• Published 13th May 2013
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Arthurian—The Black King - Wellspring



The origin of King Sombra as a squire, knight and king.

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Sir Sombra de Onyx: i-vi

Sir Sombra de Onyx

by Whisperwind

I

On The Northern Continent

To the northern continent of Equestria lay the ice deserts of the yetis, in to which nopony were able to survive through the tundra’s living conditions. The continent was the last unguarded border for two reasons: the first of which was that the uninhabitable land was of no interest neither to the foreign invaders nor to the ponies; the second of which was that the yetis were more than capable of fending for themselves. But her majesty, Princess Helionis[1] of Launcelot[2], would not leave a border vulnerable, for the continent could still be traversed by the race of the nomadic satyr heathens to infiltrate Equestria. The yetis, mighty and proud creatures as they be, were, by nature, neutral to all political affairs to which they are commonly excluded and will, by no means, desist, or aid, the encroachers of the country. It was here that Princess Helionis, renowned for her diplomatic solutions to those who sought, or was willing to seek, a reasonable outcome to all disputes, political or otherwise, decided to enlist the yetis in her favor.

The emissary her majesty sent was her political advisor named Bonehoof of Percival[3], colt of Sir Longhoof of Percival, whom the princess tasked to return after having lived with the yetis in order to disclose what compromise could be arranged for Equestria’s safety. Bonehoof describes the creatures as “Gracefully brutish, passionately isolated, and hedonistic.”

The tribe leader of the yetis, named Irch Morjak, whom Bonehoof had befriended during his stay, was still indifferent to the whole affair and was quoted saying: “that the ponies may well garrison the north if they may so survive it; and that the yeti race are not to be incriminated for their bowelless lifestyle.”

Irch Morjak further stated that a contract is neither needed nor possible. Princess Helionis stated that such an agreement was more akin to savages than rational creatures. To this, the tribe ruler was said to have smiled and add that, for the yeti race, the word savage was a compliment.

The enigmatic message of Irch Morjak did not make sense until the fortnight of the day the first few bricks of the garrison were laid. Two of the yetis attacked the workers leaving three dead and seven incapacitated. Three weeks later, as new workers placed more bricks, the same two yetis attacked. The ponies, more prepared, were able to fend them off, leaving only three injured.

It is important to note here that neither unicorns nor pegasi were resistant to the cold that only the recalcitrant earth ponies were chosen, and handsomely rewarded, for the taxing labor. If such unicorn or pegasi could withstand the icy cold weather as an earth pony could, then the yeti attacks could have been easily withstood.

It just so happened that a unicorn by the name Fire Ruby of Lamerok, filly of Earthshire of Lamerok, had heard of the handsome reward for the earth ponies willing to work the garrison. Fire Ruby, in the edge of starvation, covered her horn with a stolen helm and volunteered. When the same yetis attacked two weeks later, Fire Ruby was able to conjure a shield that protected her fellow workers from the yetis and the cold weather.

Meanwhile, Princess Helionis summoned Irch Morjak to answer for the recent attack.

“Laws we hast none but that of might,” said Irch Morjak. “The yetis are ungoverned except for one rule: that harm our own kind; we do not.”

Two days later Princess Helionis visited the garrison in an event that an assault may be made where she hopes she could dissuade the attackers. The day did not disappoint as, not an hour later, not two, but fifteen of the yetis attacked the garrison. It was then that a unicorn mare stepped forward and invoked a spell that summoned a warm sphere that shielded them from the plunderers. After the yetis ran away at the sight of Princess Helionis, her majesty called upon the unicorn mare later that night for questioning.

“What is thy name?” asked the princess.

“Thy Grace, I am called Fire Ruby, filly of Earthshire of Lamerok.”

“How fare’s the garrison?”

“Aye, the construction hath hastened. But it is to the ramrod to whom that question is better addressed.”

“I refer to thy spell.”

“Pardon, thy Grace,” said she. “My father’s, rest his ghost. ‘Tis called the Scabbard, the only spell I have known.”

“Of what work wert of thy begetter?”

“Reinforcing crystals, and other seeds of the earth.”

“Pray tell how you can work in this frozen barren.”

“Aye, mare as I am my coat is tempered with days in the quarry and nights in the blacksmith,” explained Fire Ruby. “I am well practiced in the arts of crafts and masonry through my father. I work for the bits thou payest me. I beg thee not to be dismissed.”

“I oughtn’t to say such a thing.”

The next day, Fire Ruby has been promoted as the chief guardsmare. Though the yeti attack has become more frequent with each passing week, the defense provided by Fire Ruby was more than adequate against them. With the spell, the deaths of the workers had been eradicated and the garrison completed ahead of schedule. What followed from the garrison was Princess Diana’s[4] attempt to seize the opportunity for territorial expansion. The watch towers were to follow, then the forts. More ponies, those whom have learned of the protection provided by Fire Ruby, hastened to aid in the work.

Still, it was only earth ponies who volunteered for the labor, for neither pegasi nor other unicorn would dare venture in the frozen wasteland and risk death if ever Fire Ruby herself was to succumb. Other unicorns attempted to imitate the Scabbard, but they could not conjure a shield that covered farther than themselves that the spell was practically ineffectual.

II

In Which The Crystal Empire Is Founded

To those familiar of the medieval romances, one can imagine that a mare of such stature and repute as Fire Ruby would not be left unsolicited. Several hundred stallions of all respect, from the earth pony laborers to the unicorn elitist, all made their attempts to woo a unicorn of such peculiar talent and fame. But it was several years later, after the fortification of the northern borders have long been completed, that a stallion has caught the heart of Fire Ruby. He was a unicorn knight by the name of Sir Crystal Heart, colt of Sir Cold Heart of Gaheris. Fire Ruby, now a fiancé to a noble named Lord Silverring, colt of Duke Goldenring of Pellinore, immediately fell in love with the knight, and he with she. The two needed only a glance to say what they mean, and a whisper to a place by which they would meet. That night, and all other nights after, Fire Ruby and Sir Crystal Heart would rendezvous in Diana’s Garden[5] to exchange whispers as lovers would.

Lord Silverring had grown suspicious of his fiancé’s frequent disappearances that, one night, after a celebratory gathering, he sent a squire to spy on his would-be wife. The spy returned to him reporting that he saw the pair of lovers in the garden. Lord Silverring, more maddened of the ill repute that would arise from the scandal than her fiancé’s disloyalty, sought the counsel of his advisers to exact his retaliation. The consensus was that Fire Ruby’s stature and popularity with the working class would do more harm to rebuke her openly and that the most favorable course of action, for those skilled in treachery and deceit, was to have her assassinated.

Fortunately, the assassin contracted to commit the deed was one of the many lives saved by Fire Ruby during the days of the construction of the garrison. The assassin confided with Fire Ruby and Sir Crystal Heart in Diana’s Garden the night the assassination was to take place. The two lovers thanked their would-be slayer and made their escape.

The next day, Lord Silverring was outraged after finding out that his assassin had betrayed him. In his haste, he spread word for a bounty for both Fire Ruby and Crystal Heart. It was unsuccessful. Most of the assassins for hire were earth ponies who knew what Fire Ruby had done for their race. The others, who were not so grateful, could not find the pair of lovers otherwise. But by the end of the year it no longer mattered, there was nopony to pay the ransom. Lord Silverring was found assassinated and the reason of which is unknown. However, it is within this author’s responsibility to assume the romantic sentiment that it was the same assassin hired for Fire Ruby and Sir Crystal Heart who took the life of his employer to secure the safety of the lovers.

The death of Lord Silverring resounded all across Equestria and with it his plan to assassinate the lovers. Only those of his immediate family mourn in contest for the will he left behind.

The working class, in contrast, rejoiced in the hope that Fire Ruby, with her lover, would come out of hiding. But to everypony’s surprise, there were no signs of them unveiling themselves. The only conclusion was that the two had somehow met a tragic end, never to be seen again.

It was true that Fire Ruby and Sir Crystal Heart were not be seen again in any of the known city-states of Equestria, but tragedy were farthest from their conditions. The two had taken refuge within the very heart of the northern content amidst the snowstorm and the frozen tundras, planting the first seeds of what is to be known, several generations from them, as the Crystal Empire. With the protection of Fire Ruby’s Scabbard, which grows more powerful since she met Sir Crystal Heart, the two made their warm home in the frozen wasteland. They had discovered the power of the land when Sir Crystal Heart learned how to crystallize earth with pressure and heat, providing them with a warm material sturdier than metal and cheaper than wood. Their first home is a spire made of cobalt and topaz in which Fire Ruby begot the twin sisters: Flame Heart and Crystal Kindle. Several earth ponies, the great majority of which were workers who were once under the protection of Fire Ruby, decided to traverse the wasteland to find refuge from the abusive aristocrats of pegasi and unicorns prevalent in Equestria at that time. Their intention was to create their own city-state, governed by earth pony nobles.

