• Published 13th Feb 2016
  • 1,602 Views, 40 Comments

Through the Snow - Ice Star



Onyx is a young crystal pony with a twisted mind. Starswirl the Bearded whisked him away from his home with promises of being his apprentice. Sombra is a strange creature who never wanted to be remembered. However, we don't always get what we want...

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Part Three: Voices of The Past

Author's Note:

Note: Sombra's dialogue and thoughts are in red.

[Revised for print on 9/18/2023]

Whatever you are, you're going to sit there and let this story pour into your head like liquid metal. Isn't that a pleasant thought? I bet it will keep whoever you are — whatever you are — quiet for a while. If you're there at all. I know you are. You have to be! It's been dark here, so very dark, for what has to be ages. If anything is around me, it's big and cold. I can't be the only one here. I don't remember how many times I've said anything or everything. I just want to talk to you and control, just like I do him. I have to control somepony, and I know you're there. Something's here, right?

Please, just don't let me be the only one. I talk and talk and talk, and you're going to listen. That's all we can do here. You're with me. You're real. We listen. We listen to me. I cannot move. Can you? Is anypony out there?

Maybe you're new. Maybe you change, I can't see you; I can't tell. I could start over, I could start with something. I think you're simple, so I'll start simple — as simple as I think you are — which is most likely all of you. I'm not the stupid one between us. Only stupid ponies would not listen to me, because I can control them. They would not disobey me, because I can violate their minds, and have their bodies tell them hurt things, and that they feel violated in the ways all the foolish mares who must've crossed Starswirl probably do. Or both, I can control and I can inflict.

Sombra is stupid, and you're not Sombra, but you're probably like him... wherever he is. I used to feel him here, and I need him. I've always needed him. He suffers so perfectly. It was together that he and I... well, it was really just the king, and Sombra was not the king... maintained the sadistic wrath I had to bring to the crystal ponies. There's such a rush to be had in the pain of somepony else, their death, their sadness... I need it all.

For eight years, I had it all, and my mind was different enough to matter. I feel hurt now. Those two sisters, the ones I thought I'd never see again, and certainly never see grown, had returned. They stormed the castle... I fought Solara... I took control... Then Sombra did and...

I woke up here, and I don't have my body. Sombra has to be here because sometimes I can feel him; he's always so far away, and I need him again. This is his fault, and I have to worm my way into him again and hurt him for what he's done.

I feel all mushed up inside. I was King Onyx, but I used Sombra's name. Everything he thought he had needed to be taken from him, and you understand this, right? You should, you have to! I tell you all the time! I don't feel entirely like the king, my magic's wrapped up all around me and I don't know what to do. I can't use it, I might've tried. I don't remember, I don't! What do I remember? It's all before this, and I feel and see it all the time. I tell you all the time. I feel like Onyx. I might have cried. I can't remember.

I'm not alone. I remembering. I only want to hurt somepony.

Please, listen. I'll tell you all over again!

...

I never cared what would be the results of the spell, I just wanted—

Stop. You stop, I'll stop, just do it! Okay, I'm not sure if this is working. Have I said things differently before? I always remember everything... I don't remember anything. There's no sun or moon here. Maybe, I just need to do something differently. There's so much from before to remember! I don't even know if this is going anywhere, it's hard to tell. I just started talking one day and didn't stop, I have no mouth to make sound, but I hear my voice everywhere. I've only been talking. It seems to be all I can do lately. Who cares if I'm just talking to myself? I don't. I'm crazy and somepony's listening. I'm still crazy. I was crazy as a king, too, but a powerful kind of crazy. I had all the wealth in the world and dominated all but death. Everypony has to remember how I hurt them, chained them, and twisted their minds.

The dead will not remember how cruel I was; the living will tell all the tales of King Sombra and the evil he was. I hurt Sombra just by using his name. I'm still evil, and I was evil before I was a king. I'm not sure what kind of evil I am now...

There, that seems like it will be a good start. A new beginning, my third to be exact. Or perhaps my second. I don't remember. Evil has roots.

But I think I'll start with the simplest thing I know — other than my name: what I am.

I am somepony who likes to hurt others, who lusts for blood, or so I've been told. The pain of others is rich to me.

This...

This... is so weird, using my essence to send words and stuff somewhere... unfortunately due to being encased here, wherever this cold, icy place is... it's a long story...

It's a shame really, I miss the look of the edge of a knife. As the King, I had a whole collection of them and I took Sombra, and we found ponies. If I didn't enjoy them myself, I would have him—

Where was I? Umm...

I can still make jokes. I don't think those are very important, but I can.

And I remember how to hurt others, because all their faces flash before me, and the blood, and I remember...

You may be thinking 'Oh, but why would you ever want to hurt anypony, mysterious-voice-that-appeared-in-my-head?'

Well, I have something to say about that: don't ever question my motives again, or I will remove your skin and make it into an amusing hat. Somehow... I have always liked the idea. To wear the skin of another is chilling in all the best ways I can think of! I'm sure I can find you, too!

You're here because it amuses me, and that's all. I control you. Got it? You are my toy just through hearing this, and it makes me feel whole again. Well, almost. A soul still needs a body. Maybe when I get mine back it'll have something neat — like razor-sharp claws! — and Sombra might finally be gone from my mind and flesh. I might miss hurting him, though. There is something so close about causing pain like that in somepony, and intimacy in being the source of their suffering. I loved getting to take out everything on him.

