“Age of Umbra”
Many eons ago, in the land of the Crystal Empire, a hero rose from the ashes of the Great War. A knight of the Empire defended the walls and slayed all whom threatened the innocents within the land. A mare defied the limitations of her gender set by the social system. She fought with ferocity far surpassing that of all of her stallion peers, yet her sense of honor remained highly dignified. After the Great War had ceased, a new ruler was needed to guide the shattered remains of the Crystal Empire.
Thus, the age of Queen Umbra had begun. The denizens of the Crystal Empire came to cherish their ruler. With unyielding strength, unrequited beauty, and a pure heart, Umbra treated those around her with respect and honor. However, much to everypony’s surprise, the good queen was a maiden, and hopes to unify the Empire began to rise. A joint marriage was constituted between Umbra and Prometheus, the King of the South Region, and the land’s era of prosperity continued to thrive.
Yet, there was dissension in the ranks. News quickly spread of Queen Umbra’s pregnancy throughout the Crystal Empire, and she was to give birth to a colt. Unfortunately, mere hours after Umbra gave birth, there was an attempt on her son’s life in a form of power play. Even in her weakened state, she drove off the attacker, only to learn his identity was that of her arranged husband, Prometheus. With an iron hoof and heavy heart, Umbra saw this betrayal through with an execution.
In spite of the evidence of the coup, the South Region viewed Umbra’s actions as traitorous and declared war for full right of the land. However, many estranged members of the Griffon Kingdom joined their cause, and Umbra’s forces were overwhelmed immensely. The Crystal Empire was crushed in the battle, and the event recorded the highest number of casualties in Equestria’s history. Even Umbra’s son was killed in the crossfire.
Fortunately, Umbra survived the attack, but was gravely injured. Pained by the loss of her son, endured betrayal, and destruction of her empire, Umbra lost herself to madness. She wanted to right the wrongs done to her and the land. Sadly, her own magical capabilities and swordsmanship would not be enough to carry out the task of defeating an entire army.
Yet, there was a way. Dragging her broken body to the outskirts of the Crystal Empire to the Sacred Palace, Umbra performed a dark ritual with the Alicorn Amulet. Using the relic’s dark magic, she infused the amulet with her horn and nearly lost her sanity. Fortunately, Umbra survived the process. Her wounds were healed, and she immediately ventured out, launching a one-mare assault on the South Region.
Her enemies would not stand a chance against her newly acquired might. The battle lasted three entire days, with the mare slaying well over a thousand soldiers. Through sheer force, Queen Umbra had retaken what was stolen from her, but something had changed in the coming days. Umbra’s entire persona had changed drastically from a compassionate and kind ruler, to that of a relentless and cold dictator.
Eventually, Princes Solaris and Artemis confronted the mare during her oppressive rule and were forced to suppress her with the Elements of Harmony. The purifying rays tore her body asunder, reducing it to a mist-like form. However, Umbra disappeared for countless eons to come. That is, until a few years ago. Sources indicated that something, or somepony, had taken refuge in the ruins of the Sacred Palace.
The area had become dangerous and filled with death traps. All that attempted passage paid with their lives, but a dark presence could be felt by those sensitive to magic whenever they came within range of the palace. Many believe that Queen Umbra rests there to this day, awaiting one worthy enough to test her. Rather, that is what most of the rumors state.
“That was rather dramatic,” Trixie declared, folding her hooves as Eris sat in midair with a book in her paw. The mare closed her eyes and huffed in a haughty manner. “Your sense of theatrics could use some work.”
Eris flicked her talon, prompting the book to vanish from sight in a burst of light. “There’s nothing theatrical or dramatic about it. It’s a fact. The tale of Queen Umbra is heavily documented in my old Equestria.” The draconequus narrowed her crimson gaze on nothing in particular. “She’s the reason the Crystal Empire is as luxurious as it is today. That mare was a true ruler.”
Sonata tilted her head to the side. “Did you ever meet her?”
