• 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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Take It Back!

Backhoofing a hissing serpent across his vile pointed face, Rarity continued to stand her ground against the seemingly never-ending onslaught of monsters that threatened to overwhelm them. She examined her hoof with disdain, grimacing at having even lay it upon such a horrible being and returned swiftly to the battle.

It had seemed like an age after Dusk had first begun using his unique magic to summon their friends to their location and she was starting to feel fatigue affecting her again. She wasn't used to such an amount of physical exertion and was rather tentative to push herself further in case she started to, Celestia forbid, sweat On the smell… the very idea sickened her. Already her wonderfully styled mane was starting to unravel, her fur was messy and unkempt and her hooves were simply awful and in desperate need of a trip to the spa.

But she didn't have time to worry about such things, as of infinite importance they were to her, kicking aside another Paraserpent that threatened to sink his fangs into her leg. She couldn't afford to be distracted by aesthetic appeal or else a chipped hoof would be the least of her worries. She was needed to defend Dusk and to defeat the tyrant Discord and his minions and she was duty bound to do as was needed of her. It was only proper and a lady always honoured her agreements and devotion to duty.

"As soon as this is over though," she murmured to herself, "I'm taking a long, hot bath. For a few days perhaps, or weeks maybe…"

A strange sound made her look around and she looked to see Zecora had flung a bottle of potion at one of the attacking Paraserpents, the liquid landing on its head. The instant it made contact, the head swelled to the same size as a large cart, causing it to topple over and unable to move due to the sheer weight of its head. Panicked and confused, it started to whip its tail around in the air and ended up only causing grief to any of its fellows who were unfortunate enough to be nearby.

Interesting effect, Rarity wondered, watching as Zecora turned her attention to another group, blinding them with another potion which exploded in a bright flash and striking while they were unable to see. She made mental note to ask her about the possibility of mane care or beauty potions she might make. It could do wonders for her…

Shaking those thoughts aside for now, she glanced around to see how the others were handling themselves. Zecora was holding her ground nicely, her bamboo staff whirling above her head, Dusk was still performing his spell, looking both eerie and beautiful at the same time and Fluttershy was backing away from a Paraserpent that was creeping towards her, slowly wrapping its tail around her legs and grinning maliciously at her.

Panic gripped Rarity and she was about to bolt over, to knock the beast aside and relinquish its grip from her friend before it could do her any harm. But suddenly two more Paraserpents blocked her way, reflecting their fellows grin.

"Where you going, pony?" one hissed at her.

"Out of my way you brutes!" she ordered. "Stand aside, I say!"

They both exchanged a look and their smiles widened. Quick as a flash, one coiled its tail around her hooves, rendering her unable to attack and lifted her up into the air.

"You thissssss? It thinksssssss it can command usssssss."

"How very ssssstupid," agreed the other. "Let usssssss remind it of who issssss in control here."

Rarity cried out as they tightened their coils around her hooves, laughing at her pain and no doubt feeding off her suffering. She kicked out at them, but they either missed or the ones that hit failed to let go and just made them grip all the more tighter to make her suffer more.

The teal eyes of the Pagasus moved from the beast looming over her to the ones that held Rarity in place, burning with fear and terror. At first, it seemed as if she would start crying. But in that moment, Fluttershy's expression faltered and changed from fear to one of anger.

"STOP!" she commanded and the serpent actually did pause, even the ones that held Rarity. "Alright mister, I'm only going to say this once! Let go of my legs, right now!"

It stared at her, then laughed, a horrible, rasping sound. "Why should I do asssssss you sssssssay?"

There was a slight falter again, but she maintained it. "I'm sorry, did I say something funny? No, I don't think I did."

"What? How sssssstupid are you po-?"

"Don't take that tone with me! Don't you dare take that tone with me!" This time it actually recoiled and shivered. "You are nothing but a big, dumb bully and you do not talk to me that way or grab my legs or anything like that!"

"But I-?"

"No! No talking, just listen, because I'm not going to say this again!" She glared right into his eyes, her head leaning forward as his backed away. "Let. Me Go. Right NOW!"

Unable to wrench its gaze away, the Paraserpent almost seemed to shrink beneath Fluttershy's glaring. It was just like when she stood up to that dragon and, despite the pain, Rarity felt so proud of her. Finally, it whimpered and released Fluttershy, bowing its head to her, completely submitted to the power of her rarely seen assertion and the power of her Stare.

