• Published 15th Sep 2014
  • 11,653 Views, 247 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?

  • ...

Friendship & Freedom

The next morning, Fluttershy came to find him. Weary from another nightmare the last night, he’d woken up gagging in revulsion the reminders of his own past, his mistakes. He’d been wrong, he knew that now. Seeing his own harshness, seeing his actions from a new direction, made him sick. No wonder they’d been afraid of him.

But it was strange, he hadn’t felt as lost and alone as those dreams normally made him feel. Reliving his childhood, seeing the fear in so many ponies eyes...

Fluttershy knocked at the door, no answer. Then she heard the sound of somepony being violently sick. Creeping into the room she hovered in front of the bathroom door. All she could hear was faint coughing.

"Uhm...Mr. Sombra?" she squeaked.

"What...what’re you doing in here?" his voice was croaky, strained.

"You didn’t sound well," she said.

"Its nothing...just...nothing." she heard the tap running, more pained coughing, then scooted back as the door opened and Sombra staggered out. He looked exhausted. The fire and spirit she'd noticed in him upon his arrival had dulled.

"What is it this time.." he said bluntly.

"O-oh well...y-you'll see.." Fluttershy managed a weak smile and motioned him to follow her. He sighed softly but did so without complaint. She nudged open the door to the library. Delicious food smells hit him soon as he entered. He was aware of Fluttershy shutting the door behind him and whirled on her. She stood resolute, looking from him to the table.

It was chock-a-block with various food dishes, and of course Pinkie Pies cakes!

"W-what..?" Sombra was too sleepy to form a coherent sentence.

"You’re going to get really sick if you don’t eat," Twilight Sparkle said "we seen your nightmares, we know-"

"What?!" he backed up a step, all the sleepiness wiped away now, then snarled "LUNA?!"

"Yes, but it was at MY request!" Cadance stood up and walked over to him "When you told Pinkie Pie nightmares about darkness were making you sick, we assumed you spoke of that thing out there. As much as you may despise it, you are the only clue to this crisis we have. Those fits, the lack of food, lack of sleep, the black crystal sickness! Its taking a terrible toll on your body!"

Sombra just glared at the door, where Fluttershy stood guard.

"Twilight Sparkle and I did some research, we know what happened. You were a once in a millennia phenomenon, a pony born with the gift to use dark magic," Cadance continued "I did some checking. None have been able to manipulate it at the level you have. I don’t know what caused it, save for an old prophecy."

"Prophesysing.." Rainbow Dash pulled a face at the word "what exactly?"

Cadance smiled at her before turning back to Sombra;

"A star of black fire shall sweep across the sky,

Heralding the birth of a new power.

Power in darkness, to balance the light,

One soul shall stand apart, but not alone,

But fear and distrust breed,

and darkness must step forward to march alongside light,

for the world cannot exist without both.

Although given freedom to fly, it will not run away,

Once hope has been returned to a powerful heart."

There was silence.

"Ooh....spooky!" Pinkie Pie noted.

"Basically, prophesysing a darkness that could live amongst the light. Its exact meaning could be more certain, but it has remained hidden for a long time.." Cadance added.

"You should really read less fiction," Sombra sneered "those old philosophers were talking a load of bunk!"

"You’re a unicorn, you have magic...and you say that? Seriously?" Rainbow Dash pointed out, earning a glower.

"She’s got a point," Shining Armor said "our whole world is magic..."

"What is the point of all this?!" Sombra snarled, the darkness sin his voice rising a pitch, Twilight Sparkle noted.

"You are the only one that can understand those things," Cadance said "we NEED your help. I will not see this kingdom overran by those things. I don’t care if I have to order the palace doctor to sedate you and use a drip feed, you are NOT driving yourself into the ground."

"You cant keep going like this!" Fluttershy said, looking at him "The doctor says your health is bordering on dangerously poor. Constant fighting, not eating, not sleeping...we seen the whole nightmare! The darkness, it forced the transformation because of how hurt you were! You’ve been getting sicker ever since those dreams started..." to everypony’s surprise she’d teared up.. "you didn’t DO anything wrong, nopony understood dark magic back then!"

Pinkie Pie instantly darted over and dabbed at her face with a colourful napkin.

Sombra was staring at her, in total surprise. Why was she crying over what’d happened to HIM?!

"See?" Pinkie Pie bounced up, right in Sombra’s face, making him actually back up a step. "Get it? See? Understand?!" She carried on until he backed into a sofa and was forced to sit down with a bump, gathering his hind legs underneath him. Even then she was still in his face. literally.

"Whoa Pinkie Pie.." Twilight Sparkle remarked.

"You were only a young colt, you weren’t gonna know any better! your parents were jerks, you lived in a crappy village full of superstitious meanies! That Kings assistant was a royal ASS! I seen it, that King was trying to get him to shut up about it, he was all "give the kid a chance", and that jerk assistant was all "I’m an idiot, I wont listen!" but it was too late! That lying Scrollwork was fibbing about you!" she paused, drawing a breath for what the room anticipated would be the motherload of all rants;

"So you lost your marbles, now you got a chance to get 'em right back in order don’t you see? You can control dark magic, that’s pretty cool right? Nopony has ever had that gift before! OK, you probably need to reel it in a bit with the crankiness, but you can get that under control! Were trying to help you, stop you destroying yourself and carking it-" here she did a mime, falling on her back with her legs in the air a la corpse. Then she was back up, nose-to-nose with Sombra once more.

"Yeah so maybe you hate us for kicking your butt that time, but in fairness...YOU WERE INSANE. Loco in the coco! Your not so insane NOW, crazy people don’t fight off monsters and carry a fainted pony back to the palace! They don’t find rare gems and give 'em to somepony as a thanks, they don’t allow small, kooky kids to introduce themselves via poke!" here she poked him in the chest for effect "they don’t run around in the rain delivering medicine! And crazy people don’t admit their crazy...just like a monster wouldn’t admit they are one. Applejack said you already pointed that out by yourself for Equestria’s sake!"

Sombra just blinked, literally stunned into silence.

"Maybe you cant hear us? Lets get this thing off-" here she snagged the crown-like artifact he wore on his head, which pinned his ears back along with his mane. She whipped it off, tossing it with perfect aim onto a nearby lamp stand and even went so far as to tweak his ears, so they actually stood up the normal pony way.

"Better! NOW can you hear us?!" she was out of breath by this point, sides heaving.

"...." Sombra just blinked, he’d never faced a tirade like THAT in his lifetime. Was she saying...

"We need you to help us.." Twilight Sparkle said at last "And we want to help you."

“That’s what we do!" Pinkie Pie beamed " you didn’t get the chance to make friends in that craptastic village, but this is what friends are!" she gestured at her friends, beaming "they make each other laugh,"

"And give ya an honest answer!" Applejack added.

"And do anything to cheer you up!" Rarity said.

"AND stick by you, always!" Rainbow Dash hovered above the table.

"A-and give everypony a chance, everypony needs kindness..." Fluttershy whispered.

"And use their talents to help their friends." Twilight Sparkle said at last.

"Get it now?" Pinkie Pie bounded up to sit next to him on the couch, waving a hoof at her friends "nopony needs to be alone! Friends are there to show you it isn’t all bad!"

Sombra still didn’t speak, but one ear did twitch.

Pinkie Pie giggled "Do that again!" she squeed.

His stomach answered for him, by growling loudly. And if Pinkie Pie hadn’t swiftly shot out a hoof to steady him, he’d likely have slid off the couch.

"Grr!" Pinkie Pie said, mimicking his stomach, before zooming to the table and back over with a bowl of delicious smelling soup.

"Auntie pies recipe for sick fillies and colts!" she beamed "seriously, she practically made a brand outta it!"

"So why didn’t she?" Rainbow Dash asked.

"Granny pie had a short attention span...she kind of forgot.." Pinkie Pie giggled, turning to face her friends "but luckily I found the recipe and she started making it again when I was a little filly!"

"I wanna try it!" Rainbow Dash spooned some into a bowl and took a swig.

"What do you think?" Pinkie Pie asked

"What’s in this and how can I replace my blood with it?" Rainbow Dash asked, which made everypony laugh out loud.

Behind Pinkie Pie, while this was carrying on, Sombra eyed the soup, then floated the bowl over, doing as Rainbow Dash had done and taking a big gulp. The Rainbow Dash one wasn’t kidding, it WAS nice. The warmth from the food felt like it was spreading through his whole body, easing the aching muscles, making him feel...better.

Pinkie Pie spun round, in time to see Sombra setting the empty bowl down, then hiccup.

"Whoa..." she said, eyeing the empty bowl "that’s got to be a record!"

"That a challenge?" Rainbow Dash sniggered to Sombra, then belched. Earning a few cross looks.

"THAT a challenge?" Applejack asked.

"NO!" the rest of the room cried, although Pinkie Pie was giggling when she yelled.

He could see the warmth and happiness sin the way they acted. The way Twilight Sparkle beamed at her beloved big brother. The way Applejack and Rainbow Dash shared cheeky grins, and Pinkie Pie clapped her hooves happily. They were so trusting, so happy, and it hadn’t hurt THEM.