It was Fire Ruby and Sir Crystal Heart that passed on the knowledge of the Scabbard and crystal forming, but it was their daughters that mastered the art. Crystal Kindle, the younger of the twin, has taught the earth ponies the creation of crystals through tempering with the earth. Flame Heart, the elder and scholar by profession, had inherited her mother’s divine gift for the mastery and creation of the shield that protected their village; she discovered, several years later, that, like love, the warmth comes from the affection of the subjects[6]. Crystal Kindle later begets Diamond Anvil and Iron Forge to a blacksmith. Flame Heart begets the filly Fire Shield to the assassin, whose name we now learn to be Quicksilver.

As the town grew to a village, the village to a city, so did the municipality’s territory. At this, the yetis, who originally inhabited the continent, felt threatened of the expansion that the tribe leader knocked on the doors of the newborn empire.

“I am Risch Jetch, son of Irch Morjak,” said he, “and our race demands that you forfeit your expansion, lest we be threatened. If not, then we will be forced to wage war.”

“Still, Risch Jetch,” answered Flame Heart. “We, too, wish to live in peace. But we art not to relinquish that which we have rightfully conquered by sheer exertion of our sweat and blood. Truly, thou dost not wishest to wage war on our young state. My mother, rest her ghost, hadst told stories of how thy race attacked our ponies–and how fresh these wounds be!–but never have we struck back in vengeance. The continent of the north is too big for one race alone, and I believe it to be possible that we could live in harmony. But if thou art to engage in this folly, heed my warning that an attack on our Scabbard is an attack to our mothers that have similarly cradled our city, and that there art no shortage of soldiers willing to give their lives in defense of that which they so honorably serve.”

Risch Jetch returned to his tribe enraged. Throughout their history, the yetis had been the most dominant hunters and champion of the tundra. Believing the equine race to be ignorant of the art of war, the yetis marched at dawn.

In the year two-hundred and twenty-three of Helionis’s Ascension[7], the Crystal Empire engaged in its first war. The yetis amounted to a total of twenty-four hundred whereas the cavalry of the Crystal Empire composed of one hundred and fifteen knights and seven hundred seventy-six soldiers. The yetis attacked on one side, focusing all their strength trying to break the Scabbard. It was then that the soldiers and knights lay down their swords and spears and brought up their bows and arrows, tipped with cobalt and topaz. Whereas the yetis struggled to break the wall, the arrows passed through the Scabbard as though it was thin air. Hence, many of the yetis were felled before the shield broke. But Flame Heart could not maintain the wall for long and it collapsed under the pressure of the gargantuan brutes. The knights and soldiers were quick to take up arms and fought the beasts by hoof. The advantage was theirs for the yetis are tired and injured, but it was difficult for they were thrice their size and twice their number. Then as the Crystal Empire was slowly overrun, the laborers, too, took up arms, then the mares and even the colts and fillies, using the knives, rakes and tools as their weapon. The earth ponies fought with such ferocity on the righteousness of their battle that the yetis are forced to retreat, never to return again.

When the crystal ponies, to which they are later known, were assured of their victory, there is much merrymaking. It has been known that, having withstand the might of the yeti race, the Scabbard was rumored to be impenetrable to invaders insofar as those of Fire Ruby’s lineage were in power to cast the spell. Those who wish to invade the Crystal Empire would first have to traverse miles of the blizzard field and try to break the shield under such conditions before finally meeting the crystal pony knights and soldiers.

The growth of the Crystal Empire followed from the victory against the yetis. It has been known throughout Equestria as the capital of gemstones and ore. Every colt and filly did not grow up without mastering the art of crystal making that the finest jewels in Equestria could only be found in the Crystal Empire. After three generations since Flame Heart, the aristocracy is made apparent. The ability to make the shield that protected them from the icy tundra and invaders could only be passed on the first-born filly of Flame Heart’s lineage, who will become the queen of the empire to be then given the title of "the Crystal Heart" to which all subjects pour their love to.

Following the exponential progress, in the year four hundred and five of Helionis’s Ascension, the Crystal Empire has reached its apex. King Ivanhorse and Queen Troy the Crystal Heart, rulers at that time, declared their independence, and allegiance, from, and to, Launcelot, to which Princess Helionis was proud to grant. The northern border of Equestria was now secured.

III

In Which Sombra is Born and Raised

It was in the year seven hundred and eleven of Helionis’s Ascension, during the reign of King Romolus and Queen Remus of the Crystal Heart that knight-errantry and the code of chivalry[8] was put aside for the practice of craftsmanship. After five centuries of peace, the soldiers lessened and knighthood became a beloved sport of jousting. But King Romolus, who was a knight himself, desired to reinstate the valor knightly principles as in the medieval romances. He proclaimed the hunt for Ouroboros, the She-Serpent[9], whose length circles the circumference of the globe and swallows its own tail. The reward for the prize was immortality in the hearts of the crystal ponies. After years of practicing the art of combat, and no enemies to which they may use them, the knights of the Crystal Empire reveled and verily grew excited of the hunt that the enlistment were filled the day of the announcement.

The one-hundred and sixteen knights that sought Ouroboros, the She-Serpent, circled the continent of the north until it was only Sir Fenrir the Grey[10] that found the tail of the creature beneath the snow. Sir Fenrir circled the globe for three years following the snake’s body in search for its head, only to discover it back to where he had started. Here he saw Ouroboros’s head and, taking up his spear, prepared to strike it down.

“Still thy spear,” said the She-Serpent, “For only thou who traversed the dirt, sand and snow on foot can see me, and he who see sees that it is I who holds the world together in my coil. That to strike me down is to strike down the daughter of this earth and call its vengeance. For if I stir, the mountains shall rage and the sea shall sweep, the heavens shall cry and the maw of the earth shall open and swallow the land. But I acknowledge thy tenacity and would not wish thee downcast. Therefore, I shall grant thee whatever wishes thou desire to take it back to thy city as trophy of thy victory. Take my fang; forge from it a sword that cut mountains. Take my scale; forge from it a shield that devours even Helionis’s sun. Take my eye, and use it as a mirror to bear witness to the secrets world.”

“No sword shall be made of thy fang,” said Sir Fenrir, “Nor shield of thy scale, nor mirror of thy eyes. For I have traversed the world already and have seen enough, for I have fought all the while and is all but retired. But my adventure ha left me lonesome, and here standing back in my tundra I feel cold. So I wish, mighty serpent, if thou could grant it, the warmth of a companion.”

Hearing this, Ouroboros, the She-Serpent, turned herself to a mare which Sir Fenrir the Grey describes to be the fairest of the fair. The knight took the mare in her hooves and made love to her. The next day, Sir Fenrir the Grey left the Crystal Empire and resumes his knight-errantry all over Equestria.

It is not until the year eight hundred and thirty nine of Helionis’s Ascension that King Caliburn heard news of Ouroborus, the She-Serpent. Another knight, by the name of Sir Phalanx the Impenetrable, returned with a story and a trophy.

“Aye, my liege,” so tells Sir Phalanx. “I have searched for Ouroboros, the She-Serpent, as my father and forefathers before me. I have found her tail resting here by the north of our own continent, buried under the snow, and I have followed it through the circle of the globe, from Percivale to Galahad, from Launcelot to Gawain, to find myself back where I began and only to see her head chewing on her tail. Here she offered her fang, to be forged as a sword that can split mountains; or her scale, to be forged as a shield that devours even Helionis’s sun; or her eye, to be use as a mirror to bear witness to the secret of the world.”

“And what trophy did thou return?” asked the king.

“This, her egg, which I have stolen in her sleep. For I cannot, as knight, take that which was so easily offered.”

Several weeks later, the egg hatched and from it came a raven black unicorn. Sir Phalanx returned to the king and showed him the foal.

“Dear King, thou hast known that this foal is my prize and trophy from Ouroboros, the She-Serpent. That this foal is now my slave and I name him Sombra, which means shadow, from the color of his coat.”

Queen Llamrei the Crystal Heart was horrified to hear that such a foal should be enslaved by birth that she spoke: “Brave Sir Phalanx, I cannot forbear that thou would takest into custody our own kind.”

“But it is not our kind,” replied Sir Phalanx. “For this is the son of Ouroboros, the She-Serpent.”

“Does it slither on the ground as a serpent would? Is it limbless as a serpent is?”

“No.”

“Therefore, it is not a serpent. Does it neigh as a pony would? Does it crawl on all limbs as a foal would?”

“Yes.”

“Therefore, it is equine.”

Sir Phalanx is outraged that his rightful claim was discredited. King Caliburn, on the other hoof, would not wish to see his knight disheartened that he sought a compromise. Sombra, as the foal was named, was to be the servant and future squire of Sir Phalanx.