"I am sssssssso sssssssorry, little one!" it wept. "Pleassssssse, do not be angry with me, I have no wish to disssssspleasssse you further!"

Her motherly love of animals returning, Fluttershy smiled and rubbed his head. "It's okay, just as long as you don't do it again. You have to learn it's not nice to do that to ponies."

"Oh I have learned and I won't do it again, I ssssssswear it," the Paraserpent promised. "Isssssss there anything I can do to redeem mysssssssself?"

"Yes, could you get your friends off of my friend please?" she asked politely.

"Of coursssssse, of coursssssse, anything for you." It rounded on its comrades, eyes glowing with magic. "Releasssssse the pony thisssssss insssssstant!"

"What magic issssss thissss?" demanded one of them. "Ceassssse this foolishnessss, right no-!"

The serpent was cut off by a blast of red magic to the face, knocking out instantly. The other received the same treatment and Rarity was dropped to the floor, rubbing her legs and running towards Fluttershy, beaming proudly at her.

The Pegasus smiled up at the Paraserpent. "Thank you, that was a wonderful thing you did."

"Oh, you are welcome, you are mossssst… welcome…?" It blinked and shook its head, like it had woken up from a dream. "Wait, what am I doing? What have I just do-?!"

He joined his fellows in unconsciousness as Rarity jumped up and kicked him hard across the face, sending him sprawling to the floor. Nodding in satisfaction, she turned back to Fluttershy, still smiling at her.

"Well done Fluttershy, that was very, as Rainbow would say, gutsy of you," she said happily.

"Thank you," she said quietly. "You were in danger and… I did what I could to help."

"And that was more than enough," she assured her. "Thank you for your efforts."

"You're welcome, but I'm sure you'd do the same for me." She glanced over at the unconscious snake. "did you have to knock him out? He seemed like he would help us."

"You saw as well as I did your influence on him had worn off, it had to be done," she said firmly. "No, we had best return to the battle at hoof. Will you need any further help?"

"Thanks, but I think I'll be fine." She gave a brave little smile. "These guys just need a firm hoof."

"They do indeed." Rarity jumped to avoid another attack and headed back to her position. "Good luck dear!"

"You too!" Fluttershy, more confidently than before, rounded on another three of them and Rarity heard her firm tones raise again.

She looked to see that three of her own had arrived to fight her. Neck straight and head high, she waited for one to charge, smacking him hard across his face. She sailed through the air with a jump to avoid a magical blast and responded with one of her own, tossing fabric at him and creating a blindfold and swiftly kicked the legs of another one. The blinded one bit into the side of another, he screeched and fell, Rarity trounced him between his covered eyes and soon the whole trio was at her hooves.

Smiling and allowing herself the satisfaction of a well-earned victory, Rarity dusted off her hooves and rounded to engage more of them.

Though Rarity didn't like to exercise, battling the beasts was easy enough. Their long bodies meant that any strike would do some damage and, because of some uncouth ruffians she had handled before, Rarity certainly knew how to apply enough force to her blows to indicate she was not to be trifled with. Furthermore, she was able to use her ladylike grace and elegance to dodge the attacks that her foes committed to. They had brute force, but they simply lacked her style, which would be enough to see her through.

She had just furiously kicked another into submission when one she thought she had taken care of previously smacked her with its tail, launching her off her hooves and careering her into a whole group of the beasts. Hurriedly, she returned to her hooves, but knew right away there were simply more of them here than she could handle on her own. She was too tired from her previous efforts and would be worn out before she could.

"Well, this is distinctly bad," she muttered, her eyes darting from one pointed face to another.

Before she could react, one shot at her, mouth open, fangs bared and-

CLONK!

A wooden rod struck the beast on the head, knocking him out and Rarity knew who had come to her aid this time. There was a loud bang and a cloud of purple smoke obscured her vision, but she felt a hoof grab hers and she let it drag her out of the Paraserpent scrum, feeling a blast whizz past her head and missing by inches. There were confused shouts and screeches from those who had been blinded by the smokescreen.

Once she had full use of her eyes again, she looked at Zecora and nodded. "You couldn't have timed that better. Thank you for your help."

