“In all my studies, never have I encountered greater mystery than when I examined politics. For something meant to be so straight forward and pure, it is truly an example of manipulation and corruption at its finest.”
~ Scroll Wyrm the Scholar (Year 294 of Discord’s War)
Duke Doré Langue was seething with rage as his most loyal servant worked on wrapping a splint around his broken leg. Thanks to his high status in the empire’s government, the duke was afforded the best possible care within mere minutes after Ursa had kicked over a pillar onto him. Potions and spells had worked wonders to restore the damaged limb, but his body's natural healing process still had to mend the last of his broken bones. Doré Langue dismissed the old stallion as soon as he had finished wrapping the bandages, because the crimson unicorn needed some time alone.
As angry as he was to have been blindsided by that vile excuse for a crystal pony, Doré Langue was even more infuriated that Draft had gotten free from his spell. Nopony had ever escaped his magical clutches before and if he couldn’t find a way to rectify the situation, his true power would surely be exposed. Then his only fear would come to pass; Equestria’s princesses would come after him wielding their all powerful Elements of Harmony. He needed more time to destroy the emperor and the empress before that happened, but he had no idea how long it would take.
“Humble, I need you back here,” Doré Langue thought to the old stallion. It made it infinitely easier to manage his affairs being able to communicate telepathically with his workers from a distance. That was the first spell that he had worked on mastering after he finally decided to put his devious plans into action.
“Right away, sir,” Humble thought back to him. The grey maned earth pony stepped through the door to his study a few moments later.
“I need you to send a message to the griffins. Tell them that I will pay them twice their price to bring me the heads of Downpour and Ursa. Draft, I think I would like alive.”
“Right away sir,” the stallion replied.
“I also want them to kill the stallion, Nature Spark. He’s working for the princesses just like those pegasus and I will not have them ruining everything that I have worked so hard to complete,” the duke explained, trying to contain his temper, because it would do him no good to get angry. He would need a clear head to devise a new plan.
“Shall I also call a meeting with the council for tomorrow morning? I imagine that they will be eager for an explanation of today’s mishaps.” Doré Langue thought for a moment, considering how best to spin the events that had taken place in the palace.
“Yes, I think that a meeting will benefit everypony involved. Now go take care of all of that and be back here in time to bring me my evening tea,” the duke commanded.
“Of course, sir,” Humble replied with a bow. A moment later and the old stallion had disappeared out his door, leaving Duke Doré Langue to think in peace.
A couple hours after Humble had left Doré Manor, the duke heard somepony causing a ruckus downstairs. He got to his hooves with a small sigh, taking care not to tread heavily on his wounded leg, and left his study to investigate the disruption to his personal time of reflection. As he tackled the difficult task of walking safely down the winding stairs with a splint on, Doré Langue heard a strange sound coming from one of his unused rooms. It almost sounded like laughter, although he had never heard any signs of joy from his employees in the past.
“Which one of you imbeciles is making that inconvenient disturbance!?” the duke shouted impatiently as he followed his ears to the source of the laughter. It was coming from his personal library, where he kept the books that he hardly ever had a need for. As he approached the door, the crimson unicorn noticed a strange glow shining through the gaps of the closed entryway. One of his servants was practicing magic under his very nose, but he couldn’t remember hiring any unicorns.
“I’ve had quite enough of this nonsense,” he called out as he opened the door to the library. Waiting for him with a crooked grin was a black unicorn, sitting in his reading chair and smiling, with teeth bared. “S-Sombra?” the duke asked, startled by the sudden intrusion of his unexpected guest.
“Well hello, Doré Langue,” the unicorn replied with a laugh as he examined several of the books held before his face in a green glow. “How have you been?”
“I, uh, things have be- just what are you doing in my house?” Doré Langue asked. The very presence of Sombra in his mansion was an unwelcome intrusion.
“Is that how you treat your old student and partner?” Sombra asked, feigning a hurt expression.
“How did you get in here?” the duke questioned him.
“Doré Langue, you surprise me. What did you expect from your best student?” the black stallion asked. “It’s a simple matter to get inside somepony’s home, of course I never learned your little magical suggestion trick, but I find pain to be a useful enough motivator.” Sombra’s eyes flashed with wicked glee.
“It is very rude to enter a stallion’s home uninvited, especially if you harm one of his servants in doing so,” the duke replied, unamused by his student’s violent antics. “What is so important that you found it necessary to disturb me right now?”
“Yes, I heard about those pegasus that escaped your clutches,” Sombra responded. “It’s a pity really. I would hate to believe that you’re losing your touch this far into the plan.” Sombra smiled again, his white teeth sparkling in the light of the single torch glowing in the large library.
“It was a small mistake; one that I will see resolved on my own, thank you very much,” Doré Langue replied with a scowl. Although Sombra had been the only student to survive his teachings, the duke had always been wary of his pupil's often drastic actions. The fact that Sombra had been studying ancient magics in an attempt to discover a method of killing an immortal only served to heighten his suspicions, but there was no alternative if he wished to sit upon the throne permanently.
His student glanced up from the dusty old tomes he had been reading to tell him, “I’ve just come back to let you know some good news.”
“Oh, and what might that be?” Doré Langue asked.
“I’ve uncovered a form of magic that appears to be very promising,” he replied. The duke smiled at his pupil who was no longer a confused young unicorn, but now a true master of his craft. Sombra smiled back as he used his magic to return the books to their proper places on the shelves, except for one that Doré Langue had never seen before. “What do you know about shadow magic?”
III. Luna's Protégé