For several years, Sombra grew in the Crystal Empire but his childhood could not be said to be the healthiest among his generation. The contempt that Sir Phalanx harbored to him, for being servant rather than slave, warranted him little attention that he became no different than an orphan. The parents of colts and fillies all warned their children against him, for he had a peculiar quality unnatural to the other denizens; that is, he does not shine and glimmer whenever inside the Scabbard, that he preserves his raven black coat amidst the crystal ponies. Thus, avoided by colts and fillies, even the mares and stallions, from his childhood to his younger years, Sombra did not learn to speak until he was in his eleventh winter. Until then, the whole Crystal Empire believed him to be mute. Once, for hunting down and eating a hare in the tundra, for he was half-serpent as he was half-steed, he was beaten by a knight who found him[11]. The reputation of Sir Phalanx as a haughty knight did not help as well, for those ponies who could not place their grudge against the knight turned their aggress to Sombra instead; oftentimes the punishment which ought to be penalized to Sir Phalanx would be reserved for him. Sombra, having known no other way of life, and intelligently aware of his difference to the crystal ponies, have never uttered word of complaint and had, instead, learned only to tolerate and welcome the pain of isolation. In his twelfth year, as with every colt of the Crystal Empire, he was educated in the art of crystal making. Being a unicorn, he was able to employ his magic to his craft. He produced a clear melanized onyx in a space of time so short he was able to match his speed with the greatest crystal craftsmen in the Crystal Empire’s history. Where he expected, for the first time in his life, to be praised, he was welcomed in envy and hatred. His teacher condemned him for the use of magic and expelled him from class. In his thirteenth year, his contemporaries have earned their emblem[12], to which he alone was exempt. In his fourteenth year, Sombra fell in love with a mare whose name was Flask Water. Knowing his stature as the social pariah, Sombra had not approached the maiden until his fifteenth year.

“Begone, whoreson of the Serpent,” so said Flask Water to him. “Thou whose raven black coat mirrors the darkness of thy heart, thou who possessest no emblem, thou who could not be purified even by the Crystal Heart, art the symbol of evil to which my father, Sir Watcheye, hath pledged dispossession. Thou art to be the reminder of the knight’s cause. And thou purpose to profess thy love for me, foul creature?”

And Sombra left the mare and wept.

In Sombra’s sixteenth winter, King Caliburn died from a fall from his balcony after a drunken celebration of Helionis’s Vernal Equinox. By tradition, Queen Llamrei selected one of the nobles to marry her daughter, the young Princess Avalon. The queen has chosen the viscount Stonehoof, who became the new king two months later. King Stonehoof then announced the open hunt for Ouroboros, the She-Serpent, as celebration for the crown. Upon hearing this, Sombra ran to his master and said:

“Sire, forgive my intrusion, but the King has opened the game for Ouroboros, the She-Serpent, to whom I now know to be my mother. I ask thee permission to engage in this hunt.”

“Dost thou takest me for a fool?” said Sir Phalanx angrily. “For the day I give thee permission is the day of thy escape! Or, if not, to beg thy mother of vengeance upon empire! Take thy place amongst the other squires, for I liked thee better when thou art mute. Aye, if not for Queen Llamrei I would have thou whipped for treachery.”

“But sire, I beg understanding–”

“Another word and I would have thee take supper amongst swines. Be happy that I allow thee to eat the scraps off my table.”

Two weeks later, Sir Phalanx the Impenetrable sought a plan to get rid of Sombra, who has done nothing for him but brought upon the contempt of his contemporaries, and garner treasure besides. He would take the son of Ouroboros, the She-Serpent, as surety for all the treasures she could offer.

Sir Phalanx and Sombra left at dawn to the north of the tundra where Sir Phalanx struggled to find the serpentine tail. Along their way, they encountered another knight of the Crystal Empire and Sir Phalanx challenged him to a jousting battle. The knights agreed and the two jousted. Sir Phalanx is felled twice against the knight’s lance that he challenged him to a fight with the sword. The knight, whose name we now learn to be Sir Emerald IV of the Green Lance, accepted the challenge and defeated Sir Phalanx in four strokes.

“Thy name is ill-deserved,” said Sir Emerald IV. “For Sir Phalanx the Impenetrable hath surely lacked his defense.”

“Nay!” replied Sir Phalanx, “For the curse is he–my squire!–whose air alone curses my skill, that I am left to neglect my training.”

“I am ashamed to be called knight of the Crystal Empire beside one who blames his weakness in the innocence of another.”

Sir Emerald IV raised his sword to strike down Sir Phalanx when Sombra stood in between them.

“Who darest stand between a knight and his victory?” said Sir Emerald IV.

“It is I," said Sombra, "to whom my sire blames his defeat. I beseech thee to spare him, for he does not lie. For I am that object of hatred to which crystal ponies direct their anger, and, in so doing, my master also fells victim and thus be the cause of the injury to his skill.”

“Would thou givest thy life to him?”

“Non to him, but that code of chivalry he, and every honorable knight of the Crystal Empire, gives pledge. For no knight shall be victor over the other when one battles wounded by sword or by scorn, and that it was I who brought this upon to my master. For if one's weakness is to be removed then it is I who should be on the other end of the sword, and after which the battle can restart fairly.”

“A squire who follows the knight’s code of chivalry? What makes thee think that thou art worthy of the honor?”

“Nay, I do not. Only I believe that it is worth following.”

Sir Emerald IV sheathed his weapon and galloped away. At once, Sir Phalanx rose and struck Sombra, cursing him for his insolence. He went on to state that no such embarrassment has ever occurred to a knight than to be protected by his squire.

The two resumed their journey; Sombra in silence and Sir Phalanx mumbling profanities. They arrive at the tail-end of Ouroboros, the She-Serpent, and Sir Phalanx knew that they have to travel for a year and half across the globe if they are to meet her head. So they traveled westward to the setting sun[13] all across Equestria and farther.

In the fourth month of their travel, they arrive in the southern border of the city-state of Quixote where they encounter a knight fending off three others.

“Sire,” says Sombra, “I urge thee to fight in his aid. For is it not proper that knights are to fight on equal footing, one against one, with Helionis’s Eye between their shoulders[14].”

“Then I give thee permission to aid the helpless fool,” said he.

“I!” exclaimed Sombra. “But I have no experience in combat, that the nearest I have been to weapons is when I carry thy sacred spears and swords.”

“I order you, then! Here, learn that those with no power cannot protect. Alas, go! Fight alongside the weak with nothing but rocks and sticks.”

Sombra charged in the midst of battle, surprising the first of the three knights and knocking him down. With his magic he levitates the fallen’s red spear and, with it, fought the second whilst the assisted knight fought the third. Sir Phalanx watched in awe as his squire handled himself naturally in the battlefield. With increased fervor, Sombra and the knight by his side forced the three enemies to the defense and eventually in retreat. Afterwards, Sir Phalanx joined the two wearied combatant.

“To whom do I owe my gratitude?” asked the knight, whose name we learn to be Don Rozinante de la Quixote.

“My sire, Sir Phalanx,” said Sombra, “to which I am but a squire.”

Don Rozinante explained that he was attacked by those belonging of Diana’s Church, who forced him to swear that Princess Diana is the fairest of the princesses.

“Of course, Princess Diana is the fairest,” said Sir Phalanx.

Don Rozinante ignored the knight, whom he condemned already for sending his squire to battle in his stead. He joined Sombra in their journey westward.

In their fifth month, Sir Phalanx, Don Rozinante and Sombra stopped by an abbey. Sir Phalanx barged on the door and demanded homage and the bests of wine and breads for himself. Don Rozinante and Sombra settled themselves with the humblest of meals. In the middle of the night, a mare, who bore the name Pine Leaves, knocked on the abbey and begs for the help of any knight whose chivalry and arms she may avail. She tells the story of how several goatherds have attacked her village. Don Rozinante and Sombra, albeit squire as he was, were quick to rise. Don Rozinante carried Lady Pine Leaves on his back and galloped to the village’s direction. Sombra beckoned his master awake and urged him to do the same.

“Fool, squire! Thou art a knave!” yelled Sir Phalanx. “Not only have you waken me from my dream, but to urge me as though commanding me–and for what?–to save a village. Listen well, a knight does not save. A knight covets and taketh for the glory of his liege. With a knight’s strength he owns and steals what should be rightfully his, and with the same strength he protects it. Remember that which strength is for. The village is not mine, nor of the Crystal Empire, thus there is no reason to protect it. And I am sure that there are no worthy spoils from the village to seize.”

Sir Phalanx ordered Sombra to return to their journey westward, away from the village under attack. Sombra could only send aid the only way he knew; for every passer-by he whispers of how valiant Don Rozinante de la Quixote seeks assistance of arms in protecting the village to the east.

In the thirteenth month of their journey, Sir Phalanx and Sombra have returned to the northern continent to find Ouroboros, the She-Serpent, chewing on her tail end.

“To the beast who circles the world in her bosom,” said Sir Phalanx. “I have returned with thy foal. Take thy seed back to the earth and give me my due, for I have reared him, cradled for him, and taken care of him as a father would. I demand of thee my just compensation: thy fangs, to forge from which a sword that can split mountains, thy scale, to forge from which a shield that can devour even Helionis’s sun, and thy eye, to be made mirror to bear witness to the secrets of the world."

“None thou shalt possess any of my flesh!” said Ouroboros, the She-Serpent, “For my son is neither thy slave to bargain nor mine to bound, for he is to his father, Sir Fenrir the Grey, rest his ghost, who hath long perish in battle. I give him his right of freedom and the rightful treasure of the four spears of his begetter; and to thee, thief, I give nothing.”

From the corner of the lips of Ouroboros, the She-Serpent, four crimson spears, shining like rubies, fell to Sombra’s feet. Sir Phalanx, insulted for the last time, drew his sword against his squire to take the spears for himself. Sombra, for his part as a mere armiger, has pledged it in his life not to harm his sire and was immedietly struck down. Ouroboros, the She-Serpent, enraged by the injury taken by her son, rears her head and swallows Sir Phalanx whole. She then cradled her young and licked his wounds clean.

