• 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?

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Crown & Comfort

Bright Spark chattered away happily, asking again was he definitely going to come to the festival on Friday? Sombra reassured her he wouldn’t miss it for anything, which made her smile widely.


When she and her mother parted ways from him, he returned to the castle, feeling better. He hadn’t felt this comfortable in an eternity. His magic swirled and shone deep inside, its presence comforting, a long missed companion.

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The rest of that day he spent in his room, finishing the sketches of as many faces from his past as he could. These he then delivered to Celestia. When he showed up at her office, she indicated the tea set on her desk and asked him to talk awhile.



“I have been getting ever more letters, Sombra.” she said.



“I cant seem to destroy those things without causing collateral damage! They EXPLODE for the love of, well, YOU.” he grumbled. She just smiled and shook her head.



“That’s not what they’re about…”



“Then what..?”



“Dear princesses,” Celestia was reading from a letter now,

“We got our first glimpse of how Sombra’s REAL power works yesterday when one of those things attacked..”

Sombra didn’t speak, just watched her warily.

“-and I never thought id see the day when dark magic could do so much good. Its hard to believe his power was once feared when you see it the way we all did. Perhaps we judged the book by its cover. The old Sombra was a crazed lunatic, bent on controlling the Empire. The pony you brought back to help us is a far cry from the nightmare of the past. The only thing those two have in common is how they LOOK. Beyond that, they are a different as chalk and cheese..”

“Not if you’re eating with your eyes closed,” Sombra muttered, recalling something Cloudspark had said. Celestia made an amused laughing sound, but continued regardless:

“We tried to thank him for saving us, but I got the impression it was hard for him to accept. We owe him a second chance for all he’s done, especially regarding that plague. Please let him know. Maybe you can persuade him to come see us.



Signed, QuillPetal.”

Sombra was silent.



“You understand now? They sincerely want to thank you. You’ve pretty much single hoofedly protected them, this whole time. With Twilight Sparkle’s goggles you won’t have to bear the whole burden alone. You can rest, relax a bit more. Give them a chance to see you…”



Sombra sighed reluctantly.



“Give it a try, what have you to lose?” she asked, triggering Sombra’s memory. Shining’s words that breakfast, that he had a lot to catch up on..



Celestia was looking at the drawings he’d given to her.



"You have an artistic talent," she remarked "these are good. I will ensure Shining Armor gets them."



Sombra nodded, not speaking a word. Celestia studied the image he'd drawn of King Cloudspark. It’d been drawn with a careful reverence and kindness. Despite how he’d apparently lashed out in those memories Luna had seen, it was obvious he treasured the good memories of this pony.



"How have you been sleeping?" she asked as he turned to leave.



"Huh? Oh...better...." he said at last "I don’t see those images anymore. It’s just blank.."



"That must be better.."



He gave a nod "and yet I still feel tired.."



"A lot has changed, this exhaustion is as much mental and physical. The guards can respond to any further emergencies this day, you should get some rest."

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But his mind still dwelled on how everypony had reacted to seeing his past in those nightmares. How sad and honest they’d been that weird morning. After all he’d done, did he have the right to get used to such kindness?



His head still buzzing, he curled up under the covers and fell fast asleep.

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Darkness. Good. Wait, not good. Why was he standing alone in it..?



"Sombra." a voice spoke from behind him and he whirled round, tensed to fight-



"Oh....Princess..." he sighed, seeing Luna "I thought you were another of those things..."



"No, they do not appear to haunt your dreams as of late. I have been researching your past, your memories. I have something you need to see. It wasn’t easy uncovering this, your past is convoluted and distant, but this memory shone brightly."



Not sure what she meant, he walked to stand beside her. She stamped one hoof on the invisible floor and a blur of colours whooshed past them, making Sombra dizzy.



"Whoa geez..." he grumbled.



Luna nudged him a second later. They were in a small, cosy looking cottage. A familiar figure was hunched over a wooden desk, writing franticly.



"It can't be..." Sombra stepped forward. But it WAS. His old mentor and substitute father figure, Cloudspark.



"This is what happened after your spell was unleashed. The ponies in the palace were scattered across the wider area. Sanity alone knows how you pulled that one off," she remarked.



At the desk, Cloudspark finished the letter and folded it up, putting it in a small, ornately carved box.



"I hope someday this will reach you.." he muttered, before picking it up and heading outside.



Cloudspark walked off into the night. They walked after him in silence, until eventually the scene shifted and refocused. Cloudspark stood in front of a big tree. In the distance the Crystal Empires lights lit the night.



"What’s he doing...?!" Sombra said quietly.



"Watch." Luna said softly.



Cloudspark wrapped the box in a spell summoned from a special scroll, one that seemed to use up a lot of his energy, but meant he could safely bury it in the ground.



"What happened child..?" he sighed "How did you come to lose such hope in yourself. Am I to blame..?"



Sombra couldn’t bear to hear this, he knew what Cloudspark spoke of.



"I hope someday you'll find this. Maybe She will lead you. The dream walker, the Princess of the stars..."



--Of course, even back then Luna’s power was well known as a legend..-- Sombra recalled hearing the tale as a child.



"Don’t give up.." Cloudspark was still talking to the spot where he’d buried the box "i know the real you is still there. Not this facade you’ve become. I seen you from a distance. I had hoped to see you grow up, but not this way. That thing isn’t you."



Sombra felt about to be sick, this was physically hurting to watch. What he’d put this pony through. He stepped ahead of Luna, watching his substitute father. Seen the sadness in his eyes.



"I’ll always care about you. Like any real parent, I love my child, no matter what they might do. I’ll always forgive you. Don’t lose that part of you...please Sombra, even if it takes forever, fight it. I-"



"Don’t-" Sombra croaked, his voice barely audible. Pleading with the King not to say the words that would shatter his increasingly fragile grip on his heart.



"I love you, kiddo."



Each word was like a punch to the gut.



"Stop it!" he gasped at last, and Luna was surprised to hear the raw pain in his voice "just..stop! I’m begging you!"



The dream faded with Cloudspark bidding a farewell to the distant Empire and heading back..

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He awoke with a shaky gasp. He sat himself up, feeling the reverberations from the dream ricocheting around his head. His heart ached, seeing the King again. He made a frantic, desperate attempt to breathe properly, but it felt like something had a vice like grip on his chest.



"I can take you to where that tree still stands. What he buried awaits you now.." Luna spoke from beside the bed.



"No. No more.." Sombra coughed, forcing the words out "I shattered his heart and took over his home. Why wouldn’t he give up?!"



"Because he believed deep down what you’ve been showing us all this time," Luna said "that you have a good heart. But it was broken, in turn, by a world too full of fear to comprehend your gift."



"Gift? This powers nothing but a curse!" Sombra spat out angrily.



"You used it to save all of us, but most of all you saved an innocent child. You wouldn’t have done those things if you truly didn’t care. Now, come.." she opened a portal and looked over at him.



For a moment she was sure he would refuse, order her to leave him alone, shout and curse. He looked on the verge of doing it, then he abruptly seemed to loose the will to argue, and nodded mutely, getting up and following her.



They emerged in the pitch darkness in the surrounding forest. Luna made her horn glow a soft brilliant blue, throwing the area into shadow and sharp relief.



"Here..." she said, pawing the earth with her hoof.



Together they shifted clump after clump of earth, until eventually a shimmering silver shape emerged.



"The shield, its reacting.." Luna murmured "this is it.."



Sombra freed the box and set it down.



"How do I open it?! I don’t recognize this magic.." he said, sounding flustered.



"Relax.." she told him, "focus.."



He closed his eyes, focusing on the box. For a moment it seemed nothing was happening. Then he seen an intricate lock, but one he recognized. It was the same one as on the door of the castle back then.



He fed a tendril of magic into the lock, seeing the gears turns and click, then with a POP, the shield vanished.



"Well done..." Luna’s voice brought him back to the present. "now lets return..."



They were swept up in a portal and deposited back in Sombra’s room.

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"I will leave you to yourself, whatever is in there is something he wanted for you to have...." then she was gone.



Sombra felt dizzy as he looked at the box for a long time before lifting the lid.



Inside was something that made his guilt grow even stronger...



Before she’d passed away, the queen, had given her crown as a memento to her husband. He’d had it reworked into a leg band that he wore around his left foreleg, above the knee. The glittering purple jewel in it shaped like a star. This was the same object that looked back at him from inside the box, protected all that time by powerful magic.



"Why would you leave this for me?" he asked. Underneath it was a letter...

"My precious child,



I don’t know if you will ever read this, but I hope you will. The world must have finally overwhelmed you, despite how much I tried to shield you from it. I want to tell you now what I seen in you;



I seen a courageous, strong hearted pony, who had a so much hope and kindness to offer. A pony who was smart and understanding. You may scoff, but I feel like I got to see the real you on so many occasions. That first birthday you had at the Empire. You acted like you didn’t care, but I seen how happy you were. You don’t have to hide yourself away. Your magic may be dark, but I do not believe your heart truly is. The world had been cruel, I seen that in your eyes that first day we met. But I also seen an indomitable strength, a refusal to accept you could ever be denied.



I could see the influence of your father in you. You may have wondered where I kept vanishing off to in the months before the occurrence. I went to track down your family."

Here Sombra had to stop, his vision swam, and he was hit by the sheer enormity of what that meant.

"And I can understand where your fear stemmed from. Your father was cold and uncaring, and your mother may as well have never had a child for all the compassion she showed. So I told your parents I was taking care of you from then on. They didn’t respond kindly. I knew then they weren’t deserving of such a unique and gifted unicorn. So I decided that day, I’d officially claim you as my own. You deserved so much more then they could give. But I fear they may have done too much damage already, if what ahs come to pass is any indicator.



But please, if by some miracle this does find its way to you; know this:



You are MY son, you always will be. No matter what you do, I will always care for you. No matter how much you hate me, I still love you. You could never make me ashamed of you. I believe there is so much goodness in your heart, you just need the right ponies to set it free. By Celestia, I hope you find them. This ornament was a gift from my wife to me. Now, it is for you, as a reminder of all we achieved together. I was proud to see you achieve your cutie mark.



Cloudspark"

Sombra couldn’t take anymore. All the sadness, the grief, the anger. He could no longer contain it. He closed his eyes, the tidal wave too much to cope with.



The kings words echoed in his mind.



--I still love you. You are MY son.---



His vision blurred as he looked at the ornamental leg band, sitting there so innocently. What it symbolised.



A thousand year old barrier around his heart finally shattered, and he let everything he’d been carrying, go...