Shining Armor glanced over at him, noting the way Sombra was studying their interactions, as if he hadn’t seen this before. Having seen the guys past through that nightmare, he wasn’t surprised that much by his cold, abrupt nature.

In a nutshell, Sombra was trying to shield himself from being betrayed the way he had when he was a young colt. He’d had it beaten into him, literally, that he was a freak, an abomination. So he’d lashed out, wanting to hurt the rest of the world the way he’d been hurt. That darkness had brought him to a stallions age, jacked up his power level and almost completely warped his mind. He’d gone power crazy.

Aside from that mare from his flashbacks, he’d never had a real friend, single or plural. All it took was one.

So he got up from the table and padded over to where a seemingly stunned Sombra still sat atop the couch, staring into space.

“Take it from me," he said "they wont stop until you accept what they’re saying, and my sister and her friends know more about love, light and life then anypony else. You lucked out there."

"I don’t understand." Sombra said flatly. He looked abruptly lost, like a tiny foal dumped into a pond at its deepest end.

He seemed calm on the surface at first glance, but the way his seemingly fixed gaze shook just a little, he was fighting warring sets of emotions. The deep-set, default feeling of disbelief and dislike, fighting an almost childlike desire to trust. A feeling he’d tried to discard 1000 years ago.

It seemed like he was in shock. Shining Armor figured they probably had this one opportunity to make the guy see sense, then Sombra’s inbuilt defenses would wall up his emotions again, and he’d shut himself away for good.

So he now did something he never thought he’d do after fighting Sombra before, extending a hoof to the stallion.

"You don’t have to understand it all right away, you got YEARS to catch up on, take it easy. What’ve you got to lose?"

"His mind?" Rainbow Dash joked, earning a glower from Twilight Sparkle.

"What the hay.." Shining Armor suggested.

Time seemed to slow for Sombra. This was something he’d never seen in his entire life. Seeing those nightmares about his past he’d wished he’d been able to stop himself. All he’d wanted was...understanding? a friend? a chance?


And now, these crazy, colorful, kooky ponies were offering him all of this and more. Was it possible...?

He thought about his filly friend from back then. How shed begged him, after all those attacks by his father, not to give up. How she’d cried when she seen the state he was in sometimes, much like Fluttershy had.

Was it time he stopped living in the past?

Hoping he wasn’t making a big mistake...he raised one hoof...

Twilight Sparkle nearly cried with delight when she seen Sombra at last accept her brothers outstretched hoof.

"There ya go!" Applejack whooped.

"The worlds a lot different from when you were young," Cadance said "more is known now about dark magic, but nopony has a talent like yours. Undoubtedly there is much YOU could teach US."

"The darkness taught itself..." Sombra said dully "I have no memory of learning ANYTHING."

"Really?" Cadance asked. The stallion shook his head slowly.

"Maybe your memories fried," Rainbow Dash suggested "you WERE locked away for a long time.."

"1000 years.." Sombra muttered.

"Exactly, I'd be surprised if I could remember my own NAME after THAT length of time!" Pinkie Pie said.

"Can you remember anything about your home?" Rarity asked.

"...it...it was called Snowvale..." Sombra’s gaze went distant again. "Most of the year round it was snow, the whole place had some weird weather problem. The village elders were sure it was a curse.."

"It was probably just a weather anomaly," Twilight Sparkle offered. "You must’ve been pretty secluded.."

"We were," Sombra was surprised by the details he now remembered. "The nearest other settlement was a long way away. We had to be pretty self sufficient."

"Sounds harsh," Applejack surmised "and I know what yer saying"

"The storms began getting worse, the year I was born," lots of things were flooding back now "Everypony in the village was already on edge. Needless to say, when they found out a pony was born with dark magic they took it as a sign they’d invoked an even worse power. They tried all sorts of spells to try and correct my magic-"

"Yeah, we saw!" Twilight Sparkle looked aghast "that was horrible!"

"Try telling THEM that, the old goats." Sombra muttered "they tried every loony trick in the book. Some of them hurt. They tried locking me in LOTS of places. When I was younger I tried every trick in the book to get out. But eventually, I stopped trying. I wasn’t strong enough to escape both my imprisonment AND them."

"Who was that mare? The white one?" Rarity asked "she seemed worried about you.."

Sombra tried to think, and at last a name came back;

"Her name was Crystal Flake. She had a snowflake for a cutie mark. She was the daughter of the town elder. She would try and bargain with her father. It was thanks to her I didn’t spend my WHOLE life imprisoned. She reasoned if I wasn’t allowed to learn how to use my magic, there would be no reason to lock me up. But behind her fathers back she did her best, sneaking me a spell book or two. She’d get me to help with odd jobs at the manor house she and her father lived in. It was really just an excuse so she could make sure I wasn’t passing out from starvation at home. That mare cooked like nopony’s business, even thought there wasn’t a great a variety of food it always tasted nice."

"She sounds lovely.." Pinkie Pie said dolefully "could she not convince her father to just...leave you be?"

Sombra laughed abruptly "like you said cotton candy, they were superstitious to a fault. The slightest anomaly and they all fell apart. It had them on edge enough that I wasn’t locked up. In the end, my father had me confined to my room, except when he needed something done."

"What about ya mother? Surely she wasn’t all bad?" Applejack asked. Sombra shook his head.

"She was as in deep as the rest of the village. Eventually she chose to pretend I didn’t exist, live in a fantasy world. Perhaps she blamed herself for raising a freak of nature, who knows. She barely spoke to me. I think she paid attention long enough to name me, and that was it."

"Its ironic, in a way," Cadance said at last "as the old prophecy was written in an ancient language...and the word the palace language specialist translated as meaning "darkness", IS "Sombra."“

"Huh.." Sombra blinked "maybe she knew something was off from the start..."

"Or she just named you for your coat or mane.." Rainbow Dash pointed out.

"Well that’s all in the past now," Twilight Sparkle said "we’ve learnt a lot since you were sealed away..."

"I still cant remember how I learnt any of the spells I used back then. As you seen, most of my magic was summoned from desperation or threat.."

"It must be instinctive then," Twilight Sparkle added "your magic is trained through instinct and guesswork, as opposed to teachings."

A faint nod. He still hadn’t budged from the couch, perhaps still digesting everything he’d been told.

Fluttershy caught his eyes and smiled kindly, motioning towards the table.

"There’s lots of food.." she said softly.

"Yeah, c'mon!" Pinkie Pie tugged at his cloak "we cant eat all this ourselves!"

"There’s 8 of you.." Sombra spoke at last...

"9s better!" Pinkie Pie said, looking hopefully at him.

Sombra hesitated, unsure. He still couldn’t fully let go just yet, but Pinkie Pies words were still ringing in his ears, so he found himself being towed to the table by the pink pony.

"Oookk..we have muffins, cakes, scones...toast, jam, fruit..." Pinkie Pie babbled a list.

"Or if your tummy still hurts, just have more soup!" she added, seeing his hesitation at the massive spread of food.

"Toast!" Twilight Sparkle waved a hoof at the plate "mom used to make us toast when we were sick, remember brother?"

"Oh yeah," Shining Armor chuckled "and a little fizzy juice to settle our stomachs."

"Perfect!" Pinkie Pie grabbed a glass and poured some fizzy (not alcoholic) cider into it, setting this in front of the virtually mute Sombra.

He didn’t say much for a long while. He ate a little, but it was more then he’d been able to keep down recently.

"Nice isn’t it?" Fluttershy held up her soup bowl.

"Yes," he said softly "food tastes much nicer then anything I recall. There was nothing like those cakes..."

"They’re a Pinkie Pie specialty!" Pinkie Pie giggled "I LOVE cake!"

"You never had a sugar crash when you were young! Aw, you’re missing out!" Rainbow Dash laughed "hyped up on sugar, nopony could catch me!"

"I can just imagine the teeny little you on sugar, you’d have climbed the walls of that room!" Pinkie Pie giggled.

The full ramifications of that sentence came crashing down a second later. Wait. They’d seen his nightmares. Including the bit where he was a little foal...OH PONYFEATHERS.

"Talk about growth spurts!" Pinkie Pie giggled "you were teeny!"

"Speaking of which," Shining Armor butted in, noting how red Sombra had gone, and the fact he seemed to be twitching. To save Pinkie Pie from putting her hoof in it, he asked something that’d been on his mind;

"I couldn’t help notice nearly everypony in that village of yours is incredibly tall. By the time you got HERE, you were already taller then most ponies.."

"Our village was a Shyre settlement," Sombra said as the facts about his lineage came sneaking back.

"A whatta-what?" Pinkie Pie asked.

"Shyre horses?" Twilight Sparkle asked "I thought they were a myth!"

"No, we were real..." Sombra shrugged "as much as I wish my father was imaginary.."

"That’s amazing.." Twilight Sparkle’s eyes were wide. "There’s so little known about them! I don’t know how I didn’t think of that…"

"Well, we know they have very long leggies!" Pinkie Pie pointed out.

