The rest of the day Nyx practiced and finally perfected her time travel spell. Her pleading and begging Iron Blade to accompany them fell upon deaf pony ears, so disgusted, she stomped away to check on the transportation arrangements.
They were turning out as bad as her unsuccessful pleading with Iron Blade to go with them.
“Really?” she asked sarcastically, staring at the grand, royal carriage. This wouldn't do AT ALL.
“What?” Tight Planner defended his choice. “This is his Majesty's usual mode of transport!”
“If we desire to advertise to all of Equestria where He is going,” she retorted back. “What part of 'in secret' and 'sneaking out of the castle' did you not understand?”
“It is beneath Him to travel in anything less grand,” Planner sniffed.
Nyx rolled her eyes. “He traveled on hoof for weeks, lived out of a tent and ate manticore He took down Himself when he hunted me,” she glared. “For the sake of safe passage, we can do without a stupid, grand carriage for ONE EVENING!” her voice rose.
Planner visibly shivered, not from Nyx's anger, but from the mere thought she had presented him with. “Sounds positively barbaric!”
“No, I believe it is called, 'country western' in Appaloosa.”
“Well, we simply don't have anything 'western', whatever that is,” the scheduler mumbled, taking his leave. “you will have to make due.”
Nyx was left to stare at the opulent crystal contraption, pondering what to do. She sighed. “I suppose an illusion spell would do the trick,” she thought out loud...
The next stop was the royal tailor's. Sombra had beaten her there, so by the time she had arrived, He was already standing before a mirror clad in a dark cloak, fussing with its clasp. Despite her trepidations about the trip, the sight of him cosplaying (she had learned that word on her last trip into the future) a Sith Lord made her positively shiver with excitement and a bit of arousal.
Affixing it for Him, she adjusted the hood to hide His curved, sharp horn, but it didn't quite do the job, collapsing the sides of the hood inward, covering his eyes. He snorted in disgust, causing the hood to flare outward but fall back again against his face.
Nyx smiled and came to the rescue. “Don't fret, my love,” she soothed, pulling his ears out from their usual pinned position behind his steel crown. She couldn't help fluffing them up and giving them an affectionate scratch before replacing the hood, which now, with the help of his (adorable) pony ears, stayed perfectly in place.
“You know well why I conceal my ears in public, Nyx,” He complained. “They always give away my emotions. Not a good idea during negotiations.”
His TimeWitch laughed. “Since when do you negotiate with anyone? You either subjugate or kill them. She turned Him towards the mirror again for His inspection. “Even then, you are usually lurking around in shadow form and have no visible ears!”
“True.” He reviewed the effect in the mirror. It was also true now that His ears were not as visible as He had feared they would be. He gave another grunt, this time in approval, liking the way the fabric now perfectly draped just enough that His ears were concealed, along with His horn and the shadow cast into the cloak gave His red crystal eyes a nice, terrifying glow to boot.
“Still, one cannot be too cautious during a first meeting,” he mumbled, casting a spell of concealment over His horn, masking it as a plain, gray unicorn's horn. “Well?” He asked her, stepping back for the full effect.
“Magnificent!” she squeed, bouncing a little on her hooves. “It works as long as you do not use your dark powers,” she reminded Him. “Then we are screwed.”
“'Screwed'?” He asked her.
“They will throw us out of the theater or jail us,” she explained.
His face darkened. “They wouldn't dare!”
“They would,” Nyx nodded. “Which is why I' am bringing bail money...bribery money,” she explained at His questioning look.
He huffed, clearly not seeing the need. “If you insist.”
She smiled at His pridefulness. It was so like Him!
“Don't worry, my heart. Chances are we will not need it. Besides,” she put her foreleg through His and gave a little, affectionate squeeze. “We will need money for popcorn.”
“Popcorn?” his eyebrows raised, though it was hard to tell under the hood except for a small shift in the fabric.
“Trust me, you'll love it!”
With the preparations taking most of the day, King Sombra decided to set out early the following morning. He cut an imposing figure even concealed by the dark cloak. His own court didn't recognize Him, giving a wide berth as He strode through the hallways of the castle unchallenged. He left the natural look of His horn for the moment so the guards would recognize Him and let him pass, but everyone else He encountered gave Him the taste of fear He was hoping to generate. The boost of dark energy from it brought a pep to His stride and a curl to His lips over His sharp canines.
