• Published 30th Jul 2017
  • 2,376 Views, 17 Comments

The Care and Keeping of Hidden Castles - Ice Star



Princess Luna heads out on a date with her special somepony, the only one who enjoys escaping the presence of ponies as much as she does.

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Everything

Sombra woke up screaming.

I hear it easily as the sound pierces through the otherwise comfortable slumber. I am not the almost impossibly deep sleeper that he is, and felt his body tense before he bolted up and let out his scream. Before I open my eyes, I register that his coat is marked with a cold sweat.

This has happened before. I guard the dreams of children most often, for older ponies rarely need my aid. Dreamwalking can be strange though - it is like astral projection - and sometimes I find myself wandering into the dream of somepony who simply needs me. Other times, like tonight, I do not dreamwalk at all.

I frequently have to visit Sombra's to keep his night terrors at bay. He's been afraid to sleep before, fearing that he'll dream of his ordeal in the Empire.

It's almost never anything else.

If I could be in two different dreams at once, I would. Guiding the foals of Equestria through things that nopony else bothers to see as important issues and spending time with Sombra in his, talking and preventing horrific dreams that will never go away from happening would be wondrous and efficient. I loathe choosing between them, and loathe to worry about how he fares without me, knowing that he usually decides to take advantage of his divine vitality and forgo sleep when I am unable to help him.

This is painful for him, and for me as well.

I look at him, my own eyes wide in the dark of his pocket dimension, a flat gray expanse that stretches on for some time, with the shadows of gray, crystalline clusters and the pragmatic amount of furniture and visible material possessions he bothers to keep wavering in the darkness.

His eyes are wide as well, but they see something other than what is in front of him, but are lucid and wild. The frenzy hasn't faded from him. His breathes come in heaves that I can't help but think are paining him. Sombra's mane is in a bit more disarray than usual, only being slightly mussed from sleep, cold sweat, and bolting upright so abruptly.

He looks around, but not at his surroundings. They don't register to him fully. The echo of his scream rings in both of our ears - I can see his twitching.

Carefully, I sit up a little straighter. This isn't a sick routine, but something awful I've had to adjust to. I gently wrap my forehooves around his petrified form and pull him into a firm embrace, tucking his head under my muzzle and nuzzling into his mane to pull him back just a little bit as I carefully ensure he's wrapped in only my hooves and the tangle of blankets that he has on this 'bed' of his - a bare mattress on the ground of the place, for he is as pragmatic as ever with such a choice. I have never complained about it.

He feels as tense as can be. I slowly try to rub one forehoof in circles on his withers in hopes that he'll relax a little as I trace long, slow circles deep into his fuzzy coat. He decided to forgo his cloak tonight.

His heartbeat is a panicked rattle inside of him.

"The Crystal Empire, hmm?" It's a question that doesn't need to be, but I need a small little hook to lure his mind back. He loves the sound of my voice. Even though I only say so much of importance, he never doubts it. Sombra almost drinks the sound as though it were something rich and to be savored. Tonight, I keep my tone low and soothing, and always, I am ever-patient with him.

Sombra nods into my chest, but a shudder dominates the gesture, so I hold him tighter. He moves one of his forehooves and grabs onto my forelegs - the one that is holding him - and doesn't let go.

I don't really want him to.

If I saw his eyes, I know they would be wide and frightened; they would see somewhere in between here and then; comforting shadows and warped crystalline halls.

Unfurling my wings from my sides, I wrap them around Sombra's form in a deeper, shielded embrace and feel him loosen, slacking his posture just a little.

Moving my forehoof up, I wind it into his mane, stroking it over and over again. A small noise, like a relieved, but still surprised gasp, makes it through the back of his throat and he buries his muzzle in my chest, a split second trill eking out, and then dying just as quickly while I continue to pet his mane.

Silence washes over us, cool, yawning, and calming. It is only broken by the soft flitter of paper gliders in the background. On one of our earlier dates here, I had showed him how to fold them and what nice decorations they would make before I tossed a good lot of them in his face.

He had liked them, and enchanted them to flitter around his desk in amusing little loops and patterns, like a mobile of some kind, with little paper 'birds' darting around on soft clouds of crimson aura that I could see glimmering in the darkness.

We listened to that sound for a while and thanked the stars that he hadn't had a full-on panic attack. I stroked his mane quietly, trying to get a feel on how deep it would be into the night outside. The only way to tell time here was to measure how bright the light siphoned into the pocket dimension was - it more or less absorbed light from outside so it was dark at night and a bit brighter during the day, unless he adjusted it, as he could with the temperature. Sombra preferred to keep the realm slightly chilled and with the light level of a dim, but cozy study most of the time.

Just by looking around, I guessed that it would be a barely a couple hours past midnight. I couldn't have him still like this by morning. That would be cruel.

