• Published 9th Mar 2013
  • 3,752 Views, 136 Comments

Unity at Dusk - AlphatheGriffin17

Book III. With the lord of chaos released from stone and being the only none-Element, Dusk is left behind by the others. But he will soon discover that there is much more to him than he could have ever known...

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Fixing the Broken

Dusk opened his eyes to see nothing but an impenetrable darkness surrounding him. He could feel cold, harsh earth against his belly. Every bit of him hurt, aching with pain and agony. He could remember… there had been a fight… a fight with Blackhole Doom, his dark side… a fight that he had lost… falling, falling that seemed like it would never end… then nothing.

Blackhole… he had to be stopped… he tried to move, but it just hurt so much. He gave up and slumped back in a heap, wishing that the darkness would just take him again. What could he do? His dark side had already won, already taken over… what could he do to stop him? He was faster, stronger, and more powerful than he could ever hope to be. He was right, he was pathetic, every bit as weak as he accused him of being. It was better this way…

Then he noticed a light, one that had been shining down on him. The light that had awoken him in the first place. What was that light and why was it here? He fixed his gaze on it, tried to reach for it, to catch it. He gave up, recoiling from the sheer pain of it. I don't deserve light, he thought; just leave me here in darkness… it's what I deserve, for what I failed to stop…

"Oh Dusk, how far you've fallen." That voice… that soft, pitying voice… he knew it recognised it…

When he looked up again, the light had transformed. It had turned into a pony, an alicorn, with fur like the midnight sky and a mane as bright as starlight, gazing down on him with compassion and empathy.

"Luna…" he croaked, his voice little more than a rasp. "How… how did you…?"

"I'm inside your mind, Dusk, this small part of me is," she explained, smiling as wonderfully as her sister. "I've come to offer aid."

"You're… you're not… the Royal 'we'," he couldn't help but note, though every word hurt.

"That is only to be used for formal address, not when addressing a friend or equal to a princess, such as her sister… or one for whom she cares for dearly," she added, that smile shining like the moon she rose and lighting a small fire of pride in him.

"Then… then you…"

"Yes, I do." Her smile faltered and her expression softened. "Oh, what has he done to you?"

"He… he… I'm so sorry…" he rasped, heaving in his chest. "I… I tried… too strong…"

"Hush, my little pony," she whispered, "save your strength, for you shall need it."

"What… what strength?" He paused and coughed, for it even hurt to talk. "I… don't… have any…"

"If that were true, you would not be here." She lowered her head so that it was level with his own. "You must stop him, only you can defeat him."

"Blackhole…?" Just saying his name made him feel afraid.

"His rage is untethered and his cruelty is tenfold. You must stop him, before he can do anymore damage, to your mind and your body."

"What… what can I do?" He sighed, a rasping, horrible sound. "Just leave me..."

"I am not about to do that. You are my subject and my friend and I shall not leave you here." He felt something slip around his neck, felt a weight hang down from his neck. "Now, get up."

"I… can't…" he insisted weakly.

"Yes you can."

"I've… I've tried…"

"Then try again, you must do it."

"It hurts… so much…"

"I know, but nopony said this would be easy." She raised her head and commanded firmly: "Get up, Dusk Noir."

He sighed, feeling the painful twinge in his chest. He supposed he might as well; it wasn't like he was going anywhere… he tried putting pressure on one leg, but winced from the shot of pain and fell back again. He was met with the same result again and again whenever he tried to stand, it just hurt so much. How could he hope to walk again, let alone stand up?

No, a little voice inside him seemed to say… something was telling him not to give up so easily. So he tried again, just with one leg, as slowly as he could. He gritted his teeth and grunted, trying his best to ignore the pain. Right… one leg up, now for another, just as slowly, just as carefully as before. He had to do this at the pace he could manage now… just his front two legs first…

"AGH!" The agony was just too much and he collapsed back in a heap, tears falling down his face. "I can't… I can't do it…"

"Yes you can, I know you can," she urged. "You were doing fine, come on."