"They’re strong.." Rainbow Dash noted.

"Probably good farmers I’d warrant," Applejack pondered "betcha they could pull a field plough solo!"

"More than likely.." Sombra shrugged.

"We definitely know they fight like nopony's business!" Shining Armor chuckled.

Sombra managed a faint smile...

There was a knock at the door then. Flash Sentry stuck his head in and grinned at them.

"Princess Celestia wishes to see you all," he said. "You too.." meaning Sombra.


And so a dazed and confused Sombra went along to Celestia’s latest debriefing, where they covered what they’d discovered so far.

She noticed Sombra seemed, well, spacey was putting it mildly.

"-feeling alright?" he finally broke form the haze and stared blankly at Celestia.

"...say what?" he said after a moments pause.

"You alright?" Applejack asked. He’d been acting spaced out since they’d confronted him. She had a feeling it was a lot for him take in.

"I will admit the whole business of that thing shape shifting is bothering me.." Celestia said "At some point it must’ve been able to latch onto your nightmares Sombra."

"Perhaps during the aftermath of the plague...or during it for all I know. I don’t remember a whole lot before the fever broke," he admitted "its just a blur."

"It clearly hoped it could use your past to make you back off attacking it."

“Big mistake." Sombra said curtly "All the people from my nightmares, they’ve been gone a long time, there’s no way they’d be here now."

“But it doesn’t know that," Cadance shook her head "it was hoping to use it as an emotional battering ram."

"It’ll have to do worse than that." Sombra said coldly "I’ve seen far worse than it can mimic."

Those that’d seen his dreams silently agreed.

"We must be on the lookout regardless.." Celestia said "if anypony sees anything, we can hope they will report it to the royal guard!"

"I’ll tell 'em all to keep an eye out," Shining Armor said.


The next two days passed with seemingly no attacks at all. Not public ones anyway. But more and more ponies were turning up either at the doctors, or at Healing Breezes shop, complaining of feeling tired. She didn’t put two and two together until Sombra came by on a chance visit.

It’d been a busy morning; Twilight Sparkle had been trying to think up a way to help the guards see that weak spot, that so far only Sombra could point out.

"He’s one Unicorn on his own," she said to the others as they sat around the library "he cant fight a whole bunch of the if that thing decides to send out multiple scouts. I need to make SOMETHING..."

Pinkie Pie picked up a magnifying glass and peered through it. Twilight Sparkle blinked, seeing the magnified eye

"That’s it!" she cheered.

"What is?" Rainbow Dash asked, confused.

"If I can enchant an ordinary pair of goggles or glasses with a spell to see them. Sombra’s able to see it because of his type of magic, because its obviously on a similar wavelength to this thing!"

“So you infuse the goggles with dark magic and boom!" Rainbow Dash caught on.

"Whoo yeah, that might just work!" Applejack grinned "but, where are ya gonna get it from? Aint nopony with dark magic save fer..."

"...Sombra." Twilight Sparkle finished.

"But he cant use his magic, its all locked down right?" Rarity pointed out "that choker?"

"Exactly. I need to talk to Celestia and the others, but first I need some goggles..."


Arduous studying and one pair of goggles later, and Twilight Sparkle approached the Princesses.

"So you need a shred of dark magic for the spell?" Celestia frowned "I think it may be possible. It WOULD involve temporarily loosening the choker on his neck. Not completely, but enough for the power to be extracted."

"I don’t think he’s going to lash out," Twilight Sparkle said.

"Even so, the rush of magic may be enough to make him do something crazy, even with that." She looked at her sister and Cadance "two of us can monitor the spell, whilst the other extracts the magic."

"That sounds perfect," Twilight Sparkle sighed, then asked "wait, will this be painful?"

“A little, perhaps." Luna said "but nothing too bad."

"OK," Twilight Sparkle sighed "I’ll go ask him..."


Sombra was outside in the palace gardens, sitting under a tree, his nose in a book.

"Whatcha reading?" Twilight Sparkle asked. He floated the book up so she could read the cover;

"A History of Crystal Magic...wouldn’t think you’d need that. You could probably write it yourself.." Twilight Sparkle raised an eyebrow.

"I know, I just wanted to see if it’d jog any more memories..." he shrugged, shutting the book. Seeing her apologetic face he sighed "what is it?"

"I uh, have a teensy favor to ask you.." Twilight Sparkle began.

Sombra listened to her whole theory.

"Actually," he said after a pause "that may just work." he got up, grabbing the book as he started indoors.

"Then, you’ll do it?" Twilight Sparkle asked, racing after him;

"Why not? It’d be a lot easier if everypony else could see the core. It's pointless for the guard to fight them when they can't hit at its heart."


They decided to perform the spell in the throne room. All four Princesses in attendance. Twilight Sparkle sat ready with the goggles. The other three stood around Sombra, in the same way they’d performed the first spell in.

Sombra stared at the pattern on the floor, as the glowing lines of a spell fell into place around him. There was a loud CLICK, and he felt the collar loosen. A small flood of power loomed in the back of his awareness. His power, so much of it, yet this was a mere fraction, the spell contrived to keep the rest at bay... He felt it reach up to draw him in, he could fight off these Princesses, run free...

--NO.-- he shook his head. He’d made that mistake in the past, letting his darkness overtake his mind. NOT again.

Celestia watched in surprise, and admittedly admiration, as she seen him tense up, uttering a faint growl.

"Can you cope?" she asked.

"Just do it, and fast!" he said sharply. She nodded, stepping into the circle while Luna and Cadance held the spell. She pressed her horn to his, and for a moment there was a faint glow. Then she stepped back, at the same time Sombra uttered a cry of pain. Floating in front of Celestia was a dark purple crystal.

"A shard of dark magic..." Cadance whispered "it's strong.."

Celestia handed the shard to Twilight Sparkle, then turned back to Sombra. Closing her eyes she finished the spell, and he felt the sensation of the power vanish as the collar clicked shut around his neck once more.

The spell came to an end, the glow fading, and the three sustaining it sighed in relief. Sombra looked a bit pale.

Twilight Sparkle, during all this, had been completing her own spell. The crystal formed into two lenses, which bonded themselves to the goggles. Now she held up the finished product.

"Now we need to test it...." she said "perhaps my brother can use them.."

“That sounds like a good idea," Cadance nodded "ill go get him."

Twilight Sparkle wandered over to where Sombra sat, looking a little tired;

"Thanks," she said honestly "I hope this will help you end this..."

Sombra just nodded "my head hurts..." he muttered.

Shining Armor arrived, and Twilight Sparkle explained the plan.

"Sure, ill give 'em a go!" Shining Armor beamed at his sister "that’s great work Twilight!"

Sombra scratched at the choker with one hoof "dang thing.." he muttered.

"I suggest you go see Breeze," Celestia said "she will no doubt have something that will ease your headache."

Somrba nodded, getting to his feet with a sigh.

"Why don’t you come on the patrol with me? We pass right by Healing Breeze’s place," Shining Armor said.

Surprised he ASKED him, Sombra eventually agreed.


The other two guards were a little surprised when Shining Armor showed up with Sombra in tow. Even more surprised when the two began having a civil conversation. The last they’d seen them, at the market fight, they’d been outright hostile.

"D'you think it KNOWS who you are, or rather.." Shining Armor thought how to put it, but Sombra spared him the niceties.

"You mean WHAT I am? I don’t know. It knows I’m similar to it, that I’m different to the rest of this world. And going by its reaction, it’s not happy."

"Well of course not, its had its arse handed to it! Well, a ball doesn’t really have an arse does it?" Shining Armor sniggered "either way..."

"Its going to try anything and everything to get what it wants," Sombra said "I know that much. It wants to get me out of the way then let loose its power on this world."

"Not gonna happen," Shining Armor said firmly "I am not letting my kingdom fall prey to a power-hungry-GACK." Realizing who he was talking to.

But Sombra just gave a short, sharp laugh, the sound like a deep rumble, coming from him. "Why deny the reality of it?"


They reached Healing Breeze’s shop just as another pony was stepping in the door. She did a double take on seeing the guards plus Sombra.

"How much trouble are YOU in?" she said jokily to Sombra, looking at the guards.

"Good afternoon!" Healing Breeze came out from the shops storeroom. She greeted the mare who’d come in first, then spotted Sombra and his little guard group.

"Prince Shining Armor!" she beamed "good to see you, all of you!” She spared an extra smile for the quiet Sombra "How're things?"

"Need something for headaches ms Breeze!" Shining Armor said "and Cadance wants so more of that sleep-easy blend, she says its working wonders!"

"Of course!" once she’d served the young mare, she went to the storeroom again. The mare cast a last glance at Sombra as she left. Scary at first, she now thought when you got a good look, he was pretty handsome, in a bad boy sort of way..

"Dude," Shining Armor nudged him "I think she fancies you-"

Sombra twitched, and told Shining Armor not to be idiotic.

"Had so many ponies coming to see me complaining of feeling drained," Healing Breeze remarked "I think there’s a bug going round.."

Sombra’s ears twitched. Something was gnawing at the back of his mind.