A single drop fell to the fancy bedspread. A second later, another fell onto the jewel set in the leg band.



--Stop it you fool!!-- the old part of his mind snapped. But yet again the ponies kind words flashed through his mind. The only mistake he’d made was turning on the King. Being born with dark magic, being different, those weren’t crimes. Had he just believed in the good the King could see in him, things may have been different.



But hindsight is a wonderful thing. Getting the proof that such a hope is not a waste of the part of you that is poured into it, isn’t easy. He’d learnt that so often. He’d kept giving up little parts of himself over and over. In the end, it’d felt like it wasn’t worth the heartache.



--Not anymore…-- he thought heavily --being who you are is not a crime. Everypony gets scared by what they cant explain or what doesn’t fit their expectations. Doesn’t mean its BAD. It just means you have to fight a little more to make yourself known.---



But overriding a lifelong lesson beaten into him by his parents wasn’t easy. Children were born to love their parents, even to the degree where it hurt.



He caught sight of the letter, and felt a small flicker of hope;



For he realized now, that Cloudspark HAD been his father. He’d said as much in the letters. No matter how angry Sombra had gotten at himself, no matter how much self-disgust he’d inflicted, the King had never given up telling him he was wrong. He WASN’T a bad pony. That he had just as much right to enjoy his life as anypony else.



Twilight Sparkle and her friends had seen his memories, his past. Fluttershy had started to cry because she had seen the pain he refused to acknowledge.



He lay curled up on the bed, the only sounds in the room his own muffled cries of grief and loss, but also of relief. This had been a long time coming, and for the first time in forever, he had accepted he wasn’t alone…

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Luna, concerned by how unstable he’d seemed by the time the flashback ended, had hovered around, a short distance from the rooms doors. Now she listened with a familiar sympathy to the sound of a much needed outburst.



She’d felt the same way after finally seeing her sister again. All the regret, all the apologies, it felt inadequate. So she could understand Sombra’s regret. She’d turned on her sister out of jealousy, him on the King out of fear and anger.



Now it was time for that grief to finally be excised. The sounds were heavily muffled but there was no disguising pure heartbreak. She decided he needed somepony to help him...



She teleported out, seeking one very special individual.

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She appeared in a dream world comprised of candy coloured bubbles. A giggling filly was bouncing from one to the next, like a little orange haired blur.



"Hewwo!" she spotted Luna "Pwincess Woona!"



Luna smiled at the child’s pronunciation, and flew alongside her.



"I need your help little one...well, Sombra does.."



“Whassa matter?!" Bright Spark skidded to a halt in mid air, floating there. Admiring this child’s grasp of crazy physics in dreams, Luna explained;



"Right now he’s more lost then ever, and he needs something good to remind him why things aren’t all bad. That, my child, is you. I must bring you to the palace, do you wish me to speak with your mother?"



"It’s OK, I don’t wanna disturb her. She needs her sleepy sleeps. But we gotta be weally quiet!"



"No worry there. Now, lets waken.."

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Bright Spark woke up in her bed, with Luna by her side.



They shared a look, then Luna teleported them both out. She deposited them outside Sombra’s room. Carefully and soundlessly, she nudged the door open so Bright Spark could slip in.



As the door slid shut behind her without a whisper, Bright Spark spied Sombra curled up on the bed.



She was concerned by the hiccupy, sad sounds she heard.



"Sombwa..." she spoke up as she trotted over.



"Wha-" he looked down, seeing her standing by the bed "w-what’re you doing here little one?" he lifted her up with his magic, setting her on the bed in front of him.



"Pwincess Woona said you were sad..." she said. She rubbed her cheek against his, making her little face damp.



"Why sad?" she asked, poking his nose with one hoof "boop?"



"I-its nothing little one.."



“Mommy cwied a lot when daddy was gone. Have you lost somefing?"



He shook his head, managing a faint smile;



"No, i found something in fact.."



“Somefing that makes you sad....is it a bad fing?"



"No, just something I wish I had known long ago. That he could forgive me after all those things I did. I don’t understand..."



"Sombwa..?" Bright Spark spied the letter and pounced on it, wondering was this making him sad? She struggled to read the kings writing, but she understood the last bits.



"Did he never say these fings to you?" she asked.



"He did, but I was too much of a fool to listen. I was so convinced he’d turn on me that it made me crazy. To prevent him from hurting me, I banished him from my life. I was an idiot...."



"He adowpted you?"



“In a way, yes..."



"Then he woved you vewwy much!" she decided "my mommy says a twue parents love is uncon...dizzy-"



“Unconditional?" Sombra guessed. She nodded.



"Yeah! The one fing a child can rely on is that their mommy and daddy will always wove them! This guy said so, so he was your real daddy! Not those meanies he visited...."



"He was. And I caused him so much strife, how could he keep forgiving me?"



“Because that’s what pawents do!" Bright Spark insisted "mommy said so! If he says he fowgives you, then I fink he did! He sounded happy he got to adopt you!"



Sombra closed his eyes, a fresh wave threatening to bury him "I don’t know.." he whispered.



"Don’t be sad, pwease..." Bright Spark begged "I cwied after daddy passed away, but mommy said to always believe he was watching over me. To make him as pwoud as I would if he was still here. You should do that too!"



"What right do I have? I didn’t just hurt HIM, I caused a lot of ponies pain by doing what I did...."



"But the ponies like you!" Bright Spark boop!ed his nose once more "I’ll teww you what mommy said to her fwiend, but you gotta keep it secwet!"



He could only nod. She smiled.



"Mommy’s fwiend said wasn’t she worried about letting her filly hang around such a big scawwy pony, and you know what mommy said? "He snot scawwy! He’s saved my daughter’s life over and again, saved all our lives. The past is in the past. I believe he’s learned from his mistakes. No monster would care fow a child as if it were their own the way he has. My Bright Spark adores him, and he’s made her shine bwighter then I’ve ever seen her! For that, I will consider him not only a fwiend to my family, but a fwiend to the Empire."



Sombra looked at her, seeing the honesty in her eyes.



"Mommy likes you, she says you’re a good pony under all the gruffness. Her fwiend said she’d never thought about it that way. That maybe its time they all gave you a second chance after you saved them fwom the plague. They wanna talk to you, but mommys fwiend says nopony ever sees you outside the palace! When they do, you shy away if they try to fank you.."



"I don’t know that I deserve their gratitude, in light of what I did in the past, little one.." Sombra began, but Bright Spark shook her head.



"Mommy said the past is in the past. Your pwotetcing the Empire, and the ponies. You’re not a meanie anymore....pwease believe them.."



She sat there, peering hopefully at his face.



"Little one.." Sombra said at last "...thank you.."



"Your my fwiend, and that’s what fwiends do!" she said.



He smiled faintly "so I’ve been told.." he said softly.



"So don’t be sad. I fink he loved you, AND he wasn’t angwy with you. You cant make yourself sad, he wouldn’t want you to be sad. I fink he wants you to be happy!”



She was surprised when Sombra hugged her gently a second later.



"Thank you...my little Bright Spark.." he chuckled, as he let her go. He tapped her nose gently.



She beamed, and then gave him a stern look;



"So don’t cwy or be angwy at yourself. He said he fowgives you, so be happy, ‘kay?"



A nod. She could see some of the sadness was gone from his eyes as he looked at her.



"Little child?" Luna’s voice spoke form the other side of the door "we must get you back to your mothers..."



“Alwight!" spark said. She boop!ed Sombra’s nose once more in farewell, then she was bounding out the door, waving one last time before she vanished.

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When Luna returned, Sombra still looked a bit flushed, but calmer.



"How did you know to bring her?" Somrba said lightly.



"She always seems to make you cheer up whenever she’s about, so I figured she’d be the perfect choice to make you think clearly."



Sombra gave a funny laugh, looking at the box with the ornament in it. Luna peered in.



"Wow...mind if I see?"



He shook his head, and she lifted it up, examining it from all angles.



"Such craftsmanship, its stunning.." she mused.



"It was the Queens, then his...." Sombra tailed off.



"And he left it for you." she finished.



"Its a royal decoration. I have no use for it. Perhaps its fitting it should go to the empires REAL rulers." Sombra said bluntly. Luna frowned at him.



"What?" he said crossly, "don’t give me THAT look!"



"You’re an idiot..." Luna sighed.



"I’m also exhausted." Sombra sighed, losing all energy to argue.



"THAT, I can help with.." Luna said,. Before Sombra could question what she meant, she’d cast a little sleep spell, and he was fast asleep in seconds.



--I just hope that wasn’t too much, but he needed to know...--

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When Sombra woke up the next morning, he wondered why his head ached. He heard something clatter to the floor as he stretched, and looked down. An ornate box had fallen to the floor, and rolling away across the floor was a shiny golden thing. He chased after it, scooping it up, then realizing what it was.



The memories came back. Luna taking him to that flashback. Finding the box. King Cloudspark’s letter. His chest ached again and he hurriedly set the leg-band down, watching how the stone set in it caught the light and glowed. He recognized it now, it was the same as the stone he’d first spotted in the antique shop. That first day out of the castle with Twilight Sparkle and Fluttershy. A purple star jewel.



--It was the queens favorite..-- he remembered Cloudspark talking about it now. He sighed sadly. There were traces of magic lingering on the band. No doubt leftover from the spell that’d protected it, buried under the earth in that box for over a thousand years.



He picked up the box, frowning at how the material inside had gotten torn when it fell. Perhaps miss Rarity could help him.

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And so, having missed breakfast by this point, he trekked down to the room Rarity had commandeered as her sewing room.



She was in there with Applejack, who was reading out a letter from Applebloom. She tailed off as Sombra wandered in. He hadn’t bothered to wear his usual getup, aka the crown and shoes. As a result, his mane was loose, his ears poking up out of it. It gave him a much less stern appearance overall. As always, he was wearing the cloak Rarity had made him.



"Hay!" she greeted him, "we missed ya at breakfast!"



“I uh...overslept.." Sombra said softly.



"Sure ya actually SLEPT, sugarcube?" Applejack said sympathetically "apparently passing out don’t count as sleep!"



"I had bad dreams..." Sombra fibbed. Both ponies frowned this time.



"How bad?" Applejack asked "Its not.."



“No, that nightmare has stopped. This was a one off. It wasn’t that creature, I’m certain of it."



Deciding to get his mind off it, Rarity bobbed her head at the box floating next to him "what’s that?"



"This? It’s a long story. Ask Luna. She found it. "



He set it down and opened it. Rarity’s jaw dropped when she seen the beautifully crafted band inside.



"Whoa...." Applejack stared in amazement "that’s a stunner!"



