• Published 15th Sep 2014
  • 10,062 Views, 243 Comments

From Darkness To Light - Pixel_Spark



When an insidious evil threatens the Crystal Empire, the Princesses must call upon the most unlikely pony; Sombra. Can he overcome his own darkness in order to save the empire from a far worse one?

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Arrival & Adaptation


Celestia had been woken by the worst nightmare she'd seen in many a year. Her dreams, and Luna’s, had been centred on an encroaching darkness, headed for the Crystal Empire. A tear in the sky, spewing darkness, it brought with it a feeling of dread. So they set off for the Empire the morning after, to warn Cadance.

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While the dreams were still being pored over by the concerned Princesses, late into the night, there was an ear-splitting bang. They ran to the windows of the crystal palace, their hearts sinking when they seen the thing from their dreams. A tear in the sky, a sickly wound made of pitch black, it obliterated a swathe of the starry night sky...

Cadance came haring into the room moments later, her expression steeped in fear.

"We need a plan." she said at last, and the two sisters nodded.

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Princess Twilight Sparkle was back in Ponyville, and the late hour made Celestia decide to fill her in face to face once she and her friends arrived. She swiftly dispatched a scroll, apologising for the urgent tone and late hour, knowing Spike would soon be shaking Twilight Sparkle awake with the news...

"So what is the plan? Dost thou have one sister?" Luna asked. Her mane, sparkling like a night sky, caught the starlight outside and shone.

Cadance yawned, sleepily "we need something to counteract it, but what?"

"The elements of harmony are not the answer this time, although I sense they are a part of the solution." Celestia wished she could more clearly articulate what she felt. The elements had been crucial in defending Equestria before, but this was one of those occasions.

"To match darkness," Cadance said softly "I sense we need one who can understand its dark heart."

They all fell silent. Only one pony matched THAT particularly tricky description; King Sombra. A madpony by the time they’d come to deal with him, Celestia and Luna both knew he wasn’t the first pony they’d ask. Not even the last, really.

"I’m not too gone on that guy either." Cadance shook her head, tricoloured hair falling into her eyes. She pushed it away with one hoof. Sombra had caused her and her friends, not to mention the citizens of the Crystal Empire, a LOT of distress.

"We cannot have him terrorizing the ponies, yet as thou say, he is the closest match." Luna frowned. Celestia, soft shades of pink, sea foam green and blue swirling through her mane, nodded dubiously.

"There must be something, an insurance policy-!" Cadance got up and paced the room, frowning in concentration.

"Together we can force a limiter, suppress his magic. It won't be easy, dark magic is difficult to quash." Celestia said at last.

"Well it is better then letting him loose with said magic." Luna said dryly.

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The next morning, at an absurdly early hour, all three Alicorn’s grouped together in one of the palaces larger rooms, they needed space for this.

At Luna’s hooves sat a thin silver choker, with a glittering blue gem set in it. It was a special stone, to back up the powerful spells laid into the ornaments framework.

Joining them was the crystal heart, the symbol of the Crystal Empire. A magical object, it captured the love and joy of the ponies of the Empire. They needed the extra boost to ensure this worked; the heart had a great deal of magic in itself.

Even though Sombra had supposedly been destroyed, Cadance was sure a part of him was still inside the crystal heart. He had been the Empire's ruler at one point, after all.

Standing in a triangle, with a big space between them, the three Alicorn’s closed their eyes and their horns began to glow.

At Cadance’s hooves, the crystal heart began to shine too, a line of shimmering blue magic flowing from it to the growing mass of magic at the room's centre.

After a moment, it began to take on the shape of a familiar pony. Long, flowing mane and tail, black as night. Dark grey fur, red tipped horn, a silver crown keeping his mane away from his face. Silver armor on his legs, a flowing fur tipped cloak...

Everything seemed to be going to plan, then the heart did something unexpected. It shuddered at Cadance’s hooves, a small faceted shard breaking off and flying into the semi-transparent shape of the Empire's former King. This had the effect of sending things into a spin.

There was a massive flash of light, causing them all to step back. Sombra's form solidified, crashing to the ground with an audible thud. He lay there struggling to breathe, pawing at his chest as if in pain.

"Uh oh-" Cadance stepped back as Sombra staggered to his hooves, lurching uneasily about, dazed and confused.

He uttered a single name;

"Cloudspark..."

Celestia frowned, where had she heard that name before? But it was soon forgotten, as he let out a roar of sheer agony, then pelted towards the window-

"Stop!" Celestia cried, lunging for the unicorn. For a moment she managed to get her forelegs around his neck, tried to haul him back, but he snarled something she couldn’t understand and tore free. As the others ran up behind Celestia, he took a jump through the window.

But his disoriented state meant he failed on landing, one leg buckling underneath him and pitching him to the grass. He tried to get to his hooves, but passed out once more...

"Sister! Look who is here! Their timing is magnificent." Luna pointed a hoof at the small band of ponies now circling the fallen Sombra. The blue one poked him with a hoof, and the purple Alicorn ushered her back.

"Nice timing, Twilight!" Cadance was happy to see her sister-in-law.

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"Pokey poke-"

"Rainbow Dash!" Twilight Sparkle said crossly. The rainbow haired Pegasus pony raised an eyebrow then shrugged.

"Uhm...I think he broke his leg." Fluttershy said timidly, peering at Sombra’s left foreleg, which now had an odd bend in it.

"Shame that’s all he broke." Applejack grumbled.

“What?" she said in reply to Fluttershy's look "the guy was a colossal jerk, remember?"

“Which brings me to the question; WHAT THE HAY IS HE DOING HERE?!" Rainbow Dash shouted.

Twilight Sparkle winced at the volume "I don’t know..."

"I believe I can explain.." they looked up as Princess Celestia approached, a quartet of royal guards bearing a stretcher close behind her.

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They sedated and carried Sombra back inside, where Celestia had him put in a room where he couldn’t do any more death-dives out of windows.

"Oh, before we forget, best doing THIS while he’s unconscious.." Celestia nodded to Luna , who levitated the magic laden choker over to her.

"Ooh..." Twilight Sparkle could sense it’s strength "what’s THAT for?"

"Sombra’s magic is as powerful as it is dark, we cannot risk him having it." Luna explained as her sister walked over to where the snoozing Sombra lay. For a moment she appeared to study him, then in one swift movement she nudged his mane aside and clipped the choker around his neck. It glowed, and he winced, stirring slightly but not waking.

"We cannot have him running amok with that sort of power," Celestia finished seriously, as she came over "Even I do not know the depth of his strength."

"Whoa.." Twilight Sparkle said.

“Now, let us talk." Luna managed a faint smile.

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"Run that by me again, I didn’t get all the crazy in there..." Rainbow Dash said after Celestia finished. The Princess smiled faintly.

