over. She placed a hoof upon it and took a deep breath. “You don’t know, do you?” She turned back to him. “How the Prism truly works?”

Khroma continued struggling in silence as he stared at her.

Nocturne bit her lip in a cruel smile. “The Prism, as designed, takes in any kind of magic and channels it. It purifies it, gives it life beyond. When sunlight strikes it, colors are borne to the world.” She scoffed and shook her head. “This is only a portion of its power. This magic always passes through the host. It is this process that gives the Prism its saving grace, this little period of safety should it be taken from the sun.”

Nocturne chuckled. “So, what would happen to its host if another form of magic were to pass through it?”

Khroma’s eyes widened and he glanced over to Dash. “No! You wouldn’t dare!”

“D-dad?” Dash said. “What does she mean?”

Khroma was focused on Nocturne as he spat insults and curses in Trotsky and raged against his binds. “Don’t you dare do that to my daughter. I would sooner die than allow you to corrupt her with Sombra’s madness!”

Nocturne scowled. “That could most certainly be arranged. Now please, be—”

She blinked. A small, barely audible laugh escaped her lips. After a moment, it quickly and suddenly rose into a deafening screech of insane laughter. Nocturne nearly buckled over in delight as she laughed herself hoarse, stomping her hooves in delight.

“Oh…” she said, wiping a tear from her eye. “You poor, blind fools.” She reached down and plucked Sombra’s horn from the chain around her neck. She admired it a brief moment, its burning glow twinkling in her eyes. “You thought this to be a means of Sombra’s rebirth? To bring my dear, precious king back from the dead?”

Khroma and Dash were still.

Nocturne threw back her head, laughing once again. When it finally subsided to a quiet chuckle, she wandered slowly over to Dash. “Nothing could be further from the truth. I never loved Sombra. I hated him. He was just another oafish stallion who thought he understood power. He was nothing more than a vessel to me, a means to an end.”

She looked away, her eyes drifting in memory. “That ritual was never meant to ascent him to godhood. It was meant to ascend me! I knew his body would not be able to handle the raw might that I brought upon him. But if I were to share the burden, even for only a moment, it would be enough that he would be destroyed, and I would keep all the power to myself.” She growled. “And then the princesses,” she said, spitting venom and rage, “had to go and ruin everything.”

Nocturne turned to Dash. “Sombra’s mind was the first thing damaged as the magic tore him apart. He became nothing but a host of rage and gluttony, destroying my physical body as his own instincts became his only direction.”

She ripped the horn from its chain as she stood overtop Rainbow Dash. “I wouldn’t dare tarnish that pretty little body of yours with his foolishness. You aren’t his new body. You. Are. Mine!”

Dash’s body trembled as cold sweat took hold. She continued her struggle as Nocturne laughed above her, holding the horn just above her head. “B-but,” Dash stammered, “you tried to kill me! You blew up my house!”

Nocturne’s smile deepened. “A minor oversight, I assure you. My minions were overzealous in their commands to… ‘keep you out of the way.’ Why else do you think I let you be back in the Prism’s chambers? Why didn’t I fight back in the caves under Canterlot? Why didn’t I take you with the rest back in the Crystal Empire? Surely you saw that I was keeping you as safe as I possibly could, all to lead you here. To my ascension.”

She flourished Sombra’s horn. “With this horn, and your wings, I will combine the three pony magics together and rise as one of the true goddesses in this world. And the death of the Prism will herald my dark regime for the world to see. It is almost poetic.”

Nocturne turned back to the Prism and stood beside it. “But first, your body must be adequately prepared.” Her horn began to glow and her magic began to flow around the Prism like dark ribbons. “Please try not to resist, it will hurt less in the long run.”

Like a torrent of water twisting into a whirlpool, Nocturne’s magic roared to life around the Prism. The air crackled with dark energy, swirling closer to the great crystal. Dash felt a chill wash over her, not from the swirling wind, but deep within her soul. As Nocturne’s magic drew closer, she braced herself for what would come next.

Her resolve got the better of her. She panicked and her breathing hastened. She bucked her legs and twisted her body every way she could. Twilight was holding her down with just as much strength and didn’t seem anywhere near to budging.

As the wind raged in the chamber, however, Dash felt the strong breeze push against her. Twilight was growling from the wind that pushed against her, giving Dash an idea. Not leaving time to chance, she suddenly shifted all her weight to one side.

Twilight’s hooves jerked as they slipped off Dash. Her forelegs were freed and she quickly reached up to brace Twilight’s head. She tried to thrash back and escape, but Dash held on with everything she had. “Easy, Twi. C’mon, I know you’re in there. You don’t want this. Fight back. Come back to me. I need your help.” A tear fell from her eye. “Please, Twi. I love you. Don’t do this to me.”

