• Published 9th Mar 2013
  • 3,832 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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A Prophecy Fulfilled

Dusk wasn't sure whether to feel reassured or apprehensive after he had been told that all he could see around him, all he had seen, was just a dream, the images of his subconscious mind and memories playing out as he slept. On one hoof, it meant that, essentially, nothing that he saw here was real, at least in the widely accepted sense of the term. All that happened before, with Blackhole, the destroyed Ponyville… the bones, it was all just a horrible nightmare. It was just a dream and dreams couldn't hurt you.

And yet… seeing all of that disturbed him greatly. Blackhole might be gone, but in a way, his presence still lingered on, forever in his mind, within his memories and emotions. He would never stop tormenting Dusk, never go away and Dusk knew he would never forget him. How could he, after all he had done? He had never had to deal with anything like this before in his whole life. How was he supposed to go on like this, always scared, always in guilt for everything that his darker side had done in his brief period in Equestria?

It wasn't like he hadn't done this before. Due to his own views of himself and also because of the attitudes of his parents, Dusk was used to dealing with his own problems. They were his, not anypony else's. He was already a waste of space by merely existing, why should his trivial issues be heaped on ponies who wouldn't even want to talk to him in the first place? Even though he had friends now, he would still do his best to keep his problems to himself so they wouldn't have to deal with them. It was what he was used to after all, why fix what isn't broken?

Still… could he even begin to hope to endure the memories from all Blackhole had done? Would he be able to cope? Could he go on…? It was easy to believe that it was a hopeless cause and to let those images and sounds torture him into eventual insanity. Such a thing might be easier to endure than think of the alternative.

But then he would look to the princess who had saved him from his torment, who had been through a similar experience and she gave him strength. She could have given into the despair, the guilt of what she had done as Nightmare Moon and yet she was still here. She'd carried on with her life, had managed to move on from what she'd done. She hadn't forgotten, but she hadn't let it get the best of her either. If she could do it, so could he.

Besides, Dusk had already learned that he was stronger than he gave himself credit for, something that he wouldn't normally admit. He'd kept Discord from his mind, used his magic to defeat the Paraserpents and, of course, he was the seventh Element of Harmony. If he had done all of those things, surely he could handle this by himself. He rarely ever had confidence in his own abilities, but he'd learned he should give himself the benefit of the doubt more and decided to do so with this case at least. He would be fine.

He cringed a little when Blackhole's laughter echoed in his ears again and conceded that perhaps fine was a bit of an understatement.

He tried to act normal, but it hadn't escaped Luna's notice. "Dusk? Are thou well?"

"Um… yes, I'm fine," he responded in a would-be casual voice. "Why do you ask?"

She gave him a sceptical look. "Deception is not thy forte, Dusk and thou should not think it wise to lie to thy ruler." Though her voice was firm, he could hear the concern that she had for him. "Tell me what troubles thee."

Dusk opened his mouth, considering either lying or trying to avoid the question. But he knew how obvious it was when he lied or felt unsure about something. He'd stammer and pause, like he did in the past and they could always tell. What would be the point?

He sighed and tried his best to look up at her. "Just… coping with some… difficult memories."

"Yes, I had noticed," she said sympathetically. "It cannot be easy for thee, living with what thou has been through."

"No… it isn't," he admitted quietly.

She paused a moment, considering. "Dusk… I'm still adapting to this new world, as thou knows and friendship with a subject is still relatively new to me. But…" He heard her step closer. "If thou wishes to talk about it, I can do my best to comfort thee."

Dusk realised that he had never really thought about it. Though they had still cared dearly for their subjects, back in the old days the princesses were still higher up than other ponies and would treat them as such. Not unkindly, but still with authority. As such, friendships with those who weren't of the same status would have been a strange concept for the both of them, mingling either with each other or those of equal standing. Celestia had, of course, been more relaxed over the years about the status she held and how she treated her subjects, as she showed with Twilight, but Luna…

She'd been stuck in the moon for a thousand years and, even though she was probably better at it thanks to aid of her sister, she still seemed to be having a little trouble adjusting and adapting to modern days. She still made references to forms of punishment that had been discontinued years ago and still used ancient pony speech dialect. Having to make friends with one of her subjects must have seemed like a strange notion to her and perhaps still was. She would get better at it still and he already liked to think of her as his friend, but he didn't want to pressure her further.

