• 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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27. Test of Courage (pt 1)

Fluttershy hummed to herself happily as she and Sombra walked down what any pony would say was a dark dense Forest. She was awfully chirpy despite the frightening surroundings. Both of them walked in no direction in particular, their hooves echoing in the distance.

"Wow, Discord and Luna did a very good job at making this seem like we're in a dark spooky forest." Fluttershy said, looking around at the scenery.

"You don't seem phased in the slightest."

"Well, no, I mean, I know that with you here I'll be safe no matter what."

Sombra raised an eyebrow at her response. "And why is that?"

"You told me that you would keep me safe no matter what, remember?" Fluttershy said as she shifted her attention from one part of the forest to another.

"Right..." Sombra said. He thought that maybe perhaps now was a good time to simply tell her the truth about why he wanted to protect her back then. He took a deep breath and opened his mouth to speak, but quickly shut it as he stomped the ground, creating a crystal spike that pierced an incoming bat like creature that was flying straight to Fluttershy with it's fangs bared.

"Oh my goodness! Sombra, why did you do that?" She asked as she ran up to the creature but before she got the chance to touch it, it disappeared into thin air.

"So it wasn't real..." Sombra said, getting close to inspect the ground.

"Well even if it wasn't, you still shouldn't have attacked it like that."

"Jeez, you're sounding like Diane." He responded, turning away to avoid her pouting expression.

"Diane? You mean Pinkie?"

"Uh...No. Diane is a mare from the Crystal Empire one thousand years ago."

"So why did you call Pinkie Diane before?"

Sombra stared blankly at Fluttershy. He didn't respond not just because he didn't want to, but because he himself wasn't sure why either. "We should get a move on." He said, quickly beginning to make way further into the dense forest, and with each step they took, a thick fog began to set in behind them. The area they left behind began to leave a white mist that sealed them off from the rest of the forest.


"Ohhh, I wonder how Sombra and Fluttershy are doing." Pinkie asked out to no pony in particular. She and Twilight were in a similar situation as the other duo, they too were in a dark forest filled with strange noises.

"Why are you so worried about them?" Twilight asked, peering around every corner, making sure everything was safe for them. "With Sombra there nothing will happen to Fluttershy."

"Y-Yeah I know." Pinkie said, though her mind was else where entirely. What worried her was Fluttershy getting ahead of her in their rivalry, but truth be told, she wasn't even sure if Fluttershy knew they were rivals at all.

"Say, what usually happens in these Tests of Courage? You've been in one before right?"

"Oh, plenty, though every pony said it was unfair since I'm not scared of anything."

"Yeah, you just laugh your fright away." Twilight said, remembering the time she proved her element back when they first met. "What was it you said? Giggle at the Ghosties?"

"Rightio! Things are no fun when you're scared, so if you just laugh it off you'll be alright."

"I suppose that's why Princess Celestia paired me off with you, maybe I should take some notes." Twilight said, looking to see if she had anything on her she could use as a note pad. Her antics only got a giggle or two out of Pinkie, but her laugh was short lived.

"Oh Sombrie..." She said looking off into the forest.


"Say Rarity?" Applejack said, looking around at each small noise she heard.

"Y-yes Applejack?"

"This is all fake right? Ah mean, we ain't in any real danger are we?" She said, still very cautious about her surroundings.

"O-Of course we aren't in any real danger...Princess Celestia wouldn't allow it..."

"But ya heard what Sombra was saying, she might have our best interests...but we are always on the front line. B-Besides, the one behind it all is Discord."

"Goodness, don't talk of Princess Celestia like that-" Something snapped in the bushes close by, causing Rarity to stop mid sentence. "What was that?" Before Applejack had a chance to respond, a loud roar was heard echoing around the forest. Both mare began to gallop as quickly as they could away, the roar not sounding the least bit friendly, but to Applejack in particular, held a strange familiarity.


"Thou hast impressive skills at creating horrific scenery." Luna complimented the draconequus who was busy pulling strings left and right as if putting on a puppet show.