“Not personally, no,” Eris softly declared, brushing a paw through her snow-white hair. “I was born several decades after Queen Umbra was banished. It’s just as much history for me as it is for everypony else.”
Ember furrowed her brow. “Hold on a second. As I recall, Discord was born long before the years of King Sombra in this Equestria. Are you saying you’re that much younger than him?”
Eris simply nodded. “Yes. I suppose that’s one of the reasons why we disagreed on certain things. He was stuck in his old ways, while I was ‘too young and emotional’.” She twirled a claw about playfully. “Aren’t the joys of multiverse theory grand?”
“Utterly intriguing,” Trixie dryly replied, leaning back into her seat. “I suppose I have to ask why you shared such a tale with us.”
Peter, who had remained silent throughout the entire conversation, straightened his posture before clearing his throat. “That’s because I’m going to recruit Umbra into the Avengers. I just wanted everypony here to have an idea of what we’re gonna be dealing with.”
Ember folded her arms. “So, that’s what this is about.”
“Cool! We’re expanding!” Sonata obliviously cheered, clapping her hooves together.
Blinking, Trixie shook her head and raised a hoof objectively. “This is clearly bad news. What makes you think bringing another Sombra here is going to work?”
“I’ve got my reasons,” Peter replied, shifting his gaze to where the dragon sat. “Ember, you’re in charge while Eris and I are gone. We should be back in a couple of days if nothing goes wrong.”
Ember frowned, narrowing her gaze on the stallion. “I would argue, but it seems that you’ve already made up your mind on this.” The dragon let out a defeated sigh while her expression softened. “Stay safe on your conquest.”
Sonata leaned back into her seat, humming. “Say hi to Patricia for me while you’re there if you can.”
Peter shared a nod with everypony in the room, avoiding Trixie’s stern gaze in the process before stealing a glance at the draconequus. “I’ll meet you outside in a few minutes, Eris.”
Eris held out her paw as a small orb of energy materialized into existence over it. “Very well. I’ll finish our travel preparations in the meantime.”
Once Eris vanished from sight in a burst of light, Ember and Sonata quietly exited the room. Trixie faced the stallion with a stern expression and firm posture. “You know that I hate being ignored. What’s your explanation for this? Does Twilight know about this stunt you’re trying to pull?”
“All Avengers related business is passed through Twilight and Luna,” Peter calmly retorted, glancing to the side. “They gave the okay. It’s been two years since Ember joined, and we need to expand the team.”
Slow to respond, Trixie furrowed her brow. “Sure, but you usually talk to me first before you go to the princesses. Just what is it that’s bothering you, exactly?”
Peter exhaled, arching a brow at the mare while a bemused expression formed on his face. “What makes you so sure that something’s wrong?”
“Because you’re being unusually somber and much less provocative than usual,” Trixie coolly declared, earning a knowing yet defeated sigh from the stallion. The mare sobered and reached out, placing a hoof over Peter’s. “We’ve been best friends for nearly two decades at this juncture. I know your tendencies, believe it or not. And I do care.”
Peter could only stare somberly into the mare’s warm and mature gaze. As usual, the women in his life saw right through him, whether it was his wife, daughter, best friend, or the entity living in his head. Not that he minded, considering they each adored him in their own way. However, it made Peter a notorious pushover, and years later, they were still taking advantage of the fact.
Glancing to the side, Peter’s eyes softened. “All right. I have a personal stake in this.”
“How?” Trixie firmly questioned, easing back into her seat before raising a hoof objectively. “You’ve never met Umbra. Why would you feel that this is personal?”
Slow to respond, the stallion inhaled deeply before sighing. “I have a pretty firm no-kill policy, yet there are four beings that I've killed in my life: Chrysalis from the future, Nightmare, this world’s Sombra, and… you.” The air around them grew thick, making the simple act of breathing difficult. Peter’s brow furrowed in thought. “For every life that I’ve taken, I managed to redeem another.”
