• Published 8th Apr 2013
  • 4,610 Views, 428 Comments

Dusk Dawns - AlphatheGriffin17

Book IV Now taking up lessons with the Princess of the Night, datingthe student of the Princess of the Sun, coping with some bad memories and being the Seventh Element, Dusk certainly has a lot on his plate. And that's just stuff to do with hi

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Luna Eclipsed

Dusk fastened the clasp on his robe, making sure it was fixed securely in place. He didn't want it slipping off while he walked. The clasp itself was a crystal ball, with three stars on the outside. After he was sure this wasn't going to happen, he placed the hood over his head and went to look himself over in the mirror.

The robes he wore were a deep blue and covered with twinkling stars, much like the sky above at night, mixed with hints of black and swirls of violet and every other colour associated with the night. Decorating each star were symbols associated with fortune telling, each one used by the teller to interpret the future shown. Emblazoned on the back was shining white orb, a crystal ball, that looked much more like the moon, that shone brightest of all. His hood covered most of his features, the light glinting off his glasses slightly.

He nodded in satisfaction, pulling the hood a little more tightly over his head to complete the image. After a little help from Rarity, some detailed reading and a few cuts from his attempts at sewing, his costume was now complete to the level of detail that he wanted. Though there wasn't much on him, there were enough physical descriptions of his clothing, as well as some faded images, that Dusk had been able to recreate the image of his ancient ancestor, Fore Sight the Uncanny, ready for Nightmare Night.

It felt a little strange, but also quite fitting. It was like his ancestor had been brought to life again in him and Dusk was more than proud to step into his shoes. There was, of course, the very real chance that most ponies wouldn't recognise who he was, but he didn't mind too much. He was sure Twilight would like it at any rate and even then they would probably guess he was some kind of fortune teller or wizard. Either way, both guesses would be relatively true.

Realising that the time was getting close for him to be getting off into town to meet Twilight, he began to make his way to the door, stopping to glance at Ophelia.

"What do you think?" he asked his snowy owl. Her response was a shy silence. "Come on, don't be like that." That prompted a little hoot from her. "Thank you. Have a good night, my pet." Another hoot followed him out of the door, just as he closed and locked it.

Her hoot, however, wasn't the only thing that accompanied him, a slight pain developing for a moment in his skull. He rubbed until it went away, took in a deep breath of fresh air and set off towards the centre of town, hoping he wouldn't be getting too many of those.

Ever since his lessons with Luna had begun, she had really been putting him through his paces. The times she could come personally were limited, due to her duties as princess and to the fact that she mostly rested during the day to prepare for the night. When she did though, she mostly got him to see how big he could make his shapes and hold them before he had to rest or how many of them he could make until he gave out. He was then expected to do this as practice when she wasn't around, as well as do plenty of reading in order to improve his spell casting.

He was mostly fine with this, for he knew that being her student would be demanding and he was no stranger to hard work and study, though it did decrease the time he spent with his friends significantly. Twilight was the only exception, as she would usually help him in his practice sessions and test him on what he had been studying. Though Dusk was doing the best he could, he couldn't help but feel he was disappointing his teacher somehow. Whenever he gave out from a spell or stopped to rest, he would sometimes catch her frowning at him or looking like she had been expecting something else from him that he had failed to present. Her voice would become a little strained at these times and she would be a little more impatient, until she collected herself and spoke more calmly.

What exactly was it that she was expecting him to do? It was like she was waiting for something great that wasn't actually coming. Again, these moments were brief and she hid them well, but Dusk had seen them, little flashes of it when she thought he wasn't looking. It made him push himself a little harder to try and reach these supposed expectations she had, but then he would exhaust himself all the more, hence the occasional headache. As a result, she only seemed even more let down by his efforts, though she never said it.

What was it he was meant to do? What was he lacking?

He stepped aside to let some excited fillies run past in various costumes, laughing and giggling as they ran. The sight of them cheered him up a little and made his thoughts more optimistic. He often dismissed those questions and told himself that he was just worrying himself by picturing things that didn't exist. Luna was new to teaching and he had never been taught by a princess, so it was perhaps something he was missing. Sure he felt a little concerned when she said they would soon be moving on to Night Magic, but he ultimately trusted her. If she thought he could handle it, he wasn't going to argue

Now wasn't the time to be worrying about that. He would just enjoy Nightmare Night with his friends and marefriend and think about it later. Even Luna, despite the celebrations connotations, had mentioned during their sessions that she would be doing her part to make the Night even better than it ever had been now she had returned. It was, in a sense, her first Nightmare Night too and, as a princess, she would certainly do something interesting with her own celebration. Dusk hadn't found out what, she'd kept that to herself, but he trusted her judgement.

"Look at the borders on these robes," Twilight was saying as he rounded the corner to the library. "These are hoof-stitched!"

"It's a great costume, grandpa," Spike remarked with a chuckle, making her growl angrily at him.

His mood improving even more at the sight of her, Dusk crossed over, shrouded in the dark, so much so she mustn't have recognised him under the hood, for she stared a little warily at him when she saw him. She had been looking around for him before, obviously expecting him, but it still seemed like he'd startled her.

"Um… hello? Can I help you?" she asked unsurely.

Deciding to have a little joke with her, Dusk affected a different voice. "Perhaps I can help you. You seem to be waiting for somepony, from the looks of things."

"I am, my coltfriend," she said pointedly. "You haven't seen a stallion with duke blue fur and a brown mane with a hat and glasses anywhere, have you?"

"I believe I do know the pony you are referring to," he responded with a slight smile. "I saw him not too long ago, as a matter of fact."

"You have? Where?" she asked expectantly.

"Twilight, this guy is kinda creeping me out," Spike whispered. "Come on, let's go."

"Hold on Spike, we have to wait for Dusk first."

"We'll wait for him somewhere less dark, now come on!"

"Spike, get a grip." She turned back to him. "Sorry about him, he's just a little spooked."

