• Published 15th Sep 2014
  • 10,050 Views, 243 Comments

From Darkness To Light - Pixel_Spark



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

  • ...
11
 243
 10,050

Fight & Fever



And so, that night, when he fell asleep (back in his own bed), he was greeted by the Princess of the night.



The world filled in around them. They were standing in the town square. The ponies walked past and through them, they glowed with a strange light.



"This is how it sees them?" Luna asked. Sombra nodded. His dreams alternate between these almost prophetic glimpses, and nightmares of a far worse caliber.



Then he seen something in the crowd ahead. It was Bright Spark. She glowed like a small sun. And approaching her was a black, roughly pony shaped mass.



"Spark!" he blurted, racing over. She passed right through him however, not seeing him. But the dark thing did.



"So, you’ve changed your dreamscape. You are the one who interfered with my plans...it’s pointless, you cannot stop me!"



"Try me!" Sombra snarled. But the thing laughed, and around them the ponies suddenly turned towards Sombra, pure anger on their faces; "you are nothing to them, what makes you think you can save them?"



The wall of animosity pressed in closer. Sombra turned this way and that, trying to clear a way out, but they pushed him back. Then something clamped around his neck, dragging him to the dirt. A shadowy hoof slammed down on his neck to pin him there.



"Your a monster, same as I...why do you fight me...?" it sneered, putting more pressure on sombra’s neck. He gasped and bucked, trying to free himself, but the thing merely slammed a hoof into his lower back, keeping him down.



Even from this crushing position, he seen Bright Spark. Seen how bright she shone, recalled her innocence.



"Because.." he growled in his throat, gathering up as much strength as he could. With a loud roar, he threw the thing off him "they are innocents in this! I may be a monster, but it takes a monster to fight one! I will rip you to shreds.." he advanced on the black pony shaped thing;



The thing snarled, backing away from Sombra. Then it vanished in a thunder crack of light, and Sombra awoke in his bed, his throat aching, a phantom pressure on his neck.



"My sister was right.." Luna’s voice spoke from beside his bed "you are the key to stopping it."



"Use a monster to stop a monster...as I said.." he coughed. She summoned a glass of ice water and set it by his bed.



"Thou misjudge thyself, you are not the monster you once were." she said thoughtfully before vanishing to report to her sister.



Alone in his room, Sombra wondered if she was right, was he more than just a monster from the past?

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

Celestia was concerned by what her sister said. How Sombra had fought with the version of that thing in his dreams.



“I believe that thing is invading his dreams as much as I was,” Luna added “it mentioned the dreamscape had changed, possibly it has attempted to attack his mind before..”



"I see. This is turning out to be far more complex than I had guessed."



"Indeed.." Luna looked out at the stars "what is to be his fate once this is over, my sister?"



"I have not decided yet..."

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

Prince Shining Armor, Twilight Sparkle’s big bro (BBBFF) and Cadance’s husband, was looking forward to seeing his sister and wife again. Celestia had sent a letter saying they were gathered at the Crystal Empire for a while. He seen the tear in the sky and felt a shudder run up his spine. It looked dang creepy...



He trotted into the castle courtyard. Cadance was there to meet him, looking as pretty as ever. After a happy reunion she told him to go the library where his sister awaited with her friends, she’d be along shortly, they had much to discuss.



“There is something…unusual we need to discuss…” she said mysteriously.



Shining Armor hummed to himself as he opened the library doors. And got the biggest possible shock of his life.



The ponies were all sat around the table, but that wasn’t the baffling part. What baffled him was the stallion pacing back and forth by the window.



Sombra. The mad lunatic that tried to destroy them all the last time they met?



"YOU?!" Shining Armor couldn’t stop himself from blurting, firing an impromptu bolt of magic right at him. Sombra ducked, flattening his body to the carpet, letting the bolt shoot out the window.



"Big brother!" Twilight Sparkle bounced between her brother and Sombra "wait a second!"



"Twily...what is going ON?! WHY is that loon here?!"



"You’ve seen that thing out there right?" Twilight Sparkle said "well Princess Celestia thinks he’s the key to solving it!"



"Hmph,....a monster to destroy a monster, how adroit."



"We’ve already reached THAT conclusion," Sombra muttered under his breath "what’re you trying to prove hotshot?"



“Shut up!" Shining Armor yelled.



"Both of you, shush!" Twilight Sparkle snapped. Silence reigned.



"He doesn’t have any of his power," Twilight Sparkle said softly to her brother "see that choker around his neck? It suppresses his abilities, he can’t do any harm."



“I don’t care, he’s a dangerous madpony!" Shining Armor hissed back.



"I’m sitting right here you know.." Sombra commented. Shining Armor ignored him.



"He'll cause nothing but trouble!" Shining Armor said to his sister;



"Big brother!" Twilight Sparkle sighed "its a long story...but will you listen please?"



"If this is all the information you required Princess, I’m retiring to my room, I feel sick.." Sombra got up and swanned past Twilight Sparkle and Shining Armor. At the door, one of the guards followed him back to his room.



"What is Celestia thinking?" Shining Armor blurted.



“It wasn’t just Celestia," Cadance’s voice came from the doorway "I decided on it too, for my kingdom."



"Cady?" Shining Armor asked.



"Let us all explain.." Cadance gestured at the room.



"Alright, for you two girls.." Shining Armor couldn’t help smile when Cadance kissed his cheek.



Rarity gave a moony sigh "so romantic..!"



Rainbow Dash pulled a face.

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

"And he rescued you?" Shining Armor said in disbelief to Rarity. She and Rainbow nodded.



"He kicked that things ass...well, it didn’t have an ass, but you get the idea.." Rainbow finished sheepishly.



"He could’ve done a runner and left us."



"Pfft...you said that choker is suppressing his powers."



“His POWER yes," Cadance said "it’s not a restraint for anything else! Had he chosen to desert them, he could’ve."



"Plus there’s tha elements..." Applejack pointed out.



"Ah yes, another unusual occurrence we hadn’t expected," cadance nodded.



"What’s that?"



"Every time he’s been around the elements of harmony, or us anyway,” Twilight began “he’s had these...fits. It seems to cause this awful pain, then he blacks out. We thought it was something to do with the choker, as every time it seemed to glow. But Celestia said its not related to the device."