On cue, the door opened and a very exhausted looking pony wobbled in. She’d woken up that morning feeling so awful.

Sombra stared at her. Something seemed odd about her. He could almost see it. Letting his gaze go out of focus, he seen-

"I knew it!" he said abruptly, startling everypony in the shop.

"Knew what?" a guard asked at last.

"There’s a faint aura...I can barely see it but I can sense it..." Sombra looked at the tired mare "one of those things has come into contact with you, drained you."

"W-what? You mean like that thing that everypony is saying tried to eat us when we were sick?" she stared at Sombra with wide eyes "how can you be sure..?"

"I can’t explain it," he said at last "but I’ve fought those things enough to know how they work..."

"Don’t worry ma'am," Shining Armor assured her "We have a plan to help us kick those things up their non-solid backsides."

"Don’t leave windows open at night," Sombra said randomly "I doubt those things will stop at breaking and entering, but trust me, keep them shut."

She looked up at him, then nodded "Everypony says you know what you’re doing, and I believe them. Thank you.." then she was gone.

"I’ll tell anypony else I see today," Breeze said, nudging a couple of packages across the counter. Sombra tucked them into his saddlebag and they left.


Sombra was deep in thought as they walked along. After several minutes, when he noticed the taller stallion hadn’t said a word, Shining Armor nudged him in the side.

"You OK in there?" he joked.

"Why didn’t anypony see anything?" Sombra muttered "if one of those things was hanging around, you’d spot it. That means its disguised itself again."

“As the blue haired mare?" Shining Armor asked. Sombra shrugged;

"Perhaps, but somehow I sense not. A lot of ponies seen her revealed as a fake during that fight. It will have spread by now that that form was an illusion."

“Could it..." Shining Armor wondered how to phrase it "have used another form from your memory?"

"That’s what concerns me," Sombra muttered "Those memories are from over a thousand years ago, nopony’d recognize or even remotely know them. They’d just assume they were another normal pony..."

"We need to speak to anypony that’s been ill recently..." Shining Armor nodded "lets go ask breeze.."

So they turned back.


Breeze was concerned to hear about this latest shift, and told Shining Armor and Sombra the most recent ponies that’d come to see her...

Shining Armor said he’d have all the patrols ask around at these addresses, telling Sombra to get some rest. Although he looked better after finally eating a decent breakfast, he still needed rest.


By the days end, the guards had a lot of info for their captain. With her friends off at other activities, Twilight Sparkle had joined the other three Princesses. She greeted her brother with the customary hug before settling down to listen to what he and his guards had discovered.

"So far, what we’ve been able to find out is the same pony has apparently been spotted hanging around not far from the homes of everypony who’s been feeling unwell. Either they or their family seen what they described as a very tall stallion. Very unusual. One of them, as luck has it, is an artist, she drew us this sketch."

Shining Armor unfurled a canvas scroll, displaying a watercolor ketch and paint of a tall stallion. Midnight black coat with dark grey mane and tail. Completing the picture were cold grey eyes. A white star like a comet was displayed across his flank.

"I recognize him!" Twilight Sparkle blurted. Shining Armor nodded.

"Its from his memories, this is the same stallion from those flashbacks."

"Whose memories?" one of the guards asked.

Cadance sent one of the guards to fetch Sombra.

"This is...his father..." Twilight Sparkle shook her head "we seen him in Sombra’s nightmares, he’s an absolute brute!"

"That’s- whoa." One of the guards remarked "now you mention it, I can se the resemblance, they have the same build.."

"Yeah...like a tank!" somepony else muttered.

The doors opened and the guard returned with Sombra trailing behind.

"What’s going on Princess-WHOA." He cut off as Shining Armor turned to face him, the scroll swinging round to face him.

"Oh-" here he used an obsolete, ancient curse word that made Celestia raise an eyebrow.

"Let me guess..." he sighed "THAT’S what’s being attacking those ponies, draining them.."

"Seems so. It hasn’t reckoned on the fact that ponies that tall are something of an oddity and WILL stand out!" Cadance remarked.

The guards seen an expression of disgust flicker over Sombra’s face.

"Who next..?" he muttered darkly "it has a lot to choose from. It has a lifetime of memories to butcher."

Celestia was silent a moment "if you can," she suggested at last, "draw sketches of as many of them as possible. If we can identify them now, we can stop it from using them..."

"Right.." Sombra nodded.


He went to the library and started drawing everypony from his weird and warped past. His mother, the elders....King Cloudspark, Scrollwork...

"Ooh, cool!" he jumped a mile when he heard Pinkie Pies high pitched voice.

"Geez, cotton candy.." he said lightly.

"Sorry!" she beamed "those are cool...."

"These are the most prominent from my memories. Then again, you know that don’t you? You seen it.."

Pinkie Pie nodded sagely "Yup." she said softly "they were sad memories.." she pouted, as if upset that his life had been so bad and she couldn’t make it better.

"Its nothing to be concerned about..." he said quietly "the past cannot be changed. But the future, THAT, I can do something about!"

"That’s the spirit!" Pinkie Pie whooped, poking him lightly "its dinnertime, you coming?"

He blinked, about to say no, he didn’t feel well...

When he realized he hadn’t felt sick all day. He actually WANTED to eat. So it was to his own surprise and Pinkie Pie’s delight that he nodded, set the quill down and followed her out of the library.


The cook was surprised, but pleased to see the reclusive Sombra FINALLY show up at the dining table.

"You should’ve just said you had a stomach bug that was making you sick!" she chided, as she set the dishes down "you have to give your body energy to fight something like that!"

Sombra cast a baffled look at the others. Cadance had a "you’re welcome" smile on her face, and he realized shed concocted the cover story to make things less awkward.

"Its...better now.." he said at last.

"Tuck in everypony!" Applejack grinned.

Sombra was surprised by how much he was able to eat. He listened to the others talking about this and that, funny tales…

"-daftest thing EVER!" Rainbow Dash had just finished telling a story, and everypony was giggling.

"What’s the silliest thing you’ve ever done?" the blue Pegasus waved a hoof at the table "who can beat face-slamming a signpost?"

Sombra paused before speaking up "getting, pardon the phrase, ROYALLY DRUNK, and being so bladdered you set off one of your own traps and almost get stuck in it."

"PFFT!" Shining Armor nearly choked on his tea "what the hay were you doing, drinking that much?!"

"Who knows? I don’t really recall. But I got the story from one of my guards the next morning. Apparently, when he finally found me, I was arguing with a potted plant about the furnishings-" his words were drowned out by loud laughter.

Sombra fought with a suppressed laugh, "I started ranting about how to achieve immortality with the use of burnt toast and a spell to implode space and time."

By now everypony was laughing their hindquarters off. Even Cadance couldn’t keep a straight face.

"Honestly, I was so drunk my MAGIC was drunk.." Sombra finished.

"You win!" Rainbow Dash declared "that is THE silliest THING I’ve ever heard!"


That night Sombra was awoken not by his usual nightmares, but by a painful throbbing in his head. He staggered down the hall, looking for Shining Armor, Celestia, anypony!

"Whoa!" the guard jumped on seeing a mussy-haired Sombra charging through the palace "what’re you DOING?!"

"Looking for somepony in charge...Twilight Sparkles brother, Celestia- One of those THINGS is nearby!" Sombra snarled.

“Things, wait, you mean?"

"Yes!" Sombra said shortly "a shadow creature!"

Before the guard could get even halfway down the hall, there was the sounds of screaming and something smashing at the front entrance. Sombra tore off, racing down stairs at the same time Shining Armor went racing out of his room. They reached the main entrance together, staring at what, or rather WHO stood there.

Sombra’s father. He was a forceful looking pony, black coat with white around his hooves.

"So...you don’t give up?" it said in a perfect mimicry of his voice. Sombra snarled.

"Drop the charade you charlatan!" he growled.

"What’s the matter? Not happy to see me, SON?" it stressed this last part with a mocking laugh. Sombra’s fury rose.

"Easy..” Shining Armor murmured, seeing how angry the unicorn was.

"Then again, cant say I blame you. Imagine having your pride and joy turn out to be an abomination, a freak!" the clone laughed "he despised you for all the trouble you brought!"

Shining Armor had slipped the goggles on while this thing was showboating. To his surprise, he could see a dimly glowing ball underneath the swirling darkness.

--It works!!-- he thought triumphantly. More guards were pouring in, some aiming spears. Sombra unlatched the one he carried and snapped it into its full size.

"How cute, but YOURE the only one I came to destroy!" it threw itself at Sombra, who dug his heels in and met the charge head on. They struggled a moment before the shadow thing darted back, glaring at Sombra.

"You pathetic little freak!" it spat, mimicking the past again..

"I’LL be the judge of THAT." Sombra spat "you have nothing to say to me that will make me give a hay!"

"How can you not be afraid?!" it hissed "this was the one that hurt you the most!"

"Because that time is long gone!” Sombra snarled "Buried in the snow. It’s been a long time. Your a thousand years too late to make me care!"

It stared, realizing now why Sombra had attacked it’s version of the pale mare.

