• Published 23rd Apr 2018
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Flash Sentry and the King's Ghost - Carabas



Flash Sentry, hero of Equestria and all-round cad, reckoned a peaceful posting in the Crystal Empire would keep him far away from any danger. He reckoned wrong.

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Chapter 3: The Old One-Two

“I wonder, Chalcedony, if there was some confusion in the way my instructions for this eventuality were passed down.”

I’d gibbered. I’d kicked. I’d produced noises in a pitch high enough to make glass creak and dogs whimper. I’d struggled against my restraints. And I had accomplished exactly nothing of use for several awful moments. The temperature in the cavern had seemed to drop a notch as an awkward silence held court past my own sphere of terrified warbling. Sombra’s voice abruptly rumbled out from the stone under me to pass the above remark, and failed to soothe my frame of mind in any way whatsoever.

“Dread King, I assure you, he fits the parameters you specified,” said Chalcedony, a nervous edge to her voice. She glared daggers at me. “Would you shush?”

“I wonder this, Chalcedony, because I recall ordering you and the others to bring me a hero of Equestria, or some stalwart who could get close to the princesses without arousing suspicion. What you instead appear to have brought me is a squalling custard in what approximates to the guise of a pony.”

“Dread King, I can explain —”

“Do so.”

“This one is a hero of Equestria, Dread King, on my word and life. He was awarded the Celestial Cross, for gallantry during a incursion in Canterlot. He … he is surely trying to throw us off the scent by playing the idiot craven.”

“What a loss to the theatrical profession he is, if so.” I felt Sombra’s full attention descend upon me, filling my world in the same way tsunamis fill eggcups. The veins of the stone under me boiled crimson, and the eyes of the hewn unicorn head over me shone like falling stars. “You. Cease squalling.”

Caught between the natural urge to keep whimpering, which seemed to be exactly what the situation demanded, and to do exactly what the terrifying undead-wizard-ghost-king-rock-thing said, my vocal cords froze with indecision. Certain death awaited me, I was sure. And I regarded it as merely certain death because I wasn’t sure if there was a category beyond ‘certain’. Most parts of my mind and body had shut down at this point.

Only most, though. For one part of me hadn’t ceased in its efforts, would never cease, would stand steadfast at its post in the very face of Tartarus — especially in the very face of Tartarus.

That part was my sense of self-preservation. And what it noted was this: Sombra apparently required a hero of Equestria as his vessel, whatever that entailed. Perhaps the souls of true heroes made better fuel for awful dark magic, I couldn’t say. But if there was ever a pony in whom I was to confide my true self, he was the one.

“Let us have something resembling civilised discourse, hero of Equestria,” The words purred off Sombra’s tongue, or whatever he currently had that was doing duty as a tongue. “I am King Sombra. Introduce yourself.”

I swallowed, and with great effort, managed to contort the plaintive squeak that escaped me into something like words. “F — Flash Sentry. Lieutenant Flash Sentry, of the Royal Guard —”

“Oh dear. What tragic days these must be for that honourable institution.”

“Yes!” I nodded frantically, and steeled myself for confession. “Yes, very tragic. Letting scum like me in the ranks. You see, despite what everypony thinks, I’m actually a scoundrel and a massive coward.”

“Oh?”

Sombra seemed to have taken my confession in his stride. Chalcedony less so. “He’s lying, Dread King!” she yelped. “He’s got sufficient vices to have let me lure him down here, granted, but —”

“You are interrupting our conversation, Chalcedony,” said Sombra, the words reasonable, but the tone something that could snuff cold the sun. Chalcedony immediately cowered. “Attend to drawing me out. I shall attend to conversing with the good lieutenant.”

Chalcedony rushed to obey, and her horn blazed. The veins of the rock and eyes of the carved unicorn head seethed even as they seemed to dim, and the aura around her horn built in intensity. I was aware of strange magic eddying and flowing about the other cowls, as if they were pitching in as well. Not pleasant magic either; the sort of skin-prickling stuff that would have struck me as deeply, deeply malevolent had there not been such a stiff competitor on the malevolence front demanding my attention.

Said competitor, meanwhile, turned his full attention back on me. And never mind how I knew. I just knew. Sombra’s tone flipped smoothly back to its usual sonorous awfulness. “A massive coward, you say?”

