• 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...

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Memories

Present day…

Dusk snapped his eyes open as the whirling and tingling stopped and he felt his hooves hit solid ground. He was no longer in the ruins of the castle, past or present, but looked to be at the edge of the Everfree Forest, on the very threshold of the trees. Quickly, he scurried away from the trees and breathed a sigh of relief. He'd had enough of that forest and there was no way he was going back in there again.

He glanced down at his neck to see the stone fragment he'd found hanging around his neck, the seventh along with others. So… that had really happened then. He had seen the use of the Elements of Harmony for the first time in a thousand years, as well as the ponies he had once called his friends… for the last time.

Now he was back and it was time to fulfill his vow. Time to slip away, never to be found again. He couldn't go back to his house in Ponyville, for he wasn't sure if he could. He considered returning to Canterlot, but where could he go? What if he became his darker self while staying with his parents? He couldn't live with himself if he did anything that might hurt the ponies he loved. He remembered a series of rocky passages near Whitetail Wood. Perhaps there would be an empty cave there he could take refuge inside… live out the rest of his days in exile… a horrible thought, but a necessary one. It was for the best.

With a heavy heart, he set off towards the direction of the wood, passing the spot where he had once followed a certain cyan Pegasus pony… the memory flooded back to him, appearing as clearly as the day he had first been there…

"Here we are," she declared, descending again. "The edge of the Everfree Forest. Nopony ever comes near here. Unless you're me, of course."

"Of course..." he murmured, eyeing the forest warily.

"Hey," she said, raising an eyebrow, "you're not scared, are you?"

"Um... well er..." He hated looking so weak on front of her. "A little..."

"Don't worry, there's nothing to be scared of in..." She paused and, in a spooky voice "... the Everfree Forest!"

"Uh... yeah..."

"Relax Dusky, I'm only kidding." She laughed at how ridiculous he no doubt looked. "I like you, Dusk. You're alright."

Despite what had happened that day, he couldn't help but smile fondly at it. Having just run away, thinking he'd made the stupidest mistake in his life, he'd met Rainbow Dash… and just ended up making another one. Even so, they had still forgiven him afterwards, though he went on to make another stupid mistake shortly afterwards.

That had been the first time he'd used his colour puppetry for something useful, something that had helped somepony that needed. Even if it hadn't quite gone as he had planned, he'd still done it rather than back down away from it. He'd always had headaches afterwards from the practice sessions that he did with her in future, especially after the Young Flyers Competition, but it had still been worth it… he was going to miss those days.

Stopping at the hill, he happened to look back at the town, with its thatched straw roofs and wooden houses.. Ponyville, that had felt more like his true home than Canterlot ever had. Everypony was so much more happy, so much more open... and he had lived out the best days of his life here. He wanted nothing more than to run back home, to just stay there forever. But it was better for him to never see it again than to see it in the flames of chaos, especially if he was causing them... remember it as it was

Walking on a little further, he came across a lake, again a place that held significance for him. He paused for a moment, then crossed over to one specific part of the water's edge. Recalling how he had been, he lay down by it and stared down into the water, almost wishing that she would be here again. Jumping up out of the depths, wearing a snorkel and flippers, ready to try and cheer him up with some helpful advice…

"Hey, Dusk?" He looked back up at her. "Let me ask you something: have you ever talked to any other ponies before?"

"Um... no." Why had she asked that?

"Have you ever tried to make friends with anypony before?"

"No... not really..."

"Then how do you know that they'll get bored of you if you've never tried?"

"I... well... you see..." Dusk couldn't think of anything to say. He had nothing to say.

"Mmhmm," she hummed in satisfaction. "Right, I gotta go. Lots to do and little time. See ya later Dusk, remember what I told you!"

"I did remember what you told me," he murmured, reaching out and touching the water with his hoof, making the clear surface ripple. "That was the start of it…"

He left it for a few moments, then drew it back, viewing his reflection in the water, as if he thought it might look different from that day. It was like a cycle, that he should return here once more after discovering that he was no good for friendships, nor would he ever be. He would never fool himself with such beliefs again, as it was far worse now.

