• Published 15th Sep 2014
  • 10,197 Views, 245 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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Marefriend & Darkfall

"Where we headed?" Applebloom asked her sister.



"Well, we're headin' to the training grounds to meet up with Sombra, then were all goin' fer lunch! The food here's darn tasty, wait until ya try it!"



"Uhh...what's this guy like?" Scootaloo asked, "he looks pretty fierce!"



"Aw, he's very kind really," Rarity said brightly. "he's a very good friend to all of us~"



"Dang straight!" Rainbow Dash nodded assuredly "I mean, sure he was a right grump when he first got here, and still a little loopy-"



"-but he just wasn't used to pony's kindness," Fluttershy piped up, smiling shyly "we found out he didn't have nice families like we do..."



"Wha' happened?" Applebloom asked.



"Put simply, he was bullied a LOT," Pinkie Pie looked cross as she recalled how Sombra had been treated. "His own family were meanies, and the palace staff were meanies too at times! Only the King ever gave him a chance!"



"Is that why he..uh...went a bit coocoo?" Scootaloo said tactfully.



"Sadly it did factor into it, yes," Twilight Sparkle carried on. "he was hurt a LOT in the run up to this takeover, he just couldn't take any more. By that point, he believed he WAS a monster, and it seemed to him that he had no choice but to become the thing everypony feared! Nopony would see him any other way, save for the King. But it was too late to undo so many bad lessons..."



"Aww..." Sweetie Belle sniffled, imagining the school bullies doing that to her and her friends, and the thought just made her tear up in sympathy. The other two looked pretty downhearted too.



"It weren't all his fault he went all loopy!" Applejack said firmly. "after everythin' he endured, and tha little kindness he'd been shown, he just couldn't take any more, and gave up."



"That's when his magic got all up in his head and took over," Rainbow Dash finished. "he hadn't been taught diddly squat about controlling it, so when he lost hope, he let his barriers drop, and this big smooshy bundle of magic got loose and took over!"



"That's awful..." Scootaloo said.



"Yeah! I mean, it's unfair those two uppity little ponies push US around 'cause we're blank flanks, but we got each other!" The other two nodded at Applebloom's words. "that guy was alone...?"



"For most of his life, yes." Twilight Sparkle said softly. "He truly didn't understand what it was like to have a real friend until my big brother offered to teach him alongside all of us!"



"Now they're thick as thieves or so Princess Cadance tells us!" Applejack chuckled. "seems a shared appreciation of doofy jokes is what ties 'em!"



"Thbbbbt!" Pinkie Pie blew a raspberry, then giggled. "ooh, we GOTTA get him to show you that!"



"Show us what? Fart jokes?" Applebloom asked.



"No silly, ooh...you'll have to wait and see!" Pinkie Pie giggled. After the first incident of the thhbbbt-ing construct, Shining Armor had insisted Sombra show Cadance and the others the trick. They'd all giggled like loons watching it fart around the dining hall!

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They reached the training barracks at last, and the guard bowed to Princess Twilight Sparkle before showing them to where Sombra was in the middle on conducting a display of fighting techniques.



The three CMCs clocked what was going on, and their jaws dropped.



Firstly, Sombra was as tough and powerful as the photos had hinted, but what surprised them was his speed. He flickered like a reflection in a rain puddle as he teleported here and there, focused on fighting a loosely pony shaped black thing. It charged him, shifting its shape to a snakes, attempting to wrap around him in a strangle hold. It got within a hairs breadth, and Sombra vanished, appearing behind it and grabbing it via his magic and throwing it halfway across the field. It got up again, screeched, and formed its hoof into sharp black claws. There was a clang as Sombra summoned the hefty scythe and swung it to block the hit. He ducked low, swung around and used a powerful back kick to launch it into the air. As it plummeted back down he swung the scythe, a crescent shaped bolt of purple magic slicing the thing in half, at which point it exploded.



The soldiers gathered at the edges hollered and cheered, stamping their hooves in approval and awe.



"Whuhhh...." Scootaloo was speechless.



"How's he doin' that?!" Applebloom screeched at last. "I've never seen anypony kick like that!!"



"Yeah, he'd be a real natural at applebuckin'..." Applejack chuckled.



"How'd he learn to do that?" Sweetie Belle asked the guard who'd shown them in.



"His highness appears to possess what many us would give anything for, a natural born talent for fighting! He's a Shyre horse, little miss, and what little we know of 'em shows they were built to throw down with things twice their size!"



"Are all Shyre horses that big?" was Sweetie's next question.



"So far as we know, yes. Sadly they're said to be extinct. His highness is the only known pure-bred Shyre horse in this day and age. But he's not all brute force!"



"I should say not!" The CO (Commanding Officer of the base) strode over to the group "Greetings young ladies, Princess~!" he bowed his head to Twilight Sparkle who greeted him with a smile!



He continued "It's an understatement to say we are indebted to Prince Sombra. Fighting alone we would have been galloping up diarrhea drive without a saddle!" Cue snickering from everypony with a young age tag or love of toilet humor.



"He possesses a great mind for battle tactics, and it is thanks to his teaching the troops that we have lowered the casualties since the start of this blasted war on these creatures! This, combined with the goggles created by her highness Princess Twilight Sparkle here," the CO tapped the goggles around his neck, "has been instrumental in protecting this empire!"



"Why d'ya gotta wear those?" Applebloom asked.



"His highness dark magic means he can discern their brand of "magic" far differently then we can. Normally the cores of those creatures are invisible to the naked eye, but Prince Sombra can see them clear as day, which makes it far easier to dispose of the creatures! But sadly none of us have that talent, so Princess Twilight Sparkle created these goggles using Sombra's magic and her own to help us"



"Cool!" Scootaloo said.



The CO nodded. "We consider it an honor that he has taken the time to help streamline the forces! He has fought a large part of this fight by himself, and it is my duty to ensure the troops can fight smart enough to stand along side his highness!"



"Sounds kinda scary..." Scootaloo said.



"His highness? Oh Celestia's name, no," the CO said, misinterpreting her response and shaking his head, "He might look fierce, but the only ones that incur such wrath are those that threaten the citizens of the empire!"



"Trust me kiddo," Rainbow Dash said to Scootaloo. "he's become a good friend of all of us, just give him a chance okay?"



All three nodded.



But they still felt a slight twinge of nerves as they seen the intimidating armored pony approach them. The sun shone off the golden armor, and the cloak swished as he walked. Dark red eyes framed by the unusual green and purple, and an ever flowing black mane made for quite a sight. As he approached, Sombra seen the trio staring at him in stunned silence and decided to tone it down a little. Without breaking stride, he teleported the armor back to the palace, so he just wore his cloak. He closed his eyes a moment, the dark magic aura gone when he opened them again.



"What's up sugarcube? That looked pretty flashy!" Applejack greeted him. He smiled softly.



"The soldiers, they requested a demonstration. It seemed beneficial to their morale, so I agreed to "show off", as it were." Sombra smiled softly. He looked down at the CMC. "who might these little misses be?"



"This is mah sister Applebloom!" Applejack said proudly.



Applebloom gawked up at Sombra, and said the first thing that popped into her head. "Good gravy yer ENORMOUS!"



Applejack face-hoofed. "Classy, sis..."



"Sorry..." Applebloom giggled up at Sombra "I weren't expecting to see a pony bigger than mah brother!"



"Well she takes after you in many respects, she's very honest!" Sombra chuckled.



"This is Scootaloo!" Rainbow Dash was next, grinning proudly.



"Hi mister Prince Sombra!" Scootaloo waved up at him, a big grin on her face, "That. Was. Kickass!"



"Thank you little miss..." Sombra chuckled.



"And this is Sweetie Belle!" Rarity said happily.



"HI!" Sweetie Belle waved. "your magic's pretty cool..."



"Thank you, I'm only just starting to truly realize it myself..." Sombra said with a gentle smile. "Anyhoof, its a pleasure to meet you three, your sisters have talked about you often!"



"Ooh, ooh!" Pinkie Pie jumped up and down to get Sombra's attention. "do the thing!"



"What thing, Cotton Candy?"



"Thhbbbttt!" Pinkie Pie said hopefully. Sombra nodded, understanding. With a poof of magic, another clone construct appeared. The kids jumped back, but Sombra assured them it was harmless.



"What's it gonna do?" Applebloom asked.



"Heehee...just wait!" Rainbow Dash snickered.



Sombra made a show of deliberately taking his attention off the thing, and sure enough...



It faceplanted, and began scooting back and forth on it's face, thbbbting all the way!



The kids cracked up giggling right away as they watched it, Scootaloo was clutching her sides she was laughing so hard.



When it honed in on their laughter, Sweetie Belle gave it a tiny jolt of her magic. It had an odd effect. The things body reacted like a mane to static. It puffed up. So NOW it resembled a black puffed up blob with wide yellow eyes, farting around on its face, only looking up when it wanted to change direction!



Sombra couldn't help but laugh when he seen it react this way!



"That's....so....cool!" Scootaloo squeaked between giggle-filled breaths.



Eventually Sombra reigned the farty little construct in, and dismissed it. The kids seen it vanish and sighed sadly, but their sides WERE aching from all the laughing!



Seeing the three giggling kids, Sombra couldn't help but smile. The CO chuckled, that little joke was proving endlessly amusing to the guards in training, and now to little fillies!

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Pinkie Pie blew raspberries for a good few minutes straight, until Rarity begged her to please stop! They took a long way through the Empire, to show the kids some of the sights, then it was on to the market.



As she walked along, Sweetie Belle seen the band around Sombra's leg, as his cloak swished aside with each step.



"Ooh...what's THAT stone?" she asked her sister.



"It's exceptionally rare Sweetie Belle," Rarity told her. "a purple star jewel, there aren't many left so far as anypony knows!"



"Wow, it's so pretty. What's the band for?" was Sweetie Belle's next question.



"That band once belonged to the empires former King, Sombra's adoptive father. He had it hidden away on the chance Sombra would return, in the right frame of mind that is..."



"So, if he came back and things were OK?"



"He could pick up the life his father wanted him to have," Rarity looked sympathetic as she glanced at Sombra. "it's a painful story for him to tell Sweetie Belle, he's only recently begun to accept he had another choice besides tyranny and evil..."



"Is he happy now?" Scootaloo, listening to the two ahead of her, peered up at her sister. Rainbow Dash nodded.



"He's doing much better, kiddo. When he first came back he was determined to hate us all, convinced we'd treat him the same way those in his past did. That once he'd figured out how to defeat those things, the Princesses would lock him up again! So he tried his darnedest not to get attached to anypony or anything..."



"But...y'all changed his mind, right?" from Applebloom to Applejack this time.



"We sure did kiddo, but it wasn't overnight. Even after we showed him he was safe around us, that we seen something good in him and weren't gonna let go, he still hung back for awhile. Heck, he only began leaving the palace under his own steam shortly after his magic was restored and he found out about his inheritance!"



"Was he scared or somethin'?" Applebloom asked. Studying the tall stately unicorn in his fancy cloak as he walked ahead of them, talking eagerly with Twilight Sparkle about magical theory, she found it hard to believe he could ever be frightened.



"In a way, yes.." Fluttershy piped up, bestowing a gentle smile on the young earth pony "but not of being injured or that kind of thing. What worried him was getting his hopes up about the ponies of the empire ever accepting him after the incidents in the past, and for those hopes to shatter..."



"But they love him really!" Pinkie Pie bounded up between the trio of siblings , her voice as happy as her smile "they wrote soooo many letters to say so, although it took awhile before he read them!"

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At last they reached a restaurant, and trooped inside.



"Good morning-OH! Welcome your highnesses!" The waiter by the door bowed elegantly to the two royal ponies, who bowed their heads in return.



"This way!” The pony directed them to the biggest table they had. Once they were all sat down he brought the menus over.



Pinkie Pie's eyes darted directly to the desserts menu. Sombra shook his head;



"There are other food groups, cotton candy..." he chuckled.



"I know, but caaaakkkeee..." she grinned, but eventually turned the page back to the main dishes.



"Why does he call ya cotton candy?" Applebloom asked Pinkie Pie, looking from her to Sombra.



Pinkie Pie giggled and nodded for Sombra to spill the beans.



"I just said the first thing that came to mind when I seen her," Sombra laughed "and since she never corrected me..." he shrugged.



Pinkie Pie giggled again "my tail DOES look like candy!"



"Luckily we left tha room before he gave us ALL silly names!" Applejack grinned at Sombra, who chuckled at the memory.



The CMC were filled in on the situation about the sky tear, and other things that’d happened.



After the delicious lunch they left, heading back to the palace.



Twilight Sparkle and Sombra had to pause every now and then, to respond to the ponies calling out greetings to the Prince and Princess.

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As they reached the main doors of the palace, Sombra spotted two familiar figures talking to a guard just outside it.



The guard spotted the Prince, and nodded his head towards him, and the two visitors turned. The next second a hyperactive blur whooshed over and glomped Sombra.



"SOMBWA!" Bright Spark cried happily. He chuckled, crouching to let her poke his nose and go "boop!".



"Bright Spark, honey..." Shining Sea sighed, but had to smile at how much her daughter loved to see her Sombra!



"Hay..." he sat Bright Spark up on his back and strode forward to meet her halfway. The CMC blinked, seeing this hyperactive little filly greet Sombra with such joy! Then they noticed the way the mare smiled up at Sombra.



"Who's the filly? And the other lady...?" Scootaloo asked.



Twilight Sparkle smiled "The little one is Bright Spark, she's been a big fan of his since she first met him. That's her mother, Shining Sea...."



"Are they-?" Applebloom began, tilting her head to one side. This reminded her of the disaster of the love potion they'd made for Cherilee some time back. It been a disaster, with her and Big Macintosh becoming obsessed with one another.



"Yup, seems like it..." Applejack chuckled "after seein' them two dancing at the ball, we kinda had a hunch."



Rarity gave a delighted squee. So cute!



Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes. Sea said something to Sombra, who listened, then nodded happily. The little filly cheered and hugged his mane, making Sombra and her mother laugh a little.



"Thank you...." Sea said to Sombra.



"Of course, its never a problem..." Sombra said kindly. "I will see you Saturday..?"



"I can't wait..." she said honestly then blushed, she really meant it! She trotted away, pausing to greet the Princess and her friends, before heading home.



"We got an extra guest fer the night?" Applejack guessed.



"Yes, her mother has a meeting to attend to this evening, and Spark's usual babysitter is ill. So I suggested she stay here tonight."



"Hewwo!" Bright Spark waved down at the CMC.



"Hay.." the surprised trio waved back, before their respective sisters introduced them once more. Then the entire group trekked inside.

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The CMC were given a tour of the palace, including their bedrooms and the gardens.



"Who's this guy, and what's with the mustache?" Sweetie Belle asked.



"That..." Sombra said, smiling at the statue "is of King Cloudspark, my adopted father. As for the mustache, well, he had a weird sense of humor..."



Bright Spark giggled.



Sweetie Belle looked from the replica band on the statue to the one Sombra wore.



"Wow, so he left you his entire empire as a present? That's quite a present!" Sweetie Belle looked up at him, noting he looked somewhat sad, or so she thought...



"I know, it's not one I'm fully used to yet..." Sombra murmured. He got worried every time he thought about someday handling the affairs of the empire. The political council had spoken to him numerous times, repeating their wish for him to join Shining Armor and Cadance in running the empire, but that they understood Sombra's duty lay with fighting the sky tear's menace.



Bright spark, still sat atop his back, tugged at his mane to get his attention. He set her down when she asked. She beckoned him to lean closer, then jabbed his nose, declaring "BOOP!".



Sombra blinked, his melancholy broken by her random behavior.



The CMC giggled at Sombra's bewildered expression, then Sombra himself laughed, and nuzzled sparks mane. She giggled happily, throwing her little forelegs around his neck and hugging him tightly.



"Thanks little one..." he stood up, the cloudy sadness banished from his eyes. As they stood there, a fading ray of sunlight broke through the clouds and highlighted the statue, seeming to make it glow from within.



"Pretty..." the CMC said as one.



"It's wovely..." Bright Spark agreed.



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Sombra led them back inside, where the kids went to get settled into their room, which Bright Spark was sharing with them. Her happy, bouncy personality endeared her to the CMC pretty quickly.



"Hay...how'd you meet mister Sombra?" Scootaloo asked curiously.



"I was expworing the market when these meanies from my school started chasing me. They said they were pwaying, but they don't pway nice. So I ran. I thought I lost them, and that's when I saw Sombwa. I'd seen his picture in the histowy books, but he didn't seem bad. He just wooked wonely..."



She thought back to that day and giggled, "so I jumped on some bowxes to get his attention since he's so tall, and then I went "boop!"" she lightly booped Applebloom's nose as a demonstration.



"What’d he say to that?" Sweetie Belle asked curiously.



"He didn't say anyfing, he looked so surpwised!" Bright Spark giggled "I twied to see if I could make him smile, and he kinda did, then I heard those buwwies looking fow me again.."



"What happened?" the trio of older fillies were absorbed in Spark's little tale. They were surprised by how brave she seemed for one so little.



"I hid under the cloak he was weawing, I asked him not to move, pwease!" she gave a nod "and he scawed the meanies away fow me!"



"Aww, that was nice!" Sweetie Belle piped up.



"He wooked kinda sad. He was all awone. Everypony was ignoring him, mommy said back then, that they all hated him. But, the Pwincesses wouldn't have bwought him back if they didn't fink he was going to be OK, wight? They're wovely ponies. So I figured they must've seen somefing good in him. I always felt wonely back then, the ponies ignowed me becauwse of my talking funny. So I fought I'd show him I was awone too, then he wouldn't feew so bad..."



She was surprised the next second when she was collectively hugged by the trio of older fillies.



"That's how we met!" Applebloom said when they let her go. "I was feeling sad because of Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon pickin' on me fer being the only one at her Cute-Cin–era without a cutie mark! Just when I thought I was going to be humiliated for the rest of mah school days, Sweetie Belle and Scoots told those two brats to bug off, and showed me they were blank flanks too. That's when we formed tha CMC!"



"CMC?"



"Cutie Mark Crusaders!" The trio cheered, posing heroically for the young filly. She giggled and clapped her hooves in glee.



"That is so much awesome!!" she cheered.



"We wanna find our cutie marks, so we're trying everything we can to get them!" Scootaloo explained.



"I wish there was a CMC at my schwool. I wanna get my mark too." Bright Spark sighed and peered at her blank flank "I wonder what it'll be?"



"Why don't you start one yourself?" Applebloom suggested. She seen Bright Spark's eyes light up.



"You fink I can?" she asked, her eyes brightening.



"Yeah!" Scootaloo nodded. She shared a look with other two, who nodded. "In fact, we name you the president of the Crystal Empire CMC!"



This time it was Bright Spark's turn to hug them!



They showed her their CMC capes, and Sweetie Belle made a mental note to ask Rarity to make Bright Spark a littler version of it!



"Hay, does Mr Sombra have a cutie mark?" Applebloom asked.



Bright Spark nodded, and described it to them.



"So why does he keep it hidden, wearin' that cape? I mean, IS he always wearing it?" Applebloom pondered.



"Pwetty much," Bright Spark nodded "its made speciaw, he told me. It keeps those big bad monsters from scwatching him! He has to fight those fings all the time..." she told them the story of Sombra protecting her and the other families at the festival!



"That's when we found out fwom Pwicness Cadie that he was the cwown pwince of the empire!" Bright Spark finished.



"Wow, dude can kick flank!" Scootaloo raised her eyebrows, impressed. Rainbow Dash hadn't been kidding, Sombra really was tough! 20% tougher then anypony she'd met apparently!



"Why did he look sad earlier...?" Sweetie Belle asked "before you boop!ed him?"



"He misses his daddy, they had a big argument, then everyfing changed, and fings went cwazy. His birth pawents were mean, they didn't like him because he was born wiv differewent magic. So he wan away, and the nice King here adowpted him. But Sombwa didn’t understand what a twue pawents love was. He though the King was going to get wid of him, and he panicked..."



"And that's when he took over." Applebloom finished.



Bright Spark nodded, and looked up at the CMC. "Pwease don't be angwy at him, it wasn't all his fault..." she looked despondent, "he didn't have fwiends like you..."



"He seems a decent sort. And if mah sister says he's solid, then that's good enough for me!" Applebloom assured her.



"Yeah! Rainbow Dash says he's cool, then it's settled." Scootaloo added.



"Rarity says he's got a good heart, I believe her!" Sweetie Belle said and she put a hoof around Spark's shoulders, smiling at her "he seems fierce, but kind!"



"And hay, he made that hilarious farty thing!" Scootaloo cracked up afresh at the memory.



"Thhbbbttt!" Bright Spark blew a raspberry and giggled. "Yeah, Sombwa showed me! It funny!"



All four tried to form an acapella raspberry group, but kept getting interrupted by their own gigglefits.