Dash sniffed and brought her legs around Twilight’s neck into a hug. She held tight, purposely oblivious to Twilight’s attempts to command her master’s call. Nocturnewas lost in her trance of corrupting the Prism, giving Dash only seconds to think of something, anything to get her out of this mess.

A faint flash of light caught Dash’s attention. She glanced down to the necklace around her neck. Even with the colors washing out, the little gem struggled to glow, even with Twilight’s body so close. It was as if the dreadful shadows engulfing her blocked the magic like the clouds would block the sun.

Twilight was calling for her, trapped in her own mind. Even so close, her desire for Dash to find her burned through the darkness that poisoned her body. A crazed thought drifted in Dash’s mind, one that she felt ridiculous for considering. Twilight’s mind was the one seeking freedom, it should only take a reminder to her body to do the same.

Dash pushed Twilight away at hooves reach. She was a snarling, raging mess that struggled against her, seeking to be free to serve her mistress. Throwing all present of sanity out the window, Dash leaned in, forcibly pulling Twilight into a kiss.

Twilight went still as Dash held her close. Her raging snarls and mad gibbering quieted into stunned silence. Her eyes went wide and unblinking. As Dash pulled away, she looked into Twilight’s eyes. Eyes that stared straight back. Eyes that were trying to remember.

From Twilight’s glowing eyes, a small crack formed in the shadows that formed around her. It grew like a fissure of lightning down her body, growing with a colorless light. Like crumbling earth the cracks multiplied like a shell being shattered from the inside.

Dash let go of Twilight and backed away, shielding her eyes as the light grew brighter. In a brilliant flash and the sound of shattering glass, Dash stumbled backwards as Twilight was engulfed in a deafening explosion.

When the dust and light cleared, the air was still. Dash peeked from behind her hooves. Twilight lay before her, free of the shadows that Nocturne had tainted her with. She was breathing heavily, legs splayed flat on the ground as her head bobbed into consciousness. She struggled to lift herself up, wincing with effort.

Her eyes fell on Dash’, filled with confusion. “D-dash? “What’s going—”

Dash didn’t give her a chance to finish as she lunged forward and wrapped her hooves around Twilight. She squeezed as tightly as she could, fresh tears flowing from her eyes. “I was so scared! I thought I lost you!”

Twilight blinked as she slowly wrapped her own hooves around Dash. “I… I remember being in the Crystal Empire and then… nothing but darkness.” She sucked in a sudden, pained breath. “I.. she stuttered, her throat clenching. “I tried to hurt you! Nocturne got into my head, and she made me want to hurt you, she—”

Tears drifted from her eyes as well as her body trembled. “She made me think I’d lost you.”

Dash shook her head. “Never, Twi. I’ll always be there for you.”

Twilight gasped and looked around. “What happened to her? Wasn’t she here?”

Dash’s eyes widened and spun around. Nocturne was gone. She could feel her taint on the air, but whatever had happened must have scared her off. Her eyes fell on her dad. He was picking himself from the ground and stumbling over to Ditzy, who was now lying on the ground.

Whatever had happened to Twilight, the same had happened to her. She was on her back, staring into the air with a vacant, haunted expression. “D-d…” she stammered. “D-dinky. I w-want D-dinky… Wh-where’s my daughter?”

Khroma whispered into her ears. “Rest, dear Ditzanya. She is safe. We will take you to her. I promise.”

“I want my b-baby… I want my D-dinky!” Tears flowed from her eyes as she lashed at the ground in a trembling howl.

Khroma glanced to Dash with a level stare. “Can you see if you can wake Aurora? We must take this chance to escape while we can.”

Dash nodded. She turned back to Twilight and guided her to the ground. “Can you just wait here? You need to rest.”

Twilight nodded shakily. “M-my wing hurts…”

Dash winced. “Y-yeah. We’ll get that looked at when we ge—”

There was a sudden roar of dark magic that flooded Dash’s eyes. Her body tensed as an unbelievable surge of pain flowed through her. She screamed in agony as Twilight scrambled back in horror.

“Dash!” she shouted.

Dash collapsed to her knees as her vision blurred. She tried to lift her head as a steady, echoing thud rattled her mind every few seconds. Her eyes fell on the visage of Trixie, eyes glowing with Nocturne’s taint stepping from the other side of the Prism. She held Sombra’s horn aloft in her grip as she poured her power into the crystal.

