• 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...

  • ...

Let Battles Begin!

Discord had just finished watching a ballet performance from some of his dancing buffalo when he noticed a large gathering of his Paraserpent minions on the other side of town. His curiosity and anticipation piqued, he had sped off to investigate and was very pleased at what he saw when he arrived. The Wielders of the Elements and Dusk were being completely surrounded by his army, standing ready to fight, while they stood ready to eat.

As such, Discord was overjoyed at the sight of it. Not only would it allow him to see if the Paraserpents he'd now bred were an improvement, but it would also completely eliminate the Elements of Harmony for good this time. He was a little concerned that they no longer appeared under the influence of his magic, but that didn't matter. He had just proven that chaos could beat friendship and that certainly wasn't going to change after they were done with them.

His eyes sought out Dusk, who seemed to be trying to look brave, but just came off as scared out of his wits. It truly was a shame about Blackhole, but he would manage nicely enough without him. He noticed that the stones around his neck appeared to be glowing more brightly, all with the exception of one. So, it looked like Fore Sight wasn't entirely wrong then and once again Discord considered the possibility if he found out what he really was…

But what were the chances of that? He'd already won and established his new chaos capital in Ponyville, this just being a last vestige of resistance that, once crushed, would show all others that fighting against him was nothing more than a foolish and dangerous waste of time. At least it would be entertaining to watch.

Getting a good spot in the sky, Discord conjured up a couch, some popcorn, a soda and a large foam finger with number banana inscribed on it, settling down to see how this would unfold.

Dusk's eyes travelled over the Paraserpents, as they slithered and coiled around them to cut off any routes of escape. If he had been scared before, now he was absolutely terrified. He could feel the eyes of every single one of them boring into him, cutting right through him to expose his fear and bring it right to the surface and paralyse him so that he would be a prime target for their sharp fangs and ravenous hunger.

What were they supposed to do now? These monsters were between them and the library, which they had to reach to retrieve the Elements. He knew about the Paraserpents, both from his studies and his previous encounter, but he'd never before seen so many of them and he'd never had to fight them in such close quarters. In addition, these ones were fresher, sharper and unhindered by a thousand years of exile. What were they-?

"Scatter!" he heard Twilight shout.

His legs hurried to comply, scrabbling away as fast as he could away from the jaws that snapped at the spot where he had been standing seconds before. He could hear it, slithering and hissing behind him, but he didn't stop to look back, running for dear life down a nearby alleyway that would take him away from the main bulk of the horde if he followed it. They passage was too small for the beat to follow through, which snapped at him again as he ran, the jaws whizzing past his head.

He turned and saw the beast raise its head to strike again when a blast of purple magic struck it at the nape of the skull. Its eyes glazed over and it toppled forward, crashing to the floor. Dusk looked past it to a house and saw Twilight standing atop it, her horn glowing and her eyes urging him to run as fast as he could. He nodded in thanks to her, giving her an encouraging smile from courage he felt he certainly didn't have and set off again, pumping his legs like pistons.

He had to stay safe, for her. And he would do anything for her.

As he scrambled out of the alley and stopped to collect himself, his mind started to wonder frantically about what he was supposed to do next and his heart pounding against his chest. He had virtually no idea where he was in relation to everypony else, for Discord had completely rearranged the town and not everything was where he remembered it to be. He knew he had to get to the library, but how was he meant to do that with these ravenous monsters encircling him and when he didn't even know where it was.

Despair accompanied the fear he now felt at this point. They'd had trouble facing down just one Paraserpent, how were they expected to handle a whole horde of them? And he, alone, what could he do? He was no fighter or powerful with his magic and there just seemed too many of them for his mind to even comprehend an attack. He wasn't cut out for this, he was little more than a coward when push came to shove, his legs shaking, sweat rolling down his brow and his fear consuming him. What could he possibly hope to do against them when he wasn't even an Element… he was no hero, why even try?

"Get back! Back you fiend!" he heard a well-spoken voice order.

When he looked, he saw Rarity nearby, backing away from a leering Paraserpent, placing herself between it and a terrified Fluttershy, her eyes wide and her body crouched low in utter terror. The serpent lunged, but Rarity jumped, raised her rear hooves and kicked it square in the face, causing it to reel back with a screech of pain. As this one fell back, three more came to take its place, surrounding them and Rarity raising her hooves in preparation for an attack, trying to keep her eyes on all of her foes.

Watching them made Dusk feel completely ashamed of what he was thinking. Why was he so concerned about saving himself and keeping himself safe when his friends were in danger and needed his help to save Equestria. After all he'd been through, all he'd suffered and endured, he was planning to just turn tail and run? No, not this time. That was the old Dusk, the one who'd resurfaced briefly thanks to Discord. This Dusk knew his worth, knew what he could do and knew that, no matter how weak he might be, he was going to do help his friends, no matter what the cost.