"I know it seems absurd, but my sister and I both agree that we are facing an imminent darkness, and something deep inside tells us Sombra is our only answer."

"So, the solution is the Empire being enslaved...AGAIN. Not to rain on your parade Princess, but.." Rainbow Dash looked for the right words "Sombra’s a loon!"

"He was grotesquely mean!" Rarity said.

Twilight Sparkle looked at Celestia "is this the same as Discord?"

"You mean, reform him?" Fluttershy asked curiously.

"Yes girls, I believe it is. That’s why I called you here. I sensed you and your elements may be able to help him in some part.”

A guard came pounding in the door, looking flushed. He looked at Celestia "your "guest" is awake, and he’s going crazy.."

"Going?" Rainbow Dash asked sarcastically, but they followed nonetheless.

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The room possessed a balcony that looked down into it from above. A set of heavy locked doors meant Sombra couldn’t escape that way either, and not just because of the spells the princesses had placed on the room.

When they peered over the balcony, they seen the guard wasn’t joking. Sombra had thoroughly trashed the room. Shards of broken furniture lay about, but that wasn’t what baffled them. It was HOW Sombra was making such a mess.

He was huddled over in the centre of the wreckage, eyes shut, his body shuddering under the cloak. Every so often he tried to stand, only to collapse. As they watched, his body glowed with a pale blue light, which expanded outwards, smashing the furniture shards even further into dust.

Celestia stared. Beside her, Applejack asked;

"Betting that AINT what y'all were expecting?"

"No.." Celestia shook her head "I thought we'd suppressed his powers, save for the basic levitation ability. Plus, that aura doesn’t match HIS."

Sombra reared to his feet, letting out a cry of such real anger and pain that Fluttershy teared up in sympathy.

"Something’s really hurting him.." she whispered "this isn’t right."

Celestia and Twilight Sparkle nodded, and together they launched another sleep spell, which at last made the aura fade. Sombra lay curled up in his cloak, only twitching occasionally.

"We need to talk. AGAIN." Luna’s voice drifted into the silence.

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"So a shard of the heart shattered?" Twilight Sparkles eyes went wide "is it bad?"

"Not really, one of the facets just looks a little wonky," Cadance said "it’s functioning just fine, seems it's just surface damage."

"Whew," Rarity sighed "I’d hate such a lovely treasure to be damaged, it’s simply exquisite!"

"Agreed!" Luna added "but what of the missing shard? We hath searched high and low in that room, but there’s no sign of it."

Twilight Sparkle had been pondering that for a while, now she recalled the exact colour of the hearts magic.

"I think I know." she said, her mind a whirl.

"Then spill!" Rainbow Dash cried.

"You recall that blue aura Sombra was giving off, well, it's the same as the hearts."

"You think the shards in HIM?" Pinkie Pie blurted through a mouthful of cake.

"Possibly." Luna shook her head at Pinkie Pie’s table manners, then looked at her sister "it makes sense. It explains why he was bucking about in such pain when we summoned him. We thought it merely a side effect of the process..."

"But from what we seen, it’s something more." Celestia finished her sister’s theory.

"Why did the heart break off a part of itself? Was that part of the plan?" Twilight Sparkle asked.

Cadance shook her head; "No. The shard shattering and doing what it did was a surprise."

"But why is he totally bonkers...I mean...MORE bonkers-" Rainbow Dash frowned, thinking up more insults. "What the one I’m looking for? "Suffering a severe case of the galloping crazy"?"

"Uhm.." Fluttershy bobbed her head anxiously, she had a clue.

"Speak, Fluttershy dear." Celestia encouraged. Fluttershy stared at the table, and the empty cake plate in front of her.

"Uhm..I t-think...I think its because he’s in pain. H-he has a dark heart, right? So maybe...maybe the shard of the crystal heart is within his OWN heart. And he’s not used to it...so...it hurts..?" she finished with a squeak.

"That..." Luna said "is the smartest thing we have heard so far. You may be onto something Fluttershy..."

"It makes perfect sense.." Twilight Sparkle said, after a think "certainly explains why he came flying out a window!"

“What’s up with that? He think he was an Alicorn or something?" Rainbow Dash sniggered.

"No, I think its all there in Fluttershy’s theory, the shard of the heart is embedded inside HIS heart, and its causing him pain. If he is to be of any use to us, we must find a way to suppress it..." Celestia mused.

"Hay Cadance," Twilight Sparkle asked, "when is my BBBFF coming back from his trip?"

"He'll be back in a week!" Cadance beamed.

"Boy is he gonna FLIP when he sees Sombra." Rainbow Dash remarked.

Twilight Sparkle figured she’d deal with that when he got back.

"Where is the small pudgy dragon?" Luna asked.

"Spike? Oh he’s looking after Fluttershy’s animals," Twilight Sparkle beamed "well, he and Ditzy Doo, turns out she’s good with critters!"

Fluttershy beamed "they’ll be just great!"

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When Sombra next awoke, the agony that’d been tormenting him had faded. Now a dull ache in his chest, he was at least able to wobble to his hooves. Looking down he seen, underneath the armoured shoes he wore, his left foreleg was bandaged thickly. It throbbed when he put weight on it.

He limped around the trashed room, anger and confusion smouldering in his chest. What’d happened? His last memory was...was...

He shook his head. All he knew was he’d been defeated. On the verge of controlling the empire for good, and a purple-pink Alicorn had stopped him.

"Awake at last." a voice met his ears. Looking up, he seen...

"Celestia!" he roared "what is the meaning of this?!"

"You have been restored to your life, but only so as to save this kingdom."

“What makes you think I’d do that?" the pain in his chest pulsed, and he bit back a snarl.

"Because that choker you're wearing will ensure it."

He trotted over to an un-shattered picture frame. In it’s reflection he seen, in addition to his usual get-up, a silver-banded choker was locked around his neck. At its centre was a shimmering blue gem.

"Its impossible to remove by yourself, its powerful Alicorn magic." Celestia continued. "And it WILL stop you if you try to hurt anypony!"

"Why awaken me at all?" Sombra raged.

Celestia closed her eyes. A shimmering square appeared in front of Sombra. It was the view from the same window he’d dived out of.

"Do you see it? In the sky..."

Sombra squinted, then stepped back. Celestia seen him tense up, a barely discernible shiver racing over his stocky frame.

Sombra stared at the image in shock. In the sky, a small dark tear wavered, but he sensed it was growing...

"It's seeking something," he whispered, his ruby red eyes widening a little "It's not from this world." He had no clue how he knew this, only that he knew he was RIGHT.

"Whereas all we can see is a darkness in the skies. Already this has proven to be the correct decision. Even YOU cannot deny the danger of what we seek." Celestia said at last, making the image vanish.