It was at this time that another knight, by the name Sir Joyous Gard of the Crystal Empire, who has similarly pursued Ouroboros, the She-Serpent, but has yet traversed the globe, saw the fallen Sombra. The knight took the squire on his back and returned him to the Crystal Empire.

IV

In Which the Satyrs Invade and Sombra Is Knighted

The news of the death of Sir Phalanx the Impenetrable was mourned all over the Crystal Empire, for though he was the least pleasant of the knights he had done his service. Sombra was brought to court to answer for the knight's death. Here he told the story of Ouroboros, the She-Serpent, his mother; and Fenrir the Grey, his father, as well as Sir Phallanx attack to him. King Stonehoof did not believe him until a knight, by the name Don Rozinante de la Quixote and his wife Lady Pine Leaves, visited the Crystal Empire in time to testify for Sombra’s innocence, valiancy and chivalry. King Stonehoof, torn between honoring a knight’s word and appeasing the citizen’s desire for vengeance, turned the responsibility to his wife, Queen Avalon.

Queen Avalon was spared from the trial and heard nothing but news from her handmaidens. When she asked who Sombra was, aside from being the bastard son of Ouroboros, the She-Seprent, and Fenrir the Grey, as he was so famously known, it was Sir Emerald IV of the Green Lance who answered:

“Squire to Sir Phalanx,” said he, “squire who follows the code of chivalry, who stood between Sir Phalanx and my blade to save his sire from death.”

Upon hearing this, Queen Avalon passed her judgment to King Stonehoof who, in turn, passed it on to the court. Sombra, who has saved Sir Phalanx from battle, has earned his freedom as a squire and has become the rightful heir to Sir Phalanx's property.

Sombra retired to his new home where he spent several years in isolation. Much of this time was spent training with the four crimson spears his father left him and practicing the crafts of crystal forging–where he discovered that he cannot forged anything but onyx. He hunted his meal alone in the tundra for nopony would share or trade with him. The Crystal Empire still knew and marred his repute as the son of Ouroboros, the She-Serpent, who has swallowed the beloved Sir Phalanx the Impenetrable. Sombra never once took to heart his social excommunication, for he understood the difference of the darkness of his coat in contrast to the brightness luster of the crystal ponies. He understood why mares would tell tales of him to their children to keep them from the streets at night. He understood the sudden silence when he is within their hearing. He understood as to why the streets is clear of ponies when he passed by. But not once has he cursed the denizens of the Crystal Empire. Quite the contrary, he felt love as oftentimes as those stallions his age; and each time he was rebuked openly, and even proudly, by the mares.

“Slither yonder,” once said a mare to him. “Coil thyself away from the innocence of the Crystal Ponies, envenom not our children. Bury thyself beneath the rocks, meat eater, from which thou and thy mother crawled through this earth.”

During this time of excommunication, Queen Avalon begot the Princess Camelot to King Stonehoof, and a celebratory tournament is held. The price of which are a thousand bits and a place as the princess’s godfather. Sombra participates in the tournament, but was then disqualified for not being a knight and was then publicly rebuked by the audience. Queen Avalon, who was still resting after giving birth, have not heard of the commotion. The first day of the tournament is won by Sir Emerald IV. The second day of the tournament is won by Sir Longtooth. The third day is won again by Sir Emerald IV. The fourth day is won by Don Scabbard the Holy[15]. The fifth and final day is won by Sir Quake, twin to Sir Tremor.

It was two days later, while the knights of the tournament tended their wounds, that the satyrs marched through the northern ice.

The heretical satyr race were unlike any other sentient race; for though they do have the blessing of reason, seldom do they employ it beyond the art of war. They had no concept of property or rights, of honor or chivalry. They praised a false idol that challenged Princess Helionis and Princess Diana. Not once had they stopped to practice or discover agriculture or science; their steps, and their hearts if they so have one, forever matched to the beating of the war drums. They multiplied, invaded and seized the spoils, moving thereafter to the next place of consumption.

King Stonehoof trembled at the number of satyrs marching to his empire. Though the ice storms beyond the Scabbard have taken with it a thousand of the heretics, thousands more remained. His knights, wounded from the tournament, were incapable. His citizens, having known no war for six centuries were equally ineffective in the matter. King Stonehoof had thought of abandoning the Empire to save himself when Sombra sought an audience in front of the King.

“My liege, the Empire is distraught. Your knights wounded. Your citizens ignorant. I bring thee aid: task all craftsmen a hundred arrows for each and every mare, filly and colt to rain upon our enemies while our stallion guard the front lines with all the tools they could use. For I have known, from my reading and adventures with Sir Phalanx, rest his ghost, that the stratagem had once been employed to combat the yetis.”

“What payment dost thou seek?”

“Aye, for who in this room knows not of what I am, bastard of Ouroboros, the She-Serpent. I am the symbol of that which thy knights have sworn to defend the city from. I am the outcast of the Empire, its black mark but still its son, for it has cradled me so. The payment that I ask is that no stallion, soldier or knight, craftsman or commoner, should raise their arms against the heretic invaders until I fall. For I volunteer myself to charge against the horde and take down as many as I can before any other of the Crystal Empire is brought to harm.”

“So thou, having given thy knowledge in the arts of war, seekest payment not to be exempt in battle, but to charge headfirst into it.”

“Aye.”

“Pray tell why, when the Crystal Empire have treated you cruelly so.”

“The Crystal Empire have right to treat me cruelly, for I am the seed of evil. And if there is one noble act evil can do it is to vanquish itself. And in no greater way it is to give up the ghost, if I have one, than over the ruined bodies of those that have slain me.”

King Stonehoof delightfully agreed to Sombra’s plan for, he will have both defend the Empire and send Sombra, to whom his citizens held in contempt, to his death. At noon, when the satyrs, numbering by the thousands, have taken their place before the shield of the Crystal Empire, it was Sombra, with his four spears, who welcomed them.

“Heathens!” said he. “Turn thy wretched hides back to thy false idol, for the knights of her Grace, and this devil before thee, serve as the scythe of justice.”

The satyrs, fearing nothing from a single pony, flashed their scimitars and charged violently. Sombra activated his his immense magic and brought forth his traps. His eyes glowed green and tendrils slithered from his shadows. From beneath the snow, hundreds of onyx crystals sprouted from the earth, impaling the heretics and reforming the battlefield to a convex cliff where he stands atop the cone's apex. The satires were to climb the pyramid in four directions if they were to pass through him, and in these four directions Sombra spun and slashed his four spears with what’s left of his magic. The crystal ponies, protected from within Scabbard, watched from only several yards away how the ruined bodies of the satire heathens fell from Sombra’s spears and collect beneath the snow. Eventually, Sombra exhausted his magic and he is left to fend with a spear between his teeth. His strength dwindled and he suffered multiples injures and blows as he was slowly overrun. When a satyr raised its scimitar to strike him down, Sombra was saved by Sir Emerald IV of the Green Lance, who strayed from the safety of the shield to join him in battle. With Sir Emerald IV fighting by his beside Sombra, the other knights took their arms and joined the fray. First was Sir Joyous Gard, followed by Don Rozinante, then by Sir Longtooth, until all the knights have formed a defensive array to hold back the satire horde. The stallions and mares from behind the Scabbard took up their bows and showered a volley of arrows, tipped with rhinestones, down the heathens. The battle lasted until dusk. Their numbers thinning to a few thousands, the satyr finally employed their reason and blew the horn to retreat.

As the knights reveled in their victory and return to their homes, most searched for Sombra who was found by Sir Cuirass leaning against his spear and weeping atop the heap of satyr dead[16].

Sombra returned to his home after the battle where he licks the thousand injuries he bore. It was two days later when an emissary of the king invited him in to the castle. He went to the main hall as ordered and here he was received by the good cheer and merry making of the denizens, for a banquet was prepared in his name and victory. Sombra was appalled and repulsed for this treatment was, to him, altogether foreign. The king then commanded him still and kneel in front of the assembly where he is then knighted.

“For the recognition of thy valor, strength and fortitude, I now dub thee: Sir Sombra de Onyx; forever son of our beloved mother, the Crystal Empire.”

The king’s sword was placed against Sombra’s shoulders and on his head.

All the while, Queen Avalon, who remained seated on her throne throughout the entire ceremony, has only ever heard of Sir Sombra until this serendipitous encounter. And, watching the stallion, she felt as though her heart captured.

V

In Which Sir Sombra de Onyx encounters Queen Avalon

At the night of Sir Sombra’s knighting, a banquet was held in his honor. Within the great mess hall of the caste, the soldiers feasted on mead and ale; and the knights feasted on morat and pigment[17]. Lady Pine Leaves, wife of Don Rozinante de la Quixote, told tales of Sir Sombra’s young adventures in artful rhetoric. The castle fools were invited and there performed a drama of the victory two days agone. The festivities wassailed into the night, and there was much merrymaking. Sir Sombra alone reserved himself, for he found the entire ceremony alien to his usual custom. He retired to the castle garden where he seated beside the pond and there admired the fauna.

He was then discovered by Queen Avalon.