I won't even be picky. I'd take anything over that thing in my head again, who acts like he can have a name. For ten years I had to know him. It. I don't even know why it's there — he's the other, the 'it', and the thing that came with the spell. The one that stole what the book gave me, my new curved-horn unicorn body and all its dark magic.

It is a backstabbing thief, that one. I don't even know where it came from, it just was there, but I do know that weapons aren't supposed to turn against those who wield them, and Sombra was the greatest weapon I could have ever wanted. Still, it complicated things from time to time...

Oh, look, I'm chattering again. I forgot I might have an audience to play with. You're listening, right?

It’s hard to stay focused when you have nothing around you, and the cold comes in constant stabs. It's dark always. There's not much to feel, and it hurts me. I don't want to hurt. I shouldn't be hurt. I'd gladly put somepony else in my place, but it doesn't work like that. Although, I might be able to destroy that weapon of mine and get what is rightfully mine back, including the Crystal Empire. First, gather around: it’s story time.

I'll start where most where it feels most appropriate: telling you whatever comes to mind. You've listened to that before. Haven't you all?

It becomes hard to forget anything, even if everything flows together in one big jumble. My mind feels like a bag of marbles, the glass and crystal orbs that the Tribes never had. I am lost as I feel blindly with my hoof and they all flow over me, cold, and... It's so, so hard to forget...

Anypony.

Any deed.

Any word.

You should probably stop being so afraid, though. He can't hear you. Or me. I know that much, but you should always be afraid of me. If you were to find yourself in my hooves, I would not hug you. I would grip your throat, and I would squeeze and love the sound of it...

But him? He can't hear, see, or feel everything that I do. The same goes for me. It's how I could hurt him. I just had to pull myself away from whatever linked our nerves, and he would still suffer alone.

However, I wonder if he has done anything interesting as of late. He can't be dead. We're still connected. Somewhere, we're tied together and knotted up by magic that will not sever. I feel the pull of the ropes; he feels that and their magic.

Alright then, I'll start in the Crystal Empire, at a time when I was no more than five winters old because I feel this one flowing back to me again. This was the only place I had ever known, other than the Magicspire, but that isn't to say I had a skewed sense of time. Not like I do now.

I'm just waiting for all time to end. 'S not like the world's gonna go on forever, right?

Agh, so much time. I've been around so loooooong.

But, back on track.

Even then, I knew that my many 'interests' were frowned upon — as in, I enjoyed making things frown...

And just suffer in general.

And cry.

And bleed.

And most of all, I loved making things die in very nasty ways.

There used to be so many birds in the gardens, and when those stopped coming, I would find them on the streets... along with lost pets...

Sorry, thinking of the good old days, was I? Ah, yes. Right. Foalhood. Well, I grew up in an orphanage just outside of anywhere relevant, closer to the city area of the Empire. That place was run (by my standards, quite poorly) by two cousins named Light Seeker and Clarity Alms. There were seventeen foals there, counting me, most of them from farming families, who I'm pretty sure were the cause of the crop blight that brought about this recession and couldn't feed all their foals. Before the rule of the current queen, foals didn't die of starvation, and nopony ever worried that their family was too big. That's what everypony said, even the history books did too.

It had been too cold to go outside that day because of the latest snowfall in the Empire. A big blizzard it would be, that's what the Queen said. The weather did as it wanted here, and it was up to the ruler to stand on the castle's balcony and read the clouds when it seemed danger would come over the mountains. Only the Heart saved us, and later, but still way before I was born there were winged ponies that mixed with us. They didn't know how to craft weather, but they could rescue ponies, walk on clouds, and help wrangle the worst of the storms.

Some of the foals stared through the clear panes watching as snow collected outside, but they couldn't exactly see much. It was white blending into white in one big storm. I didn't watch the snow. That day I was wondering why our Queen — some idiot mare named Opal Charm — was not dethroned by now. She was the first mortal ruler ever, and had been ruling for nearly twenty years. I never knew what non-mortal ones were like, except that they were powerful Alicorns that were in all the boring lessons, tales, and expressions that ponies in the Empire used. You couldn't kill these weird Alicorn things, so I dunno where they went. What I did know was that things went bad shortly after Opal got her hooves on the throne. I mean, I usurped this entire country eventually, and nopony complained about my rule (and lived).

This hardship didn't stop ponies in the urban districts from adopting countless crystal ponies, even though I'm not sure even those ponies could feed them. The only ponies that really came by to adopt foals frequently anymore were what Clarity and Light called 'same-sex couples' or ponies that would be willing to take in foals as both family and live-in work. They came in to look at all the foals and take some home, only for the empty beds to be filled by another meaningless face a few days later.

That is when you learned the unspoken rules of this place: If you have no mark and are under ten, while still having crystallokinesis like pretty much everypony, you're normal. If you have a mark and are over ten, but don't have the native magic that gave basically all the other ponies around me their vibrant luster and so much more, you're probably a mixed-race foal. There weren't very many of them, but they would be considered normal enough, especially because once they married back into my race they could pass on crystallokinesis again. The Crystal Heart still worked on them, but usually only during the festivals.

