• 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...

  • ...

In The Flesh

Dusk cautiously pushed open the wooden doors and ventured into the stone halls of the ancient castle, tensed and ready to act. Though he had made it out of the depths of the forest, any number of creatures could have claimed residence here during the thousand years it had been abandoned. It always paid to be careful, he thought.

The signs of aging certainly showed, but he could still see signs of the castles former glory, could still picture the days it was complete. The pillars that lined either side of the room had mostly crumbled away, only leaving half of them behind, decorated with ivy and moss. The walls had collapsed in places, exposing the castle to the elements outside and the ceiling had completely vanished, so he could see the sky above him, which was now covered with grey clouds. At the centre of the room was a large pedestal, upon which there were five separate platforms surrounding a large stone orb at its core.

He approached this and placed his hoof upon it gently, knowing that this was the place where the Elements of Harmony had once rested. He remembered Twilight had told him how, at first, the Elements were in the form of stone orbs with different shapes carved on them. It was only after Nightmare Moon had shattered these forms and that Twilight discovered the truth that they had taken on their true forms, the ones they had today. Not for the first time, Dusk wished he could have been there…

Even though he was meant to be here for an important mission, Dusk still took the time to take in his surroundings, his fascination for history taking over. He was actually here, in one of the most ancient and least explored historical locations in Equestria's time. If only he could take the time to have a better explore of the structure, who knows what he could find? Perhaps later, he thought, beginning to search for whatever Luna had sent him here for.

"This really is… incredible," he said to himself, as he turned his back on the pedestal.

"You think so? I find it to be rather drab and dull myself. I can see why the Princesses left the place, Canterlot is so much more flashy."

Dusk froze at the sound of that voice. Even before he turned around to see who was speaking, he already knew who it was. Only one being in Equestria could have a voice so enticing and yet so repulsive at the same time. He stood stock still as he beheld Equestria's ancient foe, a figure he'd seen encased in stone so many times. In the flesh however, he was truly chilling, even his eye pupils were uneven, shining with malice.

"Discord," he whispered, gripped with fear.

"The one and only." He gave a bow, vanished and reappeared on front of Dusk, making him jump. "So, you must be Dusk Noir." He grinned and grabbed his hoof, shaking it frantically. "It's such a pleasure to meet you; I've really been quite looking forward to it. I must say you're certainly… smaller than I expected."

Dusk examined his hoof when Discord let go, afraid that he'd done something. "You… you wanted to meet me?"

"Of course, since your 'friends'," he said with sarcastic air quotes, "were too inconsiderate to bring you along with them, so I had to come to you. Rather annoying, but I'd say it was worth it. Ooh, I heard about what you did at the Magic Contest, including moi in the starring role, I'm quite flattered. Such talent, such pizazz! Could I have your autograph?"

He offered a notepad that was made of wood and a pencil made of paper. Dusk stared at it for a bit, and then finally collected himself. Recalling what he knew about Discord and knowing he was trying to manipulate him in some way, he did his best to glare defiantly at him, holding his wicked gaze.

"What do you want Discord?" he demanded firmly, though he could still hear a quiver in his voice.

Discord gave an affected look of offense. "Oh that's just rude! I thought that was self-explanatory my little friend. I expected you to be a little more polite."

Be brave Dusk, he told himself, don't give in to him. "You don't deserve respect, Discord. Besides, you want an autograph from somepony who beat one of your loyal servants?"

"Who? Oh right, the Paraserpent." He shrugged nonchalantly. "They're small fry, easily replaced. In fact, thank you for reminding me to create more of them once I win. Besides," he retorted, "we both know that it wasn't you who struck the final blow, now was it?"

Dusk knew this was true, but didn't deign to respond directly. He wasn't going to give Discord the satisfaction. "Still, I must ask why you've come to find me."

"Why? I have simply come to offer my sympathies to you for your current situation. You must be so disappointed, so devastated."

This confused Dusk. Had something happened? "What are you talking about?"

He grinned even wider, but there was no warmth in his smile. "I'm talking about how you've been left behind. Abandoned by your so-called friends. Deep down, I think you knew this was coming, but it still must be a painful blow."

"What? No, they haven't abandoned me," he said confidently. "I'm just no use at this time because I'm not an Element."

"Which is exactly why they have abandoned you, among other things," he added sinisterly. "They knew you were useless all the time and they've left you at the first opportunity, just waiting for the chance to leave you in the lurch. Again, very cruel after you tried so hard to fit in, all in vain."

"No, no that's not true." He knew Discord was trying to trick him, but… why did his words sound so true and his sound a little hollow.

"Oh really? Here's what they were saying the instant that they left you…" Discord summoned a shimmering cloud of colour, rather like the ones that he made. In it formed the images of the girls galloping away to Canterlot. For a moment, they stopped and let out sighs of relief.