"Don't worry, my dear, it's quite all right," he assured her. "I know how easily frightened he can be, even when Owlowiscious hoots unexpectedly in the night while he sleeps."

"What?!" They both said this, but Spike spoke alone next. "H-h-how do you know that?"

"I know you jumped so high your head hit the ceiling. You were wearing an ice pack for a good few hours after that too," he added.

"Who are you? How could you possibly know that?" Twilight demanded.

"I know many things, Twilight Sparkle, like what you had for dinner last Thursday. It was oat cakes and hay fries," he elaborated calmly. "Following that, you proceeded to search again for your missing Smartypants doll, before proceeding to have a peek at a romance novel that caught your eye."

"I only read the first few pages!" she screeched. "Why are you snooping into my business?!"

"I just happen to know these things. For example, I also happen to know where your coltfriend, Dusk Noir, is right now," he added, beginning to step forward.

"How could you possibly know that?" she demanded, looking a little wary as he approached.

"I don't know…" He stepped into the light, speaking normally again, "… just a feeling."

"W-w-wait… Dusk?" Spike dared to ask.

At this, he flung back his hood, bowed to them and grinned. "At your service!"

"Dusk! It is you!" Twilight's smile turned into a frown when she hit him on the leg. "That wasn't funny, I was scared for a moment there."

Rubbing his leg, he shrank back. "I… I'm sorry, Twi," he said, immediately feeling guilty. "I didn't think you'd… I mean, it's Nightmare Night and I thought that… well, I'm sorry…"

He wasn't exactly an expert when it came to jokes and pranks, if anything he preferred not to do them. He hadn't meant to scare them so much, just have a little fun, but now he just felt bad.

"Oh… I can never stay mad at you." She sighed and smiled again. "Apology accepted and I suppose nopony got hurt or anything, so no harm done. Sorry for hitting you."

"It's fine, I suppose I deserved it," he admitted. "Remind me never to scare you like that again though, because that really stings."

"Well, now you know not to mess with me."

"I do indeed," he nodded. "Although, knocking me out and then hitting me. I'm noticing a bit of a violent streak in you."

"It's not a streak," she insisted. "I'm just not afraid to resort to force when threatened."

"Neither am I, but I've never knocked you out."

"Fair enough." She planted a kiss on his leg where she'd hit him, then one on his lips. "That feel better?"

"Much, thank you," he mumbled, blushing.

"Yeah, well, I wasn't worried," Spike put in unconvincingly. "I knew it was you all along, I was just going along with it."

"I'm sure you were Spike," Dusk agreed, the three of them laughing off the incident.

They began to move off to where the main events were taking place in the town. Along the way, Dusk saw ponies dressed up as so many different things: ninjas, wizards, pirates, vampires, zombies. Some were in couple costumes, such as a stallion he recognised from when Twilight was speaking to him at the celebration, Nightfall she said he was called, with a mare he didn't recognize. They were both dressed as a knight and a princess respectively. Well, it was comforting to know he didn't have intentions for Twilight at least. He also saw Gentle Dream, who beamed at him from a costume of a star, alongside a stallion dressed up like the moon. A little odd, maybe, but rather fitting.

It was like fiction and history come to life at the same time. One might have found it a little disturbing at first, seeing what was essentially horrors and terrors only heard in stories come alive before them, but Dusk found it rather charming. It was a colourful and varied sight, rather pleasing to the eye to see so many ponies having fun and dressing up in ways they usually wouldn't. His costume too got a few admiring eyes, so it wasn't too bad.

"So, Spike," he said to his fellow assistant, who was munching on some candy, "you dressed up as… a dragon?"

He swallowed loudly and belched. "Yeah, pretty good huh?"

"Really? You're a dragon and you dressed up as… a dragon?" he repeated unsurely.

"Yeah, what's wrong with that?" he asked indignantly.

"Nothing," he said quickly. "Just that it's um… well…"

"It's what?"

"Never mind," he sighed, dropping the issue.

"Well, at least you know what I am. What are you meant to be?" he asked. "Like a fortune teller or… a wizard or something?"

"Hmm…" Twilight scanned his costume, then her face lit up with realisation. "Oh, I see, you're Fore Sight! Great costume, very accurate."

"Thanks, Rarity helped me mostly," he added modestly. "And you… you're Starswirl the Bearded, aren't you?"

"Yes! I knew you'd get it," she beamed proudly. "It's a little annoying though, so far nopony else has understood my costume."

"You did say it was from obscure unicorn history," pointed out Spike.

"I know, but expect at least a few to get it," she insisted. "I mean, Star Swirl the Bearded is only the most important conjurer of the pre-classical era. He created more than two-hundred spells! He even has a shelf in the Canterlot library of magic named after him."

Dusk waited until they walked by the band playing on stage before speaking again. "I guess some ponies don't do their research as well as you and I do."

"Yeah, I guess," she agreed. "Hey, that's something! Maybe we should start up a pony group to teach ponies about history. I bet everypony would love it! Don't you, Spike?

Spike replied with a mouth full of sweets, "I'll love it."

"I don't know Twilight, I don't think I'd be much of a teacher," Dusk professed.

"Oh come on Dusk, I'm sure you'd be great! We could have fun with it."


"Hey look, we're here already!" He looked up to see himself surrounded by various Nightmare Night activities. "Should we get something to eat?" Spike answered with another burp from his mountain of candy confectionaries.

Dusk was very soon enjoying himself at the celebration. Pinkie showed up, dressed up like a chicken with a small group of children, showing off her haul of candy until Rainbow Dash scared her off with a lightning bolt from behind. As a result, Spike almost choked on the candy he had been eating. Applejack, dressed as a scarecrow and mistaking Twilight's costume for a country music singer, had offered them a round of apple bopping. Oddly enough, both hers and Pinkie's guess to his own costume were closer than to Twilight's, a fact she was a little annoyed at.