A swirling mass of shadows appeared above Trixie. A pair of glittering eyes glowed in the mass of darkness, carrying with it a voice trembling with rage. “Well! That was certainly rude!” Nocturne roared. “I don’t know what foul magic you dared employ to slow me down, but I assure you won't get a second chance!”

The eyes in the cloud turned to Trixie. “Now my loyal minion, fill it with the magic I have blessed you with. Bring that stubborn pegasus to the gates of Tartarus if you must! I tire of these delays!”

Trixie nodded in silent obedience and her magic pushed even harder. Dash’s vision was failing her as she struggled against the evil taint that was turning her blood to ice in her veins.

Twilight appeared at her side, her horn glowing. “Trixie stop! You don’t have to listen to her! You’re stronger than this!”

Trixie showed no signs of hearing her and only poured forth more of her dark, twisted magic into the Prism.

Twilight tried to focus her magic, but the glow of her horn sputtered with even the most basic effort. Her groaning echoed in Dash’s head.

“Trixie! You’re as every bit great and powerful as you say you are! You’re better than her! I know you are! She’s nothing without you! You’re everything without her!”

Trixie, for a split second, blinked. There was a small, fragmented moment where her devoted stare wavered and her gaze turned to Twilight’s.

Twilight smiled and nodded. “Yes! I know you can hear me! She can never push you that far out of your own mind! Resist her!”

The pain roiling in Dash’s mind slowed, for only a moment. Trixie’s body began to tremble as her face was washing with multiple emotions.

That moment ended when Nocturne shrieked in rage and flew towards Twilight in a fury. “Must I kill every interruption myself!?”

A long, razor sharp spike erupted from Nocturne’s ghostly form and speared towards Twilight. Dash heaved a painful breath to try and move. Twilight was frozen still in fright as the great monstrous shadow bared down on her.

A flash of faded gold appeared in front of Twilight, just inches before Nocturne reached her. Khroma grunted in pain as the shadowy lance pierced through him and threw her aside.

Time slowed as Dash watched her father fall from the sky and crash to the ground in perfect, painful clarity. He landed hard on his back, blood oozing from his sides. He coughed weakly as he tried to glance at Dash, forcing a smile. He opened his mouth to say something, but his eyes could stay open no longer and rolled back into his head.

Dash couldn’t keep the tears back as she watched his body go still. “Dad?” she wheezed. Her voice trembled with confusion, doubt, denial. She didn’t want to believe what she was seeing. Her dad was the strongest pony in the world. Nothing could hurt him, nothing could bring him down. But why wasn’t he moving?

“No… dad…. DAD!” Her body burned as she tried to crawl over to him, but the air continued to rage around her as Nocturne was once again above her. Her gaze was focused on Twilight, as she began to produce another lengthy blade.

“No!” Dash screamed. “Stop! I’ll give in!”

Nocturne paused, and Twilight spun to her. “No! You can’t!”

Dash trembled with rage, with sadness, with failure. “I… I can’t keep letting ponies I love get hurt…” She brought a hoof to Twilight’s face. “I’m sorry, Twi. I lied. I’m not gonna always be there. But at least you will be.”

As hard as it was to turn away from Twilight’s teary face, she did and stared directly at Nocturne. She regarded the exchange with quiet amusement. “Just let them go. Let them live. Please. And You can do whatever you want with me.”

“And why would I care? You are mine no matter what. There is no escape from your fate.”

Dash scowled. “Y-you think I’ll make this easy for you?” She winced against the pain that crawled through her from the Prism’s tainting influence. “I swear with every ounce of my will I will fight you. It might take weeks, months, years, but I promise to the depths of Tartarus that I’ll still be there, in my head fighting you every step of the way. And I’ll make you work for it. You think I’m stubborn now? I’ll make it a nightmare, even for you.”

She glanced at Twilight. “Just let them go…”

“N-no..” Twilight wept. “Dash, don’t…”

Nocturne’s eyes closed as she descended into quiet contemplation. A single tendril reached out towards Trixie, plucking Sombra’s horn from her grasp. The glowing thorn of an appendage floated towards Dash. Her breathing quickened as the burning heat from that evil object drifted closer.

“Just let it in, dear,” Nocturne said. “It will all be over soon.”

“Dash no!” Twilight screamed. She tried to intervene, but Nocturne reached out a new limb and flicked Twilight away.

Fresh rage filled Dash’s mind, but her attention quickly fell to the horn slowly approaching her forehead.

“Just sleep, darling,” Nocturne sang. “Dream…forever more.”

Dash closed her eyes, filling her thoughts with the one thing she would want to dream of forever: Twilight. She felt the burning horn touch her skin, and after, there was nothing but darkness.

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