• Published 8th Apr 2014
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Shadow's Enigma - Note Sketch

With his dark past heavy on his mind, Sombra is put to the test as he begins a reformation process. Though his mind is no longer crowded with the influence of dark magic, his heart is none the lighter. Let the test begin.

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21. A Light in the Dark

"So when are we starting?" Twilight asked out joyfully.

"Soon." Was all that Sombra replied as they began to make their way out into the outskirts of town.

"So what are you going to teach me first? How to make those crystal things? Or maybe that smoke transformation! I've never seen magic that could so seamlessly shift physical matter into something so tangible without it being permanent. I am so excited about-" Twilight's speech was interrupted when she suddenly slammed herself against Sombra's backside.

He had suddenly come to a halt as he glanced at the now embarrassed mare. He was worried. Very worried. She was just too happy about learning and perhaps that excitement would blind her to how truly dangerous dark magic can be. Sombra turned to face Twilight as he stood up tall, the sun behind him reflected off his red scarred horn and Twilight soon got the message about being quiet.

"Sorry." She said with a faint blush, still embarrassed about how she was acting.

"Sparkle, I do not believe you understand just what you are getting into when you use dark magic." Sombra began as he gesture for them to continue walking, this time side by side.

"I know. Dark magic can consume who you are, changing you and making you do things you'd never do."

"And that's where you're wrong Sparkle."


"Dark magic doesn't change who you are. Dark magic chips away at you. The darkness you manipulate when casting spells comes at a high price for its power."

"So...what does that say about you Sombra? If it slowly chipped at you, but didn't change who you are, why did you become a tyrant?"

"One of the first things that are taken from you are you morals. Your core, your soul, the basis for who you are can never be taken away, but everything else can. When I ascended to king, my sole goal was to make the Crystal Empire run as smoothly as possible. For a time I was a kind king, I helped my people and made things easier, but Equestria from a thousand years ago is not the Equestria from today."

"Yes, there wasn't very much peace between cities. After Discord's rule it was every pony for themselves."

"Exactly. But one cannot survive alone, at least, not efficiently. I had to establish treaties, form alliances, and keep my empire safe from attackers. All of this took time and as the head of the empire, it took a show of strength. A show of dark magic."

"So the more you used your magic the less benevolent you became?"

"It is more complicated than that. Dark magic runs on negative emotion, fear being the easiest to come by and the strongest to empower you. I had to prove my strength. Give those around a reason to join me lest they want me as an enemy. I had already used a lot of magic battling the changelings, so I was already quite chipped away, and I could feel it."

"What did you do exactly?"

"I was not going to allow myself to lose. I did all I could to keep my mind on my goal by using what I like to call an 'anchor'." Sombra said as his eyes erupted with flames as a red crystal spouted from the ground. It was nothing special, just a small crystal shard that stood lonely in the grassy open lands they were in.

Twilight stepped close and stared at the red crystal. It was much different from his usual crystal pillars. The most obvious was it's red color, but there were also subtle things like how it reflected the light around it, allowing her to see herself in a very clear image. It was truly a beautiful object to look at.

"And what's an anchor?"

"Something that will keep you focused. When you are alone in the darkness, you can easily lose your way, and perhaps even lose yourself. Everyday I would produce this red crystal and I would be reminded of my purpose, my reason for being king."

Twilight turned from her reflection and asked Sombra. "What about Diane? Couldn't she had been your anchor?"

"She....had already passed away." Sombra said as he stepped forward to look into the red crystal. His flames flickered as his emotions began to surge out from the prison of Sombra's mind. "I had just gotten my magic..." He began.


Sombra growled out as he felt his body begin to pull apart. His essense was ripped out as it was replaced by the dark vortex circling him. The changeling that had been 'feasting' on Diane quickly came to a halt as he laid witness to the creation of a being of darkness. Afraid, the bug like creature took for the doors but was quickly stopped by the sudden appearance of a crystal wall.

"Where do you think you're going?..." Sombra said as he slowly walked out from the now diminished darkness. The changeling backed against the crystal wall as his face of terror flushed all color from it. Sombra wobbled slightly being having undergone such a painful transformation, but it did not effect his menacing figure as he now was only inches from the bug.

On the outside of the library many guards were now gathering at the crystal wall, trying to figure out what caused the loud noise.