"Whew, finally we got away from that geek," Rainbow spoke up in an annoyed tone. "Honestly, I never thought we'd be able to ditch him."

"Ah hear ya," added Applejack. "You'd have thought he'd have gotten the message earlier that we don' want him around, but that boy is jus' so wrapped up in it. Kinda sad, livin' in a dream like that."

"Ugh, I know right?" Pinkie fumed. "Even I don't like him and I like everypony. The way I have to call him 'psychic' all the time, it just drives me nuts!"

"He is certainly quite irritating to say the least," Rarity added, flicking her mane with disdain. "Worst of all, he's completely useless at this time. I simply do not understand why we've put up with him."

"Twilight," asked Fluttershy, "do you think, when we get to Canterlot, we can ask Princess Celestia to make him go away? I don't like to pretend anymore."

"I think we can," she nodded. "Believe me, I've tried to put up with him, but I've had it up to here. Frankly, I'm surprised I managed this long."

"Then it's settled," Rarity put in. "After today, no more Dusk. Agreed?"

"Agreed," they all chorused. "Now come on, let's go and get this over with." Following Twilight, they all galloped away and faded, but Dusk was still staring in utter disbelief about what he had seen.

Each of the girl's words had felt like hammer blows to his heart. They struck him at his very core, realising all of his worst fears when he first started being friends with them. It seems he was right all along… he was useless, stupid, pointless…. Even worse, they found him to be annoying for even trying to fit in in the first place… how could he have been so stupid as to make himself believe he was actually making a difference…?

No, another side to this was saying, this is Discord trying to trick you. This is what he does, you know that. You have to fight him. These visions aren't real, no matter how painful they may be. Just don't listen to him, don't trust him, he knows what can hurt you and he'll use it against you.

"You're lying, that's not true." His voice sounded weak, powerless, that he was the one lying to himself. "They wouldn't say that about me… I know it… not them, not Twilight…"

Discord actually burst out laughing. "Oh, that's priceless! You actually think that she's any different, do you? Do you think she's special? Believe me Dusk, I haven't shown you the worst part yet…"

He once again conjured up a colour cloud, Twilight's face forming inside it. She looked angry, distressed even. Dusk didn't want to look, didn't want to listen, but something kept him watching, meant he couldn't tear his eyes away.

"I can't feel about somepony... like that. Friendship is one thing, but romance? That's just silly! Absolute nonsense!"

Somehow, this was even more destroying than the last vision. Him. She was talking about him and her romantic feelings. This was even worse, watching her dismiss it so angrily, so fiercely. He could actually feel his heart shatter as she continued on, still resolutely determined to deny it.

"It's just silly. I mean, devoting all of your time trying to dote somepony, woo them, when they may not even feel the same way? That just doesn't make any sense, it's foolish!"

"No!" He actually screamed now, waving it away. "No, no! It's not true, it can't be!"

"It seems that what they say is right," Discord commented casually. "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. It hurts, doesn't it Dusk? To know what they really think, what she really thinks?"

"But I know how you work Discord!" He tried desperately to clutch at what little chances he had. "This is what you do, show ponies their deepest desires and fears and use them against them. This isn't real, it's a trick!"

"But you know yourself what Twilight thinks of romance Dusk," he countered, grinning with amusement. "Some of it may be tricks, some may not be. The question is how can you tell what is real..." He reached up to his face and pulled it away like a mask, "... and what is false?"

"I… I…" Dusk simply couldn't answer.

It was as if watching his worst, deepest fears had struck him dumb. He just hurt so much, felt so much pain, worse than any physical wound. Let it end, he thought desperately, just let it end. That voice telling him to resist had been silenced, Discord's truth reigning over. He was right… he had been all along. Perhaps he had always known, but didn't want to see it…

"Oh, but it's even worse what's to come." Discord's words were bitterly enticing and entrancing, as he watched him hover around, tears in his eyes. "I've shown you the past, the present… let's see what the future has in store, shall we?"

Once again, Dusk watched as the colour cloud formed the scene. It depicted himself, standing before the library, silently begging the girls, who were all going off their separate ways and failing miserably. Soon, he was left alone, staring desperately after where they had all gone. He collapsed his head in his hooves and wept, wept to be so alone, alone after the lie that he had actually had friends and the cruel truth that had now come to light.

"They're gone," wept his future self, "they're all gone… they left me… they promised they wouldn't leave me…"

After a few seconds, Dusk stopped sobbing, the future one and just stared at the ground. His body was now shaking, not from weeping, but with rage. When he next spoke, his voice no longer sounded gentle and timid, but deeper and angrier.

"If my curse is to be alone… then this whole land, this entire realm… will suffer with me!"

