In a sense, Appleoosa wasn’t that much different in composition from the small, medieval towns dotting the time of Sombra and Nyx 1,000 years earlier. The majority of townspeople lived on the edges of a cluster of buildings serving as marketplace, tavern and the local arm of law/government, along with towns ponies serving smaller but just as vital functions such as blacksmith, undertaker, etc. It was a strangely normal-to-them scene set against the pastoral hillsides and valleys of hundreds of apple trees - until they turned the corner to come upon a strip mall with restaurants, flower shops, bakeries and theaters. If the Umbrum ponies pulling the royal “stagecoach” had been possessed of eyes, they would have been huge, taking in this strange setting they were bringing their masters to!
The scene would have barely registered to Nyx, who had been from the swamps of pre-pony Equestria when the world was new to the hyper-modern, flying carriage time in the far-flung future. In fact, she was lightly dozing from the sonorous vibrations of the coach’s progress and only came completely awake at the sound of Sombra’s voice as he addressed the Umbrum. *Take us to a secluded area where we may leave the carriage,* he ordered.
Nyx stretched and yawned. Now that the sun was setting and the local heat of the day was wearing off, she would be more awake and active, as would Sombra, and if there were any complications in their interaction with the local ponies, they both would have the distinct advantage of darkness on their side in which to defend themselves and/or escape.
The Umbrum shadows cantered, though it was more like gliding, to a stop in an alleyway close to where Nyx pointed out the theater was. Sombra had initially had mixed emotions about making a quiet entrance into negotiations as sneaking into parlay was often considered cowardly by political standards and that was something nopony had ever accused him of being, but in the end he had seen the wisdom of observing these Sith in secret considering how advanced technologically they were, as well since little was known about their strengths, weaknesses and culture.
While he considered this, he heard a rumble behind him. Turning, he was amused to see Nyx frowning, looking down at her belly. Catching his glance, she shrugged. “We have not eaten since the castle, my king. I believe my body has just realized that.”
The TimeWitch peered out the carriage window to beyond the alley. Many passing by appeared to be in garb she recognized from the advertisements about Hoof Wars. “We should grab a bite to eat before going to the theater. The food there is less - nourishing, shall we say, than in the local cafes.”
Sombra saw the logic in her argument, though made a mental note to later ask her why this theater would serve lesser quality food than the local eateries. Grabbing his lightsaber and Nyx’s dagger, they then both stocked up on bits Nyx had procured from her other trips to this current time period and exited the carriage. The king gave the Umbrum instructions to wait with their transportation and orders to alert them of any unusual activity should it occur.
There were many, many ponies in town for the opening of Hoof Wars, a great many of them in robes of the Jedi and the Sith, along with a wide variety of other creatures from Barntroopers to saloon denizens from the many various worlds chronicled in the prior movies. It would have taxed the poor TimeWitch’s memory to explain them all, though she had heard of ponies called “nerds” who were walking catalogs of knowledge and facts - more than she cared to know or bother her king about.
Locating an eatery next to the theater, they opted to dine outside, Sombra taking a seat with his back against the wall of the building out of habit. His consort took the opposite chair, her temporal senses more than up to the task of warning her of any danger should it try to take her by surprise from behind.
The king had chosen a meat dish from the available menu, something called “rattlesnake”. It was not a filling meal, but then he was never one to gorge himself on food and dull his senses before a negotiation. It was served on a bed of vegetables, some of which he recognized, some he didn’t, but it was a pleasant change of pace from the castle food. Even Nyx, who was acting as his taste tester, enjoyed it. Her companion, meal finished, nursed the last of his wine while he drew out his lightsaber, studying its design with a measure of satisfaction.
Nyx looked up suddenly, her eyes rolling. She sighed. “Ugh!” was all she said.
“Hmm?” Sombra hummed, attention reluctantly distracted from his creation. “Problem, my dear?”
“Even when we lay low, we somehow draw the attention of the worst fancolts - “
“Well, howdy, fellow force-users!” a booming stallion’s voice declared behind her. “Welcome to Appleoosa’s Hoof Wars celebration!”