“My lord,” said she, “why retire thee? Why dost thou sit alone, forth from the celebration held in thy honor?”

“My liege, I wish not the melancholy of my brethrens, for I desire to mourn in peace for the lost of the empire: for Sir Fang, Sir Halberd, Sir Stormcloud the Tempest, Sir Enuma Elish, Sir Quake who died protecting his twin, Sir Argonaut, Don Balmung, Sir Echelon and Sir Saracen. All brave knights of the Crystal Empire, to anyone of whom I could have saved with my death. With no remorse, I could give my ghost to preserve that of theirs.”

“Hast thou not given enough? Bear witness to the fresh wounds thou bore, for each is equaled to the hundred of lives thou saved in battle. Why cast such precious life away? Come, and let me wash thy injuries.”

On hearing this, Sir Sombra drew back in horror and hid himself in the shadows of the trees where he is invisible and only his voice betrays his presence.

“Nay! Nay, my liege!” said he, “For I am Sombra, bastard of Ouroboros, the She-Serpent, he whose flesh is soiled. Cast thy blue eyes away lest they bear more sight of me. Touch neither my scale nor coat, which is raven black, and has not once been purified by the crystal heart, lest thy golden locks or snow-white coat be marred. I beg thee, my queen, to leave me to my mourning within the shadows where I am rightfully bound.”

On the thirtieth day since Sir Sombra’s knighting, Queen Avalon invited his company to visit the orphans of the knights who died during the Battle of Onyx[18]. In this orphanage, the queen played music on her golden flugelhorn to ease the sorrow[19] of those who listened. Sir Sombra stood by her beside, his guard ready with his four spears raised.

One of the orphans approached and offered him flowers as a gift; at this, Sir Sombra hissed at the foal who then ran away. Another foal approached and offered a glass of water as a gift; at this, Sir Sombra gnarled at the foal who then cried and ran away. A third foal approached and offered him a piece of bread; at this, Sir Sombra flared his spears and growled at the foal who then cried and retreated in fright.

When asked by Lady Pine Leaves, who taught rhetoric in the orphanage, the reason for this cruelty, Sir Sombra answered:

“Fools these orphans are. They know suffering, but know not to stray from it. Do they not know fear, or what is to be feared? For I could so easily devour them.”

“But devour them, thou did not. Pray tell, why should thee be the object of their fear?”

“For I am Sombra, bastard of Ouroboros, the She-Serpent, he who is to be rebuked. Mares tell stories of me to their children, to stray them from the streets at night, to compel them confess their sins, to make them follow the path of virtue and honor. For if they do not heed their parents, they are told that I would swallow them and keep them in my belly. These foals know that I am to be feared, I make honest ponies of their parents.”

When the day had gone, Lady Pine Leaves reported back to Queen Avalon, as she was instructed, to disclose Sir Sombra’s reason for his cruelty towards foals.

In the sixtieth day since Sir Sombra’s knighting, a milkmaid searched for him all over the Crystal Empire. She found Sir Sombra feasting on a crow beyond the outskirts of the city. Upon being discovered, he immediately swallowed his prey and searched for a place to hide himself, but nowhere within the white snow could he render himself invisible. He quickly took his cloak and covered himself as though he believed himself to be a leper.

“Pray tell,” said the milkmaid, “Why dost thou hide as though thou wert a leper?”

“Worse than a leper, for I am Sombra, bastard son of Ouroboros, the She-Serpent. I who commit the sin of murder to each hares and fowls I devour. Turn away, lest thou see the blood still fresh on my fangs. Dost thou not fear me, young maiden? For my hunger may be unsatiated and to thee, of flesh and blood, I may turn my coils.”

“Nay,” replied she.

“Dost thou not fear the winter cold, where the unforgiving tundra freezes those who stand in its path?”

“Nay.”

“Dost thou not fear death?”

“Aye,” said the milkmaid. “But death is not thee.”

Here the milkmaid removed her guise and revealed herself to be Queen Avalon.

“Thou hast dejected thyself before a queen, a lady and, now, a milkmaid. Thou art a fool for thinking that thou is evil; for one who dejects thyself for the safety of others is aught but good.”

But before more words were spoken the cold had taken its toll on the queen. Unicorn as she was, she was not tolerant of the unforgiving weather. Sir Sombra took the queen on his back and returned her to his shelter. When the queen awakened hours later, Sir Sombra bowed his head to her.

“I extend my apologies for a lodging not worthy of thy majesty,” said he. “Command this knight to enter the castle grounds and he shall ready thy escorts.”

“My lord, I gave no such command. I ask thy permission to stay.”

“My liege, permission is not mine to give, for my humble is estate belongs to that of the Crystal Empire, and thus to thee, before it belongs to me.”

Sir Sombra retired to the corner of the room where he blended with the shadows, the fours spears by his side as he stood guard of the Queen.

“Why doth the hero of the Battle of Onyx exiles himself?” asked the Queen. “Thrice now I have heard thou call thyself the bastard of Ouroboros, the She-Serpent, and declares to be unloved. Be proven wrong then, for I request thee, Sir Sombra de Onyx, to participate in the tourney to be held in the bimester.

“Aye, my liege.”

As the days that followed ready for the tournament, Sir Sombra often stood on guard below the queen’s tower, carefully hidden within the shadows; for there he expects to see the queen at least once. At that same time during those same days, Queen Avalon left her tower in search for Sir Sombra either in his home or in the castle garden where they first met; for there she expects to see him at least once. Thus, the two never crossed paths and both believed that one was being avoided by the other. Each night they return dejected and disappointed.

So when the day of the tournament came, Sir Sombra, believing that the queen had retracted her request, refused participation. Many in the crowds were disappointed, for they wish to see and cheer for Sir Sombra’s excellent display of his skills. The tournament proceeded nevertheless and the queen was forced to watch without interest due to Sir Sombra’s absence.

The winner of the first day of the tournament was Sir Emerald IV. The winner of the second day was Don Scabbard the Holy. The winner of the third day was Sir Cristabolite. The winner of the fourth and fifth day was Sir Emerald IV. The awards were given to the victors and Sir Emerald IV receives the highest honor of the queen’s golden handkerchief[20], which her majesty had arranged as the prize the bimester before the tournament.

VI

In Which Sir Sombra de Onyx Fights The Sphinx

Five weeks after the tournament, a creature known as the Sphinx appeared and terrorized the Crystal Empire. It was a creature with the head of a primate, the body of a lion and the wings of an eagle. It spans thirty meters in length and twenty meters in height[21].From its green eyes a black mist as thick as smoke seeped out. With its powerful magic, it phased through the Crystal Empire’s shield and preyed upon the crystal ponies. Its skin was of sands that neither steel nor flame could bear injury upon it.

The knights who first fought the Sphinx found their weapon unable to harm the beast, and all died except for Don Rozinante de la Quixote, who became insane and attacked the windmills claiming it was the dreaded monster. He spent the rest of his days in the abbey where he is taken care of by his wife, Lady Pine Leaves.

When the Sphinx attacked again, Sir Sombra faced the creature and was able to draw it back without more injuries than his own. The battle restarted the next day and it lasted from sunrise to sunset, the clash of the four spears against the pair of claws could be heard by everypony in the Crystal Empire. In the third day of their battle, the Sphinx spoke to Sir Sombra in a voiced that that seemed to come from the very ground from which it stood.

“Thou is not a mere stallion of this earth, but a son of the she-serpent. For none else could match my speed nor my strength. I seek to swallow the Crystal Heart and take its power for my own. Surrender to me, be spared, and when I become the god of these new subjects worthy of me, I shall ascend thee to the greater half of thy blood.”

“Foul creature, thou art the false idol of the satyr heathens. I welcome more the scythe of the reaper than thy bosom. For the greater half of I is not the cold blood of my serpentine mother, but that which I shed on the snow to protect the Crystal Heart.”

The battles continued for several days, with each day harder than the last, for the constant fighting wearied Sir Sombra and with every blow his wounds reopens. None of the crystal ponies could escape for the Sphinx summons a mighty snowstorm outside the Crystal Empire that blew away the citizens who oppose it.

King Stonehoof knew that if this attack continued it was only to be a matter of time before Sir Sombra is felled and the Sphinx to attack the village. He considered, in the privacy of his room, whether he should surrender the Queen and his power to save himself. Nevertheless, the king sought his adviser for a way to defeat the beast and maintain his sovereignty.

“No weapon made of this earth could harm the Sphinx,” said Bluebeard, the adviser. “But only one. And none knows it other than St. Stigmata the Wounded[22], who hath perished years agone, but whose grave is the forge of the weapon.”

Sir Emerald IV of the Green Lance, ordered by King Stonehoof, formed The Knights of the Crystal Circle to lead the expedition to find the tomb of the saint. The knights who were to join him in the quest are Sir Tremor, Sir Joyous Gard and Sir Longtooth.

The night before the knights’ departure, Queen Avalon snuck to Sir Sombra’s shelter.

“My lord, accompany them and save thyself the torture,” said the Queen. “Hurry to the the tomb of St. Stigmata, and find from it the weapon that will be the monster's undoing.”

“Nay. For if I were to go astray, none would hold back the Sphinx,and thou will be the first to be taken by the dreaded beast.”

