• Published 20th Oct 2018
  • 8,839 Views, 567 Comments

A Sparkle in the Darkness - tom117z

Following the return of the Crystal Empire, Twilight begins some intensive research into the history of the Empire and its late king. What she finds changes everything she knows about herself.

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1 - Prologue

Once upon a time, there was a magical land called Equestria…

And it was a land at war.

Two massive armies prepared to clash against one another amidst a wasteland of ice and snow. One was an army of darkness, dressed in suits of menacing armour that encompassed much of their bodies. Their helmets were jagged and terrifying, their eyes glowing a sickly green as the ponies within fought with no will of their own. Behind them was a city of dark crystal, shadow and hate seeming to radiate from its very surface as the crystal spread out into the wasteland around it like a malignant tumour attempting to claim all in its path.

And facing them was an army of the Sun and Moon. Two alicorns, one a bright alabaster with shining golden armour and the other a deep blue with ominous black armour, led an army of countless ponies that yet still wielded the greyed dirtied armour of the monarch they once served. Queen Platinum’s reign of Equestria was over, toppled during a prolonged fight against a being of pure chaos. The reigns of Princesses Celestia and Luna had risen from the ashes, and now they had traded one villain for another.

King Sombra. A unicorn who, in the chaos of Discord’s madness, had seized the once beautiful and peaceful Crystal Empire from Queen Amore and reduced its citizens into either slavery or a mind-controlled horde ready to spread the corrupt dark mage’s will into the lands beyond.

And there the King stood; ready to fight in his own armour, covered with a red cloak atop his platform of crystal. Likewise, Celestia and Luna hovered above their own armies with the elder wielding her heavy golden halberd and the younger her swift dual blades.

And with a shout, the armies of Equestria charged.

The pegasi dove in from behind the princesses, the heavily aged but experienced General Hurricane leading his forces with the full ferocity the winged ponies had maintained since the days of the ununified tribes. The earth ponies moved in at a full charged, weapons bared as they readied to defend their home from yet another being that would flatten it beneath them. And then, firing their first spells into the crowds of controlled ponies ahead, were the unicorns. Among them was the famed mage Clover the Clever, fitted in his trademark cloak as he called upon the vast array of spells taught to him by his vanished mentor, Starswirl the Bearded.

But the armies of Sombra weren’t ones to wait around, and they too were commanded to charge forwards to meet their enemies. The damned crystal ponies, most of whom were of the typical earth pony variety, made their own attack against the forces of Equestria as their king watched on with an impartial glare.

The battle for the Crystal Empire had begun.

“Sister, with me!” Celestia shouted at her younger counterpart, getting a nod in return as they prepared to dive.

The two royal sisters flapped their mighty wings and followed their pegasi down to the defending army below. Their horns grew brighter as powerful lances of magic struck forth on their first attack run, and with heavy hearts they trailed their spells through the enemy lines, incinerating all who came into contact.

The initial break in the enemy lines boosted the morale of the Equestrians, and the earth ponies split to funnel into these holes. The first wave of crystal ponies broke as the Equestrian army charged on through, those caught in the crowd being mostly cut down in their attempts to resist while a lucky few were successfully subdued and had the helmets pried from their heads. Those who did were quickly overwhelmed by the confusion and horror of their situation and were subsequently moved back through the Equestrian lines towards unicorn help.

As the earth ponies continued through the collapsed first wave, with them soon crossing blades with the more consolidated second, the pegasus forces continued their attack runs. They dived throughout the crystal pony army, sending some of their soldiers sailing through the air to an uncomfortable landing while others were cut up with hoofblades. Some fell to the spellfire of the few unicorns in the hostile army as well as the arrows of some of their crossbows, but others were able to gracefully avoid such a fate and continue their runs.

Sombra watched in increasing fury as for every Equestrian slain far more of his own army fell to the might of the princesses’ forces. A blue mana bolt streamed in from somewhere in the back and hit the King’s crystal tower, chipping a bit of it away and spraying the unflinching dark mage in its fragments. He saw the princesses land in the middle of one of the stronger of his holdouts against the earth ponies, making use of their weapons as they cut down any who put up a strong fight and incapacitated those who they could for helmet extraction.

He found their continued efforts to save what crystal ponies they could almost… amusing. And perhaps their undoing, as incapacitation was far more difficult than simply slaying all who stood in their way.

But he had sat idly by long enough.

His eyes lit with a dark magic trail as his horn bubbled and spat the unholy energy. Jagged crystals sprung from the ground within the lines of the encroaching earth ponies, eliciting shouts and screams as many were staggered or outright impaled.

He broke his concentration from them, however, having to barely raise a shield in time to intercept a bolt of lightning aimed directly at his position.