"When put to the test, I always try my best," replied the zebra. "But it seems to me that we have further company."

She indicated five Paraserpents, purple smoke trailing off them, had surrounded them and looked livid with fury.

"Shall I let you handle these?" she offered to her. She felt like she needed a rest from the fighting.

"If you like," nodded Zecora, then to the Paraserpents, "My promise that I will best you is no bluff, so come and have a go, if you think you are hard enough."

She whirled her staff above her head and stood, perfectly balanced, in a martial arts stance. For a moment, there was nothing except for her regular breathing and the incessant hissing. One of them pounced at her, hissing loudly.

Zecora intercepted him, slamming her staff down and lifting herself up on it like a javelin, kicking two more that came from behind with her rear hooves. Flipping onto the knocked out serpent, she twirled her staff, hitting the other two multiple times across the face and followed up smoothly by swinging the staff and striking them once more across their heads, knocking them out. The one she stood on raised its head to attack again, but she silenced it by hitting him with the staff too.

She let out a strange whooping sound within her throat, snorted once and jumped off, moving towards Rarity. The debutante, however, was looking past her at another larger group moving from the left, over a dozen of them. Even Zecora would have trouble trying to face down so many of them on her own. She had to help her, overcoming her wanting to just rest and moving as fast as she could to join her.

She'd barely made it halfway, however, when Zecora turned to look at the group and didn't even look worried. Instead, she took out another potion, one that had wavy lines and crossed eyes marked on the label.

"Let's see if you remain focused on duty, once you inhale this little beauty." She flung the bottle at the ground below them.

As soon as the leading four inhaled the smoky red fumes, they halted in their advance, their eyes glazing over. A few seconds later, they all screeched, rounded on their allies and started to attack them, sinking fangs into scales, striking with tails or shooting their magic. Soon enough, the whole group had inhaled the potion's fumes and they were all fighting among themselves. Within a minute, all of them were on the ground, motionless and twitching.

"What in the world was that?" asked Rarity.

"In answer to your expression bemused, that potion makes those who become with it infused are driven mad and become confused." She looked over the group. "As you can see for this band, a house divided cannot stand.

"I can certainly see that. That was quite impressive," Rarity admitted. "You truly are a wonder with your work, Zecora."

"You words gladden me, dear Rarity," she said kindly, smacking one across the face with the back of her hoof that she had missed. "Are you hurt?"

"I'll be fine, just a little tired that's all, I don't usually do this kind of thing." She panted a little and relaxed. "Just give me a few moments, I'll be fine."

Zecora reached into her bag and pulled out another potion. "Here, drink this brew and you will find your strength renewed."

Rarity took it and uncorked the top, recoiling slightly from the smell. She did her best not to show it, for a lady had to be polite and it would be polite to drink it, if nothing else. Holding her nose, she gulped it down, the bitter taste befouling her mouth. The payoff was that she certainly did feel like she had woken up after a session in the spa, rejuvenated and ready for action.

"Marvellous! Thank you very much again, Zecora."

The zebra bowed her head. "To protect those I treasure, it was my pleasure. Now, to return to the fight and extinguish chaos' blight!"

Fuelled by Zecroa's potion, Rarity found herself further bolstered when, quite surprisingly, Dusk started to sing from his spot on the hill. With his lips moving and his eyes still glowing, it looked quite eerie, yet it was still inspiring.

When you're stumbling through the darkness walking blind
Don't forget that there is always hope to find
Choose your path
Walk it well
Save us from this living hell
In this broken cage
We will not be confined

And when the world it starts to burn
At the point of no return
Keep a hold of
Your conviction
Tear out the affliction
And before the world turns black
Stand up and take it back!

Psychologically boosted by this, Rarity fought all the harder and she was sure her companions were too. This was only added to when one of the puppets returned, bringing with it a large host of very recognizable figures.

"Hey y'all, we miss much?" asked Applejack, knocking aside a serpent with her strong legs.

"Not at all," Rarity assured. "We saved plenty of foes for you to trounce."

"Howgood of you," remarked Little Strongheart, holding out her hoof. "It's good to see you again Rarity."

The fashion recoiled a little when she saw how dusty and dirty the calf's hooves were. Not wanting to be rude, but also not wanting to get the dirt all over her own well-cared for hooves, she shook it delicately and only for a moment.

