“He what?” Commander Iron Blade glared at the shadow guard. Was it posible for these creatures to lose their minds? They possessed a surprising amount of creative intelligence when it came to defending their King in battle, but were little more than hive-like drones the rest of the time. He couldn't fathom what they were asking of him!
Maybe it was more likely he had simply not heard the Umbrum correctly.
“Hissss Eminence wishesss the Commander to join Him in lightsssaber practice,” the dark, armored cloud of shifting shadows repeated.
Blade scratched his ears, unhappy the phrase had repeated itself word-for-word and was just as confusing as before. “Okay...” the Commander of Sombra's legions said slowly. “Do YOU know what a 'lightsaber' is?”
“Not asss sssuch, Commander,” the creature admitted.
“I know what light is – it is the opposite of our King, basically, and a saber is a thinner version of my own blade, quite useless in battle, in my humble opinion. Therefore, putting the two together does not a weapon make,” he said, shaking his head slowly. “But please, lead the way. I am dying to find out what this new weapon is bound to be.”
The Umbrum shadow guard floated ahead, leading Iron Blade back through the hallways, downstairs to the ground level, out the back of the castle and to the King's private training grounds. While en route, he asked the guard, “And where does this weapon herald from, guard?”
“I am told it came from an armory of the future desssignated, 'Twilight's Dirty Toysss for Dessspotsss Ssshack',” it replied.
That stopped Blade cold. He giggled, the giggle turning into a laugh, the laugh into a full-blown howl of uncontrollable laughter. The guard paused, confused at the Commander's behavior. Every time it saw a flesh creature react in such a way it felt intensely uncomfortable and unsure of how to deal with it or the situation.
Poor Iron Blade had to lean against a pillar, feeling a cramp seize his sides from laughing so much. The Umbrum swirled around him, its coloring growing lighter in confusion. “Do you require asssissstance, Commander?”
It was several minutes before the red stallion was able to settle down enough and take in oxygen to reply to the confused creature. “No...no. But that was a good one, guard. Nyx has finally taught you things a sense of humor, eh? It works very well with your deadpan...er...manner,” he groped, unable to say 'face' as the thing had no face to speak of. “I must go find her and congratulate her. It only took her six years to accomplish such a feat!” He began walking the other direction, back towards the castle.
“Commander!” it caught up with him, blocking his way. “You are requesssted by Hisss Eminence,” it insisted. “You mussst accompany us.”
The red-bodied unicorn shook his head. “Listen, guard...what the Tartarus is your designation? You all look alike to me.”
“Four fifty-six,” it said in its whispery voice.
“Four fifty-six, yes,” Blade repeated. “this is a prank.”
“A 'prank'?” it echoed. “Pleassse explain, Commander on our way to see Hisss Eminence,” it requested.
He refused to budge. “A 'prank'” he explained. “is – um...ah...well. It is a...jest. Like the Fools of April Day.”
“I do not underssstand, Commander,” it said in a flat voice.
“Like the time Nyx brought back itching powder from the future and had you sneak it into Tight Planner's undergarments,” Blade explained patiently. “Do you recall his reaction?”
“Ssscreaming,” the shadow guard replied, giving a fair example of shaking its form in agreement. “and ssscratching and removing hisss clothing during the daily ssschedule review with Hisss Eminence's entire ssstaff in attendance.”
The memory brought a smile to Iron Blade's features. “Ah yes, dear Nyx humored my request to wait until I was in the Kingdom and able to be there to see that.” He came back to the present. “Anyway, everyone had a good laugh about it, yes?”
“Guard Four Fifty-Six wasss there,” it spoke of itself in the third person. Why it started to do this, the Commander had no idea. They were rather – random that way. “Guard Four Fifty-Six believed all had been ssseized by a dissseassse of the mind.”
“A temporary insanity,” Blade pursed his lips, seeing how the creature could have believed that to be the case.
“Guard Four Fifty-Six wasss most concerned His Eminence wasss alssso ssstricken,” it added in a believable tone of concern for its Master.
“Yes,” the stallion agreed, nodding vigorously. “You grabbed His Eminence and dragged Him out of the room for His own protection.”
“A regrettable move,” it admitted. “His Eminence wasss mossst forgiving of the incident.”
“That's because He is one of you, or rather you are one of His kind,” Blade nodded. “He understands we are – confusing at times to the Umbrum.”
“It isss difficult to comprehend your flesssh creaturesss waysss,” again the strange shake of its body, imitating the nod it had witnessed ponies often do when agreeing with each other. “How do you know thisss is one of thossse 'pranksss', Commander?”
The stallion took a deep breath. He hated wasting so much time explaining the basics of pony behavior to a drone guard, but had discovered over the years they were trainable at times – if they lasted that long – and the effort paid off when it persuaded them his unwillingness to go with it was not an act of rebellion against the King. “Because, 'Twilight's Dirty Toys for Despots Shack' is one of those strange 'armories' in the future, hence making this a 'prank' and a mess I will be speaking to Nyx about right after I attend to my duties.” He began to walk the other way, but felt himself grabbed by an extension of the Umbrum and levitated off the ground while it floated back in the direction of the King's private training grounds.
“Or perhaps I will speak to the King about it right now,” he sighed.
Nyx was getting a serious headache from how many times she had facehoofed herself since discovering her King's new determination to prepare for their meeting with the “Sith”. Having researched the term “fancolt”, which had been part of the newspaper article describing the excitement surrounding the release of the new “Hoof Wars” movie, she realized, much to her horror, that the King of the Crystal Empire was rapidly descending into their ranks.