"I'll be fine," he said, not dishonestly. "Really, I will."

"Thou art sure?" He nodded in response, not sure if she would believe him. In the end, she relaxed and looked away. "If thou dost insist. Remember, the offer still stands should thou need it."

"I'll bear that in mind, thank you." He let her guide him through the dream world once more.

It had been a little easier to say that the second time around. Mainly because, technically, he wasn't really lying. Luna had, after all, saved him from his nightmare just before and she did have some degree of control over this world. Though he could still hear remnants of that horrible laughter and the vivid images in the darker parts of his mind, he knew the Princess of the Night would keep them at bay.

Yes, he would be safe while he was with Luna.

"Ah, here we are," she remarked, bringing him out of his thoughts.

Dusk looked, but all he could see was the shimmering surface of the dream world. "Um… where are we?"

"Give it a moment," she assured gently. "I am more attuned to this world than thee."

Slowly, the area came into focus and Dusk recognised it from when he had briefly glimpsed it through a locked door in the Canterlot Palace. From the giant hourglass that dominated the middle of the room, the endless aisles of priceless scrolls and tomes of magic that stretched on for miles, this could only be the Starswirl the Bearded Wing of the palace.

Even though it was just a dream, Dusk still felt overwhelmed and privileged to be here, in the most secure wing of the castle, surrounded by the works of one of the most famous figures in unicorn history. He allowed himself a smile when he pictured Twilight's reaction if he told her he'd been here and remained close to Luna, painfully aware of every patch of darkness and shadow. Dark, like his fur had been… was.

"Impressive, is it not?" remarked Luna casually. "Only my sister and I have access to this place, along with Twilight Sparkle and whomever we deem trustworthy. Thou should be privileged, Dusk."

"Oh believe me, I am." He resisted the urge to grab the nearest book and bury his head in it, staying close to her. "But what are we doing here?"

"We are here for this." She approached another aisle that was locked by another gate, crystal balls decorating plinths on either side of the door. "Can thou tell me what this might be?"

If Dusk felt honoured, he was now completely in awe. "The archives of Fore Sight," he breathed, actually reaching out to touch the gate and jumping back when it shimmered. "Oops… sorry."

"Perfectly fine," she assured, with a small smile. "It can be easy to forget the difference between dreams and reality, even for me sometimes."

"I know how that feels…" Dusk shuddered when he recalled something similar Discord had said and did his best to return attention to her. "But still, I don't fully understand why we're here."

"We are here because this is where the story begins, with thy ancestor." Her horn glowed and the gate shimmered away into nothingness. Luna beckoned for him to follow. "So Dusk, what dost thou know of thy ancestor?"

"Only what I could find," he said honestly. "Prophet of the unicorns, apprenticed to Starswirl, friend to Clover and husband to Private Pansy of the Pegasi. Tormented by Discord, driven insane and went missing on some unknown quest he took until he returned home years later. He died not long after, leaving a mystery that has been debated long after as to why he left and what for."

"Yes, unfortunate that there is little about him, but covering most of the main points," she replied. "Quite significant that thou should mention that Discord plagued him, as he suffered more than anypony. For thou see, he had seen the seventh Element in his visions, after he had already seen the original six. An Element that had been broken into many pieces, which had scattered far and wide, the name being of it being Unity. Discord knew his reign was already threatened, so he tried to ensure that Fore Sight's discovery would never be widely known and secure himself in his seat of power."

"Showing him visions of his loved being hurt and leaving him questioning which were real and which weren't," recalled Dusk grimly, knowing he'd had a similar experience with the lord of chaos. "Not a pleasant fate…"

"Indeed." Luna had a dark look for a few seconds and returned to her explanation. "Well, as thou knows, the Elements worked on Discord and sealed him away. But Fore Sight was not convinced. Though he was mocked and ridiculed for taking his stance, he truly believed the seventh did exist and was determined to find it, for he feared that Discord would break free of his prison and wreak chaos once again. So, without telling anypony else, he packed up some supplies and set off in search of the fragments of this Element."

