• 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 3

Umbra gasped for breath as if he was being drowned and leapt to his hooves. A steady clickity-clack sounded through his heavy panting. Umbra peeled his eyes open, the mid-morning sun shining brightly on him. A strong breeze blew his mane across his face.

He was still on the train.

The landscape had changed completely from the Crystal Empire. The long open fields of the empire had been replaced by green hills and tall mountains in this new land. Instead of large crystal formations, there were vast forests scattered about.

He sat back down and stared at his hooves. He took some deep breaths to try and slow his racing heart.

It didn't work.

His heart continued its rapid pounding on his chest as if it was trying to burst through altogether.

Umbra shook his head. He was so sure he had seen his father. That dream was unlike anything he had ever experienced before, everything seemed so real. In all his other dreams, he had never been able to have such realistic feeling in his senses.

Umbra could actually feel the intense cold, how it made him shiver to his core, how it froze him stiff. It wasn't just a physical sensation however. He could feel the cold biting at his heart, draining any emotion with it. The cold made him want to run and hide, but at the same time it prevented him from moving. It grew worse as he looked longer into his father's eyes. It was awful. Whatever that cold was, Umbra decided he never wanted to feel it again.

Was it really a dream? It all seemed so real. The cold, the darkness, Sombra, everything felt like the real thing. Then again, what would it be if it wasn't a dream? He had woken up like it was a dream, even if this time was a little dramatic.

Sombra was defeated by the crystal ponies, there was no way it could have really been him.

Umbra decided to just leave it at that. He told himself that it was just a dream, a nightmare. Finding out that your father is an evil dictator would give anypony nightmares. The crystal ponies must have had it a thousand times worse though. They experienced the wrath of King Sombra firsthoof. They probably have nightmares all the time, maybe even post traumatic stress.

It was a small comfort to him knowing that he wasn't the only pony with the same problem. He felt a little better. Still, it's a little different having nightmares about an evil tyrant than having nightmares about your father, the evil tyrant.

His mind returned to the image of his father in the nightmare. It was burned into his memory. Sombra looked exactly as Umbra remembered.

That "coldness" that took over his body as he stared at his father. Umbra shivered at the thought.

He lowered his head to his hooves and closed his eyes. "It was only a dream. It was only a dream," Umbra whispered to himself in an attempt to bring some desperately needed comfort.

"It was only a dream. It was only a dream. It was only a dre–"

VROOOO!

The loud whistle of the train startled him out of his trance and he leapt to his hooves in shock. Umbra looked about frantically to see what happened, his heart pounding once again. “What was that?!? What's going on?”

His question was answered in the form of another loud toot of the train whistle. He peered around the corner of the caboose to see what was going on at the front of the train. Out past the locomotive, a small town grew larger in the distance. The train was heading straight for it.

The stallion's first thoughts were that of many great warriors during the moment before battle, "Uh-oh."

He hadn't thought of what he would do when he reached civilization. What if they knew about the crystal empire and mistook him as King Sombra? Umbra didn't think of what the results could be, he didn't want to find out either.

Panic formed in the back of his mind, he didn't know what to do. Those ponies would instantly figure him out, he thought. They'd surely lock him in an abandoned dungeon with no escape.

No. Umbra got a hold on his thoughts and he held his self-composure.

He wasn't going to let that happen.

Umbra knew there would be many ponies around the station in the small town ahead. Once the train stopped there, he wouldn't have a chance of running or hiding without being seen. He needed to get off the train now.

Umbra looked over the railing and down at the ground speeding past. There was only one way off the train. Umbra gulped. He had to jump.

Umbra took a step back and hesitated for a moment. He lifted a hoof to start, only to let it fall back to the floor. He just stood there, staring out at the land rushing by.

He wasn't sure he could do this. His body told him not to, but his mind said he needed to.

The train wasn't moving very slow and the fact that he could easily shatter his legs didn't help. The sight of the ground and trees rushing by made the small deck of the caboose look all the more inviting.

Umbra looked around the corner of the caboose a second time. The small town didn't look very small anymore. It was less than a mile away. He had to jump now or it would be too late.