“Yes! Yes, absolutely!” I gabbled as surely no pony had gabbled before. “All these heroic deeds ponies have heard about? Lies or misunderstandings or reckless assumptions on their part! All those death-defying perilous escapades I’ve been in? I spent them all crying and trying to hide while other ponies solved things! Want a heroic type for your plans? Not it! Really and truly not it!”

Sombra absorbed this. Chalcedony’s magic continued in the background even as a strangled hiss of dismay escaped her. One of the other cowls might have snickered.

“Fascinating,” purred Sombra, at last. “Anything else you feel you should impart? You can trust me. Tell Good King Sombra.”

“Um,” I managed. This hadn’t quite produced the fury at the expense of Chalcedony and his other minions I’d been hoping for. Sombra seemed worryingly at ease about things. I prodded my sense of self-preservation for an ingenious new avenue to pursue, and it helplessly shrugged. “Er.”

“Nothing? Ah well.” The aura around Chalcedony’s horn built, thickened to the consistency of smoke, and flecks of purple and green and red flurried within it. Sombra’s voice seemed to come from both it and the stone under me at once. “Despite us being acquainted for no more than five minutes, half of which you spent discovering new throat noises, I’m very, very glad you felt you could be so honest with me, Lieutenant Sentry. It shan’t change any of the facts of your situation or future, of course. Chalcedony has done well after all. You, in and of yourself, are irrelevant. Your public image is all I require.”

“I don’t understand,” I said in a very small voice. Magic swirled in the chamber, cold and thick and cloying, emanating from Chalcedony and her follow cultists lending their own latent power to proceedings, and more and more of Sombra’s voice rang from the aura around Chalcedony’s horn. It seemed to be taking on a rough shape as well.

“Do allow a sorcerer-king to indulge in a vice befitting his position,” said Sombra, his voice rich with amusement. “Do let me tell you what your future holds.” Things leaned closer to me in the darkness, from every direction at once. “I’ve tried to replicate the pleasure through other means, rest assured, but I just find there’s nothing quite like looking into a pair of eyes, seeing the hope shining there, and snuffing it out.”

I’ve had happier conversations, I shan’t lie. I emitted a sort of strangled bleat, which Sombra seemed to take as encouragement.

“Do you see Chalcedony there? She is drawing me out from this stone — or rather, a part of my essence. One of many in addition to what my crystals held, split off in the event of a temporary setback and concealed and primed to allow my rise again. All I require is a suitable host in which I may rise. A unicorn would be preferable,” he briefly mused, “but that is not so great a hurdle to clear. What I inhabit, I mould and refashion like wet clay. All I’ll need is a little time.And what I’ll do will be so easily hidden, till I choose to unveil myself.”

“But why me?” I squawked. None of this was fun. Even judged in light of the universe’s usual habit of kicking me in the shins, this seemed especially unfair. I wanted answers. Well, no. What I really wanted was a stay of sentence. Keeping the horrible ghost-king-essence-thing talking could accomplish that until a miracle happened.

I do hate it when I have to include ‘and hope a miracle happens’ as a step in a plan.

Sombra cheerfully kept gloating. Huzzah for my plans. “You, for all you may be a degraded specimen with all the backbone and resolve of a dead worm, are believed to be a hero of Equestria. Both by Chalcedony’s judgement and your own confession. And that is acceptable. A pony thought to be a hero may go many places without exciting comment. May achieve all manner of personal audiences.” The coalescing head of Sombra loomed closer to me. I wish it hadn’t. The more defined its features became, the more It hurt to look at. “Why, they won’t be suspected of a thing. Even by the Princesses themselves.”

“You wouldn’t dare,” I choked.

Sombra laughed, the sound like tombstones being shaken about in a sack. “I would dare. I’ve dared more from much poorer positions, and prevailed more oft than not. Mighty Celestia, grim Luna, brilliant Cadence, and their latest little acolyte… they will all be blindsided, none shall see me coming. None of them. And in the chaos their absence makes, there will be nothing and nopony to stop me. Nothing to stop a black tide from the north surging south to swallow all Equestria.” His dreadful voice dropped a dreadfuller octave, relishing the words. “To swallow everything. All the world made a blank canvas for my will. And you’ll have prime vantage over it all, Lieutenant Sentry. Your eyes will see it all unfold. Don’t you feel lucky?”

In times like these, a hero stoutly declares, “You won’t get away with this, you fiend!” or something of the sort. I wibble. I accordingly wibbled.

