• 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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18 - A Gift Ungiven

Waning Crescent 35, 3349

Tonight is this celebration the Equestrians known as Hearth’s Warming. I’ve wondered if I am the only pony left who celebrates the solstice in a proper way, though I know that is still in ten days’ time. I’ve done some thinking regarding celebrations over the past few days though. I wonder about my former subjects and how they adopted to this Hearth’s Warming celebration. My suspicions gravitate towards mixing the old and new customs. For them, I think I’ll begin my celebrations tonight. I’ll begin with my former subjects and save my mother and sister’s letters for the solstice proper.

“The doctor said you shouldn’t be using magic,” harped Twilight as she stormed into Sombra’s room.

“These are my personal thoughts,” replied the ebony unicorn as he physically closed his journal. “I’ve no intentions of dictating them to anyone. On that subject, I don’t enjoy when any spy on me writing something so personal.”

“I just wanted to tell you that Pinkie and the Apple family won’t be here for Hearth’s Warming. The Apples are spending the holiday with Pinkie’s family.”

“I believe you told me once they own a rock farm. I’m still somewhat confused regarding that. I’m not a foal, I know what a farm is, but how does one farm rocks? Do you not simply refer to that as a quarry of sorts?”

“You know what, I haven’t a clue what a rock farm is either. Have you tried to find out by asking Pinkie?”

“Yes I have but–”

“She looked at you like you were crazy didn’t she?”

“Yes. Were you met with such a response?”

“As if a rock farm was as normal as the fur on your body.”

*****

As the day wore on, Twilight picked up her cake from Sugarcube Corner and bossed Spike around throughout the afternoon. During that time, Sombra spent most of his time reading up on the details of the holiday’s origin.

This is ridiculous, he thought. Clover was still a foal in my age.

“I know what you’re thinking Sombra,” chided Twilight as she checked in on him. “Before you ask, you remember that I read your journal.”

“I remember Twilight, but this story, I don’t understand its justification as a means to celebrate.”

“Well, what else is there to the solstice celebration? Is there anything more than something that’s more than a little dark?”

Sombra stared briefly but then he nodded. “It’s all about keeping those we care of in our hearts, even if we have to admit to them the wrong we’ve done. I could try to say that I did what I had to, but I should have known better then, just as I do in this era.”

“But telling that sort of thing to dead ponies is still a grim concept. Why don’t you just ask other ponies if they can help?”

“Normally we do, but it’s an ancient tradition. It helps remind us of who we’re related to and brings ponies closer. One might not be friends with all of their family, but the solstice is the night when you come together as only a family can.”

“Does it get confusing when distant relatives visit and–”

Sombra squirmed. “Let’s not talk about something like that. As far as I know, you’re welcome to say no if you are invited but first an invitation is preferable to arriving that day. The festive part of the solstice isn’t about some disgusting inbreeding thing.”

“I know,” Twilight replied with a sigh. “So, now that you have some understanding about Hearth’s Warming will you do anything with us tonight?”

“I still won’t attend the pageant, but not because I disagree with the celebration. I think I could stand to get started early.”

“But–”

“It would be in poor taste if I attended after the day before last. I made a scene out of yelling at Celestia. I called her things I thought she was in the spur of the moment. I can’t risk snapping at anypony in town like that. I had to have scared more than a few ponies too, but to act like it’s just a normal day so soon is not something I want to show.”

“But feeling guilty isn’t something anypony who knows you would want you to be.”

“It’s the bigger picture. There aren’t many ponies in town that are willing to give me a chance right now and Pinkie has gone to spend the holiday with her family so my list of potential friends in town is smaller. Still, the unity in the holidays is something shared and that is something I can relate to.”

*****

After Twilight and Spike returned from the pageant, they welcomed more ponies to the castle. Much to many ponies’ surprise, Twilight smiled when she saw Sombra joining them. “Thanks for coming to see everypony,” she said as she rushed to his side.

Sombra politely nodded. “I hadn’t expected many ponies to come to celebrate the festivities with you and Spike. Yes, I expected close friends, but beyond that was more of a surprise.”

Twilight giggled at his comment but led him along. “Everypony, as you all know, this is Sombra. He’s not as bad a pony as many of you have been led to know. He’s made several bad decisions but we all have made our share as well. Only after meeting him here could anypony uncover that much and even then, they still had to give him a chance.”

While many ponies murmured, one unicorn stepped towards Sombra and Twilight. “It’s good to finally meet you,” she said as she adjusted her glasses.

