• Published 9th Mar 2013
  • 3,753 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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Final Leg

Dusk's excitement and fear was growing even more for every step he took in this dark place, for the success of when he would finally escape and for when he would have to face Blackhole Doom yet again. Only this time, he would be ready for him, or as ready as he would ever be. He would have to, if he had any hope of stopping him and his master. Well, Blackhole at least, he didn't stand a chance against Discord.

As such, he had quickened his pace in order to make it out of here as quickly as possible. As such, he didn't notice that the tunnels were starting to twist and turn a lot more than they were before and it was becoming a lot harder to see, with an increasing darkness pressing down upon him. He just kept on running, hoping that he would find a way out soon and ignoring when he ended up almost tripping and falling, doing his best run on.

Another thought that came to mind would be what would happen when he saw Twilight and the others again. How much of what Discord showed him was actual truth and would they really want him around? Even then, how was he going to explain about Blackhole? Would they blame him for anything he had done, for failing to stop him and for just running away like a coward? He wouldn't blame them if they did, for that was what he had been… what he was…

Once again, Dusk couldn't help but wonder what exactly his darker self had done. In essence, he was everything negative about Dusk given form and increased tenfold, to a level where compassion and pity were just words to him. Add to that his increased strength, speed and magical powers and there would be no limit to the cruelty he could cause. And he would blame them, because of what Discord had shown him… the thought of this made Dusk push himself even further, his own anger increasing for him.

Dusk returned his focus to his surroundings and thought it all seemed rather familiar, like he had been here before. Picking a direction and sprinting, he tried to find the path again, but ended up going down into a dead end. He tried to recall where he had been before, noticing that all of these walls and passages looked the same and there was so many of them…

There had to be a way out of here, there had to be. His panic was increasing now, galloping this way and that, encountering only dead-ends, wrong ways or routes that carried him to right back where he started at what felt like hours ago. Soon, he ran out of breath and collapsed at yet another junction he had already passed.

He didn't want to admit it but… he was lost. Lost, down here in the dark!

Desperately, he tried to think of a solution for this problem. He could attempt to remember where he had already been in these tunnels and eliminate possibilities from there, but there were simply too many tunnels and they all looked too similar from each other to even begin contemplating a way out. Why didn't he leave some arrows marked into the dirt, like he always did in times like this? He had lost his head and now he was paying for it…

He could try using his magic to try and find his way out, but that would only give him additional light. He couldn't use the tracking feature they had, for there was nopony else down here for him to track, at least nopony up ahead. He'd just end up going back the way he came. Besides, he wasn't even sure he had the strength to use it. He had recovered some strength, but he didn't know if was enough yet… he still got little headaches whenever he used so much as a basic levitation spell. How was he going to cope with his colour shapes?

Before, when he had been in situations like this, a friend had come to help him. Luna, the Crusaders, Spike, Little Strongheart, Zecora. They'd all come to help him in his time of despair, when he'd needed them most. Would somepony come now to help him? How were they going to find him down here? He didn't even know where he was!

"What am I supposed to do?!" he cried out, his voice echoing cruelly around the tunnel. "Somepony, anypony, help!"

But there was no reply, nopony was coming to help him now. He was alone.

Twilight had never been so relieved and surprised in her life. She had been expecting to find some kind of clue or another riddle leading to the Elements that would allow them to find them. What she hadn't expected was to find them in the book, hollowed out in a section of it and ready for them to use.

"The Elements! They were here all along!"

Spike ran over and bent to examine them. "This is great! Now you guys can defeat Discord and put everything back to normal!"

And save Dusk, Twilight thought to herself, even more happy as a result of it, as she shut the book and brought it over to show the others.

"See girls? We did it! We found the Elements of Harmony! Together!"

There was virtually no reaction from them. Applejack was leaning back nonchalantly, Pinkie was slumped against Rarity's boulder whilst Fluttershy flicked at her mane and Rarity was polishing Tom lovingly, not even looking up.

Twilight couldn't quite believe this. "You don't even care, do you?"

"No!" they all said as one.

