• Published 19th Nov 2013
  • 6,198 Views, 53 Comments

Familiarity - Obselescence

When a familiar presence enters the free Crystal Empire, the scattered remains of King Sombra begin to take shape once more...

  • ...

Chapter 1

It sensed something familiar.

For the first time in an age, It began to take shape. Bits and fragments of Itself from all across the land gathered, swirled, swarmed around this thing It had once known. It could not remember the last time It had purpose, but now that It had found one, It seized upon the thought—focused—drawing still more of Itself from the far-off corners of the world.

And, as It coalesced, It began to remember things. Important things that It had almost forgotten, like… like magic. Power. A name—no, His name. Som—Somber—Sombra. Yes, that was it.

He was Sombra.

An evil force, blindingly bright, bore down on him as his form grew ever more solid and substantial. He could not guess what it was—some twisted magic in the air itself, trying to keep him scattered. He struggled against it with all the strength he could muster, gaining ground by sheer force of will. He was Sombra! King Sombra! Conqueror of a hundred lands! The greatest of all the unicorn kings! Nothing he desired could be kept from him forever. He was far too powerful to be denied.

But the power that oppressed him was strong too, and even he could not defeat it entirely. He could feel its touch even now, straining the fragile bonds that kept his form together, working to unravel him. It was all he could manage to keep together a pale imitation of his former glory—but he could accept that much, for now. Better to be a shadow than nothing at all.

Sombra turned what attention he could spare to the world below him—his domain. He remembered now. He scanned over vast fields of green and tall towers of gleaming crystal, searching for that which had given him purpose. Vast hordes of his minor subjects cluttered his capital, crowding the streets and fouling the air with their noise. He chuckled at how they shivered when his shadow passed over them, but they were of no real interest to him. He could always call upon his slaves when he needed them. His true object, however, would have to be grasped at once, before it could slip through his disintegrating hooves.

He found it in a little hovel of a shop: a gray-white mare with a regal bearing and crystal gems for her cutie mark. She was staring enraptured at the cheap baubles that lined the shelves, oohing and aahing at crystal snowglobes and crude model trains. For a moment, Sombra wondered how this creature could be what he had been searching for. She was not powerless, no—he sensed some magic in her, greater than he might have guessed—but nor was she powerful. Not a slave and not a threat, and therefore beneath his notice. Surely this was not the one he had been seeking.

Yet... she seemed somehow important. Familiar. He could not imagine why or how, but it was so. If only he could think clearly… piece the scattered remains of himself together, without the interference of the foul magic lingering around him.

“I do wish Sweetie Belle had told me which model of snowglobe she wanted,” the mare murmured to herself. “It would be a shame to pick up a duplicate after coming all this way...”

The voice. The speech. It called to him. He could almost remember...

“Miss?” asked the mare, stopping a slave as she passed by. “Do you remember whether I bought the crystal castle snowglobe the last time I was here? Or was it the stadium?”

“The crystal castle, ma’am,” the slave replied, in her simple, sluggish manner. “You said it would look, ahem, ‘divine’ on your sister’s nightstand?”

“Ah, that I did!” said the mare. “Thank you very much.” She purchased one of the trinkets on the shelf and waited quietly as another slave wrapped and bagged it. “Wonderful,” she said, admiring the bag when they were finished. She picked up her purchase and dropped another golden coin on the counter. “A little extra,” she said, smiling to the slave. “For the excellent service.”

And, as she walked out of the shop with her snow globe in tow, the shade of Sombra followed.

He waited, for a time. Watching, observing, studying. Even her gait seemed familiar—a slow, leisurely pace, head held high as though the world were at her beck and call. Yes, he knew her. He was certain of it. But why? How? Who was this mare, that the great King Sombra could recognize her? The questions burned in his mind, beckoning for him to seek an answer. To take one, if necessary.

And so he would.

The mare stopped on an empty little street corner, deserted save for her. It was only a brief pause—just long enough to allow a few carts to pass by—but that was plenty of time for King Sombra’s shadow to fall upon her. He could hear her shriek as the darkness enveloped her. The little tinkle of breaking glass as her snow globe fell to the ground. For the first time since he had taken shape, King Sombra grinned. Triumphant at last.

