Sombra slept well that night. Bruises covered him from head to hoof, but not even those—nor the fact he slept in a cage—got in the way of him getting comfortable. To him, he was sleeping on the softest mattress and fluffiest pillows because of how high mood currently was. Nothing could possibly bring him down.
Well, perhaps it was safer to say almost nothing could do that.
The creak of the basement door opening filled the basement.
“S-Sombra?” came a mare’s voice, timid and shaky. “Twilight let me in and—look, I just wanted to say that I’m still super, super-duper sorry for yesterday.”
Sombra’s eyelid peeled back, and he immediately felt the gut-kick reaction of irritation whenever Pinkie spoke. However, strangely enough, when he listened for more, nothing else came, so he answered, “Yes, you said that yesterday. And?”
Pinkie was quiet again, before saying, “And... can I come down, Sombra?”
Sombra noted with a hint of satisfaction that the insufferable fool of a pony addressing him hadn’t used her imbecilic nickname she’d given him: Sombry. He exhaled slowly, raising his head off the floor and looking up.
The basement was still pitch black, with the one exception of the light from the opened door at the top of the stairs.
Sombra sneered, but the facial expression was lost on Pinkie in the darkness. “I get the feeling you wouldn’t leave even if I demanded it, like every other request I make, so come in, if you must.” He could see her head’s silhouette look back, then down into the shadows again.
“N-No, if you want me to leave, I will,” Pinkie stammered.
Sombra snorted. “Good, then leave and don’t bother me again. Ever.” He rolled over then, intent on sleeping in. He needed to regain his strength, heal from his injuries, needed solitude to keep his secret safe—
“But, before I go, I did want to tell you one other thing.”
Sombra would have groaned if he didn’t think she’d say something about it, and remain there even longer. “Out with it then. I’ve better things to do, like laying here in an insurmountable amount of pain.”
The sound of Pinkie Pie shuffling her hooves in quick succession told him all he needed to about her thoughts. She obviously, moronically enough, sought for his forgiveness.
He would have laughed if it didn’t mean it’d hurt due to his bruised ribs.
The sound of Pinkie taking a deep breath rolled down the stairs. “Sombra, if we’re being perfectly honest adult ponies with each other, yesterday was both our faults. Even what happened in the end. Me hurting you so bad was as much a result of my carelessness as your stubborn attitude and sheer stupidity.”
Sombra was busy smirking to himself as Pinkie poured her heart out, fruitlessly trying to gain his forgiveness. Which made the back-hoofed comment she made at the end all the more surprising.
Sombra scowled. “What did you just—” But Pinkie wasn’t done there.
“I’m here because you’re wrong, I am responsible, and I’ve got responsibility to you, to help you learn there’s a better way to live life. I’ve tried doing that entirely my way so far… but I guess maybe the Pinkie-method might not be the best approach… Crazy, right?”
Sombra was about to call her an imbecile for only just now realizing that, but she kept going.
“Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I spent all day setting up a party for you later. Just for you. It… I tried to make it special. Lots of ice cream and treats, not very many ponies.” Pinkie sucked in a tense sounding breath. “So, after everything we said and did to each other yesterday, could we… could we call it even?”
The air held a gloomy tone.
Sombra stared flatly up at Pinkie’s shadow, still at the stairway’s top. He couldn’t have cared less about anything that she had just said to him. His ears had twitched at the mention of sweets, yes, but that didn’t change anything. It truly was all just so much drivel as everything else she’d ever said before.
At least, so he had initially thought.
The mention of a party, for some reason, made Sombra hesitate. A party, he considered. She honestly thinks some party is sorry enough for that pummeling she gave me? Honestly, a party for me, that could never make up for…
Suddenly, it occurred to him that he’d never had a party before. Not for himself, anyway. Not by somepony’s own free will.
The silence in the basement had gone on for quite some time.
“I-It’s fine, Sombra. I understand,” Pinkie finally mumbled. She turned back towards the basement door. “I’ll let Twilight know that you don’t want me reforming you anymo—”
“I want chocolate cake,” Sombra interrupted. “Do you understand?”
A sound like a firecracker popping went off, followed by a horrible squealing noise. It took Sombra a moment to realize both noises were from Pinkie, and not a dying cat like he first thought.