Taking advantage of it being distracted, Shining Armor told all the unicorns to fire where he did. The end result was the creature getting a massive shock to its core. It roared in fury, spinning to stare at Shining Armor in shock.

"How can you-" it turned to look back at Sombra, who was smirking "YOU."

"Me," Sombra said tauntingly "guess you don’t just have one problem in your way anymore!"

"Then I guess I’ll rip you all to bits, starting with you!" the thing fixated on Sombra, who swung the spear around to point right at it.

"Bring it on." he snarled.

He swung the weapon round and launched for the thing wearing his fathers form.

Pure fury, and the memory of that breakfast with the ponies gave him a surge of hope. He didn’t have to keep fighting his past anymore...

"You-" he swung the spear at its head, and when it ducked, swiftly swung the weapon up and slammed it downwards through the fake fathers body like a butterfly to a corkboard. Having solidified to fight them, this meant it found itself pinned.

"NOW!" he yelled at the guards and Shining Armor.

Before it could express its surprise, the shadow blob was blasted with every last bit of magic the ponies possessed. It screamed in fury as its core exploded. Sombra jumped back as the shockwave pulsed out from the destroyed core.

Silence rang in the hall, then was shattered by sighs of relief.

Sombra glanced at the goggles shining wore "did they?" he asked.

"Like a dream!" Shining Armor nodded "if we can make more of these..."

Sombra nodded. “Exactly..”

Having checked nopony was injured, everypony returned to their post. Shining Armor and Sombra returned to bed. But the guards were extra vigilant, just in case…


The next morning the Princesses got the whole story.

"So that’s what that racket was.." Twilight Sparkle shivered "glad you guys stopped it!"

"These goggles of yours are perfect, Twily," Shining Armor added "think you can make more?"

"Well, I can but its Sombra's magic that makes it work, we'll need a lot more then just a chunk next time!" Twilight Sparkle explained.

To their relief Sombra agreed to go through the odd process again that evening.


But before they could get started, Sombra was told he had a visitor. She was waiting in the throne room with Princess Cadance.

"Sombwa!" the happy little filly raced over and beamed brightly at him.

"Little one," he said softly, a trace of warmth in his voice "what brings you here?"

"I was hoping you could help me wiv my homework.." she said sheepishly "we gotta do a weport on the cwystal empires histowy, and i figured you’d know plenty of fings!"

Sombra felt a smidgen of unease. What he knew about the kingdom? Well, his own personal history would probably give the kid nightmares, so-

"The empire itself has changed, it was a much harsher place back then," he said lightly.

"That’s perfect!" she smiled.

"We just have a little job to do," Twilight Sparkle told Bright Spark "Then he’s all yours~"

Bright Spark looked delighted. Sombra couldn’t help a small smile.

So Bright Spark sat to one side with the guards as the Princesses formed that same circle again with Sombra at its centre.

"What are they doing?" Bright Spark asked.

"We need a shard of his magic.." Twilight Sparkle explained "and in order to get it, that choker has to be removed. But Sombra has a very powerful, very different magic, so we have to be careful."

“He wont hurt anypony!" Bright Spark piped up in his defence. Twilight Sparkle smiled;

"We know kiddo, but we still have to be careful.."

Sparks eyes widened in surprise as she watched the powerful spell being laid down to safeguard everypony when the choker was off. She seen and heard it click open, seen Sombra shiver slightly.

But as Celestia stepped forward to gather the needed magic, every window in the throne room shattered at the same time. The other two Alicorn’s supporting the spell faltered, the lines wavering. It was enough. The shadow ponies, several in total, attacked at once, forcing Luna and Cadance to retreat.

Then a larger shadow pony soared in through the window, landing in front of Sombra, who was fighting to keep his magic in check. It grinned, and a shield of faintly greyed out magic swished up around the two of them. It was mimicking Twilight Sparkles magic from the market fight.

"Now we finally have a chance to talk, you and I.." it drawled.

"What’s happening?" Twilight Sparkle cried, as she dove aside to avoid a bolt of black magic fired at her. She and the others threw up shields of their own, Bright Spark huddled beside Twilight Sparkle.

"I’m just here to talk to your little weapon," the shadow pony grinned.

"Buck...Off!" Sombra managed to snarl.

"Now now, don’t be so hasty. We’ve had our disagreements, but I think you'll find your place is not here..."

"What’s he saying?" Luna murmured.

"Don’t you see it, "Sombra"?" the thing called him by name, "they collar you, use you as a weapon, how is this fair? You’re forced to fight over and over, and for what? A populace that will turn on you once you serve no purpose? Simply seal you away in that darkness with those dreams.."

Sombra felt a twinge at his defenses. He tried not to think about what would happen once this was over.

"Sombwa!" Bright Spark cried.

"You have such raw power, yet you’re always feared, mistreated for it," the thing paced back and forth in front of Sombra, "how is this any different? They want you to save them, yet they keep you under lock and key!"

"Shut up!" Sombra growled.

Sombra looked at the Princesses, all trying to fight off the other shadow clones. It was true Celestia had brought him back to save the empire from this thing, but hadn’t she said something about the crystal heart? That it had other plans?

He thought about the breakfast, the one where the ponies had revealed they’d seen his past, and wanted to give him a chance to have a REAL life. Real FRIENDS. He recalled Shining Armor’s outstretched hoof, even though the stallion had hated him for a long time!

"NO.." he growled.

"Ah, so willful.." it grinned, seeing the loosened collar. With the spell partly unwound so Celestia could extract the magic, it seen a weakness "you’ll feel better once I get rid of THIS!"

"NO!" Sombra blurted, too late, as he felt shadowy, slick shadow hooves on his neck.

There was a discordant snapping sound.

The Princesses all looked over at the sound. They seen the collar, its lock spell fully opened now, roll across the floor, coming to a stop by Twilight Sparkle.

"Oh no.." Celestia said, worry written all over her face.

The shadow thing laughed, stepping back. Sombra appeared to have passed out, hunched over on the floor, his mane obscuring his eyes.

"On your feet, my nemesis of darkness-"

Then Sombra looked up, and grinned. But there was nothing good about the gesture.

The dark pony laughed, but the sound cut off a second later as it was flung back by a powerful burst of magic. It’s shield shattered as it slammed into it, then hit the ground and quickly righted itself. It looked up to see Sombra striding towards it. His mane flowed like ripples on waters surface. His eyes glowed that unnatural green. A dark purple aura was swirling up around his legs and horn.

"How many do you think have tried to manipulate me for their own ends my whole LIFE?!" Sombra snarled, red eyes glowing.

"How can you deny ME?" the dark clone pony fumed "They treat you like a dog, I would let you have all you’ve ever wanted! I’ve seen it in your mind, who you are!"

"Times change. You’ve seen my PAST. Not my future. And I-" Sombra’s fury grew. Dark purple crystals burst up from the floor, surrounding the shadow clone, their razor sharp spikes inching towards its core.

"I AM NOT YOURS TO TOY WITH!!" The furious unicorn roared. The shards pierced the centre of the things mass shattering the core and eradicating it.

"Nice try.." its consciousness had simply shifted to another of the clones the Princesses were battling. "But you cant stop me, there’s too many of us!"

As it spoke, more swarmed in the windows.

Sombra gave a furious roar, and blasted the one that’d spoke with a shot of dark magic.

"Keep trying!" it mocked, popping up behind him.

--So many....why am I...fighting..?-- in the face of his full power unleashed, Sombra’s mind began to falter.

Then he seen Twilight Sparkle’s shield go down, as she was forced to dive aside again. In the chaos, Bright Spark was torn free from her hold. He seen the tiny filly tumble end over end into the middle of the room. And one of the pony clones dove for her, teeth filling its mouth-

"NO!" his voice cut through the shrill, cackling laughter, the terrified cry of the little filly branding itself in his mind..

Sharp fangs bit into the would-be attackers throat and threw it back. Bright Spark blinked, her scream tailing off. Sombra was standing over her, using his body to shield her.

"Sombwa!" she said, tears of relief filling her eyes.

"Don’t you DARE harm her.." Sombra’s voice was feral, a snarl of fury from deep inside.

As many as possible launched at him. He swiped them aside, buffering them back with a mix of shields and attack magic. But some got through. Their teeth bit into his legs, his neck, trying to get at little Bright Spark. But Sombra refused to let them get near her.

He wrapped her in a small bubble of magic, and resorted to using his other asset, brute strength. Powerful blows from his hoofs cracked core after core. With sheer numbers came a weakness sin the cores. But even with this knowledge, there was too many. The real one had to be nearby. These were ALL fakes, the real one wasn’t in this room.

--No time to search. Destroy them all!-- his mind crowed, feeling the euphoric rush of his magic, back where it belonged, at his beck and call.

"Sombwa.." Bright Spark didn’t like how Sombra seemed to hell-bent on fighting, even when he was bleeding. Wasn’t he in pain? What if he-

He glanced at her and deep in those red eyes she seen a flicker of the Sombra she knew. An almost apologetic look...

"I’m sorry you had to see this."