It was time now to remember.

He’d crafted the throne room to the best of his memory, with pillars of onyx and an iron throne inlaid with ebony. Illuminated crystals hung from the ceiling, washing the black stone in an array of dim violet colors. Somehow, it seemed incomplete, as though it were missing something that he had forgotten, but he could not spare much thought to focus on it. Creating even this much had taxed him greatly.

“H-hello?” the mare whispered, her breath crystallizing in the cold. “Is—is anypony there?”

Wel… come,” he boomed, his voice rasping and deep. He directed the shadows to coalesce on the seat of the throne, twisting and molding them until they resolved into a solid figure—his old form, as he remembered it. He stood before her not as a shadow, but as a tall black stallion, commanding and imperious. He could almost imagine his eyes glowing with power, as they had in the old days. “Welcome. I am Sombra… your king.”

Sombra?” She gasped. “I don’t… You shouldn’t… How?

He nodded. “Ah…” he said, grinning at her with a row of sharpened white teeth. “It seems you… remember me also.”

“Why are you here?” she demanded, stamping her hoof on the floor. “What do you want with me?” She paused and looked around. “And where is the souvenir I bought for Sweetie Belle? If you laid even one hoof on it, Sombra, I’ll—I’ll sew you into a hat!”

He sighed. What great impertinence this mare had, to take such a tone with the great King Sombra. How dare she raise her voice with him? Demand answers, as if she were owed them. Only one pony had ever dared to act so, and she—


A memory flashed in his mind: an eager young filly bowing before his throne, garbed in rich violet robes, a platinum crown perched upon her head...

His eyes widened. “How could I... have been so blind?” He leaned in close, to get a better look at the mare standing before his throne. Yes, it must have been. “Platinum,” he whispered. “Platinum… my daughter. I have found you at last.”

“Daughter?” said Platinum. “Platinum? Princess Platinum? You think I’m—Oh, no, no, no.” She shook her head as fast as she could, her elegant purple mane whipping to and fro. “No, no, no, see. My name is Rarity. Princess Platinum was simply a part in a Hearth’s Warming Play, and while I’m very flattered that you were a fan, I’m not really—”

Silence!” Sombra roared. Thunder boomed and the throne room around them shook like an earthquake.

And Platinum went silent, as she always did.

When at last the room settled, Sombra groaned. He could feel it even now: a searing pain, as though he were being torn apart. For a brief moment he allowed the agony to show on his face, but he quickly suppressed it. Such displays of power, it seemed, were unwise. He could not give the deadly magic around him a chance to overtake him, nor could he show weakness in front of his petulant daughter.

“I… am very tired,” he croaked. “Do not test my patience, Platinum.”

Platinum—quite wisely—said nothing, but simply nodded. It was clear from her glare that she resented his commands, but someday he would teach her the virtue of obedience to the strong, and she would understand.

“It has been… a very long time,” he said slowly, carefully. “I can feel it. I have been gone... for too long now. Tell me, Platinum... How fares… our kingdom?” He coughed, still weakened from his prior outburst. “I can see already that the slaves have grown idle...”

“You have no more slaves,” said Platinum, through clenched teeth. “And you won’t be enslaving anypony else, either. The Empire is protected now by the Crystal Heart.”

“The Crystal Heart...” he muttered. He recognized that name—but from where? “The Crystal Heart… Ah!” He laughed. Of course, of course. The Crystal Heart. He remembered now. That had been a very long time ago. “Do not worry yourself about that, my daughter,” he told her. “I have hidden it… so well that it shall never be found. It is no threat... to us. It never will be.”

Platinum could only stare at him, her mouth hanging open. “You are insane, aren’t you?” she whispered.

And, strangely enough, that sounded familiar too.

More so than he liked.

You will not speak to your father that way,” he rumbled, adding just a little power to strengthen his words—enough to hurt, but also enough to make Platinum shrink away. “I have coddled you... for too long, I think, if this is how you are determined to treat your betters. You need not fear the Crystal Heart… but if you do not behave, I shall teach you fear myself.”