A look of desperate determination crossed his face and he planted his hooves firmly on the ground. As a sprinter prepares for a race, Umbra readied himself for the charge. The deck was only wide enough for a few quick steps before he would have to jump. He needed to make every step count so he could make it over the railing.

The stallion hesitated another moment before finally finding the strength inside him to move. His legs sprung into action and he darted forward. After a quick gallop, the stallion planted his back hooves on the deck and leapt as high as he could.

Umbra's heart began racing as adrenaline fueled it onward. He was glad to see his front hooves clear the rail, followed by his back hooves.

Time seemed to slow to a dormant crawl. He was floating through the air, nothing beneath his hooves to stand on. His heart thumped loudly and rapidly in his chest, running on only the purest adrenaline in his body.

It felt amazing.

"This is how being a pegasus must feel," he wondered enviously, a blazing grin plastered over his face. The feeling of weightlessness overcame him and he felt like he was flying.

Then gravity became jealous and fought back with extreme prejudice.

Umbra felt the weight slowly return to his body as he began to sink through the air. His eyes widened as the realization dawned on him that he was falling. The ground rushed towards him while he plummeted. Umbra swung and kicked his legs with all the grace of a cat in a bathtub. All he could do was close his eyes, pray, and brace for impact.

After what felt like an eternity, Umbra felt solid ground beneath his forehooves. Then under his rearhooves.

For a second, Umbra thought he had landed the jump. That is, until he felt his weight pitch forward and his body with it. His legs, however, did not move; they only swung beneath him as his body continued forward.

On a collision course with the ground, Umbra's face held a look of pure terror. He watched as the ground crept closer and closer to his head. It was as if time had slowed itself and wanted to see the impending crash unfold.

The ground kept getting closer until finally, he made contact, a loud smack echoing through the meadow as the two collided.

With his head pressed to the ground, Umbra skidded a few feet before the ground lost its grip on his face and he tumbled forward.

The ground wasn't finished with him, though. Umbra rolled several feet, hitting nearly every last rock before coming to a complete stop with the generous help of a tree, a small cloud of dust and dirt following him.

For a moment, everything was silent. Nothing moved or made a sound. The peaceful silence did not last long, however, as the young stallion jumped to his hooves and shouted.

"Whoa!"

He tried to stand straight but fell to his left. The stallion stumbled back and forth as he tried to keep his balance. His vision was a blur and there was a loud ringing left in his ears. Yet, the unicorn grinned.

The unicorn chuckled loudly to himself. He held the same grin that a drunk pony would have before attempting a backflip to impress his friends.

That grin vanished as soon as the adrenaline wore off and the pain settled in. First, he felt the burning sting from all the little cuts and scrapes across his body. Then, the soreness of the bumps and bruises of various sizes. His spine ached, his muscles were tense and stiff. One of his ears felt like it was on fire.

All he could do was groan as a welcome to the pain. His nose drained blood that ran into his mouth and over his tongue. The red liquid left an unpleasant iron taste in his mouth and he spat it out. He wiped the blood from his nose with a hoof, only to wince in pain as his bruised hoof met his face. Umbra felt the burning of a large gash that ran across his flank. He felt the warm blood run down his leg, staining his dark coat all the way.

The stallion's mane was in a disheveled heap with a nice even layer of dirt in it. His coat was also littered with dirt and grass that stuck to him as he tried to shake it off.

Overall he was, for lack of a better term, a complete mess.

"Note to self, no more jumping out of trains."

Umbra shook his head, much to his neck's dismay, to clear his vision. The stallion looked around as he hadn't really observed his surroundings until now. All around him were green open fields that stretched for miles in every direction. Clusters of trees peppered the land, similar to the tree he had crashed into. Out in the distance, Umbra could see a tall mountain range over the horizon. Along the side of the tallest mountain, a large palace, dug into the face of the mountain that stood out against the rest of the scenery.

Umbra looked over at the town less than a mile away from him. It would have been dwarfed by the Crystal Empire, he noted. None of the buildings were any higher than three or four stories. The houses were comfortably spread out with considerable distance between them. The town sat next to a dense forest that seemed completely out of place.