Swallowing his fear, adjusting his hat and trying to be brave as he could possibly manage, he sounded a battle cry and charged at the Paraserpents to try and bolster his own courage. They turned their heads to see him coming, bared their fangs and slithered to meet him. Rarity, taking advantage of their turned backs, jumped up again and smacked a Paraserpent hard around the back of its head, knocking it to the floor in a daze.

Two more came at him and his mind slowed the world to analyze their attacks. Hard scales surrounding the body, giving tough armour to protect them. Mouths were open to expose their fangs and allow them to attack, leaving a possible weakness for the softer insides, but that might be too risky. Snakes could dislocate their jaws to allow them to swallow their food, so maybe the joints were weakest in that area if he were to strike them with enough force.

He spotted a nearby rock, levitated it and sent it whirling at the jaw of one of them, hoping their anatomy would be roughly the same as a snake. It hit the jaw joints with a loud crack, making it rear back and hiss in anger. The second he struck with his hooves, feeling the slight pain shoot up them from the contact and the resulting opposite force acting on it. Fortunately, it was enough to make this one halt and it was sent reeling back into its fellow, making them both sprawl to the ground in a heap.

Rarity, seeing her chance, gestured to Fluttershy and galloped over to join him, giving the two of them a couple of hard kicks to the head as she jumped over them.

"Excellent timing," she remarked. "You handled those two rather well, may I say, certainly proving once more size counts for little."

"Likewise to you," he replied, nodding to their dazed foes. "I didn't know you could fight like that."

"A lady shouldn't have to fight, but that doesn't mean she is incapable of defending herself, a lesson these beasts could have learned from these vile diamond dogs," she said with disdain.

"Quite so." Dusk looked to Fluttershy, who seemed a lot more relieved now. "Are you okay?"

"N-n-no," she stammered. "But… I'm better now I'm with you two."

"Don't worry, we won't let them lay a single fang on you." He gave her a reassuring smile and looked to Rarity again. "Those three will recover soon and it won't take long for more to arrive once they know where we are. We need to get moving."

"An apt suggestion," she nodded in agreement. "Any ideas as to where?"

Dusk took a quick look around their general area and spotted a hill not too far away from where they were standing, high enough to give them a good defensible point.

"Come on, up to higher ground," he said, pointing to it. "We'll gain at least some kind of advantage."

The two mares stayed close to him and they started to gallop in the direction of the hill, traversing through the streets of Ponyville, the sounds of more slithering reaching their ears as they picked up some more followers. It wouldn't be good to turn and engage them, for that would just delay them and allow more time for further Paraserpents to arrive. They just had to hope they were fast enough to stay ahead of them before they reached the hill.

Dusk started to consider their combat capabilities from the three of them. He knew most about the Paraserpents and he knew that he could put his mind to quick work on the field, finding exploitable weaknesses and things that would give them an advantage, though if things went badly, he might panic from the odds turned against him. Rarity, despite her ladylike stature, certainly had proven that she possessed strength and resolve enough to hold her own against them. Perhaps there would be some way to combine their individual strengths to give them an added edge. Fluttershy in contrast looked like she wasn't going to be doing much fighting, as she was too timid to even raise a fist. He and Rarity would just have to make sure she didn't get hurt.

They'd just reached the foot of the hill when two more of the monsters slithered out and cut them off. The individuals who had been following them had now caught up, totalling their numbers to five, enough to surround them and prevent them from running away. Now they had no choice, they would have to stand their ground and fight. He may not be physically able, but he would at least have some back up with Rarity by his side.

He glanced back at Rarity and noticed her smirk. He heard the sound of her magic being used and turned to have a quick look at what she was doing. Using her skills as a fashion debutante, she levitated the canopies of some nearby apple carts up to the three of the monster's heads, whirled them around and, in a flash of light, had caught their heads in large, red and white sacks, effectively blinding them and preventing a clear attack. She charged in to finish them off, Dusk returning his attention to his own foes.

Lucky he did, or he wouldn't have seen one lunge directly at him. He quickly ducked under the attack, noticing he was underneath his jaw and snapped a hoof upwards. He didn't put enough strength into the punch, however, and it just ended up making it angry, pulling back and hissing with displeasure. The other glanced at him, smiled maliciously at Dusk and started to encircle him, fangs glinting and eyes shining.

"Issssss that the bessssst you can do, pony?" it asked mockingly.