She blinked, seeing him closing his eyes and lifting his head. His horn began to glow, the dark purple magic dizzying to behold. Above his head a small dark ball began to grow. With it came a strange pressure, like an immense wave about to break.

"Oh no..." Luna recognised it, so did Twilight Sparkle and Cadance. It was the spell from his memories, the one he’d used to banish everypony from the palace!

"Sombra!!" Celestia cried "please stop!!"

But it was too late. There was a sudden stillness, then the ball exploded, a bright sphere of power that swept over the room, and beyond. It swept like a force of nature through the whole castle. Where it touched, the shadow ponies turned to crystal, becoming harmless statues. It swept on, encompassing the entire castle. Atop the castles roof, the one Sombra had sensed tried to flee, but it too was changed into a crystal blob.


Outside, everypony looked up at the sonic boom that accompanied Sombra’s spell. They seen a bright purple aura flare out from the castle, enveloping it and the surrounding areas. It was a beautiful, yet frightening sight. So much dark magic...

Then it faded, the air going still once more.

"What was that?!" one mare panicked.

"That dark unicorn....Sombra!" someone said.

"What’s he done?"

"Oh will you calm down!" They all looked round as a mare spoke crossly "there’s probably more to this than just assuming he’s up to no good!"

"Exactly!" another mare "he’s been....saving us...."


The Princesses had closed their eyes when the spell had swept towards them, expecting to be vanished away or worse. But all they felt was a strong tingling feeling, then they blacked out briefly. Bright Spark had stared in awe as the spell whooshed past her.

Her little bubble barrier had protected her. Now it’s job was done, it popped with a little PING sound.

Shaking her head to clear it, she seen Sombra standing there, the aura around him much dimmer now.

"Sombwa!" she spied something gleaming, and bounded over to it. It was the choker.

She bounced to a halt in front of him, the choker in her mouth.

"Pwease..." she pleaded. Sombra looked down at her. She could see he was fighting to draw breath, the aura flaring and dimming as he fought to control it.

"Ungh..." Celestia opened her eyes, lifting her head.

"Sister...?" Luna asked, blinking away stars.

"Wha...Sombra..." Twilight Sparkle groaned. Next to her, Cadance stirred.

They all looked over, and seen Bright Spark holding the choker. Sombra, his aura flaring powerful and bright, looking down at her.

"Pwease.." spark whispered "I want my fwiend back....boop?"

That one little word reached his heart. He blinked, the green glow fading from his eyes.

"Little one..." he uttered.

Unaware the Princesses were awake and watching him, he lifted the choker, staring at the spell embedded in it. Closing his eyes he completed the broken spell by instinct, returning the choker to how it’d felt before. All that remained...

He stared at it a moment. He’d relished the feel of his magic, having it back again. His spell had worked. the room was a gallery of crystal ponies, no longer a danger.

But he could not live in this time and still have his power. He was certain, wasn’t he? He was still a dangerous force. To keep what Twilight Sparkle and the others had offered him. He had to be kept away from his own power. It was simmering even now, no doubt wanting to break free and run rampant, overtake his mind and body...didn’t it?

"Sombwa?" Bright Spark looked worried "what’s wrong?"

So much uncertainty meant his self-judgement was clouded heavily. He couldn’t see how even now, he was keeping his magic on a leash..

"My magic is a threat everypony, if I don’t do this..." but the reluctance in his voice was clear. He took a deep breath, closing his eyes, and allowed himself one last glance inward, seeing the dark purple shimmer of his aura. Funny, it almost looked beautiful like this...

Forcing himself to quell the sense of disappointment and loss, and before he could regret it, he latched the collar back around his neck. The next second, the weight of its magic hit him like a hammer blow. A sense of shock radiated through him, as the connection to his power was sealed away. He felt a sense of loss, like he was being torn in two deep inside his heart.

Bright Spark seen the flash of panic in his eyes as he started to raise a hoof towards his neck, then shook his head vigorously, stamping the hoof back onto the floor.

The spell locked into place with a final surge of power, and he gasped in pain, feeling like he’d had part of his very core taken away. He’d woken up with a funny pain that first day. This was it now, magnified greatly. Back then, his body had been mourning the loss of his power, but being unconscious while this had been done, it’d made it easier, he hadn’t been able to identify the cause.

Bright Spark watched tearfully, seeing how much he was hurting.

He stood unsteadily on his feet, visibly shaken. Then the chokers gem glowed, and a fresh wave of pain made him collapse to the floor.

“Sombwa!" Bright Spark wailed, racing over to crouch by his hooves. She rubbed her cheek against his, hoping this would bring him round.

He opened his eyes at the contact;

"Little one..." he said softly "I’m sorry.."

“For what? You pwotected me!" she sniffled "you defeated the eviw ponies!"

"That was that power, that the ponies of the past feared so," he said softly "do you understand now?"

"I don’t CARE!" she blurted "Sombwa is Sombwa, magic is magic!"

"You’re a good filly..." he said, his voice laced with pain and tiredness "don’t let anypony take that from you."

The Princesses were standing together in stunned silence. They’d seen Sombra willingly lock his own powers down. They’d seen how much the process had hurt him.

"That is why I did not wish him to be awake when I first placed it on him," Celestia said "to feel his magic vanishing, its a painful process. I did not think such a situation would arise.."

Now Bright Spark was trying to get him to give her a smile, but he seemed too worn out to even lift his head.

"Sombra.." the little filly looked up as Celestia came over to sit in front of him.

"What..?" he said dully, staring at a point beyond her.

"You stopped them from hurting everypony. We misjudged your intentions with that spell. You saved us."

"...." he didn’t answer, just stared blankly into space. She frowned, he was really out of it this time!

He got to his feet with a monumental effort, still not speaking a word.

"Sombra..." Celestia sounded concerned. But he just stared straight ahead, not hearing her. Then he walked calmly past her, heading for the door.

"Sombra!” Luna teleported in front of him, almost eye to eye "snap out of it, listen to us!"

But he just stared at her, or through her. She got the feeling he was seeing something else. Then he simply walked past her, ignoring the guards that piled into the room.

"Sir." one of them tried to stop him, but Luna barked at him to let him go.

"He needs some space..." she said quietly.

"What happened here?" Flash Sentry asked, seeing them all looking a bit lost, and in Bright Spark’s case, in tears.

"A sacrifice, that’s what happened." Luna said shortly.

"Huh?" Flash looked confused "what was that purple blast?"

"Sombra’s magic." Celestia said "he eradicated the threat in one swift move. The darkness is gone, for now..."

"The choker glowed..." Twilight Sparkle said once the guards had left, with orders to remove and destroy the crystal statues.

"Yes, the element of magic, your element Twilight Sparkle." Celestia sighed "he was able to use his magic to help rather than hurt, it’s true purpose. But deep down, he still fears a reoccurrence of his past, losing his mind to it, so he cannot see the good in what he has done!"

"He had his magic, he could’ve run free, yet he chose to put the limiter back on." Cadance shook her head slightly "It wasn’t an easy decision, but I’m guessing he wants to stay in this time with everypony, he gave up his power again so he could.."

"That’s why he’s sad?" Bright Spark said "I thought his magic was so much awesome, it was pwetty, and stwong!"

"Its also a sore point for him," Twilight Sparkle said gently "he was made to fear his own power by ponies in his past. Nopony knew what dark magic really was back then."

"So why cant he use it? Why that neckwace?" Bright Spark asked.

"Its to make sure his magic cannot cause any undue damage.." Luna said gently "its hard to control, and if he were to lose control again, we’d be in trouble..."

"Oh...so it’s no his fault?" Bright Spark asked.

"Not entirely, no." Luna said "he should not fear himself. as the prophecy Cadance found explains, a pony born with dark magic is able to live in the light. He just cannot see that."

"He has overcome a great deal.." Celestia said "but the hardest hurdle is his own barriers. We cannot force that, he must do it alone.."


Sombra wandered through the palace halls. Hearing only a faint ringing in his ears. He felt hollow, empty. NO emotion, nothing...

"Oh, hay, there you are!" Shining Armor looked up as he spotted Sombra walk past "what just happened...did you..?" He trailed off as Sombra appeared to not even hear him, just plodded on.

"That’s odd..." somepony remarked.

"I think something’s wrong.." Shining Armor frowned, and hurried after Sombra.

By the time he and Flash, who’d been trailing him since leaving the throne room, caught up to the taller stallion, he was outside in the gardens. Just standing there, staring into space.

"I tried to ask him was he alright, but he wouldn’t answer sir!" The guard by the door cast Shining Armor and Flash Sentry a concerned look "I’m not even convinced he can hear me.."

"Whatever happened, its to do with the purple ka-blam spell..." Shining Armor said "I’m going to guess HE did it..."

Flash had wandered up to Sombra by this point, and now tentatively reached out a hoof to tap his foreleg.

Sombra jumped, backing a few steps away from flash before apparently realizing he knew this pony.

"What..?" he asked, but he seemed dazed.

"You OK? You’re acting funny. And not ha-ha funny..." Flash said carefully.