If you're over ten and are one of the few that clearly have no 'hope' of ever getting a mark, and lack the magical ability, that meant even the Crystal Heart couldn't give me the shine of everypony else, that was bad. No adoption. Ever. I've seen those foals before, and every single one of them eventually got their mark... except me. They stay and stay, taking up bed space... but some run away. Most of them end up getting their marks really late, and they live normal lives. You can still tell they're Crystalline if you look at their eyes, but otherwise, they look unlike any type of pony in the Empire... and the Crystal Heart doesn't great to them. I've barely seen any foals without crystallokinesis, but those that I have always have the same eyes as everypony else, like that's all that holds them as part of this race. It's the only thing that makes me feel like a real crystal pony, especially when ponies can tell you aren't like the magic-havers before you even start puberty. Even Light Seeker, who had unicorn ancestors — I've never seen non-Crystalline unicorns and pegasi — and is mixed-blood filth was so much more of a crystal pony than I was.

I've been here forever, so of course I'd know. It was all true that if you were like me, you were doomed.

The hours ticked by on the clock that hung on the shiny walls, its crystal hands turning with every boring minute something extraordinary began to happen. A foal had gone missing, yet only I had noticed so far.

While Clarity was in the kitchen making a meager soup for lunch, Light Seeker came into the common room. She was a tall, thin mare with tiny spectacles. Her mark was a glinting ball of aura which you could say was appropriate; she was a trained healer and a former member of the guard. Those were some of the same ponies that dragged me home as super secretly as possible through the streets, plopped me at the doorstep with bits of blood still on my teeth, and told them about having to correct my carnivorous offenses.

This morning her mouth was turned downward in a frown, probably still worried about her herb garden out back. I had burned it down last week, which was a mercy killing in my mind. Her cooking was already bad enough without it. I must have saved the whole orphanage from food poisoning. Which is so strange really, because it would have been so much nicer to watch them suffer. Instead, everypony had looked a bit thinner lately and I had been scolded — not even yelled at, just scolded.

"Where in the Queen's name is Amber Waves?"

All the little foals looked around, eyes growing wide as they noticed that one of their ranks was missing. They had no idea. On a normal day, I wouldn't have really cared, since I'd have been too busy thinking up all the interesting ways the foals present could get hurt, or trying to play with them and they'd never let me, claiming that I hurt them. Or I'd have to play by myself in those years, and while I got to do what I wanted, it was so lonely. But violence helps heal those things, and nopony else knew the best places to bite into a bird, how to torture a kitten, or all the ways to torment the local husky pups. I was a big believer in the notion that what I didn't see didn't matter unless I wanted it harmed or dead... and both of those things were something that applied to most creatures. I flip-flopped a lot.

Although, since today was a special day, I was sitting in a window seat looking positively gleeful, if anypony had bothered to notice me. Most of the other colts and fillies gave me a wide berth, even though I was very chatty. I'd corner them to talk often enough, and it became a battle of how quickly they could get away from me as I went on and on.

I pressed my muzzle to the window, in a way that concealed my toothy grin. Being me though, I didn't care about Light Seeker. I was too busy watching the snow outside fall violently on Amber Waves. She was one of the many farm-born orphans, and a winter older than me. She had a pale green coat and her glossy amber mane pulled into loose braids that never stayed tied. She was some filly I paid no attention to. Not until this day, when she was buried alive under the snow. She'd been out in the snow the whole day. At dawn she went unnoticed by almost everypony but me, all bundled up and slipped outside eagerly waiting for the stuff to fall from the sky. For the first fifteen minutes, she had been sitting there shivering, looking as confused as ever before she pulled off all her scarves and started waving them around like they were wings. But now there wasn't much of her visible beneath all that snow.

It was such a joy to watch. After being bored for most of the week, I just wanted it to never end, it was like each flake was some mystic force that helped silence her forever when it fell.

Then things began to go wrong: I started to laugh uncontrollably.

Light Seeker came over and squinted out the window, narrowing her golden eyes while I kept on laughing the high-pitched wild and bubbly laughter of a seemingly normal foal, even though I was anything but this... 'normal' everypony wants me to be. It was the same laughter they had heard when I plucked feathers from a bird for the first time, and then broke a wing when I stepped on the stupid thing on purpose. I had laughed so loudly and was pulling anypony over to watch it hobble around, smiling and wide-eyed until I found out nopony liked it — and in fact, most of them cried and screamed.

Unfortunately, all good things seem to come to an end, due to something stupid about mortality. Although even more tragic is that this was not Amber Waves' case as I watched Light Seeker dig through the snow, fear in her eyes. My happiness faded as quickly as it came, as it shattered like glass. I saw what else was there beneath those gold irises. Horror, more than I had previously seen in her gaze before.

I had to think fast. All the stares from bewildered foals pierced through me and it began to feel like I was shriveling on the inside even though I loved attention of any kind. I needed it, and I still do. Thinking fast, I rushed upstairs and snatched her blanket, an ugly quilt, off her bed before rushing back down to join the crowd now gathered around a shivering, near-frozen Amber Waves. Light Seeker was hovering nearby, whispering something to Clarity Alms who had joined everypony else, her hooves now wet with snow.