Dusk gulped, trying to keep his eyes on both of them at once in case one should decide to strike, the world slowing as his mind started to analyse the situation. How was he going to take both of them on at once? At this time, he just didn't feel like he had the strength to punch or kick them into submission. He was too weak for that and they had armoured scales protecting them. There had to be something else he could use, he thought desperately, straitening his hat again…

Hold on, his hat combined with something else… he remembered seeing Twilight use a softness-hardness spell in one of her study sessions to make a pillow as hard as a rock. It was a relavitevly simple spell and he remembered the theory of how to perform it, if he could just pull it off… it was worth a try.

Dusk levitated his hat off, casting the spell at the same time so that the hat was briefly consumed by a flash of light, the Paraserpents coiling closer towards him.

"Here, hold this!" At the same time as he shouted, he threw his hat with a levitation spell, hearing whizz towards his first target.

He actually laughed as he heard a loud smack as the hat, spinning like a discuss, struck the Paraserpent in the head. The trilby then ricocheted off it to the second one, striking it on the back of the head and making it fall forward, eyes unfocused and a lump forming slowly on its head. The first had barely recovered before it hit him again and sent him to the ground on top of his fellow, both of them dazed and knocked out.

Satisfied with his work, Dusk levitated his headwear back and placed it back on, removing the spell and returning it to its normal state, nodding in approval and tipping it to the serpents, along with a small apology at having to hurt them. When he turned to Rarity, her own foes were down on the ground and she stood triumphant, an eyebrow raised in at his actions, Fluttershy seeming a little more relived.

"I suppose that's one way of doing it," she remarked, kicking a serpent as it twitched a little.

"You could say this is a hard hat area… right?" Fluttershy commented, with an unsure giggle.

Dusk just answered with a smile. "I suppose so. Come on, let's get up to higher ground."

"I notice," Rarity said as they ran, "that though you seem to abhor violence, you can still be intuitive in a fight regardless."

Dusk shrugged at this. "Sometimes, it's necessary to fight for what's right, I recognise that much. The arms are fair, when the intent of bearing them is just."

"There you go with Shakesmare again," she noted with a smile.

"You know me," was his only reply, pushing himself up the hill. "Come Rarity, once more unto the breach!"

"Follow your spirit; and upon this charge, cry 'Harmony for us! Equestria! and Princess Celestia!'" finished Rarity boldly.

As they started to climb up the hill, the sky began to darken up ahead with a distance rumbling of thunder. Minutes later, chocolate rain began to pour from the heavens, soaking them within seconds. Dusk looked down at his chocolate soaked fur and shrugged. It would take more than some liquid sweets to stop them in their fight.

They left the five snake bodies behind them and galloped up the hill, well aware that even more were crawling in to take the places of those who had fallen.

Applejack had reacted immediately to Twilight's order, sprinting away as fast as she could and jumping over the body of a Paraserpent, aided by her years of competing in rodeos, landing gracefully on all fours and galloping away as fast as she could, trying to put as much distance between her and it as possible.

Despite this, however, Applejack was surrounded once more by at least four of the creatures, hissing and spitting at her. They must have thought that she was intimidated, perhaps a little scared at the sight of these terrifying monsters about to devour her, even trying to feed off this fear, as they had with suffering and pain, as she remembered they did. Well, she was going to show them that members of the Apple family don't scare easy, especially not to a bunch of over-glorified belly crawling creeps.

One of them lunged at her, but she jumped right above its head and landed on the main body of the beast. It turned to face her just as she kicked it hard in the head, knocking the daylights out of him and sending him to the ground with a thud.

Another attempted to sink its fangs into her, but she dodged aside so he bit into the scales of his buddy, making him howl like a dog at the moon and shattering his fangs faster than a frozen candy apple. She answered this insult to injury with a punch followed by another kick from her rear hooves, so that he too was knocked out cold.

"Come on fellers!" she taunted to the remaining two. "Ah got over twenty years- a applebuckin' and over ten firs' place ribbons in every rodeo under ma belt. What you got?"

"Die pony!" one screeched, lunging and missing as she dodged it.

"Sorry sugarcube, but ah got no intention-a meetin' the big pony in the sky taday."

She charged at another of them, which was coiled right up to the sky and kicked him three times like she would if she were kicking apples out of a tree. She heard it screech from the strikes and finally topple to the ground, like chopping down a tree but without the cry of timber. She nodded to herself at her efforts so far. These guys weren't so tough-


Applejack was sent sprawling to the ground as the one she had dodged before came around again while she was distracted, swiping his tail at her and knocking her down in a flash. Scorning herself for losing focus, she tried to get back up but felt it tighten around her legs and lift her up, dangling her upside down and up to its face.

Her Stetson falling to the ground, Applejack tried to wriggle out of its grasp, but it was too tight and it was getting tighter all the time, pain crawling up her legs and through the rest of her body as it squeezed tighter than one of Big Macintoshes' bear hugs. She glared at it defiantly, staring right back into those blood-red pits, making sure she wouldn't give it the satisfaction.