Trixie stared intently at the stallion for what seemed like eons. “So, that’s why you refused to talk with me about what happened during your time in the future.” After another uneasy silence passed, Trixie glanced aside somberly, “I’ll get the rest of the story from Twilight later.” The mare sobered, clearing her throat. “Anyway. I can see most of your point. You vanquished Nightmare, but have a spiritual guide and friend in Dream. Chrysalis of the future was a war tyrant, but in our world, she’s an ambassador for peace. And I’m still alive and quite well. Do you really feel that you have to save Umbra?”
“I took Sombra’s life, and I’ve accepted responsibility for that,” Peter gently declared, folding his hooves. “It’s just that Sombra wanted to die and lied to make sure that he would. If Umbra is going through something similar, I want to prevent that.” His expression softened momentarily. “Besides. I lost you to the Alicorn Amulet. I can’t let that happen to anyone else. I’ll feel better if I at least try.”
A low silence filled the room as Trixie registered the stallion’s words. Eventually, she let out a defeated sigh and shook her head. “I don’t know what about you is more overwhelming: your guilt, or your sympathy towards others. Then again, I guess that’s what I’ve always liked about you.” The corner of her lips curled into a warm smile before she gently placed a hoof over the stallion’s own. “Fine. Go do what you have to. I still think this is a stupid idea, but I’ve learned to just trust your judgement in times like this.”
Peter returned the mare’s smile with one of his own. “Thanks, Trixie.”
Trixie huffed, glancing off to the side dismissively. “In any case, Umbra sounds dangerous. Are you certain that you want to go to her alone?” Her voice, though stern, wavered with concern. She returned her gaze to the stallion. “I can come with you.”
Placing a hoof over the mare’s shoulder, Peter shook his head before standing from his seat. “I appreciate it, Trixie, but I have to do this on my own. If Umbra is anything like Sombra, she’s still a knight at heart and bound to her honor. I might be able to appeal to that side of her if I come to her honestly.” The stallion waved off to the mare before venturing off. “Wish me luck.”
Once Peter was out of hearing range, Trixie managed a smirk as she stood from her seat. “With a heart like yours, who needs luck?”
A thick blanket of snow covered the entirety of the land, and the blizzard’s harsh wind continued to lower the already below-freezing temperature. Peter clutched at his cloak while gazing into the horizon with a furrowed brow before shivering involuntarily. Even with his fur, costume, and cloak, he could still feel the chilling effects of the icy terrain. Mercifully, after a brief trek, the stallion eventually happened upon a large structure.
Its walls were cracked, plagued with age, yet it managed to withstand the surrounding storm with a sense of dignity. Peter eyed the structure before locating the front entrance. The stallion approached one of the large double doors, pressing against the stone. The entrance slowly gave to his strength, sliding open, and the outside winds rushed inside, forcing him to quickly seal the door. The temperature somewhat heightened, allowing Peter to pull the cloak’s hood from over his head.
“It’s still freezing in here, but it’s way more tolerable than the wind chill outside,” Peter muttered, rubbing his hooves together. “Lady Sombra needs to pay her heat bill.”
Dream frowned, narrowing her gaze as she extended a hand out. “It’s not just the weather. Umbra’s dark magic has spread throughout the ruins.” She shivered involuntarily. “It’s... different. Very cold, almost as if lifeless. Be careful, Peter. There’s no telling what we’re going to experience here.”
Peter nodded. “Yeah. She’s definitely here then. I’ll tread lightly.”
The stallion peeked at the corridor from the corner of his eye before walking in its direction. He paused, noticing a steep slope. Its length seemed endless, masked in everlasting darkness. Inhaling deeply before sighing, Peter hopped forward and slid down the slope. His descent lasted nearly a minute, with his speed increasing by the second.
However, the end of the path rapidly neared as his sixth sense blared profusely. A bottomless pit awaited below, with the end of a broken bridge standing several yards away. Pushing off his hind legs, Peter leaped to the greatest of his ability. He soared gracefully for what seemed like ages, eventually landing at the edge of the broken pathway.
