• Published 16th Jul 2014
  • 2,957 Views, 51 Comments

That Which Plagues the Mind - Journey Blue



King Sombra has returned from the shadows, his sights on a new conquest. Twilight Sparkle's efforts to save the Crystal Empire may have gone unnoticed by the masses, but not by Sombra. She has earned his interest. Much to her dismay.

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Chapter 1 - What Time Will Take

Twilight stared at the Tree of Harmony. Seeking solace. Trying to gather her thoughts. Thoughts which defied her. Thoughts that assailed her with feelings of unease, of worry.

Of dread.

Memories that had been buried had resurfaced. Memories that had all but faded away had returned. And the feeling of shame, and of guilt, along with them.

He had spoken to her again.

----------

“Apparently, you didn't get the message the first time,” She spoke, her malicious tone and regal composure all trying to hide her anxiety.

“Oh, rest assured. I got your message. It was clear. Quite. Clear,” said Sombra, turning to look at her with his sightless eye. The eye that she had taken. “But alas, it was my message that was gravely. . .misunderstood.”

“Misunderstood? Don’t make me laugh. You. Tried. To. Kill. Me,” She almost shouted.

“You were never in any real danger. I merely wished to get your attention. To earn your respect so that you would listen seriously to what I had to say.” He paused, looking over at Twilight with smug composure, Twilight glowering at him with a look of disdain.

Glowering, yet listening.

He continued, sounding almost apologetic. Almost. “I will admit my methods were a bit harsh. But you wounded me with your condescension. Such behavior is unbecoming of a pony of your stature. Surely I deserve more than to be patronized by a pony who is barely more than a foal? ”

He was baiting her. And she bit.

“Oh that’s rich! Coming from you of all ponies! You dare lecture me? You, who are but the scum of Equestria!” she snapped back at him in a manner not so dignified.

“Come now, Princess. One would hope that you could be more gracious when presented with such a generous offer?”

Twilight had to bite back her response and keep her anger from boiling over. He was toying with her. Just toying. That was all he was truly capable of, and words were his only weapon. He had no other means to get to her.

And yet he was getting under her skin with such ease.

Her words were calm when she spoke. Calm and saturated with contempt.“Your offer was no more than lies. An act of deceit. You wish to trick me, to control me, to make a puppet out of me, and enslave me like you did with all of the ponies in the Crystal Empire.”

He seemed all too amused.

“That is where you misunderstand, Princess,” He said, smiling. “I was not lying. And never once did I try to deceive you. I wish to make you a queen. My Queen. And I am offering to teach you magic that Celestia could never understand. Secrets that Celestia could never know. But you can. You have that potential. The potential to be greater than Celestia ever could. A potential I would help you realize. That is what I offer you.” He paused, then continued, “And the offer. Still. Stands.

Twilight was caught off guard. He had sounded genuine.

And now she struggled to respond. She opened her mouth to give a rebuttal. But no words came.

She was silent.

Much to his amusement.

“No,” She finally said, shaking her head. “That is not what you offer.”

“Is that so?” he said mockingly.

“What you offer is corruption. A curse. You would have me forsake my friends, forsake Celestia, and forsake what I have worked so hard to achieve. And for what? Power? Prestige? What use would I have of them? What need?”

Eat that Sombra.

“What makes you think I would have you forsake anything of the sort?” he said. Calm, yet stern.

“What?”

“You think that what I offer comes at a cost? A sacrifice?”

“Of course it does,” Twilight said, now agitated.

Enough with the games, Sombra.

“The only sacrifice you need make is the acknowledgment that there are aspects of this world that Celestia’s light does not reach. Cannot reach. Places that she fears to tread. Knowledge that she fears to pursue.”

“And I wonder why that would be,” said Twilight sarcastically.

“Care to find out?” He was smiling wily.

“What? No. Never,” She stammered.

“Now that cannot be right. Twilight Sparkle—The Twilight Sparkle—would never turn her back on an unsolved mystery.” Again, he was mocking her.

“If Celestia fears it, then there is a good reason,” She said without more than a trace of doubt.

But still a trace.

“The only reason is that she fears her own shadow,” He spoke with obvious disgust.

