• Published 17th May 2016
  • 2,322 Views, 135 Comments

Into the Dark - Corejo



Equestria has fallen to a curse of eternal darkness. Together with the spirit of Luna, a stallion seeks to return the sun and moon to the sky, before the Devourer consumes all.

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V - The Pony That Was the Moon

“Long ago, before the darkness came to this world, I ruled Equestria alongside my sister, Celestia. Powerful and just, we brought prosperity to the land for countless centuries. Sister protected our little ponies by day, when they frolicked and played beneath the Sun, and I by night, when the dark and quiet brought their souls to rest safe within my own. But then… Then the dreams came.

“They began as whispers, little tricks of the light in the corners of my eyes as I drifted through the void of dreamspace. Manifold were the dreams of our little ponies, ever innocent and beautiful, but it was not uncommon for the occasional pony to conjure… less-than-savory fantasies.

“Those too feral I nipped in the bud easily enough. A simple twist of the magic in our melded souls and they were no more. But these were persistent, of a subtly different nature than those dreamt by our subjects.

“I first assumed them vestiges of Nightmare Moon, nothing more than faded echoes of her malintent. But still, something seemed off. They were stronger, held more substance, more meaning than the single-minded nightlust of that monster.

“And, they were recent.

“Inward reflection recalled the Tantabus, a being I had brought to life within my own dreams as a means of never forgiving myself of the evil I had committed as Nightmare Moon, but still my search had not yet reached a conclusion.

“The Tantabus had no hoof in the dreams—or, figments of dreams, I should say. The visions were not quite whole enough to warrant such a title. No, the Tantabus has remained dormant since that fateful night I came to terms with my guilt. Whatever the source, I became certain as the nights passed and the whispers grew louder that I was never meant to find peace. Still, I sought it with a fire in my heart all the same.

“If ever there was a sliver of happiness I have felt, it was in the cherished few slumbers after the Tantabus no longer ruled me.

“So I peered deeper into the dreamscape, into the darkness beyond the stars of the universe’s subconscious. Out there, in the furthest reaches of non-existence, I knew my answer awaited me.

“I cast aside my duties as the steward of night and took flight into the nothingness beyond the spiralling galaxies of slumber-thought, into the darkness that no pony—not even I—had tread.

“In the dreamscape, time is irrelevant. I journeyed on into that void for centuries. In the waking world, my search lasted months. I could hear Sister’s voice in the back of my mind, at my bedside in the real world, begging me to wake up, to snap from whatever nightmare I had mired myself in. I ignored her voice, and that of the countless others. They did not understand my quest. They did not hear the whispers, feel the silent tug at their hearts, leading me ever onward into the void, the universe of dreams but a speck in the distance behind me.

“There was no boundary in that endless expanse, yet I knew I had ultimately come to a threshold. Take but another step, and I knew not what would transpire.

“But I had to. I had at long last narrowed down the source, found a loose string in the fabric from whence the voices called me. Naught but a shadow among shadows, it awaited me, curled in a manner resembling a finger beckoning me closer. My quarry seized, I swelled at the thought of laying to rest the ever-burning questions in my heart.

“I… I pulled. A-and before me… Before me opened wide a darkness blacker than death.

“I woke from my dream-turned nightmare, aides at my side, ever vigilant for my return from the dreamscape. I remember the relief I felt as I found myself surrounded by the familiarities of my chambers. But slowly, I came to realize the gravity of my quest. I was a fool to think I had escaped my nightmare, if such a thing could even be called so.

“For a nightmare ends when one wakes.

“So it was that my chambers were torn asunder to that blackness, that infernal screaming, grinding, crushing noise, and a pressure greater than the deepest oceans pressed down on me. I could not breathe as the darkness took hold—a maw, a titanic monster reaching from beyond the fringe of imagination. I… I heard the screams of my beloved subjects still at slumber, their souls drifting within my own, gnashed apart by spiralling, grinding teeth.

