Princess Twilight Sparkle, ex-evil king Sombra and Spike the dragon were sitting around the kitchen table. They were eating fancy, three-course dinner, following the proper dinner etiquette and formal dining settings, which proved to be rather difficult for Spike, who didn’t seem to know wich spoon and what fork he should use at the moment. Twilight Sparkle and Sombra didn’t find it difficult, as the royals they were. Sombra had some troubles using the silverware without his magic, but he could manage. He didn’t notice it, but for some reason his wine glass was never empty.
“So how’s the food?” Twilight asked. They were eating the main course at the moment.
“It’s nice, but I still can’t remember what fork to use,” Spike answered a bit embarrassedly.
Like he had expected, Sombra let out amused snort. He turned towards Spike and said with slightly slurred voice, “I somehow knew that easy things like dining would be challenging to a simple dragon like you.”
He earned disapproving look from Twilight and an annoyed glance from Spike. His scowl turned into a teasing smirk though, and he said, “Well… A simple dragon like me pretty much ruined your plans of conquering the Crystal Empire.”
Deep silence seized the room. The dark stallion and the purple dragon changed poison dripping glances with each other, until Twilight Sparkle cleared her throat and commanded with stern tone, “Stop, both of you!”
Both, the stallion and the dragon turned to look at their plates. Twilight sighed deeply and said with tired tone, “Why do you two always have to fight with each other?”
Everypony turned back to eat their meals. Sombra once again emptied his glass of wine, and Twilight immediately filled it. Spike looked at her a bit quizzically. He leaned closer to Twilight and whispered to her ear, “I don’t think that you should give him any more wine, he’s getting drunk.”
Twilight smiled smugly and whispered back to him, “I know.”
Spike glanced towards Sombra, who took a very un-kinglike gulp from the glass. Spike then turned back to Twilight and whispered again, “What are you up to, and are you sure it’s a good idea?”
“Trust me,” Twilight said, not giving an answer to his first question. Spike knew that he could trust Twilight. After all, she rarely gave him a reason not to trust her.
The dinner went along nicely, Sombra slowly getting more drunk, making him more talkative. Twilight was slightly surprised by the large amount of wine it took to get him into that mood. Well, he was a big stallion, so that might explain it. They were eating the dessert when Twilight finally moved along with her plan.
“So Sombra,” she started. Sombra turned to look at her with a drunken look on his face. The sight was amusing, but Twilight managed to keep herself in control and continued, “Remember how you spoke about your associates back when we were visiting Pinkie Pie yesterday?”
“I do,” Sombra answered. He then turned back to his dessert. It was lemon meringue pie. He tried to take the dessert fork into his hoof, but failed. He didn’t try twice. Instead he just took a bite from the pie.
Twilight snickered quietly, and Spike muttered something under his breath. Sombra didn’t seem to pay any more attention to Twilight’s question, so she had to continue, “I was just thinking that maybe you could tell me about them a little?”
For a second Sombra looked sober again. He was probably judging her question, trying to figure out if she was trying to trick him somehow. Twilight gave him a small, pleading smile, and lucky to her, the alcohol inside Sombra did it’s job.
“What exactly would I tell about them?” Sombra asked.
“Maybe some history about them? How were they in person? Did you like them or not? Anything you want to tell,” Twilight told him. “And wouldn’t it be nice to reminisce?”
Sombra stared at the purple alicorn for a long moment. She wasn’t sure, but it seemed like he was struggling with something inside of him. He glanced towards the half-full wine glass, then he drank it empty before slurring, “Where should I start?”
A wide smile appeared onto Twilight Sparkle’s face and her horn started to glow. Soon they saw two thick books, quill, inkwell and a notebook floated from the doorway, landing to the table in front of her with a loud thud. They both were big, heavy looking books with worn covers. The other book was titled ‘Rulers, lords and self-appointed leaders of Equestria and it’s colonies’. The title barely fit into the back of the book. The other one’s title was named simply ‘History of Equestria’. It was equally worn-looking, but more than twice as thick as the first one. Sombra saw many different colored bookmarks peeking from between the pages.
“I was hoping if we could start from the earliest rulers that you might have been associated with. I did some thinking and I assume that Emperor Mero would be one of the earliest emperors you may have known. After all you rose to the throne when he was still in power in…” Twilight Sparkle spoke while setting up her notebook and inkwell. She stopped when he felt both Spike and Sombra staring at her. She slowly looked at both of them. They had deadpan look on their faces.