"But… he didn't find them, did he?"

"Actually, he succeeded, though it took him many long years of travelling and seeking in the darkest places and the highest peaks to locate them all, a total of seven. Once he had them all and he was returning home to Canterlot, he tried to assemble the Element himself with his own magic." Her expression saddened. "Unfortunately, he failed and the pieces scattered once again, though not as far as they had been previously. He would have gone looking again, but he knew that his time was short and so returned to his home where, as thou knows, he passed on shortly after."

She bowed her head and her eyes seemed to glisten with tears, looking away so that Dusk couldn't see her face. Pity for her welled up again in that instant. A thousand years locked away and awakened to find that all she had known, ponies, places, values, had all changed so much… Dusk couldn't begin to imagine what that was like. Immortality is a curse, not a blessing, he mused grimly.

"You miss him, don't you?" he whispered.

"Yes… I do…"

Dusk allowed her a short moment to lament before asking, "How did he fail to put it together?"

She recovered herself and wiped her eyes. "It is the nature of the Elements. Thou knows from Twilight Sparkle's account, she and her friends had to learn about their true nature as the Elements before they revealed themselves for what they truly were. Unity was… is no different. Simply finding the pieces and putting them together isn't enough. The Element must be formed from true unity, in cause, feeling and knowledge of the one who wields it and from those around them. That was what thou managed to achieve when thou faced Discord. Fore Sight could not, as he was not its wielder and so they scattered again when he tried to put them together."

"I see," Dusk nodded. "But you knew that it was real, even if the others didn't."

"I was one of the few who believed him, yes. My sister wasn't so sure, as she didn't want to accept the idea that the Elements were incomplete and that Equestria might be threatened again from the fiends we had stopped with them. I, however, was more concerned and as such believed our prophet when he wrote down his final prophecy."

She stopped at the very end of the aisle and reached down to the bottom-most shelf with her magic. She levitated out an ancient, crumbling scroll and passed it over to Dusk, as carefully as it were a precious stone or priceless gem. In Dusk's eyes, it was far more valuable than either of those latter two put together, taking it carefully.

"Read it," she prompted. "He intended to pass on his quest to another after he had failed, in the hopes that they would succeed, no matter how small the chance."

"I suppose blind faith is another thing he and I share," he noted lightly.

Noting how his eyesight had returned to its former status here, he unrolled the scroll and traced his eyes over the faded ink that had been worked into the parchment with an elaborate horn:

Son of night, be born soon
With a sliver's power of the moon,
Whose greatest weapon is his mind
Though through discord, darkness may reside
Against this evil most unhallowed
He is light opposed to shadow
Though to keep this darkness stayed
The stars must come to his aid.

Great deeds he did,
Though modesty forbids
Unlocks power once hid
Through the mists of time
When chaos is at prime
And when six do cease their fight
By his light, they unite
Enacting justice to chaos' crime.

Though Six appeared to see
Cannot be without Unity
For only seven, that most magic number
Can return lord chaos to his slumber
Unknown to the great horned sages
Scattered, broken, lost to ages
And he will use it, this humble son
When seven truly become… one.

Dusk read and re-read the words several times and even then he wasn't sure he understood entirely. Fore Sight's writings were rather eccentric, to say the least and he liked to work in the mystery into his words.

He raised his head up to look at Luna. "I think I see. So… 'son of night'?"

"Ah, I believe that may refer to thy fur hue and its similarity to mine own, as well as our sharing this power, as the 'sliver's power' verse pertains," she explained. "I am not actually thy mother."

"Glad we cleared that up." They laughed a little from the humour of that. "It also seems to describe aspects of my personality too…"

"Dost thou remember our first meeting?" He nodded happily. "That was one of the reasons we summoned thee, to see if thy personality truly matched what was written here. I had already begun to suspect after I had seen thee perform in the Magic Contest and this confirmed my suspicions once we met thee."

"That makes sense." He looked down again and suddenly remembered something from the forest, in the ancient castle. "Hold on… you cast that time travel spell, didn't you?"