“Do you know what it is like to have your soul torn in two, Champion? I pray you never will. Such torture would break even the greatest pony.

“And I… I am not a great pony…

“The pain I remember. It bored out my eyes and throat, that light—that terrible, immolating fire. I rose a soundless scream to the heavens that from thence existed only in the pit below me. ’Twas all I could do to hold on in that spiralling abyss, but even that was not enough. I felt the pane of my sanity shatter, and I slipped into the ease of absolute nothingness.

“For the longest time, there was nothing but the churning of the dreamtide. A different wash of slumber-thought, as if the baubles of everypony’s dreams had been broken open and their contents poured into a single basin. I had not my sense of sight in that place. I believe myself better for it. I felt the dreams, how they washed over me, bathed me in the thoughts and terrors of those I had betrayed. Theirs were the wracking pains, the torture of ceaseless slumber made dark by my brash curiosity.

“I listened to their screams in the rush of the tide, low and distorted whenever my shapeless being sunk below the surface. One by one, new voices lifted themselves up to join the chorus. I can only imagine them to be ponies you might have known, Champion, brave ponies who had failed in their search of our braziers.

“Eventually, I heard Sister’s voice among the din, and soon followed Twilight and Cadance. Their voices I held closest, sheltered within the span of my wings to whisper words of solace. Of hope.

“And so I existed for countless eternities in that damnable monstrosity’s gut, forever cursed to know my curiosity had brought doom upon all I held dear.

“That is, until you arrived, Champion.

“I felt you near the brazier, the light of my Moon drawing near. My mind slowly found itself, collected like oil at the surface of water. Sight returned to me, and I saw beyond the darkness the cathedral miles below, our Lights about your chest and the fear in your eyes.

“I reached out to you, fearful you would become just another scream in my ear, another victim of my hubris. But the weight of the dreams churning about me held me in place, became viscous the more I struggled. ’Twas then you found the courage to return my Light to the brazier, and with it, my strength.

“I broke free of the madness and came to your aid the only way I knew possible. I made you my vessel, and I am eternally grateful.”

He listened, staring into the gentle flicker of Sunlight dangling against the cliff face below him. His shoulder had long since popped back into its socket, but he hadn’t moved out of fear of interrupting Luna’s story. He rose, careful not to lose his balance after lying for so long, and hobbled in from the cliff, where he sat down and worked his scarf into a makeshift sling.

He stared at Sunlight where he had placed it on the earth, and when no more words came, he shifted from one flank to the other and withdrew the charcoal. Questions whirled in his head.

Why not take back your own body instead of sharing mine?

“I cannot. Whatever accursed nature the hellspawn is bound by holds my physical form captive, as well as the majority of my strength. The brazier weakened its grasp on me, true, but not enough to set me free in full, it seems. Besides, the timeliness of my arrival would have been… less than optimal.”

He thought back to the moment the brazier caught fire, how Luna had shielded him from that cluster of teeth the same instant he turned around. He blinked the image away and shook his head. Eyes downcast, ears flat: Where did these monsters come from?

“I know little of what has transpired since waking, Champion. Perhaps it would be best if you shared your knowledge of the world.” Luna drifted toward his rib cage, seemed to prop itself up on them to better read what he had to say.

He stared at Sunlight a moment longer, then wiped away his last question. It’s been dark all my life. We aren’t allowed to speak, according to the Elders.

“Who?” Confusion tinted the inflection. Odd, certainly. The Elder Council had existed since before the Devouring, or so he was told.

The Elder Council. Our guides and protectors. They are the ones who pass down the edicts and rites we live by, such as survival above all.

“I see…”

Silence took hold, and he stared absently into the tunnel ahead, awaiting whatever contemplation had stricken the voice. They were close, so close that the castle’s highest towers were visible in the Moonlight, just above the cliff face. Their rooftops shimmered faintly, almost the color of Sunlight, despite untold birthcycles of neglect.