“Dread King,” whispered Chalcedony, her voice strained and her horn burning, “pardon your servant, but we are almost ready.” The very air about her thrummed with dark promise, and a low susurration made every bit of me crawl. The other cultists chanting something under their breath didn’t help in the slightest.

“Very good, Chalcedony.” Sombra’s voice glistened — glistened, I say — with pleased anticipation. His form in the air was all but solid. “Finish things, and I shall see what our gallant lieutenant is made of.”

Flailing, blustering, whining, confessing, praying for a miracle, and crying had all availed nothing, and so I turned to my last staple: flailing with extra desperation. I thrashed at my bonds, frantically trying to loosen a rope, break a crucial strand or two, do anything that could let me bound free and fly for another continent, or the Moon**, whichever was furthest away from Sombra.

**By way of gracing this narrative with fun historical trivia, during the previously alluded-to Night of the Two Lunas, terrified court astronomers and stargazers estimated that the Moon did indeed come sufficiently close to the world that the distance between it and the surface was indeed less than that between our home continent and its neighbours. The combined effort of the two Lunas in vacuuming up the contents of the Royal Gin Cabinet beforehand may have played something of a role in this.

But it was for naught. I was held fast, helpless to do anything but watch Chalcedony’s horn flame, and see Sombra’s smile sharpen like a tiger’s, and feel the dark magic howl all about me. And all these horrible things ripped across my senses, and came screaming to a peak, and then...

And then...

And then a miracle happened.

A door at the back of the room creaked upon, a glowing rectangle of sudden salvation. And in it, candlelight bathing her in a halo-ish glow as she nosed through, there stood Carrot Top.

She wore her staff uniform and shawl still, as well as an expression of hard, suspicious scrutiny on her features. For a moment, an echoing hush prevailed as she turned her head to take in the scene — cowled cultists, Chalcedony, a spectral Sombra, yours truly in distress. She continued to steadily appraise the situation as said cultists, Chalcedony, Sombra, and self bestowed on her looks of varying shock, annoyance, and giddy relief.

Carrot Top didn’t say a word. Her form imperceptibly tensed. Her eyes narrowed by maybe around a millimetre.

It was Chalcedony who spoke first. “Garnet, if you would?” she snapped, gesturing at Carrot Top with a forehoof. One of the cowls dipped his head in acknowledgement and promptly made the most unwise decision of his life. He stepped towards Carrot Top with hostile intent.

Garnet raised one shovel-sized forehoof with the presumed intention of knocking out a maid who had stumbled across proceedings. For his trouble, one blindingly-fast forehoof smashed up into his jaw and rocketed him bipedal. He tottered in place, making no sound and gradually donning the faintly puzzled, wide-eyed expression of a stallion who’d just pulled in a fishing line and found a shark rising to meet him. He seemed a little too amazed to process his own concussion.

Then, as he stood there, yet another blindingly-fast forehoof cracked forward into an area few stallions aspire to be kicked in. My eyes watered. Even the ghostly form of Sombra might have winced. Garnet keeled over, issuing pathetic meeps, and Carrot Top stalked over him and angled herself right at Chalcedony. Her expression was unchanging, save for when she spared me a glance. And just for the briefest moment, she seemed to sigh, and soften, and mutter something under her breath.

It was hard to make out past the murk and distance, but it might have been, “I leave you alone for one minute, Flash.”

“Chalcedony, as you were. All others, at her,” snarled Sombra, and that bucked the hesitating herd of cowls to life again. They lurched at Carrot Top, some of them slipping on iron shoes or whipping out various blunt and nasty-looking implements out from under their robes, leaving Chalcedony to strain with focusing the room’s magics all by herself.

And as I thrashed at my bonds, grabbing hold of this lifeline and yanking maniacally on it like I had never yanked anything before, Carrot Top greeted the first cowl in her inimitable style. They sprang at her wildly with a club, an instrument which she swept out of the way from, kicked out of their grasp, snatched in her teeth, brought down across their skull, and then demonstrated the proper use thereof on their two friends who came tripping in the wake of the first cowl. Yowls and meaty thunks rang out like a symphony.

“A poor showing,” Sombra murmured to himself. His attention had turned away from me, thank heavens, but was instead on Carrot Top, which left me wary. “But promise, as well. Keep at it, Chalcedony.”