"I don’t know..." Sombra said flatly "what’s going on?"

"Uhh...we were hoping YOU could tell US that!" Flash piped up.

"You need to see the doc," Shining Armor said carefully "you’re bleeding..."

Sombra blinked, looking at a cut on his left foreleg, which was trickling blood onto the grassy lawn.

"C'mon..." Shining Armor said lightly, realizing the stallion was probably in shock, it would explain why he was so unresponsive. "You can just sleep...that’s what you need..."

This seemed to get through the thick haze that had taken over Sombra. He allowed himself to be ushered back inside, to the doctor. Who took one look at how exhausted and spaced he was, and ordered some tea be made, the first step to helping treat shock.


Sombra sat through the check-up without a sound, without a word. The doctor was a little concerned, but he knew better then to push Sombra.

Luckily, there was enough magic in the crystals he’d summoned to fight the clone ponies with for Twilight Sparkle to make extra goggles. So she wouldn’t have to put Sombra through that again.


"Hey sugarcube!" Applejacks voice startled Twilight Sparkle and she jumped.

"Applejack...hay..." she sighed "sorry, I was miles away."

"Ya gonna eat dinner?" Applejack nodded at the food on the table

"Oops!" she said sheepishly with a grin "silly me, of course!"

"So what actually happened?" Rainbow Dash asked "suddenly all these things pop up, then the next thing we know, they’re turning to crystal!"

Twilight Sparkle let out a small sigh.

"Big mess Rainbow Dash.." she said. "Those things attacked just as we were about to extract a second batch of Sombra’s magic. One of them, the one with the sky tears consciousness in it, broke the spell on the choker!"

“WHAT?!" Rarity yelped.

"Seriously. It attacked just as Celestia had unlocked it. It got it off Sombra, tried to manipulate him. Make him turn on US."

“What happened?" Fluttershy gasped.

Twilight Sparkle blinked "it was something else...." she said at last "he turned on IT."

“Seriously, wow..." Rainbow Dash tried to imagine it "that’s..."

"He said he was sick of being used, and that he was not IT’S to toy with!" Twilight Sparkle shook her head "then he just laid into it!"

They were silent for a moment.

"Wow," Rainbow Dash said "that’s pretty cool. 20% cooler then I had him pegged!"

"I’m sure he’d be happy to hear that Rainbow Dash, but where is he?" Applejack asked.

"He’s, in his room.." Twilight Sparkle said "that’s the other part of what happened.”

They fell silent while Twilight Sparkle told the story of him using that massive spell, then putting the choker back on. About how painful it must’ve been to feel his magic being torn away again. How her brother had told her Sombra went into shock and was currently sleeping off a sedative.

“That’s why she put it on him when he was out cold.." she said at last "I got the feeling it really hurt him..."

"And he’s feeling ill because of it?" Rarity asked.

"No," Twilight Sparkle shook her head "I think he’s missing having his magic, and its making him miserable.."

"Aww ponyfeathers...." Applejack sighed "that sucks!"

"Getting it back then losing it again, that’s tough," Rainbow Dash sighed.

"He put it back on because he wanted to stay with us..." Fluttershy piped up. Twilight Sparkle nodded.


Celestia had a lot on her mind. She called a Princess summit the next morning, and put forward her thoughts;

"What that creature said, its been on my mind..." she began.

"What part?" Cadance asked.

"The part where it pointed out an unfortunate truth I’m certain Sombra was keenly aware of. That we ARE using him to fight our war for us, how are we any better than it? We rendered him powerless, and asked him to fight for us. I had expected his tactics and brute strength would be enough to ensure victory, but he cannot keep using that resource, it’s weakening him.."

They all thought a moment.

"We assumed he would be violent, uncontrollable," Luna said "but he has become a far different pony now..."

“He used the full force of his power to protect that little filly, and locked it away so he could keep living here." Twilight Sparkle nodded.

"What do you propose, sister?" Luna asked.

"I think we need to give him part of who he is back. Although I don’t think he can manage it all flooding back at once, after all this time without it, it could cause shock. But he has proven he CAN use it to do something good.." Celestia said.

It was a unanimous vote. Sombra deserved this much for all he’d done.


Celestia said she’d handle it, since Cadance and Twilight Sparkle were busy, and Luna slept in the daytime!

Sombra was surprised when she asked him to meet her in the throne room.

"Its easiest here, more room.." she remarked, reading a scroll as he walked in.

"What is..?" He trailed off when he seen that familiar spell circle "ah, you need to reset it, don’t you?"

“In a manner of speaking~" she smiled cryptically, but the subtlety was lost on Sombra, who just looked confused. But, with a barely audible sigh, he sat himself down in the circles centre.

"This may hurt a bit.." Celestia said "it’ll be brief.."

Sombra nodded, closing his eyes.

He tensed automatically as he felt the collar loosen, felt the power unfurl and stretch, relishing its freedom again. The sensation of it made his chest ache. He realized how much he missed it. With his eyes closed he was able to see the magic’s unusual aura. Like a glittering purple galaxy. He was aware of Celestia’s magic in the background, a pretty golden shade. Then, he felt the familiar tug of the collar.

The glittering aura began to fade...

Then it stopped, at about half its "size" as it were. He felt a pulse of panic and confusion, what was going on?

There was a click and he felt the room spin briefly as the spell settled down.

He opened his eyes, seeing the spell lines fading into the carpet.

"Something’s off, I think you left it too loose," he said quietly, not wanting to get his hopes up.

Celestia chuckled, making him glance up at her. She was smiling.

"I assure you there’s been no mistake or error Sombra," she said calmly "it is exactly what you think. I changed the spell. I didn’t want it to overload you, so I kept it back a bit. But the spell will retreat a little each day, allow your magic to return to full capacity-"

"Why?!" Sombra blurted, he looked confused. "You seen that chaos with the shadow things. I barely kept control of it THEN, after I lost my temper!"

"And yet none of us were harmed. You eradicated only the shadow ponies. Little miss Bright Spark was unharmed, she can see more then we can.."

Sombra thought about her getting upset when he told her his magic was bad. She grumpily responded magic was still magic.

"You see?" Celestia could see the emotions flickering through his eyes "she knows you wont harm anypony, she was very vocal in pointing that out after you wandered off..."

"I don’t remember much after the spell locked in again..." Sombra shook his head "I could see you al, but I couldn’t hear what you were saying."

"That spell was not designed to be used like that, not while you were conscious. It sent you into shock as far as I can tell.."

Sombra shuddered, it’d felt awful. The sensation of his magic being torn away again. Yet he could feel it now, less overwhelming, but THERE nonetheless.

"Take some time to get used to it..." Celestia said gently "get some rest..."

Sombra was still fighting to understand, but on autopilot he heard himself, saying something about thank you, he needed a walk...


Then, when he next snapped back to reality, he was standing outside.

"How did I get here?" he muttered.

"Sleepwalking?" the bored guard at the door suggested.

"That'll do..." Sombra shrugged. he started to walk out towards the street outside, then realized nopony was trailing after him.

The guard responded to his confused look with a shrug "Princess Celestia’s orders, she said to leave you be..."

“Right..." Sombra looked a little wary, but eventually he seemed to accept it and carried on outside.

He wondered where Twilight Sparkle and co had gotten to? It felt odd not to have somepony following him, be it a guard or a little pony Princess.

"Sombra!" He snapped out of his daze as he heard a female voice calling to him. He stopped, seeing Shining Sea across the street. he strode over to her, and as he reached her, a tiny blur whooshed out from the shop-

"SOMBWA!" Bright Spark gave him another of her glomp-hugs "you feewing OK?"

"I’m fine little one.." he said gently "but what of YOU?"

"I’m fine!" she beamed "yesterday was scawwy, but you got wid of ther eviw ponies!"

"Yes, they’re gone. The statues were broken down."

"I couldn’t believe it when she told me what happened!" Shining Sea said "that so many would attack the Princesses like that! Still, they had your help, so they were in safe hooves."

"I told mommy about how your magic was supposed to be so scawwy, but I didn’t fink so!" Bright Spark bounded up and down happily.

"You’re a clever little spark aren’t you..?" he chuckled softly "your mother is very lucky to have you!”

Shining Sea nodded proudly, nuzzling the top of her daughter head, making her giggle.

There was a loud booming sound, and Sombra instinctively moved to shield the two. He looked up at the sky tear, and did not know what was going on.

"What is THAT?!" Somepony cried, seeing what looked like an inky tornado flowing into their world.

"I’m not familiar with the type of thing I’m seeing.." Sombra said at last. But he FELT it "it’s this things version of magic..."

"Eep" Bright Spark squeaked.

“Everypony, get out of here, RUN!" Sombra yelled. Some did, recognizing that he knew what he was talking about when it came to these things!

The swirling mass seemed to see the surge of movement and suddenly swept down, sweeping along the street like a ink tsunami.

Bright Spark screamed and clung to her mommy. Sombra closed his eyes.

--Come on magic!-- he thought --if you’re here, WORK!!--

There was a whoosh, and the trio vanished, appearing atop the shop roof.