She sighed sadly at the state of them. "I never thought it would happen. My friends... have turned into complete JERKS!" she finished angrily, frustrated at their attitudes, both to saving Equestria and Dusk.

Now thoroughly fed-up with the whole ordeal, just wanting to save Equestria, find Dusk alive and well and never see the rest of them again, she rushed around, slapping each necklace on their respective wielder, before placing the strange crown she'd never learned the proper name of on her head and marching them out to stop Discord.

Spike ran up to her before she could. "But Twilight, aren't you missing somepony?"

"Nope," she replied. "We've got the liar, the grump, the hoarder and the brute. That just about covers it and I already know that Dusk isn't here, so stop reminding me!"

"But I-"

"Look, I just want to use the Elements, stop Discord and find him after that. He'll be perfectly fine and then the two of us can just be best friends forever, since he's not a liar, a jerk, a hoarder, or a brute because he's just so great and I'm not going to lose him. Do you hear me?!"

Spike stared at her after her rant and Twilight flushed when she realised what she had said. Had she really just said all of those things about Dusk, just like that?

"But what about Rainbow Dash?" Spike asked, after he'd recovered himself.

That was a fair point. Hatching on an idea, Twilight placed the Loyalty Element on her assistant. "Congratulations Spike, you're the new Rainbow Dash. Now let's go!"

"Me? B-b-but what if she finds out I've been impersonating her?" He moaned in fear. "That won't end well."

"Too bad, you're Rainbow Dash. Now let's go defeat Discord so we don't ever have to talk to each other again!"

The others all stampeded past, whooping with joy at the prospect of it, Rarity lagging behind as she was pushing Tom. Frustrated, Twilight turned back so she could use her magic to move Tom through the wall. She didn't care about the damage it would do, she just wanted to get it over with. She stopped when she saw something by Dusk's hat, which was resting on the table.

It was Dusk's snowy owl, Ophelia, who had flown in through an open window. Twilight only realised now that she hadn't seen her for a while either and only now she'd returned. She was bent over Dusk's hat, watching it closely, like she was guarding it. Even from her demeanour, Twilight could tell that she was upset, gazing forlornly at her master's trilby, as if by force of will he would return.

Slowly, she walked up to her, those yellow eyes boring into her, like she was asking her where he was. "I know, I miss him too. Don't worry, I'll bring him back, you'll see. We'll use the Elements and he'll be fine."

Ophelia just stared at her, like she was doubting and disbelieving of what she just said and Twilight couldn't blame her. Even then, her words sounded hollow and untrue in that moment, only compounded when she heard her friends fighting among themselves again. Who was she trying to convince? The owl or herself? But they had to try… it was their only chance.

"You can keep that safe," she said gesturing to the hat, "until he comes back. Owlowiscious can look after you, so you won't be on your own." She sighed and straightened her crown. "Well, time to go, wish us luck."

Even as she tried to draw on her determination to defeat the lord of chaos, all Twilight could see was those forlorn yellow eyes gazing at her. She had to do this or else… what more could she do?

Dusk was still down in the darkness of the labyrinth, unable to trace or find his way out. Nopony was coming to help him and he was alone against the ever-growing shadows, like they were wild beasts and reaching out to consume him, prevent him from ever seeing the light of day again.

It was hopeless, pointless… what was he supposed to do?

A flash of light suddenly appeared before his eyes, providing brief respite from the darkness before it faded, but was still present. It was a rolled-up scroll, with the golden Seal of the Sun set upon it in a red velvet ribbon. Hope suddenly shot through, as he levitated it to him. Only one pony would use that seal, for he had seen these letters being received and sent off by Twilight and Spike so many times before. That could only mean one thing…

He quickly unfolded the scroll and traced his eyes over the majestic horn that had written it:

Give light, and the darkness will disappear of itself.

Dusk read and re-read the letter several times before he was sure he understood it. It was short, simple, but it could only mean one thing. Only one pony could have sent him this letter and understood what these words meant when she had written them. This would hurt, but he had to try… it was his only chance.