“Yes, Dread King,” the mare replied. She was sweating with exertion, and her horn faintly smoked as she plunged herself ever deeper into the complex, awful sorcery. I’d have been impressed at her skill if it hadn’t been demonstrated at my inevitable expense. “Almost there. Almost, almost.”

One of the ropes about my right foreleg had about a millimetre of give in it. Much-abused muscles in that leg squealed in protest as I tried to wrench it looser and yet looser, and I frantically turned to Carrot Top to see how her rescue was progressing.

Carrot Top has a rare talent. She can take even the most burly and grizzled of opponents and help them realise their dreams of becoming sopranos, whether they realised they entertained such dreams or not. At least three cowls were doing so on the ground behind her. They showed little enthusiasm for rising, and the remaining standing cowls showed scarcely more enthusiasm for getting stuck in. Carrot Top was engaged in furious hoofticuffs with one who had a bit more courage and skill than her fellows, but alas for her, not nearly enough of the latter. She was knocked spinning, and also out, just as one other cowl lunged at Carrot Top’s back to try and take her by surprise. Emphasis on try. Carrot Top wheeled on him and did something indescribably fast and violent that sent him flying. I swear he bounced off two walls before he came to a merciful stop, but before he’d even hit the first, Carrot Top was already turning to face the next gaggle. They approached her like nervous colts at a school dance, and seemed to each be unconsciously urging the others to step in first.

After a few moments of this, where it was clear nopony was plucking up their courage and Carrot Top would remain danceless, Carrot Top reached into a pocket of her uniform, and I just caught a glimpse of her throwing some black capsule at the ground beneath their hooves before the capsule exploded. Clouds of acrid black smoke erupted into the room, obscuring everypony from view and stinging my eyes. I blinked tears away as I tried to place ponies by where the splutters and coughs and scuffles were coming from. I couldn’t see a thing …

“Flash!”

And then I saw an angel, as Carrot Top poked her head up by where I was sprackled over the stone. Her green eyes gleamed up at me, and I flatter myself I saw momentary concern in them, just before she came lunging up at me with a knife. I squealed on reflex, but she paid me no heed as she adroitly slashed through my bonds. I flopped free, and tried to flex life back into my hooves as I boggled at Carrot Top. “You found me?”

“Had my suspicions of Chalcedony for a while. Noticed her absence and yours, and found two sets of hoof-steps leading down here.” She grimaced round at the room. “Somehow, what I found managed to be even worse than what I expected. This might be a Princess job, all this. Can you run?”

“Never been happier to.” And I meant it. A stallion can ignore all manner of achy hooves when the alternative’s spending more time with King Sombra.

“Good. Get up and —”

But we were interrupted. The smoke-bomb that had so kindly hidden us from view also inconsiderately hid the menagerie of unpleasantness in the room from us, and one of the last cowls came charging out from the smoke with his own club upraised. Carrot Top turned, half-a-second too slow, and his club clouted off her head. She gasped and crashed back against the stone, briefly stunned.

The cowl pressed forward, just as I desperately snapped up my own rear legs to meet him. Somehow, they connected with his neck, and he toppled back spluttering. He vanished from sight, and from mind, and I frantically tried to pull up the groggy-looking Carrot Top. “Carrot?” I prodded her, and tried to judge how best to haul her up and over my wither. “Stars, Carrot. Right, um, er. This might be a bit ungainly...”

“No, Lieutenant Sentry. This’ll be decidedly truncated.”

My least favourite voice in all the world rang out like a funeral bell at a birthday, and I reluctantly turned to see the drifting form of Sombra, looking insufferably smug and more solid than he’d ever been before. Chalcedony trailed behind him, looking exhausted and drained and as if it was a struggle to keep standing. But stand she did, and her horn simmered with the effort of sustaining her king.

He was ready to be unleashed.

I mewled high-pitched blasphemy. Carrot Top shook her head, as if trying to simply wiggle the concussion out.

“You needn’t fret, Lieutenant,” purred Sombra. His eyes glowed. “The plan has shifted somewhat. There have been Special Agents of the Crown since before even I was young, and I know one when it brawls with my followers. I know who’s every bit as likely — likelier, even — to get special access to the Princesses and all the secrets of the Equestrian state. I know who I should really inhabit.”

The bottom dropped out my gut.

“Chalcedony? Unleash me at the agent.”

Chalcedony’s magic speared at Carrot Top, the twisting, smokey shape of Sombra tearing right for her. Carrot Top tried to move aside, but too slowly, too concussedly from the knock she’d taken.