This would be his new home. It had to be since it was the only place he could go. He didn't know how, but he would have to make it work.

Umbra looked all about the new landscape. He thought it looked nice at least. It was much different from the Crystal Empire. He actually liked this landscape a little bit more.

He looked back to the town. Umbra knew he couldn't simply walk into the town. He didn't know if the residents knew about King Sombra or not. Umbra would have to observe and find out. If they didn't, well, great. If they did, there would be no chance of living there. His hope sided with the former; his fate depended on it.

He decided to find or make some shelter in the thick woods next to the town and go on from there.

A drop of blood ran into his mouth. First he needed to clean himself off.

***

After a dreadfully long and painful walk that seemed to carry on for hours, Umbra finally reached the edge of the forest. He stood just outside the thick woods, gazing into it. The forest was dense with plant life that grew without restraint. Barely any sunlight reached the ground through the thick canopy of leaves and branches which left the dirt fairly uncovered.

Umbra had never been in a forest, yet something about this place felt… off. He couldn't quite place it, but he could definitely feel something that told him it wasn't a good place to be.

"Maybe the townsfolk feel the same thing."

The unicorn shook his head at the thought.

"It's probably nothing. I'm just being paranoid."

The stinging pain from all his cuts made him push past the apprehension, and move forward. Umbra pushed past an overgrown bush and entered the thicket. He had to duck his head under some of the lower branches and vines to get through.

It became much darker almost immediately, as if somepony had drawn the curtains in a room. It took the stallion a moment for his eyes to adjust to the dramatic change in light. Even when they did, there wasn't much to see. Only large trees that spun in odd shapes and forms with small vine plants that littered the ground. No birds sang above in the trees nor could any wildlife be seen through the dense foliage.

It wasn't a very pretty place, he thought.

***

After a few hours of aimless wandering, Umbra came across a river that flowed directly through the forest. The river was probably a half dozen pony lengths wide or so, but Umbra could not see where it ended or began. The water moved fairly quick downstream, fast enough where Umbra was sure he would be swept away if he stepped in too deep. The water itself was almost crystal clear and very clean.

This would be a good spot to wash all the dirt out of his wounds.

Umbra stepped into the flowing water deep enough to where the water lapped at his belly. The water was ice cold and sent chills through his body. Although it stung his cuts, the cool water felt refreshing on his body after the long walk.

He began scrubbing the various gashes across his body and let the frigid water carry the dirt and grime away. Umbra washed the dried blood out of his coat as well. He threw the cold water over his back to catch some of the dirt from his tumble out of the train, shivering as the freezing water ran over him. He wet his black mane and tail and straightened them out; his mane drooped limply over his face.

Satisfied with his cleaning job, Umbra stepped out of the river and stood on dry land. He shook himself a couple times, trying to get most of the water off.

With his mane out of his face, Umbra stepped over to a nearby puddle to get a view of himself.

When he saw his reflection, he found out why his ear had been burning before. Where the tip of his left ear should be was instead a long V-shaped gash. He was shocked to see part of his ear missing in action. He knew it wouldn't grow back.

Umbra sighed in defeat, accepting the new scar. He was disappointed about the wound but it was better than breaking a leg or losing an eye altogether, he supposed.

Now that he was cleaned off, Umbra decided to head towards the town. He wasn't quite sure what he would do once he got there, but he went anyway.

A large opening in the forest caught his eye. Umbra walked over to it and found that it belonged to a wide path that led to the river. He began walking down the path in the direction that steered away from the river. It certainly beat fighting against the thick plant life of the forest.

***

The walk was much smoother now that he was along a path. It wasn't long before the path opened up and he caught sight of civilization. Well, sort of.

Just outside the path he could make out a small cottage surrounded by trees and plant life. The roof looked as if it were made out of branches and leaves. The whole cottage seemed to be built right into the small hill it sat on. A gentle stream flowed past and followed underneath a small bridge in front of the house.

There seemed to be more nature than house, Umbra thought. But if somepony lived there, he guessed it counted as civilization.