“I suspect that you planned this all along, Twilight Sparkle,” Sombra spoke, focusing hard to speaking.
“Noo…” Twilight dragged the word and had as serious expression as she could “What makes you think like that?”
Sombra and Spike were quiet. They shared a look that said ‘is she serious?’, before Spike rose from the table and took his empty plates. He turned towards Twilight and said, “Thanks for the dinner Twily.”
“Aren’t you going to stay and listen? Learning about Equestria’s history is exciting,” Twilight asked from Spike, who seemed a bit troubled.
“Ugh… Its not that…” Spike started, trying to come up with a good excuse. He didn’t manage to do that. “I just have some… Really important… stuff going on. Yeah. That’s it.”
“Oh. Okay then,” Twilight said, a bit disappointment. She had hoped that Spike would have been there with them. He might have learned something new.
“Yeah, well…” Spike started. “I better go and start doing that stuff right now.”
“You do that,” Sombra said a bit irritated. He saw what Spike was up to, not really caring if he was interested or not, but his pathetic efforts for explanations were annoying.
Spike shot an annoyed glance towards him, before muttering, “I will. Bye Twilight.”
“Bye Spike. Be home before ten,” Twilight said.
Spike rolled his eyes and said with sarcastic tone, “Yes, mom.”
With that he left, avoiding a deadly boring lecture about things he didn’t really care. Sombra didn’t know which annoyed him more; Spike’s attitude or the fact that Twilight Sparkle didn’t seem to even notice that Spike was lying to her. Sombra frowned and thought that why should he care if Spike was lying to her… And why did he care…
“Shame. It would have been nice to have Spike here with us,” Twilight Sparkle said, looking towards the doorway where Spike had disappeared. Then she started to smile and said, “Well, I’ll give him a recap when he returns.”
That made Sombra smile mischievously. It made him feel better to know that Spike didn’t escape so easily.
“So shall we get started?” Twilight asked, Opening the ‘Rulers, lords and self-appointed leaders of Equestria and it’s colonies’. She flipped the pages until she reached the first bookmark. Sombra craned his neck and saw that on that page was a picture of a pony with lots of info under it.
“So did you know Emperor Mero?” Twilight Sparkle asked, levitating her quill over her notebook, ready to write everything down. Sombra just eyed the book for a moment, before turning it so he could read it. Even the words seemed blurry, he could still read them if he focused. Twilight watched as he read, hoping that he could give him some new information about the infamous Romane Emperor. She tapped the quill to the edge of the table as Sombra took his time to read the whole article about Mero. After he was done, he looked up and said, “I did know him.”
“Aha,” Twilight said and wrote something down. “Did you find anything to correct in the article?”
Sombra looked down at the book and then said angrily, “There wasn’t mentioned that he was a childish, quick-tempered foal who could not lead his own empire.”
Twilight Sparkle blinked confusedly. Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to get Sombra so drunk. It might have affected his ability to give constructive comments. Anyway, Twilight could tell that Sombra clearly hadn’t liked Mero too much. After she was recovered from his blunt answer, she asked, “What do you mean by that?”
Sombra chuckled darkly before answering, “He didn’t think through his actions and about the consequences. Too many times he let his emotions affect his decisions… And the worst mistake he did was that he gave too much power to his subjects. In the end it was what made him drive a dagger to his throat.”
There was drunken disgust in his voice. It made Twilight feel a slightly uncomfortable. Sombra was acting aggressively.
“S-so you didn’t agree with his way of ruling?” Twilight asked, gathering her composure. That made him snort disapprovingly.
“Yes. Only things he was good at was paying and drinking… That reminds me,” Sombra said and offered his glass towards Twilight, who levitated a bottle of red wine and refilled it. Sombra took a sip before continuing, “He had the best of wines and he was the most generous employer.”
“What!?” Twilight shouted, a shocked look on her face. “Employer!?”
“Yes. A pony that pays salary to the workers in exchange for the worker's labor,” Sombra said with a sluggish, still sarcastic voice.
Twilight frowned and said angrily, “I know what employer is! I was just surprised that you were working for Emperor Mero!”
“I wouldn’t say that I was working for him… He didn’t maybe know it, but he was working for me,” Sombra said with almost proud grin on his face. “He just happened to have some financial and military assets that I needed.”
