The Pain of Chocolate Rain
Enjoying his day-off from working in the library, Dusk Noir was lying on his couch, reading through one of his favourite Daring Do books. It was Sunday and he always had Sundays off. His mane was in its usual half-scruffy, half-neat style, his hat resting on a hat stand near the door, his good-luck charm around his neck, the different colour stones glinting in the light. His pet owl, Ophelia, was out hunting, so he was alone in the house. He was perfectly content to remain there, though he would be happy to meet up with the girls later, especially Twilight.
He sighed happily as he thought of her. Ever since they'd shared their dance at the Gala, he and Twilight had become even closer as a result. Nothing too big, but it was noticeable. They passed compliments to each other easily, though still with blushes coming to their faces. Neither minded too much when one was in close vicinity to the other, though they never lingered on that too long. Rarity had told him their relationship was now at the tipping point, that it wouldn't be much longer. Dusk hoped that she was right; he didn't want his efforts to be for nothing…
He had just turned the next page when his pet returned, flying above his head and hooting frantically. He watched her flapping above him, knowing full well that something was wrong and she was trying to tell him something.
"Ophelia, calm down," he ordered, gently but firmly. She did so and came to a rest on the arm of his couch. "Now, is there something wrong?" She nodded rapidly. "What exactly?" She shrugged, unable to tell him. "Okay… can you take me to… whatever's going on?" Another nod. "All right, let's go then."
Levitating his hat onto his head, he let her fly ahead of him as she took off and lead him to the disturbance, galloping as fast as he could, soon developing a stitch in his side. He didn't know exactly what he would find, but he knew it couldn't be anything good if Ophelia was panicking like this. He stopped to catch his breath when they reached Sweet Apple Acres, his owl coming to land on a nearby tree. When he looked up, he saw… well… he wasn't quite sure.
He could see the girls, along with Spike, in one of the cornfields but that was the only thing normal about this scene. The fields were littered with piles of popcorn, the stalks devoid of any corn whatsoever. Apples on the trees had swelled to three times their normal size, causing the trees to bend over sideways. Tied to a fence was a pink fluffy mass that was being devoured by animals, the rabbits legs far longer than was natural. What was going on…?
Suddenly, cold wave of fear rose in the pit of his stomach. This whole picture was a scene of chaos and madness, which meant… no, it couldn't be, it just couldn't… but all the signs pointed to… that pink mass, he had to make sure, hoping to high heaven he was wrong.
"Oh there you are Dusk! We were having some trouble, but no worries. We managed to stop it by working togth- Hey, what's the rush?" He barely acknowledged Twilight as he sprinted past her and reached the animal gathering.
Halting before it, he pushed a few out of his way, dipped his hoof in the mass and tasted it. Cotton candy, with an aftertaste of chocolate. These were clouds, they had been in the sky, raining chocolate… that fear was now spreading through his whole body. It was true… he was back…
"Dusk, you okay?" He whipped around to see the girls looking at him with concern. "Ya look as white as a sheet sugarcube."
Dusk stared at them for a few moments. "No, I'm not okay. I'm very much not okay. In fact, to be quite frank… I'm absolutely terrified."
"Oh come on, it's just cotton candy!" said Pinkie. "I mean, I'm a little scared that all the animals will eat before I can, but I'm not that scared. I'll share some with you if you like."
"No, no it's not that." He turned his gaze to each of them in turn, particularly Applejack, Fluttershy. Pinkie and Rainbow. "Don't you realise what all of this means? Remember what I told you back at the Canterlot Magic Contest?"
"That um… you were nervous about performing on stage?" ventured Fluttershy.
"Apart from that."
"Well, what else-?" Rainbow stopped and thought for a moment. "Wait a sec, when you mentioned that guy Discord, you said this was one of the things he did, chocolate rain and stuff. Are you saying that… that…" Even she seemed too afraid to continue.