"Oh, years of practice. I was once known as the lord of chaos you know, not just being disorderly, but a terrifying Overlord too!" He said, quite proud of his past accomplishments. "Of course, one grows bored of such a routine, I just had to find a more fun outlet."

"We are overjoyed in knowing We were not born at the time of thine rule as an Overlord..." Luna said, fearing what kind of hellish acts he might have committed.

"Woah..." A small dragon said. Spike had come by to check on how the picnic was going but was met with a rather strange sight. "What is that!?" He shouted out, pointing at the large back force field that covered a large part of the landscape.

"Oh Spike my boy, it is just Luna's night magic, keeping that area completely shrouded in darkness while I mess around with the inside, making everything as scary as possible."

"And why would you needed to do that?" He asked. He took a quick look around to see none of his friends and began to make allegations."Did you trap Twilight and every pony else in there?!"

"Calm thyself Spike, he hast done no such thing. Thy friends art in a stage of examination by Our sister."

"And just where is Princess Celestia then?" Spike asked, no convinced in the slightest. Discord promptly picked him up and pointed him in the direction of the dark force field. Quickly realizing what the large draconequus was telling him, he shouted out. "You're kidding!"

"You're worry is ill placed. Thine friends are formidable, they shall not be in any harm."

"I hope you're right." Spike said, but let out a grunt as he suddenly hit the ground, Discord having dropped him to grab his puppet strings to get back to work.

"There is no 'hope' dear Spike, if they do not pass this Test of Courage, you can kiss Equestria good bye."

"And what is that supposed to mean!?" Spike was about to say more but was stopped by Luna who only placed a hoof at his shoulder. He wasn't sure what she meant, but he took it as a hint to be quiet.


"Sombra?" Fluttershy asked, still keeping close pace to the dark stallion. "Can I ask you a question?"

"Depends on the question." He said almost coldly.

"Did you really mean it? What you said to Discord."

"You might need to get more specific." He said as he pushed some greenery from his path. He raised his fore hoof to keep the bush from blocking Fluttershy's path and once she got through he followed in.

"Well, you kind of threatened to kill him."

"Oh...that." Sombra said, standing still for a moment. "I...was just caught up in the moment. Things got a little out of hoof and I spoke without thinking."

"I see." Fluttershy responded, not sure as to what to say next. They began to walk again, their hoof steps being the only noise heard. After a long while of nothing but walking, she took up the courage to speak up again. "It's just, I had never heard you threaten some pony like that before. It certainty looked like you meant it."

"Rest assured, I didn't. And even if I did, it isn't like I can actually kill the Lord of Chaos. My dark magic is running low and that draconequus is much too powerful even for me at max power."

"So what you're saying is that you would if you could?"

"That isn't what I'm saying." He said, turning to look at Fluttershy who came to a stop to look back at him. "I feel like you're beating around the bush. What is it that is bothering you?"

"I'm just wondering why you keep saying that you aren't reformed. It's like you keep denying that you can ever be reformed when every pony else thinks otherwise."

Sombra was a lost of words. He wanted to respond with something, but nothing came to him. He looked away at the ground next to him but glanced back when he felt a hoof at his chest.

"What's wrong Sombra?"

"I am not reformed Fluttershy. To be reformed is to be forgive for what I have done and start over. What I have done has no forgiveness. The terrors I've created to the Empire I once ruled has no remedy, they will forever curse 'The Tyrant Unicorn King' as a period of disaster in their history."

"So you don't think they will forgive you?"

"I doesn't matter if they forgive me Fluttershy, I can't forgive myself for what I did!" He said, raising his voice slightly. His cold shout echoed in the distance.

Sombra's outburst made his eye combust in small purple flames and he soon realized what he had done. The mare in front of him back up a few feet, hiding herself in her mane. The dark stallion looked at the ground as he thought about how badly he handled the situation. "I'm sorry, I did not mean to raise my voice like that." He said, still looking away. It was just another mistake in his life; one of many he would regret for the rest of his days.

"I-It's okay. I'm sorry too." She responded, creeping close again, her mood lifted after his apology.

"What are you sorry for?" Sombra asked a little confused.

"I was being insensitive, I didn't realize how much your past weighed on your heart."