"Do ah even wanna KNOW what y'all are doin'?" they looked round to see Applejack in the doorway "dinners waitin'!"



"Whoo!" Applebloom raced after her sister, the others right behind.

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In the dining hall, Bright Spark raced over to Sombra and tugged at his cloak. She whispered something to him, and he nodded.



"See?" Bright Spark said as Sombra removed the cloak and draped it over the chair "Cutie Mark! Its pwetty!"



"Ooh.." the trio took in the diamonds, whose color matched Sombra's eyes.



"What's it mean?" Applebloom asked.



"Crystal magic," Sombra said "I can discern what a stone is, or what it can do, just as soon as I see it."



"It's true!" Twilight Sparkle said "it's like he has a whole library of knowledge about stones in there!"



"Wow. Neat-o." Scootaloo nodded.



"How old were you when you got it?" Sweetie Belle asked, trying to puzzle it out from the story so far about Sombra.



"I was around your sisters age," Sombra replied. "it wasn't until I came HERE that I was given any formal education at all, so didn't know I could understand crystals and their powers the way I do."



He smiled sadly "I was the only one in that entire village without a cutie mark back then...."



That one line hit a chord with the CMC, who decided Sombra definitely OK with them, he knew how they felt!

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The CMC were thrilled to meet Cadance and Shining Armor, and even Celestia and Luna dropped by to greet them. It was the most amazing dinner ever!



As they left the dining hall, Sombra split off from them, saying he was going to his office.



"Hay, don't you go working too late, ya hear me sugarcube?" Applejack said, although not unkindly.



Sombra nodded and smiled gently before vanishing down the hall. But not before saying good night to the CMC plus Bright Spark, who hugged him tightly!



"Sweep soon!" she said, before bounding away after the CMC. Sweetie Belle hung back to ask a favour of Rarity, who listened, then nodded happily.

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The four young ponies got into bed and talked for ages, even after lights out. Some hours later, unable to resist, they went sneaking downstairs for a close-enough-to-midnight snack!

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They crept into the kitchen, giggling softly, Sweetie Belle using her horn to light the way, Bright Spark yawning a little.



They located the likely place to find cookies, and were just in the process of getting up there, with Scootaloo buzzing her wings fast as she could, when the light snapped on and the quartet collapsed into a squealing heap!



The craned their necks to see who'd busted them.



To their surprise it was Sombra. He looked a little bleary-eyed, but vaguely amused.



They grinned sheepishly, and awaited a telling off. But what he did next surprised them.



Without a word, he levitated a plate from a nearby cupboard, then opened the very cupboard they'd been aiming for, and in a few swift movements, loaded it up high with various cookies and biscuits. He set this plate down in front of the group and offered an amicable smile.



"Just don't tell your sisters OK? Or your mother..." he said to Bright Spark.



She giggled, nodding rapidly. Applebloom balanced the plate on her back and they trotted past Sombra, grinning conspiratorially at him.



He chuckled to himself as he poured a cup of tea, hearing their muffled whispers off down the hall.



Then there was the sound of a window shattering, a scream, and a sharp pain dug into his head.



"Oh sweet Celestia, no..." he raced out of the room, tearing through the hallway towards the sounds. He skidded round the corner in time to see a blobby black mass abducting the four kids.



"The buck you are!" He roared, racing for them.



"SOMBWAA!" Bright Spark cried. He saw their desperate eyes, locked on him, begging him to save them. Then they were blotted out by another shadow creature popping up between him and the girls.



"Uh-uh little Prince. I need to borrow your little brat and her friends!" It sneered, launching for him.

He snarled in fury and shifted into his shadow form, hurling himself at his opponent, all fangs and fury!

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Two guards raced round the corner a moment later, in time to see what looked like two bolts of black lightning go at each other. One curved round, rebounding off a wall and zipping through a shadow cast by the bright full moon. Then it reappeared behind the first bolt and struck it HARD. They shielded themselves as there was a loud kaboom!



The unicorn guard cleared the smoke away and the duo seen the second black shape, now shaped like a pony, scaling the windowsill.



"It's ME!" Sombra thought to blurt, before they got confused and opened fire.



"Y-your highness?!" the guards stared in surprise.



The shadow nodded, and they both now noticed the familiar red eyes, and if you looked closely you could see shreds of purple magic flowing in and out of his shadowy form.



"A shadow creature has kidnapped the three visitors and Bright Spark! Alert Princess Twilight Sparkle and her friends, I will get the kids back, I promise you!" and with that he was gone.



The guards shared baffled glances, but knew the Prince wasn't goofing around. So they turned and ran for the Princess' room.

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Once they woke Twilight Sparkle, she gathered the girls up and the guards told them what Sombra had said.



"WHAT?!" Rarity screeched, then swooned. The guard nearest caught her and helped her sit up.



"Oh sweet toffee apples-!" Applejack looked distraught "if those cretins harm one hair on mah sisters coat, why I'll....AGH!" She stamped a hoof, looking frantic "ah have ta go after her!"



"Applejack!" Twilight Sparkle shot between Applejack and the door "think about it, you don't know where they've been taken! If anypony can find them, it'll be Sombra! You just have to have faith in him!"



"Ah DO Twi, I know there's none better to be searchin' for her, I'm just so worried!" she sat down with a bump, shaking her head.



"He'll find them.." Rainbow Dash assured a stunned Rarity.



"It took Sweetie Belle. This is THE. WORST. THING!" Rarity wailed.



"Lets get some tea, all we can do is wait..." Fluttershy said at last.

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Sombra leapt from shadow to shadow, racing out of the window. He couldn't see where it might have taken them...



He shut his eyes, thinking. He didn't know what Sweetie's magic was like, and Spark's was too weak. Then it hit him. The pain from the premonition. There'd been two! He replayed his memory, for each one had a signature in its own way.



So he focused on the first pain, which hit a dead end, it'd been destroyed. So now he locked in on the second one, and it was like a replay. The same pain struck him, and he gasped, hunched over.

A shivering bundle of shadows, he fought to marshal his powers, channelling his magic into tracing the pain to the one that'd generated it. It was a by product of their "magic" being used in this world. As he was the only one with fluent enough knowledge in it, only he sensed it with any real accuracy. Luna had been able to detect something at a closer range, but she was still learning...



He put everything he could into tracing the fading path of this creature. Ahead of him, once he opened his eyes, was a thin trail of crackling purple sparks. He took off running, slipping from shadow to shadow, heading into the forest...

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But as he honed in, he realized he needed to be subtle. Shutting the spell off, he relied on his natural instincts, picking out distinct voices amidst the trees...



So intent was he, he didn't hear familiar hooves behind him.

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The kids hollered and shouted, kicking and hitting the shadow that'd snatched them, but it made no difference. It flew into a small clearing, whose only illumination was a shaft of moonlight filtering through gnarled branches way above their heads. They knew running was pointless, more of those things hid in the trees, their glistening yellow eyes staring at the kids.



"No use screaming.." the biggest one, their captor, cackled "your precious little Prince won't find you! You don't have the magic for him to find!"



"Its twue," Bright Spark looked at Sweetie Belle "I dun have much magic."



"And I don't know enough to start a fight!" Sweetie Belle quailed.



"You're not going anywhere." The main shadow creature declared.



"Whatta ya want anyway, you big jerk?!" Scootaloo bellowed.



"What do I want? I want what you know of the world outside here. So few in this secluded little buffet know of the world outside, but you're outsiders like those bigger ones."



"He means our sisters..." Applebloom swallowed nervously.



"Exactly, but that bothersome Prince makes it not worth the effort to try and catch them! I was coming for ANY of your kind as a meal as it happened, when what do I sense but three fresh sources!"



"Sombwa will find us!" Bright Spark cried, and the thing turned on her, laughing.



"Did you ever think you'd be better off without that brute around-?"



"Shut up!" Bright Spark screeched with such volume it startled the creature.



"Yeah! You're the problem here, you moldy jelly pile!" Scootaloo snapped.



"Mouthy aren’t we? You're as bad as that pathetic Prince-"



“Well I take that as a compliment!" Scootaloo responded.



"No matter, he's not here to save you, and I'm free to take the knowledge I want!" it closed its eyes, starting to summon a spell circle around the four fillies.



Applebloom glanced around, panicking desperately, then she noticed something odd about one of the shadow creatures watching them.



Was its eyes crossed?



It hit her just what that was, at the same time the cross eyed one stuck it's tongue out at her.



Then it lunged out of the shadows, barreling into the lead creature, disrupting the spell. They slammed into a tree, and the real one wrestled with the fake, pushing it back at last.



"What-?" It looked at the goofy clone, wondering what was wrong with this one "how-?!". The culprits identity hit it a moment later, SOMBRA.



It glared up at the sky, and screeched something the girls couldn't make out. All the shadows took to the sky.

Sweetie Belle recalled what'd happened last time she'd met the construct, and shot a spark at the cross eyed creature. It puffed up, it's fur bristling with sparks. It bompf'd into the main creature again, smacking it into the base of a tree.



The four kids craned their heads up to see a shadow block out the moon above them, a shadow with a familiar mane and shape, and it was diving right for them! But the legion of clones were screaming towards it.



Abruptly, the incoming shadow slowed to halt in mid-fall, and shone a brilliant purple-



BLAM. Magical tracer fire burst out from the glowing pony's form. Like a multitude of purple fireworks they honed in on the encroaching swarm. Explosions rocked the sky, filling it with smoke.



"Begone wretch!" the leader at last succeeded in kicking the fuzzy clone off it. It landed on it's back, staring gormlessly up at the sky and kicking its legs about.



"Now for you-" it hissed, advancing on the kids. Then it noticed they were grinning.



"In three, two..." Scootaloo recited.



"Huh?" it looked up, and seen something hurtling towards it at maximum speed, blasting the thick smog of smoke away, red eyes blazing in its shadowy body. The kids blinked in surprise as they found themselves suddenly teleported out of the way, into a darker section of the forest, and wrapped in warm wings.



"Brace thyselves children.."



"Pwincess Woona!" Bright Spark cried happily. Luna nodded, as a massive kaboom rocked the ground, then faded to silence.



"Whoa..." Sweetie Belle stared "w-what was that?!"



"Those vile creatures explode upon destruction," Luna informed them as she let them loose from her wings shield, and they headed for where the fight had ended, "it can cause quite a mess!"



"Explode? But what about mister Sombra?" Applebloom went pale.



"He is well versed in fighting them, he will have protected himself!" Luna assured them. They wandered into the clearing, and Bright Spark cheered her friends name.



Sombra stood, staring up at the sky. The moonlight highlighted the flowing mane, and glinted off the crystal heart pin on his cloak.



When he heard Spark's voice he turned to face them, a relieved smile lighting up his face. Bright Spark bounded over and hugged him in delight. Followed by three new hugs.



"Thanks mister Sombra!" the CMC said wholeheartedly. Sombra assured them it was no trouble, he was glad to see them safe and sound.



"And thank YOU Princess..." he said, as Luna walked over.



"We are just glad we caught you in time, alone you would've taken a battering!" she said in an almost scolding voice.



She noticed Sombra looked sleepy, and frowned.



"Hmm, thy magic is depleted, no doubt down to that display of homing spells! Pulling off that many at once, we do wonder if thou knoweth the meaning of common sense!"



"Common what?" Sombra said, deadpan.



"Har de har." Luna said, and they proceeded to glower at each other, before Sombra sniggered, and they cracked up laughing.



"Adults...I don't get 'em." Applebloom said with a shrug.



"Heehee....Sombwa and Pwincess Woona are so much awesome!" Bright Spark giggled.



"You said it!" Scootaloo agreed.



"Lets us get you back little ones!" Luna announced. The kids nodded happily, they'd had enough spooky forest for one night!



"Uh..what about that?" Sweetie Belle tugged Sombra's cloak, pointing at the puffed up thhbbbbt-ing clone.



"Whoops!" He laughed, dispersing the spell "forgot about that! Nice work by the way little miss Sweetie Belle." referring to her zapping the clone.



She looked pleased, as she'd just done it on instinct, hoping it would distract the bad creature!

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The two adults sorted out that Bright Spark and Scootaloo would sit atop Luna's back, while Sweetie Belle and Applebloom would sit on Sombra's.



"Wanna race?" Applebloom hollered up to Scootaloo. Sombra and Luna exchanged glances, then Luna flew down to stand beside Sombra.



"Yes, let us race to the palace on hoof!" she declared. Sombra blinked, about to object, but the grins on the kids faces made him relent.



"It is ON, Princess!" he grinned.



Once they'd made sure their charges were secured via the use of magic spells that summoned shimmering ribbons for the kids to grip onto, looped around the older pony's necks, they stood side by side, ready.



"LETS WACE!" Bright Spark hooted. And the two took off.



"WOOOHOOOOO!" Scootaloo declared as they raced through the tress, heading for the edge of the empire.



"Whee!" Bright Spark cheered.

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They reached the edge of the empire in no time. Luna and Sombra were literally neck and neck, Luna's smaller size made her a good runner, but Sombra, once he had momentum, was startlingly agile for a bigger stallion!



They were so caught up in trying to outmatch one another they almost didn't see the palace approaching. It was only when Sweetie Belle spotted her sister and whooped her name that Sombra realized, followed shortly by Luna. They both skidded to a halt as the kid's sisters and friends came racing over.



"Shall we calleth it a tie?" Luna asked, sounding a little breathless.



"Fine by me.." Sombra laughed.

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By the time the kids were reclaimed, and on their way back, the group was sat outside, with Applejack pacing, Rainbow Dash fluttering agitatedly by, and Rarity alternating between fainting on a big cushion a guard had brought her, and swearing vengeance on the shadow creatures.



"Look!" Pinkie Pie cheered, spotting two shapes pelting along the straight road up to the palace.



"Yeehaw!" Applejack whooped on spying her sister perched atop Sombra's back.



As she, Rarity, and Rainbow Dash ran over to meet them, Twilight Sparkle cocked her head to one side...



"Are they having a race?" she asked.



"I think so.." Fluttershy giggled.



But they didnt hesitate, and ran over to where the two adults had stopped, catching their breath while the kids were hugged and fussed over by the respective siblings. Or Sombra in Bright Spark's case. She hugged him tightly, rubbing her cheek against his as he cradled her in one foreleg. Then she boop!ed his nose and he set her down.



"Oh man.." Applejack looked close to tears, but hugged her sister again instead of crying, "thank tha both of yer highnesses!"



"Yes indeed!" Rarity wiped away her tears and smiled at the two ponies.



"You two are AWESOME. Cant thank you enough for getting my Scoots back safe and sound!" Rainbow Dash hoofbumped both royals, Luna looking mystified but pleased at the gesture.



"Lets get inside!" Twilight Sparkle said happily "you guys must be hungry!"

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They made up some warm milk and cookies for the kids, and tea and more cookies for the others.



Sufficiently stuffed, the kids were taken to bed. Sombra talked with Luna little longer, thanking her for her assistance, then he too went to bed. He was so...tired...

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The next morning he awoke bright and early. With a still drowsy yawn, he slung his cloak on and drifted into the hall. He felt funny, there was an unnamed longing sitting on his chest, but he didn't know how to ease it.



"Morning!" he greeted the guards stationed at the end of the hall. They opened their mouths to return the gesture but did double takes for some reason and just stood there with their mouths hanging open.



"What? Why're you looking at me like that?" Sombra asked in bewilderment.



"At the risk of this sounding like a REALLY bad pun, I can see right through you sire." one guard said at last.



"You're right, that IS a bad pun. I'm not even plotting anything yet. Takes coffee for that!" Sombra joked, yet starting to feel concerned at the same time.



The pegasus guard looked around, then spotted a wall mounted mirror just ahead. "Take a look for yourself, sire!"



The two of them followed behind a bemused Sombra as he walked over. And got a SHOCK.



They weren't kidding. He could see right through himself, where he wasn't covered by the cloak. The flow of his mane seemed to have slowed a great deal as well.



"W-what...?" he stammered, fear overtaking humor now, as he took a step back.



"Were you practicing a new spell of some sort, your highness?" one guard asked. Sombra shook his head.



"I did no such thing." he said, stunned.



"I'll fetch the Doctor, you get back to your room sire! Stay with him!" he ordered the pegasus guard. The guard nodded and shepherded the Prince back towards his room.

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Once inside, Sombra removed the cloak and tossed it aside. He started pacing the room agitatedly.

The guard helpfully set the cloak back atop the specialized dressmakers dummy Rarity had given Sombra to set the cloak and armor on each night! When he turned back to the Prince he noticed something. At Sombra's core, where pony anatomy said a pony's heart was, there shone a faint blue glow.



"Your highness, look-" he tapped at his own chest to indicate to the stallion. Sombra stopped, looked at himself in the mirror and stared. That glow...



Worry in his heart, he looked over at the pin badge attached to his cloak. The crystal heart?



"Sombra.." he spun round as he heard Cadance's voice. She was standing beside the startled Doctor just inside the doorway.



"Princess!" he blurted. "what's-?!"



"It is as you seem to suspect, the Heart is- well, I hesitate to say malfunctioning, but something's wrong."



Sombra looked worried sick, he glanced at the replica pin again, and Cadance had an idea. Seeing the look of longing in the unicorn's expression, she had a feeling she knew what he needed.



"Come with me.." she said "it's time you and the Crystal Heart met once more..."



Sombra looked nervous, and she couldn't blame him. His last experience with the heart had been when it'd erased him from existence. Prior to that, he'd just held it hostage, never able to figure it out!

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They trekked down far below the palace, following secret passages that were heavily guarded at different sections.



Sombra remained silent, and Cadance felt a pang of concern, was he really that concerned the heart might erase him again?



"There's no reason why it would do that." she said at last. Sombra jolted, looked about to ask what was she talking about, when he seen the kind look on her face. He sighed softly, and nodded.



"So try not to worry." she finished, as they walked a long rocky hall towards a softly lit cave ahead. Sombra could see light reflecting off the armor of two guards standing in front of the door. Then he heard a soft scuffle behind them. Cadance did too, and they both tensed up, until Sombra recognized the sound the approaching creature made.



"Its alright!" He assured Cadance, and called out "have you been trying to catch up to us?"



"Mhhrrr....yes...I was curious..."



Cadance relaxed, it was the Crystal Bard. It toddled up to them, hands clasped, eyes bright as it looked at them.



"Hello..mhrr....Prince and Princess!" it said cheerily. Then it clocked Sombra was semi transparent. "oh...mhrr...what's happened?"



"Hello Bard~" Cadance said warmly "Sombra's power has run a little low..."



"That light..." the bard peered at the soft blue glow emanating from Sombra's body.



"There's a shard of the crystal heart in there," Sombra said lightly "we're guessing it needs a recharge from the main heart."



The bard nodded in understanding, and was happy to follow after them when Cadance asked it. They approached the guards, who bowed to the royals and their guest. After some intricate magic locks were opened by both them and Cadance, the ornate door fitted into the rock face swung open...

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The trio wandered in, the door shutting behind them. Sombra felt the longing to see the heart get worse, but his panic over this unknown situation made his unease grow as well. So it was that he faltered and hung back as Cadance strode over to the case where the heart was. She noticed his hoofsteps had halted, and looked back. The Bard was looking up at Sombra too, patting the unicorn's side with one paw, trying to get his attention.



"Mhrr...Sombra?" it succeeded at last, and Sombra blinked down at him.



"Sorry about that..." he said quietly "I just have some odd history with that thing..."



"Come closer, it wont hurt you, I'm certain of it..." Cadance said. She sensed the heart needed Sombra now it was freed from its guarding wards and fully able to sense its missing piece inside Sombra's body.



Despite his nerves, Sombra took a deep breath and approached the heart. His own began pounding uncomfortably fast as he approached, and he felt strangely dizzy, like he was going to unravel entirely. Cadance stepped back as he reached a hoof up to touch the heart.



She wasn,t sure WHAT she'd been expecting to happen, for the heart to channel some of its latent power into Sombra and leave it at that maybe? She certainly hadn't been expecting them both to VANISH!



"Mhhhrrr?!" the Bard clapped its little paws to its mouth, muffling a frightened wail.



Then it ran over to a frankly stunned Cadance, and patted her lustrous mane gently. She shook herself free of her surprise and looked down at the freaked out Bard.



"Where's Sombra?" he asked.



"I don't know..." Cadance admitted, "but wherever he's gone, the heart is with him. I'm sure it will look after him, and vice versa..."



The Bard still looked worried, but seemed to accept this. Cadance sent the guards to bring some tea and cake down to them. In the meantime, the Bard seemed happy admiring her mane, the tricolor hair was so soft....

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Sombra had closed his eyes when he'd touched the heart, and that bright light had flashed out. Now he finally opened them, and seen he was standing in darkness.



He glanced around, uneasy.



Then a soft blue glow lit the space a small distance away. As it drifted closer it started to change shape. By the time it was a few meters way it was fully formed. With a final flash it solidified, taking the form of a solid crystal blue unicorn.