“My—my friends,” said Platinum, edging further and further away from him. “Shining Armor. Princess Cadance. Somepony must have seen you take me. Whatever your crazy scheme is, they’ll put a stop to you.”

Friends?” Sombra paused. The memories were returning to him now, one by one. A steady stream, instead of a slow trickle. “Do not think I am ignorant of your friends either,” he said. He chuckled as her eyes widened and she let out a squeak. “Yes,” he said. “I know what you have been getting up to. The earth ponies, the pegasi… gallivanting about in your little toy nation. What did you call it again…?” The memory came easily to him. “Ah, yes… Equestria. What do you think should happen if I conquered it first, upon my return?”

“You won’t—” Platinum swallowed. She stood up, looking down her nose at him. “You won’t get Equestria either! The princesses will see to that!”

Again, he laughed. “Do you not see, Platinum?” he said. “I fear... none of these forces. When I return to my full power, nothing will dare stand against me...” He narrowed his eyes at her. “Not even my own daughter.”

“S-something, then!” said Platinum, taking a tentative step forward. “Anything at all! I-I’m not sure who will stop you yet, but you won’t succeed! Brutes like you never do.”

He frowned. This was not how he had expected the conversation to go. Platinum had always bent before his will, when it came down to it. When he threatened what she treasured most. She could bark and bray, but all animals could until they were shown their place. Something had changed. Something troubling. He could frighten her, but she would not stay frightened. She had never done that, save for—

That one day when—

What was it?

He shook his head. No matter. He would remember soon enough. As for his unruly daughter, it was time to change tack. He did not have the power to discipline her himself, but for many horses a carrot worked as well as a stick. “Come now, Platinum,” he said. “I can see that this matter is important to you. We shall discuss this further, but first, a present…” He focused, mustering up what little power he had left. The shadows around them responded, forming in front of Platinum as a pile of the most beautiful gems.

Those, of course, had always been her favorites. Distractions to the eye. Enormous fire rubies and sparkling diamonds. He could see that familiar glint in her eye—a glint of desire. Greed.

Or… no. Not greed, but something else. Something he did not like.

“It is a gift…” he repeated, wheezing. He had been stretched very thin. Too thin, perhaps. He no longer felt completely solid. “From your generous father… A small reminder... that his counsel is worth more than that… of Clover the Clever.”

And, for the very first time, she laughed at him. His nostrils flared in anger and he clenched his teeth together. How dare she?

“Oh, of course,” she said. “I see now. You think Clover the Clever and Private Pansy and Princess Platinum are all still around. For a moment I’d almost been afraid that—you hardly even know what Equestria is, do you? You don’t remember.” She laughed again. “All this time I’ve been afraid of a shadow.”

“Platinum…” he said warningly. “Your tone…” It was an empty threat, for now—and it seemed they both knew it. He would deliver upon it someday, though. Platinum was a fool if she believed herself safe from his wrath forever. He would gain his strength back soon enough. He would remember this insult, if nothing else…

“As for these,” she said, looking down at the pile of gems he’d made for her. “You didn’t really think you could buy me like that, did you?” She turned and scattered the gems across the floor with a well-placed kick. “I certainly hope you didn’t attempt that on the real Platinum. What an embarrassment you must have been.”

“I am your father...” he whispered. “You will—”

“And about that,” she said, continuing her advance. “Since you seem so intent on believing that I’m Princess Platinum, I think it only fair that I remind you I’m not her at all. I have a family of my own, with a very kind and caring mother, a sister for whom I had bought a very lovely souvenir, and a gentle, understanding father who is—thank Celestia—absolutely nothing like you.”

She took her first step on the stairs that led up to his throne. “So let me say to you once more, Sombra, in terms your twisted mind can understand: You are not my father!

“You…” Sombra repeated slowly, “are not… my father...”

And he remembered.

“You said that… before…” he whispered. “This is not the first time…”

He remembered. The first and last time Platinum had dared to defy him. It all seemed so familiar to him now. There had been a conversation, very much like this one. He had spoken to her. Ordered her. Threatened her…

And her response had very much like that of the mare before him, not Platinum, but—

Rarity climbed higher and higher on the steps to his throne. “I don’t even think you know what it means to be a father,” she went on. “How could you? You hardly understand why it is you’re in the shape you are now.”