"Sharp as a flint, as always," she commented, smiling at his blush. "That verse was a little difficult to decipher, I shall admit but that seemed to be the only possible answer: a literal one. When I returned as Nightmare Moon, I actually intended to find the pieces of Unity myself, for it would give me an additional advantage to have the long lost Seventh. I had already found one of the fragments, tracking it with my own magic until Twilight's search for the six made me refocus my efforts. When I was returned to normal, the fragment I had found had gone…"

Dusk remembered that piece hitting him back in the past. "It must have become dislodged when you tried to destroy the Elements," he deduced.

"Yes, I thought as much too," she agreed. "I had intended to find them again, but Celestia insisted I forget the notion and return to my duties as Princess of the Night."

"So you remembered that when you lost it, figured it out and sent me back in time so that I'd be there to recover it," he figured out.

"Exactly!"

"Quite a bit of luck how it bounced over to me," he said.

"Yes or maybe… it knew that its wielder had come for it and sought him out, as he had its fellows," she mused.

Dusk blinked in surprise. "You make it sound as if the Elements have minds of their own."

"Thou hast felt how strong their power is Dusk, is that such a far-fetched concept?"

"I suppose not," he shrugged, accepting the idea a little and returning to the subject. "So, how important is Unity? Because the Elements seemed to work just fine before."

"I don't quite understand it myself, but I would say that perhaps, speaking in scientific terms, that Unity acts as a focusing component for the other six."

"I don't really… do science, Luna," he admitted sheepishly.

"Ah… that's surprising." She didn't say anymore on it, which Dusk was thankful for. His cheeks had gone red again.

"I think I see partially what you mean," he elaborated quickly. "But perhaps you could try to explain it differently?"

Luna thought for a moment. "Well then… let us speak of the Elements as though they were a river. Wide, raging and powerful enough by itself. On its own, it fulfils its natural purpose, which is to flow together as one force. Is this clear?"

"I see," Dusk said in understanding. "Please, go on."

"Very well then. The river is already a force in its own right, but what if thou wanted the waters to serve a more specific purpose, to fill up another receptacle. The entire raging body would be too much and would overwhelm it, so it must become more focused and precise. As such, a separate, smaller channel must be created so that the river still flows, but it is better suited to the purpose of filling the receptacle, perhaps a pond or a bucket."

"I understand," he said slowly. "So Unity focuses the power of the Elements and makes them more effective than they would be without it?"

"Precisely," she said proudly. "Without Unity, the power would still be great, but it would not be permanent and would wear off eventually. That is why I was able to escape from the moon and why Discord was able to break free from his stone prison the first time around."

"So now that we've used them on him this time, he shouldn't be able to break free again… right?" Dusk asked fearfully.

"Fear not, mine little pony," Luna said. "I do not think that the lord of chaos will be escaping his confinement for a second time. Unless we were to break him out of our own free will, which is highly unlikely."

"I hope so." Another thing occurred to him from what she said. "What about when I was in the past? Unity wasn't fully formed back then."

"That doesn't mean the spark was not present." He felt a spike of pride from the smile she bestowed. "I think it is fair to say that thy influence was not entirely absent in that process."

Dusk remembered the fatigue and headache that he received from when he had first witnessed the use of the Elements and decided that she definitely wasn't far off from that. That little spike of pride that he rarely felt from his own actions increased ever so slightly from what he had done, even back then. Quite fitting how, in their own ways, they had both saved each other from their respective darker sides.

Which brought him to his final thing he wanted to know, what he had been avoiding because of how he had felt when he'd first read those words and holding a weak stance that there was no way she could have known that and not done anything.

"Luna… the verse where it says about… darkness residing in my mind…"

Her demeanour immediately became fearful and she diverted her eyes elsewhere. "Ah yes… that."

"Does that mean… what I think it means?" He didn't like the way she was acting, but he still had to ask.

Luna shifted in her hooves, opening and closing her mouth, apparently having trouble finding the right words. The dread that had started to form in the pit of Dusk's stomach had now festered into fear along with something else. Something that he very rarely felt and that had been prevalent when Blackhole had taken over, but he still knew what it was.