He raised his head and opened his eyes. They were no longer emerald green, but jade, the pupils becoming cat-like slits. His fur colour changed too, his dark-blue fur deepening in colour to become darkest black. He flung his trilby angrily to the floor, revealing a bone-white mane and tail, which was now wild and untamed. His expression was one of utter fury, mixed with a deep pain and loss, truly terrifying to behold.

"None have ever accepted me," he said in that anger-filled voice, "now none ever will. They thought Discord was bad? Wait until I get started…"

Then, with an animal-like screech of rage, this hideous malformation of himself shone with dark power, creatures from the darkest crevices emerging to serve him in his rage, to share in his anger. A black hole of rage and pain, doom to all who stood before him-

"NO!" He screamed at the top of his lungs, tearing away his gaze and collapsing to the floor. "No! No, no, no, no… no…" Now he really did begin to cry, to weep for his loss, for what was to come that he had no hope of stopping…

"Aw Dusk, the truth hurts doesn't it?" He felt Discord's claw on his back, patting consolingly. "You see, things were better as they were, weren't they? When the only one to disappoint was yourself… who knows, if you go back now, it may not be too late." He looked into his red eyes, holding him in a hypnotic gaze. "Time to wake up from the dream Dusk. You are alone and always will be. You may not be anything to anypony, but its better that way, don't you think?"

"Yes... no, no!" He desperately wrenched his gaze away, fighting back his tears. "No... no, it... it isn't real, it isn't... no."

"Oh stop fighting little Dusk." He felt something wrench away his hat and place a cold claw touch the top of his head. "Just give in, like you know you want to..."

In that instant, all of his fears, his insecurities, his doubts, flooded into his mind and became truth once more. He could feel it, worming its way through every vein in his body, changing and corrupting him, helpless to stop it and yet... welcoming it. Like he had been living a kind of cruel dream and he was now being brought back to an even crueller, but honest reality...

"Yes… you're right," he responded blankly, only vaguely aware his fur was now becoming grey in colour. "It wasn't me, it never was… I won't be like that, I won't be evil… I'll just be alone, not bother anypony."

"Good, doesn't that feel better now?" Discord grinned and flew up above him. "Now, I have some appointments to keep. Farewell, little Dusk. See you… well, whenever."

Discord left, vanished in a flash of light and left Dusk alone, as he should be, weeping on the cold stone floor.

"Dusk no! No, don't listen to him it's not true, whatever he told you, it isn't!" Twilight cried desperately down at the book, in which she could see Dusk, who had now faded away from the pages, tears glistening in his eyes, just as he had screamed no to something he had seen. Whatever it had been, he had looked absolutely terrified.

She couldn't see what Discord had been showing him to make him like this, but seeing his pained expressions, hearing his helpless cries made her feel tortured enough. This was what she wanted to avoid, she didn't want him to get mixed up in this. He wasn't part of it, he didn't deserve it. Now, he had been reduced to this state, broken, with nothing but his inner pain. She shouldn't have left him behind, he should have been here with them… with her.

"Look at him blubber," she heard Discord say harshly. "Really, I don't know what you saw in him."

Twilight's regret for leaving Dusk, her sadness at seeing him like this, was now replaced with anger at the spirit of chaos. She turned to face him, looking right into his eyes, wishing she could curse him into a million pieces.

"Why did you do that? He did nothing to you!"

"Hey, I'm the one who's been trapped in stone for a thousand years." He gave her his wicked grin. "Can you blame me for having a little fun?"

"Yes I can! That's not fun, that's cruel beyond belief! And you did that to him!" She pointed up at him. "I don't care how long it takes now. I'm gonna find the Elements of Harmony, I'm gonna find my friends and then we're gonna stop you. For good!"

"Big words Twilight Sparkle, but let's see if you'll stand by them afterwards." He didn't elaborate further on these words but simply smiled even wider. "Well, time to be off. The game is still going and there are still other players I have yet to see. I suppose I'll see you when it's time for my 'big end' Twilight Sparkle," he said with sarcastic air quotes. "So long!"

He vanished once again, taking his strange library with him and leaving Twilight in the clearing of the maze. In front of her, a section of the maze fell away, leading back into its twisting labyrinth. Time to get back in the game, she thought, still with seething anger for what Discord had done.

She still had the question as to why Discord had targeted Dusk. She remembered him telling her that he enjoyed tormenting and toying with other ponies during his rule, so she supposed that was the purpose behind it. Simply because he wasn't here and he was close to her and her friends, that was why Discord had targeted him. If he'd done it to try and dishearten her, to make her feel like giving up, then he had failed. She was now even more resolved to end his games.

Remembering the look of pain that Dusk had on his face when Discord was tormenting him, she let this drive her as she galloped through the twists and turns of the maze. Even more than ever, she was determined to stop Discord for all time, to find her friends and the Elements and to make him pay for what he'd done to Dusk. As long as they were together, nothing would stop them.