"That's exactly what I'm saying. If I'm right and for once I sincerely hope I'm not, then the spirit of disharmony is free from his stone entombment. Girls, Discord is free!" Even saying that sent a shiver down his spine.
"But how is that possible?" Twilight asked. "I thought you told me that he could never break out."
"I can't explain it. Maybe the magic that contains him has worn off after all of these years, maybe somepony set him free for some reason, I don't know and I can't explain. What I do know is that only he has the power to do anything like this and that this is only the start of it."
"The start of what?" asked Rarity.
Dusk could still feel the fear grip him, as he said one word: "Chaos."
They all were struck silent by that, except for Pinkie, who was giggling and edging her way to where the animals were feasting. Suddenly, Spike belched up a green flame and a letter materialised before them. Twilight unfolded it and read it quickly.
"Come on girls. Princess Celestia wants to see us all in Canterlot immediately!" she ordered.
"Great, that means she wants to take action against him." He started to run off, but Twilight stopped him.
"You need to stay here," she said firmly.
That was something of a blow for Dusk. "What? But… why can't I come with you?"
She grimaced sympathetically. "Dusk, I hate to say this, but you're not an Element of Harmony. From what you've told me, they were the only things powerful enough to stop Discord and we're the only ones who can use them." She placed a hoof on his shoulder. "It's not that I don't want you coming with us but… I just don't want you to get hurt, in case Discord comes after you."
Dusk turned his eyes to the floor. He didn't like this, just leaving them to go and fight while he just stood and watched. It made him feel so useless, that he wouldn't be able to help at all, especially after he had helped to rescue them from the Paraserpent, despite all of his own doubts. But Twilight was right: the Paraserpent was nothing compared to Discord and Discord liked nothing more than tormenting and tricking ponies. They'd have the Elements, but he had no defence against him and would be pretty much useless in a fight. He didn't like it, but he understood.
"Okay… I'll hold the fort with Spike," he promised. "I knew I wouldn't be much use if something like this ever happened anyway…"
"Sorry Dusk," Rainbow consoled. "But don't worry, I'll tell you all about how we kicked Discord's butt when we get back."
"I'll hold you to that," he chuckled. Since he wasn't coming with them, he could at least try and prepare them. "Don't underestimate him; he's far more powerful than anything you've ever encountered before. He's cunning and deceitful, so watch your backs. Just… be careful and come back safe."
"Have no fear Dusk," Rarity assured. "We shall trounce this fiend with the Elements and all be back home in time for tea."
"Right you are." He stood back. "Now go, quickly. The longer we wait, the more powerful he becomes."
"Come on girls!" They all galloped away, Twilight stopping to give him one last smile before running to the head of the group to the train station.
Still feeling completely awful as he watched them go, Dusk sighed and tore his gaze away. It was out of his hooves now and it was all up to them. If they could stop Nightmare Moon, they could stop Discord… he hoped.
"Well, nothing much for us to do here," Spike piped up. "Come on bro, let's get back to the library. We might as well hang around there."
"Right," he said absently, then to himself, "And to think, today was my day off…"
Twilight still felt twinges of regret for not letting Dusk come with them. He had looked so disappointed at not being able to help them that she was almost tempted to let him come anyway. She also felt little fear that he wasn't here, that without his added knowledge and intelligence to her own, they were incomplete to fight Discord. But she quashed it. They'd beaten Nightmare Moon without him, this was no different. But things had changed a lot since then…
She shook her head, telling herself mentally to get a grip, as she galloped to Canterlot Tower, her friends in tow. She had to stay in control for this. They saw the Princess waiting at the top of the stairs, an expression of dismay on her face.
"Princess Celestia, we came as fast as we could," she said, as they halted.
The Princess nodded. "Thank you, Twilight. Thank you all."
"We know why this is happening Princess, the animal's weird behaviour and the rain," Twilight followed up. "Discord's free, isn't he?"
Another nod. "You remembered from Dusk's performance. That means we can get down to business quickly. Follow me."