"Some pony get a way in, look to see if the windows are open or something!" A stallion said as he pointed at guard to move. Before any of them could get very far, however, a spike punctured through the crystal wall and dripped green liquid as a loud excruciating scream was heard from the other side. Every pony remained still as they heard the drops fall into the green puddle beneath. Suddenly, the wall come down and they saw a terrifying stallion before them.

The library had become almost pitch black from Sombra's dark magic and the only thing illuminating the area was his purple flames that flickered in the wind and his sickly green and red eyes. No pony dared move, none could if they tried as Sombra slowly walked out of the library with Diane on his back.

"A medic..." He said softly, suddenly bringing a guard out of his shock.


"GET A MEDIC NOW!" Sombra shouted out, his voice echoing in the crystal halls as every guard scattered looking for the medic he wanted.


"Diane was wounded, but not yet dead." Sombra said as he and Twilight sat facing each other. He had them sit and meditate, clear their mind and in doing so, let go of any disrupting emotions. Though with his story telling, he was the one struggling to stay calm. Keeping her eyes closed like Sombra, Twilight took a deep breath and after exhaling, asked.

"She survived? Not that I wanted her to die or anything, but when you started the story I thought that she would die then and there."

"No no, had she really died then, I might have become more of a tyrant than I did. She survived, and in doing so she taught me a valuable lesson that I had forgotten until recently."

"And what was that?"


"Sombra every creature deserves to live. You shouldn't have killed that changeling."

"Diane!" Sombra responded at the patient on the hospital bed. Though she was awake, she was still pretty drained vitality, but still had enough in her to lecture him. "That changeling would not had hesitated to kill you, why should I hesitate to kill it?"

"He Sombra. It was a living sentient creature. It was after food, we are the changeling's diet. We cannot blame them or forsake them for being born what they are."

"They could have left Fetch an orphan!"

"He still would have had you Sombra." Diane said with an unexpected sweet voice that caught him off guard. "You are like a father to him. You raised him and stood by us when things got bad. I might have died last night, or I may die tomorrow, but it is fate. From the day I was born into this war I knew I could die as food for a changeling Sombra." Sombra looked away as the mere thought of losing her crossed his mind. His eyes ejected some flames before he turned to leave the room.

"Well I guess I'll just have to end this war, won't I?"

"Sombra? What are you doing? Where are you going?" Diane asked out, but it was too late. He was gone and well on his way. Running out of the hospital Sombra quickly made his way to city hall where he had just been kicked out the day before. As he ran in the busy streets of the Crystal Empire ponies would turn to stare as his flames made him stand out more than he already did.

"Sorry, no entry." A guard said at the front gate of city hall. "They are having a meeting again." But Sombra was not for games right now. using his magic he quickly pushed the guards out of the way as he broke down the doors. Again he ran in and brushed off any guards trying to stop him until he reached the meeting room where he did not hold back for his entrance. Again the meeting was interrupted by Sombra, but the broken doors and the flames from his eyes were more than enough to keep them quiet.

"Put me in the military. Now. I will change the flow of this war and put and end to it!" Sombra demanded as he walked in, making his way to the center of the room where every pony could see him. His flames only grew as they all become aware of his strength and magical power.

"Y-You again? How many times do we have to tell you we won't allow outsiders into our council?" The same chairman from before who had kicked him out said, though less high and mighty than before.

"I care not for your customs, I need to end this war now." He said. Though no pony wanted to confront him, no pony actually gave him an answer. The room remained silent as they all trembled before Sombra who only grew more and more irritated at their hesitation. He opened his mouth to shout, but was quickly shut as he felt a hoof on his shoulder. Standing beside him was the Crystal Princess of the Empire. Her elegant and calming blue shine of her coat was enough to bring his temper back to normal levels.

"No need to shout Sombra dear. These ponies are just weary of changeling spies is all."

"Yeah well there was a changeling in your guards. He almost killed Diane." He said as he shrugged off her hoof. "I have already proven myself to not be a threat, just let me do this. I want this war to end just as much every pony else."

"And if I were to allow you this favor, do you really think you can make that much of a difference? I've seen your strength, but what good will it be if changelings are just disguised as friends? Your power will mean nothing then."

"One, that is all I am asking. One opportunity to get a way to find changelings. Once I do I will cleanse the Crystal Empire of changelings. That I can promise you!"

