• Published 25th May 2018
  • 2,221 Views, 969 Comments

Little Consequences - Skijarama

Princess Rainbow Dash and her friends have found themselves in the newly restored Crystal Empire, and now struggle against the forces of Queen Chrysalis and the enigmatic King Sombra in an effort to reclaim Canterlot and save Equestria.

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An Obligation To The Dark

“She turned into a tree?” Rainbow Dash questioned incredulously with one eyebrow flying up to disappear beneath her mane. With a flap of her wings, she lifted herself off of Twilight’s back to fly forward until she was right in front of the tree. She idly scrutinized it for several seconds, one eyes narrowing somewhat before she lightly shoved her hoof into the bark. It was harder than normal wood by a pretty wide margin, but it was definitely wood. After a few moments of examination, though, a small scoff escaped her and she set back down on the ground. She turned to face the rest of the group, grinning. “Meh. Serves her right.”

Pinkie gave an excited nod, practically vibrating in place in excitement. “Yeah! And now I can hang the banners for our victory party from her branches! OOH!” She suddenly sprinted around the tree to examine the area in general. “If we can move her just a few more yards that way, she’d be in a four-way intersection. We could hold the party there!” she announced with an incredibly enthusiastic squee, jumping up and down in place.

Applejack chuckled and rolled her eyes at Pinkie’s antics. “Really, Pinkie? That’s your first thought? Throwin’ a party around the pony- er, changelin’ we just turned into a tree?” she asked skeptically, earning a nod in the affirmative from the other earth pony.


Applejack couldn’t help but laugh some more. “Aw, shucks. Don’t that seem a bit unnecessary? Salt in the wound or whatever?” she asked, although the slightly mischievous look in her eyes made it clear she didn’t really mean it.

Rarity shook her head. “While I would rather party away from it, I suppose beggars can’t be choosers, and we could all use a good party right about now, I think.”

“Oh, yes, I agree,” Fluttershy meekly added before glancing sideways at Twilight, whose eyes were instead locked onto the cyan dome that still surrounded the city. “Um… Twilight?”

That got the unicorn to say something. “...As much as I would love to right now, we aren’t out of the wood just yet,” she stated matter-of-factly before lowering her gaze to Rainbow. “Chrysalis’ swarm is still outside Starlight’s barrier. We have to deal with them before we can even think of celebrating.”

The mood immediately fell with that reminder, and more than a few exhausted groans came from the gathered friends. Rainbow slapped a hoof to her face in exasperation and impatience. “Oh, come on! When are we gonna get a break!? It’s been nothing but doom and gloom for weeks!

Princess Celestia chose this moment to reintroduce herself to the conversation by loudly clearing her throat. The eyes of the six friends all turned to her in surprise, as if they had forgotten she was even there. Rainbow, especially, looked shell-shocked, with wide eyes and a hanging jaw. Celestia just smiled warmly at her before turning her gaze briefly to Twilight. “My faithful student has the right of it. Twilight, you said that it was Starlight maintaining the barrier?” she asked with a hint of stern disapproval in her voice.

Twilight immediately flinched back, her ears resting flat against her skull. “Uh… it’s, ah… er…” she stuttered out in a quivering voice, her eyes growing wide and fearful. She struggled to find her words for several more seconds before somepony beat her to it.

“Yes, it’s Starlight Glimmer,” Rainbow answered in a blunt tone, her head hanging low. Celestia’s eyes narrowed just slightly, although her expression then softened considerably as she gave it some thought.

“I suppose I shouldn’t be that surprised,” she muttered absently, glancing over at Luna by her side. “Luna told me that you left Ponyville to seek her out… even though I didn’t want her life to be interfered with…”

Rainbow shook and shrunk under her mother’s tone of voice. “I’m sorry,” she replied, her ears falling. “I was... I was just so scared… I was scared she might be up to something. I was wrong, I know, and I know I screwed everything-”

“Don’t,” Celestia suddenly cut her off, walking forwards. Twilight stepped out of Celestia’s way, biting her lip with uncertainty.

