• Published 4th Aug 2013
  • 6,159 Views, 197 Comments

A Shadow Among Light - Theforrealdeal



It's not easy trying to escape the legacy of an evil tyrant, especially when that tyrant is your father.

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Chapter 2

"Umbra."

"Yes, that's it. That's my name."

All his old memories returned to him in an instant. All of his questions were answered at the same time. He recognized where he was, why he woke up in a closet, and what happened to him. But the most important thing he realized was who he was.

He was Umbra, the son of King Sombra.

The son of the evil tyrant who enslaved the entire Crystal Empire.

The son of darkness.

Everything about Umbra was in the image of Sombra. They shared the same black mane and tail. Their coats were identical. Even his eyes were the same dark red as Sombra's.

There were a few minor differences between the two, however. For one, Umbra's horn was straight—unlike his father's whose horn curved upwards. Umbra's mane and tail also did not flow like black fire as Sombra's did. The most prominent difference between the two was the sheer size of Umbra. Sombra was a little bigger than the average stallion, but Umbra was more than a full head taller than Sombra. Doors that Sombra could comfortably fit through, Umbra had to duck to fit.

Umbra stood there in front of the mirror, staring into his own reflection with new realization. He remembered why he was in the storage room. The memory played over like a film in his head. A horror film.

Umbra remembered how he saw the suffering of the crystal ponies. They were tortured and Sombra, his father, was the source of their suffering.

Umbra saw the evil in his father, how it controlled him and flowed through his eyes. He knew it was wrong and so he did what he had to.

He ran away, or at least he was in the process of running away. Umbra remembered hiding in one of the storage closets. But that was it. The next thing he remembered was waking up with all his memories gone not too long ago.

Now though, his memories had returned and he understood.

He thought about how Gazette reacted when she saw him. He now understood why. When she turned around and looked at him, she didn't see him for who he was, she didn't see Umbra. She saw him for who he appeared to be. She only saw Sombra.

That is why she panicked and ran. That is why the guards were after him. She was afraid of Sombra. The guards were out to get Sombra.

It made much more sense that they would be afraid of Sombra rather than him. They had a good reason to be afraid. Sombra was evil. Umbra had witnessed firsthoof what his father was capable of doing. The crystal ponies had been victims of his father's evil power. They were smart to flee from his presence after what he had done to them. The guards were trying to prevent that evil from rising again.

The only problem was that Umbra was not Sombra. He could never do the same terrible deeds of his father. While Sombra had a heart of black, Umbra had recognized the evil for what it was: evil.

Umbra stared hard into the mirror. "If she confused me with Sombra, everypony else might do the same," he thought.

Thanks to Gazette, he knew he was in the great castle of the Crystal Empire, home of the crystal ponies. They knew all too well who Sombra was and what he looked like. Any crystal pony could easily recognize him as King Sombra at first glance.

Umbra didn't know what would happen to him if he was caught. He didn't really want to find out.

He came to a conclusion, "I can't stay here."

The only possible way of him surviving would be to leave the Crystal Empire and go where he wouldn't be recognized. Getting caught in the empire would certainly mean doom for him. He needed to leave, to find a place where he could live without worrying about being confused with Sombra.

"What was it that returned my memories anyway?" Umbra thought to himself. His own question caught him off guard and he mentally paused.

That was a good question. What had made him remember?

Umbra thought back to the moment right before his memory returned. He was standing right here in this same spot trying to figure out why he was being chased. Then, a big white flash of light came from nowhere and his memory returned.

"It must have been something to do with that big flash!" he thought. What else could it have been? Nothing else happened. He didn't hit his head or anything similar that would jog his memory. Based off what little evidence he had, the only answer could be the big flash.

"But where did the flash come from? What was it exactly?" Umbra pushed these questions aside, they would have to wait. He needed to focus on escaping the Crystal Empire right now. That was the most important thing at the moment.

Umbra had made up his mind. He was going to leave his home, where he had lived all his life and was born and raised, and run away… again.

With his decision made, Umbra gathered his thoughts and opened the door to the stairway. He ducked his head to fit through and walked into the room with the flight of stairs. Upon walking into the room, he noticed that everything looked slightly brighter than it was earlier. It was as if every shadow in the room had become lighter or gone entirely.