Concentrating his thoughts on her, he reached into the unique magic he possessed, ignoring the growing, burning pain that seared into his brain. He remembered all he felt for her, the kindness she had shown when she barely knew him, appraisal of something he'd kept hidden for so long and his everlasting gratitude at giving him what he had always wanted: friends. Come on, just a little more… you can do it…

He snapped open his eyes when he saw a light shining through and his eyes were graced with the shining white colour form of Princess Celestia. Apart from the lack of eyes and detail, it looked just like her. He'd even done his best to recreate her flowing, multi-coloured mane and shining golden crown. Would this work? Please, let this work…

He positively beamed as, of its own accord, the Celestia puppet cantered away up the tunnel, stopping at the junction to wait for him. His smile growing wider and his headache becoming more painful, he galloped after the puppet, a renewed determination flooding through his whole body. Finally, some progress!

He continued following the passage the puppet led him on, with it now and again pausing to wait for him. There would be times when the headache it gave him became too much and he had to cut off his magic for a while, pausing for a few minutes to rest and let the pain die down, before gritting his teeth, feeling the pain seer through his head again and letting it guide him on once more. Hopefully, the pain would be worth it if it resulted in victory.

At one of these points, as he was lying panting on the floor, recovering his strength, he unwillingly performed the magic again. The Celestia puppet gracefully glided over to him and bowed her head near his, like she was actually here, checking up on him to see if he was all right.

"Still… looking out… for me then," he whispered hoarsely to her, pushing himself up to his hooves. "Let's… get going…"

Just as gracefully as before, the puppet led him on, while he staggered along behind, clutching his head and quelling the pain as best he could. It couldn't be too far now, just a little bit further and he'd be out… then… he dreaded to think.

The passage was certainly long and twisting, to say the least. It rose and fell, turned and encircled to such a great degree of confusion and repetition, that Dusk would have surely been lost down here, were it not for the puppet that was guiding him. Even if the puppet wasn't guiding him, the darkness would surely have been enough to terrify him into submission. It reminded him too much of when he first came down here, the shadows pressing down on him and the echoing laughter that grew only louder and louder with every step he took. Thankfully, it was silent and quiet as the night… for now at least.

After what seemed like hours of pausing and stopping and groaning and staggering, signs of his progress were beginning to show. Gradually, the twists and turns started to lessen, with only one path standing out from the rest. Equally, the shadows began to lose their presence, with another light shining through the dark. Regardless, however, Dusk kept the puppet going until he was sure he had reached the end. That didn't take long.

Eventually, he could see only one path, with no twists, turns or other possible detours. That light that had been steadily growing brighter was now strong enough to rival the rays of the sun, so that very few shadows existed at all. The puppet too had been growing steadily brighter and it had now reached its peak, which meant he was close to the end.

He sprinted, round the last corner and emerged into a clearing in the cave, utterly relieved to finally be out of the maze. This only increased when he saw who was waiting for him, the source of the light that was filling the cavern.

"Princess Celestia…" he whispered and collapsed, utterly spent of all his energy.
He felt a hoof gently cup his chin and lift it up to her smiling face. "Dusk Noir… look at you, how far you've come now."

"It… it wasn't… wasn't easy, Your Highness," he replied, as she helped him slowly back up to his hooves.

"All the more reason that it's so remarkable you've made it thus far." Her benevolent smile grew even warmer. "I am very proud of you, for this and all you have achieved."

"Not exactly… a long list then…" he panted.

"Really?" She knelt low, so her eyes were gazing straight into his own. "When I first met you, almost a year ago in the Canterlot gardens, you thought you were under the impression that you were the least important pony who had aver set hoof in Equestria, that perhaps it would be better if you never even existed at all."

"But… isn't that the case?" he sighed. "I'm not an Element of Harmony, I've never stopped Nightmare Moon, I couldn't even stop my darker self. I'm nothing, that's what I am…"

"That is entirely false," she said, resolutely but still gently. "Even if that were true, it's not just who you are underneath that matters, but what you do that ultimately defines you. And you have done a great deal since that day."

"I um… I… nothing that great, surely…"

"Oh really? You rescued your friends from the Everfree Forest without even a plan, you've stood up to afully-grown dragon, fought against a hydra, done what you had to whenever somepony needed it however big or small and those are just what you've done for Twilight Sparkle and her friends."