Letting my thoughts return to Sombra, I looked down to check on him. He wasn't looking too much better, but his breathing, while still irregular, wasn't as bad any more.

I had been stroking his mane this whole time, and that had soothed him slightly, but I still felt that he was scared.

I started humming for him. Any tune that came to mind, I hummed softly for Sombra. I would sing for him at other times too, whether he was happy or needed comfort, but this didn't feel like it was a time that singing would help him.

He was one of the few who knew I could too. Celestia did, and Cadance did too, but she had never heard me sing. I liked to hide it from ponies. For me, singing was meant to be kept private, just like how I was the only one who knew of Sombra's panic attacks.

I tapped his head gently, shifting a few locks of his mane with a caress too. "Was it about..."

My melodious whisper halted. Sugarcoating and dancing around something was not something I liked to do, nor was it Sombra liked to hear - we had a mutual disapproval over such things - but Sombra wasn't in any state to be provoked or reminded of anything so bluntly when he was silent like this. If I had eased him into a calmer state, then perhaps.

I tapped him again, gently. "Was it about what was in here?"

It was the best I could think of, and to make up for it, I hugged Sombra close once more, shifting him slightly. He made a small noise of acknowledgement - it was an almost felid hum - before he nuzzled my chest again, nodding.

I stuck my muzzle into his mane and sighed deeply. "You are never going to go back to the Crystal Empire."

"...Luna, I don't think-" He swallowed sharply. "What would it even take for these to stop?" he finished quietly.

"If you dream, Sombra, there will always be nightmares."

"These aren't regular nightmares, even I know that." His voice was still quiet and I could feel him tremble a bit.

Sometimes when this happened, I would pull him close - like this, or I would be able to calmly talk him into lying down again, and I would hold him if I wasn't already doing so - and when he had too many words for all the grisly things that he kept seeing behind those red eyes of his, but couldn't get them out - or didn't want to - I would do nothing except hold him close to me and tell him a story. About anything. About myself. About some place that time forgot. About the stars.

He would ask no questions and listen quietly, resting as fear melted away. Unfortunately, there were often small hints of fatigue from whatever macabre recollections - more macabre than Sombra was comfortable with - had resurfaced with unesscary clarity until he was forced to relive them in his slumber would still be visible when day broke. Some mornings he was free of even that, and I would stay with him, content with his company as he made himself the coffee he enjoyed and I loathed. Other times, he would drift off to sleep in my hooves.

This was not going to be like that. Whatever he saw and felt again - or who in this case - was absolutely nothing that would let his mind be eased so. Any solace he had this night was shattered, and he was not going to be going so easily into sleep's embrace - which was mostly just mine - so easily. Not when he was in this state.

Sighing again, I unwrapped my wings from him by letting them slide off Sombra, caressing his coat fondly. Wordlessly, I nudged his cheek after shifting so that I could. Sombra nudged back and agreed to stand up, and together we stood.

His side was pressed next to mine, each contour of his body complimenting my own, and I draped a wing of midnight blue feathers over his back, gingerly running the feather tips along a few of the scars on his flank.

Before we could say anything to one another, Sombra's posture shifted, and he slumped ever so slightly, leaning into my side. I watched as he blinked, closed his eyes, which for a moment no longer gave away how shaken up he was, and then yawned, opening his mouth wide so that the sound of it escaped, and filled my perked-forward ears. His fangs, never hidden when we were alone, gleamed in the dark and his muzzle crinkled.

The fangs I had seen always belonged to creatures like dragons, wolves, and wyrms, and as such, they were a familiar sight for me. Forest beasts and other such creatures filled my past more than anypony but Sombra was likely to know, for we told each other nearly everything, and that was no hyperbole.

Sombra's fangs were the most different of them, and while they caused him anxiety that he only confided in me - I never thought they made him anything like a monster - I thought that he looked handsome with them, and every time he smiled or I caught a glimpse of them when he smirked or laughed was testament to this.

Between the two of us, I was the morning pony, and his yawn showed. When his eyes opened again, he looked a little worn out, but that same fear was still plain to me. The sight of it caused worry to gnaw at my stomach.

"You don't want to talk about this one." It wasn't a question, merely just me letting Sombra know that I knew what he wished.

The nod he gave, before nuzzling my neck slowly and burying his face in my mane, was just clarification.

"Every time I close my eyes, it's all back there. I'm never going to stop remembering, and-"

"But at the same time, could you bear to forget?"

Sombra draws a shaky breath, and still speaks with the resolve I know him to have. "Never... I need to know what I've been through."

"You have eternity for it to hurt less."

"Eternity's still a while," Sombra mumbled into my mane.