The princess remained quiet as Sombra placed his proposal. A week in the changeling hive to find a way to spot them. Every other pony shouted out at his crazy idea, all but the princess who only stood and kept eye contact with Sombra, never wavering in his position.

"Alright Sombra. You get one chance."


"Was that Code 1-F?" Twilight asked as she and Sombra continued to sit as a small dark vortex began to circulate around them. It was Sombra's magic. He was using it to replicate his metaphor about being alone in the dark and as the minutes passed, the darker the enclosed area became. It was soon very hard to see one another even thought they were mere feet away.

"Yes. I got my chance to change the tide. And it worked. Our first ever true victory against the changelings. But it came at a cost. Every pony in my squad died as I did my best to find their defining trait that I could use to find them once disguised. They were the Princess's royal guard. The best of the best. And with them gone the empire was that much more defenseless."


Slowly Sombra came to his hooves as he tried his best to get off his bed. He was at the hospital after his mission. Badly wounded, it was a miracle he still lived to all the doctors.

"How are you feeling?" Diane asked as she walked in, her clam demeanor quickly vanished as she ran up to help him stand.
"Better. I need to get going."

"Nonesense. You just woke up. The doctors say you still need a few more days before you can even walk."

"The doctors are wrong." Sombra said as he took his first step and though a little unbalanced, he managed to stay up. "I need to get to work."

"Sombra, you're pushing yourself too hard." Diane said as she tried to stop him from going forward, a heavy frown and worried eyes on her face.

"I don't want to hear that from you." He said with a gentle smile. It was true. This mare had gone through more hardships than any pony could imagine, but it never stopped her. And it seems her stubborn will had rubbed off on Sombra, that of course wasn't an excuse for her. Physically, he shouldn't be doing anything, he can't do anything with a body so beaten and bruised.

"No means no." She protested.

"Diane, good stallions died out there keeping me alive so I could come back and keep the empire going. I am not going to disappoint them."

"But do you have to do it now? You just got back and Fetch and I missed you. We thought we would never see you again!" Diane said as her voice began to shake. He had kept herself shut to keep him strong, but Sombra act so reckless only made her worry more.

"Diane..." Sombra said as he stepped close to kiss her forehead. "It's going to take a lot more than this to kill me..."

With that Sombra was out the door. He was out for a walk, a walk he would make every single day for as long as he lived in the crystal empire. He would walk and look for changelings disguised out. Once found he would capture them and leave them for interrogation in the crystal castle. For days this was the routine. Sombra was the one soldier who was never called to duty. He was the only pony who could keep the empire cleansed from spies, and it certainly changed the tide of war.


"Sounds like a happy ending." Twilight said as she continued to breath in slowly in her meditation, oblivious to the thick darkness around her.

"You should know better."

"I do..."

The silent cloak of darkness intensified as Sombra's story began to come to a close. The sudden shift of it's strong current, Twilight began to flinch her eyes, but kept them closed like instructed. He wanted to open them and see exactly what was going on outside, but opening them would do her little good. There was no light, nor sound other than Sombra's voice. For her, at this very moment, there was nothing more than that.


"You look silly when you zone out like that." Diane said as she approached from behind. Sombra slowly turned to look at her.

"I-I'm simply worried about leaving. I'm terrified something bad will happen if I go..." Sombra said as he began to rethink his decision. Truth be told, he had chosen not to leave the empire since his return not because he was dead sent on only purging out the changelings, but because he had become afraid of being in a squad. He did not want to see any more comrades die.

"It's not like you to worry Sombra." Diane said as she circled him. "I'll tell you exactly what will happen. You are going to go, complete whatever mission that was assigned to you, and when you return we will celebrate Fetch's birthday."

"Right, I had almost forgotten it was in a few days."

"Yes mister soldier sir. And make sure to bring something from the battlefield. You know how much he loves those random bits of rabble you bring in saying that it was 'battle damaged'."

"I'll have you know I got those from the recon teams, I didn't make it up." Sombra replied. Soon both went into a laughing fit before finally calming down and staring at each other in the eyes with a gentle smile upon their face.

"See you soon?"