“Princess-” she began, hoping to quell some of Celestia’s displeasure, or at least share the blame to ease the pressure off of Rainbow Dash. A sharp look from Luna cut her off, though, and she fell silent. All watched the scene before them with baited breath.

Rainbow didn’t look up even as Celestia loomed over her, visibly starting to shake. For several seconds, everyone was silent, waiting for Celestia’s next statement. For what felt like an eternity, the solar princess’ expression was unreadable and thoughtful, looking over every single detail of Rainbow’s quivering form. Her ears twitched when she heard one of Rainbow’s breaths come out shakier than the others.

That sound caused any coldness in her gaze to melt away. It was swiftly replaced by a warm smile and tears of joy in her eyes. She lowered herself onto her haunches and reached out with her hooves to draw Rainbow into a loving embrace. While at first taken aback by the gesture, Rainbow was glad to return it, wrapping her forelegs around her mother to hold her close and burying her face into her neck.

Celestia gave Rainbow an affectionate nuzzle before finally speaking again. “Rainbow Dash… Oh, my dear, sweet little filly... Whatever mistakes you might have made before, I believe that you have more than made up for them. You’ve been so brave, recently, facing all of this... I am so proud of you.”

Rainbow visibly relaxed at those words, and her grip on the princess only grew tighter. But then, after a few moments, an audible sob escaped her. Celestia’s eyes widened in bewilderment, and she looked down to see the genuine sorrow on Rainbow’s face, and in the tears streaming down her cheeks. When a violent shudder passed through her, Celestia decided that her hooves were not enough. Her majestic wings unfolded from her sides and wrapped themselves around Rainbow Dash in a warm, loving embrace.

“Ssssh, shhhh, It’s alright, Rainbow. I’ve got you. I’m here. Sssshhh...” Celestia soothed her over and over again, rocking them back and forth as she did so. All the while, Rainbow kept weeping. A couple of minutes passed before, at last, Rainbow Dash managed to calm down and dry her tears. Still sniffling, she shakily withdrew from the embrace. She looked up into Celestia’s eyes while the alicorn gingerly tucked her wings back at her sides.

“Th-thanks, mom… I needed to let that out…”

Celestia smiled and ran a hoof lightly through Rainbow’s mane, making her hum softly in content. “What are mothers for?” she asked.

“Onions, apparently,” came Rainbow’s quip, just enough mirth re-entering her voice to give Celestia pause. Both of them then burst into a fit of giggles, sharing one more, shorter embrace. “Oh, I missed you…”

“I missed you, too,”

Luna watched the scene unfolding for several moments, a soft smile on her face. However, when the cyan dome overhead flickered, she reluctantly cleared her throat to get their attention. They both looked her way to see that she was gesturing up at the barrier. “Forgive me, but as much as I wish this moment could last forever, I fear we still have the matter of the changelings outside to deal with. Further heartfelt discussions will have to wait until later,” she said reluctantly, her ears falling with a small amount of regret for breaking up the tender scene.

Celestia let out a small sigh and rose to her hooves along with Rainbow Dash. “Yes, you’re right… where is Starlight Glimmer now? As the one maintaining the barrier, she will know more about what’s going on outside than the rest of us.”

Twilight Sparkle perked up and stepped forward. “She’s on a balcony on the Crystal Palace, where the ruling monarchs would go to address the city as a whole,” she said while pointing at the location in question. When all eyes looked, they could just make out the pinprick of light that was her magic. And it was drawing closer.

Luna tilted her head in curiosity, one of her eyebrows taking a trip to the north. “She’s coming this way…” she pointed out the obvious.

Rarity lifted a hoof to her chin in thought, her eyes narrowing with scrutiny. “That’s strange… I wonder if something’s wrong…” she pondered with an edge of anxiety in her voice. “I do hope not. We’ve had more than enough surprises for one day!”

Way too many…” Fluttershy agreed in a tired, fearful whisper before swallowing heavily. “Oh, please just be good news…”

“Judging by the way she’s grinning?” Rainbow noted with a wry grin of her own. She nodded towards the approaching light, inside of which the silhouette of Starlight Glimmer could just be made out by the others. “I don’t think we’ve got much to worry about.”