Twilight was writing everything down without breaking eye contact with Sombra. She asked with almost respectful tone, “Financial and military assets? Did you just use him to get what you needed?”
“Exactly!” Sombra exclaimed, lifting his wine glass like he was toasting. “It was easy! I was a simple mercenary back then, pretending to be looking for a steady paying job…”
He leaned closer to Twilight and whispered, “It was all part of my plan.”
“Which was?” Twilight asked, making Sombra frown.
“Be patient Twilight Sparkle,” he scolded. “Everything on it’s time.”
Twilight folded her ears backwards in irritated manner, but let Sombra continue, “It was easy to impress Mero by doing his dirty work. He paid me well and after one particular job he started to respect me more, making him more vulnerable to my manipulation.”
“What did you do to gain his trust? What was the ‘job’ you were talking about?” Twilight asked, leaning a bit closer to him. Sombra smiled smugly and took a sip from his glass before answering.
“It was just a little arson,” he answered. Twilight wrote something down, before her eyes went wide and the quill accidentally went through the paper. She looked up to the grinning stallion in front of her.
“You did not…” she started, but Sombra finished her sentence.
“Set the city of Roam on fire? No. I did not. It was just a small little house of a senator who Mero did not like.”
“Oh…” Twilight exhaled, relieved by the fact that Sombra wasn’t responsible of the Great Fire of Roam. “Well, were you still working him when the Great Fire started?”
“Yes. I was,” Sombra said, looking at the book. “It was then when I realized that his empire was starting to fall down.”
“And you were right,” Twilight commented.
“Yes. Now we get to the plan you are so interested about,” Sombra told Twilight, who turned a new page in her notebook. She looked at Sombra with anticipation.
Sombra did not keep her waiting, and started to proudly explain his plan, “During the years I had rose up in the chain of command in the army. I had many companions in the ranks of officers. They were good soldiers with similar backgrounds like myself. They were working for Mero only for their own benefits. I told them that if they followed me, they would be granted great fortunes and high places in my private army.”
“And they followed you?” Twilight asked, flipping to a new page of her notebook.
“Yes. All of them,” Sombra answered.
“And what did you do after that?” Twilight asked, even she already had an idea about what they did after leaving from Romane Empire.
“We travelled to The Crystal Empire and in series of precise attacks we conquered it. I’m sure that you know the rest of the story.”
“I do,” Twilight answered. “But what happened to the soldiers you got from Roam?”
“I send a message to Mero, telling that I have traitors who abandoned him with me. I handed them over to him and took the power all to myself. Mero did not have the strenght or guts to try to rise against me, so he just let it be,” Sombra told calmly, making Twilight stare at him with shocked look, her ears folded backwards, her mouth a bit open.
“That’s terrible!” she shouted with shocked voice.
“That’s life,” Sombra retorted.
“How could you do that? Even after all that they had done to you? You told that they were like you. Didn’t you feel any remorse?” Twilight asked, crossing her front hooves over her chest.
“I wouldn’t trust myself, so why would I trust anypony who was like me?”
That made Twilight fall quiet. It made her think. If he wouldn’t trust himself, why would she trust him? She looked at the dark coated stallion in front of her. He was looking rather calm. Drunk, but calm. Like he really wasn’t feeling any remorse of what he had done. Maybe he didn’t actually feel it? For somepony like Twilight Sparkle it seemed like impossible idea. Surely the soldiers that Sombra got from Roam haven’t been too kind ponies themselves, conquering The Crystal Empire and all. Still, betraying them without hesitation was something that felt wrong to her.
“I-I need a drink,” she muttered.
“By all means,” Sombra answered with a small grin. He lifted the bottle and poured a full glass to Twilight Sparkle.
“Thank you,” Twilight said from a reflex and took a sip.
“You’re welcome,” Sombra said, slightly surprising Twilight.
* * *
The mood had rose since Twilight took that one glass of wine. She was still taking notes, but they were a lot less detailed than when she started. She and Sombra were still going through the ‘Rulers, lords and self-appointed leaders of Equestria and it’s colonies’, and they hadn’t even touched the ‘History of Equestria’. Their progress was slow and most of the time Twilight didn’t get any useful information from Sombra. Usually he told how the lord, emperor, king or queen preferred the company of same sex or what embarrassing habits they had. Twilight didn’t mind though, she was giggling at his stories and Sombra seemed to like it.