"Then what?" Shining Armour asked.



"Its our elements!" Applejack looked at him "each instance has been a reaction to both his surroundings and one of the elements of harmony."



"Yeah!" Pinkie said.



"You cant be serious.." Shining said



"We are...ah didn’t believe it much, until I seen it fer myself.." Applejack said.



"U-uhm...the filly at the market.." Fluttershy said softly.



"Right!" Twilight Sparkle told the whole story, how the little filly had bounded right up to Sombra and poked him on the nose, declaring "boop!"



"This cant end well.." Shining Armor winced.



"On the contrary," Twilight Sparkle smiled "he just stood stock still, didn’t snap at her, try to kick her or anything like that. If anything....he seemed curious as to why she wasn’t scared. He even hid her from some kids that were chasing her."



"Then in the woods, he attacked the shadow creature, fell off a cliff in an effort to break its core before it could regain its power!" Rarity said "and he helped me get Rainbow back to the palace!"



"I fainted," Rainbow added with a sigh.



"Then what…?" Shining Armor asked, curious despite himself.



"I made a new cloak to replace that hideous thing of his, since it got torn to shreds by the crash landing." Rarity looked proud "AND he even gave me this stunning crystal he found in the woods to thank me!"



"Pfft!" Shining Armor spat out his tea, looking startled "say what?"



"I don’t think he’s as bad as we thought big brother..." Twilight Sparkle said.



"PLUS," Applejack added "accordin’ to Celestia, he even said he was surprised that filly could treat a monster so nicely, more or less..."she paused "that’s when he had tha fit.."



"So the elements, well, you guys, it’s changing him?"



“We can only change what already exists.," Cadance smiled faintly "we believe that the shard of the crystal heart that vanished during the summoning is contained within his own heart. It’s hardly opening the floodgates, but its letting in enough light."



"Plus he likes my cake! No pony that likes cake is that bad!" Pinkie Pie giggled.



"Sure, Pinkie.." Shining Armor shook his head "I just find it a little hard to take in. You DO recall what he was like last time?"



"Yes, and this is different.." Twilight Sparkle said "Nopony really knows what caused him to go insane the way he did, maybe there’s a reason to it."



Shining Armor sighed, Cadance patted his head



"Give it a chance.." she said softly "I cannot explain why, but all of us Princesses feel he is linked to this madness. We need his help."



"He’s shown us a lot about them..." Twilight Sparkle shuddered "it isn’t pretty..."



"I shall say not!" Luna appeared by Cadance, startling everypony.



"Sorry," she said with a small yawn "I forgot I had not shown you the information obtained from walking Sombra’s dreams, or should I say, nightmares."



"Ooh!" Twilight Sparkle perked up.



Luna closed her eyes, making a rectangular window appear. In it she replayed Sombra’s dream. It showed how the ponies innocence glowed like a flame to the creature. Its anger at Sombra trying to fight it.



They all winced when they seen the thing pinning the unicorn down. And jaws dropped somewhat when he bucked the thing off him, then railed at it, telling it he may be a monster, but that he was what was needed to kill it!



"Whoa." Shining Armor stared. Sombra had accepted he was monster it seemed, and according to the girls, he’d shown elements of decency. Well, harmony. Could this really be possible?



"I don’t know Twily...I don’t like the idea.."



“Please big brother.." she said "I know it seems crazy, but I really think he’s different..."



"We reformed Discord, and he’s a good friend to us now....why not Sombra?" Fluttershy said.



"Alright, I’ll trust you girls." Shining Armor sighed "I still have to see it before I believe it though,"



--Close enough,-- Luna thought. It was up to Sombra now.

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

The next day, at Twilight Sparkle’s insistence, Sombra found himself tagging along with a group of Royal Guards as they did a patrol through town, checking everything was OK, and keeping an eye out for more monsters. People seemed to relax when they seen the scary unicorn with the Royal Guard alongside, it made them feel a bit safer.



Shining Armor bluntly asked questions about the darkness, to which Sombra gave equally short answers. The rest of the guards noticed the animosity between them and didn’t interfere...



They reached the centre of town, when a loud rumble split the sky and they all jumped a little.



"A storm?" Shining Armor asked.



"You WISH this was a storm.." Sombra growled. His eyes were locked on the sky tear "you may want to get your precious citizens out of the way, this is going to get nasty."



"How do you....whoa.." Shining Armor stared as a dark bolt flew from the sky tear, aiming right for them.



"SCATTER!" annoyed at their gawking, Sombra bellowed as loud as he could "NOW!!"



The level of his voice was enough to startle the more flighty one’s, who darted away from the open-air market stalls they’d set up, mostly selling jewelry and such stuff.



Shining Armor raced over to help an elderly pony move out of the way faster, and the bolt aimed for him.



Shining Armor looked up as he heard his guards shouting, and seen a black, horrible blur barreling towards him. He tensed, expected a heavy blow, but mid-flight the thing suddenly seemed to vanish.



A millisecond of silence then-



CRASH.



It was Sombra. The unicorn had charged the creature and knocked it off course, sending them both flying into a nearby stall.



Ponies screamed and truly began scattering now.



Sombra got to his feet, stepping back a bit as the dust cleared.



Shining Armor stared in surprise, seeing Sombra facing off against a shimmering blob of darkness. As eh watched, it shifted into a vague pony shape.



"Hmph...bring it," Sombra snarled.



"Pathetic fools.." it warbled "I’ll devour you all!"



Then they launched into an all out brawl, the dark pony clone against a one time king of darkness.



The shadow pony darted back, firing spikes of fluid darkness at the enraged Sombra. But despite being fairly big as stallions went, he was surprisingly agile, hunkering down and darting forward to sink his fangs into the shadow pony. It gave a pitched scream of fury, a sharp hoof strike catching Sombra in the ribs, causing him to snarl in pain, but his grip didn’t falter.



It did, however, when the thing whirled, and with a sudden speed, slammed him bodily into a crystal pillar. He collapsed it the base of it, coughing heavily.



The shadow pony turned towards him, an evil grin splitting its face. "Interesting..." it babbled "yet you aren’t at your best. This is hardly a fair fight!"