"Yes um… good to see you too, Little Strongheart. She quickly retracted her hoof and cleared her throat. "Now there is um, I believe more battle to be waged."

"Sounds good!" Rainbow smacked one hoof into the other. "Ready to go Strongheart?"

"I was born ready, Rainbow Dash!" called the calf, who greeted Rarity with a nod before sprinting off to battle more of them.

"Rarity! You're okay!" The unicorn was surprised further by the sight of Sweetie Belle and her friends, but not in a good way.

"Sweetie Belle?! But what are you… how are you… what is…?" She rounded on Applejack. "What in the world are they doing here?!"

The farm pony sighed. "Long story and ah ain't too happy about maself, but we had ta bring 'em, we didn't have any other choice."

"We only wanted to help Rarity," put in Sweetie. "I just wanted to see if you were okay…"

Rarity felt her anger abate. After all with that pouty mouth, those big sad eyes and her whimpering voice, who wouldn't feel something, like that? She still would have preferred it that they weren't here, but they were now and she'd have to adapt. Besides, she was quite relieved to see that her sibling was safe and somewhere she could see her.

"Very well." She pointed to Dusk. "Stay close to him, you'll be safe there." Her little sister nodded and hurried off. "And Sweetie… it's good to see you safe too."

Her sister looked surprised, but her smile was still enough to melt her heart. "Thanks big sis."

"Well, there are worse places to be," remarked Scootaloo, approaching Dusk. "He's pretty cool, I guess, I mean he did try and help us with our cutie marks."

"Hey Mr Dusk, Dusk hey! It's us, the Cutie Mark Crusaders!" called out Apple Bloom to him. He didn't even react to her. "What's wrong with him? Why's he not sayin' anythin'?"

Rarity couldn't help but smirk at their innocence. "He's just a little busy right now and he needs to concentrate so that we can stop the monsters."

"Is he using his special magic to bring the others together?"

The moment she asked that, Rarity realised that there was more than one meaning to this question. Yes, he had used his magic to find them when they were lost in the past, yet he had done so much more with himself than just shine a few magical lights. What wit reaching out to the desolate and forlorn, being part of a peace between two warring peoples and restoring the memories and emotions of friendship to every single one of them, she saw the true magic wasn't just the kind he emitted from his horn.

Quite ironic how a pony who at first knew nothing of friendship and didn't think he even deserved it could be the best and most special friend they ever had.

"Yes, yes he is," she finally said.

"Right, we won't disturb him," promised Sweetie.

"We'll stay here an' guard him, won't we?" suggested Apple Bloom. "They won't get past the Cutie Mark Crusaders."

"Yeah, we'll do that!" agreed Scootaloo. "Don't you worry Dusk, we kick the flank of any snake that even thinks about eating you."

Although Rarity knew that he was deep in his magical trance and that he was concentrating on performing his spell, she could have sworn that as the girls were speaking, just as Scootaloo finished her promise, there was a faint ghost of a smile. Like he had actually heard them. But it was gone as quickly as it arrived and she wasn't even sure if she actually saw it.

Now with a renewed determination to protect her little sister, Rarity looked at Applejack and the two of them ran together into the battle, Dusk's singing once again in their ears.

As the homes of brick and hay crumble to dust
The foundations of our hope begin to rust
Choking fear
Screaming sound
As a Serpent comes to ground
You turn to face it down
Because you must

And when the world it starts to burn
At the point of no return
Keep a hold of
Your conviction
Tear out the affliction
And before the world turns black

Stand up and take it back!

Now they were even more formidable with the added help of not only their friends, but also by those who weren't even wielders and who didn't need to be here. Wondering who else might have come along too, Rarity saw another puppet fall from the sky and land silently on the ground. A nearby Paraserpent stared at it, confused, until…

"Coming through!" A pink form bounced on the head of the Paraserpent, followed by a larger purple one, making it crash to the floor as a party cannon sounded off. "I'm baaaaaaaack!"

"Quick, somepony, Twilight needs help!" called the large scaled purple being. "She's been hit!"

A few seconds later, Rarity heard thundering hooves. "I'm here," Strongheart said from behind Rarity, hurrying up with a small pot and bending over Twilight, who was groaning weakly.