"And why would I bother helping you?" Sombra turned his back to her, mane swishing around his face.

Celestia sighed "the world has changed from what you knew, this is a chance to still have a part in your old kingdom. But you must understand what it really takes to protect and serve-”

"You can't defeat this, so you want ME to do your dirty work, is that it? Oh how the mighty have failed!" he gave a short harsh laugh. Celestia didn’t seem fazed.

"Were I to claim I was perfect, I would be lying to myself. NOPONY is invulnerable. But I know THIS. This chaos is tied to you."

"I regret to say I could not have masterminded such intrigue," Sombra laughed again "I've been very busy...being dead and GONE, or did you forget?!"

"The blame is not yours to bear, but the salvation may be. If this is what it takes to save this place, it is what we will do. You have a second chance to prove you are more than you appear to be."

His fury rose, but his head ached so severely he couldn’t think. He felt...disjointed, off. Like he was missing more than just his magical abilities. Everything seemed sharper and brighter, it almost HURT. “And I suppose YOU’RE going to preach at me until I do?" he snarled.

"No, I will leave that to a certain group of ponies who saved the empire from you before...I believe you remember them.."

Around her, Sombra seen six sort-of unknown fillies file in. He stared at them, AND kept right on staring.

"No." he said at last.

"No, you’re not co-operating, or no, you don’t know us?" Rainbow Dash asked.

"The second one, dye-job.." Sombra remarked.

"Lemme at him!" Rainbow Dash snapped, flapping her wings-

"Settle down Dashie!" Pinkie Pie said, "he’s just grumpy!"

“So would you be you talking piece of cotton candy!" Sombra roared. Pinkie Pie giggled loudly, swishing her tail.

"Ooh, do Applejack next!" she giggled. Applejack poked her with one hoof.

"Calm down you guys..." Twilight Sparkle said.

Sombra turned his back on them and walked over to the reflective surface of the picture frame. Again he stared at the choker, at the glowing blue jewel. He didn’t hear the balcony door slam as the group of ponies left. He was lost in a daydream…

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The general reaction of the Empire'd citizens was one of panic, when the Princesses called an emergency meeting in the centre of the empire the following day, and delivered the news.

"Why HIM?!" one mare cried.

"Even WE do not know much about the darkest part of magic...." Celestia said "We have been able to glean nothing from studying this thing. I only had to show Sombra a glimpse of it for him to identify it as being sentient, and searching for something. There is no denying he has considerable knowledge that WE need in this crisis!"

More panicked murmurs.

"Fear not!" Cadance declared "We have been able to suppress all but the most basic levitation ability. He does not possess the dark magic he was noted for. We have taken every precaution to render him unable to hurt anypony."

The ponies looked mollified by this, they adored Cadance, and knew she cared for them in turn! She wouldn’t hurt them!

"We have been monitoring him since returning him to this world," Celestia continued "and he has so far not attempted to harm anypony in the castle. We will have a guard dispatched to monitor him at all times outside the palace. We ask you, despite your fear, not to go about your daily lives any differently than you usually would."

The crowd looked a little anxious still, but if he was under guard and had no magic, he couldn’t harm them, right?

"Thank you, all of you." Cadance gave her citizens a kind smile "You have all of our gratitude for staying strong!"

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The rest of the morning, gossip raced like wildfire. But despite their fear of the ex-King, the ponies were scared of the creepy dark rip in the sky. And if Sombra was the only way to help them, they would tolerate the brutish unicorn as much as they could. After all, he was no friend to them, and they’d be relieved when both he and the tear were GONE.

And thus they consoled themselves with these seemingly unalterable facts. Sombra couldn’t be trusted. He'd only be here temporarily. They had the prince and four Alicorn princesses on their side!

But the eventual truth was to be far stranger than they had guessed....

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Back in the palace The Princesses rejoined the other five ponies and went over the plan one more time.

"My main beef is this: IS King grumpy a danger?" Rainbow Dash asked at last.

"I have locked down his power, he can do basic levitation magic and that’s about it," Celestia said calmly "I do not believe he poses a threat. The crystal heart is under lock-down until we're certain he can be trusted."

"Ah don’t trust the guy neither," Applejack shrugged "but if y'all really think he’s our only hope, then..." She trailed off.

"We’ll give it our best!" Fluttershy said at last.

"So what now?" Twilight asked Celestia.

"For tonight I will simply allow him to sleep in a proper room. As of tomorrow, I ask that at least one of you accompany him anywhere he goes, I can also post a guard."

The discussion went on for awhile, then they all went down to the main hall for a break.

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The next morning, Twilight Sparkle said she and Fluttershy would stick close to Sombra that day. Celestia had requests for the others she needed help with, and Rainbow Dash was attending a display by the Wonderbolts. It was their first show in the empire and she was psyched to go watch. Rarity was being asked to design a new cloak for Luna, and Pinkie Pie was preparing for a "random visit to the empire" party for that evening.

Pinkie Pie was up early and had already taken over the palace's kitchen before even its staff were awake, to Cadance's amusement. But after distributing her first batch of yummy cupcakes, the staff were happy to let her carry on. They were delicious!

The six friends had some for breakfast as well, and Fluttershy sidled up to Pinkie Pie as she was trotting back to the kitchen to ask a favour.

Twilight Sparkle raised an eyebrow as Fluttershy said she’d go get the ex-King, Sombra. Why was she carrying a basket?

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Sombra knelt atop the massive bedspread. His room was high up in the tower. The window opened, but he hit a barrier every time he tried to stick his head too far out. He didn’t recall diving out a window and breaking his leg, but the palace doctor had told him to go easy on it. Even though Celestia’s magic had all but healed it, it still needed a day or two.

Then he’d bolted from the room.

Even with his power locked down, Sombra was an intimidating force. He towered above most ponies, his height nearly on a par with that of the Alicorn’s. Add to that piercing red eyes and long, flowing mane, and he made an impressive sight. The red-tipped, curved, unicorn horn wasn’t something you seen every day either.

--It’s been how many years since those little fillies destroyed me..?-- he tried to think further back, but got a pain in his chest every time. He was aware of his own past, that is, as aware as you could be going on just a few sensations and fuzzy images. But every time he tried to gather up the memories of his past, his chest ached again. What was this pain?

There was a timid knock at the door, so he snarled "enter!" in the most imperial tone he could manage, figuring it was the doctor, back again. But he got a surprise when a soft, shy voice piped up;

"Uhm...we-we’re going to be leaving the castle soon...Twilight Sparkle said to tell you..." she quailed a little as Sombra angled his head to glare at her, but carried on anyway "a-also I brought muffins.."