"You might have no intention of death," it hissed, "but it doesssssss not wait for your permisssssssion, pony."

"Oh, quit yer hissin' an' spittin' an' get it over with."

"Assssss you wish." The mouth opened, the fangs were bared. This was it!

"You hungry? Eat this punk!" a bold voice cried.

A cyan streak whizzed by and Applejack heard a smack of a hoof striking its face. Before it could retaliate, that same streak shot by again and again, hitting it multiple times and loosing the coils that held Applejack. Just as it and she fell, she was caught and carried off into the air by a familiar face, grinning cockily at her.

Rainbow Dash set her down in the open market square, handing back her Stetson which she had placed on her own head for safekeeping. She must have picked it up before she saved her. Applejack put it back on her own head and shared a hoof-bump with the daredevil Pegasus, returning her grin, just as it started to rain chocolate overhead.

"Thanks fer the save Rainbow."

"Eh, don't sweat it, that guy had it coming if he tries anything with my friends," she shrugged.

"No really, ah thought ah was a goner for a moment there," she said.

"Yeah, I suppose I was pretty awesome," she admitted, a smile tugging at her lips.

"Ah mean, that thing was gonna take a bite outta me like ya'd much down on an apple fritter…"

"Then suddenly, I came in to save the day!" she proclaimed, waving her hoof arrogantly. "No need to thank me, all in the line of duty."

Typical Rainbow, Applejack thought to herself, mentally rolling her eyes at her cocksure attitude and her own forgetting to remember not to feed her ego and let it swell any larger than it was. Time to bring her down a notch.

"Cut it kinda close, didn't ya?" she asked with a frown.

Rainbow was taken aback at this comment. "Hey, next time I might not bother and you can just get out yourself then."

"Ah was jus' fine, ah was lettin' him think he had me, then ah was gonna hit him good."

"Sure you were," she said with rolled eyes. "You know, it's no shame getting help from Ponyville's most awesome citizen."

"Well shucks Rainbow, if ya wanted ma help, ya shoulda said somthin' then."

"Hey, you know who I was talking about!"

"Rainbow, stop, yer makin' me blush."

"Okay, when I'm in a fix and need help, you just make sure you only come in at the last minute too."

"Ah might jus' do that."

"You do it then!"

"Ah will!"

They glared at each other for a few moments, then broke out into smiles. Though the situation appeared grim, they had to try and stay positive. The two of them laughed off their competitive banter, as two good friends and athletes would before returning to and focusing on the situation at hoof.

"Right, now we gotta figure out what we're gonna do," decided Applejack, watching the shadows carefully.

"No kidding," nodded Rainbow. "Did you see where any of the others went? I only found you out of luck."

"Nope, we all got lost in the scuffle," reported Applejack sadly. "We'll find 'em, but right now you an' me have got bigger problems."

"What do you mean? What's more important than finding the others?" she asked incredulously.

"How 'bout stayin' alive ta find 'em," Applejack suggested, pointing with her hoof.

"Oh yeah… right."

Out of the alleyways, side passages and even over the roof tops, Paraserpents were converging on their position. There had to be dozens of the nasty critters, all of them coiling and writhing around them like a dark, monstrous ocean in the fiercest of storms, their hissing like death rattles and their fangs dripping with saliva and venom.

Ready for a fight, Applejack stood back to back with Rainbow Dash, raising her hooves and loosening her limbs. She could feel Rainbow's wings against her fur, twitching with readiness to take off and could hear the Pegasus growling in her throat, which helped to bolster her own spirits somewhat. Both of them were strong, fit and more than capable of defending themselves in a fight. Even if they were outnumbered, they could at least take down a few of them trying to stay alive.

"This is quite a pickle we're in," remarked Applejack.

"What, are you scared?" Rainbow asked.

She made a dismissive noise. "Shoot, y'all think these legless dribblin' baby rattles shake ma cage? You are sorely mistaken if that's the case."

"Prove it then, I bet you I can take down more of these guys than you can," challenged the daredevil.

"You missy have got yerself a wager!"

"Let's go then!" A rush of wind and a loud screech told her Rainbow had entered battle.

Applejack wasted no time in charging to the first of her foes, jumping up and smacking him hard enough to knock him to the ground. He tried to get up, but she followed up this attack with a kick, proplleded herself backwards in a flip, hit him with her hoof again and landed, smacking him with both rear hooves and sending him flying back into his buddies, knocking them down as well. A few more were brought down by Rainbow Dash speed strutting by, striking them down before they knew what hit them.