"What, where?" she asked, concerned for her friend. When Rarity got closer, she realised who it was, as it could only be him. "Spike…?"

"Oh uh, hey Rarity." He flexed his enlarged muscles and grinned at her. "What do you think, pretty cool huh?"

"Um yes I suppose…" Truth be told, Rarity was a little unnerved at this 'new' Spike. She much preferred the old one. "How did you get like that?"

"Oh you know, working out, hitting the gym, running…" He laughed nervously at her raised eyebrow. "Actually it was a potion Zecora gave me. But still, it is pretty good right?"

"Right… Spike, I-"

"Take it easy Twilight, slowly stand up," Strongheart's voice was saying. "You took quite a hit, but you'll be fine… nice and easy."

"Twilight!" Both she and Spike cried. "Are you feeling well?"

She touched her head and stood up, shaking it. "Ugh… my head feels like somepony just dropped the entire works of the Magical Compendium on it, but I'm fine."

Rarity exhaled and smiled. "Well, that's quite a-"

"Are you sure? You got hit right in the face!" Spike fretted. "Do you need a lie down? How about some food? Or a drink? I could-!"

"Spike, trust me, I'm fine," she cut off gently. "But thank you for your concern and for getting me here in the first place."

"Yeah, it was nothing," he said in a would-be modest tone.

"And once again, that's why you're my number one dragon assistant," she added.

"Twilight, you're making me blush." He paused for a moment. "Hey, I didn't say stop. I mean, I guess I was pretty heroic now you mention it, quite gallant and brave you might say…"

"Don't push it," she warned, but she was still smiling. "I think it's enough being number one dragon…" She trailed off and the smile was wiped off her face in an instant. "Oh my gosh, Dusk! Is he okay?"

"Don't you worry, he's right there," Rarity pointed with a knowing smile.

The debutante knew too well what her fellow unicorn felt for their mutual male friend, no matter how much she might deny it or how much she kept it hidden. Except, since all this began, it had shown itself a lot more than previously, like she had finally decided to start being honest, both to herself and to him. Perhaps, when all this was over, she'd finally let it be shown fully. Perhaps.

Positively beaming at the sight of him, Twilight hurried up to him, followed closely by Spike also expressing his relief.

"Dusk, oh I'm so glad you're okay!"

"Hey buddy! Check this out, have you seen me?" Spike flexed his muscles again, stopping when Dusk didn't respond. "Dusk? Can you hear me bro?"

"Dusk? Dusk it's me, it's Twilight," she said softly. "What's happening? I've never seen him like this before."

"He needed his concentration to perform the spell to bring us all back together," Rarity informed them. "But we're all here now, so he should stop now."

They flinched at the sound of an explosion and a screech, reminding them of the battle raging around them.

"Well why hasn't he?" asked Spike.

"Perhaps he's simply not aware of our presence because he's so immersed in the spell." Rarity decided to try her hoof at it. "Dusk, can you hear me darling? It's Rarity, you can stop now, we're all here."

"Yes we're all here," echoed Twilight. "You don't have to keep doing your spell, you can stop performing your magic now."

"Yeah, snap out of it. Come on!" added Spike, waving his claw in front of him.

Still Dusk didn't respond, if anything his spell seemed to increase in intensity, his face remaining strangely blank and impassive. His eyes and horn glowed even more brightly than before with the magic that fuelled them, the colours that whirled inside both them and his orbs now like a raging ocean in a fierce storm, both beautiful and terrible. The stone around his neck was also shining, flickering between dull and bright.

Though Rarity knew his colour magic to be little more than harmless movements of light, even she started to feel a little bit of worry at this sudden change. From the way they were acting, she could certainly say that something was about to happen as a result of this and it certainly wouldn't be anything good. She couldn't be entirely certain of course for they didn't know the full extent of it, but that seemed about the way of it.

"Ooh boy, that doesn't look good," remarked Spike.

"I would see fit to agree," concurred Rarity.

Twilight addressed him now in an even more worried tone. "Dusk, I don't know what you're doing or what you think you might be doing, but you can stop now. Please, just stop! You're scaring me…"

Spike looked as if he was about to say something, but a Paraserpent chose that moment to leap at him and wrap itself around his body. With his increased strength, he ripped the beast off him and flung it skyward, whipping around and returning to the battle. Rarity would have joined him, but Twilight still hadn't moved and she was anxious to see how this might unfold.

