• Published 26th Sep 2015
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Can You Find it in Your Heart? - Ravenmane



As broken as he is. As unforgivable as he acted. Could anyone find it in their heart to care for a tyrant such as King Sombra?

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13 - Royal Acclimation

Despite Sombra’s apparent progress, it still took half a week to move from blindfold to silhouette. Despite the lengthy information Sombra gave the ponies on the first day, he worked his hardest to evade answering anything else. “We are trying this again,” he told Twilight adamantly.

“Don’t you think you need a break? I’m willing to help, but this is mental trauma, you can’t fix it in a few days.”

“With each passing day her visit draws closer and I suspect that when that comes, we will come face-to-face once more. The first since our conflict and the best I can fare is a mere two minutes. Even then, that is a mere shadow. How well do you think I can last without such a barricade?”

“But you’re doing so well when you don’t see me.”

“Yes, because I can think of you as something else. I know the truth, but–”

“Out of sight out of mind right,” she asked as she cautiously moved around him.

“Yes, now tell me where you’re going.”

“Remove your blindfold,” the sound of her voice caused Sombra’s ears to twitch as he searched for the source.

After trying to discern the alicorn princess’ location, Sombra removed his blindfold. A cold chill ran down his back, knowing that somewhere in the room, beyond his sight, lurked Twilight.

“You’re nervous.”

“Though I still cannot see you, I am aware of your presence.”

“You have nothing to be afraid of, even in front of Princess Celestia. I have confidence that she can see how much progress you’ve made. That you can change.”

Sombra’s ears continued to swivel, trying their hardest to find Twilight even if he felt that he was better off not knowing. “As if it were that easy.”

“Tell me more about it then.”

Sombra fidgeted nervously. “During my time with her, my mother grew ill enough for me to want to return home. I tried to excuse myself politely but,” Sombra lowered his head, “I was too late.”

“What happens if the ruler dies? Sorry, when the ruler dies.”

“The eldest daughter takes the throne. If she is too young, an advisor is appointed though they can be ignored. If there are no daughters then a steward is appointed unless the princess’ son was able to find a mate and produce a daughter of their own.”

“It sounds to me like the Empire was very strict.”

“I may as well have had no rights. Yes, because I was the son of the princess I had more weight to my words in the court but I had little more. I remember enforcing more respect to all my subjects when I was in charge, even if I was descending to madness.”

“But you enslaved the ponies right?”

“In that age what we considered slaves are clearly not what you consider slaves today. They are still paid for their work, still treated like normal ponies, given breaks, and even treated for illness. I suspect you think of the term as working slaves until they are no longer able.”

“Instead they were what, some part of the social structure?”

“Yes,” Sombra replied with a smile. “They are only supposed to be in that status for a time. I had planned for a year and a day based on my own estimates for preparations. As for the fighting force I created, that was a conscription of soldiers.”

“How did you get control if your sister was supposed to rule?”

“She asked me to help advise her, but whatever it was that had plagued my mother extended to her. She was strong, but the news of conflict with Equestria was something I was far from prepared to handle.”

“What caused that conflict?”

“Something petty on Celestia’s part. I had to change my agenda from romance to managing a kingdom.”

“But weren’t you–”

“Young though she may have been, my sister was clever. She appointed me as her successor, or to be more accurate demanded it. It caused quite the uproar but it had been a request from her deathbed, not something any would have treated lightly.”

“So what was this petty thing Princess Celestia did?”

“I suspect that the change in my agenda was something she did not take easily.” Slowly Sombra turned towards Twilight, remaining silent until she was within his sight. “We had been growing very close, but even a fool could tell that everything fell apart when I returned to the Empire. Would you mind if we spoke of this no longer?”

Twilight nodded. “I understand that it isn’t to talk about, but was that something you thought I wouldn’t believe?”