“You won’t regret this, Sombry!” And just like that, Pinkie was out the door again, the dust cloud stirring in the sun rays were the only sign she’d even been there.
Sombra flopped back onto the floor. “That was a mistake. I can already tell.” He was just about ready to try and get some more shut-eye, when more noise roused him once again.
The sound of hooves thundering at the top of the staircase made Sombra look back up.
“Oh, Sombry, I almost forgot to say, but from now on, since you’ll still accept my help trying to reform you, I totally promise I’ll be gentler and won’t beat you up so bad when it’s an accident anymore!” Pinkie giggled, dancing in place without ever really stopping her constant movement. “Okay-gotta-go-now-bye!”
Sombra blinked, unsure if that had even really just happened. He was, however, reasonably sure she’d just managed to insult him while also getting away with what she’d wanted.
“Why couldn’t I have just died? Damn black magic and resurrection rituals!” Sombra dragged his hooves over his ears in an effort to shut out the world and groaned. After a moment, he mumbled, “And what did she mean by ‘when it’s an accident?’”
Sombra dragged his hooves lazily over the cobblestone streets of Ponyville. It was near sun-down, and he was… on his way to a party being thrown for him. At least he was clean and managed to look somewhat presentable for a king.
“Are we there yet?” he asked.
Twilight glanced back at him and nodded. “Sugarcube Corner should just be around the next corner.”
“This entire stupid village just looks the same,” Sombra quipped, glaring dismally at the similar thatch-roof houses they passed by. “Even with a thousand years of progress you peasants still live in mud-shelters and dirt. I guess some things never change.”
“Yes, I believe tyrannical jerks still remain consistent as well. Go figure,” Twilight said, a faint hint of a smirk on her lips.
Sombra furrowed his brow at her, but let the matter rest at that. Twilight had already gotten used to his insults and now managed to retort with comebacks just as stringing. Slandering her was getting to be less satisfying and more like throwing rocks at a mountain.
After a few moments of silence, the two arrived in the outer proximity of Sugarcube Corner, where all the lights were ablaze and balloons could be seen hanging from the rafters and roof. The sight was both foreboding for Sombra as well as… something else. He wasn’t sure what but it had his adrenaline going. It was if he was about to step out of space miles above the ground, freefalling to the earth and living in the moment of exhilaration before the eventual and final splatter.
Was it excitement? Surely not, even if it was his first party... ever.
Twilight blocked Sombra’s view of the ridiculous looking bakery. She had on the same scowl she always did when dealing with him. “I’m hoping you can remain civil tonight, can’t you?”
Sombra scoffed, flinging his cape in the air in a dramatic flourish. “I am a king. Remaining civil is my speciality. I don’t expect you to expect how true royalty composes itself.”
“I am royalty, you dunderhead.”
Sombra arched a brow and flashed a fang-filled grin of satisfaction. “Learning some of my insults, eh? Well, royalty or no, it matters not to me. You’re only a princess in title, not blood.” Sombra patted his armor where his black and icy cold heart would be. “And blood is what makes all the difference.”
“If that difference is that I’m not a dictator with a god-complex, I’m incredibly thankful.” Before Sombra could object with a snide comment, Twilight cut him off. “Listen, Pinkie’s worked really hard on this party. She’s put more work into it than I’ve seen her do for any other. So she’s obviously intending the best for you here. Just try, and I mean try to be nice. It doesn’t even have to be sincere, since I’d never expect you to be. Just… just fake it if you have to. You can pretend, can’t you?”
“Yes, your highness, I’m a king. I deal with politics. Faking it is what I’m highly trained in,” Sombra replied with a sickeningly devious smile that could peel paint off a house.
Twilight stared at him with a deadpan expression for several seconds before turning around with a sigh. “Fine, then try some of that. Just make Pinkie happy tonight, won’t you?”
“Well I’d be happy if she jumped off a cliff,” Sombra muttered darkly under his breath.
“What was that?” Twilight asked, stopping again.
“I said, ‘don’t push your luck,’” Sombra lied.