Trying to ignore that, just for a moment, he witnessed a brief flash on the water's edge of that dark rage-filled face and burning eyes that may or may not become his own, he gazed out to the opposite end of the lake. There, at that spot, was where he'd first tried his hoof at being useful… and it had worked without any hitches…

"We did it," Fluttershy said proudly. "Thank you for your help, Dusk. You did a wonderful job."

"He, it's alright..." He could feel his cheeks flush. "I just... did what I could... you did most of it..."

"But you helped anyway. Thank you so much for taking the time to. You're a really nice pony."

"Well... um er... thanks, Fluttershy. It... that means a lot to me," he said sincerely.

"You're welcome," she said. Just seeing that grateful smile on her face made him glow inside.

Fluttershy… that had been the first time he'd seen her gentle kindness with animals. He wondered where that little family of ducks was now, if they would remember him at all. He shut his eyes, the surface of the water now being broken by the tears that rolled down his cheeks. The surface rippled again and he saw that horrible face, the dark fur, that painful grimace.

"Dusk." In that chilling voice, it sent a shiver up his spine. "You cannot run from me. I am you and nothing can change that."

"I can," Dusk replied, staring back down at him. "I can make sure you never come to light and that my mind remains mine."

"But I am you Dusk. I am you, fully realised, your pain and fear fully embraced." He gave him a horrible smile, one with no warmth whatsoever. "In a way, we are brothers, you and I. Let me out Dusk."

"No, no I'll never let you out. I'll never be you," he insisted, trying to control his fear.

"Don't run from the inevitable. You cannot stop me, nor can you keep your friends safe by running. I'll get out, Dusk and I'll become you fully. Then, you will be truly forgotten. Isn't that what you want?"

"I don't want this!" His doppleganger's smile grew even more sinister, like he was mocking him. "I'd rather die before I become like you. I am not you, I am my own self, won't let my pain take over."

"But you already have, little Dusk. Pain is all you know now, misery and disappointment. It's all you can hope to be. Why not just accept it? You might even enjoy it..."

"Never!" he cried, as he started to cackle. "Stop it, leave me alone. Get out of my head!"

"You mean our head. I can't leave, not ever, I'm a part of you and always will be."

"No... no, never..."

"Let me out Dusk... give in to hate."

"No!"

"Let me out NOW!"

"NO!" He slapped the water with his hoof, his breathing heavy. "I won't let you, never!" There was no reply. His reflection had returned to normal.

He stared at the spot where his darker self had appeared to him. This was now an even stronger reminder of why he had to leave. He couldn't let that part of him take over, not now and not ever. For the ponies he loved... he had to do this. The pain now seeming even worse now, he stood up and walked away, back towards the wood.

He lifted his head up at the sound of flapping wings and felt a sudden jolt of joy when he saw his pet, as she landed on his outstretched leg. "Hello Ophelia."

She gave him a gentle hoot and an inquisitive tilt of her head. She wanted to know where he was going. "I'm leaving, Ophelia. I know it's sad but… it's for the best." He stroked her feathers with tender care. "You don't have to come with me, you can just go but… it's what I need to do." She stared at him for a few moments, then shook her head and nipped his cheek with her beak. "You… you're coming with me?" She nodded, her amber eyes boring into him. Well, at least someone wanted him around. "Thank you… come on, let's go."

He let her take off and fly above him, watching after her. Though he was leaving to keep the girls safe and so they wouldn't have to put up with him, but there was no sense in leaving his pet behind. He just couldn't stand the thought of it… he might as well keep a few memories of his once happy times.

The two of them reached the trees of Whitetail Wood, its flowers still in bloom for summer, gracing him with a colourful beauty he didn't feel he deserved. He couldn't help but remember the names of ones he saw. Foxglove, snowdrop, lilies… and lilacs. Another memory flooded back to him, when he first contemplated romance…

"I thought so," she said knowingly.

"W-w-what?"

"What you just said," she clarified. "You and Twilight do have a lot in common, spend a lot of time together. I thought that, if anypony would have your affection, it would be her." She smiled even more warmly.

"B-b-but... I'm not sure if I do... feel that way, about her..." he went on pathetically. "I mean... I don't know..."