Amber Waves, much to my thinly veiled despair, was going to live. Clarity Alms and Light Seeker had dug through all the snow and brought her inside just in time. They said she had hypothermia. Amber wouldn't stop crying, at least that made me happy.

I pushed my way to the center and faced the stupid filly, offering her the quilt I wished was her funeral shroud and a signature demented grin. The second part was not to help her but to fake kindness so I could have a front-row seat to watch her uncontrollably blubbing. Nopony actually liked my smiles. It worked, and the memory still made me smile and filled me with happiness even as I tell it to you now.

Three weeks later Frozen Waves was gone. She was adopted by a strange-talking glimmerless clan of red-and-green-and-orange-and-yellow ponies who wore equally strange clothes. They were gypsies with names mostly related to a fruit we didn't have in the Empire. They said they were from up north, as if anypony could live there. Passing through, they said, but they were so boring I didn't bother to listen to where they were actually heading. So I guess nopony can live up north, even these freaks. If they did, oh the commentary I could have made!

'They are taking the filly that nearly froze to death further north, are you ponies insane or do you just hate her that much?' That is what I would have said. I would have made a huge tantrum to go with it, once again acting as if I cared before running off and trying to come up with creative ways for her and her new family to die. At least, that's what I would do before I found a bird to keep me busy, since being creative is hard... and there are still so many birds here.

I still remember the names of their matriarch and patriarch: Jonagold and Paula Red.

Strange gypsies they certainly were. I wonder how they died.

Maybe they starved to death.

...

Four days after Frozen Waves was adopted everything resumed its usual amount of boring. I was doing what I always do: staying out of sight and amusing myself as best I could. The second part was usually the hard one. Boredom hurt worse than a cut, and somehow went deeper too. Today, that activity just so happened to be hiding in a barrel of crystal berries and eating as many food rations that weren't mine as I could, since it isn't like anypony can stop me.

"Alms, what are we going to do with that one?" Light Seeker's platinum-hued hooves paced the floor, visible only to me and my barrel with a hole.

"Onyx?" That was Clarity's voice. She always sounded as if she was asking a question, and could be as chipper as a sweet birdsong... at least, until birds saw me. Or the knife.

"Yes, Onyx." She hissed my name as if it were a hex that should not be spoken and I was not a topic for conversation. I knew from all the trouble that I caused them that there was no way they weren't used to talking about me.

I stopped nibbling on the crystal berries. Before, they hadn't been talking about anything important, but this... this concerned me.

Light Seeker continued talking. "He's so..."

"Troubled?" Clarity offered happily.

"As if he's the victim in anything Clair."

"How about 'frustrating'?"

"Clair, you and I both know that is an understatement."

"Morbid?"

Light Seeker's face must have brightened since her tone did. "Yes!"

"Well, Seeker, what's your point?"

Light Seeker kept running her mouth. Not only do I think morbid is an understatement, but it also hardly does my work any justice. "But as I was saying: What are we supposed to do with him? Our duty is to find loving homes for foals, no matter how difficult the times are. Nopony is going to adopt him, even if they could feed him and put a roof over his head. By the time he's grown, he'll surely be killing ponies. Nopony under this roof has abused him. We do everything we can to take care of him and educate him. Yet, there isn't a doctor or soul in the Empire who could help him or diagnose him beyond telling us his behavior is wrong. Even if somepony like that existed, I don't know how we could afford such a service, or if we could tell them how he got this way — gods know, I haven't the faintest clue as to why he's like this. The little creature is troubled in the mind, but it's not like there's anywhere in the whole gods-damned Empire for those with his kind of troubled mind... except convicted and before the throne. His kind of troubled isn't something I've ever seen in a foal! And it's hardly a 'troubled' mind when the lad's the one hurting and eating and... oh, it's so terrible Alms."

She was lying, right? I actually thought about being adopted before, although not often, I just thought that somepony like-minded would just come in and I'd walk out. I couldn't be stuck here forever, right? Surely there's somepony out there who enjoys the same things I do. I knew that I'd been abandoned on purpose, but I didn't think I was going to be abandoned forever...

Light Seeker's hoof began to tap impatiently, and a few moments later I heard a snort from Clarity Alms followed by her calm voice. "Light, I'll admit what he did to your herbs was awful, but it's nothing we haven't seen before. Foals love to mess with gardens."

"No, Clarity, it's not about the garden — and you know that he did more than 'mess' with it. Don't think I haven't found the corpses of those birds of his. It's frightening what he does to them and the other animals The fines we get for his cruelty and disordered meat-eating are things that any other foal's home would have turned him out onto the street for." She paused before continuing. "He's nothing but a monster, and I don't know why we keep him around, save for the fact that he is a child with nowhere to go. I've spent half my life battling winter drakes and helping ponies through storms — protecting others — and he's still the only monster I've ever seen. I couldn't find anything in the library about ponies like him at his age — what few instances of those like him the Empire has seen were criminals that were executed for their heinous crimes. Onyx only has juvenile offenses and the guards understand our situation."

Another pause.