"But it hurts… I can't stand it…" he sobbed, feeling utterly pathetic. "Just leave me here… I'll never be able… to walk again…"

"No!" she refused, once again in her firm, commanding voice. "Is this the same pony who told me I should not give up before I've even tried? I would think that such a pony would be able to follow such good advice himself, because I am not going to give up on you, Dusk Noir and neither should you!"

"But I… I…"

"No buts! Now, listen to your princess… listen to your friend," she prompted softly, then loudly again, "and stand UP!"

Dusk stared up at her, realising that she meant it. Then, without any further argument or debate, he started again. For some reason, her firm commands, her unwavering faith in him had given him this new strength inside him, enough to ignore the burning fires of pain shooting through his body. He couldn't quite explain it or understand it, but then again… that was the same for a lot of things. It hadn't stopped him before and it wasn't going to stop him now.

Once again, he started to put pressure on his front legs. This time, he tried to move himself a little more quickly, doing his best to ignore the agonising shots of pain that seemed to pierce every joint, every inch of him. He wanted nothing more than to just succumb to it, to give in and collapse again. But another impulse, another voice deep down inside him told him he should keep fighting until he stood up again. It was this that drove him to stand on his front two legs and push himself up off the ground.

"Come on, you're doing wonderfully," Luna encouraged gently.

He did his best to smile up at her, but it probably came off as a grimace. That gave him heart and strength, though his front legs were shaking and felt the pain spreading like a fire through his whole body. Now the rear legs, he was almost done. Just a little more, that voice seemed to say, just ignore the pain as best you can, it'll all be over soon… almost there…

One leg coming up… firmly on the ground… then the other, placed by the side of its fellow. His legs shook violently, he stumbled… he didn't fall back down, as he had fallen against something soft and warm. He lifted his head and felt his heart glow, for Luna was there, supporting him on her side, preventing him from falling again. She truly wasn't about to give up on him… so neither would he. She stood back and let him stand as best he could on his own…

A few seconds… a little more shaking… but he didn't fall. He'd done it. He could stand again!

"Well done Dusk! I knew you had it in you," she praised happily, watching him closely.

"I… I… did it…" He coughed and swayed a little. It still hurt to talk. "But… what now?"

"The battle is now partly won, but there is still a way to go," she informed him grimly. "You must climb out of here, defeat Blackhole Doom and regain control of your mind."

"But… how can I possibly hope… to stop him?" he spluttered. "He's stronger than me… faster… more ferocious… what chance do I have?"

"Part of it lies around your neck. Look…"

He did so and, to his pleasant surprise, saw that it was part of the necklace that Twilight had made him, that good luck charm that had become as much a part of him as his heart. It was only one part of it, the chunk with Twilight's fur colour in it, that sparkling shade of lilac. So, in a way, he had a small chunk of the magic left in him…

"Where… where's the rest?" he asked her, gripping it gently.

"They are scattered along the path out of this darker place in your mind. You must find and recover them as you make your way out and they shall give you the strength you need to stop your darker self." She placed her hoof over his as he gripped it. "They are symbols of your friendship with the Wielders and can grant you a power far stronger than anger and rage."

"You're… you're sure that… they can?"

"Well, this one just gave you the strength to get back on your hooves, didn't it?" She gave him a knowing smile, before looking regretful. "I must go now, for I have done all that I can."

"No, please! Don't go!" He knew he sounded pathetic, but he didn't want her to leave him. "I don't want to be alone…"

"Do not worry, young Dusk…" She leant in close and bestowed him a tender kiss on his cheek, making his face grow warm and filling him with a determined spirit, as if a little bit of magic had been transferred through it, "…you won't be."

With that, she faded away, though that smile still lingered to the last. He could feel its warmth, as radiant as Celestia's… then it was gone and was replaced with fear. Despite her promise, Dusk fill felt that growing sense of isolation and dread. How long was this journey going to take, in the state that he was in? What if he couldn't find these fragments of his necklace lying around the remains of his mind and Blackhole would just cast him back down into this pit?