They did as she commanded, as she led them up the stairs into the marble halls of Canterlot Tower, decorated with flowers and the royal colours of gold and purple. Coloured light streamed in through stained glass windows, that depicted Discord, his rule of Equestria, the Princess's defeat of him… the Order Uprising, Dusk had called it… not for the first time, she wished he was here, but quickly suppressed it.
She couldn't recall another time she'd seen her mentor so agitated. She hid it well beneath a visage of cold calmness, but Twilight could see it. The fear in her eyes, the way that she moved quickly. It made her feel a little scared as well, to see her like this…
"We were told that the magic of the Elements would keep him imprisoned forever," she added, as they neared a large, jewel-encrusted door.
"I thought so too," agreed Celestia, "but since Luna and I are no longer connected to the Elements, the spell has been broken."
"No longer connected?" The Princess didn't elaborate further, as she halted before the door.
"This is Canterlot Tower," she explained, more for the benefit of the others than herself, "where the Elements are kept inside since all of you recovered them. I need you to wield the Elements of Harmony once again and stop Discord before he thrusts all of Equestria into eternal chaos."
Twilight asked the question that had just come to mind. "But why us? Why don't you-"
"Hey, look! We're famous!" She looked at where Pinkie indicated to a window, which depicted the six of them unleashing the Elements upon Nightmare Moon. How long had that been there? She made a mental note to ask Dusk when she got back.
"You six showed the full potential of the elements by harnessing the magic of your friendship to beat a mighty foe. Although Luna and I once wielded the elements, it is you who now control their power, and it is you who must defeat Discord."
Twilight had suspected this already, but she felt a little better to hear the determination in her voice. "Princess Celestia, you can count on–"
Pinkie cut her off again. "Hold on a second! Eternal chaos comes with chocolate rain, you guys. Chocolate rain!" Nopony said anything in response to this.
"Don't listen to her, Princess," she dismissed. " We'd be honoured to use the Elements of Harmony again."
Celestia bestowed a smile, and then turned to the door. Twilight watched as she inserted her horn into a hole in the centre of the door, a magical blue light spreading out through the grooves of the door to light up the gems that decorated the door and opening to reveal a purple box inside, also covered in jewels.
Rarity's eyes were as wide as saucers. "Ooh. You can keep the Elements. I'll take that case!"
"Have no fear, ponies. I have total confidence that you will be able to defeat Discord with these!" She levitated the box and opened it to reveal…
The Princess gasped and dropped the case with an echoing bang. There was nothing. The box was empty. The Elements of Harmony were gone. Twilight stared at it in utter disbelief, they all did. There was a deathly silence, until…
"Oh, well. If anyone needs me, I'll be outside in the chocolate puddles with a giant swizzle straw." Twilight was snapped out of her reverie and dragged Pinkie back with magic before she could wander off. "Aw."
The Princess was even more worried now. "That chamber is protected by a powerful spell that only I or Luna can break! This doesn't make sense!"
No sooner had she said this, a deep, mocking laughter echoed throughout the hall that made Twilight's skin crawl. The voice that spoke seemed to slither its way into her ear like a snake. "Make sense? Oh, what fun is there in making sense?"
"Discord..." whispered Celestia fearfully, then in a louder voice commanded, "Show yourself!"
Twilight's eyes darted around the room, looking for any sign of him as his fiendish chuckles echoed once more. Her eyes sought out one of the windows that depicted Discord playing with ponies like puppets. All of a sudden, the Discord started to move.
"Did you miss me, Celestia? I missed you." Smiling sinisterly, he hovered over to the window next to it, resting on Fluttershy's head. "It's quite lonely being encased in stone, but you wouldn't know that, would you, because I don't turn ponies into stone." He rapped Fluttershy with his fist to make this point.
"Enough!" she commanded again. "What have you done with the Elements of Harmony?"