I turn around so that I can nuzzle him. "It always is," I said simply. What elaboration did he need? Even when he was mortal, I knew that Sombra thought in some other ways - he had a mind that could survive eternity, and most of all the truth, both without the mollycoddling that other unnecessary things in this world had. His banishment too, might as well have been a kind of morbid test to prepare him for the present... and see if he would last.

And the present still troubled him, because it was intertwined with the past.

"Maybe..." he began, before something overcame him and I felt him shake and his breathing catch. "Maybe one day..."

"Maybe what?" I say carefully, with a tone overflowing with the special compassion and patience I had just for him and whenever he was hurt, and remained hidden otherwise.

"...It won't have the same effect on me; it won't hurt this much."

What he went through behind the walls of the Crystal Palace was nothing short of horrific, unforgivable, and now, it was literally unforgettable, something Sombra was both knowledgeable and willing to accept.

He was prideful, and he'd fight being brought down by such a thing endlessly, even if there were bad times like these and worse episodes.

I found it impossible for me not to admire him for that.

"Do you want to go for a walk?" I asked, voice low. They could often ease his mind off things and provide the comfort of solitude instead of the curse of unneeded company. We both enjoyed them and he would find it easier to speak to me on the rare occasions his superb communication faltered. It was one of the few ways he was able to manage the temper that he directed toward everypony other than us, so I knew he wouldn't be angry either.

He pushed his head further into my mane in a purposely clumsy sort of nod. I felt the warm breath of another one of his yawns travel down my neck and rolled my eyes. He was rarely fatigued, but these night terrors always took so much out of him.

Now, it was only a question of where to go. "Should we go outside then?" I suggested gently. The cold wouldn't bother him and if he feels better, I might find him tossing a snowball at me as a surprise. He loathes walls and messes of corridors - anywhere he can't leave easily or vanish in, which was one reason why his pocket realm had no walls or rooms.

He burrows his muzzle further into my mane and I can feel him start to nibble the wavy dark locks that sparkle quietly in the dark, highlights of purple showing a little more easily than the blue. "No, I'd rather..." Sombra swallows again. "Could we go somewhere more distracting...?"

My mind wandered as I thought where I could take him that would be enough of a breath of fresh air, and gently steer his thoughts in a different direction, calming him.

Eventually, an option came to mind. Sombra had his god-world too, and while it was a place I had not ever seen, and had heard little of, we were close enough that I do not think he would mind showing me his own world. I had always thought of showing him Solace, so why would he not wish to show me Everything? Yes, Celestia and I had never seen the world of the other, but Celestia was my sister, and as close as we were, the bond I shared with Sombra was different. He was my lover, my coltfriend, extremely significant other - either would do.

"Would Everything be an option, Sombra?"

His name was an anchor, and when he heard it, his mind would stop wandering for a little while. It was the switch that brought him back from wherever he was within himself and focused the look in his eyes. It was above any seams and tied him together, luring him back and causing his ears to perk forward from where the heard the echoes of something from darker places.

"I..." He pauses in thought and hesitation that he rarely demonstrated. Sombra nestles his muzzle into my mane a little more, mumbling small non-threatening growls and other soft demon vocalizations.

His thought drifts, I can feel it.

"I know it isn't in my head, Luna. It happened and-"

He receives another nuzzle from me. "I know, Sombra." There is his name again, pulling him back from whatever he had been mulling over. How many confessions had he made like this? Where he was spilling morbid wonderings from ages ago that lingered on, the horrors he had to undergo, moments of the madness he refused to deny, and experiences he dreaded repeating and every other fear or catalyst that lead some violent actions, caused by the temper that never vanished, and wouldn't fade - not that he wanted it to, he had a surprising degree of mastery of it.

Even he confessed once more that I knew nearly everything about him, and yet there was always more to know about Sombra.

I hummed in his fuzzy ears briefly. "Would that be a good place to go, Sombra?"

He finally retreated from the thick wave of my mane, which still cascaded down my side. Sombra blinked, but did not look far away. He never did, most of the time it was just remembering and fighting an old recollection. He was always here.

"I..." He paused this time, and it was shorter. Sombra simply wanted to clear his throat as much as I wanted to wrap him in my forehooves and usher him out into the mountain air, where my night still waited. I wanted to throw a snowball right in his face because we loved to do that and he always had something witty to say.

He really never left. Whatever pony - it was likely a pony, after all - started such a notion that somepony like Sombra would 'leave' during such experiences or that they would grow less lucid and fade... they are frankly nothing more than an imbecile of the highest grade, and part of me only wishes that I could be surprised. Sombra isn't some dual-faced raving lunatic, but many threads woven together. He does not change in an instant. He does not change at all, really. Sombra is like the serpent in Crystalline lore, though he does not destroy himself through self-devouring. He is constant, and every part of him relates to the other.