The light… it hadn't truly faded, for he wasn't in complete darkness. He could still see a passage that looked like it led out, thanks to that small glimmer of light that remained. Still shining, still glowing, like a shimmer of hope that refused to succumb to the dark…

That spirit, like the light was still there, contained in the little rock that dangled around his neck, in that little speck of colour that was her… her silk fur like lilacs, her shining purple mane, her wonderful voice and shining eyes. The thought of her, of all of them, added to his strength, his determination. No, he decided… he couldn't give up on them, not without a fight first, not until he had given it his all and come out on top… or fall trying.

Giving that stone one last grip and wincing from the pain, he began, slowly but surely, to hobble up the tunnel, to begin his ascent.

The earth shook beneath Blackhole's hooves, as he slammed them into the ground in frustration, roaring his displeasure at this failure. He'd had her! She was low on strength, close to defeat and she was at his mercy. Now, like a coward, she had fled, unwilling to face him to the end and die with some dignity. He would hunt her down now and she would suffer, oh yes, she would suffer greatly for this.

"Good show, my minion, bravo!" clapped Discord. "It's been such a long time since I've seen a proper fight like that."

"But master, I failed you," he growled. "She escaped me before I could finish her…"

"There's that yes," he nodded, "but you still managed to break her quite a bit before she left. I must say, I'm impressed by how much you withstood and still have some fight in you."

"Thank you, master, your words embolden me," he bowed. "Shall I hunt her down?"

"No, she's not important at the moment. I'll deal with her myself soon enough, something involving toffee, a trampoline and a pair of tweezers I think," he assured him with an evil grin.

"That sounds entertaining, my lord. Is there anything else you would have me do?"

"Not that I can think of," Discord shrugged. "Just go off and have yourself some fun, my little servant. You've thoroughly earned it."

"Master, you are too good to me," he thanked, bowing again.

"Think nothing of it." He then clapped his hands together and grinned all the more widely. "Now then, I have some more chaos to wreak. Perhaps I'll turn the lake into lime Jell-O or turn the snow on the mountains into sugar frosting and the mountains into cakes. Oh, the possibilities of chaos are just endless!"

"It is glorious indeed, master," agreed Blackhole. "I shall be sure to spread some chaos of my own in your name."

"You'll do your best, I'm sure." He snapped his fingers and summoned a large clock. "Make sure you're at the library in about fifteen minutes to witness the end of harmony in Equestria forever. It should be quite a show."

"I would not dream to miss it, my lord. I hope that you… have fun," he said, with a smile of his own.

"I'll be sure to and you too, Blackhole. Until next time…" He saluted and vanished in a flash of light, leaving Blackhole in the midst of the destruction his duel with Luna had made. How wonderful…

He was about to run off, to spread some more chaos for his master when he stopped, pausing for a moment. He rubbed his head, as he felt something, a twinge in his skull like a mild itch. He shrugged and decided to ignore it. Perhaps it was just an after-effect after his battle with Luna and it would wear off soon enough. A mild pain wasn't going to stop him.

Grinning at the thought of the chaos he could spread, he sprinted off, that nagging feeling still in the back of his mind, like something scratching away inside his thoughts…

Though the small magical light provided him with some visibility in what seemed like an endless chasm of darkness in these tunnels and the small chunk of stone around his neck gave him some renewed strength, Dusk's journey wasn't made any easier, due to a combination of his own fear of pain and death and the state that Blackhole had left him in. He had passed one reflective piece of stone as he travelled on and he had screamed aloud at how he looked.

Both of his eyes had been blackened, though one more severely than the other. There were two cuts, bordering on scars and still dripping blood, across his face, as well as an innumerable number of large purple bruises and red cuts, sometimes deep, sometimes only surface, all over his body. In addition to the cuts and bruises from the sheer brutality of Blackhole's beating, his leg was at an awkward angle, indicating it had been broken and he was now dragging it along, along with a strong pain in his back, possibly minor fracturing.