"Oh, I just borrowed them for a teensy little while." He snapped his fingers and the Elements in the window vanished in a flash of light. Twilight had never seen magic like this before, but she controlled her fear and stared defiantly at him.
The Princess stomped her hoof. "You'll never get away with this, Discord!"
The spirit of chaos was idly examining his claws, as if they were vastly more interesting than her. "Oh, I'd forgotten how grim you can be, Celestia. It's really quite boring."
"Hey! Nopony insults the Princess!" Rainbow charged at the window that depicted him, but he vanished and she crashed into it. When he reappeared, he was much larger.
"Oh, you must be Rainbow Dash, famed for her loyalty, the Element of Harmony you represent."
"That's right! I'll always be loyal to the Princess!" she declared proudly.
He vanished once more. "We'll see about that," he said in a way that made her stomach clench.
"I can't believe we're wasting our time talking to a tacky window," Rarity remarked, as Discord appeared in the window behind her.
"The beautiful Rarity, representing the Element of Generosity, if I'm not mistaken?"
"So ya know who we are, big deal," Applejack dismissed defiantly.
He grew larger again, towering over them in the window. "Oh, I know much more than that, honest Applejack."
"You seem to know our strengths, too," stated Twilight.
She felt cold as his uneven eyes beheld her, like there was nothing she could hide from him. "Yes, Twilight Sparkle, and yours is the most powerful and elusive element, Magic. Fluttershy's is Kindness and Pinkie Pie's is a personal favourite of mine - Laughter."
Twilight could here Pinkie sniggering behind her as Discord chuckled and danced on her head in the window. "Pinkie!"
Discord did a spin and stopped, casting his eyes around the room. "Oh, but where's the strong male figure, the non-entity of your little group? What was his name, Trust or… Dust or something like that?"
Twilight spoke up again, feeling riled by this. "Dusk has nothing to do with this!"
"Oh yes Dusk, that's his name! Dusk Noir, with his head full of useless facts and whirling thoughts." He slapped his hand against his head and laughed. "Really, I don't see why you even have him around, apart from being arm candy."
"Dusk may not be an Element of Harmony, but he's still important to m- to us," defended Twilight, quickly covering her mistake and feeling her cheeks go red.
Discord's eyes fixed on her like laser beams. "Oh really Twilight Sparkle? Then why isn't he here?"
Twilight opened her mouth to speak, then shut it again when she realised she couldn't answer Discord's question, not without revealing herself or provoking Discord to go after her friend. More than anything, she wanted him to be safe in all of this. The spirit of chaos gave her a contemptuous smile as she diverted her gaze.
"Stop stalling, Discord!" ordered Celestia. "What have you done with the Elements of Harmony?
He sighed exasperatedly. "Oh, so boring, Celestia. Really? Fine, I'll tell you, but I'll only tell you my way." As he spoke his riddle, he travelled around the windows in the hall, his eyes never leaving them once, the image freezing in its proper place when he'd done.
To retrieve your missing elements,
Just make sense of this change of events.
Twists and turns are my master plan.
Then find the elements back where you began.
But even if you find the Elements, you see,
It'll take more than them this time to stop me.
Discord's laughter echoed around the hall as his riddle finished, Fluttershy approaching timidly behind her. "Can we go home now?"
"What do ya reckon he meant? Twists an' turns an' endin' back where we started?"
"Twists and turns... twists and turns..." Thinking hard, Twilight moved around the room, crossing to one of the windows, where she could see a high hedge maze outside. Then, it hit her. "Twists and turns! That's it! I bet Discord hid the elements in the palace labyrinth!"
Celestia touched each of her shoulders with her horn, like she was knighting her. "Good luck, my little ponies. The fate of Equestria is in your hooves."
"Thanks, Princess. We won't let you down." As she and the others galloped off to find the Elements, Twilight couldn't help but wonder if Dusk would have come to the same conclusion she did if he was here… she hoped he was okay.
"You okay sugarcube?" Applejack asked as they ran.