"What is it? Its simply amazing.." Rarity lifted it up, turning it this way and that.



"It belonged to the King..." Sombra was glad he’d taken out the letter beforehand. the last thing he fancied was everypony reading it.



He shook his head to clear the thoughts from the previous night, that still lingered even now. Cloudspark’s kind words, his refusal to stop hoping...



"Anyway, the box got somewhat damaged. I was hoping you could repair the lining material?”



Rarity peered at the box, and nodded.



"I have something that matches this just nicely! Leave it with me!"



Sombra gave a small sigh of relief.



"Thank you," he gave a small yawn "I need to find food.." he drifted off.



"Am I the only one thinking he’s acting a trifle weird this morning?" Applejack said in the ensuring silence.



Rarity frowned "yes, he IS a bit spacey. He’s not STILL shook up from Pinkie Pie’s in-his-face intervention is he?"



“Nah, I don’t think so," Applejack shook her head "he seemed fine at dinner, remember?"



“True.." Rarity frowned at the box, and its fancy occupant "maybe its this?"



"He did say it used ta be the kings. Maybe he’s more upset about what went on then he’s sayin'?"



"I fear you may be right. He has a lot to deal with...oh!"



Rarity had taken the leg-band out and set it aside, and had started to lift up the lining material when she noticed something.



"What is it?" Applejack asked curiously.



"There appears to be something sewn into the lining here...hold on a second.."



With a professional care and concentration, Rarity unpicked the stitches, and extracted a square of tightly compressed folded paper.



"What the hay's that?"



"Beats me Applejack dear. But lets find out..." she carefully unfolded the pages, using magic to flatten the sheets of paper. They were old but very well preserved. The writing on them was clear as day.



The two ponies peered over, each reading one of the two sheets that comprised the discovery.



"Sweet toffee apples!" Applejack blurted.



"My heavens.." Rarity responded.



Applejack held hers up "this says this King fella officially adopted Sombra, it’s got his parents signatures and everything!"



"THIS one says he’s decreed Sombra as his heir!" Rarity pointed at her page.



Applejack let out a low whistle.



"This is a doozy," she said, shaking her head "what do we do?"



"We must take this to the princesses!" Rarity decided.

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Celestia was as startled as they were to see the papers.



"Sorry fer pointin’ out the obvious, but don’t this mean he's..." Applejack began…



"-The empires heir. yes." Celestia set the papers down "I wonder if Sombra knows anything about this?"



"I doubt it, Princess, we found those things sewn into the box!" Rarity pointed out.



"They could be copies, he may know or recall the original..." she walked to the door, asking the guard to bring Sombra to the office.



He arrived a few minutes later.



"This isn’t gonna be pretty.." Applejack said ominously.



"I must admit I’m concerned how he’s going to react," Rarity whispered back.



Sombra looked surprised to see Applejack and Rarity there.



"What’s....?" he asked, dread gnawing at his stomach.



"Rarity told me of your discovery, the box my sister helped you find." Celestia began.



"That?" Sombra sighed in relief, she just wanted to know about the band right "Its a relic. When the Queen died, she gave her crown to her husband, and he had it made into THAT so he’d always have it to remember her by, that’s all it is."



"That’s not what I wished to ask you about," Celestia looked apologetic, and this only made him more nervous.



"What’s..?" he asked, voice trailing off.



She held up the sheets of old paper "were you aware King Cloudspark had gone to great lengths to track down your parents?"



"What?!" Sombra looked shocked "why in the name of SANITY would he do THAT?!"



"Because adoption laws require the parents signatures if they’re still living, that’s why." Celestia said. Sombra didn’t say a word. he looked too shocked to.



"Did you know about any of it?" she asked. A mute shake of the head.



"He never...all I remember is him leaving for a couple of weeks to go on some goodwill mission. That’s what he said to ME at any rate. There WAS a letter in the box with that thing, but it didnt mention anything specific. Why..?"



"He obviously wanted to make sure you never had to go back to them. It seems he wished you to have a proper family, and home, at the Empire."



Sombra was starting to feel a bit queasy, but he quashed the feeling, hearing Celestia continue.



"This was signed and dated before the events of the past began. He must have intended it as a surprise, perhaps as a birthday present."



Sombra remained silent, but Applejack seen one ear twitch, much like it had during Pinkie's rant. It seemed to be a telling sign when he was in over his head.



"And there’s one more," Celestia picked up the second sheet, turning it to face Sombra "this is a document stating he’s officially declared you as his heir. It's been signed by a palace notary-"



"Wha-haa..." Sombra gave a funny laugh, shaking his head "very funny. Is this part of Luna’s little night-time vision jaunt?"



"It is no joke," Celestia frowned at the fact he seemed to be laughing. "I have created and signed many a declaration in my reign, Sombra, and I recognise a binding document. This is very real."



Sombra gave another funny snigger "well whatever it is, you don’t need to be concerned with it, do you? Its a thousand years old, its obsolete."



"Its is essentially a last declaration of the official ruler of the Empire. You can’t get much more serious than this." Celestia frowned "I cant understand why you’re finding this so amusing.."



"Because this is all just a joke, right?" Sombra gave a dismissive shrug "this empire HAS a prince and Princess. Why on Equestria would you do anything about THAT?" he jabbed a hoof at the document.



"Because at the time the Empire vanished, the King was still its rightful ruler. He created this document and had it sealed away so it would survive. He meant for this to be a reality."



The very idea made Sombra’s stomach churn uneasily.



Celestia could see he was shaken by the news. When he’d walked into the room, she’d gotten the impression he was already struggling to deal with what Luna had shown him. Her sister had shown up in the small hours, worried she’d hurt more then helped Sombra by showing him that memory.



He winced suddenly, one hoof pressed to his stomach. The unease was causing a backlash.



“Sombra?” Celestia stepped forward, concerned by how pale he’d turned.



The pain flexed again, and he felt about to be sick.



“I’ll go get the doctor-” Applejack began, but the door swung shut, the handle surrounded by a purple aura.



“There’s no need..” Sombra spoke through gritted teeth, as he fought to get it under control.



“Ya know, Applebloom once made herself sick with worry once over somethin’. She was cryin’ from a tummy pain an’ all. it’s the same with you aint it?”


“Have you been up all night worrying about that ornament in the box?” Rarity asked.



“I think I slept at some point. Luna and her knockout spells had something to do with it…” he seemed to be breathing a little easier.



“I think Applejack is right,” Celestia said “you’re making yourself feel sick because you’re forcing yourself to carry this. I do not believe the King meant it as a punishment, to make you feel guilty. That he went this far for you only makes this all the more vital. For your own sake, I intend to show this to Cadance and Shining Armor, and ask them to consider it.”



“What?! No, Princess, PLEASE!” Sombra said loudly “no good will come of this! I’m telling you NOW!



“That’s where we differ. I think its just what you need to realize where your PLACE is.”



Sombra faltered, seeing the determination in her eyes.



“Its time to let it go, Sombra..” Celestia said, stepping up to him, her kind and gentle pink eyes meeting uncertain red ones.



Then she was out the door, leaving a stunned and confused Sombra behind.



Applejack was about to say something when Sombra hiccuped uneasily, and bolted out of there.



“Oh dear..” Rarity winced.



“He scared the ponies will riot or somethin’ if they hear about this?” Applejack wondered.



“It would seem that way, Applejack dear. What can we do?”



“Lets find him, then find Twi.” Applejack decided.



But despite checking the bathrooms on that floor they couldn’t locate him, so decided to get to Twilight Sparkle next!

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

When Rarity said she and Applejack had shocking news to tell, everypony else was curious. What could it be?



When Rarity finished explaining that it turned out Sombra was the kings heir, you could’ve heard a moth fart in the silence.



"Whaa....whaa...whoa!!" Pinkie Pie blurted at last.



"Did I hear that right?" Rainbow Dash asked "how-?"



“Luna traced an old memory belonging to the King. He’d buried the papers and whatnot in a box. He was hopin’ Sombra would someday snap outta his crazy and try and resume the life the King had meant for him." Applejack explained.



"Wow..." Twilight Sparkle was touched by the kings kindness "bet he’s pretty pleased, right?"



Seeing Rarity and applejacks "you’re kidding right?" expressions she winced "so, NOT happy?"



"He flipped out something chronic!" Rarity sighed "first he couldn’t stop laughing because he thought Celestia was pulling his leg about it, then he panicked!"



“He sure seemed pretty wigged out when she said she was takin’ the papers to yer brother and miss Cadance!" Applejack shook her head.



"I cant figure why he’s scared of everypony finding out?" Twilight Sparkle scrunched her nose as she tried to puzzle it out.



"I think he believes it'll cause nothin’ but chaos like before…” Applejack summed it up.



“Maybe he’s weirded out by how the Empire will react?" Rainbow Dash shrugged "I don’t think they’d be THAT adverse to it, but lets face it. It’s taken us THIS long to make him see he was putting himself through unnecessary stress!"



"How do you think your brother will react?" Fluttershy asked Twilight Sparkle.



"I don’t know.." she said "but I get the feeling, if he thinks it'll help, he'll do it."

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

While Sombra was trying to relax, Celestia found Cadance and shining armour. She told them what’d happened, and showed them the papers.



"So this means he’s the kingdoms heir, officially?" Shining Armor asked.



"Yes," Celestia nodded "its genuine as far as I can tell. But I will have the palace notary examine it."



"What has he said in response to this?" Cadance asked.



Celestia described the shock on his face when he’d found out. He’d had no idea. How he’d started feeling sick when she mentioned showing it to them.



“Why is he so afraid of this?” Cadance murmured.



“He last seen the King in that memory, when he honestly believed he was going to betray him. Now he suddenly finds out the guy was taking him away from his abusive life. He’s berating himself for getting it wrong..” Shining Armor said.



“He wasn’t to know…” Cadance shook her head “after everything we saw in those memories, for him to trust another pony that seemed to be keeping secrets was more then he could cope with. It was just a sad mistake. He misread the kings actions, assumed he was abandoning him…”



“Its up to YOU what you do,” Celestia said at last “but he already pointed out this Empire has the both of you. I do not think he believes he can accept it.”



“He’s put his life on the line for everypony here…” Cadance said as she looked at her husband “Even after that thing took the choker off, he still fought for US, for this place. Maybe this will give him what he needs. A sense of HOME, of safety.”



Shining Armor nodded in agreement “Exactly. He’s carried so much guilt and fear around since he was a foal. Even thought its no longer his domain, he’s still battled to save it, like Cadie said. I think he deserves a second chance at the life Cloudspark was planning for him. He’s changed enough to deserve it now, even if he wont let himself believe it!”