“I assume that was one of the traps Eris spoke of,” Dream interjected, furrowing her gaze as Peter peeked down at the abyss below. “One mistake could spell your doom. Keep your guard up.”
Peter simply nodded a response before shifting his gaze to the door at the end of the path. Pulling himself to an upright stance, the stallion pushed the door open upon reaching it. However, he eyed a long, empty corridor. Its pathway was clean, with no obscuring obstacles, and a door at the end.
Yet, Peter remained still, frowning as the back of his cranium quietly chimed a response. He broke off a piece of the bridge, pausing before tossing the wood at the center of the hallway. The immediate second once the object touched the ground, arrows shot out from the countless holes in the walls and skewered the stones across from their positions. The barrage ceased as quickly as it began, causing the stallion to blink at the sight.
“I’m beginning to think that this girl doesn’t want to be bothered,” Peter nervously chuckled, tightening the straps of his cloak. He extended a hoof, retrieving one of the arrows with a strand of webbing. The stallion eyed the tip of the weapon, furrowing his brow as it hissed in response. Peter tossed the arrow to the side, huffing. “Poison-tipped arrows? That’s a bit overkill. Why doesn’t she just kick a baby’s carriage into a vat of acid with crocodiles wielding machetes?”
Dream lowered into a sitting position before folding her arms. “Crude images aside, you do have a point of sorts. However, these traps may serve as trials. The question is... for what, exactly?”
Inhaling deeply before sighing, Peter raced ahead in a blur. The room’s defense mechanism activated, evident by the loud clicking sound, and a barrage of arrows shot through the hall. Swaying his body in accordance to each arrow that neared, Peter sped past the obstacle and skidded to a halt upon reaching the end of the hallway. The arrows ceased firing, prompting the stallion to steal a glance back at the area.
Dream held a hand over her forehead, shaking the cobwebs free. “I’m consistently surprised by your speed and maneuverability. I don’t know how your senses cope with it.”
“Years of practice,” Peter smugly declared, holding out his cloak and eyeing the fresh holes spread throughout it. Shrugging, the stallion discarded the tattered clothing, revealing his untouched black and white costume on his form. “It’s how I’ve avoided becoming a shishkebab for so long. Or would that be pony-kebab these days?”
The stallion calmly walked ahead through the corridor, passing by several statues of Umbra in the process. Their ages were apparent through the many cracks and dust spread over their forms. Peter tapped one lightly with a hoof, causing the stone to disintegrate into shards of rubble. Eventually, he reached a large, circular room holding a dozen doors spread along the walls.
Peter’s brow furrowed at the sight as he shifted his gaze between each door. “So many doors. Is she a fan of the Price is Right? I wonder if there’s a new car behind door number three?”
“This is serious,” Dream sternly whispered, all humor having left her voice. “I’ve not seen such an elaborate design since my previous rule as Nightmare Moon.”
Arching a brow, Peter glanced to the side. “So this isn’t Umbra’s closet collection? What are we looking at then?”
“It’s a room used to deal with intruders,” Dream whispered, brushing a hand through her sky blue hair. “Only one door leads to Umbra. The rest lead into a dead-end, and I mean that literally. A trap triggers the second the door is opened. There are no second chances.” She shared a glance with her host, nodding. “I leave this one to you. Surely, your sense for danger will guide us to salvation.”
Peter chuckled nervously. “Or destruction. No pressure, right?” He walked forward, staring intently at each door that he passed. The back of his head chimed profusely, never ceasing until the stallion reached one door in particular. Pursing his lips, Peter frowned before tapping a hoof against the door. “It’s this one.”
Dream arched a brow. “Are you sure? Wouldn’t it make more sense to go through the door with the greatest danger?”
Peter pressed the door open, walking inside the dark room. “The Spider Sense is for immediate danger. If I opened any of the other doors, the traps would have been set right away. The fact that I’m not sensing anything at all means that Umbra is just waiting.” Once inside, the door slammed shut behind his position, and every torch in the hallway lit up with small flames. The narrow pathway ahead led to a large platform where a lone figure sat in silence. Peter chuckled inwardly before trotting ahead. “Can I call them or what?”