It was anger, very small, but still a spark. Because if what he thought about this was true, then anger was the only thing that he could even hope to feel. He could practically hear his darker side egging him on and telling him to embrace it. And for once, he didn't feel like disagreeing with him.

"Well… thou see… it is… difficult to explain…" she stammered.

"Why is that?" Dusk asked, controlling the tone in his voice. "It's just a question which needs an answer."

"Yes but… it is merely the manner the answer must take that I find… difficult to say," she mumbled.

"Then just answer yes or no." He made sure that his voice sounded firm. "Does this refer to Blackhole in my mind?"

"Dusk, I'm just-"

"Please, just answer me… does it?"

Silence fell between the two, heavy and oppressive like a thick blanket that had been soaked in tar. Dusk's eyes never left Luna, until she eventually looked right back at him. The words she spoke next were spoken quietly and softly, yet they were as harsh and damning as a death sentence.

"Yes, it does."

It did… it did… those words echoed over and over in his head, further giving fuel to the anger that had started as a spark and now boiled over into rage.

With this revelation in mind, he spoke again and he could definitely hear the emotions lacing his words. "So, if it was in the prophecy… that means that you knew."

"Dusk, please understand, I made a mistake," she said quickly, but Dusk was having none of it.

"Oh yes, you made a mistake. You knew, this whole time what was going to happen as a result of this and yet you did nothing to stop it, nothing to prevent him from emerging into the world."

"It isn't like that-"

"Really, because that's what it seems like to me." He found himself taking a step closer to her. "You mean to tell me that all of what he's done, all of the things I see playing over and over again in my mind, which could have all been prevented and you're telling me that it isn't like that?!"

"Dusk, listen to me-"

"NO, YOU LISTEN TO ME!" Dusk was shocked at his own actions and so was Luna, but he pressed on. "I can see everything and I mean everything he did when I was him! I can hear their screams, their cries of torment as he tortures them! Worse still, I can feel him revel in it, enjoy every minute of it and it mingles with me, like a poison! You knew about that and you could have stopped it, but you did NOTHING!"

"Dusk, cease this-!"

"I won't, because that's not all!" He was now right in her face, glaring at her. "Not only do I have to put up with all of that, but I have also been beaten, constricted, pushed to the brink of death, deceived and twisted, all at the hands of him! Of Discord! And what did you do to stop him when you knew what would happen? NOTHING! What kind of princess are you that would willingly allow one of her subjects to suffer?! Do you know what I have been through, what I'm still going through after all this?! You can't even begin to imagine what I've-!"

"SILENCE!" Luna's booming Canterlot voice cut him off and suddenly reminded him who he was talking to. "We may be friends young Dusk, but there is a limit to what that means and thou hast just crossed it!"

Dusk's rage dissipated in that second and shame flooded through him, along with fear, but this time of the princess herself. He had just done all of that, said all of those things to the Princess of the Night, insulted and shouted at her. Though he had felt he had every right to do so, he also knew that he had gone too far.

"Princess… I… I didn't-"

When she spoke, her voice was low and dangerous. "Now, listen and listen well, Dusk. None feels more regret for what thou hast been through than I, but understand me when I say that I did not know. When I read that passage, I took it to mean darkness taking the form of doubt or despair, not a literal darker side. I was just as ignorant to what Discord would do as thee."

"So… so… you didn't…?"

"No." Her firm voice didn't soften and she stood taller than him, glaring down at him. "And just remember Dusk that thou is not the only one who has suffered from Discord's influences and don't thy dare to tell me otherwise. Do I make myself clear?"

That shame increased exponentially in that instant. In his anger at her, he'd forgotten he wasn't the only who had to suffer with a dark side. All things considered, he'd gotten off lightly with what had happened to him. At least he was still here and not in the moon like what had happened to her and nopony knew the connection between Blackhole and him, apart from Pinkie of course. But her… everypony knew about her and she was a princess. That just made it all the more worse and made him feel even more guilty.

Lowering his head out of shame, he genuflected down on his knees, his head so low it was almost touching the floor.