“Did you know this one?” Twilight asked, pointing at one of the pictures in the book. She leaned to her front hooves with her glass in her magical grasp. Sombra had to close his other eye to be able to focus on the picture. When he recognized the blood red unicorn with long, thin moustache, he chuckled a bit.
“That’s Vladimar the ‘impaler’,” Sombra chuckled with a grin, earning a raised eyebrow from Twilight. She sat up more straight before speaking.
“What’s so funny about it. Do you know how he got that nickname?” she asked with disapproving look on her face.
“I’m not amused by his rather brutal accomplishments as a leader,” Sombra told her. He then quickly added, “Which were quite effective to keep the peasants in a leash by the way.”
Twilight let out a small grunt, which made Sombra realise that maybe he shouldn’t continue on the subject. Instead he continued to tell her what he found so amusing about the pony they were talking about.
“Did you know that he wasn’t much of an ‘impaler’ with ladies,” Sombra snickered. Twilight frowned, not understanding what he meant.
“He didn’t kill mares? That’s a good thing… He showed at least some kind of honor with that,” Twilight said, now clearly starting to get confused.
“Oh he did that, but enough about it,” Sombra said and rubbed his forehead. He thought for a moment how to say it, and then proceeded, “Lets just say that he had trouble… pleasing a mare.”
Twilight tilted her head, still not understanding what Sombra meant. He gave Twilight a deadpan look, wondering how she could not understand what he was trying to say. He sighed, took a sip of his wine and leaned forward, saying, “He had trouble getting it up.”
“Getting what up?” Twilight asked with confused frown. Sombra could nothing else than just sigh deeply. He then nodded downwards.
It took couple of seconds before Twilight finally realized what he was trying to imply.
“Eww!” she exclaimed and started to giggle. Sombra too snickered, and they both sipped their wines. Sombra then tried to look as serious as he could.
“What’s so funny about that? It’s a serious problem,” he spoke, trying to keep a straight face. Twilight started to smirk and leaned onto her forehooves.
“It sounds like you would know about those kind of problems,” she said with teasing tone. Sombra chuckled at her attempt of provocation. He leaned even more forward, so that their faces were just inches away from each other, which made Twilight back up a bit.
“I can say that I never have had a problem with pleasing mares, Twilight Sparkle.”
He then leaned backwards and admired his handiwork. Twilight Sparkle was blushing, she couldn’t look straight at him and she was rubbing her front-hooves together nervously. Sombra laughed at the sight and took a long sip from his glass. Twilight in turn gulped down everything she had in her glass and continued to stare at the table. Sombra hated to admit it, but the blushing shy mare in front of him looked appealing to the eye, but he blamed the alcohol for it. For a long moment, neither of them spoke. Sombra kept grinning and Twilight tried to think how to change the subject and how to control her blushing. After a while she noticed the opened book on the table and cleared her throat.
“Shall we move on?” she asked, carefully glancing towards Sombra.
“Just show me the way to your bedroom,” he retorted with a suggestive, still teasing look that made Twilight gasp loudly.
The crimson red returned to her cheeks and she exclaimed angrily, “Are you trying to flirt with me!? Because it’s not working very well!”
“Are you sure?” Sombra asked with his slippery voice.
Twilight gave him an angry pout and said, a bit shyly, “Yes.”
There was a small silence between them again, before Sombra said, “Alright. We’ll move on.”
With that he took the book into his hooves and flipped to the next page. His amused expression disappearing immediately, being replaced by a confused look, which slowly darkened. Subconsciously he showed his fangs and Twilight could hear him growl. She could see hate radiating from him as he stared at the book. It made her tense up, everything had changed in a blink of an eye.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, snapping Sombra away from his trance. He looked at Twilight, the same hateful expression on his face. Without a word, he rose up from the table and started to walk away, his tail swishing behind him.
“Sombra? Where are you going!?” Twilight asked, about to go after him. The stare Sombra gave her made Twilight reconsider. In his red eyes she saw a look so menacing that it made her hold her breath. Before she could say anything else, Sombra disappeared into the doorway that lead to the living room. Twilight could hear him making his way up the stairs, towards the guest room.
Twilight was waiting quietly, like something bad was about to happen. Luckily nothing bad really happened, and she exhaled with relief. It didn’t take long before Flash Sentry entered the room with worried look on his face.
“Princess! We heard you yell and I saw Sombra leaving towards his room,” he asked and bowed his head a little.