While the images Nyx had brought back from the future showed the Jedi and the Sith typically carried their weapons slung from a hook on their belts, He had felt this was not efficient and had adapted a better solution. His deactivated lightsaber was secured to an upper forearm strap Quiet Hoof had constructed especially for Him. Having refused to go without His greaves, the black leather boots did not have the natural curve and bend of His legs, but the tailor had done a fair job of adapting them over the steel armor without giving away too much of the harder protection underneath.
He did not have to wait long at the carriage for Nyx. She came out a few minutes after Himself, having gone to the concubine's chambers much earlier to be readied by her hoof maidens. Sombra raised an eyebrow in approval at the soft, tan deer skins laced up her sides, matching style boots to His, but in a matching color to her dress and the simple braiding her maidens had woven her mane and tail into. Not wanting to outshine Sombra's amazing adaptation of a lightsaber, she had requested He construct her a smaller, simple long dagger that was also powered by the turbulent clash of bottled light and dark magics at the touch of a switch in the silver hilt. The Umbrum was delighted to create it and had to admit it fit her costume and personality quite well.
After inspecting His companion, He raised an eyebrow at the strange new look of their carriage. His TimeWitch only smiled and said, “It will fit in and not attract attention. You'll see.”
“That does appear to be the way of these – Sith,” Sombra agreed. “Traveling in stealth, striking from the shadows.” He smiled, feeling a renewed tingle of enthusiasm for their adventure today.
Nyx smiled, His mood contagious. “And what a surprise they will have when a true shadow shows up to parlay!” she beamed at Him.
He grunted in pleasure and took a breath. “Well, then, my dear. Shall we?”
The TimeWitch smiled, nodding. Perhaps this would not be the modern equivalent of a train wreck if she could keep Him in a good mood. Happily, she followed Him into the carriage.
It was decided and agreed by both they should first ride out past the crystal field and well away from the city in case the time spell went wrong. It would not due to accidentally take a portion or the entire thing with them! Their two usual, personal Umbrum guards took the place of the regular staff that pulled the carriage, two easily being enough to draw it when helped along with Sombra's powerful magic enhancing their own physical strength.
Once they were free and clear, they paused, giving Nyx the moment to touch her horn to Sombra's currently unconcealed horn, casting the time spell. She cast the spell itself while the Dark Pony King lent it His nearly limitless reserves of pure, dark power. During this, Sombra commanded the shadow guards to draw them forward again, lending a physical travel spell to traverse the hundreds of miles south they would still need to journey in order to arrive at the correct destination as well as time zone. Bound within that spell was also one to accelerate their speed, so a week's trek would last mere moments. Without Sombra's force field to protect them, however, it would have been useless to use as the great rate of speed would have torn the carriage and its occupants to pieces.
With the spell guiding them, the two sat back inside the carriage and relaxed. Nyx encouraged them to partake in some wine, hoping it would relax her King enough He wouldn't be so quick seek trouble once they were in Appaloosa. It would also hopefully assist her as now she decided was a good time to try to explain once again what exactly a “movie” was.
“This may take you a bit by surprise at first, Somby,” she began the lesson. “I was quite shocked when I first saw it,” starting out with a careful mix of enthusiasm and patience. “Think of it as a magical projection of actors in a play taking place elsewhere and elsewhen and it will perhaps make more sense what we are seeing.”
He thought about this. “I do not see the need for your concern, my dear Nyx.” He took a sip of His wine, confident and at ease.
She shrugged. “I just want to prepare you for the experience as best I can. Think of it first as a study of their culture, weaponry and beliefs, a - “
“ - yes, a reconnaissance mission in which to gather intelligence,” He recalled her saying. “Iron Blade would have been chewing at his own flank in boredom, but 'tis a shame Quiet Hoof could not accompany us. This did used to be her line of work.”
His consort smiled. “Yes. She does want to come to the next outing, after her morning sickness with the new filly passes. It has been striking not just in the mornings and I do not want to subject her to sitting for several hours trying to keep her meals down when she should be resting at home.”
“Agreed. The bargaining table is no place for expectant mares.”
The Marazon nodded, growing quiet. After a moment she closed her eyes. Sombra knew she was monitoring the time spell and let her have the necessary space to concentrate, using the rare time to themselves to enjoy the vacation away from the burden of running an entire kingdom full time.