"I'll show you, Discord," she growled under her breath. "We're gonna stop you and that's a promise."

As she galloped deeper into the maze, the minutes passing by, she suddenly heard a voice nearby, with a familiar Southern accent. Applejack! Pushing herself further, she glanced to the side as a bit of the hedge opened up. She backed up and saw the Stetson-topped pony standing in the clearing.

"Applejack! Thank goodness! I thought I heard voices over here. Who were you talking to?" she asked as she approached her, only now realising that her fur, her whole body, was a duller in colour than before.

"Ah was talking to... uh... nopony! Nopony whatsoever!" she insisted, her eyes shifting from left to right. Her demeanour was more tense, less relaxed than normal. So was she, but this was... different.

"What?" she asked unsurely.

"Nothin'." That shifty look came back as she walked past her. "Come on, uh, we best be going."

Twilight watched as she left, a horrible thought ocurring. "Did Applejack just...? Come on, Twilight! Applejack wouldn't lie."

Confident that her heightened emotions were getting the better of her and deciding that she'd figure out her strange fur colour later, Twilight followed Applejack out, glad that she had found one of her friends. Even so, she couldn't shake the feeling that this had something to do with Discord... and that he'd done something similar to Dusk.

Dusk raised his head, at a loss as to what to do now. Memories of all the times he'd spent with his friends… helping Rainbow with her practice… watching a sunset with Applejack… taking tea with Rarity… picking out a pet with Fluttershy… baking with Pinkie… dancing with Twilight… it was all lies, every single thing he'd ever done with them or for them. And he had been foolish enough to believe them, like being immersed in a story… but this story was over. The book had been closed and reality had crashed in around him.

Now what would he do? He was back at square one, the useless Dusk who was no good to anypony, who didn't deserve friends because he was such a waste of space. It didn't matter whether or not he found whatever Luna had sent him here for, he wouldn't be able to use it, whatever it was. Let somepony else do it, somepony braver and better than him. The girls would cope without him, not that that would be difficult. He would just melt away, from their minds and hearts, back to how he used to be… only now he really had learned his lesson. Letting himself think he would be accepted would just get him hurt… as it had.

Still feeling the aching in his heart, feeling how heavy the necklace around his neck seemed to have become, he turned to drag himself out of the Castle, back into the forest. Who knows, maybe some creature would come along and eat him, then he wouldn't have to be a problem to anypony anymore… at this point, he just didn't care… it had all been for nothing. He turned to leave, to trudge back through the trees.

Then something very strange happened.

He was aware of a flash of bright light behind him. He turned slowly, thinking that Discord had returned to torment him some more. He would welcome the pain, for perhaps chaos would be a better world than harmony could ever offer. But it wasn't the spirit of chaos. A large, swirling white orb had appeared at the centre of the room, beating and pulsating as if alive, patterns of blue moving like an ocean.

He stared at it, trying to make sense of it. It looked like some kind of magic, very powerful magic. He could feel it radiating energy from where he stood. At first, he was tempted to run, in case it was dangerous. Then again, if it was, it would end his pain forever. But something told him it wasn't dangerous and it wouldn't hurt him. He couldn't be entirely sure, but he wanted to know, his curiosity getting the better of him. A closer look couldn't hurt…

He walked closer, slowly, cautiously, halting when he was feet from it. Carefully, he touched it with his hoof. It felt strangely warm, inviting, as if it had been waiting here for him to arrive and was here to welcome him. Though his common sense told him to just leave it be, that other feeling told him to walk even closer, to step inside that some kind of solution would present itself if it did. Well… it couldn't be any worse than staying here. Maybe something better would happen if he did do it.

Adjusting his hat so it was a little straighter, he breathed in, quelling his pain as best he could and stepped into the orb. All he could see was a bright light, so much so that he closed his eyes. His body felt warm, safe inside this place, whatever it was.

All of a sudden, he felt his body jerk, like he'd just been yanked by a length of rope, being pulled somewhere. He screamed, but couldn't hear his own voice. He tried to resist, but there was nothing to hold on to, it was too strong. In that moment, Dusk was lifted off his feet, being dragged away by whatever strange force had taken him. But in that moment, one thought went through his head, one that revelled in the thrill of wherever this was taking him:

"Once more unto the breach, dear friends!" Though he couldn't hear himself speak, he still felt a smile growing in spite of himself, as he was taken out of his place and time, to wherever it was taking him.

On the outside in the ancient ruin, the orb shrunk away and vanished, its light lingering for a few moments, then fading too. Almost as if it and the pony who had walked inside it were never there.

Nothing moved. Everything was quiet and still, undisturbed but for the growls or chirps of unseen creatures. That is until a dark shape by one of the windows leaped and took flight, never being seen but knowing its task had been completed.

Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!
Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!