Then it got zapped by a massive bolt of attack power.



Shining Armor glared at the shadow thing. This creature thought it could attack his kingdom, forget it!



The thing began to charge towards him and the other guards, who aimed bolts of magic at it. Caught once off guard, it wasn’t going to fail twice. It zipped left and right, avoiding them with impunity.



Well, kind of..



With an almost feral roar, the dazed Sombra suddenly reappeared, pouncing onto its back the way a cat pounces on a mouse. This maneuver smashed it’s shadowy face into the pavement.



"Fire!" he yelled.



Shining Armor hesitated a second. Much as he hated the guy, if they fired now, they’d hit both;



"For Equestria’s sake-" Sombra struggled to keep it from getting free, sinking his fangs into its ear in an effort to distract it "FIRE!" he snarled, his voice muffled.



To their credit they did their best not to hit him, and the creature he was pinning got the full assault of their power. But, like electricity in a water puddle, it travelled, delivering a hefty shock to the pony pinning it down. The world went black for a moment, and he couldn’t breathe...



The shadow pony clone took that opportunity and threw him off it, aiming so he hit another pillar.



Coughing and spluttering, Sombra forced himself to his feet. He could see the thing advancing on Shining Armor and company. He looked around him, this thing was craftier then before, he had to fool it!



He closed his eyes, drawing upon every last bit of levitation magic he had in him..



All around, the spikes and joints of wood and crystal from the broken stalls began to lift up, swarming around where Sombra stood. Ready, he raised his voice and taunted the thing;



"Hey shadow-foal, why don’t you pick on something your own size?!"



Enraged it turned in midair, deflecting another bolt flung at it. It seen Sombra standing there, the shards hovering around him, and charged gleefully..



Sombra leveled every shard of wood, metal and crystal. These he flung like a barrage attack. But one shard on the right side of his defense wobbled, and dipped..



The shadow pony leered and shot towards the weakness with astonishing speed.



"Uh oh.." Shining Armor spotted the drop in sombra’s defense, was sure the plan was going to fail.



Shame he had the wrong plan in mind.



Once he’d judged the distance to be enough, Sombra surged forward suddenly, diving for the weak point. Grasping the big shard of crystal in his teeth, he kicked off from the ground, throwing himself at the creature. It tried to stop, realizing it’d been tricked. But too late. The crystal struck its core, eliciting a massive shockwave. Then it exploded, kicking up a massive cloud of dust and debris from the assault. But it exploded not into chunks , this time, in the aftermath of the shockwave, it split into many, many dozens of shards. The biggest of which embedded in sombra’s leg, the side of his left foreleg, where the armored shoes did not protect.



He didn’t feel it however, as the sudden impact of hitting the ground knocked the air from his lungs again, and a flash of pain from the earlier kicked rib flared up, not helping.



Silence rang for a moment, along with everypony’s ears. Shaking his head Shining Armor stared at the spot where the thing had gone head to head with Sombra. Who had won?



The ponies edged in closer, staring worriedly.



Then the dust began to settle, and they seen a silhouette of a pony struggling to its feet, with some difficulty. Then it cleared, and they realized it was Sombra, looking more then a bit disheveled, but the victor.



Ponies sighed in relief, some even cheered. Sombra being the lesser of two evils as it were.



"Comb the wreckage!" Shining Armor declared "we need to find out as much as we can from this thing!"



As he spoke, Sombra ambled by him, standing away from the wreckage, absently tugging at his cloak, trying to straighten it out.



He didn’t move for the whole time Shining Armor and the others were going around checking everypony was OK. Some folks had cuts and scratches, but otherwise fine. Nopony was seriously hurt.



One mare had been watching Sombra since he’d retreated from the messy battlefield. She snuck as close as she could, and noticed he seemed to be shivering a little. She was willing to bet he wasn’t feeling too well.



Being a skilled chemist, she knew about herbs and cures. And she recognized a sick pony when she seen one. So she grabbed a bundle from her shop, and quickly mixed up a personal family recipe for the ailing or injured. She tied it up into a little package, then, with a deep breath, approached Sombra.



Sombra looked up as he heard a cough. He had been sitting there, mercifully left alone. His body ached, and his head hurt. Now he was looking at a mare, with a kindly expression, standing in front of him.



"Here, take this.." she set it at his feet "it’s a home remedy, it'll help you feel better. You look like you could use it. Just mix a spoonful of the mixture into hot water, you'll soon feel better..." then she left.



Sombra stared at the little parcel, but eventually managed to levitate it and tuck it into his cloak pocket.



"They’ll handle repairs.." Shining Armour’s voice spoke from beside him "we need to report this to the Princesses."



"Hmh?" was all Sombra mentioned. He seemed a bit lethargic, Shining Armor noted, but put that down to the fight he’d just endured. They made their way back to the palace, waylaid by people pausing Shining Armor to ask what was going on, what were those things etc?



Sombra barely heard any of this, just focused on getting inside.

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

But he only felt worse the longer time went on. Once inside they were joined by Luna, who walked with them to the throne room, where her big sister, Cadance and Twilight Sparkle were discussing matters.



"Twily!" Shining Armor called.



"BBBFF!" she cried, bounding over and hugging him "you OK, we heard that racket, somepony said there was an attack...?"



Shining Armor nodded "one of those creatures you mentioned. That thing was tough!" he shook his head "even our magic wasn’t as effective as we hoped. In the end it wound up being brawl between the shadow thing and that guy!" meaning Sombra.



"That explains the state of him.." Twilight Sparkle remarked. Sombra had stopped some feet away, and on the surface appeared to be staring out a window.



"Was anypony hurt?" Celestia asked. Shining Armor shook his head;



"Not badly anyway. We got small cuts and bruises, but nothing big. We got lucky.."



"And of the creature?" Luna asked.



"Gone.." Shining Armor shook his head "we didn’t find a trace of it, not even a crystal.."



“Really? The first one exploded..." Twilight Sparkle said.



"We combed the debris, nada," Shining Armor shrugged "whatever way he attacked it, it wiped it out of existence."



"Impressive," Celestia raised an eyebrow.



"Also, it spoke.." Shining Armor pulled a face "it said something about-?"



"Its going to devour you all..." Sombra finished.