"I have been working on something there... and I would like to show it to you." One forehoof kicks the ground slightly and those crimson eyes that have seen so, so much never look away from my face, taking in every detail. There's his adventurous spirit in there, as undeniable as ever.

Smiling, I don't look away from Sombra. Why would I? "I would love to, Sombra."

A split-second ghost of a small, smirk-y smile appears on his muzzle, and even though it vanishes again, I know that he will work through this.

Lighting his horn with a deeper crimson aura, Sombra takes a few steps forward and nuzzles my cheek, a slight purr rumbling in his throat. I feel his forehoof pull me close to him, into a hug, and I move with him.

And then, we are gone.

...

I feel far warmer than I should. A simple hug shouldn't have me burning up like I had a mild fever. With my eyes still squeezed shut, I wrapped my forehooves around Sombra, pulling him close to me. All around us, the air felt like wind when I flew on a blustery day and battered me. This would not feel so bad, except that this place - Sombra's little world - did not feel very little at all, but like some yawning hole, which is not what I imagined everything would be, nor did I count on this feverish feeling.

Opening my eyes to find that I was clinging to Sombra was not unexpected at all. But, to find myself enveloped in a veil of multi-hued flame was certainly quite a surprise.

I quickly looked at Sombra, who returned my gaze levelly, and then proceeded to blink owlishly and react appropriately when one finds themselves engulfed in magical fire.

"This tickles."

Sombra smirked slightly, the glow of his horn fluctuating as it bore multiple spells within the dark. "Is that so? I wouldn't know."

"Sombra," I asked curiously, untwining myself from our hug, "why aren't you on fire?"

"I don't need to be."

Another blink from me. "Pardon?"

"I'm not an Alicorn like you who can handle certain extreme conditions. We're in a flipping black hole; it's freezing."

I nodded in understanding. Sombra being trapped in the ice of the Arctic left him unable to feel cold, and the sensation of this abyss would be lost on him.

Blinking in the glow of Sombra's horn and the fire around me, I let my gaze sweep over my surroundings.

Stretching before us is indeed an abyss devoid of all but shadows, Sombra, and myself. I stretch my wings and rustle my feathers a little, and found that the fire clings to my form and follows my movement without needing Sombra to control it. How useful.

I smiled at Sombra, who surveyed the void-scape with ease. He finally looked more focused and his usual demeanor was returning.

"So what is it that you have hidden in here?" I ask, giving him a playful look. "An armory?" I asked, my tone almost hopeful. I adore armories, and found that you could learn a good deal about somepony from the weapons that they owned - just as there was art to wielding them and crafting them, there was an art to selecting them as well.

If Sombra can hide anything in a void with neither a solid place to stand - I thought we might be floating, or somehow standing on nothing at all - or anything truly above us, surely an armory is likely?

Sombra's eyes searched the shadows for something even my eyes could not see, and he does not look at me when he replies. "No, I can't say I have an armory drifting in here, but there's something I've been waiting to share with you... I was thinking of showing it to you when I was finished, but that's not the case any more."

"Hmm, complete or in pieces, I enjoy surprises and am certain that yours will not suddenly disrupt that. Whatever could you possibly mean by drifting?"

"I haven't tethered it anywhere yet," Sombra says simply. "We might have to go hunting for it," he mutters, sounding distracted.

I clapped my forehooves together and beamed merrily at him. "Hunting sounds splendid! I used to hunt for the wolves I kept ages ago, for they usually bonded with me when they were too young to hunt."

He smiled a little but said nothing.

"Do you know the scope of your realm?"

"Not yet, but I can feel that it's big." He tilted his head to the side and flicked those fluffy ears. "It's somewhere nearby..."

Minding the flames quietly, I listened to Sombra mutter. He was trying to sense things with that strange sense he had, and me moving about in a plain that was more abundant than Midgard would likely disrupt him.

Sombra lights his horn eventually, and the glow of his deep crimson aura casts eerie patches of shadow on him and I that waver as the light shimmers and ripples. His irises flash with the same light, and when I squint in the dark, I am sure that I can see something - from here they almost look like rows of that reddish magic - scrolling across his eyes faintly.

Next to Sombra, the ground trembles faintly - and in this abyss, such a sound has an ominous quality to it. My focus drops with it, and I watch as flecks of the fathomless darkness, start to... flake away, and revel that below them - my heart leaps at the sight and I gasp in wonder - washes of splendid color like the heavens themselves, visible only for a moment before everything was restored, and I saw shadows again.

Yet, I was still left breathless at the sight something that I now knew was pinned below all this shadow - there was a duality to Sombra's world.

Sombra was still concentrating, so there must be more to come with his horn still a-glow. All I needed to do was be patient.