Sombra was floored by the normality of this weird moment. --Get this straight, brain-- he told himself --she’s offering you food?! Is she mad?--

When he didn’t say anything, Fluttershy crept into the room, setting the basket down "they’re very nice," she said tremulously. Another harsh glare form Sombra made her wince, but she didn’t run. She’ d promised Twilight she’d get him to come with them.

Reluctant (but hungry), Sombra focused his meagre magic and floated one of the cakes towards himself. He didn’t recall anything this fancy from his former life, but then, what he didn’t recall could fill an encyclopedia!

Before he could question the logic behind accepting gifts from his jailers, curiosity got the better of him, and he ate half of one in a single bite. Crumbs pattered onto the book lying open under his hooves, but he didn’t notice. This cake was..

"Mmf.." he said, sniffing at the remaining half before stuffing it into his mouth whole with his magic.

"D-do you like them..?" Fluttershy asked.

Sombra’s answer was to levitate the remaining two out of the basket. Within seconds they were gone. He levitated the book, shaking the crumbs out of it;

"They’re....interesting." he said shortly. Fluttershy beamed.

"I take it you’re here to make sure I don’t dive out the window again?" he sneered bitterly.

"W-well I hope not...that must have hurt.." she said sympathetically.

"Pah, I don’t care...." he shook his head "fine, lets get this farce over with." he clambered off the bed, wobbling a little on his injured hoof, and at last settled into a slight limp as he followed Fluttershy down the hall towards the stairs.

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Twilight Sparkle took a deep breath and put on a serious face as she seen Fluttershy approach with Sombra. Even though he had no real power, she was wary of him. He regarded her for a moment, then spoke, taking in her wings;

"Princess." his tone was clipped, angry, but his expression was distant, as if he was doing his best to shut everything out.

"We’re taking a trip into the market; we need ingredients, plus it will give the townspeople time to get used to you being here again-"

"Pfft, prepare for a lot of screaming little Princess," Sombra laughed coldly "this is a fools errand!" Then he winced, as his head pounded again. Without realising, he’d raised one hoof to his neck, to attempt to claw the necklace off him.

"If that is what you believe, then fine. But most ponies would be happy to have a second chance at life!" Twilight Sparkle said before heading out the door.

Sombra paused, stung a little by her words. What good was a second chance when he was powerless? But he couldn’t deny something felt different this time. His head still felt fuzzy, and that sensation of missing a piece of his internal puzzle...

He glanced to his side, where that pink haired cake-bringer waited. She bobbed her head, indicating the door. Sighing, he trotted after the little Princess.

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One of the royal guard followed at a safe distance. Even without power, Sombra wasn’t entirely without danger. His physical strength and temper were ferocious in their own right.

As predicted, a few ponies DID shout and panic. But Twilight Sparkle reassured them as best she could, stressing Sombra was there to help solve the weird sky-tear. A few ponies still ran away when they seen the unicorn striding along beside the two smaller ponies. some looked like they wanted to throw something or go for him, but they kept their distance.

Magic or no, Sombra had a solid build that simply said; "You'd suffer less head-butting a WALL."

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"G-Good morning princess.." the shop owner stammered, as Twilight Sparkle wandered into the antique store.

"Morning!" she beamed "Do you have any new books in?"

"As it happens...yes.." he cast a nervous glance at Sombra, who was watching Fluttershy, who was going ga-ga over how adorable the statues of animals were. She just loved them!

--I can’t tell if she’s insane or just naturally like this..-- Sombra thought.

"Don’t worry.." Twilight Sparkle said in a whisper "he can’t hurt you.."

"I heard the news that monster was back, but I didn’t want to believe it. Is Princess Cadance sure she knows what she’s doing?"

"It’s her, Luna AND Celestia’s decision. Besides," she indicated the choker, with the brilliant blue stone embedded in its centre "that acts as a neutraliser. It'll stop him if he tries anything.."

“Just what do the Princesses hope to achieve with this?" he asked, trotting into the back room and levitating the books out to Twilight Sparkle, who poured over the titles, deciding what she wanted.

"You’ve seen that rip in the sky? Well, both Celestia and Luna believe Sombra holds the key to defeating it. We don’t know how yet, but I trust their decision."

“As do I, missy, but that don’t mean most of us aint scared of that...creature being back."

"Wow.." Fluttershy moved on to looking at a carved crystal. It was a deep purple, yet other colours seemed to swirl inside it. It’d been carved to resemble a bird. "What is that?"

Sombra sighed irritably "another pointless trink-hm?" he peered closely at it.

"Nopony knows what that is," the shop owner shrugged "very old, or so I’ve been told. Been a mystery since-"

“It's a "purple star" jewel." Sombra looked entirely nonplussed "stick that thing in direct sunlight and it'll glow. Little more then a distraction, no magical properties."

"How the hay-?!" the store owner gaped. "I've had EXPERTS study that thing and they're baffled!"

"Wow." even Twilight Sparkle looked startled. Sombra looked bored.

“They were virtually gone even in my time, they were used as luck charms. Pointless."

"Still, pretty!" Fluttershy said to the store owner.

Twilight Sparkle paid for the books she wanted and they left, leaving a flabbergasted shop owner behind.

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"How did you know that?" Twilight looked up at Sombra. When she'd seen him eyeing the jewel in the store, she thought she'd seen a flicker behind those emotionless garnet eyes...

Sombra snorted "A thing like that? Child's play."

"Rarity would pop if she knew all that." Twilight Sparkle chuckled at the idea, and Fluttershy smiled.

--Ugh, just seal me back inside the darkness...-- Sombra snarled to himself --they’re lucky I can't just rip this whole place apart!!--

A small shock from what he was terming a "dog collar", made him reel in the feelings of abject rage that’d been rising.

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For his part, Sombra ignored any eye contact, keeping his head high and focusing in the distance. He trailed along on auto pilot as Twilight Sparkle and Fluttershy went from stall to stall. Ponies stopped to gawp at him, some shouting harsh things, others just staring.

It was while he was staring into space that he heard a giggle, and felt something tug at his cloak. Blinking he looked down, coming nose-to-nose with a little unicorn filly, balancing atop a stack of fruit crates. She was a pale yellow, with brighter sunshine yellow and orange blended mane, reminding him of a flame.

She beamed at him, reaching one hoof up to poke the tip of his nose.

"Boop!" she declared.

He didn’t know it then, but that one word started off a process he would never have expected.

He stared, frankly stunned by her audacity. She was the first one to acknowledge him, especially like that.

Seeing she’d made him go slightly cross-eyed, the little unicorn filly giggled gleefully, and bounded round to his side, burrowing under his cloak and poking her head out so its fur trimmed edge framed her face like a hood.

"This fing is so much awesome!" she giggled.

Sombra raised one eyebrow, tilting his head so he could see her. She looked boldly up at him, smiling again.

"Hm." was all he said.