He knew how this would end, if he did nothing. He could not allow that. “No…” he rasped, summoning the very last of his power.

It hardly made the steps shake.

“I don’t know why I’d been expecting somepony else would have to do this,” she said, so close to him now that he could feel the warmth of her breath. “The truth is,” she said, staring at him with her bright blue eyes—so very much like Platinum’s. “I almost pity you. You had a daughter, a kingdom, every chance to turn back before it was too late… and you traded them for what?” She stomped on the shadowy floor, watching as it wobbled and waved beneath her hooves. “This?

“Do not…” he pleaded. “I will return… I am still powerful…”

“Some advice for you then, King Sombra,” said Rarity. “Since it seems that power is all you can understand. Your magic might be strong, yes, but if that were the only thing that mattered, you should ask yourself why you lost. Why you had to hide the Crystal Heart in the first place. For all your slaves and your evil and your spells, it was still stronger than you were. It is possible—ever so slightly possible—that love and compassion are powerful too. I have friends and a family, both of whom I love very much. You have yourself, and nobody but yourself to blame.

“And with that—” she said, raising a hoof, preparing to strike him down.

“No…” He cringed. He shut his eyes tight, fearing that fatal moment when the hoof fell and he was scattered once more…

But it did not come. He opened his eyes. The hoof was hanging now above him, hanging only inches from his face.

He had been spared.


Was she not stronger now than he?

“And with that,” she said, turning around. “I shall take my leave of you. If I’m lucky, I’ll have just enough time to buy another snow globe for Sweetie Belle before the gift shop closes.”

Sombra could only watch her as she stepped down from his throne, the room dissolving around her with every step. He had been spared. For a brief moment, she had held his fate in her hooves, had held the power to disperse him with but a single blow. And yet she had not.

That too, felt... familiar.

Daylight now began to peek through the ceiling as the room around them fell completely apart. He could feel the agony of being torn apart once more, as the magic of the Crystal Heart finally overtook his own will, but he did not cry out. There were more important things to consider, greater matters that occupied his mind as he was broken again into fragments.

Caring. Compassion.


Powers that were stronger even than his own... and always had been.

It would have to remember that.

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Comments ( 53 )

Blurred this one out over the course of a couple days as a final celebratory hurrah before Season 4 hits and a fresh tide of ideas surge in. It's a little bit experimental, but I hope you guys like it.

3511720 Love it. Thank you for the opportunity to read it :rainbowkiss:

I've always loved Sombra's nonexistent character.

Nice take on it and linking it to Platinum.

Very well done!

~Skeeter The Lurker

Platinum as Sombra's daughter?

That's at the same time a startlingly obvious idea, yet also something I haven't seen anyone come up with before. Interesting!

Probably the best handling of "Sombra is Platinum's father" concept I've seen so far. :raritywink:

Very well written, as always.

Hmm, this has one of the oddest descriptions for a one-shot I have ever seen. The description really makes it seem like a continuing story.

But anyway, I am interested. I'll have to add this to my read later list.

3511720 WELL... Thanks for the new headcanon for Platinum, Obs. It... works, strangely enough. XD (Also, possible hinting that Rares COULD be descended from P.P. after all? :rainbowwild: )

Very good. The usual excellent storytelling, with an interesting look at King Sombra's past. Nice to see the dude getting some backstory. As for the Princess Platinum thing...


Seriously, that's brilliant.

Very nice...
Headcanon accepted.

Very nice. I like how the illusion of the Throne room gets more unstable as his delusions start to crumble.

....IS THE TITLE A F***ING PUN?! :rainbowlaugh::rainbowlaugh:


Y'know, it just might be.


That is all :rainbowlaugh:

This is something to keep in stock before Season 4… YAY!

...:trixieshiftleft: I had this headcanon before it was cool...