"I mean, you can at least guess I look like a wizard!" she exclaimed. "The pointy hat says it all!" Dusk had remained in an embarrassed silence at this.

Afterwards, the Mayor had prompted them all to follow Zecora, dressed like a voodoo priestess, to reiterate the legend of Nightmare Moon. Every year, out of fear of the corrupted Princess, ponies would wear costumes as a disguise, so that Nightmare Moon wouldn't descend like a bat out of Tautaurus and eat them up. They would remain this way until the night has passed and they were safe from danger.

Just as Zecora was telling them how they would also leave her candy to fill up her belly just in case she tried to eat them, Dusk wondered what Luna would think about all of this if she were here. It had been quite some time since the Princess of Night had been freed from her dark influence and she had been gone from Equestria for quite a while prior to that. What opinion would she have on the demonised version of herself? His mind also strayed to another question: what did she have planned for this Nightmare Night?

He soon got an answer to this.

"Everypony! Just dump some candy and get out of here!" Pinkie screamed, unloading her whole bag before the statue of Nightmare.

"Pinkie, it's fine," Dusk said, speaking for the first time since they'd arrived here. "There's nothing for you to-"

He stopped speaking when he noticed the wind had picked up, his cloak billowing in the breeze and blowing his hood off again. Looking to the sky, he saw dark clouds had formed, covering all but the moon as they swirled like a violent ocean in a storm, complete with flashes of lightning and booms of thunder. Out of a bright light, he saw a carriage whipping through the air, pulled by two Shadow Guards and, sat in the passenger seat, a shrouded figure in a travelling cloak.

"It's Nightmare Moon! Run!" At Pinkie's suggestion, everypony except him and Twilight sprinted for the safety of the town.

They exchanged a look with one another. "You don't think that's really…?"

"It might be," Dusk nodded. "Do you think we should get back to town?"

"Might be a good idea. Come on," she commanded, leading by example.

Hurrying quick pace beside Twilight, Dusk's mind must be reflecting the clouds above them. If he was right and this was Luna, this might present a problem. Though he knew the Shadow Guards were her personal protection and that the storm clouds were just an after effect of her powers of the night combined with her power of the weather from her Pegasus side, the rest of the town wouldn't and Luna clearly didn't seem to think much of it. They'd see it as quite terrifying and considering it was Nightmare Night...

They arrived back to see the carriage now hovering over the square, the storm clouds still billowing around it and the cloaked figure descending majestically from it. Everypony recognised a royal presence and sunk into low, albeit petrified, bows. It was like in the historical accounts he'd read on how typically the Princess of the Night would visit a village. Though he was a little worried for her, he couldn't help but gaze in awe when she threw back her hood and revealed her face to the crowd.

"It is her!" Twilight whispered, bowing too. "Do you think we should greet her?"

"Hold on, let's see what she does," Dusk murmured in reply.

He watched as she approached them, her cloak transforming into a swarm of bats and flying into the night and gave them what she thought was a pleasant smile, but it came off as more terrifying. She probably just thought her subjects as being polite, for she seemed unfazed by everypony's reaction to her.

"Citizens of Ponyville! We have graced thy tiny village with our presence, so that you might behold the real princess of the night!" she boomed in the Royal Voice. "The creature of nightmare is no longer, but instead a pony who desires thou love and admiration! Together we shall change this dreadful celebration into a bright and glorious feast!" A lightning strike flashed behind her in closing of her speech.

"Did you hear that, everypony? Nightmare Moon says she's gonna feast on us all!" With a loud scream, Pinkie and her group of children stampeded off again.

Luna was quite bewildered. "What?! No children, no! Thou no longer have reason to fear us! Screams of delight is what thy princess desires, not screams of terror!" Her hoof stamped so hard the ground cracked beneath it. "Madame Mayor, the princess of the night hath arrived."

She thrust out her hoof for the Mayor to shake, but instead she cowered in terror, as if the princess meant to strike her down. Luna, confused by her reaction, tried again on two other ponies but was met by the same reaction.

"Very well then. Be that way," she said, offended by it. "We won't even bother with the traditional royal farewell." With that, she stalked off by herself in a huff.

Twilight was among the first to rise. "I'm gonna go talk to her."

"You can't talk to her! She's Nightmare Moon!" insisted Spike, tugging on her robe.

"No, she's not. I saw the Elements of Harmony change her back to good!" she reminded him. "But it seems like she's having some trouble adjusting after being gone for a thousand years. Is this ever a problem with you two?"

"Not really, I sort of knew what expect when I first met her," he informed. "She does still talk loudly, but I'm used to it, as with her use of old pony dialect."

"Clearly, the town isn't. Let's go, we need to try and help her adapt."

Something pushed Dusk to say, "Hold on Twilight. If it's all right, I'd prefer to see if I can do this myself."

"Huh? Why is that?" She was clearly just as surprised by this as she was.

"It's not that I don't want your help, far from it. It's just that… well, she and I… we're the same in more ways than one. I used to fear rejection and solitude, long ago…" He trailed off for a minute in thought. "I want to see if I can use what I've learned to help her fit in, like you girls did with me. Plus, she's my teacher and I feel that, as her student, I should help her."

Twilight frowned for a moment, but nodded in understanding. "Okay. You go, but we'll be here if you need any help. Good luck."

"Duly noted and hopefully I won't need it." Calling upon his feelings of affection and respect for her, Dusk created a puppet of Luna and followed it as it led him off, though he had a good idea of where she might be.

His suspicions were confirmed when he found her, sat forlornly in front of the statue of Nightmare Moon in the forest. Understanding what it was she must be going through, for Dusk could still remember how he felt whenever somepony mentioned Doom, he walked quietly up to her, dispelling his magic and halting a few feet away.

He cleared his throat and she turned, her face brightening at the sight of him. "Dusk! It is good to see thee!"

"The feeling is mutual, Luna," he returned, bowing slightly.