I watched, thoughts screaming like lightning through my poor, dented skull, and all I could do was …

...was...

… well. The pragmatic thing.

I’m not proud of what I did, but let me lay it out for you, and you’ll see that I had no other choice. Sombra was going to possess somepony, come what may. He was unleashed and on course towards the single most dangerous pony in that room. Once he was in her, it’d be certain death for anypony else in the vicinity, and certainer death for everypony else in the Crystal Empire and beyond, if he just had the time.

I weighed that dread certainty. I weighed it against the one and only other option that offered a glimmer of hope, a chance for freedom and safety come the end of things.

And you’ll concur, I pray, that really, all things considered and said and done, that the only sensible, self-preserving thing I could do was to throw myself right in front of Carrot Top and take the spell instead.

At least, reflecting on it all later, that’s probably how I came to that decision. Surely that’s how. It was all a bit of a blur.

Regardless, so I did. My wings flapped like clappers, and I hurled myself before Carrot Top with every ounce of strength I had. There was a surprised snarl from Sombra, a yelp from Chalcedony, and if Carrot Top reacted, I didn’t see it. Smoke crawled in through my eyes, nostrils, ears, everything, black and clotting and poisonous and heavy and rank, enough to drown in, enough to blot out the world, enough for my screams to sink unheard in, all in one ghastly moment…

...and then there was a great peace.

Being possessed is damned odd. How to describe it? It’s somewhat like being aloft on a cloud, where the cloud’s doing whatever it is wild clouds do, and you’re too blissfully at ease with things to try and interfere or weathercraft it or much of anything, even if you were able. Imagine being a flea on the back of a large dog, just watching the world bound by while you idly attended to your flea business.

Alternatively, if you don’t know that feeling, it’s a lot like that time when me and all the other Royal Guard cadets accidentally set fire to a sack of confiscated purple-ish herbs in the evidence room, and proceeded to spend the next week unable to do much more than grin inanely at ceilings and occasionally giggle. Our training sergeant saw the funny side of it. After she’d made us all weep and/or sweat blood with drilling throughout the following week, of course.

It’s not quite like all those things, but it’s close enough. I still saw through my own eyes, and had a vague notion that other things were happening to all my other senses, but it was as if all the exciting stuff in it was something on a stage, happening to somepony else. Namely, the hulking presence of a mind I was dimly aware was sharing my head with me. A bit like sharing a carriage with an exceptionally large, surly, and untrained bear. That seemed unusual, I remember thinking, but I was in a suitably serene, detached frame of mind to just live and let live.

My wings flapped. The new mind radiated vague displeasure with them. They’d keep them, but they’d sooner have a horn. Still, that could be arranged, so no matter. The body was a bit clumsy and new, like trying to fit a hoof in a shoe too small for it. It would all have to be tweaked. Streamlined. Improved.

My mouth opened, quite without my input, but no matter. “The accursed speck. He was not meant to do that,” I snarled. Goodness knows why, I thought, but why not. My mouth and this other great lump of a mind that wanted to play with it could do as they pleased. “Well,” I muttered. “It matters little.”

Behind me, I slowly, clumsily turned to inspect Chalcedony. She and the other cowls were down and out. And I turned back round to behold Carrot Top tottering upright, her gaze sharpening again. She seemed to be trembling with … fear? No. Grief? Maybe. Emotions were hard.

Rage. That was it. That was the main one.

“Let him go,” she whispered. Around the edges of that steady whisper, there flickered the promise of Hell. “Get out of him.”

I glanced her way with what seemed a disdainful, snotty sort of air. “Save your breath, agent. The fool lieutenant is mine now.” I paused then, and from the mind squatting next to mine and dominating events, I felt a spark of irritation. Apparently, my body’s vocal cords weren’t quite up to a rich, sonorous baritone. “Mine for the reshaping. Mine to use and discard as I please. All I need is time.“

“Get out of him,” Carrot Top hissed again.

“Do not bother contesting this or trying to fight me. You are not the first royal agent I’ve crossed paths with, and if you make a fuss, you will not be the first I’ve dispatched. But bend your knee, and I shall permit you to rise again in my service.”

Carrot Top was quiet for a moment then, as she breathed heavily and shook a little more sense back into her head. Then she said, quite quietly, “Time.”