Then her eyes went wide, and she ducked back under, essentially hiding under Sombra’s cloak.

"Don’t move pwease!" she squeaked. Sombra felt the urge to snap. What was she doing?!

Three more little fillies ran by, calling out;

"Oh Bright Spark, where are you?"

"Yeah, c’mon, we just wanna play.." they giggled. Something about their words set Sombra’s nerves on edge. Those were mocking laughs. He could feel the little one hiding under his cloak, a tiny presence huddled by his forelegs.

They stopped not far from Sombra, looking about.

"Lets try under here!" they locked in on the stall Sombra was standing by. He heard the filly utter a soft wail and felt her shiver again. She tugged at the band of his armoured grey shoe, silently pleading for him to hide her...

So when the kids crept a little too close, he shifted forward subtly, changing his posture so the filly would be impossible to spot beneath the sweeping cloak. When they began to cross his path, he turned a sharp glare on them, which was enough to make them take in who they were getting in the way of. Uttering terrified squeals they ran away, resuming their search for the little filly.

"They are gone," he remarked at last "you can stop hiding under there."

"You sure?" her voice drifted up.

"Of course I’m sure!" he said a little sharply "they ran like cowards, I do not think you have much to fear from them!"

"You haven’t met them..." she said, poking her head out at him "they’re as bad as a wittle pony can be!"

"You have no clue who you’re talking to, do you?" Sombra muttered.

She didn’t seem to hear him, too busy scanning the area to make sure it was clear. Then she trotted out from under Sombra’s cloak.

"Fanks!" she beamed "you’re the best hiding pwace ever!"

THAT was the oddest thing he’d ever been called.

"I’m gonna go now, befowe they come back.." she sighed, then waved a hoof up at him "bye bye mister!"

Then she was gone.

Twilight Sparkle and Fluttershy had watched this entire encounter with eyebrows raised. How the little filly had poked Sombra’s nose, giggled, then suddenly dove under his cloak, aiming to hide herself from some ponies Fluttershy guessed were NOT friends of hers.

For a moment Twilight Sparkle had been sure Sombra was going to simply step aside, exposing her to her pursuers. But something had flickered in his eyes, a spark of...recognition? She wasn’t sure. Either way, he’d stayed put, letting her hide, and even scaring the kids away with one fierce glare.

Sombra hadn’t reacted hostilely to the filly, hadn’t flown into a rage and shouted once. Those that’d seen the little tableau play out, murmured amongst themselves. So far, Sombra hadn’t threatened or hurt them, could what the princess had told them be true? Could he be there, to help?

A defenceless little filly had gambolled right up to him, seemingly with the pretence of poking him on the muzzle. Given his past history, the ponies watching had tensed for action, to rescue her. But then they'd become entranced by the spectacle of the tiny filly playing about literally under hoof, and Sombra had just stood there, only tilting his head to follow her antics.

Once the little filly was gone, Sombra became aware of the stares and whispers, and felt a surge of disgust for getting so carried away. He felt that hateful darkness flood back in, any good mood sputtering out like a candle in a strong wind. His expression hardened, and he closed off his emotions again. His chest ached, that funny pain in his heart rearing its head again. Around his neck the choker sparkled briefly, as if in acknowledgement.

Twilight Sparkle seen the shift in his demeanour and sighed. It’d been going so well. but it seemed the barriers to changing Sombra’s dark heart were going to be very difficult.

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He followed the two ponies back to the castle, just absorbing this happy, prosperous kingdom. They loved their ruler, the tricoloured one who’d introduced herself as Cadance. He had ruled his subjects with an iron hoof, forcing them to slave for crystals all day and night. It hadn’t gotten him what he’d wanted.

He’d become even more bitter, and his magic had warped darker and darker as hatred took over. The darkness inside had whispered, telling him how he deserved total devotion for his power. How these pathetic crystal ponies needed a firm hoof to guide them.

But now, here they were, under the care of a fluffy-haired Alicorn, and they seemed so carefree, the town prosperous. But since waking up back here again, he’d been feeling strange. This was HIS kingdom. Or had been...

But something about that little filly had made him hesitate in his silent fuming over his circumstances. Her wide eyed innocence, the way she’d gambolled straight up to him without hesitation. She either didn’t know who he was, or simply didn’t care!

All of a sudden his head swam, a sharp pain in his chest making him stop in his tracks, uttering a low snarl of pain. He tried to force himself onwards, but it was suddenly much more difficult...

He was putting so much effort into keeping upright he didn’t see the couple carrying a big box between them until they bumped into his side.

"Oof-EEK!" the mare spied who she’d bumped a box into, losing concentration and dropping the box. It came within inches of the ground, the crystal wineglasses in it rattling together, when it stopped, a dark purple aura surrounding it.

They looked up, watching in astonishment as Sombra just stared at the box.

Realising he was waiting for her to pick it back up, the mare hurriedly refocused her magic and Sombra let it go, before walking boredly away. At least it seemed like boredom.

"Uh...t-thanks?” the mare’s friend managed at last. He and his marefriend shared startled glances.

Sombra blinked, looking back at where he thought someone had just....thanked him? Why had he done it?! He’d just caught the object on reflex, the glint of the glasses reminding him of the crates of crystals he’d once filled his palace with.

For a moment, he felt fury at himself for lowering himself in that manner, how dare these ponies expect him to-

Then he just shoved past the gawping ponies and caught up with Twilight Sparkle, who hadn’t noticed him slow down.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Ooh, look!" Fluttershy looked over at the front lawn of the palace, where a bouncing pink pony could be seen hopping about a table.

"Pinkie Pie is at work again!" Twilight Sparkle laughed.

Behind her Sombra felt the pain in his chest surge again, and he felt the world sway. He came to a halt, fighting to push the pain back, but it wasn’t fading.

"Twilight!!" the pink one bounded over, tail swishing "were nearly done with our "first day of the plan" party lunch!"

“Another party? What about this evening?" Twilight Sparkle laughed.

"Oh that’s ON, I just wanted to celebrate NOW!" Pinkie Pie beamed.

Behind them, Sombra lost the fight and was booted out of consciousness. He crumpled to the crystal walkway, prompting a yelp from Pinkie Pie, who pelted over, crouching beside Sombra and poking him carefully.

"What happened?" Twilight Sparkle wondered. He’d been fine the whole morning, why so suddenly-?

"I’ll go get help!" Fluttershy ran off, returning shortly with a pair of guards and the stretcher again.

The guards checked the unconscious unicorn over, but there was no external sign of injury, no reason why he’d suddenly collapsed. Best they could do was take him to the medical room, and have the doctor check him over.

"W-will he be OK?" Fluttershy asked, her natural kindness unable to stop her from worrying about Sombra.