Clarity decided to break the silence. "The truth is nopony can handle him, Light, nopony can understand him. By old Ezmeralda's eyes, we have got to let things play out. We can get him involved in more activities. Maybe the next time we try a buddy system, his buddy will stay. The perfect friend for him could wind up under our care the very next day. He's still just a colt. Have some hope. We've had tough cases before. Youth full of anger, cider, hurt they took out on themselves, and more. Youth with nightmares and fading bruises. Youth with peculiar conditions and social woes."

Ezmeralda. That was the name of one of the ancient Alicorn rulers of the Crystal Empire. She was the daughter of the first King and Queen and was said to be able to see beyond some of the constraints of time.

Yet, there was still that other word, which I thought was much more confusing.

'Hope.'

I have no idea exactly what it is, even to this day. I just know that it is something that you can break over and over again until it finally runs out and you're left with nothing. I suppose hope is like a candle: it burns out one day. I've seen it fade from the eyes of ponies, but I have never known it.

...

Light Seeker said that she feared I would start killing ponies. She lived to see it come true and died by my efforts, but she never knew it was me. That did sound delightful, but if you know anything about me, it's that I had many plans for revenge on my mind. But you, stranger, have some idea of what came next now, don't you?

I think, somehow, you already know about the blood on my hooves... and Sombra's too.

You know how it all got started, so I think I'll skip those parts. Instead, I'll tell you about one of my earliest days with that Thing, who is the very reason I'm caught in this strife when I should still be a king forever.

The very strife he belongs to. Forever.

But do you really know what came next?

After I read that book?

Do you really know what 'Sombra' is?

Do you even hear me? I still wonder if you're real...

There was a year of ice. A year of snow. All that before I even got my crown.

From the very beginning, he did nothing but get in the way.

...

I was almost fourteen when I left that valley, and Starswirl was finally dead. It was time to trudge south but almost five years in that place had muddled some of my sense of direction, but I couldn't let that stop me. It was time to return to the only other place I knew and finish whatever it was that I started.

My hooves and coat, though mostly obscured, were bound in rags and fur scraps to keep me warm but oh, how my eyes ached. I couldn't tell whether it was night or day. Every race of ponies has their various attributes — pegasi can do more than craft weather and walk on clouds, unicorns can do more than magic and purify water with their horns, and crystal ponies can do more than crystallokinesis or connect to the Crystal Heart. Unlike the former and the latter, there were things that all of us could do — many of us were resistant to cold, but the eyes of every one of us made us immune to snow blindness. Old Crystalline myths said that there was another race of pony that shared those two traits, but I never paid enough attention to the stories — if they were gone, how could they matter?

I can't say that I learned nothing at all in that valley. Perhaps the lesson I cherish most was 'How to Kill a Starswirl' since that's what I was best at. This is by no means simple and took years of preparation, but was hardly difficult, I mean I did do it all by myself after all... and I don't know what could be difficult with my power. That would be the complete truth right there. But, yes, all you need is half a decade of pure hatred and bring it to a boil. Next, I remembered to add one very important spell from the best book ever into the mix. And to think I did it all on my own. Yup, impaling him with those weird rocks was all my idea, and so was escaping the valley.

Sure, it was all rather improvised in parts... but I was ready for this. That spell had given me magic, a new body, voice, and power

If you stop monologuing, we could actually get something done.

Oh, yeah and...him.

This guy.

This guy.

If you ever find that book that I used to get like this give me the part where it says you have to deal with the ego breezie (I read about those back in the Crystal Empire). He — my weapon, my living, magic, weapon — actually began to think that this life is his. Eventually, he would become my favorite slave... and a very personal and special slave at that.

I brought a new, now lusterless, hoof to my face and wiped away another river of tears. I cried easily, and I always hated that about myself — every time I got angry or demanded something back at the orphanage, or even at the Magicspire, I ended up with an angry tantrum. However, these tears weren't from any feelings. I don't know why I was crying. It wasn't like I was trying to, I was squinting at the Arctic plains, with the Magicspire's mountains not far behind me.

So, crier, do you have a name?

“Huh? Oh, it's Kawbl… I mean, Onyx. It's Onyx.”

How long was it that I could forget my real name? It felt so good to have it back though, knowing that I'd never have to hear anypony say Starswirl's name for me ever again. I'd always been apathetic to my name until that wizard stole it from me.

My name is Sombra.

Huh? Oh, you. Wait, why is that your name? How did you get a name as weird as that?

'More importantly', I wanted to add, 'why do you need a name at all?'

It is what I picked, he 'said' indifferently.

From what, that old book? Actually, don’t tell me I don’t want to know.

It isn't like I care.

I trudged on a few more steps, trying to push through the snow. He and I could not hear all our thoughts, but this wasn't enough to cause me to worry. After all, it wasn't like I sold my soul...

...

I didn't sell my soul. I destroyed my body. Little did I know, it wasn't even mine anymore. Sure, it grew from where mine 'left off' but it wasn't mine. I like it when things are mine. It means I'm in control of me, not Starswirl, not Clarity, or Light Seeker, not anypony else. Especially not this 'Sombra', who wasn't a pony at all.

But look, you don't need eyes to see... just look at what 'Sombra' did to me!

Huh? Silence again? Is that all there is here, silence and cold? I thought I felt you, in this state I'm in, all I can do is feel. I swear, you were just there. Fine. I'm just some stupid colt. And that's all I'll ever be, right?! I used to be a king!

