• 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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In the Elysian Fields

Hold Your Color
by Quillery


Suggestions, Editing and Pre-Reading by :
Siyray, Willsons, Izraill Z, BabySkittleMonster, Legion222, Dreamshadow, edensbane, amacita


Chapter Twenty-Five
In the Elysian Fields

From the moment Rainbow Dash closed her eyes, she expected nothing but an endless sea of darkness to be her only companion. She imagined the punishment for succumbing to Nocturne’s will, her final act of sacrifice for Twilight to be cold, empty, nothingness.

For a time it was. As soon as the burning sensation of the mad king Sombra’s tainted horn touched her head, she felt her very soul cry out in agony for only a moment. The pain stopped, the light vanished, leaving her to float forever more in the void before her.

There was no wind, no heat, no cold. Just nothing. She needed no effort of her wings to keep afloat. There was a strange power in this place that carried her, to where, she did not know. She did not care. Rainbow Dash knew her fate and was resigned to it. After all, for Twilight, she would do anything, even face oblivion itself.

Minutes dragged on like hours, hours like days. Dash did not feel the need for sleep nor drink. As she floated, her bodily needs and senses washed away, days seemed to drift past unnoticed. With no ties to her physical being, time was irrelevant.

Much of her time was spent thinking of Twilight. In the depths of this strange place, she felt that her memories and thoughts could come to life, dancing before her like a play of her own life. She remembered the happy times, focused on the good days. Many of which were of Twilight, but, there were almost more of family.

After what might have been an eternity, however, the void began to change. The realm of dark blended into light. It was like a distant star at first, just a pinprick of light far off in an uncountable distance.

As the eternal days went by, the light grew closer, growing into a second expanse joined to this one. One of light, of warmth and joy. She could feel the happiness seeping into her from a distance as she approached.

Once the border was in sight, Dash frowned at what shaped before her on the edge. A small, grassy hill, both shrouded in dark and bathed in light. Intermixed and intertwined, dark and light met, not in war, but in unity.

Dash touched down on this fragment of land, relishing the feel of grass and earth under her hooves. Her senses rejoiced to once again feel alive. But it was not enough. While her body once again felt whole and real, her mind was still plagued with her sense of being. What was this place? Why was she here? What did it mean?

“Hello?” she called.

The wind was the only answer. Her body tensed. The wind! Just as she felt the grass under her hooves, the wind bristled over her fur and revived the lost sense of the sky within herself.

The wind drifted, calling her in its ethereal song. It blew in only one way, towards the horizon, along the divide between light and dark. With no other heading to follow, she made her choice and began to walk.

The ruffling of grass underneath her fell into a rhythm that dictated the time. She walked for days, always following the wind towards the horizon. Her mind kept her occupied with questions of wonder. Questions of what might lay ahead, and if they might ease her passing into the realms beyond life.

Her journey, seemingly endless, finally came to a head, after what seemed like years of travel in the landscape of her mind, her soul, or the great beyond. The hills she cross crested in a small plateau overlooking the continued boundaries of light and dark.

A great stone pillar, smooth and grey loomed at the cliff edge. Dash blinked at the familiar monolith, her head immediately turning in search. Her ears twitched at the sound of laughter, childish and free, not far in the tall grass along the hillside.

She turned towards it, keeping her senses at their limit to locate the source of the new sounds. At the peak of the hill, she could see a small, silvery shape bounding up out of the grass and quickly disappearing once again. Shimmering lights drifted over the field as the small creature that stalked within lept from it protective cover like a lion hunting its prey. What wasn’t lion-like was the childish squeal of delight that swiftly followed each strike.

Dash climbed down the hill towards the bouncing filly, who was still oblivious to her presence. It wasn’t until Dash was only meters away did the child stumble out of a small clearing of grass in full view. She looked up to Dash, wonder shimmering in her crystalline eyes as she sat still in the low grass. The wind tossed her silver mane in the breeze, gentle and calm. She suddenly smiled and scrambled to her hooves, running to Dash’s side.

“Hey, kid,” Dash said. “I just can’t keep away from you, can I?”

The child giggled and pulled on Dash’s leg, guiding her further into the grassy plain.

“Okay, okay!” Dash said, smiling. “I get it! I follow you.”

The child nodded and took off, disappearing again into the field. Dash followed the spaces that parted in the blades of grass and the growling laughter of the strange and otherworldly filly.

The child led her through the field into a wide and flat valley. She charged ahead for the basin below, while Dash froze at its edge. Down in the valley was a second figure. She could make out little at this distance, only that whatever, or whoever it was quite tall and dimly colored.

Dash approached warily to this new being at the child’s insistence, who kept laughing and squealing with eternal delight. More details of the area became clearer the more she approached. The gloomy figure was seated at a table cut from stone at a rivers edge. There was a stone kettle resting upon it with a cloud of steam drifting from it.

The child had taken to bouncing and hopping around the figure at the table. His voice was low and gravely as he regarded the child’s excitement. “Yes, yes,” he said. “We have a new guest. I can see that. Now be polite and invite her to the table.”