Not very far past the small cottage, Umbra could faintly make out other buildings of the town through the trees.

Still standing on the path in the woods, Umbra turned and walked parallel to the edge of the forest. He was trying to see as much of the town as he could without leaving the safety of the forest. The dense foliage hid him from anypony that might be looking in. His dark coat and black mane also kept him camouflaged in the shadows of the forest.

Since his eyes were locked onto the town as he walked, Umbra didn't notice the plank of wood sticking out as he tripped over it. Learning from his jump off the train, he caught himself instead of letting his face hit the ground.

Umbra looked down at what he had caught his hoof on. A plank of wood stuck out and hung just high enough to reach up to his leg. What really surprised him was what the plank belonged to.

A small wooden caravan sat next to him. It had certainly seen better days.

Bits and pieces of wood were spread all about the ground. The entire wagon had been flipped on its side, the door facing the sky. Three of the wheels were missing and the fourth was broken into half of what it should have been. A large hole on the bottom side where the wood was torn out revealed the inside. All around the hole were sets of deep gashes raked across the wood. The cuts came in sets of four. They looked awfully like claw marks.

“What happened here?” Umbra's imagination exploded with ideas and scenarios of what could have happened. Maybe it was just an old wagon that broke down and was abandoned? "Who would just leave something in the forest, especially this close to town?" he thought. “Or perhaps it was a merchant cart that was attacked by a wild beast? That would explain the claw marks on the bottom, but wouldn't the rest of the wagon be in worse shape?”

Umbra cautiously stepped closer to the wreck and peeked through the hole. Surprisingly, the interior was in decent condition. Nothing seemed to be broken, no cracks along the walls, no debris littering the place. The only thing noticeable was the amount of dust covering the interior. Dust clung to the walls, the floor, the ceiling, everywhere. It flew through the air, in small clouds, as the door disturbed it, making him sneeze.

Umbra looked at the sky, the sun had begun to set. It had been a long day. If jumping off a train hadn't taken its toll, all the walking and wandering through the dense forest certainly did.

He knew he couldn't just sleep out in the middle of the forest. He needed protection.

Umbra looked back to the caravan. "This would actually make a pretty nice shelter," he thought. It wasn't much but it was something.

He decided to flip the carriage upright. Walking to the opposite side, Umbra grabbed the bottom of the wood and lifted up. With a bit of effort, Umbra was able to hoist the wagon right-side up.

Without the wheels, or the base for that matter, holding it up, the caravan was much shorter than it should have been.

The caravan was tall enough to fit any other pony comfortably inside. Umbra was no ordinary pony, however. The wagon barely reached up to his eyes.

There was a small door on the far side of the carriage. Umbra used his magic to gently swing the door open. Flipping the wagon must have disturbed the dust because when the door opened, a large cloud of dust and dirt came flying out. The debris cloud settled and coated Umbra in a layer of brown powder. He shook the fine particles off, sneezing a second time.

Ducking under the door frame, Umbra stepped inside. Long padded benches aligned the walls on either side of him. The large hole was now pressed to the ground, revealing a small patch of dirt. On the opposite wall from the door, a small circular window let a ray of sunlight in that shined on something stuck in the floor.

Umbra hadn't noticed it before when he first looked inside. There stuck in the wooden floor was a large dagger. It had a pearly white ivory handle and a polished steel blade which reflected the sunlight across the floor. The blade was stuck in the floor pretty deep.

The white dagger only brought more questions to Umbra's mind. "Why is there a knife in the floor?" he thought. Maybe it had something to do with why the wagon was abandoned in the first place. Maybe the caravan was attacked by bandits and this was left behind.

A long yawn escaped his mouth. "It's getting late, I should get some rest."

Umbra stepped over the white dagger and closed the door behind him. After brushing one of the padded benches off, he proceeded to gracefully collapse on the bench.

"I can check out the town tomorrow."

He laid his head down. His eyes rested on the dagger in the floor. He continued to stare at it until he finally drifted off to sleep.

***

Something prodded him in the side.