His entire form shone with the faintest crimson aura, flowing from his horn all around him, pulsing once and then vanishing. Then, from under his hooves, traces of the strange, shifting script that his magic will often take the shape of.

While the script itself was rapidly-shifting and ever-changing, as well as chaotic, it remained in columns as it flashed across the ground and shot off into the darkness.

The flames clinging to me flickered with the same anticipation tat shone in Sombra's eyes, thought they obviously lacked his calculating quality that was brighter than any of the embers dancing around me.

His ears pricked again, sensing something I couldn't. "It's over there."

I couldn't see anything, but I trusted Sombra, and instinctively leaned toward him when he moved to place a kiss on my cheek.

"Follow me," he said, using only the way he flicked his gaze to indicate direction.

I nodded, smiling slightly. What reason was did I have not to go with him?

He smirked as I leaned forward to - so I could nuzzle him, and then I pulled back.

Lighting my horn felt strange here. My magic did flare, but it was also swept up in the cloak of flame, causing it to have a turquoise stripe in it, weaving through the multi-hued light.

My aura was fainter here, but still visible in the dark as it collected around Sombra's muzzle, mostly near his chin.

Sombra's smirk widened as I scratched under his chin, causing a small, rumbling purr to emit from him, that is, until he leaned in again to nuzzle me. I halt my magic and watch as he takes off first, chasing whatever shadows his magic has detected.

Spreading my flame-covered wings, I follow.

...

I don't know what it is I expected to be found in here, but it wasn't whatever was lying before me. Sombra is always filled with surprises, so I knew that must be hiding something great, though I hadn't the faintest inkling to what it could be... not until now.

I knew not how long we had been moving, only that it was a shorter gallop than I expected through the unknown stretches of Everything.

Looming right in front of me was something other than Sombra and I among this black expanse. Like the light I saw shining below the abyss-like surface of Sombra's plain - how fitting it was that everything would lie below the surface - this structure radiated the same burning wash of colors... though in a far more concentrated way.

The luminous glow was not a harsh one, and though bright, it was restrained compared to the wild display from before.

But the structure itself? Sombra stood the the shadow of it - the penumbra, if I am to be precise - and I eventually landed beside him, awestruck at just what was lying before me.

'Twas a partially completed building built of so much magic, I swear that my coat buzzed with it! I had seen nothing quite like it before. The closest thing that came to mind was the forsaken ruins that gaped in the Everfree like a broken scab... and some place I had not been since my reunion with Celestia - even thinking about it now warmed my chest.

And then I thought of the true castle below it - the Everfree Palace, the foalhood home of Celestia and I, burned to rubble and disconnected corridors because of her own magic and fire.

This structure was closer to that. Even the skeleton I saw was no skeleton - it was not the remains of something great, but the foundations. To my left, it looked quite intact, even if it was not complete, with an almost full wall rising, and carrying over to the barrier in front of me: a proud structure that almost seemed arrogant in how sturdy, grand, and erudite it looked. Were this anything like an ordinary place to be besieged, it would hold fast and not fall, and the presence that this place had seemed to communicate the same... as though some impossible knowledge had been left in it.

It might not be nearly as impossible though... but were that possible it would not be in a way ponies expect, of course. Most of Sombra's creations - the ones he has told me about - have some kind of a connection to him that allows them to be faintly aware of something.

If I remember exactly how he put it: because he is a demon, his body and soul born from dark magic while the soul of his caster - curse him - is fused within his body, but not his mind, he is able to create things with a very faint connection to him and some level of awareness of him, for he is not a pony and is not recognized as one by magic, but as the demon he is. Sombra is the master creation and example of magic's greatest taboo: to have true life born from magic is the darkest art of all, and Sombra maintains influence over lesser artifacts and nexuses that are created and managed by him.

This amazing place likely has some of him woven into it - intentional or otherwise - in more than just an aesthetic way.

Tearing my eyes away from the fantastically constructed, if incomplete, building before me was difficult, and I didn't want to do so.

Despite being worked from magic, it was clearly quite solid, and I knew that if I were to lay a hoof on its surface or walk upon the floors of this mighty hall, it would not feel like the rest of this place - where I almost felt suspended out here, standing, yet feeling nothing under me. For somepony who didn't know flight or magic, it would be terrifying.

"Som," I whispered, unable to hide any breathless awe, even I wished to. "What is this place?"

He didn't move, but his eyes found me. "You like it?"

I nodded, dumbstruck. "Oh, Som, it looks like something out of a wondrous dream... Please, tell me what it is. Could we go inside...?"

I felt his muzzle against my check as he nuzzled me, and I rustled my feathers, stretched out a wing, and wrapped it around him like a feathery cloak.

"We're going to. As for what it is?" He smirked enigmatically. "You'll see."