The child paused and nodded, rushing over to Dash’s side once more. Again she grabbed at her side and guided her to a spot by the table. Dash masked her unease of the strange, yet familiar presence the child was leading her to, hiding it behind a veneer of a smile.

The stallion, as best as she could tell, was draped in a worn brown cloak, tattered at the edges and caked in a light coating of dirt and grass stain. His mane was black with streaks of grey and white, disheveled and unkempt, and his coat was as grey as a mountain.

He was still as Dash approached, sitting straight ahead towards the river’s edge. It wasn’t until Dash stood beside the table that she could see his face, and she nearly fell over when she did.

“S-sombra?!”

Dash jerked her hoof from the child’s grasp as she backed away. Disappointment overtook the filly’s face, overcome with the expression that she had done something wrong.

Sombra turned to filly. “Fret not, little one. It is expected that this one would fear me. Take your seat, I will explain to her.”

The child’s face brightened and she skipped over to the table and sat down. Sombra then turned to Dash.

She felt a chill crawl through her body at the sight of the mad king sitting before her, broken and weary. His eyes were sunken and dark, as if he had not slept soundly for centuries. His fur was tangled and scruffy, despite his repeated attempts to smooth it down with a brush of his hoof.

“Well?” he said. “I am certain you have questions. Sit, Rainbow Dash. I will answer.”

“You… know who I am?”

Sombra nodded. “You are the great descendant of Cerulean Vale, the very first to hold the gift and burden of guarding the Celestial Prism. Your family is old indeed, older than mine, passing down the responsibility of this great hunk of rock for countless centuries.”

Dash blinked. “This great—”

The ground rumbled slightly under her hooves. She turned her head, and jerked back at the sight of the stone pillar, now only inches from her. She turned back to Sombra, who had a flicker of amusement in his eyes.

“What’s the big deal, scaring me with a big ro—wait.” She turned to the pillar. “This is the Prism?”

Sombra nodded. “In a way, yes. In this realm, it has two bodies, one of its physical representation in the material world, and one of its soul.” Sombra turned his head slightly, towards the silver filly. She had a look of absolute joy on her face, as if the entire world were talking about her with praise and adoration.

Dash’s mouth fell open. “She—she’s the Prism too?”

Sombra nodded. “My family were the ones who helped create the Prism, millennia ago, well before the arrival of the princesses. It was yours that gave it purpose and protection.” Sombra turned to the child. “I still don’t know exactly why the Prism manifested a consciousness of its own, nor why it began its use of your family as its hosts, but it seems to have been a beneficial decision, whatever the cause. I spent a considerable portion of my youth looking into the old family artifacts, the Prism included.”

“Is that why Nocturne knows so much about it?”

Sombra’s eyes narrowed at Nocturne’s name. “Unfortunately, yes.”

Dash begrudgingly lowered her guard and sat down where she stood. She kept a close eye on Sombra, she wasn’t yet ready to trust him fully, regardless of his current intentions.

“So, what is this place? Why am I here? Why are any of us here?”

Sombra chuckled. “That is a question for the fates, child, not an old king who has long since grown tired under the weight of his crown.”

Dash frowned. “You’ve obviously been here a while. You’ve gotta have some idea.”

“Oh, I have an clear idea of where we are. We are dead.”

Dash’s eyes widened. “Wh-what?”

“If I must spell it out for you, we are in the realm in between, the place where all souls go to be judged and carry on into their eternal reward, or punishment in the gardens of Elysium, or the pits of Tartarus.”

“B-but, when does the...judging happen? It feels like I’ve been here forever.”

“Time has no meaning here. Free of your earthly desires for food, sleep and senses, time seems to drift by unnoticed.” He closed his eyes. “But, it is clear that your judgement has already been passed, or you would not be here now.”

“Wait, what? What does that mean?”

“It means that you deserve neither the peace of Elysium, nor the chains of Tartarus. Your mortal soul has been weighed for its deeds of benevolence and malevolence, and found to be in perfect balance. As such, the fates have decided you deserve no gift nor punishment, simply eternity.”

“That… that makes no sense! I’ve never done anything that bad! I’ve done loads of good things in the world. I can’t be just dead even like that!”

“Then perhaps you should not have sacrificed your body to Nocturne to save the life of another.”

Dash trembled. “Wh-what?”

Sombra nodded. “I mean what I say. By giving Nocturne your body and soul to take as her own, her vileness and evil has tainted yours. The fates care not for whose sins stain which soul. In the end, it is the value of an individual soul that is measured, and Nocturne’s sins have tipped the scales against you, just like she did to me.”

“That… that’s not—”

Sombra tapped his hoof against the table and snorted. “I certainly hope you weren’t meaning to say fair, my dear. Life is not meant to be fair. Life is a test, and we are judged at its end. You willingly gave a being of unspeakable evil and power access to your physical body for the thinly veiled promise that she would not bring further harm to those you care about. As far as frivolities go, that is one the fates do not take kindly to.”