"I’m sure he'll be fine, maybe it’s just a side effect of being brought back?" Twilight Sparkle guessed.

"Yay!" thus appeased, Pinkie Pie turned back to the others "lunch party!"

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"How did it go?" Applejack asked as Twilight sat down. She’d been with Pinkie Pie, helping to bake all morning.

"Um..not that bad actually!" Twilight Sparkle found herself saying. Once they all had a plateful of food, she started recounting the tale of Sombra’s first day in public.

"Wait, he actually stood there while some kid goofed about with his cloak?!" Rainbow Dash asked.

"I could design him something far better." Rarity shuddered.

"Yeah, didn’t snap at her, didn’t fly into a rage, just WATCHED her." Twilight shrugged "I think he was surprised she was so fearless!"

"That’s one brave filly.." Applejack shook her head.

"Maybe this won't be so bad.." Fluttershy piped up.

"I don’t know, I still don’t trust him.." Rainbow Dash scowled "but, seeing as the princess locked his powers down, I guess I’ll give it a try."

"Thanks Rainbow Dash," Twilight Sparkle beamed at her friend "who knows, in time he may understand the magic of friendship."

“I think you’re getting a little TOO far ahead there Twi," Applejack said.

"Yay, more friends!" Pinkie Pie cheered.

"I’ll consider it a win if I can improve his dress sense.." Rarity muttered.

"What was up with him passing out?" Rainbow Dash asked "he that desperate to get away from us?"

"I don’t think so Rainbow Dash," Twilight Sparkle frowned "I don’t know what caused it. It’s a mystery..."

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The dream was mostly darkness, but it carried a feeling he hadn’t felt in an eternity. Fear. Whatever lurked in that darkness was dormant for now, but soon...

--Time to feed!-- a voice cut like a knife through his mind, bringing with it a loathsome feeling, one he wanted nothing to do with.

"Back off" he snarled, whirling in the darkness. He felt the sensation of something pressing in on him, cutting off the air. He tried to run, and felt something coil around his neck-

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Standing by the bed, Celestia frowned, seeing him shudder slightly, uttering a faint snarl.

"What’re you seeing Sombra..?" she muttered. Her dreams had only been faint suggestions, nothing she woke up able to remember. She touched her unicorn horn to Sombra’s, trying to link to the sensations in his dreams.

What she felt made her step back, worry gnawing at her chest. The kingdom was in very real danger if this was even HALF accurate..

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Staring in the diffuse light, he seen an arrow of darkness , its pointed tip nose to nose with his. Then it shuddered, and glinting yellow eyes appeared;

"There is nothing you can do, you don’t know what you're fighting for!"

"What the hay are you?!" he roared, using his sharp fangs to bite at the coil. It retreated with a sharp hiss, eyes narrowing at him.

"This world will fall like all the others, little pony..." it taunted, then dove right at his heart-

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

He bolted awake with a sharp gasp.

His head pounded and he felt sick. He noticed he was lying on a bed in a white tiled room. Around him other beds, vacant and tidied, filled the room.

--A hospital??-- he thought. Never mind, time to get out of there.

He got down off the bed, turned to go-

And came face to face with an amused Celestia. He backed up, knocking into a cart of instruments, and nearly knocking it over but for Celestia righting it.

"Celestia!" he barked.

"That would be the case," she responded smoothly "Twilight Sparkle told me what happened,"

"What concern is it of yours anyway??"

"Because," she said "at one point, whilst you were sleeping, I sensed that same darkness from my dreams, in you. That thing, it was invading your dreams. Whether it can fully sense you, I don’t know."

Sombra worked this one out "you were standing there this whole time, staring?!" he looked moderately freaked out "don’t you have anything better to do, Princess?" this last word was a snarl.

"I was here for a reason," she chuckled then added, "you look a lot less terrifying asleep."

"Why you-" he snarled, but the necklace glowed, and he was driven into the floor.

"Whoops!" Celestia’s horn glowed and the pressure relented "too close a proximity will do that!"

"You call ME insane?!" he fumed, but didn’t add any curse words, much as he felt like it. He’d had enough encounters with the floor for that day!

"That choker sends out a signal when it's damaged or in danger. I felt a twinge from it, and came to examine it, but nothing is wrong."

"Hmph," he pushed past her, stalking out the door "maybe your magic’s not as brilliant as you claim!"

"Or perhaps something else caused that signal.." she murmured.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Up in his room Sombra staggered to the bed and collapsed. His head ached. An unknown, strange feeling was battering at his defences. Curiosity. That little filly hadn’t been scared of him, she had to have been told who he was by her parents. Yet she’d bounded up and poked his nose without fear.

He snarled in anger, unable to comprehend what the hay was going on. He despised these happy-go-lucky ponies, didn’t he? They were little more than servants to their ruler...and yet...he could see how prosperous this empire was, how happy it’s subjects.

"Is this what you meant, old man," he snarled "to be a true ruler..." but his memories of that time were too faded to recall the face attached to that memory, but he felt it was somepony important...

He lay in silence, until eventually he fell asleep. His dreams were more like nightmares once more. He seen his actions, but from the view of the crystal ponies. Dozens of POVs, it swung from one to the next. He was hit by feelings of resentment, terror, and hatred. An overwhelming torrent...

Make him STOP.

LEAVE.

DISSAPEAR.

FREAK.

MONSTER.

Tyrant.

--Is this who I am?!-- a deeply buried part of his core asked. He felt the taint of his magic, his darkness.

--No!! This is just Celestia’s attempt at getting you to go along with her crazy scheme!!-- the distrustful core of his being, born that fateful day so far in the past, objected angrily --nothing and nopony ever changes. They will betray, and take, and hurt- you KNOW better than this!!--

He shoved all these annoying thoughts away, wanting to just snap out of it-

THUD.

He tumbled out of the bed, stars spangling his vision. He bolted for the bathroom and was regrettably sick. A glass of water later and he sat down by the window, gazing out at the stars. He eventually dozed off, curled up underneath the night breeze..

Twilight Sparkle’s words echoed "most ponies would be happy for a second chance at life!".

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Luna and Cadance both shared the same surprised face when Celestia described Twilight Sparkle’s account to them.

"Perhaps that shard that pierced his heart is letting in a little light." Luna mused.

"We can hope so," Cadance said "I didn’t think anypony’s heart could be complete darkness."

"But what of his collapse?" Luna asked "We did not think our charm on that limiter was that powerful."

“I don’t think it was that." Celestia shook her head "I examined it while he was unconscious, and the spell is unbroken, it was not caused by his efforts to remove it."

"Hmm..." Cadance thought "I wonder why then?"

"Time will tell," Celestia said "that’s all I can be sure of."

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The next morning Twilight Sparkle was summoned to see her mentor;

"What are you doing this morning?" The sun Princess asked.