Both minds in my skull could be thrown off-track by simple, declarative, apparently-unrelated words in the middle of a conversation like that. “Explain,” my mouth said.

Carrot Top took a single measured step forwards. “You said it yourself.” She shifted into a low, crouched fighting stance. “You need time.” Her eyes shone like greened steel. “Get out or get kicked out.”

Both minds chewed on that, and the mind next to me seemed to realise what she was getting at first. My body began shuffling back in a trepid sort of way and my mouth started, “Do not —”

Carrot Top hit me like the End-Times.

The following moments are something of a blur. All the unpleasantness that was happening to me was, technically, happening to another mind’s nerve endings. It made it rather hard to keep track. What I have is a series of impressions, from what my own mind vaguely registered and from what the squatting mind next to me yowled.

The first and mildest of these impressions is being kicked so hard I bounced off the ceiling.

One moment, the chamber from my standing vantage point. The next moment, my face meeting the ceiling’s stone so hard I saw I’d left cracks when I came tumbling down. Even in my detached state, I considered that somewhat curious. The other mind got so far as screaming and wondering what in Tartarus just happe— before I was seized and thrown into a wall.

Events proceeded merrily apace from there. As there didn’t seem much for my mind to do, I hummed bawdy tunes, or at least, as much of the tunes I could remember. My squatter tried to withstand Carrot Top, and didn’t. He flailed out with new, clumsy legs, and got them grabbed and twisted and pinched in the pressure points for his trouble. He tried to muster terrible magic to rend Carrot Top asunder, and achieved little but pulling a constipated expression and promptly getting kicked in it. He tried to draw upon upon ghastly, forbidden arts to warp his form and acquire a horn, and had to give up when his thought process kept getting stuck in a great morass of agony. It is damned difficult to muster and cohere your dread arcane powers whilst in the grip of a hurricane that is both made entirely out of kicks to the tender bits and which hates you.

And eventually, he stopped fighting back, and opted for a tactical withdrawal. But at this point, the legs he was using were made out of pain and jelly, and attempting to use unfamiliar wings just resulted in him bouncing face-first off the ceiling a second time. And when he fell to earth, Carrot Top was waiting for him.

She has the honour, which I’m not sure is shared with anypony, of having made King Sombra yelp for his mother.

My own mind was still engaged in the metaphorical equivalent of watching butterflies. But there was one part of it sniffing the air and frowning dubiously. My sense of self-preservation, oldest and truest of friends, was watching my back, was observing that Carrot Top was repeatedly planting a hooftip into that section of my back closest to my kidneys, and thought it best to ask her to stop that.

I tried. But confound it, the other mind still had control of my mouth. They were currently using it to offer Carrot Top a queendom of her choice if she’d just stop kicking him. Please. Pretty please. Ow ow ow. And so forth.

“Get out of him.” Carrot Top didn’t shout. She didn’t raise her tone. She spoke softly and insistently and never, ever stopped.

For my part, I just leaned on the other mind. I wanted my body back so I could chat to Carrot Top. That needed doing, so my sense of self-preservation told me. And I nudged and leaned and gently insisted that the squatter make a bit of room so I could do that.

Sombra, both in body and mind, twisted and keened, caught between a rock and an unbelievably hard place. As glorious returns went, he must have been a little underwhelmed. He turned this way and that with all the happiness and general demeanour of a chimpanzee caught in a tumble dryer, hesitated, got kicked more while hesitating, and came to a belated decision.

There came a great, dizzying, sudden emptiness in my head, and I realised he’d left the second after he did so. Smoke wreathed out all around me, dark and glittering with red-and-green motes, and thrashed about like a drunk bird. Something like a screaming pony face briefly took shape within it, but was lost the moment after.

And then, without force or direction or Chalcedony’s magic to sustain it, that particular essence of King Sombra helplessly discorporated, and was lost.

For a long, thoughtless moment, I tottered where Sombra and Carrot Top had left me, blinking and trying to get a sense of myself again. Carrot Top herself hesitantly stepped forwards, and sans any particular motive to keep standing, I found myself slumping into her forelegs.

I got a sense of myself again.

My watering eyes blinked up and beheld clear green. As if from a long way off, I heard her. “Flash? Is that you?”

Oh stars above, did I ever get a sense of myself.

“Flash?”

Every nerve ending came at me with a list of complaints all at once, and I squealed a High C before blissfully blacking out.