She opened her eyes, smiling softly. But as she stepped closer, she noticed Sombra backed away.



--Stop it!-- Sombra snapped at himself, this was illogical. Cadance had said it was unlikely the heart wanted to hurt him. But his recently returned memories left him with a deep seated unease of the heart, and his last memory of it was being erased from history by its power. Recalling it made him feel sick and strangely disconnected, like he was losing grip...





So he backed away as she stepped closer, until he felt his hind legs bump into an invisible wall. He cursed softly, closing his eyes and trying to a) take a deep breath, and b) formulate the words needed to ask her to tell him what was going on.



"Please..." he couldn't say anything more, he didn't know how to say it. What did it want with him? Had it CHOSEN to disable its power, causing him to fade? DID the empire no longer need him? All these scenarios raced through his mind and he trailed off, voice abandoning him.



He heard no response, just the echoes of her steps as she approached. He tensed up, not understanding what the heart wanted from him??



The blue crystal unicorn titled her head, sensing Sombra's unease through their link. She couldn't blame him for being a little unsettled. So much had happened in such a short time, he'd done remarkably well in fighting through it all.



Her intent was to transfer the energy she still had within her to restabilize him. He possessed a tremendous amount of power of his own, but there was something about him that she'd noticed from the start.



There was a spell tied deep within him, it was a part of his body. She could not discern exactly what it was, Sombra's form was surprisingly complex. She'd known from the start the Princesses' power would be drained badly if they had to do this alone. So she'd broken off the shard, filled with a fraction of her power.



But now it was running out. Sombra was giving so much of his power so frequently, it'd started draining the power she'd supplied to keep his form intact. So she needed to refuel it.



First however, she needed to reassure and comfort the panicked stallion in front of her now. Via the shard inside, she'd been able to sense loosely how he was feeling. The magical wards surrounding the heart had blocked her from sustaining a constant or detailed link. But she detected how he'd gone from being angry and resentful, to guarded but hopeful, to finally willing to give kindness and friendship a chance. Then, more recently, she'd sensed something new, a tenuous wish to fall in love. Clearly the one he'd chosen had returned his affections, as this fragile hope had grown steadier.



She'd been surprised by how much he'd changed. But even back then in the past, when he'd been a cruel hearted tyrant, she'd sensed something deep within. A small spark, doing its best to remain alight despite the darkness of Sombra's insanity. So when Princess Cadance had implored the empires citizens to use their light and love to enable her to get rid of Sombra, she'd done just that, but she'd also kept a snapshot of this strange, haunted soul. So much about him had been left unexplained, she felt compelled to save him in some way. But this was not a task she alone could do. To unravel Sombra, more then just the power of love was needed. So she'd kept the memory of him alive, in the hopes he could one day be understood.



But at a deeper level, he still feared her and the Heart. After all, she'd essentially destroyed him in his view. Now it seemed he feared a reprisal, the loss of everything he'd earned.



"It's ALRIGHT." she stressed, her voice light and tinkling like the crystal she was made of, "I have taken this form so that I might better speak with you. Please do not fret...Sombra..."



She was stood in front of him now, watching as he cautiously opened his eyes, their deep red depths still full of an old mistrust, but also a cautious hope. She got the feeling it would've been a very different story if she'd confronted him face to face back at the start. He undoubtedly would've yelled and cursed, or tried to wreak some form of vengeance.



"See? I'm not going to harm you," she said calmly, "but we must do something about this..." she raised a hoof and gently tapped it on his chest, where the glow from the shard emanated.



"Why...?" he asked, his voice a gentle rumble.



"You have used so much power and energy to fight, your form has started to borrow from the shard in order to sustain you. It just needs refueling."



"I see.." Sombra said hesitantly. "then you're not..."



"-here to take you away? No." she smiled gently, and he got the feeling she knew why he'd been so skittish moments ago. He glanced away, that childish reluctance showing again, the same way it had when he'd been talking to miss Rarity about how to go about a romance with Shining Sea.



She raised her hoof and nudged his nose so he was facing her again. "You cannot linger here forever, we must restore the power you need."



"But how? You've been locked away in here." Sombra realized something, "wait, if you use up YOUR power, you'll-"



"I will become dormant, nothing more. As long as there is love, I will reawaken. But it will not be so easy to recover YOU if you fade away now. So we must use what we can." she said firmly.



Sombra still looked uneasy "All the good intentions in the world will not spare me if the public find out your power is gone because of me. I don't want them losing their heart in an effort to save mine."



He made to walk past her, perhaps thinking he could leave that way, but he stopped at her next sentence.



"Well then, I'd simply renew myself using the love they feel for YOU." she said smartly. He stopped, tail swishing.



"It is a very powerful sensation. Even buried deep behind these wards I feel it. They rejoice to see you, to see you HAPPY. I am the symbol of this empires LOVE, you have become the symbol of its STRENGTH."



"Brute force?" Sombra wondered.



"No. Strength of character. Courage. A will to fight even until you can barely stand, to save them." She spoke of course, of the plague. How he'd done his best to save the ponies even though they'd shouted at him. How he'd exhausted everythng he had to give for thier sakes. She moved so she stood in front of him again, her crystalline eyes peering into his dark red ones.



"Your heart is as valuable to them now as I am. To see it so content gives them reason to smile, because they know you're there. For them."



He didn't say anything, but he looked less worried.



"Now, let's get you back to those you love. Shut your eyes..."



--Those I love...?-- he wondered, as he did as she told him. His mind flickered over those he loved. His father, his lone friend back in that village. His friends, supporters, and the one he fell in love with....



He felt the crystal heart-pony's horn touch his the next second, and a bright blooming power filled his mind. His head pounded as the world seemed to pitch and tilt, and he struggled to keep his balance. Then it eased off, and he felt stronger...



She stepped away, and he opened his eyes cautiously. Peering down at himself he seen he was solid once more. And felt such a surge of relief.



"There we go.." he looked up at the heart-pony. She was smiling, and shone with a new and unusual glow. A pale purple..



"Whu-?" he began, and she beamed.



"Love is love, darkness or light." she smiled warmly.



He recalled her phrasing, "Those you love."



"I wished to show to you that just because you possess dark magic, your feelings are the same as any other pony. Love is what fuels my power, love from those that choose this as their home!"



She gestured to herself. "so now I have regained some of my energy from your emotions. So you needn't worry about me draining all my power, you've given some of it back in turn."



Sombra blinked, looking relieved and calmer then earlier.



"Now, let us return you to your friends..." she closed her eyes, starting to glow.



"Thank you." Sombra said softly. She just smiled knowingly. then the light become blinding, and Sombra had to close his eyes.

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When he opened them he was back in the cave, with Cadance and the Bard shielding their eyes against the bright light of the heart and the pony's return.



When they seen him, their faces both brightened. The Bard raced over and hugged him gleefully.



"Sombra!" it cried "we were...mhhrr...worried!"



"I'm sorry if I startled you," Sombra said gently. "in truth I did not expect it to do that..."



"You seem back to your usual self, that's a relief," Cadance smiled. "I was worried you were going to fade away!"



"It seems I used up the power the shard granted me, she needed to refuel it."



"She?" asked Cadance. Sombra explained the heart had appeared as a female unicorn.



"Wow, I've never heard of that before..." Cadance looked impressed.

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The trio trekked back up to the place above. The guards who'd alerted Cadance to Sombra's vanishing act looked relieved beyond measure to see the stallion back to his usual self.



By this time they'd missed breakfast, and ran into the others as they made their way to the kitchen.



"Hay you two!" Shining Armor smiled. "why so late?"



"We needed to go see the Heart," Cadance kissed Shining Armor on the cheek. "there was a bit of a hiccup."



"Less of a hiccup, more like one of miss Applejack or Dash's whopping big belches.." Sombra remarked, making the two mentioned start sniggering.



"What happened, you OK?" Shining Armor asked Sombra.



"Fine now," he said in relief. "slightly see through this morning however..."



"Eeehhh?!" Twilight Sparkle stared "you were disappearing?!"



"Strangely, yes..."



"How?" Applebloom piped up.



"Used too much power I dare say...things have been pretty hectic..." Sombra smiled "It's fine now."



All heaved a sigh of relief.



"Oh! Can I borrow you darling?" Rarity asked Sombra, who was in the middle of making Bright Spark giggle by nuzzling her mane.



"Of course.." he smiled. Looking down at the little filly he noticed she was wearing a new cape that matched the CMCs.



"What's this?" he asked.



"Imma start a Cutie Mark Cwusaders here!" Bright Spark looked eager. "they're gonna show me how!"



Sombra looked up at the CMC trio from Ponyville, and gave them a grateful smile.



"Well, don't forget its back to your mothers this afternoon!"



"Aww..." the original CMC sighed.



"She doesn't live far, come with us and I can show you were she lives..." Sombra offered, and they cheered up again!

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Rarity got Sombra to try on the tux, and was delighted to see it fitted just fine! She'd also made some jet black shoes to compliment the lapels.



"Classy, yet bold.." she decided, stepping back to view it on him.



"Its perfect!" Sombra said, thanking her again.



"That's not all!" She trilled, holding up the cleaned necklace. The gems sparkled, it looked wonderful.

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Once he'd taken the outfit off, she wrapped it up for safety and he took it up to his room for the next night. While he and Shining Sea had been sitting out in the garden, they'd told Bright Spark about the impending date. She'd gone into squee mode, dancing about the pair. Sea and Sombra had exchanged relieved and happy looks. Bright Spark seemed very happy that her mommy was dating again it seemed...

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Later that afternoon Sombra, Bright Spark and the CMC set off to deliver Bright Spark home. The four girls trotted alongside Sombra, heads together, eagerly discussing plans for the crystal empire CMC! Sombra smiled to see how happy Bright Spark was!

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Shining Sea's face lit up when she opened the door and spotted her daughter there wearing her new cape! She invited them all in for tea, and got the run-down of the midnight snack raid, followed by the abduction!



She once again felt extremely grateful Sombra had been there, and thanked him profusely. He assured her it was no worry, he wouldn't let those things hurt anypony!



"He whooped its butt!" Scootaloo added "that thing didn't see it coming! He was like WHOOSH-" She mimed the shadow diving from the sky "and POW!"



"And Pwincess Woona swooped in to wescue us from the fing befowe it went boomy" Bright Spark giggled "she's so much awesome!"



"Why would it go after kids?" Sea asked.



"It said it wanted what we knew of the world outside the empire!" Sweetie Belle piped up.



"I fink it gwabbed me by mistake, I don't know anyfing about the rest of Equestwia. well, except what they show us in school..." Bright Spark blinked.

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At last the CMC and Sombra had to go. Sombra shot a smile at Shining Sea as he left, and she returned it.



"Yer marefriend's nice.." Applebloom remarked.



"Yes she- wait, what?" Sombra did a double take. Applebloom grinned.



"Bright Spark." she offered as explanation. Sombra sighed, but couldn't help a small smile.



He dropped the kids off back at the palace where they were going to join Rainbow Dash in going to a Wonderbolts show. Wanting to look up something about the show he and Shining Sea were going to see, he headed to the library.

And happened to spot the tail end of an oddly noisy crowd heading into the building. Puzzled, he snuck in silently after them.

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"Why keep the books around?"



"They're an insult, after everything-!"



"They should change them..."



The bewildered librarian looked from one to the next. What was she supposed to do? Their complaints were leveled against a history book, at a certain point in it. About-



"What in Equestria is this about?" a confused voice speared the babble and they all turned, and the librarian spoke the end of her last sentence aloud.



"-Prince Sombra??"



"Is something wrong?" Sombra strode over to the crowd.



He spotted the history book lying open on the table by the crowd and floated it up, seeing the page it was open to and realizing-



"Don't you think it should change, sire?" the leader of the strange protest group looked from Sombra to the librarian, surely the Prince would understand? She bobbed her head at the book, "why should you be reminded of this every-"



"Stop!" Sombra said abruptly. They all fell silent at the urgency of his tone. He lowered the book, looking over the top of it at the crowd. The pony who'd been pushing the idea he didn't deserve to be constantly reminded of it was surprised, along with everyone else, to see a concerned look on his face.



"I understand what you're trying to do. I truly do. But...." he shook his head, gaze going slightly distant as he recalled his own learning experiences, "sorrow will only grow the more you try to forget. That's one thing I learnt, myself."



They listened intently as he continued "I thought I'd be happier with my past all jumbled up and hidden away. But it was always lurking there, I was always afraid of the day I'd have to confront it. So I refused to face it. Then an attack on the palace by those creatures resulted in not only my magic being temporarily removed from me altogether, but also every last memory being unlocked..." he closed his eyes, sighing softly at how terrifying it'd felt, "Old and new merged together, every new memory I'd made since coming here was under threat of being erased by the past."



The crowd of ponies gave a multitude of shocked gasps and cries. What he was describing sounded painful. His magic had been torn from him by force? Then they noticed he was smiling softly as he opened his eyes.



"But thanks to Princess Luna and several others, I was fortunate in that I did not have to face it alone. They untangled the new memories from the old ones. They did not hide them away, but they did show me every reason why I shouldn't try to forget. As awful as it was, without my past I wouldn't have seen how different I could be NOW. The nights after that, they were all I seen, those flashbacks. But yet it didn't seem so bad. At a deeper level it was a relief to finally see them again. Yes, it hurts to see painful reminders of past mistakes, but the more you try to deny it, the more it will hurt. You shouldn't get rid of your past, its a part of who you are. It might seem frightening, but I'm certain you can manage it together."



He set the book down in front of the lead mare, who looked up at him, flushing as he smiled gently at her.



"What you're trying to do is very kind, and prior to that night, I doubt I would've tried to stop you. I wished so badly at that time to NEVER see my own past, hiding behind the fact that waking up here had somehow buried it. Trying to ignore the fact the mistakes made back then influenced decisions made NOW. But I reiterate; the story of this empire should not be altered. It WILL get better, that thing up there will be taken down. Please, trust me?"



She nodded, taking the book and looking down at it, tears welling up. She brushed them away and nodded again, firmly. "If you can face it your majesty, then so can WE."



She looked at the crowd. "he's right. Hiding the bad times wont make them go away. We've grown stronger from finally facing the past again..." she looked back at Sombra. "I'm sorry sire. We hadn't considered how you'd feel about it. Nopony knew you'd already dug up those memories, we thought it would ease your heart to never have to see them written in history again. But if you've been able to brave that maelstrom, when it's you it hurts the most, then we can do the same."



"Thank you.." Sombra said softly, his voice genuinely warm "its important we remember the past, but don't focus on it too much. The future is what needs your attention right now, what I need you all to stand for."



There was a moments silence, then the whole crowd erupted in cheering.



They clustered around him, apologizing and thanking him. He assured them they had nothing to be sorry for, their intentions were good. That he could not ignore the kindness in the actions, and indeed acknowledged it. But he wanted the books to remain unaltered.




Sombra also told them new artifacts from his fathers reign had been recovered, that were awaiting shipment to the historical society. Hopefully this would expand on the past a little more. Including HIS past.



"It seems I had the wherewithal to hide away many of my fathers things. Once my memories had settled in, I was able to locate them. Miss Rarity is helping to clean up some of the jewels and ornaments before we send them over. So who knows, there may be a need for a whole new chapter!"



The crowd stamped their hooves eagerly.



"I hope so your highness!" One stallion said in a booming voice that matched his stature, as he looked up at the bigger pony. "perhaps you will allow us to see the past you shared with the former King?"



"In time, I don't see why not." Sombra managed at last. Some wounds were still a little raw, but he was coping.

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The librarian thanked him once the crowd had left, their concern over the history books calmed.



"It was kind of them. They wanted to erase the bad rule of the past so I wouldn't feel so bad. But I've come to accept it now, and I don't want it to go away." Sombra shook his head.



He then asked about the original reason he'd come to the library. She led him to the correct shelf, asking was he attending the performance on Saturday? He nodded, and she smiled.



"Its one of the most popular shows so far, this is its fourth run!" she beamed "I'm sure you'll love it your highness!"

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For her part, Shining Sea was trying to pick out a pretty dress, but she had no clue what the dress style was for a theatre performance, let alone one she would be attending at a Prince's side!!



She was fretting away in the dress shop, with the store assistant casting her a bewildered look every now and then. Then the bell over the door jingled and a voice Sea recognized from the party caught her ear.



"I need some more of that simply stunning silk, if you please!"



She stuck her head round a rack of posh dresses. It was the purple maned unicorn, Rarity.



Figuring she couldn't embarrass herself any further she took a deep breath and trotted over.



"Miss Rarity, isn't it?" she hazarded.



"Hm? Oh!" Rarity recognized Sea right away. "hello darling! Are you doing a bit of shopping?"



"I'm trying to, but I simply don't know what to wear to a theatre event!" Sea groaned in despair "I really hate to impose, but i need your help-"



"Oh, its not a problem!" Rarity realized Sea needed help picking a dress, "I am more than happy to lend a hoof! Lets go take a look shall we?"

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The two mares headed back over to the racks of dresses, with Rarity assessing Shining Sea's blue coat and mane. In the end she went for a gold silk dress with lemon yellow gems sewn around the collar and hem, with a layer of white silk underneath the train. To go with this she picked out pearly white shoes and necklace, along with a hairpin shaped like a white rose.



"Perfect!" she cried when Shining Sea modeled the whole outfit, "he's going to ADORE it!"



Shining Sea blushed at the fact this was all for her date. With SOMBRA no less.



"I still cant believe he.." she trailed off, flushing.



"That dance at the ball? That was simply adorable!" she leant in to share a secret with the other mare, "I saw him looking all antsy soon as the music started. He was looking about this way and that, ignoring all the ladies practically throwing themselves at him! When he spotted you, my dear his eyes lit up! I'd say its VERY believable!"



Sea nodded her head, looking so happy it made Rarity beam.



After purchasing the dress, Rarity invited Sea to join her for cake and tea at a nearby cafe!

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"If I might ask," Rarity said curiously "you don't have to spill the beans, but when did you first realize he was more then he appeared in the past?"



"That would be at the festival," Sea smiled at the memory "I'd forgotten Bright Spark had asked him to come see her, I don't think even she was expecting him to show up to HELP with the preparations. She assumed he'd show up at the opening. I think a lot of the other families and staff were startled when he appeared to help set up!"



Rarity giggled. "It's ironic, according to Princess Cadance. Everypony had been sending letters asking when he would come see them, leave the palace? Then, on the day she's announcing his inheritance, he's nowhere to be found because he LEFT!"



Sea smiled at this fact, Sombra really was full of surprises, "Bright Spark was so pleased to see him. While she was on a deep box dive into the decorations, I took the opportunity to say thank you for helping us with the plague, and I was sorry I'd snapped at him at the time. After that, well, we got to talking. I asked was he alright, did he want to go get some coffee-" she blushed at the memory of the blundering method of finding a way to spend more time around him "-but then those things attacked!"



"It certainly made quite a mess!" Rarity shuddered as she recalled the aftermath when she and the others had shown up.



"We were all on the verge of giving up, but he refused to let it go. I'd been over it in my head a dozen times, and I'd decided he more than deserved a second chance after everything he'd done. I thanked him for saving the kids festival, and then I seen him TRULY smile for the first time. a real smile," she blushed. "sweet merciful Celestia he looked so handsome when he smiled that way. I'm pretty sure I just stared at him for a good few seconds."



Rarity giggled. "We've all been there darling! Swept off our hooves by a smile..." she sighed dreamily.



"But he stayed at the stall the whole time, until Bright Spark's play! She was so happy to see us both watching her performance! She adores Sombra, has done since the start. He helped her see how amazing she was, that a little difference in speech didn't take away from who she was. I cant thank him enough for helping her believe in others again..." she wiped at her eyes with a soft smile. Rarity nodded.



"I think she did the same for him darling," she told Sea. "He told us she was the first to acknowledge him as something other than a monster."



They chattered a while longer, before Sea thanked Rarity again and they parted ways.



The date was tomorrow night, and Shining Sea had never been so nervous in her life!

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To be fair, neither had Sombra! A date was a foreign, unknown thing in his life. He spent copious amounts of time fidgeting in his room, until Rarity popped in to tell him the carriage was ready! She took a quick photo of him in the outfit she'd designed, to add to her scrapbook, then walked down with him to the door, pausing only to mention she'd had the flowers placed in the carriage. He thanked her once more, reiterating how thoroughly stuck he'd be without her input!



"Someday I'll find a way to thank you, I promise." he chuckled softly.



"That's what friends are for, darling!" Rarity shook her head and smiled "you just have fun!"

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The trip over to pick up the amazing mare who'd become so special to him, Sombra wondered was there a protocol or etiquette to follow? Besides bringing the flowers to the door with him according to miss Rarity.



Rarity had insisted he just act natural, which didn't help much, not to his mind...