“Well, Rainbow Dash and Rarity are going out hunting for crystal gems, Rainbow Dash said she’d try helping with Sombra."

"Good work, Twilight," Celestia smiled, then sighed "any news on that rip in the sky?"

"No, I can't find out anything from the library, it's never been seen before."

Celestia nodded "very well, we will keep an eye on it."

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sombra was surprised when Fluttershy brought more muffins the next day.

"You don’t seem afraid of me." he said simply. She ducked her head, thought a moment, then looked at him;

"Well, everypony deserves a second chance, no matter who they are..!"

"You can have such faith in other ponies...it's interesting.." he said so very softly. She blinked.

"W-what was that?" she asked timidly. He shook his head, clamming up again.

"Everypony deserves kindness." she said at last.

He sighed, finished the last of the cakes and got to his feet.

"What has Celestia planned this time? Where am I being chaperoned today?" his tone was bitter as he glared out the window.

"U-uhm...Dashie and Rarity.."

Seeing his blank stare, she motioned him to follow her.

They trekked down to the sewing room, where they stood in the doorway. Rarity was levitating pins and fabric all around, and Rainbow Dash was sitting on the windowsill, babbling about a trick she’d seen the Wonderbolts do.

"Ahem.." Fluttershy coughed. They both looked over, stopping their activity when they seen the dark pony behind Fluttershy. Rarity’s concentration slipped and she dropped a fabric bolt, it whooshed down, threatening to hit her on the head.

"Eek!" she screeched, reactivating her magic’s hold just in time, setting it down on the table by the others.

"Ohh....goodness that was a near miss!" Rarity fluffed her mane.

"I don’t think it woulda done much damage Rarity." Rainbow Dash grumbled.

"Try lifting that thing, I guarantee you won't be giggling then, Rainbow Dash!" Rarity sniffed, disliking having her drama doubted. Rainbow Dash duly did try to heft the big bolt of fabric, and didn’t get that far.

"Ok,point taken!" she plonked it back down with a thud.

"Easy, Rainbow Dash!" Rarity scolded.

Sombra gave Fluttershy a look that said "really?"

"Sometimes friends fight...but nopony’s perfect.." she giggled.

"Ah whatever, let’s go!" Rainbow Dash marched past Sombra, virtually ignoring him "c'mon Rarity!"

Suppressing a furious snarl, Sombra followed. Once they got outside, he was met again with the crowds indifference, fear and curiosity. Rumours had spread about his return, the couple he’d (albeit unintentionally) helped had shared their surprising story by the morning.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Rainbow Dash marched along, head held high, tossing off quick answers when people asked about Sombra.

"It's the Princesses orders!" she told one colt, "this guys got the clues to that thing up there according to her highness, so we gotta work with it!"

Rarity studied Sombra as they travelled. She could picture a cloak that’d suit his colour just right...

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

They reached the outskirts of the Empire, where houses still stood, but were much farther apart and secluded. Out into the trees surrounding one edge of the empire.

"Now, according to this map Twilight Sparkle gave me.." Rarity levitated it in front of her face, "it's this way!" she pointed with one hoof.

"Tally ho!" Rainbow Dash said absently, kicking off into the air and scouting ahead. Rarity and Sombra followed, the latter not saying much to the former.

After a moment he felt like he was being gawped at, and sure enough, Rarity was staring at him, scribbling something on the notepad she’d pulled from her saddlebags.

"What are you DOING?!" he snapped.

"Notes." she said vaguely. Suppressing his fury, he tuned her out and kept walking.

Then a shadow passed over the sun, and a searing sound tore overhead. They both instinctively ducked.

"What was THAT?!" Rarity screeched. Sombra froze, dread seeping into his bones.

"Something bad.." he muttered. A growl emanated from his throat "it’s here to feed!"

"What’re you on about?" Rarity asked, But she was startled by the stark FEAR in Sombra’s deep red eyes.

Then they heard a scream from up ahead.

"Rainbow Dash! Hold on darling!" Rarity took off in that direction, and Sombra followed after.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

They skidded into a clearing that ended at a cliff top. And stared.

A black, seething MASS had Rainbow Dash in its clutches. She was kicking and shouting, even biting it, trying to get free.

"Let her go you beast!" Rarity levitated a rock and lobbed it at the thing. It retaliated by shooting dark spears of its gelatinous body at her; she screamed and ran away, dodging aside so it hit a tree instead.

But the thing wasn’t daunted. It’d sensed another to feed from, and it wasn’t giving up. With those two nearby, it didn’t even notice Sombra.

He looked from Rainbow Dash, who was all but wrapped up by the thing; to the terrified Rarity, who was backing up against a tree, tears in her eyes as she lobbed everything in range at the grasping darkness.

It was the same sensation as in his dream; that deep-down unsettling feeling. Gut instinct said to destroy it.

The more he stared at the creature, the more he was sure he could see a solidity at its core. He raged internally about Celestia locking down his magic. How did she expect him to fight without any of his dark power?! The only thing he could do was levitate. Casting about, he found a sturdy, sharp-edged tree branch he could use as a spear.

With a deep throated roar, unleashing every bit of anger he’d felt these last few days since waking up in this world, he charged. The stick pierced the swirling darkness, hitting the floating core. It shook, a crack opening in it, and it emitted a force that made the cliff shake. The darkness split apart, releasing Rainbow Dash, and receding from Rarity.

It withdrew into the core, which then shuddered and emitted a shockwave. The force cracked the cliff edge, sending huge chunks scattering down. Including the part Sombra stood on. He tried to scramble back, but the ground dropped away beneath him. His metal clad hooves scrabbled for purchase on the crumbling cliff edge, the rest of his body hanging out over the drop.

The crystal core shuddered again, and he could see it reforming.

"No you don’t!" he snarled. Instinct took over again, and before he could question the sense of the idea, he’d pushed away from the cliff, grasping the core between his hooves. He clutched it to his chest as he fell down and down...

He thought he heard shouting above him, but couldn’t tell what it said. The ground was rushing up to meet him and - CRASH.

He landed amidst a copse of trees, bouncing from branch to branch to ground. At last he hit the forest floor, and the core bounced out of his grasp, ricocheting into a rock and this time truly shattering with a loud BOOM. A wisp of dark fire flared out from it, then it faded. He lay, panting for breath, just staring dazedly at the sun light shining through the trees above him. His injured foreleg throbbed agonisingly.

As much as he wanted to sleep, he knew he had to get up.

Out of the corner of his eye he seen something else sparkling..

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Back at the cliff edge, Rarity was really panicking. Rainbow Dash had fainted once she hit the grass. She was out cold. And Sombra had fallen off the incline.

"Oh no...oh what do I do? This is THE. WORST. THING," she cried tearfully "please wake up Rainbow Dash!!"