Despite this, he tried his best to push on. He couldn't treat his wounds, as he had neither the resources, nor the medical expertise. Though he had read some medical books, they weren't much use to him here and he couldn't recall most of the details. Because of this, his body was burning and aching from the pain that seared through him. He could barely make it along this stretch of flat ground. How was he going to cope when it eventually inclined upward? How could he even hope to stand up to Blackhole like this?

"Can't… give up…" he grunted, dragging his hoof like a zombie. "Counting… on me… stop… Blackhole…"

So he pressed on, even though it was a great pain just to walk.

Up ahead, he could make out a clearing in the tunnel… was it his imagination or could he see something floating, shining suspended in a beam of light? Maybe he was suffering hallucination from so many blows to the head… no, that definitely looked like something… a jagged piece of stone, no larger than a cherry. Another fragment!

"Have to… get to it…"

He coughed and wretched again from the sheer effort of speaking and his front two legs buckled as he almost collapsed. He tried to push himself back up, get back on his hooves and get back to making slow progress towards the fragment… but he just didn't have the strength to do it, not on his own… he needed help…

"Please… help me…" He bowed his head, knowing that nopony could hear him down here. What was the point…?

"Mr Dusk? Are you okay?" That voice… that sweet, innocent voice… it couldn't be…

"He doesn't look too good," remarked another voice, without the farm accent of the first.

"Come on Dusk, you gotta get up! You gotta kick Blackhole's butt!" urged another voice. He craned his neck up and beamed at the sight of them, though it hurt the corners of his mouth.

There, standing before him, were the three little fillies that made up the Cutie Mark Crusaders. Apple Bloom was closest, bending in front of him and examining his face with concern. Sweetie Belle looked equally worried and afraid, whilst Scootaloo was resolutely determined.

"Girls… what are you… doing down here?" he asked, in-between coughs and splutters.

"We heard about what happened and we came here to help," piped up Sweetie, smiling sweetly at him, though her eyes still shone with fear.

"Well… I could certainly… use it…" He tried to stand, but only ended up retching and collapsing again on his front legs.

"Oh no, yer not okay!" exclaimed Apple Bloom. "Come on Crusaders, our friend needs our help!"

"Yeah, don't you worry Dusk, we'll have you up in no time," assured Scootaloo confidently.

"Cutie Mark Crusaders: Quest Helpers!" they chorused and scampered around him, taking up positions.

Both Apple Bloom and Scootaloo wormed their way under his legs, using their backs to provide support and lifting him up off the ground. They strained a little under the weight of his body, along with their own diminutive sizes, but managed to hold him up without dropping him. Sweetie Belle walked by his side and began to keep up a stream of encouragement, both for Dusk and her friends.

"Come on guys, you haven't got too far to go," she said brightly.

"Why… why are…" He couldn't get the words out, but they picked up his meaning regardless.

"We're yer friends Dusk, we like ya," Apple Bloom said from under his leg. "Why wouldn't we help? 'Sides, ya helped us with gettin' our cutie marks too."

"Yeah, we're helping return a favour and helping you beat the bad guy," put in Scootaloo. "You make sure you give him a butt-kicking from us, okay?"

"I'll… bear that in… in mind," he replied, giving Rainbow's idoliser a weak smile.

He still couldn't quite believe his luck, as he hobbled along, assisted by the young ponies. Right now, the moment when he'd needed help; here they were to give it. They didn't have any kind of obligation or need to assist him; it had been simply out of the goodness of their hearts. He knew them and he liked them, but he'd always spent more time with the girls than with them, yet they were still willing to give him whatever aid he needed.

There was still quite a way to go however, still at least five other fragments to find on the way out and he was still in this weakened state. They would tire from supporting him eventually, if he didn't regain the rest of his strength and recover soon. They certainly wouldn't be able to help him fight his darker alter ego. And yet…

Maybe… he really wasn't as alone as he first thought.

"Come on, almost there," urged Sweetie Belle, as the beam of light grew brighter.

"Good, 'cause I don't think I can carry him much further," grunted Scootaloo. "No offense Dusk."

"None… taken…" he groaned, trying his best to take some weight off.