"Anything else..?" Luna asked. Sombra tried to take a step forward, but the leg with the shard in it was hurting so badly he couldn’t even put weight on it, and lurched sideways as his balance took a nose dive. He steadied himself, trying to desperately stem the tidal wave of dizziness...



"What’s going on?" Shining Armor frowned.



"Something’s not right.." Luna frowned.



Ever helpful, Flash Sentry stepped forward to try and help, but Sombra stumbled back out of reach. Whatever was wrong with him, he couldn’t let it spread, he knew that much.



"Just leave it.." he snapped hoarsely, but truthfully his strength was fading. He closed his eyes, feeling just so tired.



"Sombra.." he opened his eyes, it was Luna "this way.."



Too dizzy to comprehend, he let himself be led over to a comfy pile of cushions, where his strength gave way and he collapsed.



"Take it easy..." Luna’s voice was oddly soothing, and he fell asleep a second later.



Luna watched the sleep spell do its work, then bellowed for somepony to fetch the doctor!



"What is it?" Celestia asked.



"I do not know...but I sense its something bad.."



"Is it an injury?" Shining Armor asked, a little lost "he DID get thrown about like a rag doll a few times.."



"No, this is something more insidious..." Luna said.



The doctor came in no time, followed by his aide, and Fluttershy.



"Oh my!" Fluttershy exclaimed.



"What’s going on Princess?" the doctor looked at Celestia "how many times are we gonna treat this guy for strange fits caused by the charm of yours?"



“This is not due to the choker or its spell.." Celestia aid calmly "the circumstances do not match. We fear this is something worse.."



"As you wish Princess..." the doctor nodded "i trust you know what you’re doing with this guy!"



"Oh we do," Luna said bluntly "now, please."



Once he was sure Sombra was heavily asleep and wouldn’t lash out, the doctor approached, doing a cursory check for injuries first. On the surface it appeared no more than a few bruises here and there.



Then he noticed a small pool of blood trickle to the floor when he was checking the unicorns forelegs for broken bones.



"Eep!" Fluttershy squeaked.



The doctor frowned, unlatching and removing the armored shoe on that hoof.



Behind him Luna, Celestia, and everypony else watching gave a startled gasp.



There was a wound on Sombra’s leg. The skin around the entry wound was black, and an almost crystalline black substance was spreading from the wound, winding around his leg like a black vine. As they stared, it seemed to shiver, then branched out again. Even asleep under some heavy magic, Sombra flinched in pain. It’d been hard to spot thanks to his dark coat, and had no doubt been spreading rapidly.



"I’ve never seen anything like this.." Twilight Sparkle whispered.



"It's spreading.." Fluttershy whispered.



Shining Armor crept closer to get a look, then he spotted something.



"Its embedded in his leg!" he cried "there’s a shard of black crystal.."



“Crystal..." Twilight Sparkle thought back to the sample Sombra had given her "that’s what’s poisoning him!"



"Remove it," Celestia ordered.



"He needs to go to medical.." the doctor objected.



But even as they stood there, the crystal shimmered again-



"Just do it here!" Luna barked.



"And fast!" Cadance looked pale. Shining Armor scooted up next to her, offering a hug for solace. Twilight Sparkle smiled at how happy her big brother was with Cadance.



The doctor nodded, fetching the supplies needed to remove it there and then. He was more grateful then ever that Luna had knocked Sombra out so deeply, because this was going to hurt big time!



But eventually he managed to pull the shard of crystal from the pony’s leg. His aide instantly set about cleaning and stitching the wound, while the doctor put the shard into a glass dish.



Twilight Sparkles eyes widened when she seen the shard that’d stuck into Sombra’s leg. It was a sizeable chunk, enough to cause serious pain.



Fluttershy put a hoof against Sombra’s forehead, wincing at how high his temperature was. So she carefully applied a cold compress to his head, noting he seemed to relax a little, even in his sleep.



"We'll need to keep him here for quarantine, sorry Princesses."



“It matters not. I’m sure we can manage without the throne room for a day or so," Cadance shrugged "we have other rooms.."



"He will need regular doses of medicine, I’ll get some anti-infection mixtures made. Somepony will need to stay with him, in case it gets any worse..." the doctor added as he left to get the herbs.

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

As the hours went by, Sombra showed no signs of getting any better. He stirred briefly every few hours but soon sank back into exhausted slumber.



As it was getting dark, Luna said shed keep an eye on Sombra.



The doctor mixed the medicine and advised she get him to drink it soon as he regained consciousness.

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

Sombra fought to open his eyes. He was in a darkened room, his head hurting too much to understand it.



Pain, his whole body HURT. A shiver wracked his body and he groaned softly, unable to even get to his feet.



"Here," a familiar voice spoke, and he seen a cup full of a dark mixture floating in front of him. He recognized Luna’s magic "drink this."



Too weak to argue, he managed to hold the cup with his hooves, his magic scrambled by the sickness.



"What’s....going on..?" he croaked. Luna took the empty cup and set it aside.



"You fell ill after a shard of that insidious black crystal became lodged in thy leg. You shouldn’t try to move, you are very sick."



Sombra closed his eyes, another shiver running through him. A second later and he felt an extra warmth, and opened his eyes to see Luna placing an extra blanket atop him.



"It will pass, the doctor has removed the crystal from thy leg!"



Sombra hadn’t the strength to answer, and fell asleep again, wincing as he shifted how he lay, curling up on his side, so tired..



Luna felt sorry for him. Yet it was strange, without the armor, and the crown keeping his ears pinned back, he looked a lot less threatening. It was a strange sight, seeing him so vulnerable...

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

The doctor had hoped that by confining "patient zero" aka Sombra, that whatever it was wouldn’t spread. But he was wrong. Unknown to anypony, all it took was one host in a vicinity, and everypony could get infected. This was no ordinary sickness. By the next morning, both the aide and Fluttershy were down with fevers, and little specks of the dark crystal had popped up on their coats, like a rash. The symptoms appeared to be sudden dizziness, followed by severely weakened strength, and high fever.



Even Luna noticed, on the second night of keeping an eye on Sombra, that she was feeling a little dizzy. Being an Alicorn, her strength was pretty high, so she wasn’t succumbing as fast!