Rarity was about to something a little more drastic herself, step in perhaps and, though she might feel guilty for it later, hit Dusk hard across the face to snap him out of it. But only now did he respond though not in his usual gentle, quiet tones but in an echoing voice that lingered in her ears long after he had stopped speaking.

"Don't be afraid, Twilight, I know what I'm doing. I'm not done yet, there is still one last thing I must do."

Twilight stared at him. "But… what is that exactly? What are you trying to do?"

That ghost of a smile returned to his face and his eyes looked directly at her. "I have brought you all together again, now I'm going to make sure the Paraserpents cannot separate us ever again."

"But… but Dusk… how can you…?"

"Please, don't be scared Miss Sparkle." Rarity looked down to see that his hoof was now over Twilight's. "Trust me, have faith."

They remained like that for a few moments, Dusk's eyes shining all the colours off Twilight's concerned face, though this now dissolved away the instant he said those words and she nodded bravely. He returned it and removed his hoof and gaze from her, giving his full attention to the important matter. Twilight however still hadn't moved from her spot in front of him, her watery eyes still fixed on his face.

Rarity laid a hoof on her shoulder. "Twilight, come on. The others need our help to hold them back."

At first, it looked like she wouldn't move but she sighed and nodded "I know, I'm coming… wait hold on." She turned back to Dusk, hesitated for a moment, then allowed her lips to make contact with his, holding the kiss for a few seconds before pulling away again. "Good luck…"

As they turned around to engage the enemy once more, Rarity could have sworn that he heard him whisper in response to this.

"You too."

Now they fought against their enemy once more, as they slithered and spat at them furiously, trying to gain some kind of hoofhold. But now they were all here, combing the use of hooves, magic, cannon, tooth and claw against the forces of Discord, not giving them one single inch. With them came even more Paraserpents, but they would hold their ground against whatever forces came at them no matter what.

It was almost like watching it slow motion. She saw Applejack and Strongheart floor a Paraserpent, Rainbow taking on three of them by herself, Twilight blasting one back with a burst of magic combined with a fireball from Spike, Pinkie slamming her party cannon onto the head of one before blasting another in the head, Zecora flinging her potions at the horde while Fluttershy commanded attacks from the head of one close by and the Crusaders even lending a hoof, smacking any ones that slipped by them and threatened Dusk. Up above, lighting and sun shone through the clouds as the princesses fought their ancient foe.

Here they all were great and small, young and old, pony, buffalo, dragon and zebra, all of them battling to save their home from Discord and return harmony to all. If one needed further proof of friendship's power, here it was.

Now they all heard Dusk as he sang once more, repeating it like a mantra and further spurring them to fight on.

For Earth, Unicorn and Pegasus
It's time to end the chaos
For Earth, Unicorn and Pegasus
It's time to end the chaos

And we won't fight this war alone my friends
Stand side by side until the end.
They won't break you
Break you
They won't bring you to your knees
They won't break you...

When Rarity turned back around to view his progress, she saw that orb he had created was now expanding to an even larger size, the colours inside it spinning and whizzing in its white shining depths, its creator still singing, though he also looked to be sweating whilst looking directly at it.

And when the world it starts to burn
At the point of no return
Keep a hold of
Your conviction
Tear out the affliction
And before the world turns black
Stand up and take it back!

Now it grew brighter still, even the others all pausing in their fight to stare at it, the Paraserpents recoiling and hissing in fear. Now it was making a strange humming sound that grew louder and louder every second, beating and pulsating like a heart.

Stand up and take it back!

"Everypony, cover your eyes!" Twilight cried over the din, the brightness becoming unbearable.

Rarity did so, feeling the claws of Spike wrap protectively around her as she hid her head in her hooves and screwed her eyes shut. Amidst all the shouting and screaming, the screeching and hissing she heard Dusk cry out one more time.

Stand up and take it BACK!

There was an explosion, a burst of light she could see even through her closed eyes, more screeches from the Paraserpents while something whizzed and shot all around them that grew less and less every moment that passed.

Then silence.


Luna felt a sharp pain as she was thrown into the ground, every bit of her aching and stinging from the battle she had partaken in. Her wings felt as if they were going to drop off, her horn flickering feebly and a feeling like a vice being closed on her head. She tried to get up, tried to return to the fight but she just didn't have the strength anymore.