"But Som," I protested, pouting. "Why must you be so mysterious?"

He grins briefly, and a bit awkwardly, flashing his fangs in a momentary smile. "Do you think I plan on telling you?"

I sighed and re-examined the incomplete building. What magnificent things could lurk inside something like that? I paused to think of how marvelous it would look when it was complete before tugging one of Sombra's forelegs gently. "May we enter it now?"

Nodding slightly, Sombra stepped forward to the thick magic-wrought double doors that would have dwarfed even my sister, if she were here. He lit his horn and cloaked the wide, polychromatic doors in his aura before pushing them open - and from within, light and sound poured out, acting as a stark contrast to his dark and constant appearance as it poured around him. His focus diverted to something inside. Sombra waved a hoof in my direction, and the small gesture did not go unnoticed by my perceptive eyes.

I felt my heart pound with excitement and another gasp get itself caught in my throat as I slipped my hoof into his, looked upon him, and stepped inside.

...

The thunderous echo of the doors closing behind me reached my ears and the rush of air from their movement caused my mane to billow forward for a moment.

I stared, slack-jawed at everything in front of me as my ears rang with the sound of my skipping heart.

As great in size as this building was on the outside, the interior was even more vast. Whether that was simply an effect of the gaping incomplete-ness this place had, the objects within, how surprised I was, or something else entirely - and there was still the chance that Sombra had worked even more magic to contain all this.

The same rather radiant design was implemented here, magic made even more physical held the furniture that Sombra brought within. His pocket realm had gray crystalline tree-like structures to hold many of the books he kept - volumes both new and old, stolen or obtained through favors. He repaired them and kept the tattered ones from being damaged further. Restoration and preservation were just as important to him as obtaining volumes.

He'd keep books on nearly anything, even out of date editions that most wouldn't look twice at, and while I had taken a good look at numerous books he had in his pocket realm and browsed their pages, bookmarked with photographs of landscapes, himself, Cadance, and I, seeing both new tomes and the things I lent him, Sombra kept far more down here.

Pragmatic, sturdy, and heavy shelves lined a good portion of his multi-tiered and many-halled library - nay, I almost want to call this a sanctum of knowledge, for it is so grand - and sat upon ethereal, shimmering balconies, some of which appeared to dissolve into thin air where they remained incomplete, their edges wavering.

Of course, they were crowded with all kinds of books. I recognized parts taken from airships, stones painted with the patterns of the buffalo, and other exotic and bizarre trinkets being used as labelled bookends.

Long tables, similar to the bookshelves in design, were arranged nearby, so that they were close to the shelves bursting with tomes, scrolls, and written works that Sombra did not care to leave out in the open. An array of scrolls littered their surface, some of them spread open with a similar, but still sparse amount of knickknacks.

Other objects litter the surface: the gears and other parts of a dissected machine that I recognize as a crystal projector, a globe depicting only one hemisphere, a small selection of crystalline objects, and six blades, including Sombra's usual sword, Fate. Between these spreads are various tools and magical instruments. I even spot a few notebooks.

The ceiling only partially covers the wondrous contents - and I see I was right to describe such a structure as 'erudite', for it is a fitting description. Any great sorcerer would envy both building and contents. The gap and lack of completion on one side allows the shadows to pour in from where they crouch, creating an interesting contrast that emphasized the interior of the library.

"Som..." I breathed, eyes wide and unable to look at anything enough. "You... You made all of this...?"

"Almost all of it," he corrects as he looks out at the vast rows of accumulated knowledge like one might stand dramatically atop a mountain and think themselves profound.

It was not a bad look for him either.

I nodded silently, letting my gaze sweep across everything. This was all so personal and precious. Would he let me examine anything he had here? I desperately wanted to. The old itch that came with seeing all this wonderful material, arcane or otherwise, never ceased to stir something in me.

Why, I noticed that above his tables, soaring above pencils, pens, stacks of paper, and other things were the same gliders he kept in his pocket realm... the ones that I had made for him. I heard them flittering and almost ran off to chase them, or to run off among the stout work tables and ogle at what looked like the parts of a magnificent telescope waiting to be assembled.

"This place... it's brilliant..."

"I'm aware," he said rather quietly - but that did not stop me from almost being able to hear the smirk in his voice and how much pride he took in his creation.

I took a few steps forward so that i could stand beside him and brush the tips of my feathers through his mane. "I can only imagine the power you had to expend to craft this... and it still is not done, hmm?"

His ears twitched and I watched him relax as I kept stroking his mane. "Far from it," he muttered, stepping closer to me so that our withers brushed. "I've been working on it for a while... and planned to surprise you with it eventually."

My brow knitted. "But would this not take far longer to complete? Decades, perhaps?"