"How in Equestria?" Shining Sea blinked. Sparks eyes widened.

"Your magic!" she said happily "the pwincesses let you keep it?"

"Part of it..." he said.

But down below he had more to deal with. The other ponies had been covered by the inky wave, up to their hooves in it. They struggled and fought to get free, as a dark shape shot out from the tear.

"Its trying another harvest!" Sombra’s fury rose "I have to stop it, can you two manage up here?"

"We’ll be fine!" Shining Sea said bravely "don’t worry about us, go get that thing!"

"Be carefuww!" Bright Spark called. He gave her a nod, then leapt off the roof, a crystal spike shooting up from the ground for him to perch on.

The creature seen him and launched right for him.

"Why wont you just die?!" It fumed. Sombra waited until it got close, then closer...

"What’s he doing?!" one mare yelped "he’s gonna get hit!"

But soon as it came with striking distance, Sombra vanished in a puff of purple-black smoke. And reappeared on another crystal platform a few meters away. With the creature’s back to him he was able to fire a burst of magic at its core. It hit it dead on, stunning it.

"Or he could do that..." the same mare said in surprise "I thought he didn’t have his magic?"

“Well obviously the Princesses did something!" somepony else added.

"How?!" the shadow creature snapped.

"Fight fire with fire. You have your little dirty tricks, and as it happens, so do I!" Sombra laughed. He closed his eyes, summoning the full limit of what Celestia’s spell had allowed him. When he opened his eyes, their trademark glow was back, the unearthly light making his deep red eyes stand out.

"Mess with something your own size!" Sombra declared.

It raged and drove at him again. But he simply vanished as soon as it got close, reappearing on another crystal slab that struck up from the black inky goo.

"Psyche" Sombra smirked.

"Enough tricks little pony!" it sneered. Flying upwards, it fried a bolt of black lightning at him. A semi-transparent shield flared up, deflecting the bolt away before it could hurt somepony. Sombra leapt from the crystal he was on, vanishing and reappearing on a rooftop further down. The thing kept attacking, focusing so intently on him it didn’t hear something move behind it.

"Sucker," Sombra snickered. It whirled round, seeing...a second one. Oh crap. An illusion. While it was staring at the one behind it, the version it’d been firing upon, actually still the real one, came to a stop on the next summoned crystal platform. He closed his eyes. In the air in front of him, a massive bow made of dark energy took shape, and without hesitating he freed the spear Celestia had given him from its pouch, slotting it in and pulling back-

Too late it realised it’d been tricked. It turned just in time to be speared through by the projectile. The creature exploded, the spear embedding itself into the side of a wall.

Sombra sighed in relief. That’d was close. He hadn’t been sure if he’d be able to do that spell, but it’d worked!

The ponies cheered, and would’ve clapped had they been able to move their hooves.

"How do we get out of this..?!" the pony speaking was gnawing at the black goop.

"Don’t," Sombra advised her "it tastes disgusting."

"Blecch! Good point..." she conceded.

Sombra stared at the inky goop. He had an idea. That spell again.

"Everypony stay still..." he said, raising his voice to be heard "I think I can get rid of it, just hold still..."

He closed his eyes, remembering that same spell he’d used to turn the shadows to crystal. It just needed a little tweak, but the basic element was still the same.

The ponies seen the glowing ball appear in the air above where he stood, felt their ears pop as the air pressure shifted.

"Ooh!" Bright Spark pointed a hoof at the ball "lookit mommy, this is so much awesome!"

There was a pop, the air displaced for a moment, then the ball exploded outwards, a rushing purple magic sweeping over the area in a wide circumference. Where it swept past, the black goop vanished in a flash of heatless, painless flame. Purple flame. Soon it was gone, only a little at the edges where the spell couldn’t reach was left.

The purple light faded, and Sombra opened his eyes. When he seen it’d worked, he gave a sigh of relief.

The ponies cheered properly, stamping their hooves in delight as they found themselves free. Sombra jumped down from the crystal platform, and another little spell got rid of those.

Just one thing left;

A puff of black smoke and Shining Sea and Bright Spark appeared in front of him.

"Wow.." Shining Sea blinked.

"Awsome!" Bright Spark beamed at Sombra. Sombra patted her on the head with a soft smile.

"Your magic, it’s amazing..." Shining Sea said at last "I’ve never heard or seen such a thing. And dark magic too..."

Sombra nodded, closing his eyes, quelling the fiery aura. When he opened his eyes, they’d returned to normal.

He then became aware of the ponies surrounding them. He wondered if that little display had scared them.

"Is everypony alright?!"

It was a patrol, running down the street towards them " what happened?"

Shining Sea spoke up.

"That thing attacked us again, but Its all taken care of."

"Sombwa’s magic did it!" Bright Spark bounce dup and down to get the lead guards attention.

"Your magic? Ah yes, the Princesses orders.." the guard nodded.

"Don’t look freaked out," Sombra sighed "its only...partial..."

"It was enough to wipe the floor wiv that fing!" Bright Spark, still bouncing, pointed out to the guard.

"That’s all I need to hear," the guard said. ÒSeems like you already dealt with the situation. I’ll report it back to the Captain."

Sombra was a little surprised when they didn’t question him. He’d expected a freak out. Unless...had Celestia already told Shining Armor to tell his guards she’d be giving him his magic back?

--Celestia is not somepony you underestimate-- he thought wisely.

They checked to make sure nopony was hurt, and carried on their way. Seeing her still bounding about,. Sombra caught Bright Spark up with his magic, floating her in front of him.

"I’m convinced you’re part spring little one, you’re very bouncy."

She giggled, reaching out and tapping his nose.

"Boop!" she cried happily.

Sombra chuckled, tapping her little nose very very gently with one hoof.

"Boop yourself!" he retorted.

Shining Sea smiled at the cute little scene. The ponies watching were stunned by the difference in Sombra. He looked different when he smiled. They’d never seen him so...contented. And his magic! They’d been a little scared when they’d seen him using it at first, but he’d dispatched that thing and freed them. No more, no less.

Sombra’s stomach growled, reminding him he’d skipped lunch. As if in response, little Bright Spark’s made a tinier gurgle.

"Tummy talking!" she giggled. "lunchy lunch mommy?"

“Of course dear," Shining Sea chuckled as Sombra set Bright Spark back on her hooves. She looked at Sombra "would you like to join us?"

"Pwease?" Bright Spark caught onto the idea and gave him a pleading look.

"If its...not a problem," Sombra coughed. ÒThat’d be excellent."

Bright Spark hugged him again.

"YAY!" She looked very happy.

By now the other ponies were clustered nearby. As Sombra turned to go, one of them called out to him. He stopped, looking over at them;

"Is somepony hurt?" he asked, thinking the spell had missed one.

"No, we just wanted to thank you!" the pony at the head of the gathering said.

Again Sombra wore a look of bewilderment for a second, then realized.

"I see..." he said at last “there’s…no need.”

"There’s plenty need. You don’t seem to see how much you help the ponies here..“

Sombra made a funny sound, and looked slightly awkward.

The pony continued “its YOUR magic that helped us, so why not thank YOU?"

Hoof steps to one side heralded one of the ponies bringing back Sombra’s spear.

"Yours I believe," the stallion held it out. Sombra folded it back up, tucking it away again.

"The Princess was right to do what she did," the same pony said "used the right way, your magic is far more powerful than that thing!"

"I’ve never seen dark magic handled so well," one pony spoke up "how on Equestria did you learn to use it like that?"

Curious murmurs and nods of agreement rippled through the group, their curious gazes fixed on him.

Sombra fidgeted, then figured he may as well be honest. Trying to make up a lie here and now wouldn’t wash, they’d seen the ease he’d used it with. Telling them he’d been trained in it probably wouldn’t pass.

"I was born with it," he shrugged at last.

Jaws dropped.

"Seriously?!" one mare yelped "all my years as a historian I’ve never heard of that happening? Why was there no record of this?"

Sombra shrugged "because when you’re born in a backwater village who’s elders practically wet themselves at the slightest anomaly, you generally don’t keep a record of it.."

"If I might ask," the same mare walked closer "where WERE you from?"

"A village called Snowvale, probably long gone by now...." Under his breath "if I’m lucky.."

"Snowvale...that name, I’ve heard it before..."

"It wasn’t anything special.." Sombra shrugged "unless you count being incredibly small minded and petty an achievement!"

"I must see what I can find out.." the mare murmured, lost in thought as she wandered off.

"Where’s Snowvale?" somepony else asked.

Sombra frowned "I cant remember much of that time anymore..." he said "but I think I was traveling for weeks before I reached here...it was always freezing there, hence the name. Beyond that, I cant tell you anything more..."

"Sounds very remote..." somepony said.

"In more ways than one," Sombra said oddly, then shook his head when he caught them looking confused "never mind."

"At any rate, thank you." the first pony that’d called to him spoke up again "we’re glad you’re here now.." then they dispersed.

Sombra felt a funny twinge, but not a bad or painful one. This felt...nice...

Author's Note:

Part 5, enjoy! =D

As always, kindly edited by Dream Seeker!