"I thought thou had taken to addressing me by my title," she reminded him.

"Only for our lessons," he elaborated. "I've not come here as your student tonight, but your subject and your friend."

"That's not all thou hast come as." She gestured to him generally. "Fore Sight the Uncanny. An excellent costume, down to the last detail. It is as if he lives again in thee."

"Thank you, Luna," he mumbled. He decided to start off tactfully. "Well… I just came to welcome you to our town and our celebration."

"Unlike thy fellow citizens," she said bitterly. "Do not look so confused Dusk, thou saw how they reacted when they saw me."

"I um… yeah, I saw." There wasn't much point in denying it.

"I do not understand what I did wrong." Raiasing her voice, she stood up again. "I rode the traditional royal carriage, pulled by the traditional royal guards, entered the village in the traditional way, spoke with the traditional royal voice. I even wore the traditional travelling cloak! Where did I go wrong?!" Storm clouds boomed around her as she professed, making Dusk jump.

"I… I um…" Dusk's mind was a blank, but Luna's clearly wasn't.

"They have always loved my sister more than they have loved me, their reaction clearly shows it." She hung her head and sighed. "I feared this much at the Gala, now thou seesest how true it is."

Seeing her in this state made Dusk feel pity for her, enough that he found his voice again. "Luna, that isn't true. You are loved, appreciated and praised as much as Celestia is."

"And how can thou sayest that with such surety?" she asked cynically.

"I'm still here, aren't I?" Those words struck her dumb. "I may just be one pony, but one pony can change the course of history. The right one, the right idea at the right time, that's all it takes. I believe it's possible and I'm going to make sure that, by the end of tonight, it won't just be one pony."

Luna stared at him for a few minutes, surprised at his speech. Dusk was too and fell into embarrassed silence. Where had all of that come from? But his hopes were heightened when Luna smiled gently in response.

"Very well then, Dusk. If thou believes this is possible then… I shall believe it too," she said sincerely. "Now then, how dost thou propose we bring this about?"

"Hm… well, for a start," he began, "I think you need to try and fit in more with the time."

"Why should I? What is wrong with how I do things?" she demanded.

"It's just… outdated," he admitted. "I know you tried your best to fit in with tradition, but the point is nopony has seen those traditions in a long time. It just caught them off-guard and it scared them. It would be like if a legion of Ancient Pegasi troops suddenly marched through town to enforce the will of their Empire. That used to be common, but not anymore."

"I… I see thy point," she conceded. "So, how dost thou suggest I… 'fit in'?"

"I think perhaps, to begin with, the way you speak," he suggested. "The volume is just something ponies aren't used to with royalty anymore."

"But thou hast never minded my use of the Royal Voice," she reminded him.

"But I expected and knew about it. Like I said, they don't and they just feel intimidated by it," he explained. "We need to work on quietening your voice, so they don't feel scared every time you speak."

"That makes sense but… I have been locked away for a thousand years. I am... not sure I can."

"You do with me sometimes."

"Because thou art my friend Dusk. Royal tradition has different boundaries on the dealing with subjects and with friends, as well thou knows."

"Fair enough. But we still need to try and get you a better speaking voice."

"Thou could teach me," she suggested. "Thy voice is quite quiet and polite, one that others seem to favour."

"I um… I don't think I'd be much good. Hold on…" He turned away to think.

Who would be good for teaching his teacher this? His first thought was Fluttershy, but she had made it quite clear her feelings on Nightmare Night and the last thing Dusk wanted was to scare her unnecessarily. So, who else was eloquent and well-spoken enough to help educate Luna in this field…?

His mind soon hatched on an idea and he beckoned Luna to follow him. The route they had to take was back through town, where more ponies bowed in terror before Luna, shaking with fright and not even daring to look up. This made Luna even more depressed and Dusk feel even worse for her. He hoped they would be able to fix this soon… have faith Dusk, you can do this.

Their destination was still in sight and Dusk was thankful that the lights were still on the Carousel Boutique, so they wouldn't be bothering Rarity. She seemed like the perfect candidate for this. Not only was she well-spoken and polite, but she also revered royalty in any form, apart from a certain prince so she would hopefully be more than happy to help Luna out.

He explained all of this to Luna, who nodded. "And thou art sure thy friend would be willing to aid me?"

"Completely, we'll have you revered and loved in no time."

Motioning her to hang back a little, he knocked on the door.

An annoyed voice sounded from within. "Look, I have already explained that I am out of candy and I have no intention in participating in silly dress-ups and if you're going to start throwing eggs at my Boutique because of this, then you have another…" Her sentence trailed off and her tone lightened when she saw who it was. "Oh Dusk, hello! This is a nice surprise! How's the costume treating you?"

"Good evening Rarity and it's wonderful, thank you. Thanks again for your help in making it," he added.

"Oh it was no trouble at all, anything for you dear." She opened the door a little more and stepped out. "Now, to what do I owe the pleasure of this visit? I was under the impression you'd be spending all night with Twilight."

"I would be, but another matter arose, one which requires your attention." He gestured for Luna to step forward. "Rarity, allow me to reintroduce you to Princess Luna. Luna, this Rarity, mistress of all things fashion and sophistication and Element of…

"Generosity, we recall," she said, returning to the full use of her Canterlot Voice. "Charmed to meet thee!"

Rarity appeared to be quite overwhelmed. "Oh, oh my… ooh…" She suppressed her almost filly like excitement and collected herself. "It's a pleasure to meet you too, Your Highness. Won't you please come in? I'll make us some tea, if you like."

"That would be fine!" she replied, taking on her role as leader and stepping inside.

While she waited patiently by the window, Rarity pulled Dusk into the kitchen on the pretence of helping her with the princess's tea. Only then did she squeal with excitement and grin like a fool.

