• 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: Afterwords

Afterword on the 1st Edition

If we are to look at the map of Equestria, we can see that the northern continent is a skeletal-like hand stretching its snow-bleached fingers toward the Draconian mainland to the west. Closer east, just below the floating islands of Griffenia, to which these islands seem to direct their imperceptible motion, the country of Cockaigne, blooming in industry and luxury, is, by contrast, leaning away from the icy dessert. These two interesting observations are made relevant when we take into account their cultural homogeneity in comparison to the continent from which the mythical Crystal Empire–and, consequently, Sir Sombra de Onyx–begins and ends its story. The Draconian mainland, to which the most august tales of fantasy place their story, is fertile of myths of a world where pony knights forever jousted, garnered treasure, slew dragons and succored damsels; it was to such romanticism that Whisperwind drew the influence, at most emotionally, to the work that gave birth to the Crystal Empire . Cockaigne, though rich in commerce, shies away from the open liberal arts and, in its stead, settles for the naturalism of real life. In addition, Sir Sombra de Onyx was left untitled until its second publication in the year 152L.B; the reason being that Whisperwind of Pellinore believes that no title is necessary for factual events and that a name, rather, would be more apt. Until then it has been only a part of one of the many series of the synopsized mythologies that Whisperwind wrote during her travels from Gaheris to Lamerok.

During our fateful encounter in Launcelot, I have asked Whisperwind of the code of chivalry that King Sombra have so dutifully followed; she listed the following:

1. Thou shall serve Princess Helionis as one’s sovereign.

2. Thou shall serve Princess Diana as one’s sovereign.

3. Thou shall not betray the best within thyself, and within others.

4. Thou shall inspire love and tolerance.

5. Thou shall inspire honesty.

6. Thou shall inspire loyalty.

7. Thou shall inspire benevolence.

8. Thou shall inspire kindness.

9. Thou shall inspire generosity.

10. Thou shall hold in high-esteem the knights who follow this code.

At first glance, one may consider this code of chivalry to be too vague and arbitrary to be the guiding principle of life of the medieval knights. At the second, one may ponder the absurdity of what discipline it demands to consistently follow these rules as a way of life. Though in the novelette, we never see a dramatization of the practical application of this principles in action, beside the usual gesture of good will Sir Sombra gives to his enemies, we never see how this is challenged. We only know Sir Sombra sees Queen Avalon as the embodiment of this principles and how he sacrificied his own practice to preserve its dignity.

Such was the context and eventual controversy in which Whisperwind wrote the story. She claimed that the myth she had heard from Fountainhead was, in itself, a "faithful recording of Equestrian history." And from this claim followed the criticism to her works and attacks to her person.

Between the Great Depression and the naturalists, who were the prevalent literary voice of the time, Sir Sombra de Onyx was ill-received during its first publication. But if we are to look closer at these "criticisms", such as that of Pencil Sketch–who said that "the major flaw [of Sir Sombra de Onyx] is that the characters found heroic poses and held unto them till death,"–or Dross Dry–who said that "the incredibility of Sir Sombra de Onyx did not lie on the absurd claim of the author to its historical actuality, but the absurd claim of the author to its chivalrous actuality,"–we can see that the disapproval was expressed, not in any of the novelette's faults, inconsistencies or shortcomings but, to its implicit philosophical leitmotif: chivalry.

In response to these criticism, she responded to me, in private, of the following verbatim:

"Do not look for familiar landmarks–you won't find them; you are not entering the backyard of 'the folks next door,' but a universe you did not know existed.

"Do not look for the 'folks next door'–you are about to meet a race of knights, who might and ought to have been your neighbor.

"Do not say that these knights are 'unreal' because you have never seen them before–check your eyesight, not mine; it is not my purpose to show you what you have already seen a thousand times.

"Do not say that the actions of these knights are 'impossible' because they are beautiful, heroic, noble and intelligent–remember that the cowardly, the depraved, the mindless and the ugly are not all that is possible to us.