"But I… I…" He tried to speak, but Celestia carried on.

"You gave help to markless young fillies, became as close as a brother to your fellow assistant, assisted in finding a valuable ingredient for somepony you barely knew, became part of a new friendship between two peoples once enemies and, most importantly of all, are held very closely in the heart of somepony who thought she would never truly fit to the world she had left again. The best friend that she has had in a very long time."

Dusk was silent as the princesses' words, letting them sink in gradually. She was right. Even if the girls hadn't really been his friends, he had still made a difference through his own actions and just being himself. He'd made differences in places, made new friends all on his own, even with royalty, things that he would never have even dreamed of doing, extending far beyond just pining after Twilight in the library wishing he was her friend back in Canterlot… so long ago.

"However big or small," she continued, "you have made a difference, my little pony, contrary to what you may think and I don't think Equestria is ready to make it without you just yet. If you did all that in a year, imagine what you could do throughout the rest of your life."

"Wow… I… I never thought about that before," whispered Dusk. "I mean… I never thought I was special… enough to do anything…"

"Everypony is special Dusk, it's just if you choose to let what is special about you shine through." He returned her smile, levitated something down to him. "Now, I believe this belongs to you…"

She passed down the sixth fragment to him, attaching it to his necklace with the rest of them. It was a creamy yellow, like the kind-hearted pony it reflected, like how kind the princess had been to him, setting him on the path to do all the things that she had mentioned… and so much more. He felt the burst of strength, his headache fade away and knew he had full access to his magic again. Only one piece left to find…

"Not far left now," Celestia encouraged. "I shall let you continue on."

"Right…" He hesitated for a moment and gazed up at her. "Thank you, princess, for everything…"

He was about to hug her, but remembered who he was with and stopped himself. The princess, however, seemed to anticipate what he was about to do and pulled him close, embracing him gently. Dusk was surprised, but returned it, nestling into her pure white fur. Even her fur was as warm as the sun, he noted.

"It was my pleasure." They broke apart, much to Dusk's disappointment and she nudged him. "Now go, finish your ascent."

"I'll make you proud, Highness!" he called out to her, as he sprinted on up the tunnel. Just as he turned the corner, he could have sworn that he heard her whisper:

"You already have…"

Blackhole was still reeling and groaning from the pain in his head that only seemed to be getting stronger with every passing minute. He was in a state of deep concentration now, trying to narrow down the exact source of what might be causing it, any anomalous strands of magic or remnants of a weaker spell.

Now he thought about it a bit more, he realised that Luna hadn't fought him with the intent of killing or destroying him, as he had done. It seemed that she had merely come to perform that spell, fighting him so that he was in a weakened enough state for her to use it. A jolt of power, like the spell had entered his very thoughts…

His rage only heightened at the thought of her. He had been careless last time, overestimated himself so that he left enough of an opening for her to carry out her task and cast her spell. He would not make that mistake again and she would learn that, once she took her last breath and lay screaming at his hooves… then her sister…

Celestia would be far more of a challenge. She was longer lived than her sister and, as such, would be much more powerful that Luna. Regardless, he would soon meet her in battle and was confident that he would leave her in the same weak, pathetic state as her sibling, for his master to do whatever he would have in mind for them.

Then there was Discord himself… Blackhole had already pledged an eternal allegiance to his lord and master, the one who had given him life, but recently, he had been thinking that his master's vision was too limited, too restricted, a vision that he shared but that he would have infinite more control over. He had strength and he had power, so what was to stop him? Imagine, if he could overthrow Discord, Luna and Celestia, he would be the one left to rule Equestria, to do as he saw fit. A reign of chaos, pain and suffering.

How glorious it would be and he kept those thoughts fuelling him, as he tunnelled into his mind to find what was causing his own pain.

It didn't take him long to find it and soon it all became so clear. Why else would Luna seek him out, to fight him and not to kill him? He could feel him, his presence in his mind and his anger increased even further at the very thought of him trying to fight back, as if he could dare oppose him.

"Dusk," he growled. "It seems you're more resilient than I thought… well, I will not be making that mistake again!"