Sombra chuckled as he showed no fear before the alicorn. “No, there are far more unbelievable things that dot my history. Looking back, even garnering as much of Celestia’s attention as I had seems quite fanciful. I think the mentor of my early days would cause you far more alarm.”

“Are you feeling okay?”

After the ebony unicorn calmed down he smiled. “Telling you about my relations with Celestia eases my heart. I think I can move on, though time may change that sentiment.”

Twilight smiled back as she nervously approached him. “Do you want to get a bite to eat?”

“I don’t wish to impose.”

“We’ll just go to a restaurant and get something light. Oh, and try to use more contractions, they suit you living as a normal pony.”

“If you insist then I would love to accompany you to a restaurant. Did you have anything in particular in mind?”

He said love, Twilight thought as her cheeks began to turn pink before shaking her head, but I have a feeling he doesn’t really mean it like that. “Well, I thought we’d just try something really casual. I want to see how ordinary ponies react to you, especially when you’re with another pony. Do you think you have your anxiety under control enough for you to do that?”

Sombra approached Twilight, his smile and stride never wavering. “That sounds lovely princess. Do you mind if I still call you that instead of your name? I’m just – I’m not used to something like that. I know it makes me sound old, but in my day nobles addressed each other with both name and title. Just using another’s name was a sign of closeness.”

“Would it help you if I did the same for you?”

“If you wish to try it then you may. Just remember, I am not a king but a prince. You have no idea how many times I had to teach those fillies that sort of thing.”

“Before we go, do you mind telling me where your cutiemark went?”

“I’d rather tell you that grim lesson on our way. Not the tale, just the lesson.”

As the two continued to talk, making their way down to the street below, Spike watched in secret. This won’t end well, he thought. They’re both smart enough to realize someone wants to sabotage it but I’m willing to say that I told her so.

*****

“The common pony is far more relaxed with you here,” commented Sombra calmly. The two of them had decided to share a fresh batch of hayfries.

“Well, they must find you quite intimidating. You’re still a prince after all and one with a very dark reputation.”

Sombra sighed. “I’d rather they know I’m trying. Princess, would you consider this a ‘Plan B’? I know Pinkie had one in mind, but some initiative bested her as far as I’m concerned.”

“I’d call the whole thing a Plan B. Pinkie isn’t always the best at making clear plans so trying to get you to overcome your fear of alicorns might have been her roundabout way of getting ponies to open up to you.”

“Because if their princess could be friendly towards me, then I couldn’t be all that bad right?”

Twilight smiled. “Exactly.”

“You have a little something on your cheek princess,” Sombra commented before levitating a napkin over and wiped it off.

“Isn’t using magic a problem,” she asked as he lost focus and twitched.

“Yes, but I’m still in control. I need to know how much I can use before I provoke an incident if I’m ever to use magic again. It seems that much fine control was too tempting to pass.”

“Well, we can try to tackle that in due time. Oh, Pinkie said you didn’t need to eat or drink when you first showed up but you do now?”

Sombra nodded. “I suspect everything was still getting back in place and simply eating something was enough to push those needs back into my rather confusing biology. So I was defeated and broken into thousands of shards of shadow; why would that of all things deprive me of hunger?”

“Because you were a creature made of shadows you didn’t need to sustain yourself conventionally. I think.”

“Princess, it’s a sound theory though I would prefer not to test it further.”

“Is anything still missing?”

“I am not sure how well I’m sleeping, my dreams are a blank and I remember them that way.”

“Well, I’m not an expert in that field. If you can get back on Princess Luna’s good side then she could help you.”

“She would be far easier to appeal to. There’s less complexity in our history.”

“So, what is your history with Princess Luna?”

“I spent some time talking with her, trying to find out what her sister liked. I was raised under the notion that it was rude to guess what your significant other likes. I also had a knack for finding the little details. I’m not sure if that skill still exists after all these years.”

“Yeah, about that, just how old are you?”