"Jus' keep liftin' him, it's only a lil' further," encouraged Apple Bloom.

"Well, of course I'll keep lifting him," replied the Pegasus. "In this position, I couldn't not lift, could I?"

"This would be easier if we had your scooter," said Sweetie Belle.

"Yeah, we coulda jus' put him in the trailer and move him that way," realised Apple Bloom.

"Please, don't remind me," snapped Scootaloo.

"What? I'm just saying…"

"I know you're just saying, Sweetie, but it isn't helping."

"Come on girls… no need to… to fight," rasped Dusk, as Sweetie opened her mouth to respond.

"You really don't sound so good," she said with concern. "Did Blackhole hurt you bad?"

"Yes… he really, really did…" He grabbed his side as a twinge of pain shot up from it.

"Why'd he do it?" asked Sweetie Belle.

"Yeah, aren't you two like, brothers or something?" added Scootaloo.

"Well…" Dusk tried to think of the best way to explain it to them. "You know those, ugh… two fillies at your school… the mean ones?"

"Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon?" asked Apple Bloom. "Yeah, what about 'em?"

"Blackhole is… rather like them… only ten times worse, if that…" he said bitterly. "He hates everything that we… we hold dear."

"You mean like friendship and harmony?"

He nodded to Scootaloo's question. "There are some ponies… who are like that… they can't be talked to or… or argued with. They need… to be fought… if there's no other way."

"But ya said that ya didn't like fightin'."

"Yes but, that's… mainly because I'm a… well, a wimp," he admitted. "I just delude myself it's… a sense of honour and… decency, when really… I'm just too scared to do it…"

"Come on Dusk, yer not a wimp," said Apple Bloom. "Ya saved ma sister from the snake thingy in the Everfree Forest."

"Yes, but…" He was about to say that was more foolish bravado than actual courage, but Scootaloo cut him off.

"Yeah and I'll bet there's a bunch of other stuff you've done since then that's pretty gutsy too."

Dusk considered this for a moment, all the things he'd done he might see as being brave: battling heavily armoured diamond dogs, standing up on stage in front of hundreds to perform magic he'd kept hidden for so long, going head to head against one of the toughest fighters in the buffalo tribe and winning and venturing once more into the Forest, alone, with no idea what he might find, with the intentions of trying to help his friends…

Not bad, for a weedy little history geek, he thought to himself with amusement.

"Well… perhaps," he said quietly. "Either way… I still need to fight Blackhole… before this is over… I have no choice."

"Aren't you scared though?" asked Sweetie.

"I am, yes but… there's more to it," he croaked, still feeling the pain in his chest. "Courage isn't about… not being frightened… it's being afraid and doing, ugh… what you have to do anyway…"

"What about yer whole thing about not fightin'?" asked Apple Bloom. "Ma sister had a word fer that. She said it was called bein' a paci... paci… pacifier?"

"Pacifist," Dusk corrected, smiling down at her. "Then I'll… I'll have to make an exception… in his case, won't I?"

"Yeah, go Dusk!" cheered Scootaloo.

"Hey look, we made it!" Dusk looked up at Sweetie Belle's words and realised that she was right. "See, we made it!"

"Yes… yes we did…" Gently, he relinquished the girls' support and let them rest from their efforts and limped over to the fragment.

It was almost the same as the one he currently possessed, except that this one had the colour of pink set into it. Fitting, as he knew she would have done her best to make him feel better too and made sure he had plenty of laughs as well. Carefully, he levitated it down and attached it to his necklace with a spell.

The instant he did, he felt a small surge of energy throughout his whole body, concentrating near his legs. When he moved them, he noticed that they didn't hurt as much as before. There was still a good deal of pain, but he would at least be able to walk on them a little better now. At least the hoof he had been dragging was back in a normal state.

Magic, he thought, it was the only explanation.

"You need any more help Dusk?" asked Sweetie Belle from behind him.

"No I… I think I'll be fine, Sweetie," he told her, noting that talking didn't hurt as much either.

"Does that mean we can go now? I'm wrecked after all that," Scootaloo said, in an annoyed voice.