"It is just another burden I must carry. It is nothing I can't handle."

"Well, Applejack is pretty strong." Fluttershy said, beginning to circle around Sombra. "She once tried to do Applebuck Season all by herself."

"I-I see." He said, not following as to what that had to do with anything. The pegasus stopped once she was back in front of him and continued her tale.

"She managed to buck half of her entire orchard in just over a week. I think that of we had left her alone she could have actually pulled it off by herself, but she was already completely worn out from balancing her apple bucking and her chores. In the end, we all helped her finish Applebuck Season in just a few days."

"I am not sure what you're trying to tell me Fluttershy." Sombra said, to which her response was to poke him on his muzzle.

"What I am trying to say, is just because Applejack could have, and probably would have finished bucking all on her own, but it was better for her to ask for help and have her friends shoulder some of her burdens."

Sombra let out a sigh as he closed his eyes, finally understanding her point. "I doubt you or any of your friends can help me carry this burden, after all, this is a result of my actions. I am simply paying for what I did, nothing more."

"I think that a thousand years in ice is more than enough punishment, don't you?"

"No nearly enough." He said, his eyes narrowing at the thought of the things he did. "If I had met some pony like me back then now, I would drive him into the ground where he stood. The things I did have no forgiveness." He said coldly, only making Fluttershy worry more and more about him.

"So...what exactly did you do?"

"I killed, I enslaved, I tortured, I obsessed with my position as king, and worst of all, I broke my promise to a dear friend of mine." He finished, turning around and beginning to walk away only to stop a few yards away to allow her to catch back up to him. Fluttershy, though still worried about his well being, laughed softly to herself at his list of terrible deeds. Though everything he named was certainly bad, it was almost funny to her that he considers breaking a promise the worst thing he did as a tyrant. It gave her hope, that perhaps he still had a chance to see the change in himself and move on from his past.

In the distance, an eerie shadow peered at the duo walking away. Red and green eyes stalked them from the shadows as they made their way, oblivious to the hell spawn on their tail.


"Did you hear that?" Pinkie asked, her ears twitching back and forth as she tried to listen better.

"Hear what?"

"It sounded like some pony shouted, do you think that some pony is in trouble?" The pink mare asked, rather worried mostly because it was Sombra's voice she heard.

"Oh Pinkie, this is Celestia's test, we aren't in any real danger. I'm sure some pony just got spooked by some strange noise or something." She said, though not fully believing it herself.

"If you say so..."

The two mares got back on track, or as close as they could anyway. They did not have much of an objective to begin with. All that the sun goddess had told them to do was to stay in the darkness before the shroud of night kicked in, locking them inside their force filed to Discord's whim. There wasn't anything particularly bad in this make belief forest they were in, but nothing was good either. With no sense of direction, every pony was lost as to what to do at all.

"So, what's the plan?" Pinkie asked, trying to get her head back to what was in front of her, a friend who needed her support.

"I guess we just keep moving forward. You saw the force field go up right? It's a dome and in most cases, domes always have something of value in the dead center." Twilight gulped as her words left her lips. Perhaps 'dead' was not the best word to use when stuck in a deadly forest.

"Okie dokie loki" Pinkie said, keeping close to Twilight who really seemed to be struggling to keep her cool, and though it was plain as day, she kept that detail to herself to keep the purple mare's confidence up.

Slowly they ventured further into the forest, and with each step a fog began to set in. It was subtle at first, but soon it the mist was becoming very much a hindrance to them, barely able to see what was right in front of their eyes. Twilight squint as she tried to make out what was in front of her but it was to no avail as she soon hit against something hard.

"Are you okay?" Pinkie asked, hearing her friend grunt on her impact with something.

"I think so." Twilight said holding onto her nuzzle. "I think I hit a tree."

"This fog is so thick, think maybe we're going the wrong way?"

"No way, we've been walking a straight line towards the center, we are going in the right direction." Twilight said, feeling against whatever she had hit, trying to make out what it was. All around her all she could see was a thick white mist, and though she could hear Pinkie clearly, she only had a vague idea as to where she was.

"Are you sure we're suppose to go to the middle at all?"