Whatever.

Ugh.

I'll keep talking, I guess.

I like the sound of my voice... even... even... even if it's not the same anymore.

The silence ought to fade a bit...

...

I continued on pushing through the tundra with my hoof constantly clearing my eyes of tears. I still had no good answer as to why they were there. When Starswirl was with me for a year as we journeyed across the Arctic, he sheltered his eyes during the daytime. I never had to. He told me it was because my race was built for labor and not nobility.

The mountains were getting smaller, but not vanishing. Either I was slow, or the southeast was far. Or maybe he was the slow one — somehow. Perhaps I could just blame all my problems on the voice that called itself Sombra, it wasn't like I ever needed to justify anything I did. He was the perfect scapegoat, after all. Things were boring out here anyway, without anypony to hurt, I would get miserable very fast if there was nothing fun to do. He's powerless to stop me anyway... and I really like that.

Pretty soon, all I could do was hold one of my forehooves over my intensely watering eyes as I fumbled around the Arctic North like a blind pony in silence. I hated silence almost as much as I hated this weird crying. I wanted it to stop. I wasn't supposed to be a crybaby anymore.

Sombra, my eyes hurt.

What do you want me to do about it? So now he suddenly decided to show up from wherever he slithered off. What a freak.

Fix them, I demanded.

You idiot, your dark magic can't be used to heal you. If you weren't so reckless as to stumble out here barely prepared, then we might have had some more supplies instead of just grabbing a few things and—

Okay, I get it! Blah, blah, blah all you want. I'll find a stupid cave when night comes!

Why was he always so annoying?

No.

I drew in a sharp breath because he wasn't supposed to contradict me. What do you mean 'no'?!

At least he can't rise to Starswirl levels of awful, right?

Being out unprotected like this in the sun is what caused this. Based on what information I've gathered about snow, we should travel at night. Find a cave and then unpack the food.

I stopped walking, suddenly confused. What food?

When I heard his voice next it was barely holding back rage.

You. Forgot. The. Damned. Food?!

Hey I'm plotting murder and revenge on a grand scale, you forget the small stuff. No worries though, it isn't like we'll starve to death.

He snapped, and I swear I could feel the fourteen-year-old voice in my head scream, although I can't imagine why.

NO, OF COURSE NOT! THAT'S ONLY EXACTLY WHAT WE'LL DO!

At least I think he was fourteen, right?

I smiled at his anguish. I won't die, of course, I'm not like that, although 'Sombra' could go ahead and do so. There are so many wicked fates he could meet! So many to choose from, and I feel dizzy with delight.

Well, it's not like you'd know what to do, being a stupid voice that's only a few days old. Just try and tell me one thing you think you know.

I know I'm smarter than you.

His tone was so sure... and my delight was crushed, but I wouldn't let him know that. I wouldn't let him know a lot of things. Maybe I accidentally let him see my thoughts about what I thought was causing my teary eyes. No, wait, he actually knew that for sure.

But this was the moment when the raw feeling hit me, as soon as he said those awful words. It hit me harder than the crystals that killed Starswirl. It was the moment I realized: I HATED SOMBRA.

...

I should have seen everything coming, right? He played me the entire time and was actively plotting my downfall, I swear it! You believe me, right? Of course, you don't. I'm not even sure if you're real... but I wish you were, that you're not just me... slipping. Please, please be real.

He had all the winning cards yet... at the same time, he didn't...

How?!

Even when he was a barely original nothing... he just kept climbing. Or something, he did something. I'm not quite sure what, though.

How was I surprised when he stabbed me in the back? I know his type, thinking that they are better than everyone else, without even killing them. His types always need to indulge their ego, yet not through murder. And those like him are never ever satisfied with anything, right? What else could he be?

What else?!

Maybe I can knock him back down though...

Maybe... one day.

...

By late afternoon I had found a cave.

By late afternoon I had a cloth strip tied around my eyes from the pain.

What are we going to eat?

Here was 'Sombra' all high and mighty and acting as if we were two entities, or were we one and the same...? No. He was a stupid, worthless sword and I was the one who wielded him. I just had to stop thinking of him as a living, breathing, and thinking creature. He was an instrument of bloodshed.

My clothes, if I have to! I responded impatiently.

Boiled or grilled?

Ignoring him, I pulled the cloth scrap from my teary, pained eyes and slumped against the cool stone wall.

Aww, poor little Onyx is crying! Sniff, sniff! Or are you such an idiot that you believe we can eat those tears of yours? Truly, your idiocy knows no bounds.

"Shut it," I mumbled aloud. How could anypony think I would cry? I don't cry, I'm not supposed to cry. I'm not strong when I cry. There are only two types of ponies that cry: weaklings like Frozen Waves, and ponies who are about to die.

I'm neither, right?

He was quiet, for once.

I concentrated on finding food in all this snow, one hoof tapping on my horn. It still felt so strange to me then.

Maybe I could try to use some magic...

After all, magic is the perfect way to get what I want. Unlike other stuff, it doesn't have any consequences. That's how the unicorns and those two wicked sisters used it. What else could its true purpose be for other than taking things or hurting things?