"Dusk, there is a princess in my Boutique, in my home, in my kitchen!" She squealed again, enough to make Dusk grimace. "Oh my… does my mane look all right? How about my fur? I just brushed it, but do you think it could do with a little more? Should I be dressed for this? If I had know she was coming, I would-"

"Rarity, you look fine, trust me. But like I said, this isn't just a social call. We've come here for your help," he told her and proceeded to explain the situation.

"I see… and you really think that I can help her on her way to being accepted?" she asked.

"I have no doubts that you will. Will you help her?"

"Dusk, you had me at the reintroduction. I'll do it. I'll have her speaking so well, it will make Celestia seem like a harsh dictator!" she assured, leading him back into the living room.

"Hopefully not that far," Dusk muttered, trailing close behind.

Once her tea was poured, Luna wasted no time getting straight to the point. "Dusk Noir has spoken to us of the eloquence of which thou speaks!"

Rarity waited a second to recover from the full force of Luna's voice. "Well, I have been told I am quite the speaker in the past."

"Then thou can teach us to do likewise?"

"I believe so."

"Shall our lessons begin?"

"Now? Well, if you insist, Highness," she agreed, placing her tea down and daintily pressing her hooves together. "Now, if you would, try to mimic how I'm speaking?"

"How is this?!" There was virtually no change in her volume.

"Yes… well…" Rarity cleared her throat and sorted out her mane before speaking again. "Do I have permission to be frank with you, Princess?"

"If thou must, we shall permit it!"

"Thank you. Now, darling," she said, adopting the tone she would use for advising on outfits, "are you trying to speak to me or deafen me? Because right now we might as well be having this conversation from opposite ends of a hoofball pitch from the levels your speaking. My ears are still ringing from it! And your syntax dear, that's another point. All of that 'thou' and 'thee' nonsense is completely last millennia. You need to replace it with more the more modern 'you' and 'I', or else I'm afraid the only subjects who will be happy to hear you speak are hard-of-hearing pensioners from the Stone Age."

After finishing, Rarity seemed to suddenly remember who she was talking to and flushed red in embarrassment. Luna too was quite shocked at how she had been addressed, as was Dusk. He expected the princess to yell even louder, chastise her for being so disrespectful to a member of royalty and it looked like she was about to.

She, however, seemed to quell the urge and spoke in a clipped voice. "Very well, if that is what it takes then we shall… adhere to what thou… what you have to teach us."

"Oh… well then um, excellent," Rarity said, stepping back into her role. "Now then, let's have that again, quieter this time."

It took them a few runs to perfect Luna's way of speaking, but the princess was a fast learner and soon had her voice down to softer, quieter tones, like ones she'd sometimes used with Dusk. Her dialect too also swiftly improved under Rarity's tutelage, who remained patient the whole time, as she did. He liked to think his presence helped, as she would now and again glance at him, making Dusk think she was imagining speaking to him while doing this. It made him feel good she was taking some sort of inspiration from him.

Not long after, Luna had perfected her speech, her levels of noise much quieter and her mannerisms more modern, so much so Dusk felt like he was speaking to a completely different pony.

"And how is this? Is this better?" she asked Rarity.

"Much better, absolutely perfect!" the debutante said. "I don't think there's anything more I can do here. You are ready, Princess."

"I… I am? Dusk, what is thou… your opinion?" she asked him.

"Your voice is as soft as a gentle breeze and as sweet as bird song… relatively speaking," he added shyly.

"Then… then you were right! It has worked!" She surprised both him and Rarity by hugging her short-term teacher. "Thank you, dear Rarity! My normal speaking voice shall surely win the hearts of your fellow villagers!"

"Oh… oh my… I'm being hugged… and thanked… by a princess!" This proved to be too much for Rarity and she keeled over onto the floor when she was released.

"Oh dear… did I do something wrong?" Luna asked unsurely.

"No, I think she's just fainted." Dusk chuckled nervously. "She can be like that sometimes."

"Ah. Well, no fear, I know a spell that will revive her," assured Luna, her horn glowing as she worked it.

Just as Rarity blearily opened her eyes, the door of the Boutique burst open and a familiar voice met Dusk's ears.

"Rarity! You've gotta hide us! Nightmare Moon is here and-" She squawked like a chicken when she saw the princess performing her magic. "She's enchanting Rarity so she can't run away while she GOBBLES HER UP!"

Another chorus of screams and the group stampeded off back into the night again, just as Rarity finished coming round and Luna tried to make after them.

"Nay, children, wait!" She remembered herself and spoke more softly, a little too late. "I mean... nay, children, wait." She hung her head again, realising her failure.

"What… what's just happened?" Rarity asked.

"You don't really want to know," Dusk assured her grimly.

They thanked Rarity for her time, the unicorn still quite overcome and embarrassed by her fainting and headed off back towards town to execute Dusk's next idea. Once again, villagers cowered in fear before her as she passed, a deafening silence falling upon them when she came into view and Luna was made to feel even worse. At least now though, some progress had been made.

"You see, Dusk, there is no difference." She sighed again. "They have never liked us and they never shall…"

"Luna, you need to face them at some point. They're your subjects and you're their ruler, they shouldn't be afraid of you just because of who you were. They should love you for who you are."

She must have realised the utter truth behind his words, for her lips raised into a small smile. "Thank you, Dusk. I am glad you're with me for this."

"Happy to help. Now then, where's Applejack?" He kept his eyes open for her. "I don't think there's a single pony in this town who doesn't like her in some way. She's bound to have some ideas to help you."

"If you say so," she said unsurely, another pony scampering away from her in fright.

They soon found Applejack, along with Twilight, who were by the various party games set up for Nightmare Night. Applejack had just rescued a small foal from falling into the apple bobbing barrel, while Twilight was looking around worriedly, fidgeting with her beard. Her eyes brightened when she saw them both and she hurried over.

"There you are! How's things been going? What's been happening? Where have you been?"

"Answering those in order, relatively well, teaching Luna to lower her voice and being at Rarity's to do it," he replied calmly.

"Rarity's? I'd have gone with Fluttershy, she's the quietest out of all of us."