"Luna… Princess," he corrected, not feeling deserving to call her by her name, "I… I forgot myself, along with many other things, but doesn't excuse what I did and what I said to you. I don't expect you to forgive me but believe me when I say… I'm so sorry and… it won't happen again."

The silence hung in the air once again before he felt her silver shoes gently lift his head back up to look up at her, her anger faded and her compassionate expression had returned which he felt he certainly didn't deserve.

"Dusk, please, stand. That isn't necessary." Very gently, she raised him back onto his hooves. "Thou… you are forgiven."

"R… really?"

"Yes. While thou… your anger was out of line, it was not entirely unfounded. You have been through more in one day than most ponies go through in their whole lives. As I have said, I wish you didn't have to suffer all of that and believe me when I say that I wish I could have done something, that I'd figured it out sooner. So for that I say that I too am… sorry, for that failure on my part."

Dusk was shocked and just didn't know what to say in response to that. His mind was a blur, as were his eyes from the tears that were welling up in them. He had spent his whole life hearing how wonderful Celestia was, yet everypony seemed to forget that she wasn't the only princess, something he was always disappointed about. No wonder she had become Nightmare Moon, all of those years ago, for none had given her the respect and admiration that she deserved just as much as her sister did.

Now it was time for that to be made up for. Beating back his reservations about the fact she was royalty and the blush that she was a mare, he embraced her in a way that he conveyed all of his gratitude for her. She felt tense with surprise, but she soon relaxed into it and returned it, her soft mane flowing over his shoulder.

"Celestia isn't the only one that brings light to our lives," he whispered to her. "Just remember that she only has one star to rise, but you bring us the beauty of thousands, as well as the light of the moon." He stepped back and gave her another respectful bow. "And for that I thank you, Princess of the Night."

When he looked back up, he saw that Luna was just as dumbstruck as he had been. Clearly she hadn't been expecting this kind of adoration after receiving so much fear since her return. Slowly though, a smile grew on her face and her eyes twinkled with joy like the stars she painted across the night sky.

"Thank you, Dusk Noir." She tipped her head to him again. "Are you still sure you would not wish to speak of what has happened to you?"

Dusk shook his head. "I'm not sure that… I'm ready to. But, I'll be fine, I'm sure," he added as an afterthought.

"If that is your wish," she said. "Never forget that you have friends, Dusk. Don't shun them, but speak to them too when you feel ready."

The fear came back again at that. "But… all the things I… he did to them…"

"You cannot hide from it forever Dusk, you will soon have to face up to that sometime." Her voice lightened a little. "Besides, you might be surprised at the result."

Though he had those feelings of guilt from what had happened to them, he still felt that wonderful feeling of acceptance and love from them whenever he saw them. Those feelings that blossomed whenever his eyes were graced with Twilight's presence, his heart beating and his mind going fuzzy. No, he wasn't going to abandon them, not again.

"I'll… I'll try, when I can."

"Good, but take your time." She let him feel the warmth of that smile for a few more minutes, before she made a sound of realisation. "Ah, I had almost forgotten. Another change has come over thee, has it not?"

Dusk noted her return to form of ancient dialect and nodded. "Yes, my cutie mark." He glanced back at the seven swirls now on his flank. "I'm still trying to get used to that."

"Tis a rare thing, that a pony's special talent should change like that, but I think it is more fitting for thee," she noted. "Would thou agree?"

"I'll miss my former one, but… I think I agree with you about the new one," he said. "It seems more… honest than before. Like this is my true special talent and, for once, I'm proud of that."

"Glad to hear it." She glanced over it too. "Now it has been brought to the front, then this should be much simpler."

"Make what much simpler?" he asked.

"Thou already know that you and I share a similarity where our magic is concerned," she reminded him. "However, I believe that thine own is still in the early stages of its potential and I would like to help thee find that potential, to develop it and show its true worth. With my guidance, I am sure it will be great."

"Wait… what exactly are you saying?" Was she really asking him what he thought she was?

Luna's smile grew in that moment. "Dusk, I would like to take thee under my wing, as Celestia did with Twilight, as my student in magic."

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