After a moment observing the room, he trotted over to the other large doorway, the one he knew led outside. He placed a hesitant hoof on the door and slowly pushed it open, hoping he was making the right decision. Umbra opened the door just enough to stick his head through. He noticed that outside also seemed much brighter than it was before the big flash. Similar to the change in the room, everything seemed to have given up its shade and traded it in for some brightness. All across the courtyard, the crystals twinkled and shined with the light of the sun.

Umbra carefully scanned the courtyard, making sure nopony would see him. Only a few crystal ponies were here and there, going about their own business. A large heart-shaped crystal was left in the center levitating between two pointed pillars that came from the ceiling and the ground.

"Had that been there before?"

He shook the question out of his head, he needed to focus. Umbra continued to scan the area. Nopony was looking his way. This was his chance; it might be the only one he could get, so he took it.

Umbra darted out of the door as fast as he could, not even bothering to close it behind him. He hopped down the stairs, and galloped behind the large tower he came out of. He paused to catch his breath; he was out of the courtyard. It was some progress at least.

"Well that was easy enough. Can't get much worse than this I guess," he mentally congratulated himself for his small achievement. "Maybe sneaking out of here will be easier than I thought!" His optimism rose, blooming along with his self esteem.

Then he looked out past the castle. Several buildings and houses lined the streets leading away from the castle. On the streets were dozens upon dozens of crystal ponies. Each going to and fro, going about their daily business.

The Crystal Empire was like a hive of bees, nothing was staying still, constantly moving about in a seemingly random fashion that made sense to only themselves.

Umbra's confidence quickly faded as he saw more and more ponies. So much for an easy escape. Out of the frying pan and into the flames. He could almost hear fate laughing at him. There was no easy way for him to get out of the empire. He would definitely be spotted long before he got to the empire's border.

Umbra was not pleased with the cruel game fate had set up for him. Fate held most of the pieces and was throwing everything in, attempting to finish the game right there. It was Umbra's turn, he had nothing to work with and any move he made almost certainly lead to failure. He was behind enemy lines and all odds were against him.

Umbra sighed, he contemplated any and every move.

Maybe he could wait for everypony to go back indoors at night and he could get out then?

No, he couldn't stay in this spot until nightfall. Besides, he needed to leave now.

Perhaps he could make a disguise and casually trot his way out of here.

That wouldn't work, he had no supplies let alone any clothes. He didn't think anypony would fall for it anyway.

Umbra groaned, this was going to be harder than he thought. He looked at the buildings in between him and his goal, escape. There were so many of them, spread about in their organized chaos. Then he saw it, a hole in the enemy's defenses, a narrow gap between the buildings: the alleyways.

It was dark, narrow, and completely pony free. Realization dawned on him like a light switch being flipped. That was perfect.

He could easily travel through the alleys where there was definitely a lot fewer ponies and if one came about, he could hide in the dark shadows where his dark coat and mane would blend in like camouflage.

Every defense has its flaws. Umbra just discovered one and he was going to exploit it.

Umbra's game with Fate wasn't over yet.

Looking both ways down the street in front of him, not for safety but to make sure nopony was watching, Umbra darted out from his hiding spot. It was a mad dash towards cover. If anypony saw him, he wouldn't make it far. It was a banzai charge, a suicide run.

He made it across the street, the alleyway being just in front of him. Without a moment's hesitation, he galloped into the alley, stepping into the shadows of the surrounding buildings. It was much cooler without the direct heat from the sun. The sudden change in temperature caused his fur to stand on end, making him shiver in response. He didn't stop running though.

The stallion ran deep into the alley before he finally stopped. He instantly looked behind him, seeing that nothing came into the alley, nothing was chasing him. Umbra exhaled loudly, relieved that he had made it to the safety of the alleyways.

He paused for a moment to catch his breath before walking at an easy pace through his newfound safety.