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"Here we are your majesty!" The pony steering the carriage called down to the Prince. With a sigh Sombra hopped out, feeling odd without the cover of his heavy duty armor and cloak.



In no time at all he'd reached the door of the pleasant little house, and tapped the door with one hoof!

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Bright Spark was at her friends house for the night, and Shining Sea was pacing up and down the front hall carpet, almost wearing a groove in it when she heard the knocking on the door. She let out a squeak, then hurriedly composed herself and took a deep breath before opening the door, reminding herself to be subtle.



Oh sweet Celestia, he looked jaw droppingly gorgeous. Goodbye composure, hello red in the face.



She made a noise like a squeak and a wheeze, and he smiled softly, before offering the beautiful white roses he was carrying to her.



"Oh they're wonderful!" She exclaimed, breathing in the scent. "I've always loved roses, and the white ones seemed extra special to me..."



"They're just like you." he said softly.



She blushed at the compliment, and took his out held hoof with hers. They walked to the carriage, her heart hammering away. This was really happening!

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As the carriage pulled away and headed for the theatre across town, Sombra picked up the box containing the necklace. He took a deep breath to clear his mind, and hoping he wouldn't make a prize fool of himself with this plan; turned to face Sea.



"I -" damn it brain.



"What is it?" she asked. Her eyes settled on the ornate box the necklace was in, curiosity in her eyes. He sighed at how dimwitted he'd just sounded, and figured he couldn't sound any stupider, so he opened the box.



Her eyes widened when she seen the necklace "It's stunning..." she whispered.



"Yes, I wanted to give this to you. I found it with some of fathers things, it belonged to the Queen."



"A Queen, I couldn't possibly-" but she was stopped by Sombra closing the space between them and nervously kissing her gently. He nuzzled her nose, and she felt like turning to jelly.



"Let me explain," he said softly. "the three stars on the necklace reminded me of two things. Firstly, the stars in your Cutie Mark, and secondly, the three who made the biggest impact on who I am," A little gleam of magic reflected off each star on the necklace as he spoke. "My father. Bright Spark. And YOU."



She felt her eyes tear up at the honesty behind the gesture. That she'd made such an impact on him, she hadn't thought...



"You three are the stars I can follow to find my way back," he smiled gently at her. "that's why I wanted you to have this."



She couldn't say a word, just nod. He set the necklace around her neck, then conjured a reflective pane of magic so she could see it for herself.



"It's so pretty..." she whispered. She felt fresh tears well up as she looked at the stallion who'd given it to her. He looked so happy to see her wearing it.



She brushed the magical mirror away and kissed him.



"Thank you..." she whispered as she let him go, reaching up to tuck a loose strand of his mane back behind his ear.



Just as they were about to kiss again, the carriage suddenly jolted and they were thrown off the seats. Shining Sea felt her face go bright red as she realized she'd landed cozied up to Sombra's chest. He blinked at her, flushing a little himself.



"At least my brain can't top that..." he remarked, and she giggled.



"My apologies sire, some lunatic driver tried to cut us up-oops!" The driver stuck his head in through the roof compartment and paused when he saw them.



"Hay, you're the one who put on the brakes!" Sombra shot back, wiping the grin off the stallions face. Then he felt a delayed pang of pain in his head and cursed.



"Sombra?" Sea peered worriedly at him, reaching a hoof to touch his cheek gently "what's the matter?"



"Oww, it's one of those things. Blasted creatures disguised itself, that's why the delay." He helped her up and bounded out of the carriage, glancing this way and that. The pain was fading, the thing was on the move!



"Hop back in sire, we'll track it!" the driver bellowed for the pony's pulling the carriage to put it in maximum gear!



Sombra made sure sea was safe then transformed into his shadow form to join them atop the carriage. They took off, tracking the other carriage. Sombra bellowed directions and they put everything into it, racing after them.



At last Sombra spotted it, racing towards the central business district. He spied the shadows reflected by the street lamps now they'd emerged from the residential area. They offered sharp black shadows due to their intensity, which made his power much easier;



"Keep her safe!" He ordered them.



"With everything we got, sire!" the driver promised.



"Sombra?" Sea poked her head out the window as they raced along the street. Sombra clung to the carriage as his shadow self so he could lean down and nuzzle her nose ever so gently.



"I wont take long, I promise you..." he whispered. She nodded, then watched him dive off into a passing shadow. The carriage came to a slow, and she sighed worriedly.



"He knows what he's doing miss!" One of the pony's pulling the carriage said kindly.



"I know..." she smiled gently.



"Hay... Help!" a voice reached their ears and they turned to look...

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The carriage had been hijacked, the attacking shadow had knocked the driver off his pedestal, luckily not injuring him as the thing had only been starting off. Under threat of being hurt, the runners pulling it were forced to take off at speed.



That was when they'd nearly collided with another carriage being pulled by armored stallions. One runner had noticed the royal insignia of the empire emblazoned on the carriage's front as they raced by, and hoped they'd alert a guard or somepony! Turning his attention back to the road in the present moment he seen a shadow slipping in and out of those already cast by the street lamps.



At the highest arc of its dive it turned its head towards him, and he seen red eyes. A pony with that color and magic...he knew only one that matched that description. He quickly turned his attention back to the road ahead, hoping he was right!



"Now..." the shadow creature leered down at the occupants of the carriage. One was a crystal pony, the other two were a couple from out of town. It had failed in getting those three kids, so this pair would do. It hungered for info from outside the kingdom...



Ever since the invasion, travel had been seriously limited, anypony wanting to enter had to be given special permission. That was how the CMC had made it in, at Princess Twilight Sparkle's request. This couple were friends of an important member of the political council!



"Let us go!" the mare cried, clinging to her husband, who was glaring daggers at the creature, along with the council mare!



"You heard the lady!" a voice barked. The creature twisted round, peering behind it. A familiar shape was poking half half out of a shadow cast by its own form!



"You!" It leapt foolishly and tried to pin its own shadow, but Sombra was already gone. He flipped form one shadow to the next, until the carriage passed under an archway, with a dark enough gap for Sombra to drop down and launch himself like a shadowy torpedo at the shadow pony, who'd disguised itself as a middle aged pony, green with yellow mane. He was short for a Shyre horse, and hadn't looked all that out of place. At least for long enough to hijack the carriage. Soon as it'd caught the carraige, it'd given up on the facade, so it was stuck halfway between a colourful pony and a black blobby mass!



Now it got a hefty punch to the face, knocking them both off the top of the carriage and into the road. Sombra fled into a nearby shadow, rebounding out of one cast on up the wall of a building by lights set into the ground. He slammed his full weight into the thing as it tried to stand, knocking it senseless.



Taking the opportunity while it was stunned, he grabbed it by the scruff of the neck and kicked up off the ground, shooting into the sky. There he unleashed a single shot version of the homing attack he'd done to rescue the CMC and Bright Spark.



Those gathered below as the carriage came to a halt seen a bright explosion light up the sky. They cheered, seeing the thing vanquished. The carriages inhabitants stumbled out into the street, staring at the fading smoke, but also at the figure that landed on the roadside ahead.



A tall pony made of shadows as well, but this one had intelligent deep red eyes, it looked different.



"Eeek..." the wife screeched, holding her husbands hoof tightly. "there's another one!"



The council mare grinned in relief, as she trotted a few paces forward to greet the shadow pony.



"Thank you your highness, it was most fortunate you were here!"



The shadow nodded, then closed its eyes. With a rush of pale purple light he shifted back to his usual self, complete with fancy outfit.



"I had a passing sensation one of things was nearby, it took a moment to realize it had to have been the carriage that nearly hit mine..."



The council mare nodded. "That was terrifying, it just ran right out in front of us then boom- shadow creature!



"The facades..." Sombra sighed softly, and she nodded.



The prince shook his head sadly, "Even with the warnings, they're still able to use them to momentarily distract ponies, and that seems to be ample time to cause chaos."



"Regrettably, your highness, it's true." the mare nodded.



"Sombra!" he turned from the mare as he heard a familiar voice. The royal carriage pulled up and Shining Sea darted out of it, her glitzy dress catching the light and sparkling alongside the stunning necklace.



"Sea!" He gave a relieved cry as she ran over, "are you alright?"



"I'm fine, and we picked up somepony else too..."



She indicated the other pony stumbling out of the carriage. On seeing the pony's he'd been driving, and the mercifully undamaged carriage, he ran over to them.



"It would seem all is well, perhaps we should make our way to the theatre?" he asked, smiling softly.



The wife meanwhile, compared to her husband, was still freaking out. When she seen Sombra appear in his normal form, she actually had a dizzy fit. She'd read stories in external newspapers, saying this creature was back, but that he rarely appeared except when those attackers were about.




Due to the implementation of screening mail to make sure shards of that thing weren't being sent out to friends or researchers, along with the restrictions on visitors, little information was making its way to the outlying areas, and what did was mostly speculation and unconfirmed rumor. Even the empires main newspapers, having little info on Sombra, had been unable to do much beyond speculate and do pieces on public opinion. This had started to change after that plague, and Sombra's magic returning. But it hadnt been until Cadance's reveal of the edited version of Sombra's painful past, that anypony truly knew anything about him!



So, needless to say, with this barren knowledge, she was pretty startled! She'd assumed she wouldn't run across the beastly pony, since it seemed he so rarely left the palace. Yet to now see him and his unnatural magic right in front of her, it was a startling sight!



"You OK honey?" her husband asked. She shuddered, nodding.



"I'm just...surprised, to see that monster in the flesh." she said dizzily.



Sombra regrettably, heard this, and for a moment felt a familiar old pang of unease. Then he shoved it aside, These WERE folks from outside the empire, he couldn't expect them to know what'd gone on.



He suggested Sea and himself head to their carriage. She gave a twitch he misinterpreted as a nod, and thus he was at the carriage, hoof raised to step on when he heard Sea's voice. From further away from him than he expected!



"How dare you call him that?!"



He blinked, looking over his shoulder to where she was standing in front of the couple from the other carriage.



"What-?" The wife stammered, shocked out of her fear and into indignation. "well I never-"



"That's obvious enough!" Sea shot back, shutting her up. "You never even gave him a chance, just took one look at him and went straight to "monster"!"



Sombra winced, he didn't want her to get in trouble. But to his surprise, the ponies milling about the area were all sharing Sea's sentiments, nodding and murmuring to themselves.



"Surely you know who he is-!" The female blustered, starting to lose her cool a little now. Why were all these ponies so calm about that creature stalking the streets. He was just there to fight those shadow things wasn't he?



Even the council mare was looking a little worried, she hadn't had much time between meeting her old friends and showing them around the empire to really talk of Sombra.



"Yes, I DO. We all do. We thought that way at first, but we didn't know why the past happened the way it did. With or without his past however, he's as much a part of this Empire's heart as the Crystal one!"



Cheer and calls followed this speech. Shining Sea wasn't done, as she thought back to everything Sombra had done;



"Firstly, he saved my daughter. Not just from the monsters, but from her own sadness. She felt trapped, alone, because of how other ponies treated her. Because of him she smiles!!" her vision blurred and she held the tears back as she faced this mare.



"Secondly, he's pretty much kept this empire in one piece by himself. Back before Princess Twilight Sparkle made those goggles everypony on the guard wears, he was fighting this war alone!! Every day he was being battered and bruised within an inch of his life. Yet he never complained, just kept getting back up. We'd have surely all perished in that plague, had he and two others not gotten a cure to the whole EMPIRE by themselves!!"



The crowd were closing in now, adding their own cries to the mix.



"Yeah! He saved my wife!"



"And my little brother!!" one filly cried, gesturing to her sibling, who nodded eagerly.



"He helped our son get his cutie mark!"



"Even I shouted at him back then..." Sea carried on. "when all he was trying to do was help me. But my daughter, she seen it long before we did. She told me over and over he wasn't a bad pony, and she was right! I don't know all of what happened to him back then, and I don't need to know, and you know why?"



"Eeep.." The wife squeaked



"-because he's already proven he's not the same as he was back then. We don't need any proof from the past, we have what he's done in the present!"



More cheering.



"But...but!!" the mare, her name RoseThorn, was taken aback by this mares defense of Sombra.



The crowd was still babbling amongst itself, shooting upset glares at her.



During all this Sombra had remained frozen, almost forgotten by the passionate crowd. As he seen them moving closer to issue their own complaints to the mare, he knew he had to step in.



He teleported over, placing himself between the crowd and the mare. Shining Sea blinked up at him.



"Sombra..?" she asked. He smiled kindly, gently nuzzling her vanilla scented mane with a smile, murmuring softly;



"Its quite alright, my guiding star. Please don't upset yourself..."



She nodded, brushing the tears away.



"Everypony!" Sombra straightened up, raising his voice a little. They fell silent, looking up at him. He took a step forward, smiling kindly, repeating what he'd said at the library;



"I appreciate what you're trying to do, but please, don't be upset..."



"But-" the little filly and her brother peered up at him "it's not fair!!"



"All of you have lived this conflict day to day," Sombra said kindly, the crowd hanging on his every word, the silence letting his softened tone to carry across the air. "thus you know me better then anypony. But these folks don't know your whole story. There are so many sides to the story of this fight, one for each of you. Let them learn it at thier own speed..."



"Okayyy.." the two kids nodded. Sombra smiled at them.



"Thank you..." he said happily, looking at the rest of the crowd. "your concern means a lot to me, but there's no need to worry yourselves. What happened in my past matters not, compared to the future i want to protect. Please, enjoy your evening..."



The crowd nodded happily and smiled contentedly up at the Prince. They began to disperse, the matter dismissed at their princes behest.



"And THAT," The council mare said to her astonished friends. "is why as soon as this conflicts over, I intend to petition him to join the political council. A mind that sharp shouldn't be stuck doing combat duty!"



"Gawuh?" the wife was stunned silly. She'd never expected such a passionate defense.



"Everything they said is true," the council mare added, looking at Sombra. "he's become so much more then just a former tyrant!"



"What's that band?" her husband asked. So the council mare explained about Sombra's inheritance, how he'd eventually been persuaded to take it.



They watched now, as Sombra bid farewell to the last of the ponies that'd come over to greet him, or ask how he was doing.



RoseThorn was still staring at the floor, puzzling over what'd just happened. Was Sombra....really not that bad?



"Are you three alright?" Sombra asked. The council mare, Inkwell, beamed happily up at him.



"We're fine, your highness!"



"That's good to hear." Sombra smiled kindly. This close, RoseThorn realized his deep garnet eyes were filled with a certain kindness, and the way he smiled honestly at them, she realized maybe-



-She'd been wrong? Not something a high born pony like her was accustomed to admitting.



"Uh- excuse me?" The husband asked Sombra, who stopped mid exit to look over at him "Is it true your really a Shyre horse?"



"He's a bit of a historian in his spare time." Inkwell filled in for a stunned RoseThorn.



"Name's Bookmark, your uh, majesty.." he coughed, feeling even more embarrassed that both he and his wife had to have seemed ungrateful for their rescue.



"Yes, I am a Shyre breed. There was a remote settlement of them a long way from here, even further into the frozen wastelands. Despite what the history books say, I'm not from here."



"Fascinating!" Bookmark nodded. "I've read what little information there is about the Shyre, during my work on a book about rare breeds, but there's little information out there!"



"Sadly, its true. Princess Twilight Sparkle mentioned as such. The Shyre were superstitious and reclusive by their nature. They didn't like outside influences on their lives, hence why they were rarely seen, to their detriment."



"Fascinating!" Bookmark looked thrilled, and RoseThorn seen how happy her husband was. She'd jabbed at him about his "pointless" writing, her family had money enough to support them, he didn't have to waste his time grubbing around dusty old libraries and bookshops!



But now, seeing how easily he was able to speak to Sombra, and the light in his eyes, she retreated into herself, lost in thought.



"Your highness?" the driver of the royal carriage called over to Sombra.



"What is it?" Sombra asked.



"Sire, were going to be late if we don't leave now!"



"Ah!" Sombra gave an apologetic bow to the trio "I'm very sorry, I must go. But-" he looked at Bookmark, "if you come to the palace, either Princess Twilight Sparkle or I can fill you in a bit more on the Shyre. I've been telling her everything I can recall as of late, she's as curious as you!"



A gleeful Bookmark thanked him profusely, and was treated to a smile, before Sombra and Sea left in their carriage.



"I do believe we're late too!" The council mare nudged her two friends. "we don't want to be late either, we'll miss the start!"

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Once Sombra and Shining Sea walked in, the theatre owner spotted them, and raced over.



"Hello your highness, ma'am!" She bowed to the couple, "It's a pleasure to see you here!"



Sombra thanked her for the tickets, saying he'd never seen a show like this, and was greatly looking forward to it!

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She showed them up a flight of stairs, to where the special viewing box reserved for royalty was located.



"If you need anything your highness," she indicated a bell rope by the seats "just ring!" With a bow, she exited.



"Whoa..." Shining seas jaw dropped again as she admired the fancy box and seats. "this is..."



"Opulent?" Sombra guessed.



"That's the one!" she nodded. Then she bounced up onto one of the plush seats, "ooh, its so soft!"



Sombra chuckled, he could see where Sparks uplifting personality came from. He sat beside her, noting indeed the seats were as plush and soft as they looked!



They settled in, watching the orchestra set up, and Sombra mentioned what he'd been able to find out about the story. It was a fairly recent one, but had become massively popular as a theatre show!



Once the play began, Shining Sea was hooked, it was a sweet story.

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In a far flung part of Equestria, there was a palace built of opalescent stone. A strict unicorn King, his Pegasus wife and their lovely pegasus daughter lived there in peace. But the Princess grew bored of being in the castle, and so one day she snuck away whilst her parents threw a party. Outside the palace she met a kindly earth pony stallion trying to catch his cat who'd escaped onto the palace grounds. For the first time in forever, she felt free, and the two of them sat amongst the flower gardens talking about their families. She asked where he lived, and he told her he owned the town's bakery.



All too soon her parents realized she was missing and she had to run back inside. A week went by, during which the Princess sought a way to contact her new friend. In the end, after remembering he owned the bakery, she sent a request for a whole medley of cakes and pastries, and when the basket arrived, she shared the cakes with her parents and her servants. She then sent the basket back with a note tucked into it. They wrote to each other in this way, with the Princess realizing she wanted to see him again. The next party at the palace she escaped again and the two love-birds spent a short precious time together before they were forced to part again and say farewell once more.



This continued every event the palace held, but soon her father became suspicious as to where the Princess disappeared to every party. So he had one of the servants follow her, and when she reported back the Princess was meeting up with a young unknown from the village, the King wasn't happy.



His daughter had to marry only the best, he decided, and the Queen agreed, although she hoped her daughter would find somepony she truly loved before that happened. So it was that she managed to persuade the King to at least meet this stallion their daughter loved so much.



The servants distracted the Princess, fussing over her dress and mane, saying she had to dress her best, while her beloved showed up at the castle far earlier then expected. The King had invited him earlier then what he told his wife and child, and he had NO intention of hearing him out. Instead he had him knocked out and transported as far away from the kingdom as he could. The baker's shop was turned upside down, making it look like a bungled robbery.

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Sombra studied Shining Sea's sweetly expressive face as the tale unfolded. How she glowered at the character of the King, and smiled happily at the romance.



Then came time for an intermission.



"Do you think she'll ever see him again?" Shining Sea pondered, looking up at her date.



Sombra smiled "Celestia save anypony that gets in the way I'd warrant..." he said softly.



She beamed happily "That's what I think!" she agreed, her happy smile making his heart race just a little. She looked stunning in that dress, she looked even more amazing than she had at the ball.

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They wandered into the spacious bar and souvenir room. Sombra said he would fetch them some drinks and food, and Shining Sea told him she was going to take a look at the souvenirs, hoping to find something for Bright Spark!



She was mulling over the cute stuffed plushes of the main cast when she heard a female voice clearing its throat beside her. She turned, and on seeing the SAME posh mare that'd called her dear Sombra a monster, she frowned, opening her mouth to request this lady leave her alone, when the mare spoke-



"Please, just wait a moment!" she said, and she actually LOOKED apologetic, which was the lone reason Shining Sea held her tongue and waited for her to carry on.



"What he said...that pony...Sombra..." she still seemed nervous speaking his name, "what he said to those ponies in the crowd. He was right." She felt humiliated having to say it, but after what her friend the council mare had said about Sombra, just how much of a hero he was to the empire, and how happy her husband had been to talk to this rare race remnant, she'd reluctantly come to the realization she'd been making one too many assumptions in her life. That her husbands book was pointless, that working ponies were beneath her notice because she had money, that Sombra was a monster because she'd read a few articles about his return and jumped to conclusions.



"I DON'T know about this conflict. How you've all coped with that thing up there."