“Lets go talk to him..” Cadance smiled gently. Celestia watched them leave the room, smiling at how proud she was of the two of them.

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

They found Sombra in the library. A cup of tea sat to one side, the steam curling lazily up into the air.



“Sombra..” Shining Armor tapped the table with his hoof. Sombra jolted, apparently miles away.



“What? Sorry…I…wasn’t paying attention.”



“There’s something we need to talk to you about-” Cadance began, but Sombra shook his head, staring at the surface of the liquid in the cup as he spoke, making it float into the air in little blobs, forming them into patterns...



“I know what you’re going to say. And I wont have anything to do with it. Things have changed. The Empire is in safe hooves. That doesn’t need to be any different. DISPOSE of those documents. Please…”



“No.” Cadance said simply. Sombra blinked, the liquid splashing back into the cup.


“W-what?” he stammered, genuinely surprised.



“We’re not going to ignore it.” Shining Armor said “but let me ask you THIS: What would you say our JOB is?”



“Are you being daft?” Sombra asked “this is your Empire. You protect it, you make sure those ponies are safe and happy. What else is there?”



“That is what you have been doing these last weeks,” Cadance said “your efforts have kept the Empire in one piece. You saved the lives of countless ponies when you worked to get that tea to us all. You could have ignored it, run away, let us all be consumed. But you DIDN’T.”



Sombra didn’t know how to rebuke THAT.



“And you made one shy, bullied little filly feel like she’d found the best friend in the world.” Shining Armor added “from what Twily and the others have said, you stopped that kid from falling into the same sadness you did.”



Cadance stepped forward as Sombra returned to staring out the window "Cloudspark loved you enough to go to these lengths to make sure YOU someday heard his wish! He did everything he could to make sure Princes Luna would find it."



"Have YOU forgotten the lengths you went to, to save your kingdom from me last time? And you want to put it in danger again?"



"Will you stop talkin’ like that?" Applejacks voice cut in. Sombra froze. The six ponies came in behind the prince and Princess.



"What’re you talking about?" Sombra asked Applejack.



"That King could see it, he pretty much said it the first time you met "ya got a good heart under all that sulking! Whaddya know, he was right! So why d'ya keep talkin’ like yer incapable of causing nothing but trouble? The filly, the plague, that malarkey with those shadow ponies attacking Twi and company. None of THEM turned out bad! And lookee here who was at the centre of all of them? YOU."



"You’re not some unfeeling monster you know.." Rarity came over "You care more about everypony then you show. Let me ask you: Why did you help little Bright Spark back in the market that first time?"



Sombra was surprised by the question. "I didn’t think.." he muttered at last "I just seen her. She was scared, all that cheerfulness dropped right off her face when she heard them looking for her. I’d seen that look a million times in a broken mirror in that attic. Seeing it on her face, at her age was.."



“Was like seeing what happened to you all over again, right?" Rarity said sympathetically. A nod was her answer.





"One of the letters was from miss Petalbloom, here.." Twilight Sparkle closed her eyes, summoning the letter from the throne room where Cadance had shown it to her.

"Dear princesses,



I’m a teacher at crystal pre school. One of my students, Bright Spark, ahs become very attached to Sombra. I know he rarely ventures out of the palace, so I’m sending this to you so that hopefully he'll understand. Until he came here, I was starting to fear poor little Bright Spark would stop coming to school. She would miss as many days as she could, despite her mothers pleas. She was often crying. She’s such a sweet child, it broke my heart to see her upset all because of her speech impediment. Then I seen her befriending Sombra at that class picnic. I was stunned at first, that she’d managed to walk up to such a fierce, seemingly emotionless pony. But he said something that caught my attention: "You have a very bright student, she lives up to her name."



He’d seen it clear as day, as I had. I don’t think he even noticed the way she spoke. Later that same afternoon, i came across him not only protecting her from the bullies, but giving them a stern dressing down about how the way Bright Spark talked has no bearing on the kind of pony she is! I don’t know anything about how or where he grew up, but I got the impression he grew up in a bad time. I realize I misjudged him. The history books all recount him as being crazy and barbaric, but that description does NOT match the pony I’ve seen charging around the Empire beating the stuffing out of those shadow things. When she told the tale of his safeguarding her during the attack on the princesses, the whole CLASS was riveted.”

"Gah, she told the-" facehoof moment for Sombra.



Suppressing a smile, Twilight Sparkle continued;

"They were ALL asking Bright Spark about him. And you know what she said "dark magic is just a more purpley type of magic. I don’t think its scary. Sombra's isn’t, it was awesome!". That child has a talent for being able to see the things some of us cant.



I hope he will understand, and that I am grateful for how much he’s brought Bright Spark out of her shell.



Signed,

Miss Petalbloom."

"Aww.." Rarity beamed "that’s lovely~"



"That filly adores you," Fluttershy smiled "She’s seen your magic at its worst, and she couldn’t be less frightened."



Shining Armor plonked the ornate leg band on the table in front of Sombra "this doesn’t belong with anypony else. Its YOURS."



Sombra looked at the letter, sensing how happy Petalbloom was over sparks increased confidence. But Applejack seen the jarring look in his eyes when he glanced at the ornament. A look of guilt and unease. The subtle way he inclined his head away from it, staring at the letter again instead.



"The only one who aint seeing what ya can do is YOU sugarcube...." Applejack said at last "ya cant spend the rest of your time beatin’ yerself up. You’ve carried around enough guilt to last a lifetime. Let it go."



Sombra looked at the band, so many memories of seeing the King wearing it, its history filled his head. Then he noticed an odd marking had appeared on the jewels main facet.



"What’s that..?" he muttered. He focused his magic on it, trying to work out what-



There was a bright flash, and everypony had to shut their eyes for a moment. When they reopened them, their jaws dropped.



A ghostly illusion of the King was standing on the table. He spoke looking off into the distance, but the emotion in his eyes and voice was clear.



"Heh, knew you’d get there eventually. That’s right, i locked this message into the jewel with dark magic. I studied what little information was available, and found a trustworthy unicorn to help me make this in order to ensure you alone would understand how this spell worked to unlock it."



Sombra blinked, and got to his feet to examine the illusion closer.



"I understand your fear of your power. Dark magic is powerful stuff. But I know you have a great gift in being born with it. You can control it far better then you think, you just have to trust yourself a little more."



"Whoa.." Twilight Sparkle was staring in amazement, along with everypony else.



"If I know you, you’re probably trying to ignore everything I’m saying." he chuckled "I know you’re reluctant to trust anypony, even me, deep down. But I’m not giving up on you. I’m sorry about how Scrollwork acted those last days. He was angry that I had gone to all lengths to adopt you. I personally think he fancied the job himself. I did not trust him with the declaration of succession. So I kept it hidden in my wife’s jewelry box. I knew he’d find all manner of ways to take it for himself. That business about the council job was just a ruse to distract him while I sorted out the REAL place I had for you; as part of my family."



Sombra was starting to feel sick again, it was all too much crazy...



"I realise I should have informed you about what was going on, but i naively wanted it to be a surprise for your birthday next month! I underestimated the damage those monstrous parents of yours had already done to you. I should have seen how frightened you were of being betrayed, and been more straight with you. I’m sorry Sombra, this wasn’t how I meant things to happen. If you’re seeing this, then you found the box I left for you. That band was a part of my life I shall always treasure, as are you. So it’s only right the two be reunited. Stop tearing yourself apart because of what your parents guilted you into feeling. I always knew you’d find a way out of that madness you trapped yourself in that day. I don’t know if we’ll ever meet again, but I can tell you now that the story of somepony who’s fought this much does not end so suddenly. Please, enjoy your life wherever you choose to spend it. And for pity’s sake stop sulking child!"



Sombra made a funny, almost amused sound.



The image vanished in another flash of light, and the room was left to squint and blink the dazzle dots from their eyes.



"Whoo....trippy!" Pinkie Pie cooed, watching the floaty lights in the corners of her eyes "almost got one!"



Applejack shook her head at Pinkie Pie.



Sombra didn’t seem aware they were in the room anymore. He stared intently at the leg band, looking so innocent sitting there atop the table. His heart in his throat he tapped it with one hoof, hoping to replay the message. Instead, it flashed briefly, then turned into a glowing bar of light, which shot out, darted this way and that around Sombra, then just as abruptly, wrapped itself around his left foreleg. In the place the King had worn it.



"Whoa!" Sombra shot back, trying to dislodge it, but to no success. Once it’d settled, the glow faded.



"Ooh!" Pinkie Pie cheered, peering at it "I think it likes you!"



"What’s with this THING?!" Sombra blurted "what the hay did he DO to it?"



"Is it stuck?" Rainbow Dash asked. Sombra calmed down, and after a second, discovered a latch had now appeared on the back of the ornament. He unclipped it, setting it back on the table.



"I can’t tell how the hay he got that spell on there..."



"It was probably a single use spell," Twilight Sparkle said "designed to adjust the thing the once, then go away."



"Great, what will it do for an encore?" Sombra asked weakly "explode?!"



"I doubt it," Twilight Sparkle chuckled "he was just making sure it got to the right pony."



Sombra groaned softly, his stomach was churning again. Oh boy, this wasn’t good.



"Your tummy sounds upset.." Pinkie Pie was beside him, one ear pressed to his side.



"That.." he said in an oddly steady voice "would be because I’m about to throw up. Pardon me."



And with that, he vanished so quickly Pinkie Pie fell over onto the carpet.



"Oof!" She squeaked.



"I think we really messed his head up..." Rainbow Dash said at last.



"Its not an easy thing to overcome," Shining Armor said at last "Ill go talk to him.." he picked up the leg band and left the room.

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

He spotted Sombra as he staggered out of the nearest bathroom.



"You OK?" he asked. Sombra nodded weakly.



"He wouldn’t give up," he said, his voice croaky and strained "in the vision Luna showed me, he wouldn’t stop saying all those things!!"



“What things?" Shining Armor asked, walking closer. Sombra paced about the corridor, stopping to look out the window.



"That he didn’t blame me for any of it, that he was sorry. What the hay was HE apologizing for? He never...did anything.." he trailed off.



"He regretted not telling you sooner that he was adopting you. He didn’t blame you because you hadn’t done anything wrong. You’d just had as much as you could take and finally snapped. Yes, what followed, that whole "lost your marbles" phase, WAS a mistake. But if you ask the ponies now, I think they’d say its been repaid."



Sombra shook his head, but Shining Armor wouldn’t let it go.