"Do not say that this universe is an 'escape'–you will witness harder, more demanding, and more tragic battles than any of them have fought.

"Do not say that 'life is not like that'–ask yourself: whose life?"

Of course, one can imagine hearing a voice, from the Draconian mainland to Cockgaine and throughout all of Equestria, that challenges Whisperwind's question. "Was your life like that."

Whisperwind already had her answer: "I trust that nopony will tell me that the characters I write about do not exist.The fact that Sir Sombra de Onyx was written–and published–is the proof that they do."

Clover the Clever

Afterword on the 2nd Edition

Whisperwind of Pellinore (123-155 L.B.) lived and died during the first great depression at the young age of thirty-two. The cause of her death was Horn Rot (scientifically known as monoceros taphonomus) that plagued the unicorn mares of Pellinore and Lamerok during the 2nd century of Luna’s Banishment. Her father is named Leaflet, a councilman of Pellinore who, not once, left the city-state. Her mother is not known.

Whisperwind was a mare who sought a life of adventure outside the day-to-day bustle of the city-state. Unfortunately, she could not find quests as exhilarating as the ones that filled the bright vibrant world of her imagination. At the young age of nine, she ran away from home to escape what she regarded as the mundane life of politics, as what her father intended of her. She landed on the city-state of Modred where she worked as a horseshoe cleaner. She obtained her cutie mark at the age of ten after she heard the story of Sir Excalibur the King from a customer and began to write it down. At the age of thirteen, Whisperwind spent much of her savings to buy quills and parchments before traversing the world in search for stories. She travelled from city to city asking about stories of knight-errantry. Several times she sought a companion to accompany her but none took the invitation of a life on the road. She tried to have her works published but the first great depression made literature unavailable for ponies all over Equestria. At the age of fifteen, Whisperwind was arrested for stealing four pieces of bread and a pound of butter. She spent seven months in prison and two years more for trying to escape twice. During her incarceration, she wrote several unpublished works: Sir Excalibur the King, The Rise and Fall of Ruritania, Lulamoons, Lionheart Unbound and Sir Ember and Lady Snowflake.

After being released from imprisonment in 144 L.B., Whisperwind sought a job in the newly named capital of Canterlot, but her criminal record made it impossible for her to find work in any trade, much more to have any of her work published. Out of savings, Whisperwind stole again, this time unwittingly from Fountainhead, mentor of Stawswirl the Bearded. Whisperwind sold the books she stole, except for Fountainhead’s lecture notes on pre-Lunarian history which she held for her own reference and safekeeping. Whisperwind was caught shortly after but her sentence was suspended by Fountainhead who took interest in her special talent of collecting stories. Fountainhead quickly took Whisperwind as his student, telling her the stories of the past (It is believed that it is at this time that Fountainhead passed on the myth of the Crystal Empire). A year later, Fountainhead financed Whisperwind’s expedition throughout Equestria to collect epics and myths of knight-errantry. Whisperwind spent the rest of her life in this travel; here she wrote her published works: Queen Remus the Fair, Sarti ris Mlitus (Drakes of the Sea), Sir Sombra de Onyx, Sir Ironheart the White and Lady Marelin, Songs of Diana, The Princess of Night and Sir Sangreal and the Wyrm. At the age of thirty-one, she was infected with Horn Rot, but decided to continue her travels of collecting stories instead of seeking medical treatment. She was found dead in the outskirts of Bors six months later. Her body was recovered and buried in her home city of Pellinore.

In her short life, Whisperwind did not see the rise of her works that began several months just after her death. The end of the Great Depression returned ponies to the romanticism of medieval romance and historical literature, and the clarity and creative grandeur by which most of the latter were written easily mingled itself with the accuracy of Equestrian history. (For a detailed analysis of this phenomenon, see my book Attraction to Escapism.)