Sombra grinned at the boldness of General Hurricane, the lone pegasus having broken from his troops with a storm cloud in hoof. Now he charged Sombra directly, firing bolts of lightning down onto the King with the intent of death. Each bolt was absorbed by his shield, and once Hurricane realised this he kicked off the cloud and sent it hurtling towards the corrupted unicorn.

Sombra’s physical form dispersed and, as the lightning cloud exploded against where he had just been, a living shadow circled around the impromptu missile and streamed towards the pegasus. Hurricane avoided the first few tendrils sent after him, turning to move back to friendly lines. But his age seemed to finally catch up to him, and he wasn’t fast enough to avoid being enveloped by the shadowy mass in full.

Hurricane lost sight of the battle, and the only thing around him was darkness. More tendrils shot out from every direction, and he could do little as they took hold of every limb and held him out for the emerging eyes and giant red, curved horn of King Sombra within the shadow.

“For you to believe you could strike at me, even after failing to protect Platinum from Discord… How amusing,” the King taunted, holding the restrained pegasus out in front of him.

“Kill me or release me, monster. But do not waste my time with talk!” Hurricane shouted back.

“There is much talk. And I have long listened. I would listen yet, what do you fear I wonder…?”

Green and black magic once again began to bubble across Sombra’s horn, but Hurricane was having none of it. A hoofblade sprang forth from his right gauntlet and cut into the dark tendrils, surprising the King and eliciting a shout of rage and pain. He released his right hoof quickly along with one of his wings, immediately moving to spring the rest before going after Sombra directly.

He wouldn’t get the chance.

“So be it.”

The remaining tendrils gave a sharp yank, and the former leader of the pegasus tribe was torn apart.

Gold and blue flashes lit up the shadowy mass, and Sombra yelled in pain as he parted and let the General’s mangled body fall into the battle below.

“Beast! Creature!” Luna shouted in rage as she rounded on the King with more blasts of blue magic striking at the shadow.

Sombra struck out at the Princess of the Moon with a far larger tendril, but it was promptly cut away before reaching its target by a golden halberd. Sombra thrashed around and launched spells from his horn at the princesses, doing everything he could to drive them off. But working in perfect tandem they ducked and weaved through them all as they struck at the shadow again and again. Finally, they two circled around one another as they flew high into the air before levelling out and joining their horns. The blue and gold magics intertwined and formed one ultimate beam of magic that shot down into the evil king and burned away at the shadow almost entirely.

His shadowform spell threatening to collapse, Sombra knew when he was outmatched.

He flung his form backwards, moving out of the spell's area of effect and retreating through his lines. All around him his forces were falling. His army’s overall formation had all but collapsed, entire sections being corralled and surrounded entirely. In these controlled groups, the unicorns started moving in and had a relatively easy time beginning to incapacitate more and more of the controlled crystal ponies. With no avenue of retreat or avoidance, these groups started to fall into unconsciousness where their helmets could then be removed. With lethal force becoming less and less necessary, Sombra could just feel the hope and morale of the Equestrians rising by the second.

Even when the retreating shadow swiped and took out whole swaths of the princesses’ army as he went, freeing some of his forces to continue the fight, he knew it had devolved into a losing battle for him.

He was quickly realising that his failsafe may soon become necessary.

But first, there was one last issue to take care of…

The greatly diminished shadow shot back towards the Crystal Empire faster than the alicorns could keep up, and the sisters too were soon distracted with helping mop up what was left of Sombra’s army that they stopped their pursuit altogether.

He passed into the Crystal Empire’s perimeter, looking down at his slaves as they looked out towards the battle with hopeful expressions that quickly turned to fear as they saw their ruler return. But he paid the crystal ponies little mind as he moved over them, they were already being corralled back to work by the small force he had left to keep an eye on things. No, his eyes remained directly on the palace, at which he landed at the base of while transforming back into his normal unicorn self.

“You,” he commanded at a nearby soldier, who dutifully bowed before his king. “Gather your forces, muster all troops at the edge of the Empire. Fight to the last pony against the oncoming Equestrians.”

“As you wish,” the monotone voice behind the helmet replied without any kind of emotion, before nodding at a few nearby troops and running off to fulfil his command.

Not even watching them go, Sombra entered one of the castle’s four entrances and proceeded up the stairs. He did, however, spare a small glance for the empty spot where the Crystal Heart once sat. And it only reminded him that he could not allow the princesses to take the Crystal Empire, could not allow them to restore that infernal thing, or he was finished.