"Well, let's see then, said Rarity. "Do you often find your thoughts drift to her?"

"Um... quite a bit, I guess..."

"Do you often pass glances at her, one might say, even stare?"

"Um... perhaps..."

"Do you enjoy her company, to the point that it's almost difficult to think of leaving her side?"

"...Yes..."

"Then, there is no doubt about it," she said confidently, still smiling. "Personally, I think that the two of you would make a very cute couple."

"That's um... nice of you to say so. But," he added sadly, "she thinks romance is a waste of time... chasing after somepony who may not even return your feelings... I don't think I have much of a chance..."

"I don't think so dear. From what Twilight told us, she thought much the same of friendship once upon a time. Now look at her. I'm sure that, in time, she would start to look at romance in much the same light. It may take some time, but she will."

"But... how will I know if she even feels the same way?"

"Most times, you can't. But that's the thrill of love, not quite knowing but that elation you feel when you realise they do feel the same..." She sighed again. "There's nothing else like it..."

Dusk nodded at this. "So... you think I might... have a chance with her?"

"I don't think you will, I know you will," she said confidently. "We'll keep this between us, as I promised, but if there is anyway I can help at all, don't hesitate to ask."

"Okay... thank you, Rarity." There was one thing he felt he should ask. "Is there anything do you think I should do, you know... to show Twilight how I feel?"

"Dusk, quite frankly, you've been doing all of the right things so far," she informed him. "You two are already close friends, you share much of the same interests. You seem to go out of your way for her, can make conversation easily... oh, and the flowers, that was a wonderful gesture. I'm sure she was grateful for those."

"She was, yes... so, should I just... keep doing what I'm doing?"

"Yes, do. One thing that scares a girl off is moving too quickly. Take it nice and slowly, pay her the occasional compliment on her appearance or her work. You do that, I'm sure you'll succeed. After all, you have me helping you."

Feeling compelled to, he picked one of the lilacs and revolved it in the air before him. To think, he'd actually thought his foolish endeavours would work, that he could ever hope to win the heart of Twilight Sparkle. That was even worse than the illusion that he'd actually had friends. Just like that, it had all been for nothing.

"It didn't work, did it?" He sighed, letting the flower fall onto the earth and trudging on. Was it some kind of torture, that he was being forced to relive these fallacies of happiness? Times he could never hope to live again, now or ever…

"What need have you of love? What purpose does it serve, but for pain? Pain that you can embrace to become stronger than you ever believed. Give in..." Ignoring his darker self, Dusk shook his head and carried on his path.

It happened again when he reached a clearing, in a meadow filled with flowers with a shaded tree growing nearby. Wondering over, he soon found it. A little shoot, spouting from the ground, certainly bigger than when he'd first planted it…

"Wait a sec..." Applejack picked up one of the cores, extracted the seeds with care and delicately planted them in a spacious patch of the meadow. Dusk helped her dig a hole, covering it up a few seconds later. "There... now there'll soon be a nice new apple tree in this here spot."

"New life in spring, a wonderful thing," Dusk mused to himself, making Applejack smile. "Thanks for today AJ, it was... memorable."

"Ah sure hope so," she chuckled. "No problem Dusk, ah had fun with y'all."

"I suppose… it was rather fun." Allowing himself a smile, he gently nudged the shoot. "Keep growing, little one… you'll certainly accomplish more than I ever could…"

"But you can, if you only let me out, my friend," his darker self put in. He could picture him grinning. "Come on, try it..."

"Be quiet," he ordered harshly.

"Am I getting to you? Good!" He laughed again and fell silent, but he was still there... he could feel him.

Setting back on the path, he reached the sign posted spot that led up into the rocky caverns. Ophelia had landed on top of it and was patiently waiting for him, as he stopped at the fork. This was it. The last threshold to his life in exile.

Just before he ventured up, he stopped and turned his head around. He could still trace his hooves over the path he had taken, when he had been conserving his energy to run part of a race, with the most wonderful pony he'd ever met…

"Oh my, Dusk," she sighed, bringing him out of his thoughts, "isn't Whitetail Wood lovely?"