Modern psychologist Brainstorm (166L.B.–) wrote in his book, Romanticism and Self-Esteem, the effects of reading too much of these romances, which ranges from superficial delusions, absentmindedness to downright insanity. He goes further to use Whisperwind as the archetype stating that:

“She [Whisperwind] may too have suffered from these symptoms, fancying the Crystal Empire she fabricated to be true. This is an example of the distortions caused by historical fiction in a pony’s mind... Furthermore, a review of her works may instigate the same mental turmoil unto others.” (pp. 54)

Thus it becomes this annotator’s responsibility to stress the fact that Sir Sombra de Onyx, it’s names, its knights, its events, should be seen as nothing more than a work of fiction; and, under any circumstances, should not be taken as an anecdote, in whole or in part, of Equestrian history.

Words Worth

Afterword on the 3rd Edition

The reemergence of the Crystal Empire initiated the republication of Whisperwind’s classic, which had long been buried in the Canterlot Royal Archives since 441 L.B.

When King Sombra was in power he burned all possible history books he could find. In the fourteen books that survived only four are deemed credible by, relatively, modern standards.

In a careful examination of these four books in relation to the novel, the following inconsistencies, both in history and fiction, can be deduced:

1.) There is, in fact, a pair of lovers by the name of Fire Ruby and Crystal Heart who were alive during the early years of the Crystal Empire; though it is Fire Ruby who was the sir knight, and Crystal Heart the maiden who protected the workers of the garrison. This makes more sense as the title of “the Crystal Heart” in Sir Sombra de Onyx is attributed to the queens of the empire. However, the real Crystal Heart is an artifact to which the queen directs the love of the crystal ponies to generate the Scabbard (it is also to be noted here that not once in the history books, or in the language of the crystal ponies, was the word “Scabbard” used to name the shield.)

2.) Ouroboros, the She-Serpent, did not appear in any historical records other than in mythology where, even there, she is defined only as an animistic symbol for the equator. Although, interestingly enough, there is a creature called the Questing Beast that the knights of the Crystal Empire similarly pursued in good sport. It is described as follows: “[the Questing Beast] has the head of a snake, the body of a leopard, the buttocks of a lion and the feet of a hart. From its belly issues the sound of thirty pairs of yapping hounds.”

3.) King Sombra was indeed a knight in his youth, though his name is registed as Sir Shadow Onyx.

4.) There is a record of a stallion whose name is Rozinante who, two of the history books say, have grown mad after reading romances. A target of satirical literature, Rozinante has several portrayal in which, dressed in ragged cloth and skillets, he fancied himself a knight and charged towards windmills claiming that it was a “sand lion”. He died several years prior to the Battle of Onyx due to an illness of the lungs.

5.) To the west side of Gareth is an abandoned fort once used by pirates. Traces of gray onyx could still be found in the garrison today.

6.) In 1003 L.B. Princess Celestia discloses her battling and banishing of King Sombra to the ice of the north, but she could not comment further regarding the Crystal Empire’s history.

7.) Queen Llamrei, the supposed mother of Queen Avalon, was the last female regnant remembered by the crystal ponies. Though most have recovered from the collective amnesia, there are several gaps of memories that are yet to be remembered but are described, faintly, as follows: there was an attack of a sand-bodied creature, the Battle of Onyx was won, the crusade against the satyrs occured, and the trial of a certain black-coated stallion. Most of the missing memories that is yet to be recalled specifically pertains to King Sombra and the events that led to his rise to power.

8.) Among what was unearthed of King Sombra's private treaure was a golden handkerchief and a golden flugelhorn. The owner of these items is unconfirmed.

Though interesting these inconsistencies may be, they are, at best, remarkable. When half of history is revealed by fiction, nopony can help but ascribed and derive a sense of reality to, and from, the literature. But as the annotator Words Worth mentioned, the strict historian must make a clear distinction between history and art.

But, in this case, we may be judging Whisperwind, and Sir Sombra de Onyx, unfairly. We may agree with Words Worth annotation and degree of criticism regarding the credibility of Sir Sombra de Onyx as historical literature, but not its value. Perhaps, we are not reading about the events of the past but the lives of ponies who lived it. We are not reading about Queen Avalon, but a mare ready to surrender her own life, and love, for her country. We are not reading about Sir Sombra, but a stallion rebuked by the empire he fought to protect–and succeeded–and loved by a mare he struggled to dismiss–and failed.