:P Great story, duder. :ajsmug:

Very nicely done. I always like to see authors give Sombra more characterization than in the show (which is to say, any,) and it was done fantastically here. Rarity was also in fine form. I have to love her priorities. Who cares if a delusional shadow monster has reconstituted itself from near death? There are little sisters who won't be getting souvenirs here! :raritydespair:

Also, pic relevant:

Very nicely done. A good bit of... not world building per say, but I guess 'world reinforcing'? Rarity is in character to a T, and Sombra is as much as he has a character to line up with.

You nailed my favorite part of Rarity (well, one of them anyway) in how she is probably the most cunning of the Mane 6. When put into a tight spot, she is always thinking about how to use what she has to turn it to her advantage. And sure enough, she does it here. With just her wits, composure and words, she defeats the great King Sombra in a battle of wills. Absolutely stunning.

Thanks again for writing this for us;

:duck: Family + Rarity = Familiarity
:rainbowderp: MIND = BLOWN

This is excellent. It presents a very reasonable explanation for why Sombra in the show is just a near-mindless growling shadow that is, ultimately, not as effective as It might have wished to be.

As somepony who is particularly smitten by redemption stories, I also appreciated the idea that It might have a chance to learn and remember what Rarity taught It. A chance is better than naught.

Thanks for a really interesting glimpse into one possibility for what Sombra is. As others have said: Headcanon Accepted :)

Light and laughter,

It's good, of course, but I can't fit it properly into a time line.

Mostly because Discord had to have come before Sombra and then you have Luna's banishment that happened shortly there after. Then how long did Luna and Celestia rule before then? :unsuresweetie:

What is the point in saying "It would have to remember that" instead of "He would have to remember that?"
Is it because he doesn't qualify as as much of a pony when he's being torn apart by the magic? Otherwise, what am I missing here?



The idea that the Crystal Empire is the original kingdom the ponies fled to Equestia from is not one I've ever seen anyone else broach.:pinkiegasp:

Gods damn, an idea I would have never thought of, mainly because I hate Rarity but this was just incredible, it had a very tragic flow to it that made you feel BAD for Sombra, the villain, the monster, the King the very powerful magician, only a real writer could create such amazing detail and make you feel BAD for Sombra...how tragic, I been meaning to read a Sombra story anyway, I'm very glad it was this one, I'm honored:yay:

I approve this head cannon.

3512064 It's like a triple pun of Family, Rarity and the actual word familiarity.

And on that note, this was a very unique story, Obs. Thanks for being such a unique guy; even after all this time, there are still unique ideas this fandom is coming up with. But on a critical note, I'm not sure why everybody is saying they feel bad for Sombra. I mean, I can see why, but then I instantly remember he's evil. No, Gustavo Fring is a villain you feel bad for. Two-Face is a villain you feel bad for. Gwyn, Lord of Cinder is a villain you feel bad for. Sombra is not a villain you feel bad for.

I give this story 4 and a half amnesiac Sombras out of five.

Dammit Obs. Your one-shots are like catnip. I just cannot seem to quit them... :derpytongue2:

Overall, that certainly was an interesting peek into Sombra's character.

That was really good, Obs. As usual, but I digress. I like how you set this one up. Very believable, and could possibly set up a followup if you so chose. Nice work. :ajsmug:

Well it's not... bad... :unsuresweetie:

Is there any way you could continue this? Maybe write a sequel story? I'm rather partial to redemption stories, and since Sombra is one of my favorite villains (he's PONY SAURON/THE LICH FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!), it would be neat to see what happens next for the shade of Sombra.


Good, good, very good. :pinkiehappy:

This short story was Olympian!!!!!:pinkiehappy:
While this looks to definitely be a one shot, if you ever write a sequel I guarantee you it will be read:eeyup:

Howdy Obs!

So I'm leaving you a Winter Semiformal review comment to be incongruous because that's not really a thing we do for each other.

Interesting piece of headcanon you've got here with the relationship between Sombra and the Hearth's Warming tale. I kind of wonder how this jives with the Windigos, since presumably they were a problem for Sombra too, making his kingdom all frozen and starving his slaves to death. Incidentally, I hadn't really thought before now of why Sombra was ruling a kingdom of crystal ponies considering that crystal ponies seem to be a separate species (i.e. there are no crystal pony unicorns to my knowledge). I suppose he conquered them from outside, begging the question what was up with the Crystal Heart then, but go figure. Trickery or something. Maybe the entire past history of the Crystal Empire is secretly the first Deltora Quest book over again.