"Yes, it is," he agreed, gazing around at the bare trees and feeling the leaves crunching beneath his hooves. "The beauty of nature is truly one of the greatest things about the world, there can be no doubt."

"Yeah," she sighed again. "See, I told you this would be a great experience."

"That you did." He smiled his best smile. "Thanks for convincing me to come along, I'm really having a good time."

"Me too," she agreed. "Autumn is such a beautiful time of year, don't you think?"

"It is… but I can't share anymore with you," he whispered, the tears starting afresh. He heard a cackle, in that deep voice and was reminded again of why he was doing this.

"Time to go? But there was so much we could do, you and I Dusk," that chilling voice spoke.

"No there wasn't." He bowed his head and tried to ignore him. "Not now, not ever."

"We'll see..." Another sinister chuckle and there was silence once more. Time to go, as he had said.

"Goodbye, Twilight Sparkle… goodbye everypony." His tears splashing on the dirt below, he hung his head and walked this path, alone. As he was meant to.

He didn't know what was worse: the fact that he would never again feel as happy as he had in all of those memories he'd experienced or that they were never real to begin with, that they weren't enjoying themselves. By all rights, he should feel bitter, angry that they had pretended for so long and hadn't told him the truth to begin with. And yet…

Dusk didn't feel anything like that. Whatever the intentions might have been at the time, he had still enjoyed himself at every moment he had spent with the girls. Regardless of what they felt, they had showed him so much, that he could do good things if he tried by just being himself, that he could be more than he had ever thought he would be. Who knows, maybe they had enjoyed themselves a little bit and he still had the memories of what they had done, along with whatever pride and accomplishments came with them. Those feelings certainly weren't false and that, nopony could take away.

Feeling a little less badly, he came across a small section in the rocky paths, large enough for him to fit in. Well, it was as good a spot as any. He could worry about things like food and water later. Right now, he would just need to get used to this.

"Hm yes, an excellent piece of cave real estate." He jumped when he heard Discord's manipulative voice and whipped around to see him grinning. "Look, it's even up for sale!" He snapped his fingers and a 'for sale' sign appeared in front of it, though the sign was upside down.

"What are you here for?" he asked bitterly.

"I'm just here looking for you. You just seemed to vanish and I was so worried about you," he said in a mock concern tone. "Tell me, where did you go off to?"

Knowing deep down that he shouldn't tell him, Dusk looked away. "What does it matter to you?"

"It does matter." He whipped his face in front of him, his eyes making contact with Dusk's. "Tell me, where did you go?"

Dusk stared into those blood-red depths, as they seemed to shift and change in colour. At first, he was going to tell him, to let him see all that happened but… it was like something was telling him to resist, a little voice deep inside of him to keep this information no matter what. Whenever it seemed Discord gained a hold of him, he was able to squirm out of it. Eventually, he pulled away completely.

"That's none of your business, my lord." He gave a mock bow and turned away from Discord, determined not to let him have further satisfaction.

"Oh really, you think you can just walk away?" He felt a pain in his skull as Discord grabbed his head, all composure and charisma gone. "Tell me, now!"

Dusk could feel him, worming his way into his mind. He was too powerful, there was nothing he could do to stop him now. Once Discord did this, there was no chance at resistance. Yet, every time Discord tried to access his memories, he could fend off his jabbing probe. He was strong, but something else was giving Dusk strength, something that was keeping him out... but how long could he keep it up.

"Get... out ... of... my... HEAD!" he shouted mentally, pressing on a kind of weak offensive, nothing substantial, but enough to keep him out.

Eventually, he felt Discord's presence withdraw and he opened his eyes, feeling drained. The draconequus was staring at him with a curious expression and perhaps a hint of... fear?

"How are you doing that?" he asked in a low, dangerous voice.

"I... don't know and... I don't care." He pulled himself up to his hooves and turned away from him again. "Haven't you tormented me enough?"

A moment of silence, then his mocking tone was back. "Tormented? I have simply shown you the truth, before it was too late and now I'm here to make sure you're settling in nicely enough. Do you need anything? Pillows? A book perhaps? How about a hug?" He made eye contact with him again and, once more, everything he said was truth… at least, he thought it was… wasn't it? So why was that little voice saying otherwise?