Sombra didn’t stop his jaunt through the palace until he came across his throne room. On entering the darkened chamber, he lit his horn with its signature dark magic and took aim at the seat of his power. Unleashing a dark beam, a shadow reached out from the throne and burned away a segment of the floor. A stairway was revealed, one Sombra wasted no time in descending down.

The stairway went deeper and deeper down, moving through where other rooms in the palace should have existed. Space meant little in this little dark magically created pocket, a place where Sombra could practice his craft is peace and safety.

At the bottom appeared a door, and he cast the correct spell to remove the trap within and reveal the halls beyond. He stepped into a sparsely lit hallway, this one made out of brick rather than the typical crystal of the Empire. Several wooden doors lined the hallways, but none of them were of interest to him for the moment. He continued all the way down until he reached a doorway that, when opened, revealed a study decorated with bookshelves and busts of the King himself. A writing desk sat against the wall, various books and scrolls scattered upon it. But even his own work was not the object of his interest for the moment.

No, that was a segment of the wall in the room that was far sparser than the rest.

His horn lit again, and the wall faded to reveal yet another doorway. Sombra opened it, and slowly stepped inside while making sure to close it quietly behind him. The inside room was nothing like anything else in the evil King’s kingdom. No, this room was… bright. The floor was carpet, lamps hung on the walls bathing the room in a soft glow while several chests lined the outside alongside bookshelves with, of all things, children’s books.

The reason for this was a secret that Sombra held very close. Something that was known only to two adult ponies in the entire world.

In the corner of the room laid a quaint little cot, inside of which slept a small unicorn foal. A colt, his coat very much matching the greys of his father alongside the black mane. However, if one were to see his eyes, they’d see a gentle blue that matched those of the one who birthed him over the natural bright green, or corrupted red, of the father.

And the one who birthed him was right there alongside the colt.

The unicorn crystal pony mare was cowering by the cot with a look of terror, and also with an air of protection for her young, that only increased at the sight of the stallion who entered. The mare was Sombra’s favourite slave and mistress, taken as such shortly after his rise to power. She had a dark purple coat with pale blue mane, her eyes the gentle blue that her son had inherited. She looked at the King with no love or devotion, sharing much of the fear the rest of the Empire’s populace held. And yet they too held an odd solidarity about them. She feared him due to what he was and what he did, and yet also appeared to realise that she personally had little to fear from the stallion.

“Radiant Hope,” Sombra addressed, moving over to her and his son. Looking at her he held only a modicum of fondness, but when his gaze drifted towards the colt his look became almost… soft. “The battle goes poorly.”

“So…” she muttered. “What happens now?”

“I must confront the alicorns directly,” he said as he sat by the colt, looking down at his resting heir. “Should I defeat them, the morale of the ponies will shatter, and we may yet know victory.”

“And if not?”

“Then this Empire will not fall. I have a failsafe in mind, one to keep it out of their hooves,” he replied, looking up at her sternly. “But that will not be the fate of my son. Or yours.”

“My King?”

“Take him. Leave, while you still can,” he asked, his tone not as commanding. He then had his horn light up with a more natural green and levitated out some large saddlebags from a chest nearby. “I prepared this. Enough bits to set up a comfortable life in Equestria I would think.”

Radiant Hope’s eyes widened in surprise. “You’re sending us away? You’re… letting me go?”

“Should I be victorious, which I intend to be, you shall return,” King Sombra declared warningly. “But should I fail, then the ponies of Equestria aren’t to know of his lineage. Look after him, Radiant. And raise him well.”

Radiant Hope looked down at the saddlebags in front of her in disbelief, before shaking it away and quickly putting the bag on. She equally did a quick round of the room to get some extra supplies for the foal, placing them on top of the bit piles, before finally carefully planting her son onto her back and making for the door.

“Radiant,” Sombra stated, stopping her just short of her departure. “You stood at my side faithfully for the privileges it earned your family, of that I have no delusion. And yet I remember our young days, what we were then, and I ask… It wasn’t all bad, was it?”

Radiant Hope paused but did not answer. She then slipped through the doorway, and she did not look back.

Sombra sat there a moment more before he inwardly cursed his moment of weakness and cast it aside. Whoever that mare had been to him once, that was a long time ago. And a very different pony. A dead pony.

He was King Sombra, and this was his empire to rule. The princesses would not survive this day.

Sombra left the room, making the trip back up through his inner sanctum with no more sign of Radiant Hope. When he reached the exit and emerged into the throne room, he made sure to take the time to turn and seal up the way once more. One way or another, nopony could know about it. He knew Radiant would keep his secrets, for their son’s sake if nothing else. They would remain safe.

And then he waited.

He would not have to wait long.