He turned to face them. "Will you be okay on your own?" They nodded brightly. "Then... goodbye Crusaders and thank you for your help."

"Just make sure you give Blackhole a fight he won't forget!"

"We hope you make it out okay…"

"No problem, good luck Mr Dusk!" said Apple Bloom, as they sprinted off into the dark.

He stared after them, minutes after they'd left. He was sad that they left him on his own again, but he couldn't make them stay with him if they didn't want to. Besides, they'd done more than he would have even expected from them. He didn't even know that they were here so… were there others, in his mind waiting to help him? Or was that just a one-off, a stroke of luck and now he was on his own? Either way, he was glad of their help.

He was still marvelling at his increase of strength, however small it was. He was still hurting in places, but he would at least be able to walk by himself, so long as the tunnel remained flat. It had all come from this little chunk of stone, so small yet so significant; the same before with the fragment Luna gave him. He was sure it had given him the strength to stand again. Perhaps, if he kept finding them, he would be able to recover himself entirely.

He tried to remember that as, at a slow and steady pace, he set off again down the tunnel. At first, it remained flat, but then the thing he dreaded came to pass. The passage started to incline upwards,at first gently, enough so he could manage it, but soon it started to become painful. His lungs started to burn again, even more so in their weakened state and the joints in his knees and ball sockets started to ache from the exertion. What kind of pony was he if he couldn't even manage a gentle slope uphill?

He tried his best to push himself up, but soon he was on his knees, practically dragging himself out of the passage at an even slower pace than before. Despite its gradual incline, this slope was starting to feel more like a mountain. He didn't exercise much anyway and, combined with his weakened and beaten state, he felt utterly exhausted from the effort. His legs, while they had recovered a little, were still damaged and this was putting a great strain on them, to say the least.

Eventually, he had to stop, panting and wheezing like an old stallion. Now, he wasn't sure if he even had the strength to get going again, let alone climb back out… but he was on his own now and he doubted anyone would be able to help him…

"Geez and you call me lazy," said a familiar voice behind him and he whipped his head around to see the short form of a purple scaled dragon.

"Spike!" He breathed a sigh of relief and smiled once more. "I've never been more pleased to see anyone!"

"Good to see you too bro." The two exchanged a hoof-claw bump. "Wow, you look like you've been dragged backwards through several hedges by an angry manticore."

"And I feel like I've been pummelled and beaten by Hoofacles with his club whilst also being partially zombified, about 20 hours into the process… to say the least," remarked Dusk.

"See, I got that last reference, but not the first one," noted Spike.

Dusk couldn't help but grin wider. "You've obviously never read any books on ancient Pegasi myths then."

"And you've obviously read the Zombie Survival Guide I gave you, nice work!" he said proudly. "The zombies will be hard pressed to infect us when they rise."

"Well… I had to do something you'd understand, given your limited background reading," he said with a smile.

"Since when did you brag?" asked Spike, though keeping his smile.

"Sometimes, it's nice to brag, you taught me that if anything." His confident smile diminished and became modest again. "Either way, Twilight's still smarter than me."

"There's the Dusk I know." Spike chuckled and held out a claw. "So, you look like you need a hand, number one pony assistant."

"Are you willing to provide it, number one dragon assistant?"

"Anything for my brother in library-assistantship."

"Then, my brother…" Dusk grasped his claw and heaved himself up, as Spike ran to his side to support him. "Let us venture on, side-by-side."

So together, pony and dragon started to climb up through the tunnels, Dusk doing the best he could whilst being aided by Spike. It reminded him of the many times they'd helped each other out in the library, like when Dusk covered for some of his work because Spike had been napping and forgot about it or the time Spike had helped him out of a mountain of books that had collapsed on him. That had not been a pleasant experience, especially the dragon's pun about how he'd always liked being buried in a book.

Now, his help was more vital than ever before and much more was at stake than berating about laziness from Twilight or a few broken covers and torn pages. Once again, Dusk was happy to know that there was someone he could trust and rely on by his side, especially one as light-hearted and friendly as Spike. At the best of times anyway.