Meanwhile, Dream stared at her host with a widened, bewildered gaze. “Simply amazing. He comes off as aloof in the world around him, but his instincts are astoundingly sharp.” A warm smile graced her features. “I can see why Discord and Eris wanted Peter as the Spirit of Order and Harmony.”
Back in the real world, Peter paused along the walkway before peeking over its edge and eyeing the endless abyss that awaited below. He eventually pressed on, reaching the central platform. Suddenly, the walkway separated itself from the entrance and slowly slid into the platform. However, Peter simply glanced at the sight with a knowing gaze before shifting his line of sight to the dark being at the center of the area.
A mare lazily sat in a chair made of stone, holding a blank, crimson stare. Her body was clad in silver armor, while a bright red cape hung over the arm of the chair. Traces of black, magical energy flowed from the mare’s form, seeping into the ground and everything within hoof’s length. However, a large sword still within its brown scabbard leaned upright against the chair.
“Yet another fool enters these chambers,” she darkly whispered, her gravelly voice resembling the sound of glass scratching against a rough surface. Her crimson and jade eyes glowed momentarily, piercing the surrounding darkness as she stood from her seat. Black traces of electricity sparked from her red horn before she glared intently at the intruder. “Do you seek the power of the Alicorn Amulet? If you are worthy, pry it from my lifeless husk. If not, you will fall like the rest.”
Peter shook his head. “A lot of beings have lost their lives trying to get here. Why did you lead them to their slaughter?”
Umbra’s face twisted into a frown. “They sought power and died in their pursuit. Their ambition was their end. I sought seclusion, never to deal with the outside world ever again.”
“Why? Because of what happened in the war?” Peter questioned, furrowing his brow.
Slow to respond, Umbra narrowed her gaze on the stallion. “I was once a warrior for peace, but I was betrayed by those around me. The world is corrupt and beyond repair.” She raised a hoof inches from her face, frowning. “I lost my son to that foolishness, and yet the world could see only the evil that I committed. I have lost faith in all things.” Umbra lifted her gaze and stared intently at Peter. “I ask you again. Have you come here to disappoint me as well?”
Peter stood upright onto his hind legs and folded his hooves. “I'm not interested in the Alicorn Amulet. I came here for you.”
“How brazen,” she huffed, raising an eyebrow and straightening her posture. “Who are you, and just what do you want with me?”
The stallion nodded. “My name is Peter Parker. I’m not from this world. I’m from a parallel world adjacent to this one.” He cleared his throat. “My world has experienced some losses, and we’re in the stages of rebuilding. I’m assembling a team to act as a frontline defense against the evils that seek to harm those around them.” The stallion raised a hoof objectively. “Our goal is to unite the world in spite of our differences.”
Umbra huffed under her breath. “Why bother? Your world sounds no different than this one. That situation was born from those that cannot accept those that are different and power hungry mongrels’ desire to rule.”
“Yes, but mistakes can be corrected,” Peter firmly declared, his voice gentle.
“Some things cannot be corrected,” Umbra shot back, narrowing her gaze at the stallion.
Peter managed a small smile. “Even so, we have to do everything that we can to make sure that some mistakes are not repeated.”
Blinking, Umbra’s eyes widened. She soon scoffed, shaking her head. “You are an idealist, much like I was so many moons ago. It is a foolish stance to take.” Umbra quietly walked to the side, pausing upon reaching the edge of the platform. The mare stared deeply at the abyss below. “I fought for the world. I bled for the sake of protecting peace. And no matter what your good intentions are, the world will eventually betray you and discard you as garbage. What makes you so sure that your crusade is worth fighting for?”