“What was I supposed to do then? I couldn’t just stand there any watch Twilight die! Not after my da—” Dash’s voice broke. She shuddered as tears rushed to her eyes. “My dad… I just watched him die. He tried to protect Twilight for me. He didn’t have to. She was mine to protect, not his, and he paid for it.” Dash slammed the table with her hoof, causing the filly to jump in fright. “I wasn’t going to let him die for nothing!”

Sombra shrugged. “Then Nocturne has already won. She twisted everything to her advantage and wore your resolve like water against a stone. It is only a matter of time until the whole of Equus is lost to her madness.”

Dash grit her teeth. “What did you even see in her? How could you let her do what she did. I saw what happened that night. The only one that seemed to care for you was your scrivener. He said the people loved you. What happened?”

Sombra’s face fell. He stared blankly into the distance as a faint breeze drifted through his mane. “Love happened.”

“You actually loved that...thing?”

He shrugged his head and sighed. “I don’t know what changed in Nocturne. When we first met, she would barely give me the time of day. She was so studious under the wing of the princesses. All she was interested were books.”

Dash smirked. “Reminds me of somepony.”

Sombra smiled back. “The princesses, for lack of a better term, forced her to remain in the empire for a time, to learn to be sociable and requested me to guide her. It was… difficult at first, but we eventually found some common ground in certain old histories. Even then, I did not detect a hint of malice behind her intentions.

“It was just love, pure and true. Her smile was enough to brighten my days for months on end, and her laughter cured my deepest bordomes as ruler.

“But, after we were wed, I could feel a change drifting over the kingdoms with her as queen. I did not wish to believe it, until it was too late. Looking back on it now, I cannot be certain if it was her plan from the start, or something that changed her from within. Either way, her evil soon consumed me, and I was powerless to stop it.”

Sombra’s eyes went cold as he stared back at Dash. “Love is a poison, Rainbow Dash. You either succumb to its design and be destroyed by it, or you endure its destructive nature and grow stronger in the face of it. History tells vividly which one I was. The question is, which one are you?”

“What do you mean?”

“You sacrificed for love, Rainbow Dash. You faced love’s poison, and gave in. But, it is not yet too late. You can still fight back. You can still grow stronger from it.”

“How?! I’m here already, doesn’t that mean I’ve already lost?”

Sombra shook his head. “You still carry with her, in your heart. I can see it in your eyes. And within that necklace you wear.”

Dash gasped and felt for the necklace. It was in fact there. She had not noticed the faint glow it cast, even when her thoughts were filled of Twilight.

“The love you feel for her guided you through the abyss of this place to sanctuary. You may think it is over, but I do not believe it is.” He pointed to the filly. “Nor does she.”

The child adamantly shook her head with a wide, impish grin.

Sombra chuckled. “So you see. There is always hope, even in the realm of death. Take the fight back to Nocturne. Show her how strong your love truly is, and she will not win.”

Dash trembled. “I… but… how? How can I just up and leave this place and go back?”

Sombra’s eyes turned to the sky as he smiled. “Oh, the fates have their way of making things work out in the end. You just need to be patient.”

At that moment, the sky began to blaze with light. Bright colors flooded the air as the afterworld crackled with thunder and lightning. Dash’s vision blurred and cleared as the echoing sounds shook the very reality she sat in. Her balance was pushed to its limit as she swayed in place.

“Do the universe justice, Rainbow Dash. Destroy Nocturne and bring peace to my sins. Perhaps the princesses will be right, and she may yet find mercy in this place.”

He turned to the filly. “Oh, and take her with you. As pleasant company as she is, this is no place for her. I have a feeling she will no longer need to remain here.”

The child gasped in delight and skipped around the table. She hopped over to Dash and clamped onto her leg, staring up at her with her big, round eyes.

“Jeeze, kid. Alright. You can come too.”

A second series of quaking thunder ripped open a tear in the sky above, casting a glowing silver light down on the small valley. It flooded over Dash and the child in a blinding wave. Dash winced and shielded her eyes as the might of a thousand suns encased her and the child. The calm valley in the ever after began to fade away into black.

The light bled into darkness as new shapes cut out in Dash’s vision. The flat, ambient haze was replaced by more familiar landscapes. A dark, gloomy cave, one she felt she had not seen in years. A forest of crystal spreading out over a sea of darkness. A great pillar of fading light in the middle, crackling with the power of the sun.

And Twilight Sparkle, held in front of her eyes by a dark, shadowy appendage that came from Dash’s own body.

She gasped in shock suddenly as her body went tense. Twilight was released and fell to the ground, gasping for air.

Dash fell to her haunches, staring at her own trembling hooves. They were tainted with Nocturne’s corruption and were now as black as night. She felt Sombra’s horn burning into her head, but it was a minor discomfort the shrieking presence stampeding through her mind.

A flash of light snapped her to her senses as her eyes returned to Twilight. Her magic was swirling in rage, aimed directly at Dash. When Dash’s eyes fell on Twilight’s, however, there was a sudden change in Twilight’s demeanor. She looked confused, lost, scared.

“T-Twilight?” Dash said.

Twilight gasped. “Rainbow Dash?”

Author's Note:

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