Another slam told her Celestia had received the same treatment, smacking to the ground beside her, her body covered with bruises and cuts, from which blood oozed in little red trickles. Luna felt fear grip her, seeing her powerful and immovable sister in such a state. She too tried to return to her hooves, to push herself to the limit she had already reached when a goat's hoof stepped on her neck and pushed her back down again.

"I would stay down if I were you," warned Discord. "You'll find it's a lot easier than getting up just so I can knock you down again."

"Not until… until you're beaten…" Celestia groaned, coughing as the draconequus increased pressure on her neck.

"Oh yes, not until I'm beaten," he repeated mockingly. "If your goal is to achieve that, we could be here for a while."

"What is there… to stop us…?" asked Luna. "We shall… we can defeat thee…"

"Oh, when are you two just going to face facts," he asked exasperatedly. "I've won, you've lost. You ran the race and came up second best, you leaped for the moon and hit the floor, you ran up the side of the wall and fell because you ran out of wall. Why can't you just accept that?"

"Because… we beat you last time… we can… do it again…" replied Celestia.

"Yes, but last time you had the Elements and now you don't even have those. It's been a thousand years since we fought and I'm still to you as a spoon is to a bowl of ice cream: unbeatable so why even try. Doesn't that tell you anything?" They remained silent, glaring up at him. "And they say I'm unrealistic. Fine, I guess I'll-"

THOOM!

Luna's head shot up painfully at the sound that met her ears. From another part of the town, tear-drop-shaped swirls of colour were shooting everywhere like fireworks and small black shapes were being tossed into the sky, blasting off and crashing all over the place. Several landed smack beside them here and Luna saw the dazed and beaten form of a Paraserpent. It tried to lift its head, but slumped down in defeat.

Discord made a noise of disbelief and had to dodge out of the way as he was almost hit by some of his own minions. As painful as it was, Luna glanced over at her sister and the two of them exchanged a smile. At least they had done what they needed to.

"What-where-when-who -why? he asked in quick succession. "What's going on here? Why is it raining minions?"

"It seems that… your victory isn't as… complete as you thought…" noted Celestia. "Harmony still… lives on…"

Discord's quick look of worry was replaced with self-assured arrogance in a flash. "You think it's enough because they've won one little battle? If you intend to cut out a weed, you go for the root, not the leaves and stalk. Unless you're me, in which case that weed will keep on growing no matter where you cut it."

"But they've already beaten your monsters… how long before… they defeat you too!" Celestia shouted this as she charged at Discord again, sunlight blazing in her wake.

With a casual flick of his hand, Discord struck her with a bolt of chaos energy that tickled her with a load of feathers, throwing off her concentration before dropping an anvil on her head and dropping her to the floor once more, dazed and beaten once more. Luna would have tried one last attack herself, but she simply didn't have the energy.

"So boring, Celestia," taunted Discord. "Let's try and make you a little more interesting, shall we?"

He touched her with his claw, a flash of magic shooting from it. To Luna's horror, from her flank to her head and spreading fast, the spirit of chaos was turning her sister to stone, immobilizing her in the same way they had done to him. Celestia tried to stop the flow of stone up her body with her own power, but she was too weakened and Discord was too strong.

Just as the stone reached her neck, she glared at him. "I thought you said you didn't turn ponies into stone."

Discord only grinned. "I lied."

Frozen in a look of perpetual defiance, the last vestige of stone covered Celestia's head, preventing any further movement and imprisoning her completely. Fate it seems wasn't without irony. Despite this, Luna wasn't scared, for she had seen those clouds of colour shooting across the sky and knew that only one pony could have done such a thing. That meant he had almost learned the truth and there was just one little thing left.

"Hm, it's certainly an improvement," remarked Discord conversationally. "What do you think Luna? Too serious? Perhaps brighten it up a bit?"

"If thou means to offer us the same fate, thou may as well get on with it," she retorted.

"If you insist," he shrugged. Luna soon felt the cold stone creeping up her own body, but she was determined not to be scared, not to panic. "So Luna, still think your master was right? You still think that your little pony is who you think he is?"

"We don't think so, we know so." She locked her eyes on his, just as the stone was reaching her face. "And so dost thee."

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