"We wouldn't be here, I don't think, if the Princesses hadn't brought Sombra back," Shining Sea said at last. "we were all afraid at seeing him again. But Princess Cadance theorized that, waking up back here WITHOUT his magic, it allowed him to think more clearly, without his magic raging out of control. In the beginning, they suppressed his magic, fearing no doubt he would wreak some form of vengeance if he had it. So he was fighting using nothing but brute strength and his hooves."



RoseThorn's eyes were on stalks as she thought about it. "Just how strong is he?" she squeaked. But Shining Sea smiled.



"Strong enough to tear those things apart, but also strong enough to protect a helpless child." was her answer.



"You mentioned your daughter earlier-?"



Shining Sea nodded. "My little girl, Bright Spark. She has a minor speech problem. Before Sombra came back, she was so unhappy, teased by her peers. I feared my little girl would be consumed by this sadness. But then she comes home one day, actually smiling, saying she met a pony who seemed lonely too. When I realized it was Sombra she was talking about, I was baffled, why did she think he was lonely? All any of us seen was anger in his eyes, at least it seemed that way. Like he hated being here, hated US.



But then she comes home after a school trip to the place, full of smiles, saying she met him again! Not only that, but he told her his name when she asked. Some fillies in her class bullied her, made her cry, and she tried to run away from them. She ran right into Sombra, who took a stand and told those bullies Bright Spark's words were what was important, not how she pronounced them! That she need not fear bullies like them if she could approach somepony like him and show no fear!"



"Wow.." RoseThorn gaped.



Shining Sea chuckled "I was gob-smacked when I heard the story not only from her, but from the teacher. She spoke to Sombra, and he repeated those words. That Bright Spark should not have to be afraid, shed already faced a far worse threat than bullies in HIM. And the plague spread by those shadow creatures? He was the one who discovered that a certain type of tea was the cure, and along with just two others, saved all of us. Without him, I'd have been in no position to look after my child. After that, I realized I'd been to hasty in judging him."



"Is that how you came to..." RoseThorn tried to think how to ask it. Shining Sea smiled, looking down at the display of plush toys as she spoke.

"Fall in love with him? Yes. The first time we got to talk properly was at the kids festival at the school. He helped save it after an attack almost destroyed everypony's hard work. While Bright Spark was playing with her friends I finally got to thank him properly. And we ended up talking for quite some time. I realized the anger wed seen before, on his arrival here was just an act. Behind it, he was just the same as any of us. He'd been frightened, confused, and from what Princess Cadance said, didn't have much reason to trust others."



She sighed at the sad reminder of how he'd looked at himself with such distaste that night at the ball "I hated seeing him like that, when he didn't deserve it any more. I don't know what happened to him to bring him to that point in his life, where he felt becoming a monster was his only option, and I don't need to know. Not any more. He's smiling now. He's happy. I just want things to stay that way for him."



RoseThorn was touched by Sea's concern and obvious love for Sombra.



"He's lucky," she said, making Sea look over at her once more.



"I'm the lucky one..." Sea blushed. "I never thought I'd get any closer then being just the mother of his biggest fan. But the way he smiled when I spoke to him, how much he really began to care about this empire, even before he found out about his inheritance... I couldn't forget about him. So when he asked me for that special traditional dance, I was so happy. I just want him to have the life he deserves..."



"I'm sorry for being so crude," RoseThorn sighed, "perhaps I have been too hasty..."



She was surprised when Sea reached a hoof up to pat her shoulder, and she was smiling.



"Its OK, he isn't mad, I'm certain of it. His friends have shown him he's not the monster he thought himself to be, or that the empire once thought he was."



"Thank you..." RoseThorn felt on the verge of crying in relief. It felt odd, to be thinking so much about others, she'd always been very closed off, spoilt perhaps, by her lavish life. "I wish that I could tell him myself, but I wouldn't blame him if he did not wish to speak with me."



"He won't do that," Sea smiled. "He'll be back soon, then you can talk to him yourself. What's your name?"



"RoseThorn," the mare smiled. Shining Sea shook her hoof and introduced herself as well.



But they were interrupted before they could continue their chat.



"What're two lovely ladies like yourselves doing all alone?" a fancily dressed stallion had crept up on them. He was one of those self assured types, all mouth and no brain, Shining Sea thought privately. The two mares shared looks, and were about to tell him what was on their minds when a familiar voice spoke up from behind the stallion.



"Whatever they chose, I dare say. I suggest you consider that."



"Hay, who do you think you-" the pony turned, coming face to face with the stallion who was staring at him with thinly disguised amusement "-gabuhh?"



"My, what an odd name." Sombra swanned past him, offering a smile to both ladies before his gaze singled in on Sea. "find anything?"



"Oh, yes!" She nodded her head at the plush toys "Bright Spark would love the Princess one!"



Sombra chuckled "I bet..." he said softly.



He turned to look at the startled stallion, who was standing there in shock. "Can I help you somehow?"



"No no no, sorry, I didn't know ah- never mind, sorry your highness!" then he was gone in a blur. Sombra raised an eyebrow.



"That was possibly the weirdest reaction I've had in a while." he chuckled.



Shining Sea giggled. "Well, I think he was hoping we were on our own..."



"He'd have a problem on his hooves then," Sombra murmured as he gently nudged her nose with his. "because I'm not intending on giving you up for any reason."



THAT was the cutest thing Sea had ever heard from him, and, coupled with the direct sincerity and kindness in his eyes, made her love him even more.



RoseThorn studied them, seen how Sombra said something to the other mare that made her eyes sparkle. The fierce yet gentle way he cared for her was clear.



"Oh!" Shining Sea gave him a hopeful look, before nodding at the other mare with her "This is RoseThorn, from earlier..."



Rose seen a flash of recognition cross Sombra's face. Although he looked concerned a moment, the look was pushed aside and replaced by curiosity.



He bowed his head in greeting, "A pleasure to meet you, miss. You seemed in shock when I saw your after the attack, are you feeling better?" Sombra asked her.



She nodded rapidly, unable to speak. What was she supposed to say?



Shining Sea got distracted by the pony who manned the souvenir stand finally coming back from his trip to the storeroom, and asked him to pop one of the Princess plushes in a gift bag for Bright Spark! While she was doing that, RoseThorn gathered up the courage to move a few steps closer to Sombra to get his attention.



"Are you OK?" Sombra asked, seeing her nervous face "was that stallion bothering you?"



"No no...." she shook head, then blurted "I-I wanted to apologize!"



Sombra looked about to ask why, so she pre-empted him "I should'’t have said what I did! Sea was telling me about the you SHE knows, that everypony in the empire knows! I was so surprised to see you up close after only reading newspaper articles. From everything she's said about you, they don't do the matter justice. After seeing how much all those ponies had to say in your defense, I realized I'd made a mistake. That you stepped in to defend me after the things I said about you, it gave me a lot to think about."



Sombra smiled honestly "There is no cause to fret miss RoseThorn. If its any consolation, that is the same way I felt after realizing not everypony was out to hurt me like before. It can be hard to shake an impression sometimes. So honestly, give it no further thought."



She nodded, looking visibly relieved "I've spent so much time looking down on other ponies, even my husband. When I seen how happy he was to talk to you about the Shyre for his book, I realized just how much his work means to him. Because of my family's money, I assumed he wouldn't need or want to work..."



"Everypony needs a goal!" Sea joined them again, holding the bag with her gift for Bright Spark inside it, "what about you?"



RoseThorn thought "I don't know. I've been so listless. Even the parties are starting to bore me, I wish I could throw one that would liven things up sometimes!"



"An admirable pursuit." Sombra said, making her think. It WAS, wasn't it?



"Why don't you come to the place with your husband on his appointment, there is a certain friend of Princess Twilight Sparkle that can give you all the advice on a party you could want! She planned the latest ball here at the palace!"



"I heard about it from Inkwell," RoseThorn sighed dreamily. "it sounded just exquisite! And this pony is the planner?"



"She's the party pony of legend." Sombra chuckled.



"Here you are my dear-oh, you highness!" her husband spotted her, and RoseThorn greeted him with a nuzzle on the cheek.



"Ah, Mr Bookmark, good evening." Sombra nodded to him.



"I just wanted to thank you again, for saving us both, we didn't get to say so earlier-"



Sombra shook his head and smiled kindly "there's no need, I'm just relieved that thing was stopped before anypony got hurt. Those thing's tactics have become ever more deviant..."



"What do they want?" RoseThorn shivered.



"This world. They want the energy and magic everypony here possesses, then they want this world for their own."



"My goodness!" Bookmark blustered. "and you've been fighting them this whole time?"



"Not alone," Sombra smiled. "with the help of many others, I have been able to face them and do the utmost I can to guard this empire!"



Sea smiled proudly at his words, how comfortably he'd adapted to accepting others help, in so many ways.



Then they heard the announcer declaring it was time to begin the second part of the play!

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"I ordered what I thought necessary, and the staff insisted they bring it up to the box. So everything awaits us up there!" Sombra told Sea as they bid farewell to their new friends.



"Wow, they really go all out..." Shining Sea giggled.




Sombra smiled "I did suggest I do it myself, and dear Celestia, they looked affronted at the suggestion."



She giggled and nudged him gently as they climbed the stairs to the box. "For you, their Crown Prince, its an honor, you know..?"



Sombra flushed at the reminder. "I'm flattered they would do that, but there's no need to fuss because of my sudden title..."



Shining Sea shook her head. "They really do care for you Sombra. So they want to make things easier for you, because you deserve it."



He responded by contentedly nuzzling her mane, which made her smile.



They settled down to watch the rest of the play, Shining Sea ensconced in Sombra's hold, feeling so content.

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The Princess waited for her beloved to show up, and cried, heartbroken, when he never arrived. Meanwhile, the young stallion was determined to find his way back to his love, to tell her he loved her. He made his way across the land, form one town to the next. Numerous places tried to make him stay, even a particularly bewitching mare using her magic to make him fall in love with her, failed. The thought of his precious Princess was all that kept him going. Every trial he defeated rewarded him with friends willing to help him cross the wide swathe of land between, and the gratitude of the towns he helped save.



After 3 months, with the upset Princess on the verge of being persuaded to meet a Prince from a neighboring kingdom, another party was thrown at the Pearl Palace. Into this party strode a stallion the King had never seen before. He was dressed in the finest silks, and carried an air of worldly intelligence. The King was intrigued by this mysterious pony, and invited him to meet his wife and daughter. The Princess felt a strange sense of familiarity from this pony, even more so when he asked to dance with her.



The crowd oohed and ahhed as the pair danced a pretty waltz. At the end of the dance, the stranger bowed to the Princess, and removed the fancy hat he wore, throwing aside the fancy cloak and cravat as well, revealing himself to be her lost love!



The Princess of course was delighted, and vowed she wouldn't lose him again. The King was at first furious, then he seen how much joy it bought his daughter. She told her father she loved this pony, and didn't want anypony else.



"I fought my way back here because I love the Princess," the stallion told the King and Queen. "you could separate us time and again, I'll always fight to be by her side."



In the end, the King realized his wife was right, their daughter deserved to be happy, as the Queen was when she met the King.



At last he realized this pony, who had fought his way halfway across the kingdom to reach the Princess, was worthy of his daughters hoof, and agreed to let them marry. The wedding was a stunning affair, and the married couple were given an entire wing of the castle. The fellow ponies that had helped the baker get back to the Princess became the new royal guards, their loyalty an inspiration to future generations.

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Shining Sea was crying in delight at the heart-warming ending. The next second her tears were brushed away by a silk handkerchief. Sombra smiled at her and she smiled back. Not a word was spoken, just a sweet little kiss shared as the lights came up, and the cast lined up on stage to take a bow!



Once the applause had finally died down, their hooves aching from clapping, the duo made their way downstairs. they were met by the owner again, who asked what they thought? She looked hopeful, fervently praying the Prince and his pretty companion had enjoyed it!



To her delight the couple had nothing but praise for the show, and this made the owner's night! She hadn't been sure a play would be Prince Sombra's type of thing, but she'd hoped he would attend regardless. So to see him show up and not only that but enjoy the performance was a big honor for her theatre!

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"That was wonderful!" Shining Sea eyes were bright as they drove off in the carriage to drop her home "such a sweet story, that he refused to give up on his love!"



"Any mare or stallion would count themselves the luckiest in Equestria to have a love like that." Sombra smiled at her happiness, the way her eyes shone like the jewels in the necklace she wore!



She looked up at him, nuzzling his nose and stating boldly "Then consider yourself!". This made his heart pound faster than ever, seeing the sincerity in her eyes.



"I'm serious..." she murmured, and was rewarded with a kiss that made her nerves feel like they were full of jolts of electricity.



"And for that, I do not think there could be somepony luckier than I am." Sombra said honestly. To find a mare like this one...how could he not think himself lucky? She'd refused to let him see himself as unworthy, back on that wonderful occasion, their first kiss. This whole thing was new territory for him, but he knew what he felt. He wanted to keep her by his side, make her happy, see her smile. He'd work out everything else from there...

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He dropped her off back at her house.



"Thank you, for everything..." Shining Sea felt nervous again, the words sounded so inadequate for everything he'd done.



She touched the necklace with her hoof, "Especially for this..."



"It looks beautiful on you, my shining star." he said honestly, making her blush again. That he considered her so special, that she'd been able to make him so happy, it was more then she'd imagined. To be the one he'd chosen, made her so dizzy with delight...



One last, lingering kiss before she reluctantly turned to go inside. this had been the most amazing night ever.

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As she was getting ready for bed, she looked again at the stunning antique necklace Sombra had given her. Remembering the explanation behind it, how he'd smiled when he seen her wearing it, she sighed happily. This was more then she'd ever imagined. After her husband's death back when Bright Spark was a filly, she'd convinced herself she'd never feel that way again. She'd been coerced on dates by her friends, but none of those stallions had made her feel that old happiness.



But speaking to Sombra properly that day at the festival, she'd seen something behind those wary red eyes, that'd made her heart jump. And when he'd finally smiled, it lit up his face, bringing an added dimension to his handsome yet lonely face. With every new facet she'd uncovered, the more she'd found herself drawn to him. When he'd babysat Bright Spark that day, when the girls had been teasing her about how she must surely know more then they did, she'd found herself blushing. Was she starting to like him...?



It'd become even more obvious when she'd been so elated to be chosen as his partner for the dance. She'd seen how many mares had been flirting with him all evening, and had tried not to get her hopes up they'd have much time to talk at all. But then he'd appeared out of the crowd, asking her to dance with him....



It was at the end of that dance shed at last realized she was REALLY starting to fall for him. Then Bright Spark had said, in the way a little filly does, that her mother liked seeing him. They'd both looked at each other in the same second. In that one glance she'd seen the same look of nervousness she felt, but also a heart achingly brief look of hope in those deep red eyes...



The chaos with the possessed mare had shaken things up, but with the help of the bouncy maned pink pony, the party had carried on. She'd seen Sombra looking to her, the music of the second dance starting up. She'd been about to accept, then she'd seen the still crying Sweetheart surrounded by her friends, and had hinted to Sombra to give the dance to HER.



As much as she'd wanted to dance so close to him again, she knew Sweetheart from the school board, and knew a chance to dance with Sombra would erase the blame she held against herself for the attack, even thought it wasn't her fault. Sombra would not stand by and see her berate herself, she just knew it...




He'd met her gaze, and nodded. Without a word he'd changed course and headed over to the unhappy pony.



Sure enough, by the time the dance ended, Sweetheart was smiling again, her spirit restored.

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Sea had asked Sombra if she could talk privately a moment out in the hall, and he'd readily agreed. There, she'd told him how she knew Sweetheart, how grateful she was that he'd cheered her up like that. Then he'd surprised her by seemingly being unable to figure out how the creature had manipulated Sweetheart. How that guard had attacked him because the possessing creature had focused on its animosity to Sombra, but he hadn't sensed the same feelings from Sweetheart?



She told him it was because Sweetheart, like many mares at the dance, had a crush on him. He'd turned slightly red, spluttering about how he didn't think that was the case, surely it was just a matter of the allure of the title, why would they think that-?



He'd trailed off, regarding his own reflection was a sullen acceptance, as if he knew what it would forever bring him. Her heart had ached, hating to see such self-disgust in a pony who'd grown so much from a dark past. She'd told him not to think about himself that way, she wouldn't hear of it!



He turned to look at her, and he was so close, the way the light caught his eyes... She'd looked back, hoping he could see the sincerity in her face, she meant every word.



That was when he'd seemingly come to a decision, and had surprised her with a kiss.



Her heart had been pounding so loudly she was sure she'd go deaf. This was more then she'd ever dared dream. To be his friend, maybe, but more? She'd never considered he would see her like that, although she would not deny she'd hoped for it.



She'd been speechless from a mix of surprise and happiness, which the bewildered Sombra had mistaken for shock. He'd apologized, and would've fled if she hadn't reacted. She'd grabbed his collar in a fit of fearlessness it'd felt like, and had cut off his protests and apologies by gathering her courage to kiss him in return.



It'd felt doubly amazing second time around, even more real somehow. This wasn't a dream, this was true...



He'd been stunned into silence it seemed, apparently surprised he hadn't been reprimanded as he was seemingly expecting. She told not to think about himself that way a second time, and a few more gentle kisses had happened, Sombra's confidence taking more tentative steps with every one that'd occurred.



Sadly, it hadn't been long after these smooches that they'd heard Bright Spark calling for her mommy. They'd both blushed, the look they exchanged saying they didn’t know how to broach the subject with little Bright Spark just yet. Not when they’d only just settled their own feelings for each other...



But the problem had been settled a short while later. She'd dropped by with Bright Spark to see Sombra, her daughter was missing her royal friend. She wasn't the only one...



She and Bright Spark had been shown out to the gardens by Sombra, who showed them the statue of his father his friends in the castle had made as a memorial for the past King. Bright Spark had gone to play in the gardens, while she and Sombra talked. He'd told her funny tales of his foster father, King Cloudspark. In the midst of their laughter, they'd ended up close once more, with Sombra's foreleg curved around her, allowing her to rest against his him. She'd heard the beat of his heart as her head rested against his chest. Watching the way the light reflected in those deep red eyes, the way his ever shifting black mane ebbed and flowed, the softness of his coat.



A kiss that would've made her knees go wobbly if she hadn't been sitting down had followed, and they'd shared a contented smile...



Then Bright Spark, in one of her more stealthy moments, suddenly popped back into view and gawked at them. They'd both silently panicked, this was awkward...



But Bright Spark had just grinned and tackled them both, looking extremely happy. When she'd asked her daughter was she OK with it, Bright Spark had nodded, and pretty much said she felt her mommy and her precious Sombra belonged together. Sea had hugged her daughter, and told both her and Sombra how lucky she was to have the both of them.



When they got home, Bright Spark had let slip she'd seen a floating heart bubble when shed seen the two of them cozied up together. Sea was confused, wondering where that'd come from? It hadn't been Sombra, she hadn't sensed his magic flaring up.



It was a mystery...

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Sombra leant back against the inside of the private carriage and allowed himself to blush just a little. That had gone far better than expected, even if an attack had interrupted the ride to the theatre. Sea had loved the necklace. How pretty it'd looked draped around her slender neck, its jewels as beautiful as her crystalline coat. How she'd smiled when he told her he wasn't going to give her up for anypony. It may have sounded cliche to some, but he'd meant it. He had grown up in an age where such declarations weren't unusual, where love was something you fought to protect. At least, that's what his father had believed in anyway. Back then Sombra had been too hurt, too distrustful to absorb these lessons, but here and now, with his memories returned, he was determined to follow his fathers lessons.



On the way back to seas home, they'd started discussing the story of the play. He'd commented any pony that found a love like the couple in the play would be the luckiest in Equestria, surely. She'd smiled so happily, then told him very firmly that he should consider himself one of them. He'd been struck by the honesty behind her words, the kindness in her eyes that backed it up. He'd kissed her then, unable to find the words right that second.



It felt strange to be saying such things, but they felt right, an instinct he'd only recently begun to explore. But he knew without a doubt that the world had grown even brighter since that first kiss at the ball. He wasn't alone, not in any sense. He had the memories of his adopted father, the elements of harmony, Prince and Princesses, and now he had a mare with a heart of gold. Who was adamant he was just the same as any other pony. His appearance and startling magic meant nothing new to her. She just seen HIM, as he was. The idea of this had frightened him at first. Despite his exhaustion after the party, he'd lain awake a while, mulling the evening over.



He'd been on edge leading up to the ball, insistent this was a bad idea. So many pony's, so many bigwig names and groups all in one place. He'd be a sitting duck..



He could swear his heart had stopped when he'd walked in alongside Celestia and the others. He'd felt her wing ever so subtly tap his side, reminding him he wasn't alone. But he needn't have worried it seemed. The whooping and hollering that'd accompanied his arrival, after a seconds silent gawping at this pony they'd rarely gotten to see, had been near deafening.