“This Elder Council,” Luna said, its tone one of searching. “They are the ones who declared silence of my little ponies?”

He nodded. Silence is mandatory. Those that make noise are taken away.

“To where?” Though it possessed no eyes, its glare was sharp on the back of his head, and he wilted beneath the sudden chill that spread through his chest.

I don’t know. They go away. Sometimes they don’t come back.

“What sort of oligarchy imprisons its own people for making noise? Why bother with such a restriction?”

That was an answer he had witnessed. The shudder that ran through him added jagged points to the name, The Devourer. It is attracted to sound.

“The Devourer? Perchance, do you mean the…” A sharp intake of breath, and its chill receded to the space beside his heart.

He nodded. He remembered it vividly. The screams, the silence, the Devourer’s roar that shook apart the houses around him. It was the same as the dream he dreamt every sleep cycle.

Luna remained silent, its thoughts thrumming in the pit of his heart. “A fitting name.”

He wiped away his last statement, mouth slanted at the thought of what he should ask next. He set charcoal to stone and—

“Champion,” it said, contemplative. “In your dreams, there is a filly beside you. Grey. Blue eyes and brown mane. She, too, gazes into the darkness above the village wall. Is she close to you? A family member, perhaps?”

He looked aside, ear cocked, then nodded. My sister, he wrote.

“You have family, then, inside the walls?” Its chill pressed against his ribs, as if leaning forward.

He shrugged. Only her. Father left in search of the braziers birthcycles ago, and Mother was taken away for screaming.

“Oh,” it said, retracting to the space between heart and lung. “I am sorry.”

He raised an eyebrow. Why?

“W-why? You cannot…” Above, the Moon’s light faltered but a fraction of a second. “It is natural to offer condolences for departed loved ones. They are your family, are they not?”

He scrunched his brow, head cocked. Loved ones?

No answer.

Luna?

“I am here, Champion.” The voice trembled. “I-I was simply thinking. N-nothing more.”

He watched the stars twinkle in the night sky. They seemed withdrawn, as if they were afraid. He didn’t need speaking experience to know the turmoil in Luna’s heart. It gripped at his own, like a frightened filly wrapping its hooves about its mother. Something he wrote struck a chord, resonated with something it didn’t want to say.

Luna, he wrote. How long has it been since you searched for the whispers?

“I do not know,” it said, a semblance of recollection about it. “As I said… time is irrelevant.”

He paused. Is?

“Was,” Luna said. “Forgive me… After so long alone, the passage of time still feels but a lie. You should rest, Champion. We near the end of our journey, and the shadows will only grow darker.”

The end of their journey. It was a strange prospect. Granted, that was the intended outcome, to return the Cinders to their braziers and the Sun and Moon to the sky, but the closer they came, the further away it felt.

The distant tops of the castle towers twinkled in the Moonlight, but he had no idea what lay between. If he had only worse things to look forward to than the raven beast, he wasn’t sure he wanted to see what was on the other side of the tunnel.

The Moon watched him from its place in the sky, curious as to what he thought. He was sure of Luna’s conviction to defeat the Devourer and restore those who had been lost, but he wasn’t so sure of his ability to live up to that.

He was no champion, no great hero of ages past. He was a small and frightened pony who knew so terribly little of the beforetimes and the future in store.

Loved ones…

What did the Voice know that he didn’t? What meaning to that phrase had the Devourer stripped away in the cycles gone by?

Though Luna had answered the questions he wondered at all his life, it only raised more and far too many fears of what lay ahead.

But that was next cycle. The shadows and dangers to come belonged to his future self. For now, he had earned his rest.

He laid himself down on the cold stone and curled himself around Sunlight. Its warmth was a blessing on this chilly mountaintop, and he stared long into its light, cherishing the moments before his inevitable dream of gnashing, grinding teeth.

For all anypony knew, it might be the last time he ever saw it.

Author's Note:

Onward and Upward!