Applejack ducked under a beam of red magic one sent at her, running around to dodge a few more and kicking down another one, hitting it hard in the head to make sure that it stayed down. As more closed in around her, she realised that now was the time to get a little creative. Running to the end of its body, she clamped her teeth around its tail and hefted it up with her strength. This wasn't exactly a length of rope like she was used to and it tasted foul in her mouth, but it would serve for what she wanted.

Noting that these guys weren't as heavy as they looked, she started to whirl the serpent around in an ark like she would a lasso, starting off slow but gradually getting faster and faster. She could feel the impacts shooting up the Paraserpent's body as she started to walk among the horde as she spun it, knocking its head into its fellows and sending them flying, using her fallen foe as a both a lasso and a club. It was rather satisfying to see this great number of cocky looking monsters easily brought down by one of their own and by a single pony.

By the time it seemed like there weren't any more to knock down, she flung her temporary club aside, sending him smacking into a wall and landing on the floor in a heap. Looking around, her fur and hat soaked in Discord's chocolate rain, she saw that the group she had been battling had all been taken down. She made a rough count of all the ones that were lying unconscious and turned as she felt a rushing wind nearby.

Rainbow was performing one of her signature moves, the rainblow dry, catching all of her Paraserpents in a small tornado of her creation and spinning them around violently in its vortex. Soon enough, the snakes shot out of it and zoomed off into the distance, screeching all the way. Any ones that remained were too dizzy to fight, snapping and firing magic in random directions. These were finished off by rapid punches and kicks from Rainbow, one she took into the sky and blew him up with a buccaneer blaze.

When she returned to ground level, she had on her cocky smile though, like Applejack, she was panting and nearly exhausted from her efforts.

"My score so far… nineteen," she said proudly.

"Shoot, then we're level!"

Rainbow frowned. "We'll see about that. I'll take down double that number in ten seconds flat."

"You sure? Yer lookin' kinda worse fer wear."

"You're right, make it five seconds."

"If ya say so darlin'."

"Just wait until more of these guys show up and I'll -AGH!"

The Pegasus was cut off as a bolt of red magic hit her and knocked her to the ground. Applejack barely had time to yell before one struck her too, leaving a stinging pain in her side somepony had spilled hot water onto her fur. Pushing herself back up to her hooves, she saw yet more of them closing on their position.

Several went straight for her and she tried to fight, despite her wound and the aching in her limbs begging her to stop. A punch to one and a kick, knocking him down but she was hit again by another bolt of magic. The stinging now in her rear, she threw a punch at the offending beast, but it was barely enough to take him down, she could actually hear it laugh mockingly at her. She tried to kick at it, but she felt cold scales wrap around her legs and drag her off.

She tried to struggle free, punching one in the face as it slithered closer, but there were just too many of them and she didn't have the strength she had previously. She could hear Rainbow taunting her attackers weakly and her own cries as she too was struck by their attacks. She needed her help but at the same time, Applejack needed hers. But she just couldn't get out, tumbling ever further into the dark, scaly abyss.

She did her best to wriggle free, but their grips were too tight, the rain soaking through to her skin. She couldn't give up… she had to break free… had to… had to…

Twilight acted quickly to her own orders, teleporting away in the blink of an eye and landing on top of one of the roofs of the houses, or rather the foundations because this particular building was upside down. She looked back down at where her friends had been to see Applejack jumping over one of the serpents and sprinting away, Rainbow Dash rocket towards the sky amid blasts of magic shooting all around her, Rarity grab Fluttershy's hoof and pull her away and Dusk run for dear life down a nearby alley, a serpent in hot pursuit.

She felt a great deal of worry and fear for him as she watched him run, only just ducking under the jaw of the serpent, gasping as he did. Though she knew he could handle himself in a fight and he knew more about the Paraserpents than they did, she still needed to help him. Reacting quickly, she sent a knock-out spell shooting at it, striking it right on the back of the head and rendering it unconscious.

His emerald green eyes locked on her in a brief instant after she performed this feat. The gratidude and relief that shone in them was enough to bring a small yet still warm smile to her face and she wanted nothing but to teleport straight to his side and do all she could to keep him safe. Despite this, she knew that would be too costly on her energy and instead she tried her best to convey without words for him to run. He swiftly complied and galloped away, though the smile he gave her was enough to give her added strength.

Right, so the rest of them were all relatively safe and those that couldn't fight, particularly Fluttershy, were at least with somepony who could. She noted that she hadn't seen Pinkie at all running off with anypony. Where could she be? Was she-?

"Ooh, you can get such a good view from up here!" The perky voice was enough to make Twilight jump and whirl around to see the party loving pony, still with her signature smile.

"Pinkie! How long have you been standing there?" she asked incredulously.