With that Sombra was off. He ran as fast as he could to his squad who was already well into the blizzard out in the outskirts. Diane stared off into the distance until Sombra was no longer in sight before shivering and letting out a strange sounding sigh. She had been holding back her own premonitions. She too felt that something terrible was on the verge of happening. And now that the empire's only changeling radar was away, he feared for the worst.

"Come back soon..." She whispered out as she turned around to head back into the empire.

Diane made her way around the now robust streets of the crystal empire. Since Sombra's ability to find changeling spies the city morale had gone up and business was booming. Every pony was happy and eager for each coming day, no longer having to fear about being some creature's lunch. Even in this pleasant atmosphere she couldn't concentrate. She knew something was up, but she just could not place a finger on it.

"Good morning Diane." A regal voice said as the mare passed by. Surprised by the sudden greeting, she jolted up only to see the Crystal Princess in front of her. "How are you this morning?"

"G-Good, how about you?" Diane responded as she bowed.

"I'm wonderful. Thank you for asking. I was wondering if you had a minute to chat?"

"Of course!" Diane said at the sudden request. She had met her a few times, but all in Sombra's presence when he was the pony in question, never had she actually spoken to her though. The mares and the princess's guards walked to Diane's home which also doubled as her workshop. It wasn't anything fancy, but it got the job done. As they entered Diane quickly blushed as she noticed how messy everything was.

She quickly got to cleaning up as the princess giggled at her actions. "Worry not, I am aware that a workshop is hard to keep clean, especially for a crystal sculptor."

"B-B-But that's no excuse when you have important guest over!"

Once Diane had 'finished' getting things tidy she also rushed to make some tea and some small snacks for the chat. All the while the princess sat at the table with a smile on her face. It was comical to see how every pony always over reacts to her company.

"Now..." Diane started as finally settled down. "What was it you wanted to talk about?"

"Oh, I just wanted to thank you." The princess said as she took a sip of her tea.

"For what?" Diane asked a little puzzled. She certainly did not remember doing anything to need a personal thanks from the princess.

"For taking in Sombra. Just look around. Without him we would already be off the map. He truly did keep his word and changed the tide of the war. And I have an itching feeling that you were part of it."


"Why yes. That stallion would move mountains for you, and given his power, I am sure he very well could. The day he bursted into the council meeting he had his mind set on ending the war on your behalf. We all owe you a great debt for believing in Sombra and taking him in."

Diane blushed the royal mare praised her. It wasn't every day that some pony saw the good she did. Sure she didn't do anything just for the attention, but when it did happen it was always a treat.The chat did not last much longer after that. Fetch came downstairs when he head voices and got to meet the princess. It was a rather homely visit with a lot of love and care in the air. After that they all quickly said their good byes and the mother and child were left alone.

"Wow. Things sure have changed haven't day?" She said as she pet Fetch on the head. "Say, do you want to bring the princess some cookies tomorrow?"


The rest of the day the two of them spent trying to perfect the art of baking. Once they got the recipe down they quickly prepared for transport and went to bed so that the next day bright and early the could deliver their gift. The night came and went and soon Diane and Fetch were on their way to the castle with a basket full of cookies to share.

Though She should be happy, again her stomach aches as the strange feeling something bad was going to happen emerged. She tried her best to hide it from Fetch as they walked. The guards recognized them and allowed them in and they soon got an audience with the princess.

"Why hello. What a lovely surprise." The princess said as she saw them walk in.

"We brought cookies!" Fetch screamed out as he ran up to her as happy as can be.

"Did you now? You shouldn't have."

"But we did, now you have to eat them!"

"Well I suppose I don't have a choice do I?" She said with a smile. It was refreshing to see them again like this for Diane. It certainly made her feel better, but not very long.

"Heheheh...Two birds with one stone?" A guard said as he walked up slowly to them, his head tilted down. "This certainly made for a grand catch." As he lifted his head his eyes glowed sickly green.

Diane quickly understood what was happening. She had lived this before. "Run! It's a changeling!" She shouted as she bolted toward her son.

"No my dear. Not a changeling. The Changeling. I am Dycus, the changeling king!"


Off in the distance Sombra and his squad were already making their way back. He had a large smile on his face as he glanced over his shoulder to see that every member of his squad was alive and well. "Just a little more and we're home." He said excitedly. Half of it was to encourage his team to continue on, the other half was because he was excited to come back after he had found a perfect present for Fetch. It was a small ruby that had come during the battle. Gem stones were rare and very valuable and he only found it because of the damage to the terrain.