He'd stood stock still, the loud hammering of his relieved heart drowning out the noise at first, but Luna later told him they'd been calling his name. This matched up with the hooves waving at him, bright, glimmering eyes staring at HIM. NO traces of the anger he'd seen those early days, just an honest happiness. There'd been no shortage of ponies wanting to talk to him. From shop owners to local residents, to those he'd helped build stalls for at the kids festival.



One had been the principal of the school, she'd heartily thanked him once more, and even asked would he open a future festival for the school? Surprised, he'd agreed, and she'd smiled so delightedly.



The ponies had so much they wanted to say. Curiosity and praise, gratitude and delight. He'd been a little baffled by how many fancily dressed mares always seemed to be there to greet him or ask a quick question every time he turned around.



At one point he'd seen miss Applejack showing Bright Spark how to line dance, and it'd honestly made him smile so much. To see his little supporter coming out of her shell so much with every new occasion he seen her! He'd turned back to continue on his path, and spotted a couple of mares studying him, both slightly red. He realized now, they...



...He still couldn't fathom it. But Shining Sea had pointed out many of the ladies there seen what she had. A kind, handsome pony. One they were interested in. He believed her, but still couldn't quite wrap his mind around it. It hadn't seemed important through most of his life. Survival and madness had made up a large portion of it!



All he'd understood was he felt safe around Shining Sea. She was so easy to talk to, he could see where Bright Spark had gotten her kind-hearted bubbly personality from. Sea was honest, no matter how fancy she dressed, she still spoke to him in that same down to earth way, with an honesty that eased his nerves.



He was brought out of his reverie by the driver announcing they were at the palace. He hopped out, the carriage driving off to be parked in the specialized area for the palace's transport.

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He greeted the guards at the door, who responded in kind with swift salutes, and he walked inside. And met an instance where he couldn't resist channelling his fathers smart-ass spirit.



Standing partway down the hall was a white unicorn with blonde mane and tail, wearing a white silk tux. He was complaining and acting, to Sombra's mind anyway, like a spoilt brat.



"I simply DON'T understand why auntie keeps him around! Its madness! A big terrifying brute like THAT, lives HERE?!"



Of all the co-incidental occasions to walk in on, Sombra had arrived home just as this pony had begun complaining about the fact the carriage that picked him up last time had been out, at the request of Sombra.



Standing in front of the ranting unicorn was a very stressed out servant. He glanced past this pony and seen Sombra. He was about to open his mouth and suggest the visitor stay his mouth, but Sombra shook his head, and winkled slyly at him.



The servant fell silent, and returned his expression to a careful neutral. Luckily the snooty visitor hadn't even noticed, so far in the air was his nose, metaphorically speaking. Sombra crept up and softly as he could until he was RIGHT behind this pony, then leant in and said calmly:



"Boo."



The result was hilarious. Sombra literally jumped back as the pony let out a startled shriek and a wail, blundering round to see who'd scared him-



"YOU!!!" the unicorn babbled, eyes wide as saucers. "you, you-?!"



"Yes, me. Glad to see were getting that far already." Sombra said with that same air of utter calm.



"How...how dare you-?!" the pony raged.



"Well, you seemed so intent on labelling me a scary monster I thought I'd indulge your assumptions," Sombra wasn't even fazed. He'd faced far worse then a snooty little brat after all! In fact, this guy kind of reminded him of a far more whiny Scrollwork. He had to suppress a laugh as the "moosen" memory popped into his head. Oh, that'd been priceless...



"Do you know who I am?!" the pony blurted.



"Should I?" Sombra asked.



"More so than anypony should acknowledge the likes of YOU!" the pony spat. The servant paled, what was this loon playing at?



"I am Prince Blueblood!" The pony stamped his hoof and glare arrogantly at Sombra. "how can you not know who I am?"



"Try he fact I only just got my OWN memories back recently and you'll have to realize I've had some pressing issues to deal with." Sombra responded.



"You-"



"Blueblood!" a voice called out. Blueblood turned and shot Sombra a smug smirk before calling out "Auntie!"



It was Celestia. She greeted Blueblood with a smile and a hug, then walked over to where Sombra stood.



"How was the theatre performance?" she asked Sombra.



"It was fascinating! Father spoke of stage plays, but I'd never seen one before. The detail and effort they put into it was astounding!"



Celestia nodded eagerly "I went to see one last year, it was beautiful, I'm hoping Luna and I will have time to go see the one you attended before it wraps up!"



Blueblood was gawking wordlessly at the two, baffled by how easily Celestia was chatting to that brutish stallion. Deep down he was scared of Sombra, the stallion was taller and stockier then he was, and he knew he'd lose if he picked a fight. He'd hoped his Auntie would take his side, but instead she was talking to Sombra as if he was a friend!



"Auntie!" he said petulantly.



"What's the matter Blueblood?" she asked, frowning in confusion. Blueblood, lost for words again, looked between Celestia and Sombra, hoping his expression conveyed it. Celestia seemed to catch on, because she asked Sombra to wait a moment, and steered Blueblood away to one side.



"Why is he here Auntie?" Blueblood protested "you told me he was a monster!"



"And I was WRONG," Celestia said sternly, surprising him, "what happened back than was the result of a very painful upbringing. You've been fortunate, you've never had to want for anything, have you my dear?"



Blueblood faltered. It was true his auntie Celestia had paid for and gifted him with much of what he wanted.



"Well, no Auntie.." he said. Celestia smiled softly, but there was also a sadness in her eyes. Blueblood followed her gaze to where Sombra was now talking to the servant Blueblood had been berating on his rather late arrival. The servant was smiling, unafraid of the big pony.



"Its not my place to tell his story, if you wished to know, you'd have to ask him. But I will say this; after my sister and I learnt everything he'd been through, the pain he'd endured right from his youth, we were able to understand how things ended up as they did."



"Where did he come from?" Blueblood asked at last. "he's not native to here is he?"



"No, he came from a Shyre horse settlement, even further into the wastes."



"What's a Shyre horse?" Blueblood asked, he had never heard of such a thing.



"You'll have to ask him yourself, he knows more about them then I do..." Celestia said firmly "I can see you don't like him being here, but the past has been forgotten now, and forgiven. Not just by us at the palace, but the citizens of the empire as well. They care about him, want him to stay. And no doubt your wondering about his title?"



"I thought he'd been disposed-"



"In that instance, yes. But see that band around his leg?" Celestia gestured at the ornate jeweled band around Sombra's leg. "that belonged to the empires former King, Cloudspark. He adopted Sombra in the hopes he could fix the damage an abusive upbringing had caused. When the incidents of the past occurred, he hid that band away, stating that if Sombra ever came to his senses and returned to the child he'd adopted, he still had a place here."



"CHILD?!" Blueblood gave her a funny look, some of his boisterous snarky self returning. "he's at least an adult!"



"Again, its a painful story. One he has had to face time and again since coming here. Ask him if you must, but respect the fact he may not want to retell that tale once more!"



"What's that thing up there after?"



"It wants our whole world, starting with the empire. Were it not for Sombra's hard work, we would not be here now, I feel it. That is why we restored him here in this time. And he has proved very valuable, able to see more than any of us can, including the weakness of the tear's inhabitants."



Blueblood nodded, and Celestia brought him back over to where Sombra was talking to the servant. He gave Celestia a smile as she approached.



"My apologies for the intrusion when you two were talking," Celestia beamed "I had wished to impart a few facts about that thing up there first, and how you fit into all this."



"Those things have magic?" Blueblood blurted the first thing on his mind. Celestia nodded to Sombra, who spoke.



"Its not the same as the magic you posses, it is in fact closer in substance to dark magic."



"Like..." Blueblood said, some trace of distaste in his voice.



"Like mine, YES."



This shut Blueblood up.



Sombra bid them goodnight and set off for the room he was staying in.



Blueblood said nothing, confused.

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The next morning he met somepony he recognized. Rarity. She'd hung around with him at the galloping gala, but had realized he was an arrogant pompous brat, and had been happy to be rid of him!



She was as friendly as she felt she had to be, but still felt the urge to kick him up the backside. Blueblood was confused, how did she not like him? Hadn't he paid attention to her that last time, despite the fact she'd gotten him splattered in cake!



His mood worsened when she entered the dining room ahead of him, and spotted Sombra. She ran over with a cry of, "The theatre, darling, how was it?"



--Ugh, why do they all like him so much?!-- he fumed. He kept his aunt's words in mind and didn't say anything rude to Sombra. He didn't say a word at ALL to him, even when the stallion attempted to speak with him, he pulled off what he thought was a flawless "sorry, I wasn't paying attention" move. Naturally everypony seen through it. Rainbow Dash shot a foul look at him that he managed to miss.



Pinkie Pie was lining up a water balloon in a slingshot, and would've fired had Applejack not advised her against it, no matter how tempting it was!

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Reluctantly, Twilight Sparkle and the others decided they may as well show Blueblood around the empire, seeing as he was Celestia's nephew and all.



Blueblood was so busy walking with his nose in the air and ignoring Sombra, he didn't notice he was heading right for a massive puddle, created by a shop owner hosing down the outside of his shop. Sombra seen him about to slip on it and swiftly lifted him off the floor with his magic. Blueblood opened his eyes, seen what was happening and freaked out. Seeing Sombra was the one holding him, he freaked out even more;



"Put me down you-" he kicked and flailed, making it hard for Sombra to keep a hold of him.



"Stop...squirming.." the taller stallion muttered.



Blueblood carried on complaining as Sombra set him down on the opposite side of the puddle, and strode off whining;



"I don't want THAT type of magic touching me! Ugh, dark magic is just horrendous, no WONDER you-"



"Should have just dropped him." Sombra muttered, deadpan. Applejack sniggered and nodded in agreement.



"What did I EVER see in him?" Rarity shuddered.



"Beats me!" Pinkie Pie patted her back comfortingly. "but who cares, you ditched him anyway!"



"He's mean..." Fluttershy said softly as she trotted alongside Sombra. "he shouldn't have said those things about you-"



But Sombra just chuckled. "It's fine, miss Fluttershy. After everything I've seen, a whiny little kid with an attitude problem barely registers!"



They caught up to Blueblood, who hadn't even noticed them glowering at him after the assistance.

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They strode into the market, and to Blueblood's delight, there was a series of happy cries, and the sound of hoof steps.



--They cant resist my good looks!-- he smirked, opening his eyes, only to realize they weren't crowding around HIM, the majority were crowding around SOMBRA. They were asking questions, and smiling with glee when he smiled and answered them. Twilight Sparkle too, had her fair share of happy greetings.



"Ooh, who're you?" a little kid asked, bringing focus back to Blueblood before had had a massive tantrum. The crowd, curious about a new face, turned to him NOW, but he was still fuming over Sombra being the centre of attention.



Sombra made a note to ask Celestia how she dealt with Blueblood's behavior half the time, as they trekked all over the Empire, showing the snooty Prince the sights. His interest was briefly sparked by Rarity showing him the empire's best shops. But shopping for new tuxes could only distract him for so long, and by the time they finished the tour and stopped for lunch at the fanciest restaurant in the Empire, he was back to whining.



Throughout lunch, he mostly talked about himself, and bits about Canterlot. Not even hearing about a royal party made Pinkie Pie perk up, she still looked like she wanted to brain him between the eyes with a water balloon (three of which were stuffed into her saddlebag, to Rainbow Dash's amusement).



They got back to the palace, where one of the royal guard approached Sombra with the latest statics. Blueblood was further irritated by the way the guard saluted Sombra like he was somepony special.



--How are they not seeing through him??-- he raged --no way he's any better then he used to be, he's even fooled Auntie..--

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He spent the rest of the afternoon with his beloved aunt, spirits buoyed by her asking him how things had been going for him in her absence! She didn't bring up Sombra, which was a relief, he didn't like to think about him...

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Dinnertime and he once again chose to ignore Sombra as much as he could, whilst flirting with Rarity, who didn't react at all.



He was appalled to nearly be run over in the hall by three dirt coated fillies wearing capes. They grinned at him, hollering greetings as they vanished out of sight.

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The next day he declared he was going for a drive and stalked out of the dining hall. Pinkie Pie let out a theatrical sigh of relief, to which Applejack added "nailed it on the head there hon".

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The same servant Blueblood had yelled at the last time said he needed to take a guard with him, it was Prince Sombra's orders-



"Hmph! I don't need HIS advice, that smug know it all!" Blueblood dismissed the timid servants attempts to summon a guard and stalked away, commandeering a carriage as he did. He wanted to go into town in style, as was befitting his station!

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Not long after, Sombra came down the main stairwell, and the fretting servant raced over, telling him what'd happened. Sombra groaned, face hoofing in despair.



"Princess Celestia warned me he was a stubborn little fool, but I underestimated her phrasing. Didn't you tell him about the attacks on outsiders?"



"I tried sire-" the servant babble, "but he simply refused to listen, even when I said you'd given instruction to the royal guard-"



"There's the issue," Sombra sighed. "he's taken offense my even being here, his nose is all out of joint. He wont listen to any advice *I* can give."



He sighed "well, I'm going out on patrol."



"By yourself, sire?"



"Do not worry, I'll be fine..." Sombra smiled. The servant nodded. Sombra told him not to worry about Blueblood, then strode outside.

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The shadow slipped from one shadow to the next, unable to detect Sombra, it was on the lookout for something to drain. Imagine its delight when it sensed yet ANOTHER outside magic. It slid closer, eyes fixed on the carriage as it rumbled slowly by. Closer now it could hear the occupant griping about the crowded streets.



The driver turned to call into the carriage that he was trying his best, and the creature struck. it barreled down, knocking the guard flying and grabbing the reins with its teeth. The ponies pulling the carriage tried to free themselves, but after making that mistake the previous night, it used some of its core power to enact the same spell it'd used at the ball. The ponies eyes went dull, and they took off, dragging the carriage haphazardly through the crowds, who scattered, screaming.



Guards flew up from various hidden places in the crowds and buildings, but as had often been the case, the main leader's helpers revealed their positions too, heading them off before they could catch up to the carriage, which quickly vanished down a side street.



Blueblood, needless to say, was not happy about this. He stuck his head out the window, demanding the driver cease this madness. His words died in his throat when he was greeted by the terrifying visage of one of those creatures He screamed for his Auntie, but she couldn't help him.



Luckily though, the best pony for the task wasn't far away.

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As a rule, Sombra generally stuck to the central area, there was no shortage of targets there after all, and a panicked crowd could provide easy feeding opportunities to those things. The guards had nicknamed these attacks the "dive and drain" assaults.



He heard screaming, felt a familiar pang in his head as the attacker dropped whatever facade it'd been shielding itself behind. He raced into the street, and seen the guards battling the creatures. He teleported over, all set to kick their asses-



"Sire!" one guard said, seeing the creatures hissing angrily at Sombra, "you have go after that carriage, that's what it was after!"



Sombra nodded, and fired off what was essentially a smokescreen, blinding the attacking creatures, before he raced away, settling into a familiar routine. Discard everything else he was sensing, find the main signal...



A grin curved along his mouth as he picked up on its scent. The two creatures the guards were fighting tried to head after him, but the royal guard weren't letting them away so easily!

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Blueblood screamed in sheer fright as the horrific creature ripped the carriage door clean off. He briefly surprised it by having the wherewithal to throw the blanket from the seat at its head, temporarily blinding it. He pushed it out of the way, and tried to make a run for it. But the fiend had parked the carriage in such a way that he was trapped in an alleyway. He backed up against the wall, glancing at the ponies pulling the carriage.



"What're you standing there for?!" He panicked. "help me!!"



"They can't help you now, you have information I want little fool..." the shadow laughed at Blueblood's pathetic threats.



"Ewww, you smell foul!! Don't come near me, I just washed!" Blueblood shrank back as far as he could. The creatures mocking laugh rang in his ears as it advanced.



"He's got a point you know...Your methods DO stink something rotten.." a voice butted in.



Caught off guard after show boating yet again, the creature turned to locate the voices owner. Both he and Blueblood stared, one in anger the other in mild shock, at a shadow that was clinging to the wall several meters above them. It was shaped like a pony, but its shape shifted and flowed subtly. Red eyes glinting in amusement fixed on the pair.



"You!" the creature hissed. It shut its eyes, and halfway down the alley a drain cover shot up with a loud clang, and more of its ilk shot out, eyes fixed on Sombra.



"Bring it!" the shadow Sombra laughed. He leapt for the two, feinting as if to go for the left one-



They grinned, the left charging head on, the right shooting round so Sombra was caught between their trajectories. Sombra smiled softly. He allowed the first one to grab him, wincing as its teeth dug into his neck. He cried out, but although the pain was real, his fear was not. he felt the other one grab his right foreleg and twist it backwards-



Good. he had them both.



He closed his eyes, suddenly glowing a brilliant purple-



The main one, attempting to drain Blueblood, was stopped by the twin screams of its two fellows creatures. It hissed furiously, its teeth inches from Blueblood's face, scanning for the impudent shadow Prince- and seeing only the smoke in the air from the destruction of its fellows.



Blueblood yelped as he was suddenly whisked away by the red eyed shadow, and dumped several metres away. The shadow landed in front, between him and the shadowy creature. Were they fighting over who got to eat him? What was going on?!



"So you slipped my guard, did you...?" it hissed.



"Easy," the red eyed shadow laughed. "now let's deal with you!"



With a flash he changed to his normal form. Blueblood's jaw dropped as he regarded the Sombra stood in front of him now. When he'd first seen him, the stallion had been dressed to the nines in a fancy tux, mane done in some posh style. He'd looked intimidating, but not too fierce. Now, he was wearing a heavy duty cloak, and golden armored shoes and crown.



Simply put, he looked like somepony you didn't want to mess with.



Sombra looked at Blueblood. "You hurt?" he asked. Blueblood shook his head



"Good," Sombra said. With a pop, a bubble of magic wrapped around the shocked Blueblood, "stay there, i'll stop them!"



"What do you mean THEM-eek!"



Blueblood now saw the possessed guards were honing in on Sombra, the unicorns charging their magic.



Sombra scowled, this narrow alleyway as a tough place to fight, he couldn't maneuver as much.



The creature laughed, seeing his decision. It transformed into a black cloud and dove for Sombra, same time as the two out of four possessed ponies that were unicorns fired their magic. Sombra's eyes snapped open, and he grinned. He summoned the deadly looking scythe, but didn't use it in the way they expected. He swung it in time to deflect the spells aimed at him, then let the scythe fall and dove for the controller.



It hit Sombra, its speed driving HIM back into the ground, but he didn't care. Its hoof stamped down on his mane, as its sharp teeth tore at his ear. He felt the searing agony and nearly lost focus. Then he recalled what he was here to do. He closed his eyes, feeling its teeth pressing into his neck...



FWOMPF. He changed his mane and tail to fire. It was getting easier with every time he used it, to summon his flame..



The hoof pinning his mane caught fire, and the flames spread rapidly. The creature screamed in fury, thrashing about trying to put out the flames. Sombra shifted one hind leg under its body, right under its core. With a savage kick he sent it flying back, right into the wall. Luck was with him as the impact, coupled with the force behind the kick shattered the core. It exploded, leaving a sizable hole in the wall. Sombra shut his eyes a moment, that'd been close. Such a cramped place did not make fighting easier for a pony of his stature.



Blueblood watched all this in shock, seeing the scythe stab into the paving. the weapon looked deadly, its edge glowing purple. Deterred, the possessed ponies had turned on his shield now, hammering away at it with their magic and hooves.



Then they all froze, surrounded by a faint dark purple aura. Then they just...collapsed.



"W-what...what's happening?!" Blueblood wailed. He looked past them to-



Sombra. the bigger pony was on his hooves once more, the bright glow of his dark magic highlighting sharp red eyes. Blueblood seen a shadow lift away from each possessed pony.



"What is that?" he stammered out.



"The spell used to possess them. They didn't mean any of their actions." Sombra gathered the spells together in one lump. It looked like a toxic black smoke.



"What're you going to do?" Blueblood squeaked. It popped into his head that Sombra had him trapped in this shield and he had a nasty spell in his control. What if he wanted revenge for Blueblood snubbing him the other night?!



But Sombra didn't see any of this reflected on Blueblood's face. Instead he focused on doing what he always did with these spells.



Blueblood yelped in fright as Sombra absorbed the entire spell. Was he crazy?! What if it turned him into something?



But although the same aura briefly appeared around Sombra's body, it soon dissolved and vanished. Sombra's expression was one of intense concentration, what was he doing?!



Then the bigger pony suddenly seemed to lose consciousness, and crumpled to the ground. The shield he'd been powering around Blueblood disappeared with a ping.



"Hay!" Blueblood panicked, what was he supposed to do?! "You have to wake up, what if more come back--?! Wake up-"



He was shaking Sombra by this point, and was relieved when Sombra stirred, coughed heavily, and sat up. He sat there a moment, not speaking, head bowed slightly, just breathing deeply.



"What did you DO?! are you crazy?!" Blueblood, unsettled by Sombra's silence, babbled on. "That thing-" he stopped as he seen blood droplets pattering to the ground.