“Worry not of me, but of the Crystal Empire.”

“Nay. For I shall not abandon thee, thou who hath kept the empire safe in her bosom. Even if I hold not thy golden napkin, my pledge is with thy life.”

“I order, then, to take me as thy squire. So that thou shall embark on the quest and protect his liege all the same.”

By the next day, Sir Emerald IV and the Knights of the Crystal Circle began their journey. Before their immediate leave, they are accompanied by Sir Sombra and Queen Avalon, who was cleverly disguised as a milkmaid-squire lest she be discovered by Sir Emerald IV. But before the two could join the company of the Knights of the Crystal Circle, they are confronted by Sir Longtooth.

“Traitor!” said he to Sir Sombra. “Why dost thou abandon the kingdom. For without thee, what stops the dreaded Sphinx from devouring the queen?”

“The queen is well hidden,” said Sir Sombra. “Even if the Sphinx were to turn the Crystal Empire to its core, our liege shall not be found.”

“Traitor still! Would thou hast the Sphinx turn every rock and crystal of our city?”

“We should have returned by then, and this quarrel would not aid hastening our departure...”

But Sir Longtooth was unpersuaded and challenges Sir Sombra to a duel. The two jousted and Sir Longtooth is felled to the ground. He picked up his sword and challenges the serpent-steed in combat. Sir Sombra flared his spears and battles his challenger. Though Sir Sombra was winning with every blow, Sir Emerald IV intervenes before a victor is decided.

“Halt and cease this needless fight,” said Sir Emerald IV. “Save thy energy against a foe, for to turn our steels against one another is to help only the beast. There is no compelling one knight to do against what he believes to be right, and the same is true for Sir Sombra, which King Stonehoof himself knighted. Make haste then, and I myself shall stay and test my sword against the Sphinx claws. Pray to return early and swear, by thy love for the Crystal Heart, that thou shall return successful in this venture.”

“I swear it,” said Sir Sombra.

“And you, Sir Longtooth?”

“I swear,” answered Sir Longtooth.

The Knights of the Crystal Circle, now with the absence of Sir Emerald, headed southwards to Gaheris where St. Stigmata the Wounded was buried. There they hoped to find the weapon that may defeat the Sphinx. Meanwhile, as they traversed the icy tundra of the north, Sir Sombra had carried all his weapons on his back and had kept his squire in close company.

“Dost thou not know what a squire is for?” remarked Sir Longtooth. “And why dost thou select a mere milkmaid for a squire? Command thy servant to carry thy weapons and to walk not three paces from us.”

“I know how squires are treated, for I myself was born and raised a squire to Sir Phalanx, rest his ghost.”

When night came, the knights made camp in one of the tundra’s mountain. Sir Sombra gave his cot and blankets for the milkmaid to sleep in while he stood awake and on guard.

Sir Longtooth laughed and remarked to him: “Squire thou art still. A squire and a guard to a squire.”

“Still thy villainous tongue, Sir Longtooth," said Sir Joyous Gard. "It is unbecoming of a knight of thy rank. Let Sir Sombra do as he wish and let us hold our silence, as he hath held on to his.”

When the other knights have fallen asleep, Queen Avalon approached Sir Sombra.

“My lord, take thy cot and blanket and rest. I shall stand guard for the rest of the night.”

“Needless, my liege. Pay no heed to the insults of Sir Longtooth.”

“I am no queen outside my castle. Not when I run as my city is under siege by the dreaded Sphinx. Here I am just a milkmaid working as thy squire.”

“Then I pledge my loyalty to my squire for the rest of the journey.”

They journeyed to Gaheris for two weeks in search for the grave of St. Stigmata the Wounded. Upon arrival they are met by a knight in white armor who stood in their path by the draw bridge, for it is tradition in Gaheris that no knight may pass without being challenged. The first who took the invitation was Sir Joyous Gard, who fought against the white knight but is felled after the thirteenth blow. Sir Longtooth followed and has fought the knight in equal footing. The two fought till sunset and the strength of both wanes as the moon rised. When exhaustion had taken its toll on both the white knight and Sir Longtooth, the match was declared to be a draw.

“Smite him down now, Sir Sombra,” said Sir Longtooth. “Now whilst his injury is fresh and his blood still trickle. Victory, no doubt, is ascertained.”

Sir Sombra observed the injures of the white knight before responding: “Nay, for a knight may battle only in single combat and no knight may take victory from an injured foe. If it is tradition to fight before entrance then let come another knight, or I shall wait till his wounds are sealed.”

“There are no other knights,” said the knight in white armor. “For all else have left for Launcelot in preparation for the Grand Tournament. It is only by my code of chivalry that I have stayed and preserve the tradition of ancient Gaheris.”

“Fool! Fools the both of you!” roared Sir Longtooth. “The Crystal Empire is damned by your code of chivalry. Go, Sir Tremor!”

Sir Tremor, in fear of being rebuked by Sir Longtooth, challenged the white knight who felled him in five blows.

“Alas! Shall we wait thirty sunrise till this knight’s wounds heal!? Before Sir Sombra takes up his spears?”

The milkmaid approaches Sir Sombra and beseeched him. “Command me, my lord, to tend to this knight’s wounds. For I could not ask of thee to break thy code.”

“As thou wishest, my liege.”

The milkmaid approached the white knight, bandaged his wound and cleansed it with holy water.

“Alas!” cried Sir Longtooth. “For the squire to use our remedies on the enemy!”

Sir Sombra waited until the knight was well rested. When the white knight has recovered his strength, Sir Sombra takes his four spears and gravely wounds himself on his sides and legs to match the injuries of the white knight.

“Fools!” cried Sir Longtooth again, “I am surrounded with fools!”

Having loss enough blood and believing himself to be on equal footing with the white knight, Sir Sombra took the challenge of arms. The two battled and Sir Sombra’s fresh wounds tolled in his performance. With each strike his blood flowed profusely, each blow grew weaker than the last. Knowing this, the white knight knew he only needed to defend and wait till Sir Sombra’s strength waned. Sir Sombra knew this as well, and before his magic expires he consumed it all to summon a jagged onyx as his platform to which he could hold the higher ground to the white knight's disadvantage. In the next two blows, Sir Sombra felled his combatant.

“Yield,” said Sir Sombra.

“I yield, to both thy strength and honor.”

The white knight introduced himself as Sir Ironheart the White, son of Sir Lionheart[23], and pledged his allegiance to Sir Sombra.

“Not to me,” said Sir Sombra. “But to the Crystal Empire and to my liege, King Stonehoof and Queen Avalon the Crystal Heart.”

And Sir Ironheart did so.

With Sir Ironheart as their guide, the Knights of the Crystal Circle quickly found the tomb of St. Stigmata the Wounded which was located beneath the chapel of Helionis. Inscribed within the tomb are the following:

The Sword of Tears is found

in the She-Sepent’s bastard son

That coils the sky

as its mother coils the earth.

A cup of its blade

Could tear entire countries

For its steel

is forged from the ever burning hearth

Upon reading this, Sir Longtooth drew his sword against Sir Sombra and accused him of possessing the only weapon capable of defeating the Sphinx. Sir Ironheart and the milkmaid immediately stood between the two knights. Sir Tremor, too, not wanting quarrel, suggested that they seek the advice from the elderly ponies of Gaheris. The idea is agreed upon, and the knights ventured within the outskirts of the city state to find prophets where they could seek counsel.

They traveled eastward for two days to where the elderly told them they could find their answers. In the middle of the desert they found a tower made of tourmaline. Inside was a little filly by the name Marelin who claims to know the secret of this world. At first the knights doubted the credibility of the filly until she spoke of their secrets one by one.

“Thou, Sir Tremor,” said Marelin, “hast abandoned thy brother to the enemy at the hands of the satyr heathens during the Battle of Onyx. Thou, Sir Joyous Gard, feels love for Lady Ambrosia, but hast yet to confess in fear of being rebuked. Thou, Sir Ironheart, wishest to escape the shadow of thy father. Thou, Sir Longtooth, greatly envies Sir Sombra’s glory.”

There was much commotion after Marelin spoke, mostly of accusation towards the filly’s claimed truths. Sir Longtooth, for his part, threatened to cut down the filly when Sir Sombra stood on his path. After the knights have calmed, they asked Marelin to disclose the cryptic message of St. Stigmata’s tomb. Marelin promised to give the answer only if there would be a knight to work in her service for six years, six months and six days. There was much conversation among the knights until, finally, it was Sir Ironheart who volunteered to the strange tiding. Marelin kept her word and talked of the other bastard of Ouroboros, the feathered snake named Quetzalcoatl, whom the She-Serpent begot from a pegasus and is found stirring waves and brewing storms in the middle of the fifth ocean. Hanging by the roof of its mouth is a magical goblet that, when filled, is the means to annihilate the Sphinx.

Before the knights left Marelin, the filly approached Sir Sombra and exposed his secret for Queen Avalon's hearing. “Thou, Sir Sombra de Onyx, wishest to live.”