"About a few minutes," she shrugged. "I saw you teleport up here and decided to lend you a hoof."

"Oh well… thank you Pinkie, I've got a feeling I'll need it." A loud rustling beneath made her see that yet more of the monsters were closing in towards them. "Come on, we have to move!"

"Okie-dokie-loki!" Pinkie affirmed, following as she jumped of the roof and onto the streets, just as a blast of red magic whizzed by.

They hit the street, encountering two blocking their path. Pinkie, looking rather ferocious, bounced up and struck one on the head with her head, a loud clang resounding from the impact. This was followed up by four strikes from each of her hooves, twisting and turning in the air like a gyroscope and sending her opponent crashing to the floor. Twilight raised an eyebrow in admiration, blasting the second right in the face with a spell and running alongside her as he broke out in painful hives on his face. Having her certainly proved beneficial.

Her thoughts turned to the others as they sprinted through the streets. Her quick plan was in the hope that, if they split up and ran in different directions throughout the town, they would divide the Paraserpent's forces and would be able to manage them easier in the smaller groups rather than the massive horde they'd arrived as. But now their own strength as a group was greatly reduced because they were no longer together and Twilight feared that, even with Pinkie, she wouldn't be able to handle it, nor would the others.

Scowling, she told herself to stop thinking so negatively or it would just make things worse. Use a calm, reasoned approach and she would get through this. As Dusk would say, just have faith and she would make it through. They all would, they had to.

Knowing they needed to get to a more defensible location and stand their ground as best they could, Twilight galloped as fast as her legs would allow, searching for anywhere that might give them a hoofhold against their enemies. They soon found it in the form of a street, with plenty of places to hide in shops and grooves and which for some reason was full of chest-high walls, high enough for them to take cover or to pop out to perform ranged attacks.

"Pinkie, take cover over there!" she ordered, reaching the mid-point of the street.

Pinkie looked at her in confusion. "Take cover? But there are no beds here, where am I supposed to get covers from?"

"I mean hide somewhere they can't hit you," Twilight groaned in exasperation.

"Oh, that makes a lot more sense." She quickly complied, diving into an alcove. Twilight took up a similar position on the other side, so that they were parallel to each other.

"Do you have your party cannon?"

"Sure do!" She whipped out the large metal barrel on wheels and set it on the ground. "So, what's the plan?"

"Right, we hold position here in a standard defence formation. You and I will establish a suppressing fire with cannon and magic respectively, making sure they don't pass the fixed border point, which will be fifteen metres ahead of us and hold that position until further notice. If they cross that, we'll retreat down the street and take up a new defensive line elsewhere in the area, keeping them at a fixed distance of ten metres at all times, resorting to melee based attacks if they breach that limit. Clear?"

"Yes! I mean no, I mean yes, I mean uh…" Pinkie touched her chin with her hoof, her brow furrowing. "I think so… wait, who are we suppressing again?"

Twilight sighed and slapped her head. "Stay and shoot them with your cannon from here. Punch them if they get too close and run away when there's too many to handle."

"Ohhhhh," she nodded. "Well why didn't you just say so?"

"I did." She looked up the other end of the street. "Look out, here they come!"

Sure enough, great parades of serpentine bodies were writhing up the street. Their eyes were glowing as they prepared their magic, sending a barrage of fire down at their position and forcing them to take cover.

"Return fire!" shouted Twilight, sticking her head out and shooting spells down the street.

The Paraserpents either didn't comprehend much of tactical thinking or just didn't care, as very few of them made efforts to take cover when she started her bombardment. Thanks to her training from Celestia, Twilight was able to keep them suppressed with a wide variety of spells. Some more offensive spells, like paralysis or knock-back, were more costly than say levitation or hair growth, the latter she used to confuse them before hitting them with something better and bringing them down for good.

Now and again, she knew she would have to take cover, either to protect herself from their own magic attacks or to recover her strength from the efforts she was exerting for her own spells. One of them grazed against her leg and she felt as if somepony had lit a fire there. She made a mental note to be more careful, nursing her injury and striking down the offensive creature with a knock-back spell, sending him crashing into a wall, head first and unconscious.

Pinkie too prepared her party cannon, keeping her head low and aiming the barrel, her face screwed up in concentration. Once she was done, she lit the fuse and popped out her own head, a cocky grin on her face.

"Eat confetti, you hissy sissies!" With this proclamation her cannon fired and there was a loud squelch as one serpent was hit in the face with a cake. "Oops… or you can just eat that."

"I'll cover you while you reload!" Twilight yelled, putting down additional spells on Pinkie's side of the street.

"Okay, I'll be quick!" She had barely fired off one spell when she yelled: "Done!"

"Wow, that was quick," she remarked, returning to her own side.