Celestia casts no shadow!” she said in defiance. Mock her if he wanted, but she would not let him mock Celestia.

He barked with laughter and spoke in a dark mirth that frightened Twilight. “Celestia’s shadow is the darkest of them all! And she has done well at keeping you in the dark! Your ignorance would be endearing if it weren't so pathetic. So deliberate”.

Each word and syllable, hammer and nails.

Twilight couldn't speak. Her words had failed her.

And thus, unabated, Sombra continue his slander, “You think her the embodiment of perfection? You think her incorruptible? She. Is. Not. She is but prey to her own fears. She refuses to acknowledge the darkness at her essence! Her denial is divine!”.

And yet she defeated you!

Sombra turned on her. His face inches from hers. His stare, his voice, like ice.

Chilling her to the bone.

“How. Wrong. You. Are.”

She step back. Instinctively. Briefly stricken by terror.

And he advanced. with frigid malice clinging to every word.

She, who is but the plaything of her fears! She, who would willingly deny her own shadow! Could never defeat me! She would be at my mercy! Was! At! My! Mercy! Unaided by her sister, she would have fallen!

“Yet, even with the princess of the moon by her side, she could only fight me to a standstill! And, in the end, at the cost of the entire Crystal Empire, she chose to seal me beneath the Arctic ice! Vainly hoping I’d fade away into the shadows!"

He paused. The look of shock on the young princess's face had been too rewarding not to admire. It would be the greatest pleasure for him to crush what remained of her resolve.

“Yet after a thousand years of imprisonment, I returned. And. She. Did. Nothing. Nothing but cower in her palace. Sending others to finish what she never could.”

Sombra stopped, and stared at her. At her. His voice no longer cold. No longer malicious. His words sounded. . .

Sad.

“And you wish to be just like her.”

He was pitying her. Pitying her!

Eyes closed. Teeth gritted. In a fit of frustration. She slammed her hoof down.

Enough!” She had had it.

Regaining her composure. Recovering her footing. Containing her emotions. She stared back at King Sombra. Speaking forcefully. Deliberately.

Angrily.

“I have had enough of your games, Sombra. I will not continue to listen to your slander, your mockery, or your offers anymore. Now, either leave willingly. . .”

Her horn glowed menacingly.

“Or permanently.”

For a brief moment, a look of surprise broke through his smug complexion, and he took a few steps back. Then he grinned. His smug composure regained.

“So be it. I see there is no point speaking to deaf ears,” He paused, then spoke with a hint of admiration in his voice, “You bare your teeth well, Princess.”

Twilight remained unmoved. Her face stone. Her eyes glaring. Her horn glowing with an angry hum.

Sombra turned to leave. But stopped halfway. “In time you will realize the truth to my words. In time you will realize the limits to Celestia’s wisdom. Compared to a millennia sealed in ice, watching you toil about in your ignorance will be rather amusing. So I can wait. For years. Decades. Centuries I can wait. I have the time.

He turned to leave.

“And so do you for that matter.”


She knew she shouldn't. But it was something about how he had spoken. The tone in his voice. There was something he was not letting on. And curiosity got the better of her.

“And what is that supposed to mean?” she spoke, a bit too eagerly than she would have liked.

Oh?” said Sombra in mock surprise, “Surely the thought has occurred to you? You, of all ponies.”

“I said enough with the games, Sombra. Say what you mean and be done with it,” She said flatly.

“I was merely referring to your lifespan. As an Alicorn,” He spoke, matching her tone.

“How does that have anything to do with this?” Her voice was laced with uncertainty. The light from her horn dimming. Thoughts were beginning to surface. Thoughts she had not wanted acknowledge. Had not wanted to voice.

But Sombra was all too pleased to voice them for her.

“Regardless of whether being an Alicorn means you are immortal, it is certain that you will live no short of several millennia. Has the thought not occurred to you—You, whose power stems from friendship itself—Ever wondered what it would be like to watch your friends, generations after generations, age and die before your eyes? ” He had now turned to face her. A malicious glee in his eye as he watched the light of Twilight’s horn go dark.

Her resolve was cracking.

Not really,” She spoke in a weak voice. Her face cast down. She hadn't given it much thought, had tried not to give it much thought.