"You were great Sombra!" A teammate said walked by. "You really save our necks out there."

"Couldn't let you all down now could I?" Sombra responded in a happy manner, an emotion that soon left him as they entered the empire's border. The horrid smell of a changeling was strong in the air. Without a word he took off as he followed the scent.

"It can't be!" Sombra shouted at himself as he galloped across the streets. "This scent. It's too strong to be just any old changeling's! Can't the King or Queen be here? No!" As he got closer to its source the worse things seemed. The streets were empty and not a sound was heard other than his hooves hitting the ground.

Finally he came to a stop when he came to the foot of the scrapping castle in the middle of the empire. Sombra stomped on the ground to summon out a black crystal pillar to take him all the way to the top where he entered through the balcony. What he saw tore him from the inside out. The Changeling King was just finishing off his feast on the princess with many guard laying around who tried to protect her. What was worse was when he caught a glimpse of Diane and Fetch. Their bodies limp on the ground.

"I am so sorry, you came just a little too late." Dycus taunted as Sombra remained still, his anger raising. "But I really must get going." He said as he spread his insect like wings to fly past him into the open sky, but he was quickly met by a crystal wall covering the exit. Sombra's eyes glowed in the dark room now fenced in by his wall. His purple flames erupted in his rage.

"I am going to KILL YOU!" Sombra shouted as he ran to the panicked king.

From the outside many town folk were beginning to gather around as they heard the large commotion. Guards rushed into the castle. A large explosion was seen as an entire wall of the castle blew off and a very damaged changeling tried his best fly after being hit by such a strong attack. Sombra was about to take off after him only to be stopped by a voice calling out to him.

"S-Sombra?..." Diane asked out. He suddenly did not care about Dycus as Sombra rushed over to the mare's side.

"Diane! Don't worry you'll be alright. I'm going to get you some help and-"

"No...Sombra. Fetch and I..." Diane said as she clenched her son who's breathing was very slow and only slowing down with every second.

"No, you and Fetch will be fine. I just have to get some help!" Sombra said his eyes began to blurr and a single tear fell upon Diane's face.

"Fetch and I...are so proud of you Sombra. I am happy we were able to spend these years together."


As the last remaining life force began to leave the mother and son Sombra could feel his own strength leave him. His reason for fighting was now dying along with them. The single candle that had lit his way all these years was fading right in front of him and he couldn't do anything about it.

"Make the Crystal Empire a better place...for us okay?" Diane said with her final breath. Her arm limped away from him as tears mixed with his flames and a sizzling echoed out.

"I will Diane...I will." Sombra said as he gently let her down and he stood up gazing at her with dead eyes. "But first I will put an end to this damn war." He turned to look out to the horizon. "Dycus. Prepare yourself."


Twilight finally opened her eyes. "Sombra I am so sor-" However she was frozen as she realized that having her eyes open made no difference. Things were pitch black. She slowly tried to get up and though she could feel herself standing, she couldn't even see the hoof she was holding in front of herself.

"S-Sombra?" She asked out, but no response. She was alone. She couldn't see, couldn't hear. "Sombra, where are you!?" She shouted out as she began to run forward but it made no difference. Not being able to see anything she quickly fell down as tears began to flow out of her eyes. She wasn't sure why she was crying, but she was. As her whimpering echoed into the darkness. Sombra finally stepped forward from the dark.

"Sombra!" Twilight said as she went up to him, but as she got close she slowed as he saw his fresh tears running down his face. Using his hoof, he summoned out red crystal shards between them.

"Diane...was a crystal sculptor. Her favorite kind of crystal to use was the one I made, these red shard." Sombra said as he tried to hold himself back from his emotions. "This was the anchor that kept me going for years." In an instant, the darkness around them vanished, revealing the grassland terrain once more. The sun was much too bright for Twilight's eyes as she shielded them away.

"One week Sparkle. You have one week to find your anchor." Sombra said as he slowly turned around and walked away. "Without one we cannot continue your training." He said as he made his way back to town, leaving Twilight to her thoughts and emotions. As he made it back to the library, he collapsed on the ground as he began to shed more tears.

"I'm sorry Diane...I'm so sorry..."

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