Applejack frowned at Rainbow’s remark. “Say what?” she asked the pegasus.

“They eyes, silly,” Pinkie reminded her while bouncing over to Rainbow and tapping the side of her head.

“Ow! Pinkie, not the face!”

“Sorry! But Dashie is, like, the best at seeing things. Especially when in the air!” Pinkie finished while gesturing loosely at Rainbow’s eyes.

She puffed up at the praise with a small roll of her eyes. She then held her head higher than normal, a cocky smirk on her muzzle. “Heh, it’s nothing, just my awesomeness at work.”

Twilight got her own grin on her face when she heard that. “Ooh, we haven’t heard you call yourself that in a while!” she teased while prodding Rainbow in the shoulder with a hoof, making the pegasus flinch. “Are you getting your ego back?”

“Eh. Maybe a little. Kinda on a power high right now,” Rainbow replied while poking a hoof to her necklace. “Defeating evil things with magic gemstones and rainbow lasers kinda does that to you.”

“Hold that thought,” Luna cut them off before nodding towards the approaching Starlight Glimmer, who was now clearly visible. Everyone turned to watch her as she floated through the air with a telekinesis spell keeping her from hitting the ground. Her grin had faltered somewhat now that she could make out the princesses. Celestia, in particular, seemed to make her uncomfortable. Still, she came to a landing a few yards away, still holding her smile. “Starlight Glimmer, I take it?” Luna asked when she grew tired of the silence.

Starlight nodded shakily, not quite willing to look anywhere near Celestia. So she just settled with staring idly at Luna’s hooves. “Er, yes, your majesty,” she answered before dropping into a low bow.

“Stop that,” Rainbow scolded before waving up with her hoof. ”C’mon, stand up and tell us; What’s the rub?” she asked curiously. “I mean, judging by the smile…”

Starlight slowly rose back to a standing position and took the distraction from the princesses whose family she had hurt quite eagerly, and nodded up at her horn. “Yeah, I’ve got good news. The changelings stopped attacking the barrier, and neither Thorax or Pharynx think it’s a trap. They either gave up and ran away or they were all taken out by...” her explanation hitched in her throat, her ears going flat.

Rainbow’s eyes widened in realization, and her bravado quickly bled out of her. “Oh… right…”

Luna looked towards her niece. “King Sombra, I take it…” she surmised with a grim look, drawing everypony’s attention. Luna then gestured loosely towards Celestia before continuing. “We were told before we came here that a shadowy monster was helping to slow the changelings down, and Rainbow Dash told me the one time I was able to reach her via dreams that King Sombra came back with the empire.”

Starlight nodded shakily. “Uh… yes. Sombra…” her eyes then turned towards Rainbow Dash, a flicker of lingering disapproval flashing in her gaze. Rainbow saw it and flinched back out of shame. All at once, whatever small vestige of joy was left in the air evaporated, and everypony turned to look directly at Rainbow Dash with a wide range of expressions. From Luna and Twilight, it was a look of utmost sympathy and a desire to make her pain go away. From Applejack, it was a frown of understanding, if also of disapproval. From Rarity, Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie, it was helplessness at their inability to help her. And from Celestia, it was just confusion.

Luna let out a heavy sigh. “...His treaty is still in effect, isn’t it?” she asked gently, making Rainbow recoil as if she had been struck. Twilight went to Rainbow’s side quickly, draping a foreleg over her shoulders and pulling her into a comforting side hug.

Celestia’s eyes flew wide open, looking at Luna in abject disbelief. “What?! Treaty?!” she exclaimed before looking down at Rainbow again. “Rainbow... did you…”

Rainbow just nodded, her eyes turned to look at the ground. “Yes… I signed a treaty with King Sombra… it was the only way to save us… I didn’t have a choice, I… I’m so sorry…”

“She’s not exaggerating, either,” Twilight added in a tender voice, looking up into Celestia’s eyes and imploring her to consider things carefully. “King Sombra had us boxed in. Starlight and I wouldn’t have been able to maintain our barrier for much longer, and if it had dropped, we…” she shuddered and shook her head, not willing to think of the possibility. “Considering what our options were… she probably saved our lives.”