He began to walk towards her. Speaking with an air of concern. And enjoying every second.

He had already won.

“Tell me Princess. Are you prepared to watch those closest to you waste away? Are you willing to stand aside as your friends are fated to die?”

She continued to stare at her hooves. Flinching at every word. Shaking her head as if to say no. No. No!

No to Sombra. No to the thoughts. No to the truth.

Time for the final blow.

Sombra, towering over the hunched mare, knelt down to place a gentle hoof under her chin. Softly lifting her head so that she would look at his face. A face no longer smug, no longer mocking. A kind face that stared at her with a kind eye. And with a firm voice, a reassuring voice, he spoke. His words a subtle knife. A knife that slipped, so sweetly, so welcome, into her heart. Leaving a wound most grievous.

“I can show you how to fight fate, Twilight.”

And her resolve broke.

-----------

Twilight clutched her head. Her mind still reeling.

She had tried to respond. Had tried to speak. But her words had only come out as whimpers. She had lost all her composure.

And he had just stood there.

Stood looking at her with concern. With pity. Watching her as she babbled gibberish.

And then he was gone. Leaving her to her turmoil.

What was she to do? What had Sombra actually done? He hadn't attacked her. Only talked to her. And she had listened.

Actually listened.

And his words had had such power over her. Power she let them have. She had let them, let him, get through to her. To prey on her thoughts, her feelings. Steal her solace. Undermine her confidence. Shatter her resolve.

She had let him break her.

She grew angry at these thoughts. Anger that quickly extinguished, giving way to despair. Despair that brought with it feelings of guilt, feeling of doubt, of shame, uncertainty, frustration, anguish.

Hopelessness.

Why? Why couldn't she, with all her power, all her talent, with everything she had learned, everything she had read, stand up to him? Why did she let him cripple her with mere words?

But what if they hadn't been just words?

What if?

What if they had been the truth? What it what he had said about Celestia was true? What if he truly meant to help her?

No. This had to stop. She had to free herself from the trap that she had let him snare her in. From the doubt that now clung to her thoughts.

But how?

To whom could she turn for help?

Celestia was out of the question. How could she tell Celestia that she hadn't been able to stand up to the shadow that ailed her? That she had, once again, let him get the better of her. Could she stand to see the look of disappointment on her mentor’s face? And what about what Sombra had said? Said about Celestia. How could Twilight even began to ask her if there was any truth to his words?

Can you even trust her?

Twilight wasn't certain anymore.

And what about your friends?

The thought only made her feel worse.

So there she stood, at the base of the Tree of Harmony. She had come alone. Had come seeking comfort. The comfort it had taken from her.

In its trunk, in each of its branches, lay the Elements. Tangible proof of the bonds that tied her friends and her together: their Friendship made manifest. It had been the Elements that first united her with her friends. It had been the Elements that had helped them face the trials of Nightmare Moon, and of Discord. If had been with the help of the Elements that she had first realized her potential.

The Elements had been a physical, and powerful, source of affirmation.

And now they were gone.

Taken from her grasp. Taken in order to stop the encroachment of the Everfree, and to save the Tree of Harmony. Yes, it had been necessary, there was no question. But why had it have to come at the cost of something so precious? So precious to her.

Yet their friendship remained intact. It endured. The Tree could not take that away. Could never take that away.

But what can the Tree take compared to what Time inevitably will?

Their friendship could endure for years, for decades, for a lifetime. But Time would ultimately win. And Time would take away her friends. One by one.

And Twilight would be alone.

Alone with him.

She didn't know what she dreaded more. The idea that her friends wouldn't always be by her side. Or that Sombra would. And there was nothing she could do about it.

Or can you?

‘I can show you how to fight fate, Twilight.’

No! She mustn't give up. Mustn't give in. There was still hope. Tangible hope. And it lay right in front of her. There, among the roots of the Tree of Harmony, atop its flower pedestal, was The Box. A box with six keyholes. A box that she and her friends must one day open. And inside would be the answers she desired so desperately. Inside would be the solace that eluded her so vehemently. Inside would be the light that banished the shadows that plagued her mind. Because inside was hope. And as long as she had her box, she could hope.



She could only hope.

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