They journeyed for two weeks south to the port-city of Gareth. There they inquired for a boat to take them in the middle of the fifth ocean. Sir Longtooth made outrageous promises claiming that whomever will aid their quest will receive a large bounty from the Crystal Empire. But no sailor dared to pass through the fifth ocean where the storms sent ships to the sea floor. When bribery failed, Sir Longtooth took out his sword and threatened to cut down those who would deny him their service. Sir Tremor and Sir Joyous Gard calmed him down, for such a behavior is unbecoming of a knight. It was then that a pirate by the name of Captain Backwater, famed for his ill-repute among mares, offered his service in exchange for the milkmaid that worked as Sir Sombra’s squire. Upon hearing this, it was Sir Sombra who flared all his spears and would have cut down the buccaneer if he was not stopped by his squire.

“Giveth her to him," said Sir Longtooth. “I am sure, no doubt, that the Crystal Empire would give thee a substitute more capable and less of a burden in our journeys. For this once, thy squire hath proven herself useful.”

Sir Sombra would have struck down Sir Longtooth as well for his words if not for his better judgement, for he knew that Sir Longtooth would not have said those words if he was not ignorant of the milkmaid's true name.

The milkmaid approached Sir Sombra and whispered to him:

“My lord, I beg of thee to grant me this permission for the sake of the Crystal Empire.”

“My queen, that permission is not for me to grant. For if it were mine, I would not surrender thee to greatest ships of the world.”

“So be it,” said the queen. And she surrenders himself to Captain Backwater until they return from their voyage.

The knights sailed the waters with Captain Backwater, all the while Sir Sombra was found standing on the edge of the ship and wept. The trip lasted for four days and four nights before they reached the fifth ocean, the heart of which stormed savagely. From afar they could already see Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent, slithering in the air, as it brewed a hundred thunders and a thousand lightning in its wake. From where its tail ended, a whirlpool followed on the surface of the sea.

At the first sign of Quetzalcoatl, Sir Longtooth took the wheel in his hoof and propelled the ship towards the flying monster. Quetzalcoatl noticed his pursuers and brew a powerful tempest: the wind blew from every direction, waves crashed and tossed the ship, lightning and thunder crackled above. In fright, Sir Tremor jumped to the lifeboat and made his escape. Captain Backwater fired his cannons but to no avail, for the flying serpent found it easy to dodge.

Sir Joyous Gard devised a plan and advised Sir Longtooth to make it as though they were escaping. They did and immediately Quetzalcoatl followed them. As the sea serpent closed in, Sir Joyous Gard had the ship turn and, from the cannons, fired the anchor. The grapnel hook latched on to the feathered serpent’s mouth and the ship was dragged where Quetzalcoatl flew. Without hesitation, Sir Sombra used his strength and dexterity and climbed up the chains to Quetzalcoatl’s mouth. The feathered serpent noticed Sir Sombra and slithered further upwards to the sky, dragging the ship with him to the clouds. Sir Sombra made the climb into Quetzalcoatl’s mouth and there he took his spears and lacerated the serpent’s tongue, snout and eyes. Sir Sombra made his way into his the feathered serpent's forehead and finally staked the final spear between the monster's eyes.

Both Quetzalcoatl and the ship fell back in the ocean, and the massive carcass created a wave that sunk the ship. There they lay on top of Quetzalcoatl's floating body where they found the golden goblet as was described by Marelin and two of Sir Sombra’s four spears. It was dusk when they were rescued by Sir Tremor, who returned with the lifeboat. But a conflict has arisen when it was discovered that only four out of the five of them may enter the lifeboat. It was then that the consensus was formed that Captain Backwater was to be left behind.

“I implore thee,” cried Captain Backwater, “not to leave me here to my doom. For I have lived my life stealing from the oceans, and no doubt it will collect its due as soon as thou honorable knights leave.”

“Pay thy dues, pirate," said Sir Longtooth.

Again, before Sir Longtooth could toss the stallion to the waters, Sir Sombra intervened: “Still, Sir Longtooth, is it not within the knight’s code that we live to serve and protect our kind? No quarrel shall be made further, for I myself will volunteer to stay to save this pirate's life. On the condition that, upon his return, he will free my squire, the milkmaid.”

“My lord, I swear it,” said Captain Backwater hastily.

“Swear it on the salvation of your soul.”

“I swear it on the salvation of my soul.”

Before the lifeboat left, Sir Sombra gave the goblet to Sir Joyous Gard. And Sir Longtooth calls to Sir Sombra in parting to rebuke him: “Fool, bastard son of the She-Serpent. For I have known that this code of chivalry thou follow will be thy undoing.”

Thus, Sir Sombra was left alone on top of the rotting carcass of his stepbrother where he lamented the murder of his blood and his separation from his queen.

When the Knights of the Crystal Circle returned to the harbor, Queen Avalon was struck with grief to see that Sir Sombra was not among them. Sir Joyous Gard told her of the tale of how Sir Sombra volunteered to stay and may have now ultimately met his end. Sir Longtooth abandoned the sulking milkmaid and traveled with the remaining knights back to the spire of Marelin.

Meanwhile, Captain Backwater betrayed his word and, finding herself alone with the milkmaid, kidnapped her. Sir Sombra discovered this and follows in pursuit of the pirate[24].

Sir Sombra followed him through the woods and in to the fort where Captain Backwater and his buccaneers stored their loot. Armed with only two of his spears, Sir Sombra charged. First he summoned a giant pillar of onyx that punctured through the drawbridge before he jumped inside and there savagely fought his way through thirty-three of the despoilers. Seeing the formidability of their opponent, the remaining pirates fled. Sir Sombra cornered Captain Backwater in his room where the pirate used the milkmaid as hostage. Sir Sombra’s horned glowed and a gray onyx pierced Captain Backwater’s side and propelled him away from his surety. The captain cried and crawled to Sir Sombra’s feet.

“Forgive me, my lord, forgive me. Have my fort and my treasures and my mares, but I beg thee to spare my life.”

The milkmaid forgave the captain, but Sir Sombra would have none of it. He tore the pirate to pieces and impaled his parts on top of onyx spires. Queen Avalon wept for witnessing the cruelty.

“Why espouse such cruelty?” asked the queen..

“My liege, condemn me and rebuke me,” said Sir Sombra as he knelt. “but I shall be damned if I were not to save thee from the wicked.”

The queen wept still, but is equally glad to have been saved by Sir Sombra. As the two exited the fort, they heard several cries from the dungeon. They investigated and from the keep they saved fifty-one mares that Captain Backwater has held captive. All fifty-one mares cried their gratitude to their savior and swore to sing in praise all over Equestria that it was Sir Sombra de Onyx of the Crystal Empire that saved them.

One of the saved mare was Flask Water of the Crystal Empire, the same mare to whom Sir Sombra first confessed his love. Flask Water had long heard of Sir Sombra’s exploits since the Battle of Onyx; and, upon being rescued firsthoof, she immediately fell in love with him.

“Brave knight, dost thou remember me? I am Lady Flask Water, to whom thou have once confessed thy love.”

“Aye,” said he, “from very long ago in my youth.”

“I am here to tell you now that I respond to thy love and would gladly take thee as my knight and servant.”

Hearing this, the queen, still cloaked as a milkmaid, intervened. “We have no time for confessions, for my lord is in the middle of the quest and could no longer offer delay lest he incurs the displeasure of his liege.”

Lady Flask Water laughed foully and responded. “Who art thou to think thee capable to speak among ladies and knights, for thou is but a squire not fit to feast on the breadcrumbs that falls from my table. Silence wretched, lest I strike thee down. For now I answer to no other but to my lord, Sir Sombra de Onyx, and no lesser.”

Sir Sombra merely bowed his head in gesture of parting and galloped out of Captain Backwater’s fort, carrying with him his squire. The two hurriedly traveled back to the Crystal Empire for a week, resting for only a few hours of sleep.

Upon reaching the north they were welcomed by the powerful snowstorm that ravaged the land. The queen was greatly weakened and Sir Sombra covered her with all his blankets and cots and carried her on his back.

“Abandon me, my lord,” said Queen Avalon, “save the Crystal Empire and cast away this burden.”

“I would do no such thing, my queen.”

“Tell me, will thou return the love sought by Lady Flask Water?”

“Nay,” said he. “For I have no love to give. For my blood is as cold as the tundra of this land. I only have my spears, and I give all to the Crystal Empire.”

A hundred yards before they reach the Scabbard of the Crystal Empire they saw the ruined and torn body of Sir Tremor. Farther, they encountered Sir Longtooth and Sir Joyous Gard desperately fighting against the dreaded Sphinx. Sir Sombra placed the queen hidden behind a rock and charged to join his comrades in battle. As the Sphinx was to strike down Sir Joyous Gard with his claw, a wall of onyx erupted from the ground and shielded the knight.

“Ah, the shadow returns,” said the Sphinx. “My proposal still stands. Aid me in the hunt for the Crystal Heart, and I shall raise thee to the greater half of thy blood: the blood you share with Ouroboros, the She-Serpent. Resist, and thou will perish among the ruins of the Crystal Empire.”

“Resist I shall, but fall I shall not.”

“Very well. Have at you.”

The battle restarted and Sir Sombra’s onyx wall proved to be a valuable defensive shield against the Sphinx. But the knights could do no more than defend against the beast’s claws, for their own swords and spears proved futile. Every thrust and slash they made against the sands forming Sphinx body only made the material refresh itself as though no damage was done.