Starlight growled quietly and shook her head from the side. “I still think she could have done better…” she stated with vitriol, her nostrils flaring. The hard glare Twilight and the others shot her didn’t make her retract her statement. However, her expression did soften when she heard Rainbow take a shaky breath in. “...But,” she continued, looking at Rainbow with a bit more understanding and sympathy. “In her defense, she’s been working her tail off to make up for it. I gotta give her credit where it’s due.”

Celestia’s lips pursed into a thin line, her intense gaze slowly rising to look at the city as a whole. “...What were the terms?” she asked simply, making Rainbow shudder even harder.

The pegasus princess, however, didn’t have to answer.

“Allow me to explain,” the deep voice of King Sombra cut through the air like a scythe in a wheat field, shattering the calm and putting everypony on edge. Everypony stood tall and looked around fearfully, searching for the source of the voice. But, of course, there was nothing. No sign of him whatsoever. Well, except for the deathly chill that was gradually settling in around them, the pit of dread forming in their hearts, and the heaviness in their hooves.

Suddenly, the shadows cast by the ponies sprang into life. With a rush of dark magic, they came rising from the ground and lunged for the Elements. Rainbow Dash recoiled and shouted in alarm when her necklace was snatched, and she tried to back away to keep it on her. But the shadows were quicker, and her Element of harmony was swiftly torn away from her neck and pulled away by the tendril. The others all had similar experiences, letting out exclamations of alarm and fear as all six Elements of Harmony were stolen and gathered in one spot in mid-air.

From that point, a sphere of pitch-black began to grow and expand. It snapped and crackled with purple electricity and flickers of poison green magic before gradually changing shape into the form of King Sombra. His eyes snapped open, his crimson iris’ glowing with malevolence. The shadows winked away, revealing him in his true form. His red cape billowed in the wind, and his eyes dilated with sadistic pleasure. A fanged grin split his muzzle.

“Give those back!” Rainbow shouted, preparing to launch herself at Sombra for a tackle. The movement ended before it even began, and she found she could not bring herself to follow through on anything aggressive towards the king, save for glaring daggers at him.

He just grinned at her defiance. “Now now, child, your time on the throne is over,” he replied before turning his attention to Luna and Celestia, who quickly put themselves in front of the rest of the group in protective stances. “Now be quiet. The grown-ups are talking.”

“We have nothing to discuss,” Celestia rebuked bluntly, her horn sparking into life.

Sombra hummed and licked his fangs, a hungry look in his eyes. “I see the fire in your belly is as hot as ever, Celestia…” his eyes drifted over to the points where the street had been melted from her brief time as Daybreaker, and his grin grew. “Hotter, even, if your display earlier is anything to go off of…” His eyes then shifted to look at Princess Luna, who was unable to refrain from flinching back at the look he gave her. “Ah, and Princess Luna… tell me, old friend, how has the darkness been treating you? Has it been as kind as it was to me?”

“We are not friends. Save your breath,” Luna snapped venomously, her wings unfurling slightly from her sides.

Sombra snorted, his smile fading away. In its place was a firm, serious frown. “We are foregoing the pleasantries, I see. Very well. In answer to your earlier question, Celestia, the terms of the treaty state that in exchange for my assistance in holding back the changelings and their queen, all Equestrian citizens, soldiers and officials are to leave the Empire under my control as soon as Queen Chrysalis and her minions are defeated. The swarm now lies scattered across the frozen wastes and entrapped in their worst nightmares, save for a select couple dozen who chose to flee with their tails between their legs. And, if I am not mistaken…” his eyes turned towards the dark tree that was Queen Chrysalis, and his smile returned in the form of an amused smirk. “That is Queen Chrysalis… she is defeated as well, then…”

Rainbow Dash was shaking terribly now, her ears flat and the light fading from her eyes. She took a few steps back, her breath starting to get heavier and heavier. “It’s all my fault…” she whispered despairingly before falling to her haunches. “All my fault…”

Twilight returned to her side in a heartbeat and was swiftly joined by Fluttershy. The two of them began offering the quivering mare whatever comfort they could, even though much of it was useless. Twilight shifted to sit in front of Rainbow, looking into her eyes. “Hey, Rainbow, it’s okay. You did your best. We’ll come back and fix this once we have our strength back,” she offered gently, running a hoof over Rainbow’s cheek.