But Rainbow Dash remained oblivious, dead to the world.

Rarity was debating running for help, when she heard rustling off to her left. She screamed, levitating a stone in case it was-

But she dropped it when she seen a battered, bleeding Sombra limping in her direction.

"It's you," she said, actually relieved, "I thought you were that thing!"

Sombra looked from her to Rainbow Dash.

"We have to get out of here." he said simply. "it's gone, but there’s no sane reason to stay here a moment longer."

"But Rainbow Dash is...I can't..." Rarity was on the verge of tears again.

“We can send somepony back-”

ABANDON HER?! Oh goodness, no!” Rraity drew herself up to her full height. “I do NOT abandon my friends!!”

Sombra sighed, anger rising. He just wanted to get out of here, NOW, so that meant…

He hesitated a moment longer, before irritably blurting "Argh, FINE! Put her on my back, I will carry her."

“Wha...you will?" Rarity stammered.

"We have no other option." He said coldly.

He crouched down so Rarity could use her magic and her hooves to nudge Rainbow Dash onto his back. The dozing pony gave a shiver, and Rarity frowned.

She looked at the torn, fur lined cloak Sombra wore.

"Uh, mind if I...borrow that..?" she asked. Sombra gave her a funny look, but at that moment he didn’t care. His injuries hurt too much for him to give a dang if this pony wanted his cloak for some reason. Focusing his meagre magic he unlatched the metal clasp, and Rarity wrapped Rainbow Dash up in the soft fabric. She still didn’t budge an inch towards waking, however.

"Now let's get the hay out of here!" Rarity shuddered, "and fast!" Sombra sighed tiredly, but set off in the direction they’d come.

As they ran, she caught sight of his cutie mark. A trio of red crystal in a fan formation.

"Wow.." she said.

Sombra didn’t seem to notice, just stared ahead as they sped towards the crystal city.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

They attracted quite some attention as they ran as fast as they could through the city. Every step made Sombra’s aching leg twinge painfully, but he kept running.

As they approached the palace doors, they seen Twilight Sparkle in conversation with Applejack. Both turned at Rarity’s cries.

"Oh my...Rainbow Dash!" Twilight Sparkle raced over "what happened?!"

“Oh, it was just beastly...there was this...THING in the forest..oh!" Rarity looked ready to faint.

"Let's get you inside..."

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Applejack ran to fetch the doctor, while Rarity, Twilight Sparkle and Sombra got Rainbow Dash onto the nearest couch.

"What happened Rarity..?" Twilight Sparkle asked

Rarity shivered, where to start...

From the side, Sombra just watched them. He’d heard compassion and fear in Rarity’s voice when she’d cried for her friend. Again, that kindness…

He was startled a second later as the doctor, with Applejack and Pinkie Pie not far behind, ran in. He backed up quick, seeing them crowd around their friend. Fluttershy was only seconds behind them, carrying a basket of bottled water and bandages for the doctor.

Deciding he was best off leaving them to treat the fainted Rainbow haired pony, he moved silently away. His mind was racing. What WAS that thing he’d attacked? It’d felt...ugh...even to his heart, that thing was abhorrent. He stopped, realising the blue stone in the choker Celestia had bound to him was glowing. Then the pain speared his heart again and he crumpled to the shiny tiled floor.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Back in the room, Rainbow Dash stirred as the doctor wrapped her bruises in bandages infused with healing herbs. Twilight Sparkle opened a bottle of water and held it up for her to drink. Once she’d gulped the whole thing down, she hurriedly asked.

"Rarity-"

“Right here darling.." the shaken pony was wrapped in as blanket enjoying a cup of sweet tea.

"What WAS that thing?" Rainbow Dash bleated.

"I don’t know. But it was simply HORRID. Ugh, I couldn’t bare for it to even touch me.."

"Trust me, you wouldn’t want it to! It felt slimy." Rainbow Dash pulled a face as she sat up. Then she noticed the torn, shredded cloak she was wrapped in "hay, isn’t this-?"

“Yes.." Rarity said in a daze "it’s Sombra’s...."

Rainbow Dash raised an eyebrow.

"He carried you back here.." Rarity added "I wasn’t strong enough, and I didn’t want to leave you, so he told me to put you on his back."

The whole GROUP stared.

"I seen his cutie mark," Rarity added in a light tone "it’s quite pretty!"

"Ooh! What is it?" Pinkie Pie asked "something colourful?"

Rarity described it as she’d seen it, the red crystals.

"Where is he, just askin'?" Applejack blinked around her "coulda sworn I seen 'im!"

"I’ll go looky!" Pinkie Pie bounded out of the room.

"Well, I’m glad you’re alright Rainbow Dash," Twilight Sparkle hugged her friends "you too, Rarity. What did you see?"

They were about to launch into a joint tale when-

"Eeeeeeee! Girls!!" it was Pinkie Pie. They all shared looks and bolted outside into the corridor.

Pinkie Pie was a few meters away, at a point where multiple corridors intersected. She was crouching beside an unconscious Sombra. There was a speckling of blood by his side.

Twilight Sparkle gasped, and Fluttershy instantly ran back for the doctor.

"Whoa...he don’t look so good." Applejack paled.

Sombra had clearly taken quite a battering. His sides were covered with small cuts and lacerations.

The doctor came running back, with Fluttershy, three guards and a stretcher in tow. They got Sombra onto it, but he didn’t wake up, only gasping in pain as they moved him off the floor.

"To the sickbay, stat!" the doctor ordered the three guards with the stretcher.

"Did that thing attack him too?" Pinkie Pie asked Rarity. She looked wide eyed again.

"No, but he attacked IT," Rarity flashed back to the fight "he just charged right at it, did something to it. I didn’t see what! All I know is that thing suddenly disappears, and I see him fall off the edge of the incline!"

"Whoa...no wonder he’s so beat up..." Applejack said at last.

"We'll have to ask him what happened when he’s awake." Twilight Sparkle said soberly. In the meantime they went to report to Celestia.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

She was shocked to hear about the thing in the woods, and surprised by Sombra’s actions.

"He...I think he saved us...?" Rainbow Dash said at last, obviously shocked. To her, this did NOT compute with what she thought she understood about Sombra.

"He got quite beaten up..." Fluttershy said.

"He will be alright," Celestia assured her "and it seems I may have been wrong, perhaps his heart isn’t all blackened by hatred."

"I think that shard is having an effect!" Rarity piped up.

"Perhaps it is.." Celestia smiled faintly "there is hope yet, for him.”

Author's Note:

x__X Dyslexia + slightly useless word processing software = A PAIN. I hope to sanity i got all the typos this time!

My first fanfic for MLP. Enjoy!

1/4/15 - Re-worked parts and added line breaks.