"When you forget about a party and have to do something last minute, it's good to be quick." She did a rather scolding expression. "Which is annoying, 'cause I don't like forgetting about parties. How can I, I'm the party pony."

She shrugged and fired off her cannon again, wrapping up three of them in confetti bonds and sending them wriggling to the ground. She quickly reloaded and fired again, the next shot sending out balloons that popped with blinding flashes and rendered a few unable to see, firing blindly and actually hitting some of their own. Random, but help full, Twilight thought, finishing off the remainder with her magic.

They continued their defensive offensive, breaking cover whenever there was a lax in their firing of magic, trying to keep them down and away from them, though more seemed to keep slithering out of the shadows with no end in sight. After she cut off one of their access points by summoning and slamming a door in their faces, Twilight thought it was time to get a little bold. Reaching into her magic, she teleported into their midst before they knew what had happened.

Catching them by surprise, she mowed them down with magic, paralysing, knocking out or knocking back any within range. Teleportation spells however, though she'd gotten used to performing them recently, were still enough to give her something of a headache and, compounded with her constant use of spells, she knew she couldn't stay here for long or else she would be vulnerable.

Just one more and then she would teleport back and-


Twilight was knocked off her hooves and felt the burning pain from the blast that hit her. Before she could get back on her hooves, she felt something constrict around her body and squeeze, looking up into the malicious face of a Paraserpent, as it licked its mouth and glared hungrily at her. There was no warmth in its gaze, no pity or compassion, just hunger and the beastly rage of an animal. Oblivion.

But she wasn't going down that easily. She only felt a stab of fear for a brief moment, got control of herself and glared back at it.

"I don't think so." Right in the face, she hit it with her own blast, making it drop her and topple over to the ground.

She hurried back to Pinkie, who ridded her of pursuers by shooting more confetti at them and wrapping them up. She dived behind the nearest wall, recovering her strength and making a mental note to never ever try that again.

Now, they were starting to become more numerous despite her efforts to thin out their ranks. Twilight was having to punch and kick them, as well as use her magic whilst Pinkie did likewise, even resorting to use her cannon as a club. No matter how many they knocked down, more just arrived to take their places and now others they had beaten were recovering and re-joining the battle.

"Pinkie! Retreat!" Twilight dived out of cover, shooting off spells as she went, Pinkie wheeling her cannon along.

They kept up fire, steadily backing down the street and holding them back long enough to try and make their escape. The party pony stopped in the middle of their retreat, whipping out a small metal can with balloons painted on it.

"This oughta hold them back," she whispered, pulling out a metal pin. "Twilight, you might wanna cover your ears… and the rest of you too."

"Pinkie, what is that?" she asked as she tossed it at them.

"You'll see, quick magic bubble!" she yelled, leaping next to her and looking scared.

Twilight conjured up a magical shield that would protect them from harm, but she was still confused as to why.

"Wait, so why do I need to-?"


With a fiery explosion combined with the honk of a party kazoo, the can exploded next to a nearby shop. The force of the combustion, which sent confetti streaming everywhere, was enough not only to send over half of the group flying, but also caused the foundations of the store to collapse and crushed a few more of them, the rest of them slithering away in fright and shock. Twilight could actually feel it shake her forcefield from the power.

The smoke cleared from the explosion and Twilight cut off the shield and stared incredulously at Pinkie Pie, who looked disappointed.

"Pinkie, what in the wide world of Equestria was that?!"

"Party grenade," she said simply. "I brought a bunch of them before we left my place, figured we might need them." She frowned at the store she had destroyed in the process. "Too bad, that was the Dream Art store."

"What… never mind, how did you get those?" she demanded. "Why didn't you mention them before?!"

"I made them myself and I didn't think it was important before." Her gaze returned to the rubble of the art store. "I liked that store, the mare there is a really good artist and her paintings are really, really good. I hope she won't be too mad."

Twilight stared at her in amazement and disbelief. "All that's happening and you're worried about one little art store?!"

"What? It's a good one and she's a nice mare." Pinkie smiled her bright little smile, which became a scream. "Uh oh, more nasties!"

"Right come on." She was about to run off when she spotted a nearby stone arch and hatched on an idea. "Pinkie, how many of those grenades do you have?"

"Oh plenty, why?"

"I've got an idea. Quick, give me a few." Pinkie handed over three of the explosives. "Right, can you hold them back for a while? I need to set these up."

Pinkie patted her cannon. "I'll do my best, just don't take too long. Good luck Twilight."

"I won't and you too." She galloped towards the arch, hearing Pinkie's cannon fire off again.

Once she reached it, she set quickly to work. Using her magic, she dug them into the ground at the foundations of the arch in the place where they were most likely to do damage. The Mayor wasn't going to be happy about the extent of damage to public property they were causing, but this would hopefully be worth it.