Fluttershy nodded and gave Rainbow a soft nuzzle from the side. More than once, she looked as if she wanted to say something, but a fearful shudder prevented her from doing so each and every time.

Applejack stepped forward and added her own hoof to Rainbow’s back, a reassuring smile on her face. “Don’t fret, now, sugarcube. Twi’s right. We’ll come back and show this shadowy bonehead what-for soon enough. You’ll see.”

Rarity and Pinkie joined the small comfort huddle, with Rarity tossing her mane and putting her hoof onto Rainbow’s shoulder. “And when we do, I just know you’ll do fabulously!” she chimed, a smile on her face.

“And we can all smile and throw a gigantic party when it’s done. Chrysalis’ branches are just too perfect to pass up!”

Starlight, however, chose not to say anything. She looked down and away from the group before allowing the light on her horn to dissipate. The barrier over the city flickered and then winked out of existence, allowing the pristine light of the sun from outside to shine through once again. They didn’t need her protection now, not that Sombra was already inside and they were heading out.

Sombra hummed, entertained by the group’s hopeful sentiments. Soon, though, an impatient frown marred that amusement. “An amusing notion. But one you will have to consider on your return trip to Equestria. It is time for you all to gather up your unconscious friends and leave; now!” he stomped a hoof into the ground for emphasis, his eyes flashing with poison-purple light.

Rainbow shuddered. Then she crumpled down towards the ground, a long, anguish-filled scream tearing itself out of her lungs. Luna and Celestia turned to look at her, watching with sorrowful eyes as she began to sob and weep her eyes out. One of her hooves raised itself up before slamming down into the ground over and over again, each impact creating a loud noise. Each blow hammered more and more remorse into the hearts of her friends and family.

Celestia’s ears fell, and every single maternal instinct in her began screaming at her to go over and hug her daughter, shush her and rock her back and forth until she was better. But for now, she had to shove those instincts down. Reluctantly, she tore her eyes away from the sad sight to glare hatefully at King Sombra, who was now watching them expectantly.

“Well?” he asked with growing impatience. “You can cry on the way home, young princess. Collect your friends and get out of my empire!”

“Be silent!” Luna snapped back in retort, her pupils dilating with fury. “That is my niece you are speaking to! Show some respect!”

Sombra scowled. “Well, your niece, as well as the rest of you, are trespassers in my nation. I will not ask you again. Find your unconscious comrades and leave. NOW!” The surface of the street his hooves began flickering with dark magic before turning jagged, uneven, and dark.

Celestia briefly glanced back at her daughter, her heart twisting in her chest. There had to be something they could do about this! She had already failed to save these ponies once, a thousand years ago, and she was not going to fail them again! But, sadly, she knew as well as Luna how air-tight and iron-clad Sombra’s treaties were. His ability to seal loopholes was one of the many things that had allowed him to claim the Empire to begin with all those years ago. Her ears drooped, and she found herself about to shamefully admit that her daughter had signed them into a position from which there was no escape.


Her daughter…

Her daughter!

Celestia’s ears snapped to attention, and her eyes widened. Of course!

With a confident smile now adorning her muzzle, she turned to look into Sombra’s eyes once again. Then she said one word, one that made Sombra recoil and the others perk up in surprise.


There was a general muttering of surprise and confusion from the ponies gathered behind her, but she just kept smiling. Sombra narrowed his eyes, and his teeth became even more pronounced as his scowl deepened. “Don’t play games with me, Princess. You are bound to follow the terms of the treaty between our nations! You must withdraw!”

“No,” Celestia said again, smugly this time. Feeling all eyes on her, she took a couple of steps forward before fanning open her wings, allowing their full majesty to be revealed. “I must not.”

Sombra growled, taking a step forward. Dark magic began to leak from his horn and the corners of his eyes. “I grow weary of this…” he snarled venomously.