The alleys between the buildings provided Umbra with great cover. The buildings stood from one to three stories high on each side. Sunlight didn't reach the ground in most places. It was about a pony's length wide most of the way, allowing Umbra plenty of room to pass through. The alleys were surprisingly clean for such a big city. There were a few pieces of trash here and there along with the occasional bucket or empty crate. Still, Umbra did not see any sign of the crystal ponies as he passed through the alleys.

Now that he was out of the crystal ponies' sight he could relax a little. His thoughts began pestering him again.

Umbra realized he had no plan. He didn't have a plan for anything. He didn't know what he would do if somepony saw him. He didn't know how he would get away from the empire. He didn't even know which direction to go let alone where to go

The lone stallion sighed as he walked. Every new thought was deteriorating his mood, eating away at his will to go on. The doubtful thoughts continued on and on. They were relentless on his spirit, full of ambiguity and reluctance.

Eventually, his negative thoughts disintegrated the mental supports that held his will. Umbra stopped right in the middle of an alleyway between buildings. He fell to his haunches, head hanging low, ears drooping.

He finally asked himself, "What am I doing? I can't do this. There's no way I'll even make it to the edge of the city. I've never even been outside the castle! What was I thinking?!" Umbra continued interrogating himself, his self-doubt taking over his thoughts. He couldn't find the strength in him to continue. He just sat there depressed.

A single thought echoed in his mind, "I'm not going to make it."

A small ray of sunlight peeked over the roof of the building next to him, shining down over his head. Umbra felt the small patch of warmth on his head. It was comforting. He looked up from his hooves.

Umbra let the sun's light warm his fur and soothe his body. The doubtful thoughts slowly faded as the warmth of the sun calmed him down.

Though the warmth was a small comfort, it was just enough to lift him to his hooves. It was enough to make him carry on. His self doubt remained however, always in the back of his mind, making his burden seem that much heavier.

With his mind at ease, Umbra continued his trot through the dark alleys with a renewed vigor.

***

It wasn't long before the alleyways stopped and lead to an opening. Umbra could see rolling hills and vast fields out past the houses that hid him. He had reached the end of the empire.

The unicorn stared at the fields out before him. To any other pony, they would appear as mere empty grasslands with very little to offer. To Umbra however, the fields were a blessing, a path to escape the Crystal Empire.They were his ticket to freedom, to a new life.

Now he just needed to get there.

Umbra was ready to make another mad dash for the fields. He was literally going to run for the hills.

He scanned his nearby surroundings, nopony was around. Umbra took a step back into the alley, distancing himself for a running start. He bent low to the ground, shifting his weight into a running stance.

It was now or never.

"Okay… okay. Lets do this. On three…" he whispered to himself in preparation.

"One..."

"Two…" Something purple creeped into his vision.

"Thr-ep!" Umbra stumbled as he suddenly stopped himself from charging, his hoof slamming over his mouth to silence his counting. A lavender unicorn mare walked past the alleyway entrance. Had he not stopped himself the purple unicorn would have been tackled in his charge. He quickly scurried further back into the shadows of the alley to avoid being seen.

The unicorn mare had a dark blue mane and tail with violet and rose streaks running down the middle. As she walked, the mare glanced over a paper that she levitated near her head. What surprised Umbra was what the mare was carrying.

Sitting on her back was a purple baby dragon. Green spines ran down his head and back. Its underbelly was a light yellow and looked much smoother than the purple and green scales that covered the rest of the dragon.

Umbra had never seen a dragon this close, let alone seen one at all. He remembered seeing a few illustrations in some books, but the dragons in those pictures were depicted as being huge and ferocious. The dragon in front of him looked like it couldn't even reach up to his chest. It also looked absolutely harmless, no foot-long fangs or pony-sized claws. Instead, it had two tiny teeth that showed from overbite and a pair of little claws the size of twigs.

The dragons in his books were said to be capable of burning entire villages, demolishing full houses with a single swing of an arm, slicing through trees and rock with their claws like a hot knife through butter. He took another look at the purple dragon. Umbra wasn't betting on any houses being crushed any time soon. The purple dragon's claws looked like they might draw a little more blood than a papercut would.