Peter’s eyes softened as he walked towards the mare, pausing once they were several hoof-lengths apart. “Is this about your son?” Umbra offered no response, never averting her gaze from the bottomless pit. Peter nodded inwardly. “I almost know what that feels like, believe me. I have two children myself. A daughter and son. I couldn’t imagine what my life would be like if I lost them.” He glanced at the mare. “There wasn’t anything in the historical documents about your son. What was his name?”
“Sombra,” Umbra whispered, lifting her head slightly.
Blinking, Peter held his silence before chuckling. “That’s a fitting name.” The stallion raised his hoof objectively. “You can’t give up on the world because of what you lost. I know how hard that can be, but there are many redeeming qualities in the world. That’s why I fight as a knight of Equestria: to make the world a safer place for my friends and family.”
Umbra’s stern features softened. “You are a knight as well?”
Peter nodded. “Yes. That’s why I want you to join my team. You understand honor, and our goal is to make the world safer for all races: ponies, sirens, draconequi, dragons, and everything else. Everypony has a right to life.” The stallion inhaled deeply before sighing. “Hear me out, Umbra. I know losing your family and kingdom is enough to shake your faith in the world. It’s easy to give up and just accept the way things are.” Peter extended a hoof to the side. “However, nothing would truly change if you just gave up. If we’re going to change, we have to do it ourselves. It’s not enough to simply accept the status quo and go along with their ideals.”
The mare’s brow lowered in thought, as if contemplating the stallion’s words. “You are a strange one.”
Folding his hooves, Peter sobered and frowned. “More importantly, your son wouldn’t want you to spend the rest of eternity locked in a dank cave underground. You need to go out there and live your life. Make up for your son’s lost time, and make the world safer so that innocent lives like your son’s are never lost again.”
A long silence filled the area as Umbra walked away from the stallion, making certain that her back faced him. “I had thought you were just another fool seeking power, but now I realize that you’re a fool chasing idealistic dreams.” She huffed under her breath while shaking her head, managing a ghost of a smile before facing the stallion. “Very well. We will practice an age old tradition and create a pact.”
Peter tilted his head to the side. “How does that go?”
Umbra folded her hooves and closed her eyes. “We are both knights that honor a code. A pact requires a vow. If I am to follow you on your journey, you must swear an oath. If I deem you and your oath worthy, I will accompany you and place my strength at your disposal. That also requires a test of strength, for a pact can only be shared with one of equal or superior strength.”
“Is it really that simple?” Peter questioned, his eyes widening at the comment.
The mare simply frowned and huffed. “I suppose you could call it simple, but I give you fair warnings. I must test your strength legitimately. I will not hold back. I suggest you fight as seriously as possible, or else you will die.” Umbra brushed a hoof through her long, jet black mane. “Also, should you fail to uphold your vow or betray me, that means you forsake your honor and our pact is severed. Is that understood?”
Nodding, Peter chuckled. “If it’s worthwhile, it’s worth fighting for. Yeah. That’s only fair. I promise. I won’t let you down.”
Umbra quietly stared at the stallion for what seemed like eons. “You’re either aloof or honest. Strangely, I trust your earnesty.” The mare nodded, walking forward until she was hoof-lengths away from Peter. “Speak your vow.”
Peter bumped a hoof firmly against his chest. “I, Peter Parker, have but one vow. I will fight for the sake of creating a world where no life is sacrificed meaninglessly!” He chuckled, smiling warmly. “That’s all.”
“Then we shall create a pact from that vow,” Umbra firmly declared, shifting her gaze to the side as her crimson horn glowed with magical energy. The sword leaning against her stone chair levitated before rushing towards the mare. She bit down onto the weapon’s hilt with her teeth, unsheathing the blade sharply. The mare’s horn sparked, causing the scabbard to shoot back into the air until it imbedded into the ground, piercing the stone. Umbra snarled, gripping her sword tightly while lowering into a defensive stance, and black aura roared from her body, spreading throughout the air. “Now fight!”