“Everything is fine, thank you,” Twilight said slowly, still trying to figure out what had happened. Then she remembered what Sombra did just before he turned from flirty, drunk stallion into something that resembled the all too familiar evil king he had been before.
“Would you go and make sure he doesn’t hurt himself or do anything stupid. He’s upset about something,” Twilight told Flash, who obeyed like a good guard he was. When he left the room, Twilight took a hold of the ‘Rulers, lords and self-appointed leaders of Equestria and it’s colonies’ with her magic and held it in front of her. A sudden wave of troubled feelings washed over her as she read the title; King Halite of The Crystal Empire
She recognized the face that she had seen in many history books so many times. She kept reading.
"…King Halite is mostly known for his accomplishments in re-building most of The Crystal Empire’s older districts…"
Twilight read the article onward for a while, not finding anything specific. She almost reached the end of the article, when she came upon one part.
"…King Halite was the last king that ruled before King Sombra took over The Crystal Empire, laying the curse over the kingdom and banishing the ruling couple to the Frozen North. That was last recorded time King Halite and his wife, Queen Sylvite were seen. They presumably were killed by the harsh environment and coldness of the Frozen North…"
Twilight stared at the words on the page. Surely Sombra had had a reason to attack and conquer The Crystal Empire, but she hadn’t really thought about it until now. Maybe it was because of personal reasons? Had Sombra had grudge against King Halite?
“This is getting interesting…” she muttered to herself, adding some notes to her notebook and pouring herself a new glass of wine. There was clearly some bigger picture there, but she couldn’t see it yet. She took a long sip from her glass and thought with determination that she would find out what Sombra had had against King Halite.
She returned to look at the book. There were some notes in the end. Twilight noticed a small text that said ‘See King Sombra, page 867’. She flipped through the pages and soon found the right page. She had actually put a bookmark on that page. It was a short article. Only couple of paragraphs long. In the picture she saw a drawn picture, that resembled Sombra. Twilight thought that whoever the artist was, he or she really had managed to capture Sombra’s dark, threatening look. She stared at the picture for a moment, feeling almost sorry for him. Then she started to read the story.
"A little is known about King Sombra. A young, unicorn warrior with mercenaries as his aid appeared on the gates of The Crystal Empire, ambushing several separate groups of The Royal Crystal Guards. The attacks went on for weeks, lowering the military’s morale, affecting the outcome of the invasion. It’s not sure if this was planned, but today historians believe that it was, considering King Sombra’s other, well planned campaigns. It didn’t take long until King Sombra’s troops managed to infiltrate the city, forcing King Halite to surrender. King Halite and his wife Queen Sylvite were banished to the Frozen North. (See King Halite page 591, and Queen Sylvite page 592)
From there started King Sombra’s reign. Not much is known from there times either. He was known as a Slave King because he put all the crystal ponies under slavery, forcing them to mine crystal for him for unknown reasons. He is considered to be possibly the least recorded ruler in the history of Equestria. There are no recorded actions for many hundred years, until Royal sisters (See pages 1299 and 1300) started to interfere with his acts against the laws of Equestria. There were battles between his troops and the Royal sister’s, in which he was victorious. His troops never left The Crystal Empire’s borders.
King Sombra’s reign ended to his defeat, after the Royal sisters personally defeated him in combat, turned him into a shadow and imprisoned him to the ice of The Frozen North as a punishment for his crimes.
King Sombra returned after gaining powers from inexplicable sources, but was defeated by the Elements of Harmony, presumably killing him."
Twilight read the article in thought. It wasn’t the first time she had read it, but this time it seemed to give her even more to think about than usually. Clearly Sombra had nothing against other kingdoms, only The Crystal Empire. And what’s up with the crystals? Even his cutie mark is a crystals. Twilight looked at the infos next to the picture.
"No known relatives. No known heirs. No known associates."
Twilight looked at her notes. Maybe she could update the book a bit after she would get Sombra to tell her about himself. It would be a task, she knew it.
“Princess Twilight Sparkle?” she heard somepony saying from the doorway. Twilight turned towards the sound and saw Flash Sentry.
“What is it Flash?” she asked.
“It’s him. He’s pacing around his room again, talking to himself,” Flash told Twilight, who seemed confused.
“Talking to himself?” she asked. Flash nodded. Twilight thought for a minute, before shrugging and saying, “He’s just drunk. That would explain it.”
With that Flash nodded and left towards his post again, leaving Twilight alone with her thoughts. What kind of history that dark stallion really had?