"Like Applejack said, you’ve saved them so many times. You saved my sister and my wife, when those things attacked. For that alone I’M very grateful to you. You helped cure that plague, saved that little filly, the list is getting bigger and bigger!"



"I cannot expect an Empire I nearly destroyed to ever accept this whole business," he said, a funny laugh lining his voice "what’s that phrase, "insult to injury"?"



"If you wont trust your own judgement, then why not trust OURS?" Shining Armor suggested "We’re your friends, remember? You’re stuck with us man! Like I said at the intervention convention at breakfast, you’ve got YEARS to catch up on. You DID skip most your childhood and move ahead to an adult. You’ve got a few things to learn. And I have to point out you seem largely oblivious to how the ponies out there REALLY feel."



"Doubt it," Sombra said shortly.



"No, trust me, you’re missing big chunk of the whole story. Celestia showed Cadance an i all the letters that arrived after the plague and more recently. They all ask one basic thing: Why wont you leave the palace and come see them? The only times they see you, you’re charging around like a rabbit on roller-skates, beating the daylights out of the shadow creatures. Even then you seem to vanish before they can thank you properly!"



Sombra didn’t say anything, just shifted awkwardly on his hooves.



Shining Armor decided to try one last tactic "you know most the letters also mention they don’t even recognize you anymore! Have you fully taken it in? They don’t think you’re the same. They’re curious about who you REALLY are, now your not acting all crazy."



"Why..?" Sombra murmured "how can anypony be so trusting?"



"Because that’s who they are. YOU didn’t have the same luck growing up, all your family and townsfolk taught you was being born different meant you didn’t deserve to be treated humanely. They’re wrong. THAT whole business was WRONG. It scarred you badly enough that this all happened. Does that REALLY seem right to you? That ANYPONY should end up feeling that way?"



"Well...no-"



“Exactly!" Shining Armor said calmly "You got to STOP listening to what they literally BEAT into you. That mare, Crystal Flake, and the King, were the only ones who did anything right by you. But to your mind, THEY were the odd ones out. Those barbaric parents and elders pretty much trained you to despise your own power, your own LIFE. Living up to the little they thought of you must’ve been easier then fighting, right?"



"Begging and pleading got me nowhere..." Sombra muttered "I eventually figured I had to have done something wrong, that at some basic level I was WRONG. But Nopony would tell me how to fix it."



"That’s where the mistake happened. You assumed YOU'D done something wrong back then. But it wasn’t you, it was THEM. You got to stop assuming the ponies here don’t trust you. I can tell you now they won’t react how YOU’RE thinking!"



Sombra gave an amused snort of laughter, yet the sound was tinged with equal levels of sadness and relief.



“Listen to your friends, give it a chance. You’re not alone anymore remember?” Shining Armor said, seeing he may have just swayed Sombra’s opinion. He could see from the taller pony’s expression that he was torn between fear and a desire to follow his fathers wish.



“You’re being swamped by a whole lot of suppressed memories and emotions. Nopony can think easily with all THAT happening. But don’t forget, WE seen your memories too, and Cadance and I think you don’t just deserve this chance, you NEED it. We would be very pleased if you’d join us, help this Empire work.”



”If you really believe this…” Sombra seemed to find it hard to select the right words “then…I guess I’ll take the risk..”



“Good.” Shining Armor said bluntly.



“But let me say THIS:” Sombra added “this is YOUR home now, not mine. I have no plans to interfere with what you’ve created.”



“Eh, we can work on that later…” Shining Armor said causally “you’ve dealt with enough today. Oh, one other thing-" in a flash, he made the leg band appear back around Sombra’s foreleg, where it fitted like a glove. "there!"



"I suppose we’d better inform the others.." Sombra sighed.



Shining Armor suddenly grinned, looking suspect as heck.



Sombra twitched.



"They’re behind me aren’t they?"



A nod.



"They’ve been there the whole dang time."



Another nod, a muffled laugh.



"Cotton candy’s plotting something?"



Nod nod.



"And just to totally round this up, Celestia’s there as well."



"Wow, he’s good!" Pinkie Pie couldn’t keep quiet any longer.



"Are we SURE this thing doesn’t explode?!" Sombra said, actually trying to gnaw at the leg band, then giving up as Celestia appeared to one side.



"Please refrain form blowing up if you can, Sombra.." she chuckled "it wont do for you to explode before this news is announced to the kingdom!"



"Announced to the-I forgot about that," Sombra said in a funny tone "how did I forget THAT?!"



"Because your brains a bit scrambled?" Rainbow Dash offered.



"What she said." Sombra finished.



He wobbled on his feet suddenly, and Celestia and Shining Armor both moved quickly to help him stand.



"Are you feeling sick again?" Shining Armor asked.



"No...just...really tired..." Sombra groaned "I need to go to bed...."

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

He slept most of that evening, then again at night-time. But he woke a few hours past midnight. Unable to sleep he took himself up to the very top of the palace tower.



He snuck as quietly as he could out onto the tower. He’d once kept the crystal heart here, with booby traps surrounding it.



He realized a few seconds later he wasn’t the only one there.



"Oh, Sombra!" It was Luna, sat at one of the windows, watching the stars.



"Princess.." he said quietly "I didn’t intend to disturb you. I’ll leave you be-"



"Sit.." she said absently, tapping the floor next to her.



With a shrug he wandered over and sat down, looking out at the sky. She did a slight double take when she realized he’d discarded his usual armor. It suited him.



"Sister told me of your decision," Luna smiled faintly, indicating the band around Sombra’s leg. he looked down at it.



"I just hope.." he didn’t know how to finish that sentence.



"You will be fine," Luna said calmly "they have come to realize there is much more to you then just an entry in a history book."



Glancing at him she seen the shadows of worry that’d been hiding in his heart since shed shown him that vision.



"It was not my intention to cause you so much heartache," Luna said after a pause "I heard how much pain it caused you.."



"You heard me..?" he asked dully, too tired to feel embarrassed. She nodded, looking sympathetic;



Sombra just looked at the night sky "what have I agreed to...?" he murmured.



"Your fathers wish." Luna said without hesitation. "You are not alone in how you feel. After I was given a second chance by the elements of harmony, restored to my normal self, I too felt the way YOU do. I was ashamed of how I’d turned on my sister out of jealousy, how i threatened my subjects with eternal night. I seen how they were afraid of me at first..."



She told him the story of the nightmare night celebration. How Twilight Sparkle had showed her people loved her for being the fearsome Princess of the legend. How she just had to relax and accept ponies liked to be scared sometimes, that deep down they cared as much for her as for her sister. Nightmare night WAS her night. Everypony stayed up late, so they got to see her!



"I was scared, sad, and angry at myself for how i acted. But I realized i couldn’t just sit around waiting for them to come to me, I had to go to THEM. Go outside, speak with the ponies here. You might be surprised what you learn."



"I see what you mean.." Sombra sighed.



"And most importantly, don’t be so harsh on yourself," Luna added’ "You’ve made up for your actions in the past, I believe it. Many ponies would have lost their lives to that creature had you not fought it time and again, not to mention stopping that plague. Did Cadance show you the letter from little sparks teacher?"



Sombra nodded.



"That little child has become so happy and kind, all thanks to you. She adores you. Even though she’s seen everything you’ve done and can do, she couldn’t give a fig."



"She reminds me so much of Crystal Flake," Sombra said at last "she always spoke kindly to me, even when everypony else in that village despised me. She was the only one I cared about..."



"And now you have little Bright Spark," Luna smiled at her memory of meeting the little filly "she’s certainly very gifted. And she cares very deeply for her precious "Sombwa"."



Sombra smiled "she even makes darkness sound cute," he said proudly. Then something else seemed to occur to him, because he startled chuckling a second later.



"What is it?" Luna asked, poking his side "what’s so funny?"



"Heh...Woona!" he chuckled, recalling how Bright Spark had pronounced her name.



"Enough of that!" she said mock-angrily.



But he couldn’t stop laughing.



"Stifle thyself "Sombwa"" she chided.



"You first "Pwincess Woona!"" he shot back.



They attempted to have a stare-down for a few seconds, then Luna sniggered and they both started laughing. Proper belly laughs from nowhere. After the sadness of the vision, and Sombra’s subsequent discovery of his adoption, having a laugh felt good.



Then a funny blue glow lit the tower.



"What in-?!" Sombra realized it was the choker and tensed up, expecting a wave of pain like the other times. But all he felt was mildly dizzy. Luna used one wing to help prop him up until it cleared.



"What happened?" he mumbled.



"It seems thou has demonstrated another of the elements abilities.." Luna said, recalling the other incident "no doubt miss pie is somewhere about, raiding the fridge..."



"Cotton candy’s element?"



“Laughter," she said with a small smile "you finally laughed properly, for yourself and somepony else..”



"But the pain from before..." Sombra shook his head "I don’t understand.."



“Before, you were actively resisting the elements influence on your heart. Now, it seems you have come to accept them. So why would it hurt you so?"



"This is all totally crazy.." Sombra shook his head and sighed, but he looked better. Like the load had been lifted somewhat.



But the next second he gasped sharply as a lancing pain dove through his head. He hunched over, the headache excruciating in intensity.



"What’s wrong?" Luna asked, all merriment vanishing "Sombra?!"



"Agh....there’s something nearby...o-one of those creatures..." he snarled angrily and got to his feet "the perception of them, it’s hurting worse now. I have to find that thing!"



"NO..." Luna said, getting up "WE have to find it! I have been unable to do much to assist everypony so far. Now, it is time for me to do my bit!"



Sombra looked over at her, then nodded. "Then let us go!"



Luna teleported them out onto the empty streets of the Empire.



"Which way..?" she frowned.



"Give me a moment.." Sombra shut his eyes, honing in on the source-



"Follow me!" he called, taking off down the main street. Luna followed after him.

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

The mare screamed as she tried to keep the window shut on the blobby black mass outside. But it was strong, she couldn’t hold on-



At the back of the room her twin fillies huddled together, wide eyes fixed on their mother.



Just as she was about to give up, her strength drained, the thing was pulled sharply back from the window, uttering an angry scream.



She looked through the glass and seen-



Sombra. And Princess Luna! The Alicorn and unicorn stood in the glow of the streetlamp, both their magic auras flaring brightly. The creature was picking itself up from the ground several meters away where they’d thrown it.



"What do we do?" Luna asked, her gaze fixed on the creature.



"Stun it!" Sombra said, pulling free the ever present spear "i need to crack the core!"



Luna nodded. She’d seen the dreams and memories of Sombra’s work in fighting these things. He could see the core, so she would leave THAT part to him.