It took five minutes for Sombra to recover from laughing at the question. “Let’s see,” he said as he wiped a tear from his eye, “if we include my time in ice then I would be one thousand and twenty three in the spring.”

“Twenty three? You mean to tell me that–”

Sombra nodded. “Removing my reconstruction time and lordship over the Empire, I would’ve charmed my way into Celestia’s heart at the age of twenty.”

“Did you have any idea what the–”

“Yes.”

“But–”

“I know and it’s rude to think of her like that. Celestia was no prize for me to achieve, nor was I factoring the age difference between the two of us. She and I had the potential to be together but that time has passed.”

“Are you interested in getting back out there and finding somepony?”

“I’d rather answer that question after Celestia and I meet once more. Hypothetically speaking, do you really think I stand any chance?”

“Rarity seems very interested in you so…”

“So..?”

“Well, you’re already on Spike’s bad side for past events, but he has this crush on her. He might also be jealous.”

“You can assure him that I was trying to be polite. Just between us, she seems that she’ll be high maintenance which is something I’d rather avoid.”

“But even back then, wouldn’t Princess Celestia be high maintenance?”

“Hence the reason why I’d rather avoid another high maintenance relationship. I know she wouldn’t be able to face me in a purely unfair fight, but I’d rather avoid returning to that stressful a relation.”

“What would happen to Princess Cadance if you were married and had a foal?”

“Well, before that point I would have to make some statement that I have no intention to return to the throne and that she is the proper ruler. You understand my intent yes?”

Twilight nodded. “That you and your family have no intention to lay claim to the throne. So you, your mate, or your children can try to put themselves in charge of the Empire.”

Sombra nodded as he leaned over to wipe the alicorn’s cheek off again. “That none of my line could lay claim to the throne to be exact. Well, an ambitious member would try to marry into it and that would make them legitimate. That is the exception to that sort of declaration. Would Princess Cadance–”

“Her whole name is Mi Amore Cadenza if you’d prefer that.”

“Right, would Princess Cadenza understand my intent if she heard it?”

“Well, provided she listened, I think she’d listen. I mean, the last time you were in the Empire…”

“I made quite the impression, I know. Anyways, can we stop picking at these hayfries now?”

Twilight smiled. “Sure, I’m glad you could come. Oh, would you like to move into the castle? I mean, it can’t be all that comfortable living with Pinkie.”

“Planning to keep a closer eye on me while I’ve managed to suppress my fears then?”

“Well, I was just thinking that it might be nice to have to nearby if I have a question for you. I mean, you’ve been really forthcoming and–”

“I see. Thank you for the invitation. It would be my pleasure to take you up on such a generous offer.”

*****

After making a quick stop at Pinkie’s house for his things, Sombra and Twilight returned to the castle. Each had a content smile as she led him through her home.

“I understand why you don’t want to be here,” said Twilight as she continued to lead the way. “You don’t want to relapse but I also know that you don’t want to turn an invitation down.”

“Well, this is far more polite than Pinkie’s invitation. She simply dragged me along and I just accepted it.”

“I think Spike will be the only thing that won’t find you all that welcome in here.” Twilight stopped and opened a door, showing him a very plain looking bedroom. “I know it isn’t much, but I’m sure we can fix it up later on.”

“Thank you princess,” said Sombra with a gentle bow. “This is more than enough for now. When I feel more welcome then we can discuss any potential improvements.”

“Would you like me to show you to the old castle sometime?”

“Tomorrow would be excellent, provided the weather is favorable.”

“Of course,” Twilight said as her smile broadened. “I’ll come and see if you’re hungry when it’s time for dinner okay?”

After Sombra returned her smile, Twilight left him in his new home. Replacing her however was the baby dragon peering in from around the door frame.

“I understand your name is Spike,” said Sombra casually, “I hope we can find peace between us in my time here.”

Much to his dismay, Spike scoffed and left with a scowl on his face.

He just needs time, the unicorn thought as he closed the door and made himself home.