With a roar, he dived into his head to finish what he had started. Defeating him once hadn't really been enough. How gratifying it would be to do it once again, this time not just breaking him, obliterating and destroying him so nothing was left.

This was going to be enjoyable indeed!

Dusk had come to a halt, as he had seen what he had to overcome for his last obstacle. The passage had been gradually ascending higher and higher, the shadows receding all the more and beams of light beginning to spill through cracks in the cave wall. He knew he was nearing the end and had hoped that the last leg of the journey would be a little easier than what he had been through. How futile those hopes were.

Towering above him was a rock face, jagged and rough enough to be climbed and stretching all the way to the top, where he could see the light of the outside world shining through like a beacon. But to get there, he would have to climb up this rock face. There was no alternative passage, no convenient staircase or secret route, for he had scoured the whole area since he'd encountered this supposed dead end. This was the only way out and the only way to use would be to physically scale it, all the way to the top.

Dusk gulped at the thought of it, his legs shaking. Though the end was now in sight, he was still apprehensive about doing this. In fact, he didn't want to do this. Hadn't he been through enough pain already? Despite the added strength the stones gave him, this would still be an incredible strain on his stamina to say the least. His lungs would burn, his legs and joints would ache beyond belief and it would take all the strength he possessed to keep himself from falling and to keep climbing all the way to the top.

How could he possibly manage this…?

No, he thought to himself firmly. He had come too far in this venture and suffered too many hardships to give up now. He had already accomplished what he at first thought would be impossible and had come all this way. What would be the point if he couldn't even attempt to at least try to climb it. If he fell, well… he could always try again. He already had so far.

"Why do we fall?" he murmured to himself. "So that we can learn to rise…"

Taking a deep breath, he set his hooves on the first holds he could see and hauled himself up onto the cliff face. He let his rear legs search for holding points, fixed himself into them and pushed himself up the cliff, slowly, steadily, but in a way that he would be able to manage. He just had to keep doing this, finding hoofholds and making his way up the rock face to the best of his ability.

As he exerted himself in the climb for his life, Dusk started to consider what would happen when he ultimately reached the top. The final fragment of the necklace would surely be up there and, using that, he should be able to use to recover the strength that he would lose in his climb. Hopefully then, he would be able to use that strength to defeat Blackhole Doom, regain control of his body and mind and return to the waking world of Equestria. In theory, it was simple, but in practice it would be far more daunting.

Even with all of the fragments in his possession, Blackhole was still stronger and faster than he ever was. He'd already learned that the hard way, not to mention received many injuries from his mistake. The unicorn he knew also had a deep, burning hatred for him. Dusk had felt it when he was just a figment of his fears. He would stop at nothing until Dusk was completely obliterated and he had utter control of him. How could he possibly hope to stand up to that?

He paused for a moment, allowing himself a moment's rest. Panting, with sweat pouring down his face, he looked up. Still quite a way to go. Grunting, he resumed his climb and his train of thought.

Even if he defeated Blackhole, what would he do from there? He knew nothing about the state his home was in, what had been going on since his absence. Had the girls defeated Discord or was he now in total power and dominion of Equestria? If that was the case, what hope did he possibly have of stopping him? Discord was far more powerful than any being he'd ever encountered, capable of strong manipulation and deceit, as well as deadly in combat. Were the Elements enough to stop him this time? And the girls…

He had to pause in his thoughts again, as he examined the cliff side for the next part he had to climb onto. Carefully, he moved both of his right legs so that they latched onto the hoofholds that were closest to him. He had a little slip, but managed to recover himself and keep on climbing. The things he was going through, just for them…

He felt a great pang of longing for them, even if the feeling wouldn't be returned. The memory of what they had said about him still made him despair at the loss of their supposed friendship... But he knew that he had most likely been tricked, deceived by Discord, something he'd intended to avoid. He had tried to resist, but Discord's influence had simply been too strong, despite his knowledge. The apparent truth of this made him angry at the draconequus, for playing this cruel game. Whether he was an Element of Harmony or not, he would do his bit to defeat him, however small or supposedly insignificant.