As he stood in the centre of the throne room, he saw a shadow begin to cover one of the stained-glass windows. The King calmly turned to face what was coming and didn’t even flinch when the window shattered into thousands of fragments to admit the two alicorn sisters charging on through.

Once again, the sisters arose together and united their horns without a word said, their magics combining much as they had before to unleash a devastating beam of pure destruction down onto their foe.

He was ready for it this time, however.

He engaged his shadowform just before impact, simply going around the spell as the magic concluded before he reformed into a pony amidst the dust and debris.

“Is that it…?” Luna asked cautiously, peering into the dust cloud left by their spell.

She would be surprised when a large crystal formation shot forth and slammed into Celestia, knocking the Princess of the Sun aside as Sombra stood atop the construct. Luna attempted to raise one of her blades but, in an instant, Sombra had summoned a weapon of his own, a blackened scythe, and taken a swing at the Lunar Princess. Luna blocked the strike, but the force of the blow unbalanced her flight and sent her sprawling to the throne room’s floor.

He couldn’t follow up on the younger sister, however, as the elder of the two recovered and unleashed a beam of magic at Sombra. The King jumped from the crystal formation to avoid the blast, but the platform was vaporised in an instant.

And so, with his scythe in his magic and a host of dark magical tricks in mind, the King of the Crystal Empire faced off against the Princesses of Equestria as they too brought their weapons and spells to bear.

He wondered what they feared the most…

Outside the Empire…

Radiant Hope had bypassed the borders of the Crystal Empire without effort, Sombra’s army had let her past without question before she had made for a nearby snowy hilltop. It was there she now stood, shivering as she held her still sleeping foal as close as she could to keep him warm. The blanket draped over him, and the cloak she had picked up for herself, did help. But the cold of the Frozen North was most fearsome.

As she looked down on her lifelong home, she couldn’t help but weep as she witnessed the battle ongoing around it. The Equestrians were making progress towards the Crystal Empire, though they had been slowed by the remaining defending army and some crystal-based defences that had been set up to delay their approach. But it was just a delay, there was no more stopping Equestria.

Their victory would mean that Radiant’s people would be free. That the King’s reign of terror would end.

But she also doubted they’d give Sombra the opportunity to save his own soul and be like the colt she’d known once upon a time. And on looking down at the foal she now held in her hooves, she swore to herself that he would never follow in his father’s hoofsteps and that if the child ever asked of him she would tell of the person Sombra was and could have been, rather than the tyrant he ended as.

If only she could have saved him, done more to stop his decline. Maybe then…

Her train of thought was interrupted when a blinding flash of light lit up the landscape around the Crystal Empire. Radiant Hope was forced to raise a hoof to protect her own eyes, and her ears twitched as a rumble echoed across the Frozen North. The sound was enough to wake her foal, and the colt started to cry.

When the light faded, Radiant Hope was struck with a sense of horror as the Crystal Empire was nowhere to be found. Only a large patch of empty dirt remained, and even that was almost instantly beginning to be covered up by the snow.

Sombra’s failsafe had been enacted, and the Crystal Empire was gone.

The foal began to cry, and his mother tried extremely hard to stifle her own tears as she whispered small comforts at him. It was over, everything they’d known was now gone; and with distant but approaching wing beats attracted by the crying of the foal, Radiant realised that their future was incoming.

“Ma’am!” a pegasus in Equestrian armour shouted as he and another pegasus mare landed nearby. Both appeared cautious, slowly approaching. “Are you alright?”

“Y-yes…” she replied. “My foal and I, we’re…”

She paused, her tongue caught for a moment. If they found out about him…

“We were slaves, w-we got out before… before…”

“A survivor,” the mare noted. “An entire city. How could anypony…?”

“It’s done now,” the other soldier stated. “Ma’am, you should come with us. We can help your foal get warm, we’re tending to the other survivors.”

“Other survivors…?”

“The, uh… Sombra’s army. We saved as many as we could, our medics are seeing to them,” the mare responded. “Now please, come on. It’s freezing out here.”

Radiant Hope slowly nodded, giving one final glance back to where the Crystal Empire used to be. Then she followed the two soldiers back to where the other surviving crystal ponies were receiving care, unknowing of what life awaited her in Equestria.

And with her, she carried the heir of King Sombra.

Author's Note:

And so a new tale begins!

This fic doesn't follow the backstory for Sombra set up in the comic book universe, but is designed to be more in line with what's established in the show. So no Umbrum or the likes. I have used a version of Radiant Hope, however, albeit with a slightly modified story to her.

And yes, the final battle we saw a snippit of between the princesses and Sombra is a reference this video:

What you didn't see occurred pretty much as seen in the animation. I always have used that as a basis for my show-based Sombra backstory.