This puzzled Umbra, though he felt more curious than confused. Had the books been wrong? Or was this an entirely new species of miniature dragon? Certainly anypony with small common sense would own a creature that could potentially cause harm or worse to themselves or others, let alone bring that threat along with them.

After the unicorn passed out of sight, Umbra took a step forward, ready to make his escape. Another pony stepped into view in front of him, forcing the stallion to move back again. This time, it was a pale-yellow pegasus with a long pink mane and tail. The yellow pegasus was walking beside a light gamboge earth pony with a large Stetson that sat on top her blonde mane. Another unicorn walked closely behind the two. She had a brilliant violet mane and tail that complemented her white coat. A light blue pegasus with a prismatic mane and tail hovered a few feet above the others as they walked. Trailing the company of mares was a light pink earth pony with a raspberry mane and tail.

Instead of walking like the rest of the group, the pink mare performed something that lay between a hop and a full on jump with every step like a spring. She bounced high enough to reach eye level with the cyan pegasus, her poofy mane and tail bobbing up and down with each bounce.

A grand total of six mares stood in between him and freedom.

Umbra watched the six mares as they finally cleared the opening of the alleyway after what felt like an eternity. He let out a long breath that he didn't know he was holding. "That's an odd group," he thought to himself.

He peered around the corner of the building at the six mares as they walked away. Looking at them a second time made him notice something peculiar, none of those ponies were crystal ponies. Their coats didn't have the characteristic shine that the crystal ponies did, nor did their coats reflect the sunlight. Their manes and tails weren't translucent either.

"What are six regular ponies doing in the crystal empire?" Umbra's curiosity took over, making him forget his original goal not thirty feet away from him. He crept around the corner and slowly followed the group, trying his best to stay low and out of sight. Umbra made sure to keep his distance, far enough to where he couldn't hear them but at least close enough to see where they were and where they were going.

Staying out of the mares' sight should have been easy enough had they been the only ponies on the street to avoid. There weren't many other ponies here fortunately for him. The few that were outside did not notice him, Umbra made sure of that. Every time a mare or stallion came by, Umbra simply hid behind something or sneaked around.

After a few long minutes of following the six out of place mares down the street, a large building came into view. The building was a navy blue that was similar to the crystals that surrounded it. The establishment was raised on a long platform that sat in front of a pair of metal tracks that ran in both directions. The building itself looked brand new. Umbra could make out a sign along the side: Crystal Empire Express. The pieces in his head fell into place and he finally recognized the structure as a train station.

An idea hit him like a bird flying into a window. Why not take the train out of the empire? It would sure beat walking he supposed. It would also lead him to civilization outside the empire. His new idea was solving problems he hadn't even thought of, making him realize how bad his first plan was.

If he would have just walked out of the empire, he would have three major problems: he didn't know where to go, he wouldn't have shelter or protection, and he would be alone. The train would take him to someplace inhabited where he could find shelter, also eliminating the need to know where he was going. The more Umbra thought about it, the better the idea began to sound.

The anomalous group of mares approached the station and stepped onto the platform. Umbra watched as some of them took a seat on the nearby benches while the others stood. Umbra crept around behind the station and sat on the ground. He didn't know when the train would arrive but he was willing to wait. He kept repeating to himself that it would be worthwhile.

A sudden gust of wind blew through the street. It whipped over his body and blew his mane over his eyes. Umbra tried to shake the hair away but the wind would not allow it. He had to resort to a forehoof holding his mane back. As soon as he got the last strands of hair out of his face, he opened his eyes again, letting his vision return only to be blocked again as a newspaper slapped over his head.

The young unicorn sighed and peeled the paper off his face. He looked at the newspaper and read the headline on the front page: King Sombra finally defeated. "Meh," Umbra shrugged and let the paper fall to the ground.

"Wait a sec…" His brain finally processed what he had read, quickly bringing the paper back up to his eyes. "King Sombra defeated?!"

Umbra quickly read through the article. It told the story of how the six Elements of Harmony worked with Princess Mi Amore Cadenza to prevent the dark tyrant from re-enslaving the Crystal Empire. The article explained how the Element of Magic located the Crystal Heart within the castle and how it was used by the crystal ponies to vanquish Sombra.