Once they were set up, she signalled Pinkie to lure the Paraserpents down the alley and under the arch, which wasn't exactly difficult as they weren't too bright and they didn't seem to suspect anything. As soon as they were close enough, Twilight used her magic to pull the pins out of them and waited. That last one had exploded after five seconds, it wouldn't be long now, then they would be crushed by the collapsing stones.

But they didn't go off. Over six seconds passed and they failed to detonate, the giant black snakes still worming their way along, hissing angrily, their red eyes glowing like fire. Twilight was starting to panic now. They couldn't take on this many of them in such an open area.

"Pinkie, why aren't they working?!"

"Sometimes I make them wrong… I guess those were duds," she said sadly.

"Oh boy…" Twilight groaned, as the Paraserpents closed in on them. She hoped the others were faring slightly better.

Atop their hill, Dusk and Rarity were doing their best to hold their ground against the never-ending swarm of Paraserpents, soaked by the chocolate rain that cascaded from the skies above. They had a good spot to hold now and they just had to make sure that they kept it.

Dusk moved his eyes from one to another of the two that had targeted him, backing up until he stood back-to-back with Rarity, Fluttershy cowering nearby. Dusk began to devise new strategies against them, anything that would give them an advantage against them. He would need to move in sync with his partner, making sure the two of them watched each other's backs, almost like their dancing sessions, only much more dangerous…

Wait, that was something! It sounded far-fetched, but it was worth a try.

"Rarity," Dusk said, offering his hoof to her, "may I have this dance?"

The mare stared at him like he had gone mad.

"Dusk, while I am flattered that you would ask, I hardly think now is the best time for that sort of thing!"

He held out his hoof again. "Trust me."

She appeared to consider, nodded and took it. The instant she did, with all his strength, Dusk whirled her around, sending her hooves smacking into two of the snakes that had been getting a little too close for comfort. Rarity, looking quite surprised, got his message and adjusted herself to this new fighting strategy.

The two of them then proceeded into their faster, more violent waltz, spinning and whirling each other at their foes in a circle for as far as their individual strengths would let them. This strange imitation of dancing continued on and it was quite effective in a sense. Whenever one of them spotted a Paraserpent getting too close, they would then swing or spin the other in such a way that they struck them and essentially watched each other's backs through this.

Dancing and spinning, remembering all the lessons they'd had together, Dusk and Rarity kept this up as long as they could. They soon reached the limits of their stamina, let go of each other's hooves, panting from the effort but many more of their enemies knocked down as a result of their dancing.

"Well… that was quite exhilarating." Rarity's eyes widened a second later. "By Celestia, I think I'm sweating!"

"It's either that or the rain…" panted Dusk. "You did well… Rarity."

"You too… darling," she replied, wiping her forehead. "I think you've definitely… taken our lessons to heart…"

"In a sense, I suppose," he nodded. "Right, there'll be more coming soon, we have to-"

"AGGH! Dusk! Rarity! Help me!"

Dusk whipped around, his stomach clenching with fear at the sound of Fluttershy's screaming. She was being dragged away by her rear hooves by another Paraserpent, trying desperately to get free, her fore hooves scraping on the patchwork ground.

"FLUTTERSHY! I'm coming!" Dusk hurried towards her, reaching out to grab her hooves when he felt something wrap around his legs.

He was suddenly yanked to the floor before he could do anything, watching helplessly as his friend and considered sister was dragged away, her screams echoing in his ears. This was far more terrifying to him than the hideous monster that now had him trapped in its coils, unwilling to release him no matter how much he struggled.

"Dusk! Hold on darling, I'll –AGH!" Rarity too was now being wrapped up in their wicked coils, striking out in a panicked fashion. "Unhand me at once! Get away, get away!"

Dusk too was starting to panic. His friends were in danger, he had to help them. He tried again to break free, hitting its body as hard as he could, but his strikes were pathetic and did virtually nothing to hinder it. The coils were wrapping tighter and tighter around his body, constricting his airways and crushing his bones.

Dusk cried out from the unbearable pain, losing what little strength he had left and despair clouding his mind once more. He couldn't do this, he thought with despair. He'd failed to protect them, failed to help them and now he was about to pay the ultimate price for his failure. How could have even hoped to stand against the power of chaos, how could he have even begun to consider such a thing. He was no hero… no fighter… he was worthless…

That to him was even worse than the horrible red eyes that were now locked on him, the fangs that glinted against the darkened sky, drawing ever closer to sink into his flesh. This was it… the final end…

"All that lives must die," he whispered, gazing into the jaws of infinity. "Passing through nature to eternity…"

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