Peter simply nodded before lowering into a defensive stance while electrical energies sparkled across his form. “Alright!” Suddenly, Twilight Arms II materialized into existence, and the stallion bumped his gauntlets together, generating a shockwave around his position. Once the dust settled, Peter glared intently at the mare. “Bring it!”
Umbra dashed forward, throwing a wide slash of her sword. Peter ducked underneath the attack and swayed his head back once the mare followed with a straight kick. Flipping high into the air, Umbra dove with her sword still in her mouth. Peter raised his hooves defensively, managing to block the blow directly, and a shockwave erupted at the point of impact, knocking the dust from the surrounding walls.
Just as the mare landed, she sped forward once more and unleashed a flurry of slashes. Peter swayed his body in response to each slash, dodging each attack, and both ponies vanished in a blur. Umbra ended her attack with a straight lunge, but the stallion swayed on a hoof, deflecting the blow. Faster than Umbra could react, Peter spun in place and delivered a stiff kick to the mare’s abdomen.
Bearing her fangs, Umbra snarled before dark traces of electricity sparked from her horn. Suddenly, a black magical aura enveloped the mare’s sword and levitated it into the air. A pair of dark tendrils burst from her back and hissed to life, slamming the ground with enough force to crack the stone. The sword vanished from sight, materializing into existence mere inches away from the stallion, and it threw several slashes, as if it had come to life on its own.
Umbra raced forward while the stallion dodged the blade’s attacks, unleashing a wide lash from one of her tendrils once within range. However, Peter sidestepped the attacks from both sides before rolling to the side and flipping high into the air. The sword threatened to impale the stallion from behind, forcing him to kick the weapon away. Unfortunately, one of the coils wrapped around Peter’s leg, snatching him from mid air before slamming his frame to the ground with enough force to send tremors through the platform.
Suddenly, the world slowed as the black aura emitting from Umbra’s body ignited before she galloped toward the stallion at full speed, leaving a dust trail behind her. Peter shook the cobwebs free from his head, quickly skipping back up to an upright stance. Umbra closed the gap instantly, thrusting both tendrils simultaneously from the sides, but the stallion lifted his hooves, stopping the coils in their tracks. The mare couldn’t react as Peter flipped into a hoofstand, kicking the underside of her jaw with a crack.
The impact sent Umbra pinwheeling into the air, but she vanished from sight before colliding into the ground. She materialized back into existence several yards away, scowling at the stallion. The mare slammed her hooves into the stone, prying it from the ground. Tremors coursed through the entire platform while magical energies from the atmosphere channeled into her horn, and traces of electricity crackled throughout the ground.
Roaring at the top of her lungs, Umbra unleashed a massive beam of energy at Peter, and the recoil sent her staggering. The wave came at blinding speed, threatening to engulf the stallion. However, Peter lunged forward, delivering a straight punch to the beam. The energies stopped in their tracks before changing trajectory, shifting to the side in accordance to the blow. Umbra watched as the wave collided into the nearest wall, piercing the stone with ease.
Peter planted his hooves before dashing ahead in a sprint. Umbra scoffed at the sight, firing a bolt of energy once the stallion was mere hoof-lengths away. However, he vanished from sight in a burst of light before the energy could connect. The stallion reappeared in midair, driving a straight kick into the mare’s side. Peter quickly followed with a flurry of punches, juggling Umbra’s form before finishing with a haymaker. The blow cracked the mare’s armor before launching her body several yards away.
Umbra spun and managed to land upright, skidding to a halt until she reached the edge of the platform. The mare staggered, quickly retrieving her blade with her mouth once it materialized next to her position. Inhaling deeply before exhaling, Umbra’s eyes vanished behind a blinding light while her body levitated from the ground. Suddenly, three orbs of black energy glowed into existence at each end of the platform before currents of electricity connected the spheres.
Peter stood at the center with a widened gaze while Umbra howled at the top of her lungs. Magical energies spiraled around the vicinity before they ignited, triggering a massive explosion at the center of the platform where the stallion stood. The stone ruptured, shattering to rubble until a dust cloud rose from the point of impact. The surrounding energies dissipated, fading from sight.