Sombra appeared to be faring a teensy bit better. He was sleeping near constantly, but had been able to take fluids, even though food was out of the question.



On the third night, the epidemic had caught fire. Ponies that worked in the palace had gone home to their families and spread it even further. Even those treating the sick were falling prey.



"What will we do..?" Cadance said sadly, watching over a sick Shining Armor.



Their only hope lay with three particular ponies..

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

-



The fourth day, Sombra awoke, and his head felt clearer then before. The room was empty, nopony was about. Getting to his feet he stumbled around, wandering down the hall until he chanced upon a small room. It held a little room with apparatus for making tea, coffee and whatnot.



As he moved, he felt something bump into his leg. He’d woken up wrapped in his cloak and three blankets. He recalled the parcel of herbs the mare had given him. She’d said it was for sick ponies, so what was the harm. The stuff Luna had been persuading him to drink didn’t feel like it was having ANY effect, he still felt awful.



He dozed off briefly while the water heated, then woke up as the little bell dinged. Awkwardly he managed to mix the stuff like the mare had said. It smelled lovely. Taking a deep breath he swallowed the whole thing in one. Then staggered about coughing heavily. Once that was over, he wobbled back to the throne room, burrowing under the blankets. It was then he noticed the scroll left by his bed.



"Sombra.." it read "all of the empire is falling prey to this sickness, even my sister and I. If you are well enough to stand, and strong enough to walk, I beseech you to look for a cure. We urgently need your help in this matter - Luna"



"What am I meant to do? Why does she think...i care.." he grumbled. Closing his eyes he drifted asleep.



The substance the mare had given him contained powerful properties that were good for cleansing the blood. It was this that meant when Sombra next awoke, his fever was all but burnt out, and he felt a little stronger.



He got to his feet, just as a knock came at throne room door.



"Somepony there?" he called. The door opened, and the blue haired pony stuck his head round.



"Oh, thank Celestia, your awake!" he looked glad to see Sombra.



"Who’re you..?"



“My name's Flash Sentry, Royal Guard! We tracked one of those shadow things together, remember?."



"Right, yes. Wait, Why aren’t YOU sick..?" Sombra asked, gesturing to the scroll Luna had left for him.



"I don’t know..." Flash shook his head "I think I must be lucky...but there’s so may sick ponies, i don’t know what to do! You’ve been out of it until now, I've been trying to rouse you all day!"



Luna’s words echoed in Sombra’s head.



"I don’t know.." he muttered. "the medicine doesn’t seem to help, but yet..." he looked over at the parcel of herbs he’d been given "perhaps..?"



“Huh?" Flash asked.



He sighed "I don’t know why i give a hay, but I have an idea...I need you to give some of this tea to the Princesses. It worked on me, so maybe..."



Flash looked doubtfully at him.



"I’m not trying to poison anypony you pointy haired loon!" Sombra barked "just listen to me!"



"Ok!" Flash yelped, “I get it!”



He waited while Sombra mixed the tea once more, then took the cups to the Princesses rooms, starting with Cadance and Shining Armor's bedroom.



Cadance listened to his story, and when he told her Sombra had actually asked they trust him, she took the tea. Once she’d made sure Shining Armor had drunk some, she finished the rest off.



Then she fell asleep once more.

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

Celestia and Luna were next up, with the dozy Luna barely staying awake long enough to drink before passing back out.



Then Twilight Sparkle, who asked after her brother, and sighed in relief when she was told he was doing OK.



What was left, Flash gave to the Doctor and his aides.

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

"That’s all of it.." Sombra frowned.



"Where did you get it?" Flash Sentry asked.



"A mare, she came up and gave it to me after the fight with that thing. We need to find her!"



"Well, what was her name, what did she look like?"



Sombra described her as best he could recall.



"Oh, i know! That’s Healing Breeze, she’s the best chemist in town!"



“Then we need to find her." Sombra said bluntly "lets go, now."



He was still shaky, but managed to pull his cloak back on. Somepony had removed his armor while he slept, and his leg was still too inflamed to wear it, so he left it behind, only tying his cloak around himself.



They ran outside. The streets were silent.



"Where did everypony go?" Flash asked.



"They must be under quarantine, or they’re ALL sick.." Sombra muttered "lets go."

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

Healing Breeze had drunk some of her own special tea the moment she’d started feeling a bit ill, so she had barely any symptoms at all. When she heard urgent knocking from the shop floor she trekked down to answer it.



She was surprised to see a palace guard and Sombra standing there.



"Oh!" she said "what’s going on?"



"That tea!" Sombra blurted "what’s in it?"



"Oh, that stuff I gave you?" she asked, "that’s a family recipe, its for helping ease aches and pains.."



“Well it’s doing a lot more then that!" Sombra pointed out "it cured the fever, put a stop to the infections gallop. We need more of it!"



"Oh my, of course...i didn’t think it would be so effective. It’s just a simple pick me up for when you’re feeling under the weather, not for treating major sickness!"



"Well it’s working ma'am!" Flash Sentry said.



"Come in boys, I’ll see what I have.." she ushered them inside.

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

They soon discovered they had a problem. There was not nearly enough to cover everypony.



"We need to gather more herbs," healing breeze looked at the two ponies, noting how Sombra still seemed a little sick. "i hate to ask you both-"



“We’ll get it done!" Flash blurted "what do we need?"



She laid out a list of herbs, explaining where each one was found and what it did.



She found some saddlebags, which she gave to the two ponies.



"Hurry!" Flash bounded off. Sombra shook his head slightly.



"Amusing young fella," healing remarked.



"He’s got it bad for that Princess, that’s why he’s got a bee up his butt.." Sombra snorted.



"Which one dear?" she asked.



"The purple one...Twilight Sparkle.." he recalled at last. She just chuckled, then they left the house too, to start herb hunting.



It started to rain as Sombra pelted along the empty streets, heading for the woods at the very edge of town. He seen a few ponies glancing out of windows, but they soon ducked and hid when they seen him. Ignoring this, he forced himself to concentrate on the task at hoof, find the herbs!



Two hours later, soaked and bedraggled, he was at the door of the chemists shop. She opened it, telling him flash had just got back too.