"Over here, whelp!" She bellowed, her Equestrian voice making the creature hiss in discomfort.



It shot towards her, and she summoned a big ball of glowing blue power. It ducked aside as she feinted throwing it dead on. Then realized its mistake as she crouched down too, and fired.



The blast sent it rocketing up into the sky, then smashing into the ground.



It geared up to launch itself at her, but something was stopping it from moving-



Twisting round, it seen a familiar spear was pinning its tail to the ground.



While it added up what was going on, Sombra reappeared beside Luna.



"Fire where I do," he told her. She nodded.



It swung round to hiss at them, and tried to reform its body to get free. but it was too late-



Dual bolts of magic, one after the other, struck its core. The explosion ripped up part of the pavement, but the thing was gone!



"Huzzah!" Luna declared "we win!"



"Indeed," Sombra smiled faintly "nicely done, Princess."



Luna looked pleased at finally being able to help defend the Empire a little more. The ponies awoken by the attack were all cheering and clapping their hooves. The mare and her children came out from their house to thank the two ponies directly.



"Its was our pleasure!" Luna declared. Sombra just smiled. They returned to the castle, and reported the attack to one of the night guard. Sombra was starting to feel sleepy, so he decided to return to bed.



But not before thanking Luna for what she’d said. He had some thinking to do..

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The next morning, he woke early, with a thought running through his head. Luna had seemed pleased to be able to help, but she could get hurt if she didn’t have a way to see the core.



So he went to Twilight Sparkle and asked her for a pair of the goggles, saying he had a theory to test. She was more then happy to give him a pair. She was just relieved to see he didn’t seem to be in the funny shocked state he’d been in the last day.



Back in his room, Sombra spent a while working on a seemingly, yet oddly complicated spell. At last, he tried out the finished result on the goggles.



The puff of smoke the spell had generated cleared, and he sighed in relief. It’d worked.



In front of him the goggles bore a new design. Dark blue with a silver trim, he’d changed the colour to match Luna’s. He changed the shape a little too, so they’d fit properly.



He teleported up to the tower and left them there, in a little box. This done, he decided to get round to doing what she’d advised the previous night. Go out. He left a note with Flash Sentry, should anypony wonder where he’d vanished off too, then left.



The market was setting up as he set off. He wasn’t wearing his old armor that day either. Somehow, he got the feeling he’d never wear it again. It no longer felt necessary!



Lots of ponies trotting back and forth carrying various things, chattering animatedly. It was busier then he’d seen before-



Out of curiosity, he asked a passing stallion and his mare friend, was something special happening?



They told him it was special festival held every year, in which everypony took a day off to celebrate their empires good fortune.



"There’s festivals and parties all over town, the whole Empire likes to get involved!" the mare smiled.



Something occurred to Sombra, "Does...that include the pre school?"



“Yes, they have a special Foals and Fillies day, why do you ask?"



“Because I’m running late! I promised a certain somepony I’d go see her. Thank you for your assistance!" with a farewell he took off at a gallop, heading for the school. He’d almost forgotten-!

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"Bright Spark?" a voice echoed in the hall. The little filly looked round from where she and her mommy were helping decorate the stall. There was a small crowd of them there, basically everypony running a stall and their kids!



She seen her class teacher, miss Petalbloom, and somepony else beside her.



"You have a visitor!" Petalbloom beamed.



"SOMBWA!" She all but bellowed, zooming off at such speed she looked like a little blur.



"Hello, little one!" Sombra chuckled, crouching down so he could greet her properly. She affectionately rubbed her cheek against his, like she’d done before.



"You came, I knew you would!" she beamed.



"I promised, didn’t I?" he smiled gently.



The other kids and parents shared murmurs of curiosity as Sombra walked over to Spark's stall. Shining Sea greeted him happily, seeing how happy little Bright Spark was to have her friend with her.



Sombra didn’t realize that, back at the palace, Cadance was looking for him.

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She was about to give the speech revealing Sombra’s inheritance, but the stallion was nowhere to be found!



"Any luck?" Shining Armor asked, Cadance shook her head. "I cant find him anywhere!"



"Are you looking for Sombra your highnesses?" Flash asked. "He’s not here."



"He’s not? Where’d he go?" Shining Armor asked. Flash consulted the note Sombra had left "he said he was "going out on somepony’s advice, he’ll be back later".



"Wow, like that’s not cryptic or anything.." Shining Armor shook his head. Cadance smiled.



"Sounds like he’s finally warming up a little."



"Should I go look for him?" Flash asked. Cadance shook her head.



"Lets leave him to his own tasks, we can carry on as planned!"

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So while Sombra was helping Bright Spark, and being bombarded with questions by curious children, the ponies in the main square were awaiting their princesses announcement.



"Citizens of the Crystal Empire!" Cadance smiled lovingly. "We have some very unusual news to present to you!"



With a flourish, she made giant copies of the two documents that’d been painstakingly verified the night before by the palace historian and notary.



"We have been discovering more and more about the Empire from Sombra’s past, and of Sombra himself. He came here as a young colt, and was given a home by a Pegasus called King Cloudspark. He recognized that a pony born with dark magic was something to be explored, not feared, and sought to correct the damage the nightmare that was Sombra’s childhood had caused.“



She paused a moment, recalling the memories she and the others had traversed, “but sadly, it was too late to correct a short lifetimes worth of fear and abuse. Magic left untrained for so long cannot be easily controlled, and can have devastating consequences if unleashed."



The crowd shared curious and sympathetic murmurs. Was this why Sombra had turned so crazy?



Cadance continued, "King Cloudspark hoped that this was just a temporary phase, that the pony he had adopted would come back. From these documents we have deduced that he had intended for this to be a surprise on Sombra’s birthday. That he finally had a proper home, he didn’t have to keep running from his old life.”



“In the hopes of making sure they were found again even if it was long after he himself had gone, he put a special spell on it, to draw the object and its memory to Princess Luna’s attention. When she traversed Sombra’s dreams to better understand the shadow creatures attacks, the connection was set in motion. It has led to this: the discovery of these official papers, detailing that King Cloudspark adopted Sombra not only as his child, but as his HIER."



You could’ve heard that proverbial moth fart again.



"WHOA." Somepony said, and from that, excited babble broke out. Did this mean Sombra was the kingdoms official ruler? Was he now PRINCE Sombra?



Once they’d calmed them down, Shining Armor and Cadance resumed their announcement.



"He was, understandably pretty shocked by it," Shining Armor spoke "initially he was adamant we disregard the documents, dispose of them."



"Why?" Somepony piped up.



"He did not feel there was any need for him to become involved. He said, “This is YOUR world now, not mine."“



More confused murmurs. Sombra had refused to acknowledge the documents? Instead insisting he not become involved. They were surprised. Sombra was acting SO different from the monster they remembered from the past. He’d been shifting little by little towards being a stalwart friend of the Empire ever since his arrival.



"So, how he was before, did his magic do that?" somepony asked. Cadance and Shining Armor exchanged looks, deciding the populace needed to know a little of Sombra’s story;



"There is an ancient prophecy," Cadance began "that outlines the arrival of a pony born with a new power on the night a comet fell. A dark magic that could exist alongside light. It mentioned that despite ebbing given freedom, that pony would not flee. I believe this indicates the return of Sombra’s magic, but that he hasn’t changed his efforts in fighting those creatures."



Shining Armor spoke next, "A thousand years ago, ponies were incredibly superstitious. A child born with dark magic was pretty much the worst thing to ever happen in their view. By the time he came here, he'd already learnt some very bad lessons about how to treat somepony. An honest mistake led to him believing Cloudspark was going to turn on him too, and that’s when he lost control. the darkness was let loose, and it pretty much drove him insane, which was when you would have seen him..."



"With his arrival back here, his magic was locked down. Without it to influence him from the get go, we believe this enabled his shattered mind to heal. To help him see the mistakes he’d made, and to see the world how it really is." Cadance said. "We misjudged him too. That day, the attack on the palace, we seen him summon that spell and assumed he was acting like his old self. But we were wrong. he turned those creatures to crystal and saved our lives. He was willing to fix the chokers seal and lose his magic again, rather then risk hurting anypony. It was this that made the decision for us. Its not fully resorted yet, but his magic HAS been returned to him."



"So I have seen!" The historian pony who’d reacted to hearing Sombra’s explanation about his power that day spoke up now, "in all my years of research I’ve never seen dark magic handled with such fluidity, such instinctive ease! When he said he was born with it, I was surprised!"



"So far as we know, he is the ONLY such occurrence," Cadance nodded "a once in a lifetime occurrence. he has far more control over it then anypony Equestria has ever seen!"



"So, he’s refusing the crown then?" The historian asked.



Shining Armor chuckled and shook his head "At first, he was insistent it would be an insult to the Empire if we even considered it. But, after lengthy discussion, and Princess Twilight Sparkle showing him the letters you have been sending, we persuaded him to listen to us. This was his adoptive father. The desire to do something right by the former King who’d taken him in won out over his own fears. As of yesterday, he has trusted us in accepting his title. That his first concern was making sure this Empire did not come to harm shows an admirable change in character. He HAS however, still insisted that WE stay in charge. one thing at a time..."



Sounds of admiration and curiosity ran through the crowd.



"Does this mean he'll actually leave the palace once in awhile?" One colt asked.



"I think so," Cadance chuckled. "We actually couldn’t find him to be present now, as he’d left the palace to go see somepony!"



The crowd couldn’t help a laugh at the irony-



There was a whip crack sound, and a blaze of purple flame off to one side-



And to their surprise, Sombra appeared in a flash of flame!

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Things had been going well at the school. Almost everything was ready, and Sombra had been given a tour of Bright Spark’s classroom.



They were all helping clear away the mess caused by the preparations, when there was a massive ka-boom sound. Sombra tensed instinctively, throwing a shield up just in front of the nearby wall.



It was just as well he did, as the thing that came barreling through would’ve hit some of the teachers. As it was, it rebounded of the shield, giving them all time to run away.



But on reaching the auditorium doors, another creature was there, licking its chops and cackling. The children’s screams rang out as they ran back to the canter of the room.



Getting an idea, Sombra hurriedly rounded them and the staff, parents and carers up. The creatures dove for the small gathering, but smashed face first into the semi transparent shield Sombra generated.



The kids cried out in fright at the sight of the shadow creatures gnashing teeth. Sombra glared out at them. he couldn’t just sit here, he had to fetch help-



The kids, and Bright Spark of course, made concerned noises when Sombra abruptly dove out of the shield, the magical barrier reforming after him.