Dusk wrenched his gaze away from his hypnotic eyes and returned to the cave. Knowing the spirit of chaos was just trying to toy with his mind even more, Dusk turned away. "What I need is for you to leave, Discord. Leave and don't come back."

There was a moment of silence, like Discord was contemplating what he said. He thought he heard him mumble something, but he then spoke louder.

"Oh, well that's gratitude for you." He patted Dusk on the back and he felt a sudden jolt shoot up his spine. "Don't worry, if all goes well, I'll never have to come looking for you again. Au revoir, little Dusk!"

"What do you… what did you just do?" He got no answer, for Discord had vanished again.

He examined his back, seeing no marks of any kind, but still feeling a bit suspicious. That jolt and Discord touching him hadn't been a coincidence. Why was he so determined to know where he had been? Did he know something that Dusk didn't? What further tricks did the spirit of chaos have in store for him? He stared at his back for a long while, then just sighed and shrugged… what did it matter? He couldn't help to stand against Discord, nopony could…

Suddenly feeling rather tired, he lay down on the cold, hard earth and tried his best to make himself comfortable. He calmed his mind with the feelings of happiness he'd felt with the girls, trying not to remember whatever cruel truths he had been shown. As he drifted off to sleep, Ophelia nestling on a rock nearby, he remembered something he'd read that was rather appropriate for this…

Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened…


Discord allowed himself a victorious smile, as he watched from outside, the little stallion slump on the cave floor. How could this pony have been what Fore Sight had once foretold? He was nothing, as tiny and powerless as the rest of his little friends. Yet, in that moment…

Discord had seen it, just briefly, but it was there. Somehow, he was able to defy his powers in that little way. He hadn't been able to before, even though he had knowledge of his powers. His fears and doubts had been so easy to use against him. In that moment, he had been able to stop him from using his powers of manipulation, just for a moment, but it had been there, a glimmer of hope and strength he had used… how could that be? He had broken him, his faith in friendship forever shattered. So why did he still seem to resist?

In the end, he just shrugged. Whatever it was, it wouldn't help him for long. He was awake, alert, but not for long. That was little bit of his own magic was just what this was for. Once his mind was dormant, it would go to work and then he would be truly broken. Who knows, once he became corrupted fully, he might make a good servant. The chaos he could wreak when he'd unlocked his full potential.

"Soon Dusk, you'll see things my way, once you give in to your dark side." He gave a little spin in the air and with a flash, returned to the maze. Just one last thing to do…


Despite how heavy this stone was on her back, Rarity having long since abandoned her to carry it by herself and the strange behaviour of her friends, she was still determined. The thought that they could find the Elements, stop Discord… save Dusk. That was what kept her going, kept her fighting. They could still find Rainbow, loyal Rainbow Dash.

"Must... find... Rainbow Dash." She stopped to rest a moment. "As a team... we're unstoppable. Rainbow Dash won't let us down."

Applejack's voice, which hadn't been as honest as before, made her head snap up. "Well, looky there. Rainbow Dash is flyin' away. She's abandonin' us."

"Now I know that's a lie." She cast the stone aside and looked up… to see a Pegasus streak away up into the sky, feeling her heart sink. "How can it be?"

At that moment, the sky was darkened by grim clouds and thunder boomed in her ears. The walls of the maze fell away around them, sinking into the ground, leaving nothing but a dirt crater. Through the smoke, she could see one serpentine figure, his opposite wings flapping to clear away the smoke. When he spoke, his voice was dripping with gloating triumph.

"Well, well, well. Somepony broke the "no wings, no magic" rule." He snapped his fingers and with a flash, their wings and horns returned. That could mean only one thing... "Game's over, my little ponies. You didn't find your precious elements." He conjured up a pink umbrella, which he unfolded backwards and Twilight felt a sense of loss and despair. "Looks like we might be due for a big old storm of chaos!"

As he laughed in triumph, Twilight could only watch in horror. How could they ever hope to win this time? Now he was in power... what hope did they have to stop Discord from reigning chaos... forever?

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