The next hour or so was a blur of mixing herbs, boiling water, and bottling.



Mid-way through, Healing made some hot soup for all of them. Sombra mumbled about being fine, but she pretty much insisted he drink it. He was too tired to fight her, and was surprised by the fact it stayed down.



The plan was to leave a bottle on every doorstep with a note from healing breeze saying what it did.



"Will they believe me?" she asked. Sombra gave a snort "well they won’t believe ME!" he said "you’re the only one they’ll listen to.."



"Exactly.." Flash said.



"Well if you’re sure boys..." she sighed, before starting to copy the notes.



"This could take awhile..." Flash Sentry groaned "wed all better write them.."



Sombra yawned softly, and Healing Breeze cast a sympathetic glance.



"Get some rest.." she suggested. But Sombra shook his head "if I fall asleep now, i don’t know when I’ll wake up," he muttered "let’s just get this done. After that...I don’t care..."



"You’re still technically working off the same illness, take it easy.." flash added. Sombra just shrugged, and carried on stacking the bottles into the saddlebags.



20 minutes later, and all three had saddlebags filled to the brim with glass bottles. Tied around each one was a note explaining how to take.



"I hope this works..." flash fretted.



Back at the castle, it was already helping. Cadance awoke feeling a fair bit better, at least able to think clearly. Shining Armor was showing improvement too. Strong enough to get up, he went in search of his sister.

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

The rain didn’t let up as they ran. Sombra had realized his wet cloak would only slow him down, so he’d left it at Breeze's house. Running along the crystal streets, bare-hoofed and minus his cloak, he felt oddly free. He raced from doorway to doorway, pausing only to levitate a bottle onto each doorstep, then press the bell or whatever, then he bolted onward.



But one door opened just as he was setting the bottle down. He stepped back, tensed to get outta there. He didn’t have the strength to fight anypony right now..



"Sombwa!" he did a double take at that voice.



Little Bright Spark stood on the doorstep, peering worriedly at him.



"Can you help me? Mommy’s weally sick..."



"That’s what this is.." he indicated the bottle "you need to have her drink some of that, yourself too. Are you sick?"



"A wittle bit.." she sniffled "my head is achy..."



"Just give me a moment.." he darted off, dropping of the last three bottles, then returning to where Bright Spark waited.



"Get inside little one, you’ll get sicker..." he ushered her in, following after.



She led him down the hall to the kitchen, where he managed to boil the medicine and pour it into a cup. With Bright Spark at his heels, he carried it up the stairs to where Spark said her mommy was.



When they entered the bedroom, Spark carried the cup to her mommy, while Sombra stood in the doorway, looking at the rain pouring down outside.



"Dwink up mommy....its medicine fwom Bweeze, she says it’ll help you feel better..."



While she babbled away, Sombra thought back to how he’d gotten infected. What if...what if other ponies had shards embedded in them too? The whole scale of the problem hit him a second later.



The core had seemed to almost completely explode. What if it had in fact blown apart into dozens of little shards. They had to be removed or the sickness would come back, and get worse!



"Little one!" he said urgently "I must go, can you take care of your mother a little longer? I’ll try to return, but there’s something I have to do.."



"Okaayy..." she said, pottering over to him.



Half asleep, Bright Spark’s mother Shining Sea could blurily see her little daughter talking to a soaking wet pony who was waiting outside the room. Too tired to call out, she just managed to catch sight of a cutie mark of three red crystals...then she passed out.



Where had she seen or heard that before..? Red crystals..?

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

Sombra made sure bright spark drank a little of the tea herself, a much smaller dose as she was a filly.

"You’ll come back, wight?" she asked.



"I’ll try," he aid at last "but there’s still so many left...and check your mother, see if she has any splinters!"

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

He tore back through the streets towards the chemist. Breeze listened to what he was saying and paled.



"We need a doctor....or anypony trained in first aid at least!"



"I gave some to the palace doctors and Fluttershy..." Flash spoke up.



"Then all we can do is wait until they awaken..." Sombra sighed "and hope its soon!"



"I’ll come with you boys to the palace...we can use their kitchen..." Healing said at last "I’m sure the Princess wont mind.."



And that was how the soaked trio came to end up at the palace.



Sombra found the doctors’ aide, curled up in the sickbay. He woke him up, perhaps a tad rudely, and pointed at a cup of the herb drink.



"More of this stuff?.." the aide sneezed.



"It’s a stronger dose," Sombra said bluntly "but we don’t have much choice. Everypony needs to be checked to see if they have splinters too, otherwise they’ll keep getting sick! Can you handle some patients if we bring them here?"



"I think so.." the aide stammered. Sombra shoved a bottle of the drink at him "make your boss drink this too, and fast!".

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

Out in the empty streets, Sombra ran back to Bright Spark’s house. Shed done as he’d asked, and checked her mommy for a splinter. Sure enough, a tiny shard had gotten into her hoof. Before he’d left the palace, the Doctor had shown him how to remove a basic splinter. Any more serious cases, where it was really embedded, he told Sombra to bring them to him.



Luckily, Shining Sea’s was only a minor puncture, at an easy angle. With a pair of tweezers, and a massive effort, he used his levitation to carefully tweak it free. Bright Spark bounced forward with a pad soaked in antiseptic, which she gently dabbed on the tiny wound.



"Spark, sweetie.." Shining Sea smiled as she seen her daughter "you’re a good girl.."



"You’ll be OK mommy, we got wid of the spwinter, and you’ve had some medicine...you just need looots of sleep!"



Shining Sea smiled, and again noticed somepony hovering by the door.



She didn’t recognise him, what with his mane plastered to his muzzle and neck by the rain. Add to that the fact he wasn’t wearing his signature armor or cloak, and she hadn’t a clue who he was.



"Who...who’s that honey..?" she asked. The pony at the door startled slightly, turning to look over at her. She seen ruby red eyes, that unusual horn...



"Wait...it’s you...isn’t it?” she asked. Sombra cursed under his breath.



"Mommyyy!" bright spark rolled her eyes "i told you, he snot scawwy! He bwought the medicine!"



"How come YOU aren’t sick?" Shining Sea asked, a bit angrily. Why had he escaped?