"Well, no. I'm not really sure of anything...."


"Think we lost it?" Rarity asked, tired and gasping for air as she allowed herself to collapse on the ground. On a normal occasion she would never allow herself to touch the dirty ground of a forest, but she was simply way too exhausted to care at the moment.

"Ah think so...though Ah'm not sure it was chasing us to begin with."

"So why in Celestia's name were we running!?" She shouted from the ground, frustrated and still a little agitated.

"It's uh, good exercise?" Applejack responded with a nervous laugh. Her friend was tempted to hit her with whatever was closest to her right now, but decided against it. She got up and tried to compose herself.

"So what now Applejack?" Rarity asked, looking around at her unfamiliar surroundings.

"I haven't the darnest idea." She responded looking around, after losing hope in finding a familiar land mark or something of the like, Applejack looked straight up.

"What are you looking at darling?"

"Ah'm looking for some stars, but there don't seem to be any out."

"Well of course not, it isn't actually night. We're just inside a field of darkness with Discord in control of the environment."

"So that means we ain't got no way of telling up from down huh?"

"Seems like it, yes."

Getting an idea, Applejack grabbed a nearby stone and started using it to draw an apple on the ground.

"Uh, Applejack darling, I know you really like your apples, but I doubt this is the time to do that."

"Hush now, Ah'm just making a landmark we can recognize in case we end up walking past here again." She said, finishing drawing her apple along with a diamond and an arrow along side it. "See? It's our cutie marks with the direction we're heading in, so if any of our friend's find it, they'll know where we are."

"That's very astute, I didn't expect that from you."

"Ah'll take that as a compliment." Applejack replied before standing back up and gesturing her friend to follow along. As planned, they began to walk in the direction the arrow was pointing in. The two of them walked for quite some time, all the while not uttering a single word mostly because the surroundings didn't exactly give them the small talk vibe needed for it. Finally, after trees and trees, they reached a clearing, a small patch where nothing stood but dirt and weeds.

"Great! We can use this place as another landmark." Applejack said, excited that they finally got something to do other than walk none stop.

"Allow me." Rarity said, walking to the middle of the clearing as she looked around for an instrument she could use to draw their landmark. For some reason, however, she felt the urge to look up once she reached the center of the clearing. She didn't give it a second thought, but as she glanced up, she soon wished she hadn't. In a surge of emotion, she let out a loud heart clenched scream.


"Did you hear that now!?" Pinkie asked out, a loud shout quite apparent to both her and Twilight who were still rather lost in the thick fog of white.

"Yeah, think some pony really is in trouble?" Twilight responded, and though still unsure as to where there were exactly, the sound they heard was still audible. "Follow where the sound is coming front!" She shouted as she began to trot in the direction she head the shrieking still coming from. Soon enough, Twilight was able to see Pinkie running along side her, the fog no longer hindering their vision and the dark forest back in view. They spent no time celebrating that their sight was back as they screaming was becoming louder, meaning they were close. What come next was something strange indeed, Rarity sat crying out as Applejack held her, blocking her vision from something.

"Rarity!" Pinkies shouted out as she ran over to the two. "Applejack, what happened to her?" The orange mare didn't answer as she too was disturbed from whatever they had seen. Pinkie wanted to ask again, but as she opened her mouth to speak, something wet landed on her cheek. Quickly she wiped it off and noticed that whatever had landed on her was red. Puzzled by what it could be, she lifted her head to see where it had come from.

What was above her was a scene of true horror. A corpse was suspended in the air by black crystal spikes that impaled it multiple times. Blood began to drip down from each of the dozen wounds it had, slowly drenching the black crystal in a red color. The limbs of the stallion swung back and forth as the momentum from the stabs had not worn off yet. Again a drop of blood fell from the dead body landing upon Pinkie's forehead. The pink mare's eyes remained wide open as disbelief and denial took over her. The corpse reflected on her sapphire eyes as tears began to stream out in a silent cry. Her voice was stuck in her throat as she mustered the strength to shout. Finally, after what felt like an eternity of silence, Pinkie let out a scream of horror and heart ache as her eyes remained glued to the familiar figure.


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