By the time He had leisurely downed the rest of his cup's wine, He sensed the ebbing of the time spell and pulled back the amount of dark energy He had been feeding it. Unlike most other spells which required only a starter of power, time travel required a constant feed due to its complexity and enormity, making it an exhausting task if used by a regular unicorn using weaker reserves of light magic and if it were needed for more than a short amount of time. Perhaps one day in the future, ponykind would come up with a type of power reserve that could regenerate itself and feed it without constant, directed assistance and control, but until then, these time hops were limited with what could be accomplished. The possibilities intrigued Him no end!
The sensation of motion slowed, followed by a “bump” as they felt the hard, physical ground once again beneath the carriage's wheels. It was not as jarring as Sombra had expected and curious, He drew aside the window curtains to a smooth, stone-paved road cutting across flatlands of grasses and small, flat-topped mountains in the distance. They had left the cold of the Frozen North a thousand years behind and a thousand miles North (literally), the increase in temperature having shot up significantly. Nyx too had opened her eyes, gazing out the window at the waving, dancing effect in the air just above the ground in the distance as heat bounced off the harder packed, untamed ground just beyond the grassy plains.
“Appaloosa lay beyond those mountains ahead,” Nyx told her King, gesturing to solid granite, sandstone colored cliffs that rose from the valley floor and were topped with flat tablelands. They fascinated Him. There was nothing like this in design anywhere in their Northern lands except at the edges of the continent, but that was so far away and was such inhospitable land, no pony thus far in their timeline's history had visited or settled there. This type of landscape had also not been one His armies had encountered on the Marazon campaigns, so it was completely new to Him.
An hour or so later, the carriage was cutting through the narrow pass between the granite cliffs. Sombra had requested they stop for a moment while He got out and inspected the local rock formations, using His talents and senses to play with their feel beneath His hooves. He experimented with raising them, testing their strength and potential for manipulation. Nyx let Him have the time alone, watching from besides the carriage, grateful to stretch her own legs and taking in His curiosity and interests with quiet joy. They rarely had opportunities for such new experiences at home in the Empire these days, so to indulge Him in this manner was both gratifying and precious.
She could barely hold back a smile as Sombra came back into the carriage quite enthused, levitating several samples of local rock He had drilled out with his magics. There was an exuberance in His voice and manner that reminded Nyx of the current timeline's word, “tourist” and caused her to giggle slightly. He raised His gaze to hers, curious at what had caused her to laugh. She gestured to the rock samples. “They are beautiful. Such layers of color!”
He gave her one to inspect. “Different minerals set down in layers at different times over millennia, I suspect,” the stallion explained. “It can be quite brittle when chipped at the wrong – or right angle and feels quite 'gritty'.” He looked outside for a moment. “The winds here may have also played a part in battering their surface, causing such a tactile sensation.”
She smiled again. “You are picking up way too many modern day words from me, Somby!”
“A habit I can only indulge in using in everyday speech around yourself, or Iron Blade to some extent,” He agreed. “It is a good mental exercise to adapt, I have learned.”
She looked at the rock samples again. “Is there any crystal here?”
He shook His head. “Some clear quartz, and this,” He drew out nuggets of a blue stone in various rounded sizes and shapes, some samples having flecks of copper within. “I know no name for this.”
Nyx took it in her magic, turning it over in her grip. “I believe this is turquoise. It is often found with copper deposits as they are from the same family of minerals.”
Sombra nodded. “I sensed as much. The turquoise is too soft to use as a weapon and the copper in too small a deposit at the ground's surface, but there are larger deposits of copper deeper underground.” He gestured outside. “One can tell their approximate location above ground by the lack of vegetation in spots. It apparently is toxic - “ He hesitated, waiting for confirmation He was using the correct word. Nyx nodded. “ - to plant life.”
“It would make quite unusual jewelry,” Nyx mused absently. “I'll give a sample to Quiet Hoof. Blue is her favorite color.”
“We will gather more on the way back,” Sombra agreed. “If it pleases her, I will suggest Iron Blade have my artisans design her something special in time for the filly's birth.”
“That's a lovely idea, Sombra!” his consort patted his hoof, returning the samples to the Dark King. He added them to a chest for safekeeping, then instructed the shadow guards to continue on to Appleoosa.