“You are not wrong that Princess Rainbow Dash signed on behalf of all of Equestria as its ruling monarch,” Celestia continued simply, her smile growing. “So long as she remained in charge, her word was law.”

Sombra’s eyes widened, and his jaw fell open just slightly as the thought occurred to him. “No…”

Rainbow Dash looked up at that, tears still on her face, but a spark of hope in her eyes as she stared past Twilight and into the back of her mother’s head. “Mom…?”

Celestia’s grin widened. “Oh, yes. Under normal circumstances, Cadance and Rainbow Dash cannot make decisions on an official or federal capacity without my sister or I giving it our stamp of approval. But when Luna, Cadance and I were imprisoned by the Changelings, we became prisoners of war. As we were all indisposed and unable to rule, Rainbow Dash became the sole ruling monarch…” she gave her wings a demonstrative flap. “But we’re not prisoners anymore, now are we?”

From the side and behind her elder sister, Luna’s eyes widened before her expression softened into one of pride and admiration. “Always the diplomat…” she thought before turning her gaze to Sombra. Her smile turned confident.

Sombra’s teeth clamped together, a look of boundless rage building on his face. “Why you…” he seethed, shadows starting to bleed off of his body to drift into the air.

Celestia’s smile turned a touch more taunting, her eyes narrowing. “Now that we are free, Princess Rainbow Dash’s status as the acting ruler of Equestria is rescinded. Luna and I are now in charge again, and any decisions Rainbow Dash made while in power will need to be affirmed by us to go into effect…”

Luna chose this moment to add to the revelation, taking a position by her sister and smiling triumphantly at Sombra. She flared her wings out to mirror her sister’s stance. “And I think it goes without saying…”

Then, as one, the sisters of the sun and the moon spoke with finality and conviction. “We do not agree to your terms!”

With those words, somewhere deep in the depths of Rainbow’s mind, something shattered. A weight she hadn’t even known was there was suddenly lifted, and an array of thoughts that had been shackled and locked away came spilling out undeterred. The first of these thoughts tore out of her lips in a loud exclamation. “I know where the Crystal Heart is! It’s on the palace roof!”

Her friends tore their eyes away from Luna and Celestia to look at Rainbow Dash in shock. That shock, though, swiftly shifted to a combination of joy and reborn hope. Applejack stamped a hoof and looked back towards the palace. “Well, then what are we waitin’ for, an invitation?!”

Sombra’s eyes widened in disbelief. Then, with a furious roar of rage echoing out, his body was engulfed in darkness. It lost its shape and expanded back into the towering mass of black smoke he had been so happy to use, his horn already materializing at its peak. “You miserable CUR!” he boomed out before rushing forth to smother the ponies with his shadowy form.

While the others took frightened steps back, Starlight took the initiative. jumping into the center of the group, she let out a grunt of effort and conjured a dense dome of cyan light around them all, protecting them even as Sombra’s shadowy mass smothered them. Cracks were already forming in her barrier, though, and she fell to her knees, groaning with strain. Screwing one of her eyes shut, the other twitched to look at the princesses. “Gah! I can’t hold this for long!” she cried out before yelping when more cracks expanded across her barrier.

“Get us out of here!” Pinkie shouted, running up to Celestia and grabbing one of her legs with a hoof. “I don’t wanna be here! It’s smoky and it smells like bad breath!”

“I’m out of power,” Celestia reminded them grimly, glancing up as another crack appeared in Starlight’s barrier. She looked desperately at Luna. “Luna, can you get us out of here?”

“Consider it done!” Luna replied with a small smile, her horn igniting with blue light. There was a rush of energy, and the group was teleported from where they had been standing to several blocks away. They came out of it next to the still unconscious forms of Cadance and Shining Armor. Starlight dropped her barrier and fell to her haunches, panting for breath.

“Oh gosh, I’m out,” she stated between pants, bringing a hoof up to her forehead. “I can’t do anymore… without hurting myself… whew…”

Twilight took no notice of that at the moment, though, briefly leaving Rainbow Dash to gallop for her unconscious big brother. “Shiny!” she shouted, sliding to a stop next to him and checking him for injuries. Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy followed quickly behind her, the latter checking him for injuries.