Following them up he seen the bleeding cut on Sombra's left ear. The crimson fluid was soaking into his coat, it looked painful.



"Uuggh..." one of the guards pulling the carriage sat up, and Sombra walked over to him.



"You OK?" he asked.



"What happened, sire-?"



"No need for concern, it was just a possession attempt, you'll feel fine in a few minutes."



"Thank you sire," the guard said gratefully. "we're all lucky YOU came along-"



"UGH, I HAVE HAD IT!" Blueblood yelled. Both ponies jumped slightly, looking over at him.



Blueblood was in full meltdown mode, he didn't care he was making a fool of himself;



"Why is every pony in this blasted place so obsessed with YOU!" He jabbed a hoof at Sombra "I've read history books, I know who YOU are! You terrorized this place, and Auntie finally got rid of you. Now she wakes you back up because your foul magic can help figure out those creepy things a little bit? Well I'M not buying this act of yours! Leopards don't change their spots!!"



"You-" the guard took a step forward, furious that Blueblood was insulting Sombra in this manner. But he was surprised when Sombra raised a hoof to stop him from advancing on the younger Prince.



"Sire?!" He asked, frankly baffled.



"Let me, things won't change if he doesn't hear it from me directly."



He drew himself up to his full height, and strode over to Blueblood. Who, now that the guard wasn't looking about to jump to HIS defense, was feeling a little scared.



"Listen to me, and listen well," Sombra's sharp red eyes bored into him "I'm through entertaining your childishness. You think, after everything I've fought for to this day since my awakening, everything I've LEARNT, that a simple dislike of me is going to call a halt to my plans, then you are as foolish as you appear selfish!"



"How d-"



"NO." Sombra cut him off. "not a word out of you. It's time you faced up this. You ask how dare I? Simple, because out of the two of us, it seems only I have learnt a dose of humility!"



Blueblood squeaked, all bluster gone now. Sombra wasn't backing down, wasn't being swayed by his attempts at throwing his weight around.



"I was the same as you are, stubborn, determined to look down on everypony on returning here. It was humiliating back then, with my head stuck in the past, to come back here with little of my former power, or even my title. I thought of everypony as just pawns, and cared not for their attempts to help me. Until a little FILLY gave me a chance. She figured even a monster deserved a friend. She was a spark that would eventually start a fire, with the help of Princess Twilight Sparkle and the others. I frankly didn't care at that time if I ran myself into the ground, if I was killing myself with all the fighting I was doing, with little sleep, nightmares making me sicken with every night.





But THEY cared. They stepped in when I was on the verge of giving up altogether. They're the reason things changed. The Reason I changed. If all of them could see something good, if Shining Armor could forget the events of the takeover last time, and still offer to be a friend to me, that who was I to fight them? The one not seeing it was ME. After a lifetime of believing I WAS a monster, the kindness of the ponies here felt alien, strange. For the longest time possible I couldn't believe them, was convinced they'd turn on me once they lost interest. But gradually they got through to me, made me realize what I was missing, and what I had to do to get it!"



Blueblood was silenced, so was the guard. Few of them had heard Sombra speak so much about his adjustment to his new life, so to hear how much he'd had to fight through, how he'd honestly tried to destroy himself so set was he in thinking he was just a throwaway savior to them, it was captivating.



Blueblood was surprised to actually see a look of sadness and pain in Sombra's eyes as the pony seemed to gaze past him, into the murky past.



"Yes, I made a major mistake, many of them in fact. I hid behind the fact my memories were damaged when I woke up here, I couldn't recall what I'd done to this place. After the nightmares of my own upbringing came back to hound me every night, I didn't think I could cope seeing I all again. That if the memories came back, id lose everything that'd changed, I'd slip back into what I once was. But you know what?" Determination lit his eyes once more and he returned his fierce glare on Blueblood.





Blueblood gaped soundlessly up at him, unable to say a word.



"I was wrong. Part of the pain hounding me was my own guilt over never facing up to what I'd done. The pain only gets worse the more you try to repress it. I didn't think I could face it alone, but I didn't HAVE TO. Princesses Luna and Twilight Sparkle, and all the others, they helped piece the good memories back together, but still leaving the old ones there for me to see. But they weren't taking over my mind the way I feared. I could see them as if they were merely a play being directed on a distant stage.



It's thanks to those memories I was able to find some of my fathers possessions, and realize that if he, and everypony in the Empire could trust the duty of being their Crown Prince to me;" indicating the leg band "than refusing to trust them was insulting to everything they'd done. I owe it to all of them, to match up to what they see and believe of me. Do you understand now, why I wont let your hatred of me make a difference? You can choose to despise me if you so wish, but I'm telling you here and now I won't let it stand between me and doing my JOB. I still have a lot to learn, but I'm going to do everything i can."



Blueblood tried to speak, but was drowned out by multiple voices cheering. He gawked past Sombra to where the rest of the guards pulling the carriage had woken up and were stamping their hooves and yelling in support of everything they'd just heard. Sombra blinked, he hadn't expected all of them to wake up so fast. Whoops. But their responses still made him smile, along with a sense of relief they'd understood.



"Lets get out of here..." Sombra said to them. They nodded happily up at him, and Blueblood seen how genuinely pleased they were to see him, to serve him.

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He didn't say a word as they ushered him back into the carriage. He noted absently that Sombra opted to walk alongside them, and he studied the Prince from the carriage window. The way he walked, the way he spoke, he truly WAS a Prince. When he'd asked his auntie Celestia as a foal what it was like to be royalty, she'd said something he'd forgotten about as he'd grown older, grown more pampered and spoilt; "A royal's job is to inspire others to stand by them, not force them to get in line behind them."

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They drove back to the palace, where Celestia was told what'd happened. She came haring down, and on spotting Sombra talking to one of the staff she fixed her eyes on Blueblood, who looked on the verge of tears.



"Let's have some tea, we can talk about it." she said soothingly. He sniffled, nodded silently, and she told him she was just going to speak to Sombra briefly, and she'd be right there.



"Ah, Princess..." He turned to look at her as she walked over.



"I've been meaning to bring this up for a while," she chuckled. "you don't have to keep referring to us all as Princess, or Prince in Shining Armor's case. Dear Twilight has been the same. You're both a part of the royal family too and-!" she stopped.



"What? Why are you looking at me like that? Am I semi transparent again?" Sombra took a glance at himself just to check.



"NO, its not that.." Celestia reached a hoof up and nudged his mane aside. The cut on his ear had been bleeding into his coat under the metal of the crown, partly hidden by his flowing mane.



"You're bleeding," she informed him, focusing her magic to do as she'd done before, and speed the healing up.



"Oh, right... I'd forgotten about that," he winced briefly as she healed it. "one of those things bit me.."



"Get to the doctor, well, you know the drill better then most." she said ruefully. He nodded, he needed a dose of that tea to help prevent any further sickness.



Once she was sure he was OK, and he'd given her all the relavent information, she left for the tea room and a still silent Blueblood.

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"Tell me about it..." she said kindly to him. And got a shock when he burst out crying all of a sudden.



He blurted out the whole story of the attack, and Sombra's subsequent rescue of him.



"Then he... He said a lot of things auntie, you were right about him..."




"Yes, he did say he took a pop at you," Celestia remarked "he wished me to convey his apologies if he scared you, but he felt it was important you learn the other side of the story."



Blueblood nodded, sniffled. "He's...really their Prince isn't he aunty?"



She smiled, and nodded. "They care about him, and rejoiced when he finally agreed to a formal coronation. For the longest time I feared he would never accept anypony's kindness or friendship. Given what he'd been put through, it was understandably hard for him to accept that he could have such things..."



Blueblood looked up at her, seeing how honestly she spoke about Sombra, he was curious;



"Did somepony really hurt him when he was little?"



She nodded sadly "Again, it is up to him to decide who knows that story. Frankly, I think it's best you don't bring it up, he considers all of us here and now to be his family, and he's happy."



"I was rude to him..." Blueblood mumbled into his tea, "they all really trust him..."



"Try to get along with him," Celestia said softly "I know you're unnerved by him, but a lot has happened since this fight began, you have a lot to catch up on..."

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On his way back to his rooms for some sleep, Blueblood ran into Sombra again. He'd removed the armor but kept the cloak. Only now did Blueblood notice the mini crystal heart pin.



"Feeling better?" Sombra asked casually. Blueblood nodded, but as Sombra walked past him, he decided to take his aunts advice and not be ungrateful.



He cleared his throat, coughed, then, in the most posh manner possible, he blurted a thank you and shot off.



Left behind in the hall, Sombra chuckled to himself. That'd been amusing.

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Sombra fell fast asleep that night, revisiting memories of the evening with Sea. When he woke up the next morning, he wondered how he was supposed to top that? Making a mental note to ask Rarity he strode down the hall towards the dining room.


Seemingly out of nowhere, a pain so severe it nearly made him black out, hit him like a hammer.



Hearing a strangled gasp of pain, the two nearest guards ran over to the Prince.



"Your highness, what is it?" one asked.



"It's... something very wrong..." Sombra gasped out, barely able to think. As the guards tried to puzzle out what he meant, he abruptly collapsed to the carpet. At the same time the sun suddenly vanished and the world went pitch black...

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"What happened?"



"We don't know miss, he just...collapsed!" Sombra heard voices talking beside him. Uttering a pained groan, he weakly raised his eyes, waiting until the room stopped spinning before trying to talk.



"What's..?" he asked.



"Oh, sugarcube!" Applejack peered at him. "you OK? These fellas are saying ya just outta nowhere passed out."



"Y-yes I... My head..." Sombra winced. "It hurt so suddenly, it was too much..."



He noticed that the lights weren't on, and it was dark outside, a strange, thick darkness. He was surrounded by the whole six elements, CMC, and Shining and Cadance.



"What's going on?" he said hurriedly, getting to his hooves with a further wince "why is the sky dark?"



"I don't know..." Twilight Sparkle said "we just heard the guards panicking over you collapsing, then everything went dark. There was some kind of pulse too, most of the lights don't work, that's why we're using candles!"



Sombra's heart sank as he looked out the window.



"It's them..." he said, heart twisting. He could feel something else... sensations of fear, panic, pain. "those things are draining them under the cover of darkness!"



"WHAT?!" Rarity screeched.



"But we cant get out there, that darkness, it ain't natural..." Applejack said.



"We tried!" Rainbow Dash added. "you cant fly in that!"



Rarity looked out the window too, then spotted a spider web inches from her nose.



"Web!" she screeched, backpedalling. "not in MY mane!"



While they'd been talking, Sombra had been staring worriedly out the window. When Applejack and Rarity's words sank in, a spark seemed to ignite behind his eyes, and he muttered. "that's it-!"



He turned round so fast he nearly tripped over Pinkie Pie, who'd been sneaking up on him. With a yelp, he quickly teleported himself ahead of her, back on his feet. Pinkie Pie didn't even seem startled, merely spinning like a corkscrew so she faced him once more.



"What's up!" she declared.



"What you were saying miss Applejack!" he blurted. "its an unnatural darkness...so what about an unnatural LIGHT?"



"You've lost me sugarcube." Applejack said after a beat.



"Trust me-" Sombra took off before he was even done talking, the rest of his sentence lost somewhat to distance as he ran down the hall "-I'm doing!"



"Is he always like that?" Applebloom asked her sister.



"He can get pretty caught up with whatever is going through his mind..." Applejack replied. But after shared glances, the whole group took off after Sombra.

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Sombra ran all the way up to the tower at the top of the palace, where Luna kept watch over the night with her goggles. She was up there, looking cross and sleepy at the same time, trying in vain to make her moon appear. Celestia was with her, and they alternated between trying their respective celestial duties, but neither sun nor moon came up!



"Princesses-!" Sombra blurted as he skidded onto the tower floor.



"Sombra?" Luna blinked, then spotted the look on his face, "hast thou a plan?"



Sombra nodded. Both Princesses scooted back to give him a clear line of sight if he needed it.



Sombra closed his eyes. Rapid like pen strokes, spell lines wrote themselves into the ground around him. He undid the crystal heart pin from his cloak, floating it in front of him. He stared at the minute gem a moment before closing his eyes and finishing the spell. Purple lightning crackled around the outer edges of the circle.



Pinkie Pie disappeared and reappeared wearing a hard hat in matching baby pink. About two seconds after, everypony, Princesses included, was somehow wearing them.



"Ooh.." Luna rapped herself on the head to hear the thunk of the helmet against her hoof and chuckled softly.



There was a thunderclap that made the CMC collectively jump and duck behind their sisters tails. But they soon lost that fear when they seen what it'd been about.



"Oooh..." Sweetie Belle trotted out from behind Rarity to look up at what Sombra had made.



The replica pin had grown almost to the size of the real one. But this one was a rich purple, with a faint lighter shade swirling like smoke inside of it. As she was about to ask what it was FOR? It grew brighter. With a sharp flash, lines of light shot out, flowing to the floor and outwards, skimming down the sides of the palace. Once they hit the ground they multiplied, tracing the pattern of the Empire's streets, lighting them up as the lines ran down the centre of every road and street, even into the alleys and dead ends.



"Whoa...." Pinkie Pie was sticking her head out over the edge of the tower, "that's so pretty!"



"Its looks like a..." Rarity began, and Sombra finally opened his eyes and smiled as he turned to face them all.



"-a spider web, yes. What miss Applejack said, plus your disgust at the spider web gave me the idea.." he chuckled.



"What?" Rarity said when everypony shot her amused looks "I abhor getting webs in my mane!"



"Rarity...!" Sweetie Belle giggled up at her sister, who jokingly tapped her on the nose.



"Amazing..." Celestia studied Sombra's handiwork. "these spells are so intricate..."



"They don't feel like it...not in the sense you feel." Sombra said after a thought.



"Constructs like this are fairly advanced magic," Cadance looked at the replica heart. "yet you make it seem easy.."



"This spell is... was pretty heavy duty," Sombra looked a little tired although he seemed to be recovering swiftly. "That's why I used the pin, it was easier to transmorph that object then create a raw one."



"I have NO clue what you just said, Sombra buddy," Rainbow Dash flew over. "but it's awesome nonetheless!"



"It also seems I speared a handful of those things through as I went," Sombra clocked what his spell was telling him. "They're backing off temporarily, they're not sure what's going on."



"Then we gotta use that to our advantage!" Shining declared.



"We need to evacuate as many ponies as we can!" Twilight Sparkle added. Sombra nodded.



"We can probably fit quite a lot within the palace walls. If we can shield it, it'll provide a safe haven.."



"Leave that to me!" Cadance piped up. Sombra looked at her, recalling the last time she'd experienced that, and looked about to shake his head, but she held up a hoof.



"It's FINE. Plus, I wont be alone..." she looped a hoof over Shining Armor's back, drawing him close to her. Their horns met, and a little heart bubble popped up, before drifting away and popping.



Sombra nodded, looking back at the crystal heart "They'll go for this thing soon as they spot it-"



"We will guard it!" Luna declared, puffing her wings up, snapping her goggles on over her face. Sombra nodded. Celestia said she'd fetch a pair from the guards and join her sister.



"We'll need to get every guard available out there ASAP, wait a sec-" Sombra frowned "if you're staying HERE Shining Armor, who's going to-" he looked over at his friend in time to see the, "who d'ya think, goofy", expression on his friends face.



"Oh," pause. "right."



"Just haul ass over there, trust me, they won't blink," Shining Armor told him. "you'll be able to sort out a plan from there!"



"What about US?" Twilight Sparkle asked. "if we get goggles we can help too!"



"Yeah!" Applejack grinned. "these fellas want a kickin', they'll get one!"



Pinkie Pie was already loading the party canon and gave Sombra a grin.



After a moments pause, Sombra paired them up. Twilight Sparkle and Pinkie Pie, magic and party canon. Rarity and Fluttershy, magic and flight. For Fluttershy he emphasized she work on coaxing the more scared ponies out, as her kindness would be most reassuring. This bolstered the shy pegasus' confidence, and she gave a determined nod!



Lastly, Rainbow Dash and Applejack, speed and strength.



"Aww yeah!" the duo hoof bumped.



"Grab some goggles from the stash miss Twilight Sparkle made, but for Celestia's sake be CAREFUL," Sombra emphasized. "I know I don't need to explain how these creatures attack-"



"Don't let 'em bite, got it!" Rainbow Dash nodded.



"Be alert..." Fluttershy said softly.



"The world needs more lerts!" Pinkie Pie added.



"Aim for the core!" Twilight Sparkle finished. "we learnt from the best, don't worry about us!"



"I know you'll be fine." Sombra said.



"What about US?" the CMC cried as one as Sombra made to bolt for the stairs. He paused, then an idea popped into his head. "there will be countless children coming in," he said to them. "can you three organize ways to keep them calm and occupied? Games, toys, anything you can get hold of!"



"You got it!" The trio saluted. Celestia smiled warmly, seeing this scene. Sombra had an odd knack for little ones it seemed, they took to him quite rapidly once they got to know him. He didn't talk down to them, instead treating them as equally capable to a degree. She wondered if this stemmed from his transformation into an adult happening from such a young age?

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They split off to follow their respective parts of the plan.



"Seriously.." shining chuckled as he and Cadance went to sit on the balcony so she could summon the spell with his backup "its gonna be a tough fight as to who wants his attentions more once this over, the political council or the guard!"



"There's no denying he has a quick mind, undoubtedly he will choose a path he prefers..." Cadance snuggled up to her husband as the spell began.

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Sombra seen the shield pop up around the palace, and felt a pang of relief, that was the first part of the plan up and running. He raced out into the empire, six goggled-up ponies following in his wake. They diverted into their teams, yelling they'd see each other later! Alone again, Sombra prayed they'd keep themselves safe, then made a bee line for the barracks.



He could feel numerous signatures coming from nearby homes, panic and fear as they tried to keep out the demonic creatures wanting in! But he couldn't stop to help them all, not alone. So even though it went against his immediate instincts, he pushed on towards the barracks.

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The Commanding Officer was in the process of marshaling the ranks of soldiers inside the rapidly crowded training hall, when the doors behind him were knocked open, preceded seconds before by thundering hoof steps.



The CO yelled for them to brace themselves, but when he spotted who it was that skidded to a halt inside the doorway, he told them to belay that order.



"Your highness!" he said in relief as Sombra trotted over. "what's going on?!"



"I cant explain it fully, but they blotted out the sun and moon, I suspect this is but a dome over the empire. Similar to the method Cadance used to protect the empire from ME! But this darkness isn't natural..."



"What's that light outside?" one soldier asked.



"That was of my doing," Sombra said. "I created a beacon to power it, located within the palace tower. I figured it would take a different type of light to break through it. It doesn’t flare as bright as natural unicorn magic, but its the strongest I could create."



"It lets us see well enough to fight, sire," the CO declared. "you've given us more then enough!"



Sombra opened his mouth to explain Shining Armor had sent him, could he ask them to follow HIM in lieu of their captain, but the CO seemed to have already pre-empted Sombra's query, because he snapped off a salute to the taller pony.



"What're your orders your highness?" he asked.



Dismissing the unnecessary question after the CO already answered it, Sombra glanced around, asking for a map of the Empire if they had one to hoof?



They brought the one they used to show the patrols, and a table to lie it out on. Sombra studied it intently, before asking how many were present. Some lived short term in the barracks, others had homes nearby. The CO gave him a run down of the numbers they had to hoof. Sombra nodded, then closed his eyes. Familiar purple magic swirled around his horn as he quickly complied another spell. Dozens on dozens of little crystals formed above the heads of every guard pony including the CO and himself.



"Ooh.." one said, tapping it with his nose. It glowed softly. Once each pony had made contact with their crystal as per Sombra's instructions, they all zipped over to hover above the map. Sombra studied the map, then began distributing the crystals on routes that would make the evacuation most efficient.



With one final spell, tiny cutie marks appeared like holograms above the crystal, so each guard could see where he or she had to go.



"Sweet merciful Celestia on a pogo stick..." one guard said out loud. "how did you-?"



"It makes sense, this way we at least can track all of you, so we know who's were." Sombra looked a little pale the CO thought. They worked together to see the soldiers understood where they were to go. Sombra suggested the CO stay here with a small group to instruct any new ponies that came there, and aid any wounded that came back.



"Once again I reiterate be CAREFUL. Don't take unnecessary risks, and don't let them bite you! From what I gathered during the kidnap of Princess Luna and I into their realm, their bite is infected with that plague, albeit a blood-transfer only method of spreading. If you DO get bit, get back here right away!"

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Sombra was about to set off on his own when he heard a voice call his name. He stopped, seeing Lightshield and two of his friends standing there.



"Sire, let us join you, please!"



Sombra blinked, then nodded in assent. So the quartet raced out of the building.



"Where to, sire? You didn't specify your own path!"