I bared my teeth and tried to look up at the horn on this new body, and concentrated on the thought of bread. It's a simple food, right? And it is one of the only foods I can ever recall eating. Purple smoke streamed from my eyes, but it didn't hurt.

Hmm, a large loaf will do. I don't think I've eaten enough in five years with Starswirl, but at least this new body isn't as underfed as my old one. Maybe even slightly toasted bread... with butter.

I felt a large amount of aura gathering on my horn, relishing in its power.

Oh! Maybe a cabbage loaf, I really liked—

"AAAARRGGHH!" The aura-sphere that was now the size of a crystal house ripped away from my horn, catapulted forward, and tore through a hunk of the cave, blasting an awkward gaping passage in my wake.

"What the..."

Wow, Onyx! I rate that one a ten out of ten! Clearly, dark magic is best used for attempting to conjure cabbage loaves! You could be a world-renowned mage at this rate.

Wind whistled by and I crept over to the hole as carefully as possible.

On the other side was a small somewhat abandoned camp, now strewn with large boulders and liberally covered in singe marks. Three woolly, horned creatures with slightly gaunt frames were crushed beneath the rocks, although their tents and weapons remained in good condition scattered about the rocky nook of a campsite.

As I browsed the embers of a long-cold fire I recalled hearing tales about a fortress nation of non-ponies roughly nine days away from the area where we were. I couldn't remember their name though and travelling there would be a very foolish decision for multiple reasons. One of which I remembered immediately: they were a warrior nation that was distrustful of outsiders.

The camp provided an explanation for the thin appearance of the woolly creatures: it appears they had been out of food for a few days. Barely a trace of hay or any food staples could be found. But not all was lost. There was still a way to survive.

I trotted up to the largest of the dead yaks — that was what they were called — whose tawny coat was matted with small splotches of blood from the rock debris I had accidentally thrown about.

Smiling, I thought: Food is food.

Sombra stayed silent and I’m glad he did. I just wish he had stayed that way.

Forever.

...

Two entire cycles of the moon had passed since that day, and I had grown taller and stranger. Dare I say that I had even become an evil magelord with an entire empire bound to his will? Well, no. At least not yet. I hadn't even come close to discovering and controlling all the new things I might be able to do. But at least I had supplies now, especially a tent for when there were no caves to shelter in or rare groves of trees. There had been enough leftovers at the yaks' camp for me to plunder plenty of things.

Snow was scattered as far as the eye could see with nothing but ice and rocks. But even the rocks were not as common and the snow overtook all. It was always blank out here. I hated that, and not just because it reminded me of my year in the Arctic with Starswirl, back when I thought he was really going to make me his apprentice. When I control everything, I'll take over the weather somehow and make it obey me as well.

I hadn't figured out how to combat the teary-eyed affliction from the snow in the day and thus was reduced to traveling at night just like Sombra wanted. I hated that too.

I was quite sure I was fourteen now, and according to whatever sense of direction I had I was still trudging south. That was close enough to the general direction I needed to be going. There weren't many landmarks outside of the Crystal Empire, but I'd been this way before, even though it had been years ago.

Traveling made me tired a lot and I never got much sleep with how uncomfortable everything was. I'd never been used to comfort, but at least every place I'd ever stayed at had something decent to sleep on that was warm enough. Now, I had to use magic to keep warm. Even Starswirl had brought supplies with him when he came to fetch me. Still, my discomfort was nothing compared to all of the strange things that had been happening. Every few days I would black out and wake up to someplace unfamiliar. However, since everything looked alike I could not be sure if this place was as unfamiliar as I thought or just as boring as everything else. It wasn't like there were many ways to stay entertained out here.

Food was also something that was more accessible once you stopped caring where it came from. That is when I ate at all. The Arctic had plants that I sometimes stumbled across and took as much as I could. Other times, I resorted to eating creatures, whether they were as small as a fox or hare... or a larger creature that took more work to dispatch, like a yak. Yet I never starved, no matter how little I ate or how sick meat made me. This body could handle less food than my old one... but I still felt hunger pangs from time to time.

No matter what, everything was just rocks, ice, and snow as far as I could see with this stupid blurry vision. Anything else was something I found purely by accident, yet with how full my supplies were staying, it was like I had been running into plant-filled places that I couldn't remember. This whole place was very stupid and nothing ever happened that was worth my attention. I don't understand how ice-drakes lived out here. If I had another pony here at least I could find an interesting way to 'dispose' of them to keep me from becoming bored.

Today’s travels were just more of the same and the boredom created by that gnawed at me like a sack of angry raccoons. The sharpness of the boredom really hurt and I felt angry enough to break something, just for the sake of smashing something over and over again with how unfair all of this was.

Snow and ice over here.

Snow and ice over there.

Snow and ice everywhere!

Freaking. Everywhere.

It came and went throughout the day.

Yeah, today I refused to travel in the night. There were times when I did that, mostly because the night was too cold and boring. However, I’d never tell him this. He'll figure it out soon enough. But maybe this hurts him too, if that's true then I don't care if this was hurting me as long as I could hurt him too...

What worried me was the fact that not only did I 'black out' every few days but that this whole magic thing was so hard. It was as if it was a locked door that only flung open if I headbutted it enough. It wasn't as if I was unable to use it, I was just a bit 'limited' in places. Not weak.