"Yeah," he breathed. "I just estimated I would be farther along when I decided to show you."

I gave Sombra a sideways glance. "This is already impressive in its current state. I can assure you that nopony alive, even were they divine or demigod, could manage something like this." Nibbling my lip I scanned the shelves again. There were likely a few books I could gift to him from the Archives if this is what I thought it was in terms of how he would use it. "The patience for it... the power to have these kinds of skills... I would love to know exactly what you did to make this, and if you plan on sharing the wealth of your house of knowledge."

I catch the ghost of a half smile mark his face briefly, even if his eyes are not on me, I catch a little laughter in them. "Only with you. I plan to keep this for centuries to come and see just what I can populate this place with." He gives me a quick nuzzle on the neck and pulls away quickly, a split-second dry chuckle echoing throughout the halls. "Nopony else will ever see what I have here unless I want them to."

A coy smile curls onto my muzzle. "Oh? Well, I am most pleased to here that, my love. Anything the Archives can spare will soon adorn these shelves that you shall protect so fiercely."

Without another exchange between us, I throw my hooves around his neck and pull him into a deep kiss as I savor the warmth of his presence and how the contours of his form feel against mine. Sombra is surprised, but obviously pleased, and eagerly returns the gesture and another nuzzle that clearly communicates: you are always welcome here.

Though his embrace was something I was unlikely to shirk, I nudged him away, still eager to view the library with him.

Floating above the library's center was the column of script that we had chased here, looping and twirling in the air as it burst as bright as fireworks, only with a notable lack of sound. It made for a lovely sight that only encouraged my giddy smile to grow.

I was about to exclaim 'look' and had waved my forehoof in Sombra's direction-

-and felt it collide with his muzzle, causing him to make many disgruntled and startled murps.

"Oh, Som! I'm sorry! I did not meant to-"

He glared at me a made a series of grumpy demon noises.

Now, it was my turn to stare. "Err..."

Scoffing, he rolls his eyes with faux annoyance and pulls my fire-shrouded form into the warmest hug I have ever known, and most of it has to do with the fire.

...

A cool wind stirred my feathers, and I sighed at the caress. The night still hung over Canterhorn Mountain as Sombra and I stood hours later in the dark before the dawn, watching the shadow of snowflakes stir in the vast darkness shrouding Equestria.

The fluttering of a cloak that couldn't be from could be heard nearby. No sun was even close to hanging in the sky, but Canterlot cut a darker shadow against the air of my night below us, waiting for the moon to poke out below the cover of the clouds so the few ponies who might still linger at this hour would have illumination other than the enchanting glow of the hoofful of lanterns flickering in the streets.

Tia would be sleeping soundly in her chambers, and I, the morning pony of us both would have to wake her eventually. She disliked the cold and always tried to get as much time with the blankets in the winter-time. Cold hooves were such a travesty to her. I swear, if I had not known her as my dear sister, who walked the world beside me when I was young, I would think her soft for how she wishes to live.

At least Sombra has a reason to want to stay burrowed in blankets. If he is exposed to the morning light of the sun in any fashion, and stirs because of it instead of collapsing deeper into his unnaturally deep slumber, it will hurt his eyes.

Snow and dew clung to the mountain grass that brushed up against my legs, dampening them.

Another sweet, cool breeze howled in the dark, and I saw Sombra in the dark, tilting up his head to enjoy it flowing through his shaggy coat. With a small flash of my magic, no brighter than the glow of a firefly, I flicked at the tips of his ears and heard him chuckle, shifting slightly. Snow crunched as a result.

I let out a heavy, contented sigh, like that of a pony who has stuffed themselves at Hearth's Warming and greatly enjoyed the experience - only this was better.

To stand alone, together with Sombra in the cold hours before the dawn, to blink and see shadows still when I opened my eyes, and to know the energy that the chilly air that I gulp eagerly, like one might down homemade cider, gives as it brushes my lean form is more satisfying than any feast or trivial company.

Looking at Sombra again, who looks positively enchanting all wrapped up in the rich shades of shadow, I know that I am going to have to leave. Eventually.

Eventually.

Swallowing slightly, I dismiss the thoughts and wander over to Sombra, who like me, stands like a phantom in this night. My head comes to rest against his wither, where I slump as we sit down together, the both of us wishing the night shall not pass - something that causes my heart to ache a little.

If I look up at him, I can see how focused he is on what stars that he can see, and the calculating shine in his eyes makes it clear to me that he is counting them. Wordlessly, I move one of my forehooves with quiet precision and gently grab onto one of his, and while he does tense slightly at the touch, he relaxes seconds later - something he only does with me - and lets me guide his hoof up to the ghost of a star that only my night-touched eyes have spotted.

"There," I whisper, sitting up a little and letting my breath warm his ear, "is one you missed."