Not for the first nor the third, but for the tenth time in as many minutes had she fervently wished the toy sword her mate swung around in glee was a real lightsaber she could throw herself on and be done with the whole thing. She watched from a comfortable seat in the shade as He pranced back and forth, wielding the toy weapon as if it were a real sword, charging about with it, dodging and parrying imaginary enemy of the Sith, and realized with mixed emotions that He was actually smiling and having a good time. Perhaps it wasn't as bad as she had initially thought...
The dark stallion bounded up to her, startling her out of her distant thoughts as He boomed, “It is good to get a bit of exercise!”
“Yes, yes, it does my heart good to see you so – enthused about our trip,” she replied. “Our trip not going to the hot springs and not having quality time with Blade and Quiet Hoof,” her voice trailed off.
“We'll go another time, my dear,” He replied distractedly, turning the weakly weighted toy weapon for a few quick spins in His aura's grip. “This is quite unsatisfactory for real combat, of course - “
“ - well, it was made for the mock, play combat of one's own bedchambers, my love,” she said daintily, fanning herself with the damnable newspaper that had started all this nonsense. Perhaps, if she tried really hard, she could distract Him from all this movie excursion insanity -
“So, I will make a basic adjustment to its structure,” He told her, His aura of black magic encompassing it in bubbling purple, green and black energies. Grunting in approval at the result, He hefted it up over His head.
The glint of sharpened crystal along its blade made Nyx's eyes go wide. She fell back as the King of Shadows brought it down on the stone table in front of her with a mighty blow, shattering the hapless piece of lawn furniture into a thousand fragments.
It never had a chance.
“Hmm...” the King of Shadows frowned, thoughtful.
“You can't bring that into a theater!” the TimeWitch scolded.
“You are quite right about that, my dear,” Sombra grumbled. “It is not consistent with your description of a true 'lightsaber'.” He walked away, studying it as it floated ahead of Him in His magical grip.
“Did you win the argument, Your Highness?”
Nyx turned to see Commander Iron Blade come up, accompanied by two shadow guards. She waved the guards away and they returned to their posts, much to the relief of their charge. “What argument, Blade?” she asked.
He looked to Sombra. “The one he had with the lawn furniture.”
She shrugged, gesturing to the rubble. “What do you think?”
“King Sombra – 1, lawn furniture – 0 . Is that why I'm here? To act as scorekeeper?”
His Majesty grunted. “Very funny, Blade. You'll replace Tight Planner as court jester next, yes?”
The Commander shook his head. “He performs that function quite well, even as he's trying to schedule you half to death with useless meetings.”
“Yes, one day civilization will rid us of annoyances like him and his job,” Sombra assured him.
Nyx laughed. “Remind me to take you to a corporate meeting in the future, my dark heart.”
“What is – “ Blade opened his mouth to ask the TimeWitch what a 'corporate' was, but decided against it. “Ah, nevermind.” Most of the time the answers just gave him more questions to ask and no answers to them or the original question.
The mare jumped up, putting a hoof on Blade's withers. “Please, Blade, try and talk some sort of sense into our feared ruler and tell him he cannot take a 'lightsaber' to see Hoof Wars tonight.”
Not having understood a word of what she had said, he turned to King Sombra. “Sombra, you cannot take a 'lightsaber' to see Hoof Wars tonight.” He looked back at Nyx who shook her head in disgust and walked away to sit back under the shade. Iron Blade followed her. “Why can't he take a weapon to this, this...what did you call it?”
She rolled her eyes. “It's a 'movie'.”
“A parlay with the Sith, Blade,” Sombra said distractedly, playing with altering the molecular structure of the crystalline blade of his weapon.
“You know I hate peace talks, Sombra,” Blade said. “I hope you were not thinking of dragging me along. Unless you suspect treachery and I need to watch your back.”
He grunted. “They cannot control their own slaves. I doubt they will be much of a challenge in that regard. Still, only a fool brings no backup. If you have other duties to attend to, we can take one or two of the Umbrum guards. They should be able to handle it.”
“Thank you,” Iron Blade bowed with a flourish. “Speaking of those muscled shadows of yours, they drug me here saying you were in need of a sparring partner for this 'lightsaber' practice?”
The King came back over to them. “I would if I could get this wretched toy to cooperate.” He turned to Nyx. “Any thoughts, my dear? You are more familiar with the principals of this – creation.”
She shook her head. “It would be like trying to contain a beam of light, Somby. The technology to do that is so advanced we have nothing in our time or in 'Hoof Wars' time to accomplish it.”
He smiled, baring sharp fangs. “Don't be silly, Nyx. Light may be able to restrain where the darkness may go, but dark may also contain the light in turn.”
Nyx and Iron Blade looked at each other blankly. They turned back to Sombra who was already separating the crystal blade from its shaft and reconfiguring the shaft with His magic. They watched, fascinated as He formed an outline of dark magic in the shape of the toy's original, fake blade and filled the space within it with the red glow of light magic. The angry hum of the contained light as it clashed internally with the dark sounded suspiciously like the original sabers in the movie trailer Nyx had seen for the Hoof Wars movies. Their jaws dropped at the resulting creation.
Sombra took the weapon over to the chair the Marazon had been sitting in and sliced it neatly in half. She yelped and jumped back.
Iron Blade's face lit up with glee. “Now THAT'S a weapon!” he nodded enthusiastically.
Nyx only sighed, wondering how much of the King's treasure they would have to take along for bail money.