He opened his eyes and looked at his side. There was nothing there. Umbra looked up from his body. He wasn't in the wooden caravan, he was back at the crystal castle, or at least what resembled the crystal castle. The colors were either reversed or changed altogether, blacks and reds replaced the normal whites and blues.

Umbra gasped and leaped to his hooves. He was standing on a large circular balcony. A golden railing lined the edge that connected to the crystal floor.

Umbra stepped up to the railing and looked at his surroundings. The heavens glowed with a never ending twilight. Dark clouds stretched across the sky. Umbra could hear claps of thunder in the distance though no lightning followed.

Below, the ground was covered with a thick black fog that swirled and danced in a nonexistent wind. The fog extended beyond the horizon. Umbra wasn't even sure there was a ground beneath the dark mist.

"Do you like it?" a deep voice asked next to him.

Umbra gasped a second time and whipped his head around. There sitting next to him, staring out into the distance was his father, Sombra.

Umbra jumped and took a few steps back. Sombra all the while didn't move and only continued to stare. His father wasn't dressed as he normally was. Sombra didn't have his red cape or any of his metal armor on him. He almost looked like a regular pony.

Almost.

Umbra noticed that his father's red curved horn was missing its tip, a cracked, flat stump in its place.

"It certainly has been a long time." Sombra said with an expressionless face. He motioned with a slow flick of his head, "Come, sit."

Umbra didn't move. He was in complete shock, his mouth hanging open. Here was a pony that was supposed to be dead, an evil pony defeated for his crimes, sitting in front of him. Now motioning to take a seat next to him.

Umbra didn't know if he should be glad that he was seeing his father again or deathly afraid of the evil monster in front of him.

Sombra turned his head and looked him in the eye. "Do not be afraid Umbra. I wish only to speak to you." he spoke calmly.

Umbra looked into his father's eyes. He noticed they didn't have that ominous green glow or the purple flames that he remembered. All he could see in his father's eyes was sincerity.

Umbra closed his mouth and complied, slowly walking to his father's side and sitting down. Umbra was still taller than his father like he remembered. His head still reached several inches above Sombra's.

"Where are we?" Umbra asked.

"This is my oblivion. This is where I will stay until I am forgotten."

They sat there for what seemed like an eternity; silent, motionless, each waiting for the other to make a move.

Umbra finally gave in. "What happened that day?" he blurted out.

Sombra chuckled softly to himself. "You are going to have to be more specific than that."

"You know exactly what day I'm talking about." Umbra replied with an edge to his voice.

"Ah yes, that day. The day you ran away from me." Sombra confirmed.

"Well, after you fled, my empire was attacked. The very incarnations of day and night invaded my castle and came after me. We had a great battle. My power held strong against the day and the night. But alas, their combined power proved stronger than my own and I lost the fight."

Umbra sat there listening intently to his father's story. He wanted answers and now he was finally getting them.

It was about time, he thought.

Sombra continued, "I knew I couldn't let my empire fall to them so I used the last of my magic to put a curse upon my empire. Although I did not want to, I knew it was necessary. I did what I had to in order to save my empire. I made it vanish into thin air.

"The night and day were not happy about this. I prevented them from asserting their rule upon my empire, and they punished me for it..."

Sombra paused, holding back his anger from bursting. His face visibly showed the internal struggle through a fierce scowl.

"They turned me to shadow and imprisoned me in the ice sheets of the north," he said through gritted teeth.

Sombra took some deep breaths before continuing, "A few days ago, my curse wore off and the empire returned. Even from my frozen prison, I could feel its return so I escaped and came back.

"The night and day had beat me to it though. They had sent their minions into my empire and by the time I got in, they were ready. They used the power of that...that damned crystal heart to finally defeat me."

Sombra finished his story and looked at Umbra who could only stare back. Umbra still did not know what to think. He knew his father was evil, yet after hearing his fathers perspective, Umbra felt a little sorry for him. Sombra's story made everything seem much different. Did he really deserve it?

Umbra still had some questions left to confirm however.

"So my memory loss when I first woke up was part of your curse?" Umbra asked.

Sombra looked away and nodded in response.

"And that big flash that brought my memory back...that was-"

His father cut him off, "Yes, that was the power of the crystal heart as it sent me into oblivion."