Nodding, he wraps that foreleg around me. "Thank you," he says quietly, letting the sound blend with the silence instead of breaking it.

I nod into his wither, he need not specify what he is thanking me for. I know.

"Always," I whisper back, clutching him again.

When morning comes, I do not want to leave, but this is never our last night.

Sombra and I sit together and observe the sights and sounds of the continuing night before I get my reminder: a faint touch of alien color on the horizon.

Color alien only to the night. My next sigh is a heavy one, and it is half-buried in Sombra's cloak and fur as I wish to root myself into the mountain we gather on, where I storm watch and star gaze with him, just for a little while.

"You can lower the moon from here," he reminds me, and never unhelpfully. His eyes are still on the sky because we have been through this before. My sister waits in Canterlot, it is as simple as that, and with my sister is the job I have been working hard at, though Celestia deems it required, while I deem it something I do of my own free will. One day, I could walk up to Sombra with nothing on my back and tell him that we are leaving, because I know he stays only for me. We could disappear into any lonesome place - some place far more isolated than this - and we could see everything and I could feel the wind.

Most days I want to.

The thought of seeing ponies already has a coil of exhaustion working itself through me, but I pull myself up anyway, and Sombra rises with me, running his hoof through my mane.

"What's your plan?" he asks quietly, leaning close to me so he can nibble my ear, causing me to bite back a short squeak many who know me not would deem 'uncharacteristic' of me. Ha.

Averting my eyes from the first rays of dawn, I light my horn and feel the sky, as I do every dusk and dawn.

"I think I shall stay a while longer."

Author's Note:

Thanks for reading~!

If you'd like to read more in this continuity...


Psst... if you were interested in that bit Luna mentioned, about Sombra's creations having a tie to him and just wanted it worded differently, he's basically similar a horcrux that can create smaller horcruxes without needing to do the soul-splitting thing, since he's different from a lich/similar creature.

Comments ( 4 )

8361560
Well, I should probably just start by saying this: if you haven't noticed this, or read my other stories, I don't use anything from the comics in my writing, so this Sombra is not the comic Sombra.

He is 'reconstructed' through self-revival, from another story here. This Sombra is capable of using multiple kinds of magic with ease. He is the god of knowledge from a previous story set in the same universe, and it has a connection to him being an immortal being. Or were you asking why he is knowledge's god instead of why he's a god?

And no, Twilight is just a demigod. She technically wouldn't be called the 'Demigod of Magic' or anything, just 'the demigod princess of friendship'. The same would apply to Cadance, who is a demigod that is the princess of love instead of a demigod of love (which isn't something that would be possible to be).

I hope this answers your questions.

9110933
Thanks so much for reading!:raritywink:

I had always thought of showing him Solace, so why would he not wish to show me Everything?

Beautiful. Both the inner realms, and the fact that you used these as the chapter titles. :twilightsmile:

Poor Sombra. I'm glad he has Luna there by his side through the night terrors and horrible memories. I'm also glad that she has him. The reveal of Everything was so sweet and heartfelt. You write this ship (which I honestly feel is basically yours in terms of lore/worldbuilding/pure amount of love and words) in a way that makes both characters seem perfect for each other. Some great romance on top of the usual Ice Star touches of brilliance.

An easy fave for a great story!

10694929

Fluffy petty criminal Sombra and his adventurous amour are fun to read.

The real challenge of answering this comment is are you describing Sombra as fluffy or the general tone as fluffy? Maybe even both? Anyway, welcome to one of my best fics, holy heck.

You always do such a great job with setting up mood and atmosphere in your stories, especially at night. The descriptions of a cold, snowy evening almost make me want to bust out a blanket and make some hot cocoa, and it's sunny today!

Scenery porn is my only fetish.

So much playful sass!

Sassy lovely goth horses are the best goth horses, that's why!

10694958

And speaking of, I find it interesting (though not surprising) that the events of Hearth's Warming in your 'verse are apparetnly much different (probably darker) than the play shown in the show.

You have no idea! 👀

Just another difference between Luna and Celestia here, where Celestia is very much into keeping up appearances and keeping the populace happy, and Luna is... definitely not. Her characterization, along with Sombra's, makes them match up together well. There's a spirit of rebellion, grounded in truth, between them that is rather charming and likeable.

They're the be queer, do crime couple just come out and say it. :ajsmug:

10694983

I'm glad he has Luna there by his side through the night terrors and horrible memories. I'm also glad that she has him. The reveal of Everything was so sweet and heartfelt. You write this ship (which I honestly feel is basically yours in terms of lore/worldbuilding/pure amount of love and words) in a way that makes both characters seem perfect for each other. Some great romance on top of the usual Ice Star touches of brilliance.

N-no hetero to you too okay aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

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