"I’ve already BEEN sick," he said calmly "I had a large chunk of this blasted crystal buried in my leg, it came on a lot faster." he shifted how he was standing so she could see a neatly bandaged wound.



"Of course..." she said at last, the hazy memories of the market coming back "you were fighting that thing...i saw you..."



She’d watched the fight tin the town centre, seen how the shadow pony had gone for Sombra, how they’d bean beating the living daylights out of each other!



"See mommy..he’s not a bad pony..?" bright spark pleaded.



"I have to go, little one.." Sombra sighed.



"But..but.." she looked up at him "why?"



"I have to see to the rest...everypony has to be checked, otherwise this sickness will spread!"



"Lemme help!" she objected. he smiled faintly, patting her head with one hoof "your mother needs you, little one. You must stay and tend to her!"



Bright Spark nodded, then reached up and tapped his nose.



"Boop.." she said sadly. He turned and reluctantly returned to the seemingly endless quest.



Sadly not all ponies were as kind as spark had been. A lot of them shouted abuse, leaning out of windows rather then answer the door to him. Only when he unravelled the scroll showing the royal doctors seal did they listen to him. Many had little splinters much like Shining Sea. Sombra instructed them the way the doctor had told him. Remove the splinter, disinfect, cover with band aid, drink medicine. Rinse and repeat.



By the 20th house he’d been to, he was starting to feel the effects of all the running and the rain. He couldn’t stop shivering.



He looked like a drowned rat, but he didn’t care. He just wanted this over with.



One or two he came across had larger splinters, and he had to tell their families to bring them to the palace...



Those that weren’t so sick were encouraged to go check on their neighbors and so on.



By the time he got to the last street, something was bugging him. Aside from the hostile reactions he was getting, he had a headache. Had he not been so exhausted he might have recognized it for the premonition it was.



"We don’t need YOUR help, monster!" oh boy, that was getting old fast. He gave a snarl of fury and lobbed the scroll so it landed at the shouters hooves.



"Its from your kingdoms precious doctor, go take it up with HIM!" he raged, feeling sick and tired. This storm wasn’t helping.



The one yelling at him wasn’t done. He marched up to Sombra, even though the other stallion was bigger and going by looks alone, stronger.



Those red eyes bored into him, something lurking in their depths. But he didn’t back down, just stared.



"What the hay is wrong with you?!" the stallion, frightened by his wife and child’s sickness, was taking it out on Sombra "why the hay should we trust YOU?!"



“What other choice have you-?!" Sombra fumed. Then his attention was caught by a flicker amongst the rain behind the pony.



"Move!" he bellowed suddenly, shoving the pony aside and stepping forward.



"How dare you-" the angry pony grabbed Sombra’s tail in his teeth and yanked back, trying to make him pay attention.



Sombra jolted, whirling round to glare at the stallion.



"Honey!" he heard the pony’s wife shout out, and realized in his anger, he’d forgotten the thing he’d seen in the rain.



It pounced for him and the earth pony. So he did what he had to, gripping the pony’s coat between his teeth and throwing him aside, then facing the thing charging towards him.



The angry stallion got to his hooves, ready to berate Sombra for even daring to touch him-



His jaw dropped. Sombra was literally locking horns with a creature made of black shadows. They seemed evenly matched, then Sombra gave a furious roar and shunted it away from him with all his weight. It bounced a few meters away, and got up, its yellow eyes burning;



"How did you defeat my plague?!" it hissed "what are you, creature?"



"A monster, a thing of darkness. Perhaps you and I possess more in common than I thought, but there's a point where I stop-.." Sombra snarled.



"Oh really?" it mocked.



"Yeah.." Sombra smirked, suddenly grabbing a spade from where it’d been left outside in someponys garden, he leveled it at the creature and took a hefty swing;



"-Stop giving a hay!"



The creature was knocked flying by the blow, but go back up, twitching, its image distorting; But Sombra noted this one was far more solid then the previous ones! Clearly it had learned something from the previous battles...



"I‘ll teach you to mess with me, you fool!" it screeched, its equine shape dissolving into a vengeful blob of darkness. Barbs shot out and wrapped around the surprised and tired Sombra, lashing around his legs, his neck..



Those latter ones tightened, making black sparks dance on the edge of his vision as he fought.



"All it took was one little sick pony, and your whole empire would be mine," it hissed, "what can you hope to achieve.." it laughed, tightening its grip. Sombra was on the urge of blackout.



"Get OFF me!" he raged, and did as he had done in his dreams, and the previous times. He sank his fangs into the thing, even though the action made him retch. It flung him back, knocking him flat on his back. Before he could shift to his feet, it re-assumed pony shape and pinned him there. It was a sickening pressure, and all Sombra wanted was to get it OFF him!



"Didn’t you learn anything from our last "talk"?!" it sneered "these precious little ponies don’t WANT your help.."



"Doesn’t. Matter.." Sombra coughed "I’m all there is, like it or not..."



"Why don’t I do them a favor and just end you now?" it said manically "there’s no-one to miss you..."



Sombra thought about bright spark. He wanted to make sure she was OK, she and her mother..



"You’re....wrong.." he whispered "there IS somepony....even though I don’t deserve her kindness, she persists...SO YOU CAN GO-"



The rest of his words were drowned out by a rumble of thunder. The noise rattled his head, and the shadow pony took the opportunity to swing one hoof in a dizzying punch...



Out of the corner of his eye, Sombra spied the saddlebag he’d been wearing, it had fallen off in the struggle. From them had clattered a pair of surgical scissors, for trimming bandages with.



--I’ve got one shot...-- he thought, and tried to think clearly, turning his attention back to the shadow creature eh began inching the scissors towards him.



"Why do you want this world so badly.." he spat out.



"The innocence and purity of this world is just too enticing, There’s enough power here to sustain me for many a year...but don’t be sad, even a worthless thing like you still has SOME power to give me...you’ll still have a purpose..."



"Buck off!" Sombra snarled, He’d lifted the blades until they were directly behind the things back, now he pulled them towards him with as much force as he could. It threw it’s head back, laughing at its supposed victory, then-



THWACK.

Its eyes widened, then it screamed as its core began to crack apart. Sombra threw it off him, and pounced on IT instead, cracking the core into the road, where it finally broke. The usual shock wave followed, and he was pile driven into the pavement again, the wind knocked from his lungs.