“He’s bruised and out cold, but he should be fine,” Fluttershy said, a wave of relief in her voice.

“Oh, thank Celestia…” Twilight mumbled, burying her face in Shining’s chest fur and letting out a heavy sigh. “We’ve had too many close calls today…”

“Tell me about it,” Rainbow agreed, gently pulling Twilight up and giving her a reassuring hug.

The harrowing howl of Sombra reached their ears from the distance, and they all turned to see that his amorphous form was visible even from here, scanning the city for any sign of them. Applejack shook herself. “Whew, I dunno how Y'all handle teleportin’ like that…”

“You get used to it,” Twilight answered before looking at Rainbow Dash again, who was now rising back to her hooves with a hard, determined look on her face. “Rainbow, are you good?”

Rainbow gave a sharp nod of her head in response. She looked up at the top of the palace, her wings snapping open. “Yeah. I’m good,” she stated before shooting Starlight a look. “All we need is the Crystal Heart and the Crystal Ponies for them to do their thing, right?”

Starlight nodded slowly. “More or less. The book said that the Crystal Heart needs to be in the center of the plaza under the Palace and that the crystal ponies activate it.”

“And the Crystal Heart is the source of the Empire’s power, yes?” Luna deduced, earning a quick nod from Starlight. Luna’s expression hardened. “Then we haven’t time to waste.”

“He’s coming this way!” Pinkie shouted while pointing at Sombra, who was indeed surging towards their location. “What do we do?!”

Luna frowned as she watched Sombra’s approach. The group as a whole wouldn’t be able to outrun him right now, he was moving too fast. But if he were to be distracted... She took a deep breath and took a few steps away from the group towards the king. When she felt their eyes boring into her back, she turned to look at them over her shoulder. “Sister, take them and the wounded to the palace and keep them safe however you can. If what Starlight just said is true, then the locals need to be assembled below the palace. Rainbow Dash, you get the crystal heart and bring it to them.”

“Luna, are you sure?” Celestia asked fearfully, taking a few shaky steps towards her sister. “You haven’t been back for very long. I… I don’t want you getting hurt-”

Luna nodded, interrupting her. “Yes, sister, I am. I have power enough left to hold him off for a time. And besides all of that, I have a duty to Equestria’s subjects...” her gaze then drifted to Rainbow Dash. “...and debts to repay.”

Rainbow stared back at her for a few moments before giving a small nod. “Go get him, Aunt Luna.”

Luna smiled before another angry roar from Sombra made her turn to face him. He was drawing close enough that they could see the magic gathering on his horn. As if to prove her earlier point of having power, Luna’s own horn flared with light and conjured a defensive dome before her, stopping Sombra’s beam before it ever reached her. She glared at the others over her shoulder. “It’s time! Go! NOW!”

“You don’t need to tell me twice!” Rarity called before the group as a whole turned to sprint for the tall spire of crystal in the center of the city, with Twilight and Starlight using what magic they had left to carry Cadance and Shining with them. Celestia and Rainbow Dash, side by side, both looked over their shoulders as Luna rose into the air with her wings to meet Sombra head on.

As she rose, Luna, for a brief second, looked back at them, catching Rainbow’s gaze with her own. For a brief moment, time stopped for them. They just looked at each other, silently thanking one another for everything. The moment ended as quickly as it came, and Luna turned to glare at Sombra as he approached. “You have done much and more for me, my niece…” Luna thought before giving her wings a mighty flap to rise into the air over the king of shadows. “You helped me face my demons, you helped me conquer them, and you convinced me that I do not have to walk in the shade by myself…” Sombra looked back up at her, more energy gathering on his horn.

“..And you showed me that I can instead walk under the moonlight with the ones I love at my side. It is time I repaid you in full for your kindness!”

With those thoughts filling her heart with determination, and with a guttural battle cry tearing past her lips, Luna unleashed a torrential blue beam of magic at Sombra. He met her assault with his own. The resulting explosion marked the beginning of the battle between the light of the moon and the shadows of hatred.

Author's Note:

So... this is, without question, the LONGEST single chapter I have ever written for a story before. 5,500 words? That's a new record for me!

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