"Just you wait bro; we'll be out of here in no time." He grunted and shifted on Dusk's side. "You could stand to lose a little weight though."

"You've got more of a pudgy belly than me, my scaly friend," remarked Dusk.

"Hey, that's just baby fat!" he insisted. "I'll grow out of it."

"I'm sure you will," he replied with a chuckle that was cut off by a coughing fit, retching and wheezing like a pensioner.

"You all right?" asked Spike with concern.

Dusk took a few long, painful breaths before answering. "I'll be fine, but thanks for asking."

"Wow, Blackhole really did a number on you." He grimaced sympathetically, but smiled regardless. "But you're still here, climbing your way back out to fight him in an epic final duel, probably on top of a tall place with a choir singing in the background."

"Why do you say that?"

"Well… that's how all final fights go. There'll probably be some lava and explosions too." His smile brightened a little more. "This is even kind of like that story you showed me once, where that big tough bad guy beats the hero by breaking his spine." He paused for a moment. "He didn't break your spine, did he?"

"If he did, I'm sure I'd know about it," remarked Dusk. "But, I see where you're coming from at any rate."

"Yeah and then he climbs back out and beats him in a hoof fight, even though he was broken, weakened, beaten, bloody-"

"Sorry, how is this making me feel inspired?"

"What? I'm just telling it like it is," shrugged Spike. "You think you can beat him this time?"

"I hope so, Spike… I hope so…" He stared off in silence, as the two of them shuffled up the hill before he realised there was a shimmering beam of light before him. "We're here…"

"We are?" Spike looked around and grinned. "Huh, that was quicker than I expected. What is that thing anyway?" he asked, pointing to the stone that was suspended in the beam of light.

Dusk staggered over to it, levitating it out of its place and holding it before his eyes. The colour of Rainbow Dash's fur was dotted on the black. Loyalty, like the kind Spike showed to him and vice versa. He added it to the others, once again feeling a boost in his strength and an alleviation of his pain and physical injuries.

"Something that can help me a great deal," he replied, turning back to him. "Thank you for your help Spike, I think I'll be fine from here."

"You sure?" He nodded in response. "Good, I'm gonna go take a nap. Good luck with your ultimate battle for your mind buddy."

"Your support is heart-warming," responded Dusk, with a wry smile. "See you soon Spike." With that, he set off back up the tunnel, now able to manage the steeper slope with relative ease.

So, three pieces down and four to go, all somewhere along the way back up out of the darkest depths of his mind. He kept this in mind and it gave him strength, along with what had happened recently that made him feel not as scared as before. So far, he'd received help from others when he'd needed it, friends he never would have thought would even be there for him, he who was so unimportant and unessential. He couldn't help but wonder who else would come to his aid while he was down here…

Bolstered on by this, he continued along the path, knowing each step brought him closer to his ultimate fate.

Blackhole was laughing and cackling at all the chaos he was causing in Ponyville: turning stone bridges into paper so they dissolved in purple water, making fish fly about in the air rather than swimming in the rivers and lakes, bringing trees to life so that they walked around and caused mischief and anarchy in his and his master's name. Words couldn't describe the sheer joy he took from it. It was glorious, beautiful!

All the while, he only vaguely noticed that the slight headache he had from the end of his battle with Luna was getting steadily stronger. It was slight and hardly noticeable, but it was. At first, he was concerned about it but in the end paid it no mind. He just let the pain it brought fuel his anger and let him revel even more in the chaos he spread.

After he had finished making flowers become carnivorous, so they ran around after flocks of long-legged rabbits, he began to wonder what he should indulge himself in next. His anger still burned at the thought of those mares… his master had said that they still needed to find their precious Elements in his game and he would have all the time to toy with them afterwards. But Blackhole thought there was no harm in having a little more fun… especially with Sparkle.

Smiling in satisfaction of what was to come, but rubbing his head with annoyance, he set off in the direction of the library, laughing to himself as he did. This was going to be amusing…

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