“Whatever.” Twilight trotted up to the front door and pulled it open, indicating with a nod of her head for Sombra to enter the building filled with so many strange colors and sounds. “Get through tonight without a major incident and you don’t have to sleep in the basement anymore.”
Sombra’s ears perked up. “Do I get a bed?”
“If Pinkie is truly happy tonight and you behave, then yes.”
“Ha!” Sombra walked past her, practically swimming in his smugness. “Piece of cake.” He stopped, clapping his hooves together and licking his lips and fangs. “Which for me will be chocolate!”
Just as the thoughts of sweet, delicious, mouthwatering and hoof-licking chocolate cake entered his mind, Sombra’s sugary daydreams ended with rude interruption. The perpetrator, of course, was nothing else but the music.
It was… it was unlike anything Sombra had ever heard of. It was just a bunch of random noises and gibberish from a language he could only guess demons used. It pierced his eardrums and rattled his brain, making his teeth clatter together and his stomach twist in knots, and worst of all, it made his entire body quiver like a plucked string with each note. He could barely hear himself think with such loud, obnoxious, and downright abhorrent music torturing his hearing through such vile practices. And just as he thought it had stopped, when a moment of respite was at hand, his sigh of relief was cut off by a booming explosion of sound that threatened to crumble not only his sense of hearing but his soul itself. No torture imaginable could ever possibly one-up the torment he was experiencing.
“Hey, Sombra, you okay?” said a voice in the endless sea of agony.
Sombra opened his eyes, only now realizing he was curled up on the floor in the fetal position, rocking himself back and forth while shielding his ears with both hooves. Glancing up at Twilight Sparkle, he noticed her stony expression… with a crack appearing to showcase a smile.
“Mock me, will you?” he snarled, quick to get back on all fours. The irritable music was less of a bane on his existence now, Sombra realized. In fact, it was just extremely jarring at first, but then it mellowed out to annoying white noise in the background, that he had overreacted to… “Stop with your asinine giggling this instant, whelp!”
Twilight sniggered, not even bothering to cover her muzzle with a hoof. The nerve.“Oh, I beg your pardon. Did I interrupt your self-important wallowing again?”
Sombra fumed. “This music is abhorrent! Downright despicable! A pox on not only ears but the mind as well!” He huffed out a breath. “Not to mention it’s really loud and I can’t even think straight here.”
“When do you normally think anyway?” Twilight asked. That insidious smile of hers was still there on her stupid face—mocking him! He would have rebutted, but was rudely interrupted by something far worse than that mare.
That other mint-green mare instead, for example. The one that had just rushed him before he could even react.
“Bah-wah!” Sombra shrieked in an un-kingly and rather girly fashion. That damned lunatic of a mare from the day before was back with a vengeance. Also, she was really heavy, and suddenly sitting on top of his head.
“Uh… Lyra,” Twilight said, a puzzled look on her face, “why are you sitting on Sombra’s head?”
“Tell me your secrets!” Lyra demanded. Then she bit Sombra’s horn.
“You’re mad! Mad I say!” Sombra screamed. He attempted to throw her off, but she was stuck to the spot with her teeth clamped securely on his horn. “Someone get this harpie off of me! She’s trying to tear out my skull and scoop out of my brains!”
“Well, we won’t really have to worry much about that last part, now will we?” Twilight said, rolling her eyes.
Bon Bon approached Sombra’s back and dragged Lyra off, smacking her upside the head with a rolled up newspaper. “No, no, no.” Another smack. “Bad roommate. How many times have I told you to not eat other pony’s horns?”
Lyra hissed and flailed her hoof in the air to deflect the newspaper assault. “But Bon Bon, I had to know!” Lyra frowned and crossed her hooves over her chest. “It wasn’t cherry flavor. Geez, so laaaaaaaame.”
Sombra, who was busy rubbing the last trails of saliva off his horn, glowered at the two mares with a look that could melt steel. “Just what is wrong with you dizzy-headed trolls? Is your brain made of nothing but mush and mold? Is your head filled with peasant gruel?”
Lyra stuck her tongue out at Sombra. “No need to be so insulty, Sombry.”
“Don’t call me that.”
