It was the eyes that kept both ponies rooted to the floor. They both felt pain and their vision get darker until they both realized that they were holding their breath due to fear. It was a sensation that both had felt many times in the past, but never in a dose like this and it was one more thing to add to their little adventure across worlds.
The eyes were old, older than Princess Celestia’s eyes whenever she showed her wisdom and experience. They showed wisdom, but more than anything they were hard and cold, almost like a steel sword that pierced both ponies where they stood.
“We-we… we were, I mean-“ The vision of such creature made Twilight Sparkle stutter with no control after seeing the creature disappear and reappear in a cloud of black smoke, almost like…
“Wait… King Sombra?!” At the mention of the name the unicorn smiled. It was a small little sad one, as if he had remembered something.
“I haven’t heard that name in such a long time, it sounds weird on the mouth of a pony one more time,” he said turning his sight to both ponies in front of him. “But I asked you something, what are Sunset Shimmer and Twilight Sparkle doing here? On this barren world devoid of life?” The unicorn showed such degree of eloquence and intelligence that made it possible for both unicorn and alicorn separate this Sombra to the one Twilight had fought back home.
“We are… lost,” The Princess said as Sombra’s eyes noticed the Talisman around Twilight’s neck and he began to laugh, the volume ringing and echoing among the tall, sharp stone spires that were once mountains and hills.
“Once more you find your way upon my world. It is truly remarkable. Even with an unlimited number of universes, you both find your way back to my doomed kingdom. Well, maybe not the same pair, but ones that look and even act like you. How truly remarkable.” Sombra said.
Sunset began to cough as the air made her throat burn, as if the only thing she was breathing was ash.
“Ah, yes, I do forget you mortals need oxygen to breathe, you’ll forgive me for not being able to help you in that regard,” the unicorn said looking at the eternal pyres burning in the distance while ash floated down like every day.
“What happened here? Is this Tartarus?”
“Oh hell no, we already did that one,” the redhead said, recovering from her coughing fit.
“Tartarus? Oh no, this is no Tartarus. That place would be better than this, or maybe that’s what this world turned into. No, Twilight Sparkle, this is my home, my kingdom. Welcome both to Equestria… or what is left of it,” he said. With a grand gesture of his hoof he pointed at a spire not too far away. The two Voyagers looked on the direction he pointed, and their mouths fell in fear and shock. They both had seen the tower. They had even spent most of their youth inside, watching the stars and talking with the alicorn that shaped the ponies they would be in the future.
“It-it can’t be.”
“I’m afraid, Twilight Sparkle, that it can. Welcome to what’s left of Equestria,” Sombra said with what could pass for laughter, but there was no mirth in his tone. Only sadness and hollowness.
“How did this happen?”
“Not your dimension, and you still worry about the world around you. It was long ago, each and every one of Equestria’s enemies joined in an attack against Celestia and her ponies. Let’s just say that things went downhill way too fast. So fast that nopony could stop the cascade effect of the war’s weapons and spells.”
Sombra watched the pyres, his mind going back into the dark days when everything collapsed.
“Seems that being an Umbrum makes you immune to the changes in the world. Now, here I am, the only survivor of the last Great Equestrian War, forever doomed to walk this fetid land,” he said.
Sunset couldn’t contain her anger and was ready to pounce upon the dark unicorn but the magic aura of Twilight stopped her in midair.
“Quite brave, Sunset. Sadly, nothing you can do would be able to hurt me. Believe me, if you could cease my existence I would be grateful, but alas, this is my penance. This is my own hell. Enough of me. Why are you two in this world, and why do you look so roughed up?”
“Someone is hunting us down. Apparently we broke someone’s rules on multiversal travel, and we were sentenced to death,” Twilight said as she still tried to process the hellish look of Equestria.
Sombra snorted at the words.
“Oh, those ponies… people… never quite got what exactly they were, I was too busy dealing with them. Oh, don’t look at me that way, of course I know about those idiots,” Sombra said just as another gate was opened not too far away from them. From it came another pony. Even though she had become a unicorn, the uniform and the completely mad look on her face signaled only one possibility about the pony’s identity.
“Enough! Not only have you been doing whatever you want with your device, you attacked an officer, resisted arrest and violated multiple laws. You will cease this moment and will receive punishment as the law dictates!”
“Oh yes, all according to the laws and power a bunch of little fillies and colts gave to themselves. So childish and immature; we found out we could travel, so, instead of researching it, we will become the ultimate private club. Or at least that’s what I understood, the last time you and your friends tried to judge me. What was it? Oh yes, ‘a danger to the multiverse, one that had to be disposed of.’”
As Sombra continued talking, Aeon’s face, which had only shown confidence and anger, now showed fear and terror.
“You-you-you are Sombra of world 78/sigma/4!” Aeon said as she raised her foreleg, ready to fire her energy blast at Sombra.
“Well, that is new. The last time I saw you, your friends only screamed my name as they tried to kill me. Pity, I never get good visitors. If it helps you, I can show you their mass grave. I made it just for them.”
As he spoke, Aeon tried to shoot him. Instead of a red energy line, nothing came out this time. Sombra—for the first time since Twilight and Sunset arrived—showed a smile that send shivers down their spines.
“Oh yes, did I forget to tell you? Most devices don’t work on this world. A last little gift left behind by Canterlot ponies.” With this, dark energy chains erupted from the ground and coiled around the body of Aeon.
As the chains began to tighten around Aeon a voice pierced the sounds of pain and enchanted metal.
“Stop!” Twilight screamed, not knowing exactly why she wanted to help Aeon.