"True, but I didn't really want to bother her concerning how she feels about tonight."

"Fair enough." She turned to the princess. "How have you been doing then Princess?"

"Well enough, Twilight Sparkle," she said levelly. "May I say that your Starswirl the Bearded costume is quite commendable, you even got the bells right."

"Yes, thank you! Somepony else who got my costume," she exclaimed proudly.

"A fitting pair, the two of you make," she noted with a smile.

"Thanks," mumbled Dusk. "Now then, Applejack?" He looked to see her cowering on the ground. "I was wondering if you might be able to help the Princess to fit in a little better in town."

She looked up with a frown. ""Fit in"? Really?"

"AJ, please," Dusk whispered. "I promised that I'd help her make friends with everypony, but I need your help on this. Think of her as… another me."

Applejack got his point, nodded and stood up again, crossing over to Luna. "Well then, if y'all wanna fit in, that's easy! All ya gotta do is have the right attitude. Loosen up a bit, be positive, play a few games, have some fun."

"Fun? What is this "fun" you speak of?" She appeared confused by the concept.

"You've never had fun Princess?" Dusk asked.

"What about our lessons together? Are they not fun?"

"Well um… this is a different kind of fun," he elaborated quickly.

He guided her to one of the games, the objective being to throw a rubber spider onto the web nearby. Once the rules were explained, she had a go of trying to land the spider. Her first throw fell short, but her second made it dead centre. Clearly enjoying herself, she asked to show her more ways to experience fun, which they were only too happy to do. Dusk caught Twilight's eye and she gave him a glowing smile that made him feel even prouder from what he was doing.

He stood back and watched her in one of the other games, a rather spectacular one that involved firing pumpkins from catapults at bull's-eye targets. A little bit strange, Dusk thought, but as long as the princess was enjoying herself, he didn't mind. All in all his plan seemed to be working, something he was also quite proud of, and it was when Applejack offered to show Luna bobbing apples that she showed definite proof of this belief.

"I ask that thou call us... me... Luna, fair Applejack. Hear me, villagers! All of you! Call me Luna!"

This only sealed the deal. Just like with him, she now saw the village as her friends and had offered them the privilege to address her by her name and speak to them with the more personal 'I' than the formal Royal 'we'. Dusk beamed proudly, bounding alongside Luna.

"Show me these bobbing apples," she requested. "Perhaps you and I, Dusk, might experience this fun together."

"I'd like that, Luna," Dusk replied happily. Nothing could ruin this now.

Then something did.

Just as they were arriving at the barrel, the same foal from before had now fallen into it whilst trying to get an apple. Quick as a flash, Luna hurried forward and lifted him out in her mouth and saving him… just as Pinkie Pie arrived.

"Hey, gals and guy. Anypony seen Pip? We lost him the last time we had to run-" Her eyes locked on Luna again and she sqwuaked. "Nightmare Moon is gobbling Pipsqueak! Everypony run!"

"Help! My backside has been gobbled!" The foal named Pipsequeak wriggled out of her mouth and hurried away.

"'Tis a lie! Thy backside is whole and ungobbled, thou ungrateful whelp!" Only after her outburst did she notice she had scared the townsfolk again. "Fair villagers, please do not back away. Let us join together in... fun!" Desperately, she picked up a spider and threw it into their midst. "Not enough fun for you? What say you to this?"

Exactly why she thought the next thing she did was a good idea, Dusk never understood. All he knew was that she cast a spell that brought the rubber spider and its fellows into terrifying life. Now the ponies really started to panic, running this way and that, knocking down anything or anypony that was foolish enough to get in their way.

Luna tried her best to calm the crowd and keep a level tone at the same time, but everypony was in too much of a panic to stop, let alone listen to her. Dusk wanted to try something as well, but the attempted light spell he called upon was cut off by another pony who knocked him over. He tried to get up, but the chaos and mass of ponies kept him down. He knew that, eventually, Luna would reach the end of her tether.

And she did, for in an echoing, deafening voice, accompanied by a flash of lightning and rumble of thunder, she commanded:

"Be still!" Nopony dared to move a muscle from this.

Dusk tried to save the situation. "Luna, please, remember about the volume-"

"No, Dusk Noir!" she boomed at him. "We must use the traditional royal Canterlot voice for what we are about to say." Her eyes glowing and storm clouds brewing around her, she lifted into the sky. "Since you choose to fear your princess rather than love her and dishonour her with this insulting celebration, we decree that Nightmare Night shall be cancelled! Forever!"

She then bolted off out of the town, leaving Dusk utterly dumbstruck and the rest of the villagers shocked. Soon though, their shock abated and the crying started. Fillies and foals weeping about the loss of their favourite holiday, adults comforting them as best they could. He glimpsed Gentle pulling off her star costume and embracing the stallion she was with, tears rolling down her face and the pony Nightfall hanging his head in disappointment.

It was his fault. That was the thought that rang through his head. He had gotten Luna's hopes up about finally having ponies who loved and revered her as much as they did her sister. He'd promised her he was going to do it. But he hadn't done it. He'd failed her and, as a result, had failed the whole town as well. Nightmare Night, one of the most loved celebrations, cancelled, all because of him and his failed efforts.

"Shoot," Applejack said. "We had everything goin' our way. Luna was happy, everypony in town was happy, now look at 'em."

Dusk didn't want to. Hadn't he failed them enough from what… he'd done? He just raised his hood and started to make his way elsewhere. Probably just home.

"Dusk, where are you going?" Twilight had noticed him leaving.

"Anywhere that's not here…"

"Aren't you going to try and talk to her? Nightmare Night's not over yet."

"Clearly, you didn't hear what she just said," he said bitterly. "What's the point? It's all over now…"

"That doesn't sound like the Dusk I know," she said firmly. "He wouldn't give up on something like this and certainly not on a friend."