I am not weak.

I will never be weak. I was never weak. I cannot be weak, right?

...Right?

Evening came and I still walked. I knew that I had been getting better with magic — it was the only way I had to keep myself busy, so I had nothing to do but get better at it. And just as I got better everyday, the winds that were blowing from the direction that I had come had become even colder — like, so cold that they even stood out in the middle of the Arctic nowhere I was in.

I didn't like the night. It was dark and bland. Oh, but here I am reduced to traveling during the worst hours.

An eerie shrill neigh echoed behind me, one unlike anything that I had ever heard.

What did you do this time?

I acted as if I didn't hear him. By Starswirl's stinking corpse! What was that?

That is exactly what I want to know.

The snow around me seemed to grow thicker and rapidly form a funnel. Before I knew it a white spectre-like shape darted across the whirling cyclone, its eyes glowing a bright and pale blue-white in the low-visibility awfulness I'd gotten caught up in. As those horrible things shined on, I saw forehooves stirring in the snow, striking at the air. There was nothing about any creatures like these in any of the stories of the crystal ponies.

I was closed in.

Another shrill neigh was heard before a chorus joined it, making my stomach churn. The sound was coming from the northwest — where the Magicspire was left for ruin, where the unicorn, pegasus, and earth pony tribes had lived and rotted in their valley.

More white streaks flowed into the cyclone and I glimpsed their angular, sharper equine features. Despite the strength of the storm, I caught sight of two ears just like mine and a muzzle so long and narrow it looked like a skull. Blazes and swirls marked the faces and sides of the raging spirits.

There are more of these... these things?!

I shook my head. That wasn't important, right?

I don't care if it is, Onyx, but I'm definitely not going to hang around in here while you attempt to count past one. You've already shown me just how idiotic you truly are.

What are you—

I stopped caring about stupid things like limits and personal safety. The only thing on my mind killing these snowy beasts as brutally as possible, which should have been the only thing on my mind in the first place if it weren't for 'Sombra' and—

An ice-blast hit one of my forelegs and I jumped away, yelping in pain that I had been totally unprepared for. I was Crystalline! I was one of the ones that could endure cold!

I screamed as loud as I could, all the hate in me welling up ready to be used. A sharp, painful blast with an iciness much like snow struck me in the left eye, muddling my vision. Suddenly my legs collapsed under me and pain ran through my veins. It was like 'Lene's beating all over again. I couldn't understand. The blast couldn't have hurt me that badly.

My nerves ran like fire before dulling completely and I could feel my consciousness fading and dulling as I became less aware every moment. What was happening?!

A voice used the mouth of what should have been my new body even though the slight trace of my old cadence was gone, clearly speaking with a voice that could only be—

"I wasn't lying when I said you were an idiot."

No, no, no, no!

"Now, I'd say 'may I have the honors' but..."

No longer in my control, the body that was once mine assumed a fighting stance, magic effortlessly sparking on the horn stronger than I could ever wish for in all my time of practice. It was one of the last things I felt that night.

"...not only is that not my style, but..."

You...!

"...It seems pretty clear that they're all mine."

Shadows failed to catch me as I plunged into the darkness.

...

Unfamiliar with this darkness, I waited, completely unsure whether I was dead or alive. Time passed like mountain winds until I felt as if I was the only thing that had ever really existed. This particular void — I know now it was not the only strange layer of the mind of Sombra and I — felt as if it would be my prison, forever and always.

Where was I? This felt like my mindscape... but in my confusion, I realized this was not any part I knew. Sombra could be doing anything out there, for all I knew he was already king and the Crystal Empire was already a land of neverending strife and missing out on all the slaughter. Sombra just had to go there after all, it wasn't like he had ideas of his own, and what more could a pony want than blood staining their hooves?

But... what of those two sisters? Did he ever see them again? I certainly never expected to, but I had to know — how did he handle them? What were their deaths? What tortures did they suffer?

I had to focus on something real to keep myself together. I found myself trying to think of the events that led me here, starting from Starswirl's murder and finally Sombra. He put me here.

He was the one responsible.

That was real.

Oh, but you know what else will be real?

All the blood I'll spill.

He is still a weapon after all, and I am the one who wields that weapon.

...

Yes, I am sure whatever you are you have never been forcibly sealed away in a mindscape. You start going into brief periods of panic. If you're like me, you never had any prior knowledge of what was occurring. It tears you apart and you become unsure of what to feel. Time seems to stop.

It’s like being pushed out of life itself yet you still exist. You go through spouts of loosely jumbled thoughts that you could not tell if they were yours to begin with. Memories are the only things that are unclouded.

Memories of hate.

Where I am now is similar, but more than anything I am wrapped up in myself and aching and burning for a body again. I feel ill. The void of the present is different.

...

Unsure if I could do anything other than think in this void, I reached out with my thoughts, only to find myself...

...in control...

...and back on my hooves...

Signs of a magic duel were everywhere, and I wasn't in the same place I was. My left eye was blurred and wounded still. In terms of endurance, all my energy felt wiped out as if my 'return' had taken every bit of strength. My spirit was undamaged, though. I would still kill.

I guess that explains the blackouts.

Now that silence that I had heralded before was terrifying.

It was a silence I was powerless to fight.

...Right?