"Sombra?!" Shining Sea called.



"I’m going to fetch the guard!” Sombra said "don’t worry, you’ll be safe in there!"



All the creatures snarled and hissed, and one dove with astonishing speed as Sombra stepped out from the shield. It attacked as he was looking at Shining Sea, and he found himself tackled to the floor, its snapping jaws inches from his face.



"Get...off!" he snarled. He closed his eyes, but most of his magic was being focused on maintaining that extra strength shield. the rest was still held back by the choker.



--Please...just a little more..!!-- he pleaded, desperately wanting the spell to just-



He felt a strange tingling sensation round his neck. Opening his eyes he seen the creature was staring at the choker around Sombra’s neck in bewilderment. It was GLOWING. The light grew to an almost blinding intensity, then-SNAP. He heard that familiar sound from before...



The group within the shield stared as Sombra’s entire body was wrapped in the blue glow, then it pulsed outwards in a shock wave. This threw the creature off him, and did something else besides. The air filled with small sparks of blue light. The shadow creatures looked like they were wading in treacle as they fought to move. This was his only chance, he had to go fetch help!



He closed his eyes, trying to think. Then he recalled Shining Armor re-attaching the ornate band to his leg. There would be traces of magic still there. He channelled the power of his magic into finding Shining Armor.



With a flash of fire, the teleport spell kicked in. It was more ambitious then anything he’d tried in many a year, he just hoped it worked!



He hard the air crackle as he was displaced, then arrived somewhere else.

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

Shining Armor and Cadance, not to mention everypony else, stared in surprise as Sombra appeared on the stage. He opened his eyes and found the prince and princes staring in total surprise at him. Then he realized the mess he must resemble. The crowd started chattering as they seen the look on his face.



"Sombra?" Shining Armor looked at him "what happened?"



"There’s a whole crowd of those things attacking the school!" Sombra blurted "you need to send more of the guard, NOW!"



"Right!" Shining Armor yelled at the guards standing behind the stage, ordering them to gather a squad and move their butts.



"I’ve got a shield protecting the ponies there but-" he flinched suddenly "hurry, PLEASE!"



Then he was gone again.



While Shining Armor and his squad raced off towards the school, Cadance returned to the mic.



"Don’t worry everypony, they will not let those things harm anypony!"



She hoped Shining Armor made it in time.

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

With him being further away, Sombra could feel the drain on the shield all the more keenly. He reappeared in the school hall, seeing the creatures gnashing and kicking at the shield.



"You want a fight you wretched cowards!" he bellowed. They turned back to face him, seeming surprised to see him return.



"So he came back?" One jeered to the occupants of the shield, " how fortunate for you!" but their mocking laughs indicated they didn’t believe it.



"Shut your traps!" Sombra snarled.



"Here to play hero and have them actually care about you?" One jeered.



"No. I’m here to get rid of YOU and keep THEM safe. There’s a difference!" Sombra spat back.



He closed his eyes, feeling the surge of his magic. He opened his eyes, the green glow highlighting the garnet red of his eyes.



He stamped a hoof into the floor, a line of razor sharp crystal spikes bursting up from the wooden surface in a direct line. They ripped through a rank of the creatures, spearing the cores of some, impaling others. He freed the old spear from its carry pouch, whirling it round and stabbing it into the closest one. By the time the core exploded, he was already moving towards the next one.



In no time he was positioned in front of the barrier.



Another blast of magic and a circular ring of spikes burst up from the floor, surrounding the shield. Those trying to attack it were swiftly caught. They bit and scratched as Sombra maneuvered the spear with an uncanny speed, slicing, stabbing and jabbing. One managed to carve a painful cut down Sombra’s cheek as the unicorn slung the spear into its core.



A scream from behind him told Sombra they were climbing over the spikes. One was pressing its hideous face up against the shield, leering at the scared kiddies.



"Buck off!" Sombra snarled, charging it at sending in smacking into the crystal spikes. The kids cheered, both because he’d got rid of the thing, and because they’d heard a swear!



More and more were swarming in. Sombra erected a fresh set of crystal spikes, but those inside the shield could see he was tiring a little.



"His magic’s amazing.." one teacher whispered.



"Told you so!" Bright Spark said "but I don’t fink he has enough to keep fighting..."



"She’s right, this shield must be draining a large portion of it..." Shining Sea watched another creature slam into Sombra from the side, driving him to the floor. Sombra kicked it off him with one powerful blow, but he was slower in getting to his feet. Then he seen something through the broken part of one of the crystals.



"Still want to play the hero little pony?" the one at the front jeered as it slithered over the top of the highest spike.



"I’m not here to play the hero..." Sombra said, "however..."



There was a whole volley of magical fire streaking towards the shadow ponies.



"I think THEY are!" Sombra grinned.



The unicorn guards' magic hit core after core, thanks to their new magical goggles allowing them to see the creatures' vulnerable cores.



Shining Armor appeared beside Sombra.



"Here comes the cavalry!" he grinned. Sombra heaved a sigh of relief.



"Excellent timing your highness..."



"How do we stop so many..?" Shining Armor asked.



"Give me a moment. I need to find the manipulator behind all these. Its the same as before..."



Sombra closed his eyes. He didn’t have enough power to re-enact that same spell form before. but he had something similar.



His whole body glowed again, this time a soft purple aura. It grew very bright, then pulsed out from his body in a swift wave.



"He mimicked the spell.." Shining Sea noted from inside the shield. "Incredible!"



The wave passed through the whole room, seeking, searching-



Sombra’s eyes snapped open, and a grin flickered over his face. He vanished in a flare of flame, re-appearing balanced on the metal girders criss-crossing the ceiling, usually used to hanging stage props and banners from. To everypony’s surprise he took a dive off the metal beam, zooming towards the floor.



Mid-way he twisted round to slow his fall. A crystal spire erupted from the floor, and he landed on it with ease. One of the creatures had been flying towards the shield from a height, but now its trajectory put it squarely in Sombra’s path. He pivoted on the crystal, kicking out with his back hooves in a display of precision and strength that would’ve made Applejack cheer. his aim was spot-on. the core cracked as his hooves struck it, and the creature was flung backwards. When it exploded, it was a safe distance away from Sombra, who watched in relief as the other shadow clones self destructed without their source of power there.



A quick spell from Shining Armor blasted the dust and debris away, and they seen all the things were gone!



Everypony cheered, and a second later the shield dropped and the kids parents and teachers were free.



Sombra jumped down from the crystal spike, making it vanish along with the others as he walked over.



"SOMBWA!" Bright Spark shot over and glomp-hugged him with her usual level of adoration!



"You alright everypony?" Sombra asked, patting Bright Spark’s head.



"We're fine!" Petalbloom assured him.



"That those things would target children.." Sombra looked furious.



"Tell me about it," Shining Armor agreed "pathetic and cowardly!"



"I’m just glad everypony is safe.." Sombra sighed.



"But the festival.." one kid sniffled, only now seeing the damage the battle had wrought.



Bright Spark sniffled sadly as she seen the mess. Sombra’s heart twisted. He hated to see her cry..



"Everything’s destroyed, we'll never get this fixed in time.." one teacher said. On hearing this many of the kids burst into tears.



"No." Sombra’s voice cut into their sadness. He walked over, Bright Spark at his side "it doesn’t have to be! I’m sure we can do something!"



"But we need to rebuild the stalls, and the shop is halfway across town! It’ll take forever to lug all the loads back and forth!" one teacher pointed out.



Sombra thought about it.



"Lets face it, brute strength is a speciality of mine. You leave that part to ME."



“We’ll get started cleaning!" Shining Armor backed him up. He turned to the guards "Can you guys go fetch my sister and her friends?"



“Yessir!" two of them nodded and raced away. The other Shining Armor told to follow him and grab a broom!



Sombra got the address of the lumber yard, and raced away. Shining Armor told him not to worry about cost, just tell them the palace would handle it!

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

The owner of the lumber yard was startled out of his doze by the sound of thundering hoof steps. He and his assistant ran out in time to see Sombra skid to a halt in the yard.



"What’s-?" he began, but Sombra spoke up.



"The school was attacked by those creatures. The auditoriums been trashed. I need to get a duplicate of the order they placed with you before! Its urgent..."



"Wait..what…?" the owner shook his head "what’re you doin' charging in here and talking crazy! Who’s under attack now?"



"The school. Those creatures attacked it. Destroyed the kids hard work. They’re very upset, as you can understand. Were going to rebuild it all. It’s Prince Shining Armor's orders!" Sombra told him.



"His highness, of course..!" The pony said, not realizing this scary unicorn was here on royal business. "I’ll do what I can!"



"But I don’t know how you’re going to get it all over there, its a massive load." the assistant piped up.



"You let me worry about that," Sombra said bluntly. He spotted a transport cart off to one side "in fact, that’ll do perfectly!"



Sombra followed the manager, and with his instruction, was able to help gather and tie the wooden planks together into bundles and load them onto the cart. The Pegasus pony was gobsmacked by how much Sombra could carry. Even MORE surprised when Sombra insisted they hitch the cart to HIM.



"This is crazy. Sure you're built like a linebacker sonny, but even you.." he trailed off as Sombra stepped forward, showing little strain as he pulled the cart behind him.



"Buck me.." the assistant whispered, then got told off for his language.



"Thank you," Sombra said, the relief evident in his words. "Your efforts will help save those kids day!"



The manager gave a pleased chuckle. He hadn’t seen much of Sombra since his arrival there, just the odd glimpse of him here and there, usually escorted by the Princess Twilight Sparkle and friends, or shadowed by the guards. He’d heard rumors Sombra never left the palace unless he had to, so to have him come barreling into his shop like that had been quite a surprise. He only now noticed it, but there was a cut on Sombra’s cheek, the blood masked partially by his flowy mane. On an afterthought, he grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge and gave this to Sombra, saying he’d probably need it by the time he got halfway there!



Then Sombra was off, feeling every muscle in his body being put to the test as he picked up speed, racing through the streets hauling the massive load behind him. The few ponies that were wandering the residential area seen a Sombra-themed BLUR whoosh past, in accompaniment to a massive cart piled high with wooden planks!



"What is that stallion up to?" One mare asked.



"Shenanigans?" her husband suggested "woodwork project?"

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

By the time Sombra was on the home stretch, almost at the school, Twilight Sparkle and co had arrived. Pinkie Pie was bearing a huge tray of cakes strapped to her back.



They were shocked when they seen the mess, but relieved to hear nopony had been hurt.



"What can we do?" Twilight Sparkle said earnestly.