Anyhoo, you can probably guess what I'm gonna say as a criticism--get to the drama faster. Honestly a clearer goal for Sombra could have done a lot for the first page or so (approximately). He's sort of wandering through planning to resume his throne but not really sure of what's going on or what steps he ought to take to do that, and finding out isn't really his priority. Which is, you know, okay, but IMO it makes Rarity's perspective on this story more interesting--imprisoned by a monster she can't hope to beat on her own, but then realizing that he's actually completely lost his mind and relatively powerless.

The writing is pretty solid, though, as with everything else, better when it's propelling us through story action. Your Rarity voice is pretty spot-on, and there's not really much to compare Sombra too, so I'm gonna just call that one good too.

And it's not a bad cerebral fic as far as that goes. You make Sombra into a believably tragic figure unable to escape his own vision of himself to even register what's going on in the world around him. I just find it a little too tied up in being cerebral, as opposed to being about characters with clear ambitions taking steps to fulfill them.

Have you ever considered submitting this story to Equestria Daily? You can find out how to do so here.

That was a great read, Obs. I'm starting to believe that if you wrote a menu for a hotdog stand it would still be a very worthwhile read!



Slogan above the menu:

You're going to die anyway, so why die hungry?Enjoy!


Words have failed me again when trying to describe what I'm feeling right now.
Though, unlike what I commented about Promised Land, this time it's more of a positive "I don't know" rather than a negative "I don't know".

Amazing headcanon could actually be an episode :pinkiegasp:

Lovely story. There really isn't much more to say than that.

Come to think of it, Rarity's name is unusually well-suited to creating puns. With that in mind, here are some prompts for future Rarity stories.
barbarity: Rarity the Barbarian
vulgarity: Rarity becomes incredibly angry
peculiarity: Rarity's been acting unusual lately (bonus points for involving pecans)
clarity: Rarity starts seeing the future and/or turns crystal-pony again
hilarity, jocularity: Rarity tries to be a comedian
similarity: Rarity and changelings
polarity: Rarity and her evil twin; Rarity becomes highly magnetized
muscularity: Rarity enters a weight-lifting competition
singularity: Rarity('s house) becomes a black hole
popularity: Rarity becomes a politician
alacrity: Rarity runs a race
sincerity: Rarity is the Element of Honesty
posterity: Rarity is assured by her friends that her butt is not too big
asperity, austerity: Rarity falls on hard times
majority: Rarity joins the military
purity: Rarity... wait, Wanderer D kinda took this one, never mind

>tfw spending 20 minutes on a post because you just can't stop, even though probably four or five people at the most will read it

Well, I was looking at this for a quick, fun read. I can definitely say it was in my best interest. The concept was stellar, let me say.
Liked and faved. :twilightsmile:

Well. This was a surprisingly likeable fanfic.:twilightsmile:
I simply :heart: it.

My, that was an excellent story. I never thought of the idea that Sombra was also the Unicorn King mentioned in the Hearth's Warming play. (My headcanon is different and mostly inspired by Ink Rose's headcanon theories.) I've always thought Sombra had a lot of potential, but I have yet to see him put to good use. This is a nice start. Especially pairing him with Rarity like this. In a weird way in kind of reminds in how some of the most recent incarnations of Dracula, Mina Murray is the reincarnation of Dracula's wife. In this case though, it's almost as if Rarity is the reincarnation of Princess Platinum. :raritystarry: Anyway, this was a great story, and I look forward to potentially checking out more of your stories. Keep up the good work. :pinkiehappy:

Amazing story, Obs. I'll have to add Platinum being Sombra's daughter to my headcanon now. It makes so much sense, in a tragic way.

Have my fave! :ajsmug:

I'd love for this to get some kind of sequel.

Excellent Story! Very well thought out and very well written.

This is getting a favorite and a like. :heart::heart::heart: :pinkiehappy:

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