"Oh um..." She couldn't answer and diverted her eyes away, even as Applejack smiled.
"Don't ya worry, he'll be fine. Why would Discord go after him if he ain't an Element?"
Twlight conceded to that, there wouldn't be much point if that were the case. "Yeah... yeah, I guess you're right..."
"Ah think it's us who need ta worry," Applejack remarked lightly. "But we can beat him, so long as we stay tagether."
"Sure we can," she nodded, returning her smile. Sincerely wishing that Applejack would be right about this, she redoubled her galloping to get to the maze as quickly as possible.
The sooner they found the Elements, the sooner Dusk would be safe... and she would do anything to keep him safe.
Celestia heard Discord's sinister laughter as she watched them go. She knew that he would target them now and use his corrupting powers, but it was out of her hooves now. If she tried to attack Discord directly, it would only make things worse and it certainly wouldn't stop him. All she could hope for was that they would find the Elements and stop him, for she hadn't expected this… though Discord did like his games.
The last part of his riddle disturbed her, however. The way he had said it and why could only mean one thing: Discord knew and believed that prophecy of Fore Sight that Luna was so intent on believing was true. That only added to her fear that they were ill-equipped to defeat him. Perhaps she had been too quick to dismiss it so easily... she should trust her sister better than this...
"It seems this will not be as straight forward as we first thought," remarked the voice of Luna, who stood beside her.
"Is it ever straight forward where Discord is concerned?" She sighed and looked out to the maze. "Let us pray that they find the Elements before it's too late."
"Do you think they'll be able to stand up to him?"
"I can't be sure of anything now, but it's out of our hooves now. It's up to them to succeed."
"What of Dusk?" she asked.
"You know as well as I do that there's nothing he can do, he is as helpless as we are without the Elements."
"And you know that that isn't true." She stomped her hoof angrily on the ground. "This proves more than ever that, if Discord is to be stopped, we need every asset we can get, however small or slim. Dusk can give that if I only show him the way."
"Luna," she began, but her sister ploughed on.
"I know you think to you know what is best, but I am as much a ruler of Equestria as you are, even if I am younger. I can make my own decisions and I choose to follow this up, whether you want me to or not. I know that he can find it, all I need to do is point him the way."
She held her sister's defiant gaze and couldn't help but smile at her willingness to do this. "I understand Luna and… I think you're right."
"Well you-" She stopped speaking and her eyes widened in surprise. "You do?"
"Of course. I don't entirely believe what you do, but perhaps you are right. If there is some way that Dusk can help his friends, then he should."
Luna looked at her suspiciously. "Why the change of heart?"
"It isn't as such," she verified. "I just don't think we should exclude any opportunity or advantage we have any longer, especially in light of recent events. You heard that last part of his riddle?"
"That could only mean that he knows about it and takes it seriously," Luna nodded, knowing what she meant.
"Exactly, which in itself is dangerous. If that's the case, maybe it does merit some investigation." She smiled apologetically. "As you say, you are as much a ruler as me and you have every right to follow up on your judgement without your big sister telling you what to do."
"Indeed," she giggled slightly. "So... you will let me try?"
She nodded slowly. "Do what you must, my sister. We'll see if you and Fore Sight were right."
Luna still appeared surprised that she had agreed with her, but she recovered herself. "I shall then. Thank you, Tia."
"What are sisters for?" she chuckled. "What are you going to do?"
"First," Luna said, turning to leave, "I am going to write a letter and then… we shall see."
Celestia waited for her to elaborate further, but her sister only smiled mysteriously and set off on her mission. She wouldn't interfere with whatever she had planned and she knew her faith in her younger sibling wasn't misplaced. She didn't entirely believe it herself, like she said but there was still a chance, however small.
Hopefully, not too small.
Hmm, what is the Princess of the Night up to? What plans does she have in store for Dusk? All will be revealed in due course. Until then, adieu to you.