“I just wanted to see if the rumors were true,” Lyra said, her face twisting in a grimace. “Your horn tastes more like… well, sweat, really.” Lyra poked her own horn and frowned. “I didn’t even know we had sweat glands up there.”
Bon Bon sighed, then turned to Sombra and asked, “Please, Mr. Sombry sir—”
“That isn’t my—”
“Can you just tell Lyra you can’t turn her horn into a spoon?” Bon Bon’s eyes glared to the side at Lyra, who was currently chuckling to herself while reading the comic section of the newspaper Bon Bon had just swatted her with. “Please… she’s becoming obsessed with turning her horn into kitchen tools. It’s unbearable. Well, more-so than usual.” Bon Bon glanced at Lyra again, although instead of annoyance there was fear. Terrified, undeniably paranoid fear. “For the love of Celestia, please, help me.”
Sombra glanced over Bon Bon’s shoulder to where Lyra was sitting. “Lyra, you’re a nincompoop.”
“Hey!” Twilight snatched the newspaper, rolled it up once more and hit Sombra’s muzzle with it. “No insulting party guests!”
“That was hardly even an insult!” Sombra hissed at her, his forked tongue snaking out from between his fanged teeth while spittle flew from his lips on Twilight’s face.
He got smacked in the face again, although this time much harder. “Yeowch!”
Ignoring the scuffle, Lyra pulled Sombra to the side and stared him right in the eyes. Their faces were uncomfortably close, so much so that Lyra actually contested with Pinkie for who could defile someone’s personal space the most.
“Tell. Me. Your. Seeeeeeeecrets,” Lyra whispered. “It’s always been my dream to turn my horn into a spoon. Or a fork. Or maybe even a cheese grater. You must teach me your secrets of horn manipulation. I’ll do anything—” Lyra paused, then silently wracked her brain for a moment while Sombra stood there, uncomfortable as always, “—for free, that is, just to learn how to do it. Please, I’m begging you!”
“It seems more like you’re abusing me to coerce me into giving in to your demands,” Sombra said. “Also, your breath smells like peanut butter.”
Lyra pulled up a peanut butter and jelly sandwich from seemingly out of nowhere between the two of them, took a bite out of it, then slowly withdrew it, all while remaining eye contact with a suddenly more terrified Sombra.
“I know,” she whispered. “I know.”
Sombra slowly pushed Lyra’s unblinking face away, then shuddered and took a step back. “If you promise to not disturb me for the rest of the night, I’ll tell you later.”
Staring at Sombra skeptically for several seconds, Lyra finally nodded and stuck her half-eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwich on her horn. “Then the deal is made, and set in stone, with the promise etched into the marble of the ages.” Lyra was dragged by a disgruntled Bon Bon away from Twilight and Sombra, departing with a wave and shouting: “I’ll call you! Or fax! Or even send a carrier pigeon!”
Twilight and Sombra stood still while the rest of the party went on around them, the beat of the music and mingling of the crowd all the same, despite the strange occurrence that had just happened.
“What is wrong with that mare?” Sombra asked.
“We all have a different theory,” Twilight replied.
“I think mine involves fillies being dropped on their heads at a young age.”
Twilight nodded. “Mine’s similar, although it involves lead-painted toys as well.”
The two remained milling around awkwardly with one another for few more agonizingly uncomfortable seconds until Twilight finally blurted out: “I’m… uh, going to go get some punch.”
“Indeed. I’ll be looking for my cake. The only item of this event I’m actually interested with.”
Twilight nodded and started trotting away, calling over her shoulder at the last second, “Remember, be good for Pinkie! There’s a mattress out of this if you are!”
Sombra repeated her words silently with exaggerated lip movement before he muttered darkly under his breath, “Yeah, perfect. A mattress. I’m positive that’s worth degrading myself at some paltry social event for a mare I can’t stand.” Sombra stared at his hooves for several seconds in silence. “Damnit, it is worth it! What has my life come to?”
A shrill shriek reverberated in the building. It was a call Sombra was unfortunately familiar with. One that haunted both his dreams and the waking hours of his disgraceful life.
Pinkie had spotted him and was racing across the room tackle-hug him in a pounce that would most likely hurt. A lot.
“Oh please, not in the fa—”