Nyx facehoofed herself, her hoof engulfed deep into the heavily hooded Sith robes.
“That’s a mighty fine weapon you have there, my stallion friend,” he continued, motioning to the Shadow King’s weapon.
“Why thank you,” Sombra acknowledged, nodding slightly. “‘Took but a quick moment to fashion.”
When his companion withdrew her hoof, the newcomer came around into her sight. He was a fair-complexioned stallion of about 25 winters, his coat a golden hue accented with a mane and tail in shades of hay and darker autumn orange. His face was open and friendly, the eyes the greenest Nyx had ever seen. He was quite startlingly handsome in his own way. When she recovered her surprise at her own reaction to his physical appearance, he was happily chattering away, introducing himself. “My name’s Braeburn, friends. We are plum apple happy to be hostin’ this movie opening and to see you an’ all your fellow fans seein’ fit t’ come to our humble little town!”
“The pleasure is ours, Master Braeburn,” the king replied, drawing his hood back just enough the pony could see his face and plain grey unicorn horn. “I am - Darth - Shadow,” he quickly improvised. His gaze turned to Nyx, who also drew her hood slightly back. “And this is my protege, Mistress Nyx. She has a gift for seeing into the future, which makes her quite useful to me,” he added with a touch of pride in his voice.
Nyx grunted, amused at how close to the truth her king was coming to this western pony stranger. She smiled demurely at Braeburn’s reaction to her own physical appearance, especially her dark eyes. “A pleasure, mi’lord Braeburn,” she returned, looking him over in turn. “You are quite the fit specimen. Well toned, handsome.”
This threw the Appleoosan completely off balance as he blushed, looking down at the ground. ‘Well, uh, thank you kindly, ma’am. I’ve - I’ve never seen eyes as dark as yours. They’re quite a sight.”
The TimeWitch grinned wickedly, turning to Sombra. “What do you think my king, um, Lord Shadow,” she corrected. “A male concubine for the - temple,” Nyx resisted the urge to say ‘palace’.
Sombra raised an eyebrow. “Never the one to hide your feelings, are you, my dear witch,” he rumbled, amused.
“Oh, ah,” Braeburn stuttered, breaking into a small laugh. “I am flattered, ma’am. You do get quite into character. I’ve seen that with all you fine folk!” He backed up slightly, bowing quickly. “Well, you have a good time at your movie and be sure to sample the apple fritters while you’re here. We’re the only town in all of Equestria whose movie theaters serve them!” The hay-colored pony backed up a few steps, then beat a hasty and embarrassed retreat back into the crowded streets.
Nyx watched him go, reaching for her robe’s hood to draw it back into place, when Sombra snorted. “A souvenir from this excursion, my dear?”
“Well, you do often work late into the evening on official business, Somby,” she pouted. “And he is rather handsome!”
The Shadow King raised an eyebrow. “I did not think him your type. He is rather - bland and emotionally transparent.”
She watched Braeburn as he greeted another cosplayer close by, Nyx admiring their host’s toned backside and full, golden-hued tail. “Are they not the safer ones, my dark heart? Utterly unable to keep secrets from you?”
“Hmm, you do have a point, I suppose,” Sombra admitted. “He would have to be housed in another section away from the other concubines.” The king glanced briefly at the stallion, nodding. “Or perhaps he could keep them serviced now that my attentions are more fully on you these days.”
Nyx’s head whipped back around to her consort. “You’d share your harem?”
Sombra snorted. “Hardly!” he growled, but found his attention drawn back to the well-proportioned Appleoosan. “He could be tasked with keeping them content.” He downed the rest of his wine, but caught Nyx smiling at him as if she had won some sort of argument. “There is nothing wrong with that!” he grumbled.
Nyx shook her head and turned back to watching their gracious host. Braeburn felt her gaze, looking back over his shoulder. Their eyes met, his caught once again by the exotic glitter in hers. Shaking himself out of their hypnotic draw, he forced himself to continue down the street towards the theater.