Umbra's mouth hung open and he released his grip on the newspaper, letting the breeze carry it away.

Sombra, his father, had been defeated.

The headline repeated itself in his head over and over.

This new information answered some of the questions he had, but gave him mixed feelings at the same time. The article said that the crystal ponies joined together and used the Crystal Heart to defeat Sombra.

He was glad that his father's evil reign was over for good. Umbra knew that the Crystal Empire was infinitely better off without Sombra.

"It needed to happen," Umbra told himself.

He was right, his father was evil and needed to be stopped, even if it had to be done like that.

However this made him think. "If that's what the crystal ponies did to Sombra, what would they do to me?" Umbra wondered, starting to worry.

Would they do the same to him? Would it be a less severe punishment, or a worse one? These new questions only made Umbra all the more anxious to leave the empire.

A loud whistle sounded from behind him, shaking him away from his thoughts. Umbra looked around the corner of the building and saw the large cloud of steam coming closer and closer to him. The ground beneath his hooves began to shake lightly as the metal behemoth plowed onward. A high screech sounded as the train's brakes slowed the engine to a stop right in front of the station.

The doors to the coach opened and the six mares stood up and walked inside. Umbra knew he couldn't hide in such a small coach with all those ponies inside. Instead, the stallion looked at the caboose and saw a small balcony on the back. There. That is where he would go. Secluded, out of sight, perfect.

Umbra's ears perked up as he heard the conductor shout, "All aboard!" The train lurched forward and started its departure. Umbra sprang to his hooves and charged after the train. The engine gradually accelerated as it got further from the station.

Umbra was not going to let it get away from him though. This was his ticket to a new life. He sprinted with all his might after the steel monster. He caught up to the caboose and reached for the railing on the back. His hoof barely managed to get a grip on the thin metal rail. Umbra pulled himself forward and swung his body up and over the rail. He landed on his side in the back of the caboose with an ungraceful thud.

Umbra didn't bother moving from his collapsed position on the floor. He just laid there panting, the muscles in his legs pulsing as blood flowed through them from his still racing heart.

Eventually, Umbra caught his breath and he sat himself upright. He watched the Crystal Empire slowly shrink in the distance behind him. The only place he had ever known was now fading in the distance. He hoped it was for the better.

Umbra didn't know how long the ride would be, so he decided to get some well deserved rest. The young stallion laid his head down on the floor. It wasn't the most comfortable position, but it would have to do. The constant clacking of the train as it glided down the tracks would be his lullaby.

The sun began to set, leaving the brilliant twilight in its place. The proud Crystal Empire was nothing other than a shrinking silhouette in the distance. The stallion's eyes slowly closed as they watched the tip of the crystal castle dip below the horizon and he drifted off to sleep.

When he opened his eyes, all he could see was darkness. He felt cold. Not the regular cold that a pony feels in the snow or wind. There was no physical sign of anything that would make him feel it, yet the sensation continued. The coldness creeped across his hide and ran through his spine. He could feel it in his bones, in his heart, feel it piercing through his very soul and threatening to consume him entirely.

In the black void, a pair of eyes opened in front of him. Luminous scarlet irises were surrounded by an ominous green glow where white should have been. Purple flames flowed out of them and curled upward.

Umbra could feel his heart pounding on his chest as though it wanted to burst open. The cold started running through his veins as he stared into the red eyes before him. The cold was devouring him from within.

The sudden urge to flee overcame him and he was quick to obey. He wanted to run and get as far away as possible, yet he could not. As he tried to lift his hooves to run, he found that he could not move. He couldn't move his legs, his back, his head, or even his eyes. He couldn't break away from the glare of the flaming red eyes in front of him. The cold wouldn't let him; it had engulfed his body and forced him to stay still, frozen his body stiff. All he could do was look into the pair of unblinking eyes that returned the stare.

A deep laugh echoed around Umbra.

His heart sank and it slowed to a near stop. His eyes widened with disbelief. He recognized that voice.

The laughter stopped and was replaced with a low voice. The red eyes moved closer, revealing their shadowy owner that stepped into view.

It spoke, "Hello son. It's been awhile hasn't it?"