However, as the dust cleared, an individual stood amongst the debris. Umbra’s eyes widened as Peter’s form came into view. He stood virtually unharmed behind a magical barrier as his horn glowed. However, Umbra could only blink at the stallion’s blue, slitted gaze before it shifted back to its hazel form. Faster than she could react, the stallion shot out a strand of webbing onto the mare’s chest from his hoof before yanking her across the air. Peter jumped as well, flipping directly over the airborne mare, and he delivered a punch right into her chest.
The force of the blow sent the mare careening until she burst into the ground, generating a crater upon impact. Her sword spun through the air, piercing the ground mere inches from her head. The muscles in her body failed to respond to her commands as she strained to stand, unable to do so. Peter gracefully landed mere hoof-lengths away from the mare, holding a soft gaze as the gauntlets over his hooves faded from sight.
Umbra weakly blinked at the stallion. “Your power is admirable.”
“I’m only strong because I have a lot to fight for,” Peter lightly replied, all humor having left his voice.
The mare’s gaze softened. “Aren’t you… going to finish me? It’s not too late.” Wincing, she glanced at the crimson appendage over her forehead. “The power of the Alicorn Amulet can be yours. You are more than worthy.”
Peter walked to the mare’s side, lowering to a kneeling stance. He held out a hoof near her horn, prompting Umbra to close her eyes. She inhaled deeply before sighing, as if expecting her world to end. However, nothing of the sort came. Umbra opened her eyes, gasping once the stallion placed his hoof warmly over her shoulder.
“I’ve defeated Umbra, the tyrant who ruled the Crystal Empire with a cold dictatorship,” he whispered, managing a small smile, “and I forgive Umbra, the kind-hearted queen who ruled with peace and love.” The stallion shook his head, chuckling under his breath. “Heh. That’s all.”
Umbra’s eyes widened at the stallion’s simple words. As if disappointed, the mare scoffed and glanced off to the side shamefully. “It looks like I failed to die once more.”
Suddenly, something snapped within the stallion. He growled before punching the ground mere inches from Umbra’s head. “Don’t be stupid!” he exclaimed, prying his hoof from the shattered stone. “You can die at any time, but when you do, that’s the end!”
Frowning, Umbra met his gaze. “What are you saying? Do you want me to live in eternal damnation?!”
Peter grabbed the mare by her shoulders, making certain that their gazes were only inches apart. “Who said anything like that?! What will you accomplish by dying? Nothing! There is no meaning in dying!” The stallion tightened his hold. “Dying doesn’t equate to redemption! You have to live for yourself and your son’s lost years. To do anything less would be a disgrace to both of you!”
Umbra’s held a stunned expression as the temperature in her face rose. “Why do you care?! I have nothing left to live for anymore! My son was everything to me! Just leave me to die!”
Peter firmly stood, holding his ground with a frown. “Until you start making sense, I’ve got no reason to listen to you. Your son may be gone, but that doesn't mean you can't still honor him. Do you honestly think he would ever forgive you for the decision you're trying to make right now?”
From the confines of Peter’s mind, Dream watched the spectacle with a warm smile before nodding. “Even now, you surprise me still. I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand your idealism, Peter.”
Slow to respond, Umbra let out a defeated sigh before leaning her head back. “You’re… right. To think I had to have a total stranger teach me such an obvious lesson.” Her comment prompted the stallion to relinquish his hold. Umbra closed her eyes, managing a smile. As a lone tear streamed down her cheek before she raised a hoof, causing Peter to gently accept the gesture by taking hold of her offered limb. “I accept your vow, Peter Parker. I will try once more to believe in the inhabitants of the world in order to build the foundation you speak of: where everypony can live equally and safely. My power is thine.”
Both ponies shook hooves, never averting their gaze from each other. “Your power is your own, but I gladly accept your help as a friend.” Peter gently declared, finally showing a smile with teeth while grinning. “Welcome to the Avengers, Umbra.”