Sombra looked at her curiously. “Oh? My apologies, but I believe you have me at a disadvantage then Miss…”

“Moondancer,” she replied as she offered him her hoof. “Just Moondancer if you don’t mind Sombra.”

Sombra smiled as he reached out and took her hoof in his, surprising her by quickly kissing it. “Just what do you know of me then Moondancer?”

She blushed as ponies began to mingle. “Stories mostly, word travelled fast from the Crystal Empire after your defeat.”

“Nothing good I take it.”

“Mostly but I managed to get my hooves on a few history books that talk about your early life. Did you really learn under Starswirl the Bearded?”

“I cracked the temporal equation when we reunited in the former castle in Equestria back when I was originally in Celestia’s good graces.”

“How?”

“He was stumped, brief trips were simple by compare. He had already figured that part out, but true temporal travel, everything from days to millennia remained out of reach. As I studied his formulae I found the factor that he required.”

“If you don’t mind, what was it?”

“He never factored for the effect of travelling to the past or bringing knowledge of the future back to the present. We agreed that this variable was needed to account for the potential one’s impact would have between the date in question and the present.”

“So, you figured out what it meant to factor for any paradoxical variables?”

Sombra nodded as he led her away from everyone. “Yes, and it made time travel exponentially dangerous as you travelled from the point of casting. After uncovering the safest distance, where one would absolutely close any paradoxical loop, we swore never to speak of such a thing again.”

“But there’s more to it right?”

“What magic would it be without rules? Self-imposed I assure you, but they were designed to minimize damage that could be done to temporal stability. Firstly, one should never interfere with their past or future self unless there is no alternative. An event that acts as an anchor becomes a fixed point, something to contain the paradox that could have been. Secondly, major events in the past cannot be disrupted. This would mean that, for example, I cannot return to the past and help the Celestia of that time so she does not lash at me in anger. Without that event, I do not resort to dark magic or fail to protect the Empire in my lunacy.”

“So if that didn’t happen then you wouldn’t be here explaining it to me.”

“Perhaps I would explain it to you still, though it would most certainly not be like this. I would imagine it would be through some musty tome you managed to sneak a peek at. Who can say rea– ahh!” Sombra began to retreat before rubbing his temple.

“Are you okay,” inquired Moondancer.

As Sombra continued to wince in pain, he saw other guests look towards him. “As if thousands of voices are echoing in my head. It is quite painful but the source and the reason are more than enough to cast the pain aside for now.”

Twilight hurried to his side. “What’s wrong?”

“Just a theory Twilight, that perhaps the old ways were blended with the new.”

Moondancer blinked as she helped Twilight keep Sombra steady. “What’s going on Twilight?”

“He celebrates the solstice, the evening before his calendar year begins. There’s something that they do and I see where he’s going with his theory. The crystal ponies all think he’s dead so they might try sending him letters about who he was before and the good they remember he did.”

Despite the mares’ assistance, Sombra’s legs still buckled as he tried to suppress the pain brought on by the echoing voices in his head. “They are subsiding, finally allowing me a chance to hear them.”

“So what’s the message,” asked Moondancer eagerly.

“If they would wish for one thing this Hearth’s Warming, it would be for the return of the kind hearted prince they once knew me as. I can’t grant them that wish and it – it breaks my heart to be unable to give them something so true to my hopes.” Sombra sighed as he stood once more. “In time I may be capable of granting that desire of theirs, but I would find it best that I do not hear so many voices within my head. There is already one in there, and I don’t like it that much.”

“So that’s what you want for Hearth’s Warming,” Twilight asked. “You want them not to be so loud right?”

“What I want is to be a better pony but I want believe I make that occur with each passing day.” Sombra looked past the two mares and looked around the room at the other ponies who had returned to their socializing. “Just knowing they try is enough for me. Enjoy yourselves ladies, I’d rather leave before any second wind arrives.”

“What did he mean by a voice,” whispered Moondancer as Sombra left.

“Temptation to return to the darker ways is very real in his case. It tempts him on a daily basis and ignoring it is taxing enough. That pedigree is not just for name.”

“So it’s all about discipline? What happens if he slips?”

“I don’t know, but he expects me to stop him if that happens.”

“Can you?”

Moondancer’s question rung in Twilight’s ears as she watched Sombra leave, a smile on his face and her friend Lyra laughing beside him. That should be me, she thought.