"Well, we’ve cleared up the worst of the debris," Shining Armor told his sister "but there’s still more mess. But, Sombra should be here soon wi-" they looked up at the sound of thundering hoof beats. A second later Sombra skidded into view, slowing to a stop.



"With an absolute butt load of wooden planks! Great timing!" Shining Armor called to Sombra. The stallion gave an exhausted smile as he unhitched himself from the cart. He retrieved the cold bottle of water the owner had thoughtfully given him and emptied it in seconds flat!



"Whoa. You pulled all THAT, by yourself!" Applejack asked. He nodded.



"Hoooee, that’s impressive, nice work!" the earth pony nodded her approval.



"Lets get started!" Rainbow Dash zoomed over, and she and Fluttershy took the first set of planks, hauling them to the centre of the hall. Once he’d gotten his breath back Sombra joined them!



The kids clustered round him like magnets to a fridge, led by chief magnet Bright Spark!



He was rewarded with another happy hug, and couldn’t help but smile.

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

Between himself, the guards and everypony else, they soon had the floor swept clean, and were starting on rebuilding the stalls. Sombra studied the diagram for setting up the stall. Then he levitated all the pieces, arranging them into the stall shape, the holding it there whilst somepony else drove the nails in. Seeing this method, Twilight Sparkle mimicked it, her brother too! Rarity plunged into the decorating, sorting out what materials she had that could be used on the stalls! When shed heard what’d happened, she'd taken as much supplies as she could from her stock, for the festival had to look fabulous!



Pinkie Pie was in charge of the balloons, naturally!



Sombra worked as fast as he could, zooming from one pony that needed help, to the next and the next. In this fashion, the stalls took shape in no time, and soon they were all fully built and arranged in the same layout as before.



"Half an hour until its supposed to start!" Petalbloom fretted.



"Don’t worry ma'am" Shining Armor gave her a grin "we’ll get there!"



Sombra was now back at Shining Sea and bright sparks stall, helping them with the decorating. Well, he and Bright Spark were. Shining Sea watched as her little daughter picked out what she wanted, and Sombra helped her attach it! Soon it was a colorful display in pretty silks and ribbons!



"Yayy!" Bright Spark cheered.



"Almost time!"



With just a few minutes before the festival was set to start, they were done. Shining Sea pointed out it was lucky they’d been focusing on setting the stalls up and decorating, and nopony had actually set any of their goods out on them! Everything was being stored in a nearby class room, or the kitchen if it was food!



Sombra wandered outside through the hole in the wall, feeling the fresh breeze on his coat. He was sweltering, having not removed his cloak the whole time (he honestly hadn’t noticed it!). So now he took it off, folding it neatly and setting it on a spare table near the jagged hole. That would be fixed later...



"You OK?" he turned at the sound of Shining Armors voice.



"Fine, fine.." he replied. Shining Armor stared at him a second "you got blood on you there..."



“What? Oh, horsefeathers.." Sombra grumbled "where did I see that bathroom...?" he trotted back inside, past the happy, relieved ponies and into the quiet halls of the school. There, the bathroom!



While he was occupied trying to clean himself up, Cadance had arrived to see how Shining Armor was getting on. The kids were amazed to see yet another Princess, and gathered round to greet her.



Shining Armor told her about the fight, and their efforts to rebuild.



"You all did a great job!" Cadance beamed. Shining Armor smiled at her.



"Sombra did most of the heavy lifting! Can you believe he towed the ENTIRE cart here on his own?!"



"Impressive.." Cadance remarked "clearly Shyre horses are built for work..."



"Whassa Shyre horse?" a little foal asked. So Cadance explained about Sombra’s breed, that that was why he was so much taller then the average pony, plus the heavier build.

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

"Come to the sickbay, and I’ll patch that up for you.." the school nurse offered to Sombra when she seen the cut. And so Sombra followed her down the corridor…

"Are you planning to stay for the festival itself?" the nurse asked. Sombra smiled softly "I promised the little one I would," he said eloquently "I would not wish to disappoint her."



"Ah yes," the nurse smiled "she talks about you near constantly. I’ve never seen her so animated. She used to be such a withdrawn little filly, then she suddenly began to grow in confidence..."



"She should have nothing to fear," Sombra agreed "in truth, I do not see how anypony can find anything wrong with how she speaks. She sounds just like anypony else to me."



"I’m glad to hear that.." the nurse said "her mother was very concerned for the longest time. After her father passed away..."



"Yes, little Bright Spark told me of him. I have no doubt he’d be proud of her if he could see her now."

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

Once he’d thanked the nurse for stitching the cut, he returned to the now busy festival. Lots of ponies had arrived during his absence, many from the meeting Cadance had been hosting. Sombra noticed them glancing at the gold and jeweled band around his foreleg. With the cloak off it was far more noticeable now.



"Sounds like you had quite the event!" he turned at Cadance’s voice, and nodded.



"It was so sudden," he recalled "I’m just relieved everypony is OK. I apologize if I interrupted you earlier."



Cadance dismissed the apology, saying he’d probably saved a lot of injury by coming to find Shining Armor.



"I’ve let everypony know about.." she indicated the leg band "that’s why they’re staring at you if your wondering. They’re glad to hear you’re going to help us..."



Sombra could only nod. He’d forgotten about that whole matter, in light of the mornings events. But he DID see what Cadance meant. The ponies were angling to get a look at the ornate band, a few asked about the stone set in it. Once Shining Sea heard the news, she told Bright Spark, who was amazed.



"Sombwa!" she bounded over. "Mommy said that you deciwded to do what that NICE daddy of yours said!"



"I owe him that much at the very least..” Sombra said softly, but there was an edge of sadness to his voice, the crowd noticed.



"Uh," there was the sound of somepony clearing their throat behind him. "Your highness, isn’t it?"



Sombra flinched slightly, geez it felt awkward hearing that!



"There’s no need to call me that.." he said lightly, laughing a little "is everything OK?"



"I just wanted to thank you for helping get this festival going again. If wed been on our own we'd have given up, but thanks to you and everypony else, the kids have their special day back!"



"Its been no problem.." Sombra looked down at Bright Spark, who beamed happily "my pleasure.."



She hugged him tightly, and several ponies went "d'awww" to themselves.



"Ooh...shinyy..." Bright Spark peered at the band. "Its so much awesome!"



Sombra couldn’t help chuckle at this catchphrase of hers.



"OK everypony!" Pinkie Pie bounded up onto the stage "lets get this party started!"

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

Music filled the hall, and the kids danced and played while the older ponies went from stall to stall.



Sombra sat with Bright Spark and Shining Sea at their bakery stall. Bright Spark kept sneaking him cake when (she thought) her mother wasn’t watching.



Partway through, the kids took to the stage set up at the far end. They were performing a little play. Spark was playing the part of a butterfly, and had an adorable set of little wings on. When the play finished, and she seen her mother and Sombra applauding, she felt very happy!



Sombra could see what Petalbloom and the nurse referred to. Spark seemed to glow, her big smile erasing the once lingering sadness that’d been on her face when Sombra had first met her. She bounded over to him now, and he leant down to tap her nose and declare "boop!".

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He noticed however, that his mane got in the way. Without the crown pinning it back, not only did his ears stand up properly now, but his loose, flowy mane kept getting in his face! He batted at it in annoyance as he walked through the hall back to sparks stall. One of the stall owners noticed this and called out to him, grabbing something and flying over.



"Can I help with something..?" Sombra asked, wondering was there a problem.



"Just hold still a second..." the mare hovered close behind him, gathered the loose, ever shifting mane in her hooves, and deftly arranging git into a neat, low, side ponytail, held with a jewelled clasp from her supply. It was a red garnet jewel, carved like a triangle. It sort of matched his cutie mark she decided.



"What’s…?" Sombra seen the jewel now keeping his mane back.



"Consider it a thank you gift, your highness," the mare smiled, She’d been surprised to learn about Sombra’s unusual inheritance. But she, like so many others, felt he deserved the chance, for helping save the Empire!



Sombra winced ever so slightly "there’s no need to call me that..." he repeated.



"Nonsense! From what the Princess said, that kings decree means your royalty now! You’ve shown as much dedication to saving this Empire as the prince and Princess themselves."



"I just hope I can someday make up from the problems I caused.." Sombra replied softly.



"I think you already have your highness.." the mare said kindly.



Sombra didn’t know what else to say, so he just stuck to thanking her for the present.

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Cadance couldn’t help overhearing Sombra insisting people didn’t need to refer to him as "his highness". She seen the awkward expression he pulled, his repeated attempts to downplay the matter.



But she also seen him smiling so much more then before.



“Its incredible!” she overheard some ponies talking at one of the stalls, “I cant believe he was ADOPTED by the King!”



“And he never knew…” Another shook her head “I wonder what really caused that madness.”



“That wasn’t madness, it was total INSANITY. Look at him NOW-” she nodded her head towards here Sombra was sitting, with the kids clustering curiously around. He closed his eyes, there was a ka-poof sound, and a little crystal sculpture of a pony appeared on the table in front of him.



The kids giggled and clapped. One waved a hoof at him, trying to get his attention. He leant down to hear what the foal said, then nodded. Another ka-poof sound, and this time a crystal butterfly appeared! The foal who’d asked him to make it nudged it towards spark, and he and two fillies said something to her that made her beam.



”-there is NO way this is the same stallion. He’s much….gentler then I ever expected. I wonder if he‘ll ever talk about it?”



“Sombra’s past was traumatic,” Cadance decided to stop their speculating before they actually went over and ASKED Sombra what’d happened “He didn’t have the luxury of supporting parents like your kids do. He had to fend for himself. Its taken him a long time to accept anypony’s friendship, and to finally let go. Perhaps best not to ask about what happened.”


“Of course Princess!” The lead mare said quickly “ we’re just so surprised to see how different he is now!”



“I think everypony is,” Cadance smiled “but without his efforts, we’d be more than a little stuck..”

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When Sombra collapsed into bed that night, eh felt happier then he’d ever been. But he couldn’t let himself forget. Those things were adapting as fast as he was. He couldn’t let his guard down now!



--I’ll make sure I earn what you’ve given me…father..-- he smiled as he drifted asleep, the long forgotten memory of Cloudspark throwing him his first birthday party filling his dreams. But he knew this battle was far from over...

Author's Note:

Sorry this took so long! I was buried under a shedload of stuff these last couple weeks, and having a minor breakdown, so this got sidelined. :applecry: But here we go, enjoy! Ill hopefully do some more fanarts soon too!

Edited as wodnerfully as ever by Dream Seeker!