"Well… maybe this time, he is." He glanced back at her, but couldn't hold her gaze. "Sorry Twilight… I tried…"

"Dusk." Her tone wasn't angry or sad, but it still made him stop. "Do you remember, back when we first met, when you thought the princess had forced us to be your friends? When everypony else was getting mad at you because of how distant you were acting with us and some of them actually close to giving up?"

He was silent for a moment. "How could I forget?"

"Do you remember also that, despite what they all thought, there was one pony who didn't give up on you? One pony who was still willing to give you a chance, even if you'd run off to be by yourself, because she knew that there was still a chance." Now her voice had a gentle, tender tone. "Who was that pony, Dusk?"

"… You…"

"Exactly. Now, Luna's in the same position you were. She thinks she's alone, without a friend in the world because she thinks everypony's abandoned her. She needs somepony to remind her that, no matter how bleak it is, no matter how bad it looks, there's still one pony who can tell her otherwise." He hadn't noticed that she'd walked close enough to put a hoof on his shoulder. "Somepony who still believes."

Now, he dared to turn and face her. "Why don't you go? I'm no good at this."

"Because I'm not the first friend she had in a thousand years, I'm not the one who convinced her to attend the Gala despite what she thought about herself. Because I'm not you. You're the one that needs to do this Dusk, not me." She stepped back and gestured in the direction she'd flown in. "Go, for her."

Dusk looked at her, then at the direction she gestured in, around at the weeping, forlorn faces and down at the ground. It was a visage of Nightmare Moon, fur black as a starless night, eyes cold and dark. Just like his…

It was this he drew strength on. Twilight was right. Who was he to abandon her, his kindred spirit in almost every way, when she needed him the most? He'd be disgracing himself as both her subject and her friend. She hadn't abandoned him when he needed her, she'd arrived to save him from the same darkness that had consumed her so long ago. It was a road they both shared now… he wasn't about to let her walk it alone.

After all, she hadn't.

"Thanks, Twilight. I… I don't know what I'd do without you."

"We both know you'd be hopeless," she giggled. "Now go. Your princess needs you."

"She does. Once more unto the breach!" he quoted, sprinting off after her.

He whipped his head around, checking around every corner and alleyway for any sign of her, determined not to stop until he'd found her. Have faith Dusk, he told himself. Twilight does, why shouldn't you? He spotted her, crossing over one of the bridges out into the dark lands beyond with her head hung.

Quickening his pace, he caught up with her. "Luna, wait!"

She didn't even look up. "Dusk… it seems that your plan went awry."

That stung a little, but Dusk let it dishearten him. "Nothing in life is perfect and even plans can fail."

"Yes, I had noticed." She lifted her head up slightly. "What are you doing here?"

"Because you need me, Luna, because we still have a chance to save this."

"Lying still does not come easily to you, does it?" she spat.

"I'm not lying, this is the complete and honest truth," he replied. "I know you don't see it like this, but it isn't as bad as you make it out to be. Nightmare Night is a wonderful celebration and everypony loves it."

"Yes. I can tell. By all the adoring shrieks of the children as they run away." She rounded on him now, her voice low and dangerous. "Tell me, Dusk, do you have any idea how this is for me? Do you have any idea at all how I feel about this? I have tried, I really have, to tolerate this… celebration, but I simply cannot do this any longer. Everything I see is a constant reminder of what I was… what I have done."

"Luna… you know I do, better than most," he reminded her.

"How would you feel then? What if this were a festival focused upon Blackhole Doom? Imagine it now, with his face decorated everywhere, his name being chanted by children as if it is some kind of amusing game and a constant reminder everywhere of the deeds that he did, the things he has done. Would you accept that? Tell me honestly that you would actually accept that and live with it forever." Silence hung thick in the air between them. "I thought not, from one who cannot even face up to his dark side. Fare thee well, Dusk."

She whipped around and continued across the bridge, her student staring after her, dumb struck by what she had said.

A pony who cannot face his dark side… those words echoed more in his head than anything he had heard her speak with the royal voice. Yet they didn't make him feel frightened and scared, he didn't cringe when he heard the laughter. Instead, he took a kind of savage strength from it, one that came across in his voice.

"You're right, Luna. I certainly wouldn't want a constant reminder of what I… what he has done, certainly not in the form of a festival. I already get enough of that in here. But do you know something? There's something else that I get whenever I'm reminded, whenever I hear his name or recall a memory."

"And what is that?" Her cynicism was still there, but he could catch a mild curiosity too.

"Every time I hear his laughter, I am reminded of the pain that it caused. Every time I see him torment one of my friends or destroy something I hold dear, I know what I need to do. Yes, I keep them locked away and safe and, yes I'm scared to talk about it because of what others will think of me if I do, but I still keep the memories because I have to. It's my reminder of my duty to never, ever let it happen again." He wanted to look away from her, but he held her gaze. "It's my duty, my burden to bear and I keep it that way, keep them safe with me, so that they can still laugh and be happy with themselves, even if I'm not. Because, if I can't let them be happy… I'm no better than he is…"

"Dusk… I… I had no idea…"

"Well, now you do. I may not want to face up to what I've done, but you have and you have the chance to make something better of it… a chance I can't have… and I don't think I deserve…"

Now he looked away, the tears welling up in his eyes. In truth, he had only now started seeing his memories like this, because he was sure that was how the Princess viewed her own similar recollections from her time as Nightmare Moon. She had gone to such lengths to achieve redemption and forgiveness and though they still feared her, she had a chance to be happy now she was back.

That was what he was trying to say to her and, ultimately, she got the message.

"Dusk." She had walked closer to him. "I am not saying that I'm proud for what I've done as Nightmare Moon, but… you are right."

"So… so you'll…?"

"Yes, I will. I'm willing to give this another chance… for you." She lifted his head up gently and wiped away his tears. "Come then, let's see if we can't make something better of this."