It is my opinion, that at the time this third edition is published, we are at the point where the blank pages of history are supplied by a novelette. It is for us to judge the relevance of the art in its role in history. We judge by our reason, our knowledge and, perhaps, our sense of life.

I hold my own belief in the matter because I was among the first to welcome the return of the Crystal Empire. When I ventured into the castle spire, I descended to the lowest possible underground to a door that forced me to witness my most terrible nightmare. And even farther was a spiral of stairs that brought me past the clouds. Though some may argue that this was King Sombra’s attempt of safekeeping the Crystal Heart, I cannot help but feel that these were a prelude, a trial, before seeking audience with the holy artifact; that one cannot just stand before it without testing one’s worth, that one must appear before the Crystal Heart naked and without blemish, that one would have to first descend to the deepest part of one’s soul, face one’s fears, and endure the long painful ascent to the heavens towards all that is beautiful and pure. It felt that King Sombra was not protecting himself from the Crystal Heart, but, rather, he was protecting the Crystal Heart from everything else.

Again, I stress that this is my own personal evaluation that should not affect, in any way, the readers own judgment.

Finally, the reality of Sir Sombra de Onyx will last only until new evidences are unearthed from the chronicles of the Crystal Empire. It is also not impossible to believe that we may never be able to attain any of the evidence, forever shrouding the truth of past. The discovery of which will either deem Sir Sombra de Onyx as a historical fact, or a mere product of Whisperwind’s imagination. But until such a time were to come–and, perhaps, even then–I, for one, believe it.

Twilight Sparkle

Comments ( 14 )

Hello everyone, Wellspring here. :pinkiehappy:
My third fic and once again experimenting on my style, which most of my readers will find quite new/odd compared to the strict classical literature of my writing.. I don't know if this belongs to my tragic villain collection but, all things considered, I decided to include this in my Tragic Hero collection.
If you, the reader, will read Sir Sombra de Onyx, I greatly suggest to finish it till the end of the "Afterwords" to answer any apparent inconsistencies.
As always, I hope you enjoy reading it as I have enjoyed writing it.

PS. Importing from GDocs messed up some of the formatting and some of the content, feel free to point out any corrections. Thank you.

...this looks intriguing

This was awesome! :pinkiehappy: Awesomely written and as far as I can tell true to the style. Very entertaining, well thought out, and makes one feel for all the characters.
You actually inspired me to some characters, currently cooking at a story for them.

Words cannot describe how much i enjoyed this fic. Keep up the good work!

Oh Sombra... you grieve so very hard... so very very hard...

Could have sworn I commented on this already.

Anyway, Paul directed me to this, and I was not disappointed. My one real complaint is that the unique writing style you used lent itself to accelerated pacing, and I would have preferred the story if it was presented in a traditional manner. That way, I would get to read more!

Another thing though, I can't help but think you just skipped the second-to-last chapter because you couldn't come up with a convincing means through which to make Sombra go crazy. But I forgive you.

Author Interviewer

For all the strange grammar issues this has, it is a real triumph, not just of fiction, but historical world-building and metafictional content. I mean, I've never read an afterword that was this amazing, no lie.

How is this not more well known?

Wow, this story is one of a kind here in finfiction. I keeping this on the shelf.

Just found this. Read it back to back. Will review properly once recovered from the sheer awesomeness that is this story. Words right now cannot describe the pure art that I just read. I truly feel previliged to have read this work.

An exquisitely crafted tale of courtly love, history half-faded into myth, and some truly ingenious naming conventions. Thank you for one of the best villain origin stories I've ever read.

This is a real gem! Glad I decided to read it. The meta aspect of the story works in a way that actually blows my mind. This is going on my top shelf just for the sheer uniqueness of the whole thing.

Before I read this, what is the Dark tag for ?
And how bad does it get ?

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