Silence reigned alongside the ringing in his ears.



He didn’t hear the confused and scared whispers from the ponies that’d watched the bizarre fight.



"What ARE those things..?" was the first sentence he heard clearly enough.



"Mommyy...is the scary thing gone?"



“Looks like it.."



Sombra got unsteadily to his feet. The houses occupants exchanged murmurs of shock when they got a look at him.



There was a painful looking bruise along his jaw, bleeding cuts around his neck where that thing had tried to strangle him, and he barely looked like he could stand! As if on cue, Sombra wobbled on his hooves, having to pause a moment longer to get his bearings. The rain had flattened his mane so it hung over his eyes, and he was shivering.



"Oh my.." somepony said softly



Sombra ignored them all, somehow re-attaching the saddlebags. He steadied himself, letting the cold rain numb his injuries;



"Go to the palace..." he said softly "if you think you’re infected." he turned and started walking away, hoping that was the ONLY one of those things...if there were more, he was up a creek without a saddle.



Left behind, the stunned neighborhood exchanged looks. He’d just saved them...hadn’t he?



"Hang on a second!" Sombra sighed as a voice called out to him. It was the same pony that’d yanked his tail.



"The scroll has the details," he said dully "i cant force you to believe me, but that chemist made the cure. Trust HER."



He didn’t hang around for any more questions, just took off at as fast a trot as he could. He galloped through the empty streets, before realizing he couldn’t possibly check the whole empire on hoof. He needed something else..



He recalled the funny twinges he’d been having every time one of those things had shown up, the headaches. Deciding the empty street was as good a place as any he sat down, closed his eyes and tried to focus his mind.



He dug through all the pains and injuries he’d acquired, setting each particular pain aside once he’d figured out what part of him it belonged to. There. At the back of his mind, a memory of that strange throbbing pain. But it felt hollow, a shadow. A distant memory...



The whole time, while he’d been sitting there, the choker had started glowing, giving off a faint luminescence. Ponies that looked out their windows at that point would’ve seen a glimmering blue light amidst the rain, highlighting a hazy figure. Then it was gone.



Sombra got up, he couldn’t, to the best of his limited ability, say there were anymore. But once the guards were well enough, they needed to start patrol.



He staggered back to the palace. So the whole illness had been a trick, to try and lay waste to the whole empire, that thing had been on it’s way to begin harvesting them when it’d run into him...



Somepony tried to approach him, ask if he was OK, but he ignored them, snarling at them until they left him alone. He just wanted some peace.

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

"Sombra." a voice spoke from behind him in the empty hall and he jumped, looking over his shoulder to see;



Luna.



"Princess," he said at last, not turning to face her...



"Its seems we owe thee our gratitude for bringing us that medicine," she said. She looked better already, and he surmised it was a bonus of Alicorn magic.



"It was dumb luck I even remembered it.." he muttered "it was just a package of herbs that chemist gave me, go thank her!"



She frowned, wondering what he was hiding. She teleported round to face him, and when she took in the state of him, her eyes widened.



"What in my sisters name happened?!"



"Another of those things," he snapped "turns out the sickness was just a handy way to keep you all docile so it could drain your power.”



Luna gaped "wha?"



Sombra closed his eyes, recollecting the fight "it took a lot of it’s power to do it, that’s why it waited until it was sure everypony would be sick, but-"



“But it didn’t bank on YOU." Luna finished.



Sombra shrugged "serves it right," he muttered thickly, the room hazing at the edges.



"Whoa!" Luna darted forward, attempting to support him. She was shocked by how badly shaken he was, his body a myriad of scrapes and bruises by the looks of it...



He tried to make her leave him alone, but was too weakened to really put up a fight. She dragged him down the hall and into the hospital room. They halted in the doorway.



The room was pretty busy, lots of ponies were sitting or lying about, either asleep or being treated by the doctors.



Fluttershy looked up from where she was comforting a young filly, she was feeling much better now after repeated doses of that tea. She seen the poor, battered Sombra and let out a gasp.



"Lemme go.." Sombra muttered, but his words were slurring together.



"What in blazes-?!" the doctor stepped up beside Fluttershy "what on earth is going on out there?!"



"You don’t want to know.." Sombra said dizzily "Seriously..."



"Oh my...." Fluttershy seen the blood all over his coat, seen how he was shivering, barely able to stand "what happened?"



"One of those things..." Sombra muttered "it was coming here...to harvest everypony...."



Gasps and whispers ran around the medical bay.



"The whole...plague.." Sombra was fighting to get the words straight "was to put you...at its mercy.."



He turned to address Luna "you need to send out some guards soon as they’re well, i couldn’t sense if...that thing was alone-" he finally collapsed, his energy drained. Luna caught him best she could, frowning at how COLD he was!



"Eek!" Fluttershy looked around "we need somewhere to place him..."



"This is bad, were way over capacity.." the doctor muttered.



A young colt gave a cough and shuffled off the bed he’d been occupying;



"I’m good to stand, he looks kind of deadish..."



“Thank you!" Fluttershy said gently as she, with Luna and the doctors help, got Sombra to the bed, lying the injured unicorn on his side; Blood soaked into the bed sheet, a few ponies gasped at the sight of his injuries.



“What the hay was he fighting?" the colt asked.



"A creature of shadow and cruelty," Luna said somberly.



"And he won? I’d hate to see the other guy," the colt joked.



"I’m pretty sure the "other guy" was blasted to smithereens," Luna replied.

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

Once they’d patched him up best as they could, Luna summoned a blanket with her magic, and Fluttershy helped her tuck it around the sleeping Sombra..



"He's very cold.." Fluttershy worried.



"He’s also got a temperature higher then a giraffe on a trampoline!" the Doctor said. Some of the kids nearby giggled at this comparison "he cant keep fighting like this Princess..."



"I understand," Luna said "but he alone can target their weak spots according to my sister..."



She looked down at the sleeping Sombra "we need him..."

Author's Note:

Thanks again to my wonderful editor Dream-Seeker!

Sorry this took so long....lots of..stuff happened. Most of it pretty disheartening. But i have broadband now, so...something good!