"Right… thanks Luna…"

"No Dusk, you are the one who deserves my thanks. Just remember one other thing," she added. "When you eventually do… confess, your time will come too when you can make something better of it, as mine has. I promise."

"I'll keep that in mind." Quelling his memories once more, he returned to the matter at hoof. "Now, we almost had them liking you before, you were really fitting in."

"Yes… until that mare started that commotion," she said bitterly.

"Hm… hold on, that's it!" he realised. "Pinkie! Luna, I think I know what we can do."

It didn't take him long to find her. He told Luna to wait in a darker alley while he searched for Pinkie, found her pecking at more of her candy like the bird she was dressed as and simply asked her to follow him, to which she cheerfully obliged. He had considered luring her, but what would be the point when he could simply ask.

"So, whaddaya want me for Dusky?" she asked once they were alone.

"Pinkie, there's something you need to help me fix, but before I can show you, can you promise me not to run or scream or shriek or anything of the sort?"

"Dusk, why would I need to-"

"Pinkie, please just promise me. Please?"

"Okie-dokie-lokie, I promise," she said, motioning her eponymous promise. "So, what is it?"

"You can come out now," he said to his teacher, who stepped out of the shadows. "Pinkie, this is Luna. Not Nightmare Moon, just Luna. Princess, this is Pinkie Pie, Element of Laughter."

"Ah. The ringleader of the frightened children," she noted. Then, more hopefully, "Have you… come to make peace?"

She held out a glittering hoof for Pinkie to shake. The pink pony saw it, when at first she had made like she was going to shriek again and slowly moved her own hoof to meet hers. Dusk felt a smile growing as they got closer and closer. This was it…

Until he noticed a cloud sneaking up behind her and a certain cyan Pegasus atop it. He knew what she intended to do, what might happen and he wasn't about to let her ruin it.

"Oh no you don't!" He created colour forms as a swarm of bats and sent them at her.

"What?! Get 'em off, get 'em off!" she cried, shooting off to get away from them.

"Sorry!" he called after her, turning around to face them again.

To his relief, their hooves had made contact and Pinkie didn't seem to be panicking, though she and Luna looked a little confused.

"What was that?" the princess asked him.

"It's nothing… just something I had to do." He nodded to Pinkie and Luna's hooves. "See Pinkie? She doesn't want to eat you, she's just like you and me."

Pinkie stared at him in bewilderment. "Well duh."

"Uh, pardon me?" asked Luna.

"Come again?" added Dusk. Both of them were quite surprised at this.

"I knew that. Come on guys, I'm almost as big as she is," she pointed out. "How's she gonna eat me?"

"So… why do you keep running away?" Dusk asked.

"Sometimes it's just really fun to be scared," she replied.

"Fun? Being scared is… fun?" Luna looked even more bewildered. "I do not understand this."

"I do and it's just given me one other idea we can use to help fix this," Dusk declared. "We'll need a little extra help, but if it works, we'll be in the clear."

It only took a little convincing of Zecora, Applejack and Twilight to go along with his plan. He was quite assured when Twilight told him that she would have the exact same idea herself, so it gave him some comfort that it might actually. All it took was to get Pinkie's group of frightened fillies and foals to come along to the statue of Nightmare Moon for one final candy offering.

The problem was they'd been taking the whole being scared problem far too seriously. Really, there was no problem and Nightmare Night was the time for being scared. Not with any malicious intent, but just for fun. Rainbow had proven that much, as had Dusk and the pranks had just been laughed off later on. There was no harm done and it was all in good fun.

Now it was just to see if the same would work for Luna…

Dusk stood back as they approached, laying the candy in a little pile at the front of the image of the evil princess. It was only when Pipsqueak gave his last offering of candy to the statue, murmuring one final goodbye, that Luna took her cue. The wind began to pick up around the statue, making Dusk's cloak billow and Luna's Royal Voice echoed in their ears.

"Citizens of Ponyville! You were wise to bring these candies to me. I am pleased with your offering. So pleased that I may just eat it... instead of eating you!" She removed the enchantment that made her look like stone, making it seem as if the statue itself had come to life before their eyes.

It had the desired effect and the whole group, except for Dusk and Twilight, sprinted off once more. The only two who didn't lingered by the plinth, whilst Luna returned to her normal self and spat out the fake fangs she'd been wearing.

"Are you certain that… this has worked Dusk?" she asked.

"It should have. If I am right, that did exactly what we wanted it to do."

"But I still don't understand. What exactly-?"

"Um... Princess Luna." She looked down to see Pipsqueak tugging on her mane. "I know there's not gonna be any more Nightmare Night, but do you suppose maybe you could come back next year and scare us again anyway?"

"Child. Art thou saying that thou... likest me to scare you?" she asked.

"It's really fun! Scary, but fun."

"It... 'tis?"

"Yeah! Nightmare Night is my favourite night of the year," he told her.

That won her over entirely. "Well then. We shall have to bring Nightmare Night back!" she declared in the royal voice.

"Whoa! You're my favourite princess ever!" Pip hugged her feet and ran back to his friends. "She said yes, guys!"

"See?" Twilight put in, as they cheered. "They really do like you, princess. Just like Dusk said they would."

Dusk could see the tears glistening in her eyes. "Can it be true? Oh, most wonderful of...!" She caught herself and spoke quieter. "I mean... Oh, most wonderful of nights."

"Well done Dusk, it worked!" she exclaimed.

"Yeah well… I couldn't have done it without you guys," he mumbled.

"But we couldn't have pulled it off without you."

"I'm… I'm sure you would have had the same idea…"

"Perhaps," Twilight said. "But, either way, it's all thanks to you."

"Indeed it is," Luna agreed and, beaming away, she embraced him. "Thank you for this, my student."

Though he was flushed with embarrassment from the praise, he was overcome with happiness, both from his teacher's hug and from Twilight's warm smile and, later on, the kiss she gave him for his efforts.

"I was happy to do it," he replied. "Think of it as… returning the favour."

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