“Sir Joyous Gard, what of the goblet?” asked Sir Sombra in the midst of the battle.

“To the snow with it,” said Sir Longtooth, “powerless is the gimcrackery. I have filled it with earth, fire, water and ether but the damned ornament could barely injure a squirrel.”

“We need to find it. For her Grace knows that we have lesser chance with our weapons of steel.”

“Thou hast proven thyself a fool time and time again. Thou ought to have stayed in the fifth ocean with thy half-sib. For how can a measly drinking cup defeat a monster?”

The battle continued in an exercise of absolute futility for the part of the knights. The Sphinx bid its time, showing no sign of retreat. For now it, too, wished not only survival, but victory over its enemy. Thus, it was Queen Avalon, stricken by the cold, who found it her duty to find the goblet before all his lost. Her horn flared and a shield surrounded them. It did nothing to the Sphinx nor protected the knights, but the snow had gone and there she found the goblet beside the body of the fallen Sir Tremor. She took it in her hoof and ran to Sir Sombra. The Sphinx noticed this and, knowing that one mare alone could conjure the Scabbard, turns his attention to the milkmaid. The Sphinx flew in to attack but Sir Sombra’s reckless advance toppled down the beasts. The claw missed by a manesbreadth and tore the robe of the milkmaid. Queen Avalon was exposed to the surprise of Sir Longtooth and Sir Joyous Gard. Sir Sombra paid the price of his own recklessness and was gravely injured by the Sphinx’s fangs and would have died if not for the interference of Sir Joyous Gard. Sir Sombra stumbled on the snow and Queen Avalon rushed to his aid. Sir Joyous Gard was tossed away by the Sphinx and the beast raised its claws to strike down the queen. But Sir Longtooth stood between them and took the blow with his body, fatally wounding him. At this, the Sphinx roared with laughter.

“Observe thy futility,” said the beasts. “Worship me, and I may still grant thee power to protect that which is most sacred: the glory of being above the worshiper.”

It was the dying knight who answered. “Fool thou art, monster; more of a fool than Sir Sombra. For if to be a god is to sell the ideal for one’s conceit, then thou art greater a fool than the fools who worship thee; for us knights, there is no greater glory than to live, and die, defending the sacred banner of that which is holy–never to be forgotten or loss or betrayed–that which the princesses had fought for and preserve, that which Crystal Empire hath cradled and reared, that which the Crystal Heart embodies: the knight’s code of chivalry!”

Thus, Sir Longtooth died and Queen Avalon wept for him. The blood that dripped from his body was collected within the goblet and the most peculiar enchantment happened: once filled, Sir Longtooth’s blood formed a crimson sword; for the cup was not a goblet but a hilt!

Queen Avalon took the sword in her hooves, raised it in the air and, with it, cleaved the Sphinx in half. The blow was so powerful that a mountain was flattened, the earth quaked and the sky was parted.

The Sphinx was no more.


Annotations and Endnotes

[1]Previous name held by Princess Celestia prior the Lunar Rebellion.

[2]Founding city-state of Canterlot.

[3]There is, in fact, a stallion whose name is Bonehoof of Percival (112-165L.B.) who was an archaeologist by profession. Whisperwind’s description of the yetis that follows is an exaggeration of Bonehoof’s own reports. (For further reading, see An Outline of Equestria’s Genealogy by Bonehoof, Royal Canterlot Archives, [144L.B.] pg. 414-415).

[4]Now bears the name Princess Luna.

[5]Now called Luna’s Star Garden. Prior to the Lunar Rebellion, the Star Garden was open to all recognized mare and stallions knighted by the princesses.

[6]It is interesting to note here that Whisperwind shares the magic theory of Fountainhead’s thesis: i.e. that love is the source of the strength for unicorn magic and that dark magic is empowered by hatred. (For further reading, see The Analects of Fountainhead by Starswirl the Bearded, Royal Canterlot Archives [127L.B].)

[7]A devout follower of Princess Celestia, Whisperwind uses the ancient pre-Lunarian calendar unknown today made by the ancient philosopher Temporal of Launcelot. The calendar starts in the year -877L.B. known as 0H.A. that begins with Princess Helionis’s Ascension after the defeat of Discord. On the year 877H.A. just after the Lunar Rebellion, the calendar is replaced by the philosopher Fountainhead, corrected by his prodigy Starswirl the Bearded, after Princess Helionis’s renaming to Princess Celestia and the banishment of Princess Luna.

[8]The code of chivalry used by Whisperwind is not exclusive to the fictional Crystal Empire, but to all of Equestria.

[9]Even before the publication of Sir Sombra de Onyx, the class Reptilia, most especially the dragons and snakes, were the symbols of the Discordians whom have, unsuccessfully, poisoned Princess Helionis. Since the 2nd Century H.A. the serpent has been associated with the devil.

[10]Sir Fenrir the Grey is the hero in the epic The Hounds of Diana by Candle Light [88L.B.-167LB.], who dies slaying the dragon Siegfried in his attempt to save the Lunarian princess, Evelyn Lulamoon.

[11]In 2 H.A. Princess Helionis declared the consumption of meat to be a mortal sin. A year later, Princess Diana issued a law where equines hunting and eating meat were punished by several years in prison.

[12]Cutie Mark

[13]In the 4th Century of the Helionis’s Ascension Calendar, it has been tradition that, given the choice of two polar directions, those who follow the rising sun where disciples of the Church of Helionis; and those who follow the setting sun were disciples of the Church of Diana.

[14]The phrase “Helionis’s Eye between the shoulders” is particular between two knights engaged in combat. The sun ought to be on the side of both knights that neither is blinded at the start of battle.

[15]The title “the Holy” were exclusive to knights who participated in the crusade against the griffons (331 H.A.) As to how such knight has lived up to Whisperwind’s setting of 9th Century H.A. is unanswered.

[16]This image is perhaps the most famous in Sir Sombra de Onyx. Partly because of its significance and partly because of its ambiguity. Much interpretation was given as to why Sombra was crying, for Whisperwind left us no answer, and reason for which is subject to much debate. The most famous portrayal of this scene is written by the poet Telltale of Lenore (145-204L.B.);

O’er the heathen’s mountain

where blood sprouts like fountain

where the shadow of war overlooks the fiery shore,

all dumb, dead , dying,

–moan none forgiving

all beg forgiveness, forgiveness, they implore

all redeems to the She-Serpent’s bastard they abhor.

Sorely they remember

with each burning ember

with each steel and fire thrust to their beating core,

the serpent’s tongue hissing

–his hooves thrashing, trotting,

the serpent-steed chasing since times of yore

the cursed race that sings the heathen’s ancient lore

O’er the fiery hills,

where ruined body stills,

where red blood spills as never did before,

whose dusk cast his shadow

–on the Reaper’s meadow

whose coat the thousand blood and bane he wore

whose corpse with thousand swords and spears he bore

where life flows thinner

–prays to go thither

where but through Princess Diana’s pearly door

where his tears chase him not; and nevermore.

[17]As we are informed in Whisperwind’s another story, Queen Remus the Fair, morat was made of honey flavoured with the juice of crystal berries; pigment was a sweet and rich liquor, composed of wine highly spiced, and sweetened also with honey. Morat is a favourite of knights and pigment is only used during times of great festivities.

[18]The Crystal Empire’s war against the satyrs is then known to be the Battle of Onyx, which is later referred to several times in Whisperwind’s other works.

[19]The peculiar use of the instrument is to be noted here, for until 99 L.B. the flugelhorn has only been used as a war horn to signal retreat.

[20]In times of knight-errantry, a lady gives permission to be escorted by a knight by giving him her handkerchief. The knight shows acceptance to this by either tying the handkerchief beneath the pole of his banner or keeping it secluded in his armor.

[21]Though Whisperwind’s description of the Sphinx is accurate, insofar as Equestrian mythology is concerned, the dimensions outlined here are exaggerated.

[22]St. Stigmata the Wounded is an actual colt who lived from 333H.A. to 347H.A. His body is claimed to bear any wound Princess Helionis would incur. It was due to him and his curse that Princess Helionis called a momentary truce during the griffon war and maintained a peace long enough to sign a treaty. He died at the young age of fourteen when Princess Helionis was attacked by a changeling, wounding her gravely and killing the colt. He was the youngest saint canonized.

[23]Sir Lionheart is the hero of the epic The Second of Macedonia by Alexandria (2H.A.-102H.A.), who is reared by a manticore and discovers the mythical land of Pendragon.

[24]The inconsistency here is highly noticeable, for a paragraph before Whisperwind left Sir Sombra in the middle of the fifth ocean; in the next, he is back on the mainland. Succeeding authors have attempted to resolve this by incorporating Sir Sombra’s rescue in their own epics. The most famous of which are The Chariot of Heaven (by Pallas Bust, 158L.B.) where Sir Sombra is rescued by a pegasus lady-knight named Valkyrie; and “Sir Sombra de Onyx and the Water Nymph” in Tales of Love from Times of Knight-Errantry (by Sir Heartkey of Charlemagne) where Sir Sombra resisted the seductions of a malicious water fairy and outwits her for her tortoise.