"So what now then?" Umbra asked sincerely. "You've already been defeated, what was the point in bringing me here?"

"My existence in this world may be over but my legacy remains." Sombra turned his head and looked his son in the eye. His voice was loud and powerful. "You, my son, must take this upon yourself and continue it on. You are the heir to my throne. It is your duty to reconquer the Crystal Empire in my name and rule as I did."

Umbra stared back in shock as his father's words sunk in.

"You were born to rule the Crystal Empire, Umbra. That is what you are destined to do."

Umbra stood up and took a step back in shock. "No...I-I can't!"

Sombra stood up as well. "You must."

"Why? Why do you even want me to do that? What's in it for you?"

"Once you understand how this oblivion works you will understand. All souls, even mine, will remain here with a small connection to your world as long as they are remembered by those among the living. So long as I am remembered, it is as if a part of me still exists in the living world and I will never truly be gone."

"So what happens when you're finally forgotten? After there is nopony left with the scars you left behind," Umbra asked almost sympathetically. His father made a good argument to the point where Umbra nearly felt bad for him. Sombra's suffering in this place did not change the fact however, that he was still an evil dictator. Umbra knew that.

"That is what I do not know. What comes next is what I can assume is complete death. That is why I need you to live on with my legacy. The memories of me will not last forever. It is the one thing I truly fear. This death is inevitable, but with your help, I can at least prolong it."

"I saw how you ruled. You were evil! You used fear and hatred to enslave the crystal ponies! I can't do that!" Umbra said getting desperate.

"You cannot run away from your destiny Umbra."

"I already have! I hopped on a train and left the empire!"

Sombra arched an eyebrow. "Oh? And what were you planning on doing?"

"I-I was going to start a new life away from the Crystal Empire, among different ponies," Umbra stuttered out.

"Ha! You cannot live amongst the ponies! Do you see your cutie mark?"

Umbra glanced at the wolf howling at the full moon on his flank.

"That is the mark of the lone wolf. You cannot live with the other ponies, you are destined to be an outcast, alone!"

Umbra continued to fight his losing battle. "I-I sure can try though!"

"And what do you think will happen when those ponies find out who you really are?" Sombra asked in amusement.

"I-uh, I-" Umbra tried to speak but was cut short by his father.

"Do you know how long I was imprisoned Umbra?" Sombra asked.

Not waiting for a reply, he answered himself. "A thousand years I was kept in the ice." Sombra's voice became loud and bitter. "A thousand years I was tortured without the empire, MY empire! A thousand years I had nothing but my thoughts to keep me company, all of them full of rage."

Sombra took a step closer to Umbra. He was nearly yelling at this point. "They turned me into shadow and that was back then. The second time, they shattered my body into a thousand pieces!"

Purple flames began rolling out of Sombra's eyes that glowed green. Umbra felt the coldness returning to his body, making him shrink away from his father's gaze.

"They did that to me, they will do nothing less to you!"

Umbra tried to back away from Sombra but the railing prevented him. All he could do was retreat as close to the floor as he could while Sombra advanced on him.

Sombra noticed his son shrinking away from him. A devious grin spread across his face.

"If you will not do as I ask, I have no choice other than to force you to comply. Though my power is weak in my current state, I will put everything into your torture. It will not be a physical torture but rather, a torture of the mind."

Umbra's eyes widened at the mention of "torture".

"Until you agree, your dreams will be tormented without restraint by fear. What you feel now, this 'coldness', is only a fraction of what you will be tortured by. Enjoy this little bit of sleep while you can, for it will not come again without fear plaguing it."

Sombra laughed loudly as the floor beneath Umbra dissolved into nothing and Umbra fell into the black void.

Although he plummeted away from him, Umbra could still feel Sombra whisper in his ear.

"You will learn my ways, and suffering will be your teacher."

The echoes of Sombra's evil laugh followed him as he fell.

Author's Note:

Alright so there's been some trouble with the proofreaders and long story short, FloydienSlip will be helping out from now on!
Go tell him he's awesome or just spam the hell out of his inbox for me!