"It will likely be wherever I can track those things to. I figured I'd keep a general ear out, back up your fellow guards team work. It's the most efficient way."



He felt a guilty twinge as he spoke next. "But there is one destination I must see to, it is... important to me."



"Roger that, sire!" they didn't ask twice, merely fell into formation beside and behind him as he raced through the streets.

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They ripped several of those things apart en route, as the creatures diverted their attention to attack their familiar foe. Strangest thing, Sombra noted, was that he couldn't detect the central controller, it felt strangely muffled. This bothered him, but he didn't have time to consider it right then.

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At last the street in question came into view, and he was met with a sight outside a certain house that made his heart stop.



Shining Sea. She was out on the street, unconscious. Beside her was a broken broom pole. She must've tried to fight them for Spark's sake, but where was Bright Spark?!



Leaning over her was one of the creatures, reaching out a hoof to begin draining her.



--Get your filthy paws off her!!-- Sombra raged silently, pushing his power to transform into his shadowy self. He charged dead ahead, giving the creature only a momentary glimpse of this bundle of shadowy fury before he hit it, sending them both crashing into the road. He bellowed for the soldiers to secure the house, there was a small child inside it!



He spared the creature not an ounce of mercy, not hesitating to pummel it into the ground, then kicking it up into the sky. The scythe made a brief appearance to slices its core apart. Barely had the explosion finished than he was crouching by Shining Sea, reaching a worried hoof out to her.



"Please.." he croaked, worry clawing at his chest. There was a small bump on her head, so the thing had knocked her out?



Before he could worry any further, she stirred, her deep blue eyes opening. She lifted her head, focusing on the pony looking down at her with such concern.



"Sombra!" She gasped, tears of delight filling her eyes as she sat herself up. She wobbled, but was quickly caught in his forelegs and held gently against his chest. She listened to the familiar thud of his heart, and held onto him.



"That thing, it said it made coming here a priority..." she said, recalling the attack now. "Bright Spark-?"



"The guards have gone to get her!" Sombra assured her.



She looked back at the house, nodding in relief as she heard a distant voice calling. "you found mommy?"



"They attacked because of me..." he whispered. She realized he was about to blame himself, and sat herself up so she could look him in the eyes.



"Stop," she said firmly. "they're attacking everypony, NOT falling for you wouldn't have kept them away, OK?"



He didn't know what to say.



She cut him off from formulating a rebuttal by looping a hoof around his neck and pulling him close for a brief, but loving kiss.



"OK?" she said softly as she let him go. He nodded. Seeing she was shivering, he undid the scarf from his uniform, tied loosely since the pin was back at the palace. He wrapped this around her, whispering a grateful thank you to her.



"My shining star.." he murmured. She blushed, smiling up at him.



"Mommy!" both turned as they seen Bright Spark in the doorway with the trio of guards.



"Bright Spark, sweetie!" she cried, running over to her and hugging her tightly. She thanked the guards for finding her, and let her daughter go so she could run and glomp Sombra.



Sombra set the tiny filly atop his back as they all grouped together, Sombra explaining they had to get to the palace, they were trying to keep as many ponies as possible out of the grasp of those things by hiding them behind the shield!



Sea nodded, and she and Bright Spark joined the group. They raced towards where Sombra could detect another set of creatures, this one was attacking a guard patrol along with their rescued ponies.



Once the things had been destroyed, Sombra told sea and Bright Spark to go with them to the palace as they were heading back there anyway!



"Aww....bye bye Sombwa!" Bright Spark boop!ed his nose before reluctantly joining the group. Sea, also reluctant to bid farewell to Sombra, settled for a brief surprise kiss before telling him to keep himself in one piece. He nodded wordlessly, worry settling in his chest as she vanished out of sight, Bright Spark on her back this time.



"She'll be fine sire," Lightshield assured him. He and the other guards had located Bright Spark in time to see Shining Sea release Sombra from the impromptu kiss. SO this mare was the prince's special somepony then?



Sombra resumed his work, with his group of guards fighting alongside him!

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Back at the palace, things were getting chaotic. As Sombra had predicted, the creatures tried to attack and destroy the strange light source. Celestia and Luna dealt then a hefty blow and then some, causing many of their shadowy kind to be destroyed!



Celestia was impressed to see how Luna could switch between dark and light magic to produce some powerful attacks, even firing those wing crystals through the shield to hit them in one shot.



Cadance and Shining Armor were holding their shield as firm as they could. Between the two of them, it was a force to be reckoned with!

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The elements ponies popped in and out, delivering ponies every time. Twilight Sparkle even managed to teleport several from a distance!



The servants did their best to find room for all these ponies, and the CMC took care of the kids as they'd promised!



"Cutie Mark Crusader entertainers!" they declared. When Bright Spark showed up, they took her under their wing. Several little ponies asked to join the newly formed Crystal Empire CMC during this time!

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Back at the barracks, the CO was monitoring the myriad of little crystals, when a thought occurred to him.



What was this costing Prince Sombra to maintain? He hoped the royal pony was alright...he could see the crystal displaying the Prince's cutie mark darting along a side street, three others surrounding him.

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Sombra was keeping his rapidly worsening fatigue a secret from the others, not wanting to worry them. As the CO was predicting, maintaining the tactical advantage was tiring him out, not to mention the beacon light up in the tower... But if these two tools meant the guards could protect the ponies then he seen it as his duty to back up the attack, rather than lead it!



"Right, lets go!" Lightshield declared to the other two. They nodded. Then suddenly the light under their hoofs flickered and faded a little. They whipped round, seeing Sombra had slumped to the crystal paving, looking dizzy.



"Sire? What's wrong..." Lightshield looked up at the light flowing from the palace tower, then back at the Prince. "oh no... Sire, can you hear me?"



"I-I'm alright.." Sombra took a few deep breaths and opened his eyes. Getting to his feet he concentrated once more and the light flared brightly once more.



"We have to get you back to the palace, right now!" Lightshield declared.



"But-"



"Sire, you're the one making it possible for us to even SEE, let alone evacuate the ponies, you need to rest..."



At last, Sombra nodded. They had a point and he knew it.

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When they walked in Sombra insisted he would be OK, they needed to continue the evacuation. Lightshield dispatched the other but insisted Sombra should have somepony by HIS side!



Sombra accepted this, wobbling into the palace on legs that felt like they were made of rubber. He stopped by the rooms holding the ponies, who were pleased to see the Prince. He gave them as much reassurance as he could before moving on.



"Somrba!" He stopped mid-exit, turning as Shining Sea came racing over to him.



"Hay..." he said softly, relieved to see her safe.



"Are you alright?" She reached up a hoof to brush his cheek, concerned by how chilly he felt.



"I'll be fine my star..." he smiled, even though the action seemed to take a lot of energy. He nuzzled against the hoof pressed to his cheek ever so subtly, making her smile.



He was so tired, and so focused on Sea he hadn't noticed they were standing in the entrance to a fairly crowded room, containing half the school board! Some of whom knew Sea well, including Sweetheart. All of whom had eyebrows raised so high it was almost comical.



"NO. WAY." one whispered dramatically.



"Are those two-?" Sweetheart gave a delighted squeal.



"Either that or she's the bravest flirt and we never knew it..." another suggested.



Sea heard this, and felt herself go red as she set her hoof back down. Sombra blinked at her, asking was she OK?




"I think my friends are going to grill me senseless soon as you leave. Don't suppose you could stay?" she joked. He chuckled softly.



"I hate to part from you my star, but there is a spell I must attend to..." he knew he'd collapse if he didn't lie down soon, and he didn't need a whole room panicking left right and center because he was collapsing!



"But," his eyes sparkled mischievously, "why don't we give them something to really talk about?"



He nudged her nose with his, and she got the hint. An irrepressible smile tugged at the corners of her mouth, shortly before Sombra kissed her. Oh, that never ceased to make her stomach turn to butterflies.



He let her go, murmuring so only she'd hear;



"Don't worry about me, I'll be fine..."



She nodded, watching him sweep out of the room. Dang, that stallion was just so-!



She was interrupted from her search for the perfect description by a voice saying, "Yeeah...lets give it five more seconds then I'm drawing on her face!"



"Hay!" she snapped, glowering at a giggling friend.



"Just checking you were still with us. Looked to us like your brain was too busy staring at a certain stallion's even-covered-by-that-cloak, fabulous rea-"



"No, that's just YOU." Sea shot back to the same pony who'd seen Sombra at the ball and declared he was "not just handsome but gorgeous!".



"I believe you have some explaining to do..." Sweetheart teased, nudging her friend "c'mon, you're not escaping, he just KISSED you! Details!!"



Sea sighed, mentally apologizing to Sombra if this news wound up halfway across the empire by daylights end! Then again, he'd deliberately kissed her to shut the gossiping mares up, so she got the feeling it wouldn't bother him as such.

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Back to Sombra, and the staff at the palace insisted on his taking one of the private offices to reside in, he needed peace and quiet!



Sombra rested his head on his hoofs, closing his eyes briefly. He checked the twin spells drawing power from his magic. The beacon light was the most vital...

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But as time passed, Sombra grew increasingly weak with the two spells taking their toll.



"Sire, you simply cannot keep this up!" a worried unicorn fretted as she brought the Prince another cup of coffee.



Twilight Sparkle, returned from the latest round of evacs, stuck her head in. They'd started at the closest houses, spiraling outwards with each round, the catchment net widening every time.



"Sombra..." she trotted over to the pony curled up on the couch. "what's wrong?"



"His magic's dwindling!" The unicorn turned to Twilight Sparkle. "he cant keep maintaining both spells. The light outside AND the spell coordinating the guards!"



"But the guards..." Sombra objected once more.



Twilight Sparkle set a hoof on his, and looked kindly at him. "They know what to do by now, you have to trust them Sombra. Drop the second spell."



There was a great reluctance in his eyes, but at last he closed them. A brief flash of magic and he collapsed back onto the plush seating once more. Twilight Sparkle noted with worry the flow of his mane was stopping too. Similar to how he'd exhausted his immense magic supply that time at the stadium, using all those tricks to outfox the monster he'd been fighting, then using the spell to detonate the massive thing!



She and the unicorn exchanged glances, worried for Sombra's state.



"We have to find a way to get rid of this darkness dome!" Twilight Sparkle stared into the fire, wishing she knew what to do.



"I..." Sombra opened his eyes again, gazing over at the two of them "I cannot sense sense the main controller... I don't know why.."



"That's weird. So far there's always been one, or a bunch smooged together like that shadow snake! Something like that would be detectable, surely!" Twilights brain was in full speed mode!



"I don't know Princess!" The unicorn said anxiously. "all I know is we have so many ponies to take care of, and his highness is running out of power. We're simply spread too thin!"



"I understand, the palace isn't designed to hold so many ponies... they're everywhere, good thing the kids are being entertained by the CMC!"



These words were slowly filtering through Sombra's hazy state. The words, "Stretched too thin..." echoed round and round inside his head. A faint spark was lit, and he mustered together a single theory...



"That's it...!" he declared weakly, pushing himself to his hooves and stumbling off the couch.



"Your highness!" The staff unicorn panicked, glancing pleadingly at him. "you should lie down!"



"What did you mean?" Twilight Sparkle asked Sombra.



"You said... stretched too thin?" Sombra asked the staff member. She nodded, confused.



"That thing out there, it's got to be multiples compounded together, stretched out to cover the empire."



"That's why you couldn't sense it, its power's not located in central cores, it's just one flat mass!" Twilight Sparkle caught on rapidly. Sombra nodded.



"We destroyed a load of those things," Twilight Sparkle continued. "but now they're starting to attack the palace. Cadance and my BBBFF are getting tired..."



"I think I know how we can break that thing," Sombra said softly. He headed for the door. "but we need to gather both your brother and his wife, as well as Luna, Celestia, and yourself at the tower!"



"I'm on it!" Twilight Sparkle said, and raced away to fetch her brother and Cadance.

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With the fretting unicorn and Lightshield by his side Sombra managed to get up to the tower. The light faltered again, even as he climbed. He gave a muted cry of pain as his head ached. The two ponies asked could he manage and he nodded, steeling himself to make it the rest of the way.

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Up there, Luna and Celestia were worried when they seen the state he was in. The only thing keeping him on his hooves seemed to be sheer force of will!



"Sombra-?" Luna made him sit down by the beacon heart. "what's happening?"



"I... I think... I know how to get rid of that thing!" Sombra declared once his head cleared.



"How...?" Celestia nudged a plate of cookies the staff had brought up over to him, motioning him to at least eat a few. Several doses of sugar cookie and he carried on, pointing a hoof at the beacon heart.



"I need your magic to charge it once more, but this time to fire it at the sky..."



"What hath thou been drinking?" Luna asked. "How will that work?"



"Princess Twilight Sparkle says its like a dome, I think she's right. We shatter it, we get the light back. That thing is the one controlling all the attacking grunts. We destroy it, we destroy them all-" he cut off as he felt the room pitch and sway. Celestia hurriedly sat next to him, steadying him with one wing around him.



"Take it easy..." she told him.



The door was flung open and Twilight Sparkle, alongside her brother and Cadance ran in. Cadance gave a worried gasp when she seen how tired Sombra was.



"I think I can understand the past a little better now..." he said softly when she came over to him.



"The past is irrelevant. The only thing we both learnt was how to protect an empire we love, alright?" Cadance said sternly. A weak smile and a nod.



"Don't worry buddy, we're here now, what do we need to do?" Shining Armor asked. Sombra outlined the plan again.



"If were gonna fire it, we need a bow!" Cadance closed her eyes. Twilight Sparkle joined her horn to Cadance's, and they pooled their magic to summon a blue crystal bow with purple highlights.



"A bowstring made of starlight!" Luna declared, drawing the bowstring with her magic.



"An arrow must have a strong body, with feathers to guide it!" Celestia finished the arrow.



Shining Armor created a stand for it to rest upon for maximum accuracy.



Lastly everypony bar Sombra fed their magic into the beacon heart. It began to glow, just as Sombra's light lines began to dull.



"AIM!" Luna bellowed, seeing Sombra about to cave in.



Celestia floated the beacon heart over to the arrow where she combined the two. All four Alicorns pulled back on the bow as Shining Armor sat beside Sombra.



"You can let the spell go now, we're ready." he said to the weary pony. Sombra nodded, a shudder wracking his body as the link to the guiding lines of light snapped, and everything went black.



Screams called out from the castle and around....



"FIRE!" Luna cried.



The Alicorn quartet let the bow string go. Sombra watched as the bright shining arrow, charged with all their different magical auras, shot into the sky. They all watched it blaze a comet trail of light as it shot upwards at a dazzling speed. They held their breaths, praying this would work.



CRACK. There was a sound like glass breaking, only a great deal louder, it was almost deafening. But what followed took their breath away.



The power-filled heart exploded on impact, not only shattering the dome, but spreading a magical fire of white and purple that flashed over the sky, burning up the rest of the dome even as it fell apart.



Blinding light flowed in, highlighting the creatures swarming angrily over the empire, looking for the food they'd been denied by the evacuation. Between the guards and the rescue teams, they'd been beaten back, and hadn't devoured as much as they'd hoped. But the assault wasn't a total loss... they'd gotten enough for what they wanted. The power flowed through them and into the one sending them on the other side of that tear. Seeing it once more, Luna thought about the horrific creatures she and Sombra had encountered.



--We will not let this befall our world!-- she declared to herself.



There was a cry from Cadance and Shining Armor as Sombra passed out properly this time, utterly drained of magic. Had the heart not re-solidified his physical body prior to now, he would've vanished entirely by now!



"Sombra-!" Luna crouched beside him. She looked at her sister, mouth open-



"We will ensure he gets as much as we can spare dear sister, but first we need to get him to the doctor..."

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Together, they teleported themselves along with Sombra back to the medical bay. There they spared what they could, although they were pretty tired themselves. What they could give seemed to at least restore some color to his pale form, mane shifting and flowing again.

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Cheering was ringing out through the palace as everypony celebrated the light returning. Sort of. Celestia and Luna soon realized that, in their confused efforts early on to raise the sun or moon, both were stuck up in the sky, giving it a weirdly familiar appearance.



"Whoops," Luna declared. "Our bad!"



Celestia chuckled at her sisters phrasing, then watched over her as Luna lowered the moon.

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"Excuse me, Princesses..." both looked round as a familiar mare approached, a little filly with her.



"Miss Shining Sea, right?" Celestia asked. Sea nodded.



"And little Bright Spark!" Luna beamed as the little filly waved a hoof at the Princesses.



"Is Sombra... Is he alright?" Shining Sea asked.



"He's tired, currently asleep in the medical bay. He will be fine." Celestia assured her. Shining Sea looked relieved, and Bright Spark asked if they could go see him.



Luna nodded and offered to escort them there.

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When they got there, Cadance and Shining Armor were just leaving. Shining Sea seen Cadance nudge her husbands horn with hers, creating a little heart bubble that made them both smile.



--Heart....bubble..?-- Shining Sea wondered. Could it have been..?



The royal couple stopped to talk to Princess Luna while Shining Sea and Bright Spark went into the medical bay to see Sombra.

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He was awake. Very drowsy, but awake. The doctor was giving him some tea with added ingredients for a boost.



"Sombwa!" Bright Spark waved a hoof at the bed.



"Hay..." he set the cup down, reaching a hoof down to scoop her up and set her on the bed next to him. She instantly snuggled up to him, beaming. Shining Sea sat close by, studying the exhausted stallion.



"How are you?" she asked softly, reaching a hoof up to tuck part of his mane behind his ear.



"Better... I'm so relieved to see you..." he murmured. The bump to her head had been fixed up, a bandage covering it now. He raised his head to gently kiss the spot just below it. This made her blush a little, but she couldn't help feeling happy.



She nudged his cheek with hers, sighing contentedly.



The warmth somehow eased some of Sombra's aches and pains, and he happily nuzzled against her cheek. The lovely scent of her mane...



Seeing both of their muzzles within reach, Bright Spark stuck her tongue out in concentration, and managed to keep her balance long enough to boop! them both, then she toppled back onto the bed, making both grown ups laugh in delight!



They stayed a little longer, but Sombra was growing drowsier by the minute, and Shining Sea soon told her daughter they needed to go.



"Aww!" Bright Spark sighed, boop!ing Sombra's nose once before before hopping down off the bed and trotting over to where she could hear Cadance and Shining Armor talking.



"Sleep well.." Shining Sea whispered, nuzzling Sombra's nose gently.



"I will, my shining star.." he said softly, before kissing her gently.



She was reluctant for it to end, she didn't want to be apart from him right now, but she had to get home, and he needed sleep!



She left at last, glancing back as she exited, she seen he was already fast asleep.

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Out in the hall, Shining Armor had left to go check on the guards, and Bright Spark was happily chattering away to Cadance.



Cadance summoned another heart bubble that Bright Spark could play with, and the giggly filly chased it up and down the hall.



"You have a question, don't you?" Cadance smiled knowingly to sea.



Shining Sea went red.



"Well, uh....that heart, Princess..."



"I wasn't intending to intrude," Cadance explained how she'd seen the rare phenomenon of the heart-spark as she'd looked out the window. Then Bright Spark had come barreling onto the scene, and had looked a little perplexed.



"I thought it would make it easier for her to understand. Little ones associate hearts with love after all.."



Shining Sea flushed again. "It did just that, Princess. She's happy about the situation..."



"About Sombra and you?" Cadance finished. Another nod.



"I can see it in his eyes how much happier he's been these last few days, ever since the ball," Cadance confided. "you were the first one he looked for when the dance began, he looked so happy when you accepted!"



Sea couldn't help a smile "I cannot stop going over how lucky I am, that he..."



"Sombra ignored all those mares flirting with him because it wasn't what he wanted. He wanted someone he could TRUST. Least-ways, that's how it felt to me. He wanted a pony he could trust to give him time to make his own move."



--That he certainly did...-- Shining Sea thought about the first shy kiss and blushed all over again. But the delighted smile, and happy look in her eyes confirmed what Cadance felt; that Sea was in love with Sombra.



"I know you already are, but look after him, please..." Cadance asked. "he deserves to be happy, don't let him think otherwise..."



"I'll make sure of it, Princess." Shining Sea vowed.



Bright Spark at last caught the bubble and popped it, and returned to her mother and Cadance. After saying goodbye to the Princess, she and her mother left for home...

Author's Note:

FNAFRGLE. Excuse that. Im sorry this took so long. I had written little over 3/4 of this when a nasty thudnerstorm meant the computer was away for some time while its motherboard was replaced. THAT and a bout of insomnia and other madness involving some upsetting family issues :fluttercry: and everything got sidelined while i struggled to cope with it all. But things are much clearer now, the computers fixed up, and im finally drawing again...its been awhile...:twilightsmile:

Thank you all for waiting so kindly, love y'all! :rainbowkiss:

Edited as always by the awesome Dream Seeker! (Who recently featured sea and spark in his story! Yay~!)