Fuelled by these thoughts, he jumped up to the next hoofhold, heaving himself up the cliff, checking to see that he had made it at least half way now. Allowing a weak smile, he prepared himself for the next leap. Just a little further… if he could make it…

This exertion certainly one of the easiest things he had done, as he already knew he wasn't much of a physical pony. It was getting him out of breath and panting just to make it this far. However, he noticed that, when he had confidence in himself, the climb was a little easier, whereas when doubt arose, the holds were a little more difficult to reach. Or was that just him, making connections where none existed?

He shrugged mentally, and pressed himself on past the halfway point. He had to do this, believe in himself that he would make it up here, find the remaining fragment and defeat Blackhole Doom once and for all. He'd made it past halfway now, he could make it out of here if he just kept this up, kept going up the rock, no matter what. He let the confidence flood through him, give him more strength as he jumped the next hold, panting from the effort.

No sooner had he, however, then the doubt surfaced in his mind once more. But… what if he couldn't make it out of here? What if he ended up becoming so tired he couldn't climb anymore? Or worse, what if he fell from here? The fall would be enough to injure him, if not kill him, then he'd be in the same state he'd been at the start of all of this. How could he do this without some kind of help? Was anypony going to help him.

He needed-


He felt the stone beneath his hoof. He panicked, his grip slackened and he suddenly slipped back down the rock face, his screams echoing off the walls. He recovered enough of his wits to stop himself mid-slide, but by the time he did, he checked to see that this particular slip-up had resulted in him being closer to the bottom again, much to his great despair.

All that effort he had put in just to make it to the half-way point, all the sweat that was now pouring down his face, it had all been for nothing because of that one lapse in concentration and strength. Now, he was essentially back at square one, all the way back down, with much less strength than before. How was he going to have the energy to climb all the way back up there again and to what end?

"I can't… I can't do it…" he whispered, tears beginning to fall. "How will I… ever make it… out like this? I can't…"

"AT LAST! SOMETHING WE AGREE UPON!" a horribly familiar voice roared.

Before Dusk could do anything, he felt something slam into his back, forcing him into, through the rock that he was attached to, tumbling and skidding across the stone floor before smacking into the cave wall.

His vision blurred and his joints aching, he lifted his head up and saw him, climbing through the hole, and an expression of utter fury set on his features. His eyes were locked on him like laser beams, with nothing but pure hatred and rage burning in them.

"Blackhole," he said, pushing himself back up to his hooves. "You've come for me."

"I have." He let a smile of amusement warp his features. "I must admit, I'm somewhat impressed that you've made it thus far. Clearly, I underestimated you… or you just like being shown how pathetic and useless you truly are."

Dusk felt himself shiver in fear at his words. He wasn't ready yet, he didn't have all the pieces, he couldn't fight Blackhole yet. He was right then, about him feeling Dusk within his mind, but he still hadn't expected him to come and face him yet. This was going to play out exactly like last time, where he would leave him just as broken and beaten as before. Only this time, he was sure that Blackhole would leave nothing left of him.

But something else awakened inside Dusk, something else apart from his fear of Blackhole and the pain he would cause. Whether he had all the fragments or not, he felt stronger than he was when he had first faced him, more determined to bring him down, to make him pay for the pain that he had caused, both to him and his friends. This was his chance, his only chance to bring him down and he wasn't going to let that pass.

If they were to fight now, he would be sure to give him a battle he would never forget.

"You've been giving me quite a headache, you know," he continued. "For one so small and useless, you can be quite an annoyance, I'll concede that much. All the more reason you should just give up and let me defeat you again, as we both know you will."

Dusk stood his ground, in a combat stance… or what he thought was one. "I'm not interested in your concessions, brother. Last time, I was weak and I was helpless to stop you and I would have given up. This time though, I'm going to fight you and beat you and I'm going to make you regret what you've done."

"No time wasted with words then?" Blackhole also stood ready, flexing his muscles. "Very well, let's get this over with. I'm missing out on some suffering I could be causing."

"Not now, not ever again!"

With that, they both charged each other, clashing once more in battle. This time, only one would walk away. One shall stand, one shall fall.

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