• Published 20th Oct 2018
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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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14 - Shatter

Canterlot. Again.

Twilight wasn’t sure that she enjoyed feeling this much like a yoyo.

But here she was again anyway, back in the capital; albeit with her friends now at her side. That fact did provide the alicorn with no small degree of comfort, especially given why they were here at all.

A break-in, as Celestia had claimed.

The presence of the other Element Bearers, and a desire not to demean herself in front of Sombra, kept her bubbling panic in relative check. However, the possibility that is was her break-in that had been found never left her mind. After all, in the haze of the revelation she’d found inside of Celestia’s vault, she’d never re-filled the hole they’d dug to gain entry. Oh sure, the perception filter was also left over it, but what if the spell failed? Or worse, what if some poor pony walked right into the hole and hurt themselves!?

“Are you okay, darling? You are seeming rather… tense, as it were,” Rarity asked with some worry.

“I’m sure it’s not too bad…” Fluttershy said in reference to the break-in, attempting to console the mare. “Unless you think it is, then that’s fine too…”

“What Flutters means to say is that we’ve totally got this!” Rainbow Dash supplemented.

Twilight afforded them a small smile. “Thanks, girls. I guess this whole thing does have me a little stressed out.”

“You’re telling me. Those wrinkles don’t exactly do any wonders for your complexion; we just have to visit the spa later on! For the sake of your health!” Rarity declared.

Applejack rolled her eyes. “Ya’ll just want an excuse to get all pampered up.”

Rarity glared at the apple farmer. “That is a mere added bonus, dear Applejack. Twilight is what’s important here! Expenses on me, of course.”

“That won’t be necessary,” Twilight gently declined. “Thank you, though.”

“Of course, Twilight.”

It wasn’t long until the group of seven were walking up and into Canterlot Castle, Twilight giving a side glance towards the pathway leading up to the archive even as they passed it by in favour of the castle’s front entrance. They were let through with nary a glance from the guard on duty, passing through the great doors and into the lavish entrance hall of the royal residence. Guards, servants and nobles walked the place as if nothing was amiss, and to the unaware, it would appear to be but a normal day in the life. If there was overall concern about the reported break-in that had occurred some nights earlier, they either were good at hiding it or it had long since dissipated.

Walking up the main staircase and into the next hallway, the group started to make their way towards the throne room, the likely spot to find the Princess of the Sun at that point in the day. And each step closer was another hammer and nail into Twilight’s nerves, something she did her utmost to hide from the others.

“Ms Sparkle, please hold a moment,” a new voice said as two guards stepped out in front of them with one of them holding up a hoof as a gesture for them to stop. They complied, all giving the guard in question a questioning look. “Your arrival was reported. Her Highness has been waiting for you.”

“Makes sense,” Spike noted. “She did summon us here, after all.”

“Indeed,” the guard confirmed. “She awaits you in the throne room and has been for some time. Day court has been postponed ever since the break-in, so the Princess’ schedule is quite free for the moment.”

Well, the fact that the guard hadn’t been sent to arrest her certainly filled Twilight with a bit more confidence. Of course, it’d take unanimous agreement from all the other princesses for one of their own to be treated as such, but given who was nestling inside her head it wasn’t a possibility she’d taken out of the books…

“So, what did the bad guys make off with anyway?” Rainbow Dash idly enquired.

“I’m not at liberty to inform you I am afraid, that duty falls to Princess Celestia herself,” the guard responded.

“You gotta tell us you at least know something about the varmint who did it,” Applejack pressed further.

“I am not privy to those details, but word is that the trail has gone cold. There isn’t any guard left standing who saw the culprit in person.”

With every little detail that emerged, it seemed less and less likely that it was Twilight and Sombra’s little escapade that her been discovered. But if that was true, then something else had indeed gone down that day….

And to top it off, one little detail about what the stallion had just said caused Twilight’s ears to go bolt upright as her hairs stood on end.

“What do you mean, ‘left standing’?”

“I’m sorry Princess, but as I said, her highness is waiting for you. Those details are best left for your private conversation. It is her own request.”

“Intriguing…” Sombra mused. “The timing could be coincidence, but perhaps there is far more at play here than just myself.”

“Let’s hope not…” Twilight muttered.

“What was that, Twi?” Pinkie asked with her trademark grin.

“Nothing!” she replied with an innocent smile. “Princess Celestia! Let’s go do that thing! Yes! Lead on!”

The guard nodded, he and his counterpart wordlessly turning around the leading the way. The duo escorted them quickly through the halls and towards the castle’s throne room. When they arrived, they shared a quick few words with the guards outside before motioning for the seven of them to enter.

The six ponies and one dragon did so, their escort remaining behind and closing the two massive doors firmly behind them. This left the group in the long chamber that was the throne room, a raised dais sitting at the end of a long red velvet carpet upon which the royal throne sat.

And on that throne, Princess Celestia herself looked up from a document of sorts to witness their arrival.

“Ah. I was hoping you girls would arrive soon,” she began, placing her work to one side and rising from the throne to approach the group. “I am sorry to call you here with such short notice, but the matter is urgent.”

“Eh, we’re used to it,” Rainbow Dash claimed.

She tittered behind a hoof. “Indeed, I suppose this is becoming a rather unfortunate habit. But a necessary one I am afraid.”

Twilight bit her lip, studying the large form of equine perfection before her. Or at least something she had considered perfection since she was a filly. But now…

A titbit of rage bubbled up inside the younger alicorn once more as her thoughts returned to the elder’s recent betrayal of trust. A secret kept from her protégé her whole life, it must have been such a joke to her! And now here she was, as radiant as ever, a serene mask covering any true intent she held.

“As is her way,” Sombra noted. “Some need no magic in order to brainwash a populace.”

Twilight thought that statement to be a bit of an exaggeration, but the angriest part of her did slightly agree. To some extent, at least. She hadn’t expected to be before Celestia again so soon, but fate had seen that it had happened anyway.

But Twilight had to put it aside for the moment. There would be another time for that, Equestria needed her.

Still, Twilight’s uncharacteristic disdain towards the Princess of the Sun didn’t seem to go unnoticed. Celestia’s eyes ever so briefly met her own, and it was almost like Twilight could sense the Princess’ recognition of the fact.

And yet, hidden deep within that mask, Twilight also saw a modicum of disapproval in those lavender ovals.

“So, what happened?” Twilight asked evenly, a strange sense of calm overriding her previous fear. “You said something about a break-in?”

Celestia seemed to study the mare for a moment, causing some of the Element Bearers to glance towards one another, but then she nodded.

“I am afraid so. Several nights ago, long after Luna’s moon had arisen, somepony bypassed the guard and infiltrated the castle. They somehow broke into the archive and made it all the way to the uppermost level. There, they used dark magic to break into a sealed off section and make off with several tomes of King Sombra.”

Twilight gasped, and to her right she saw Sombra’s apparition appear with a severe frown on his face.

“The thief stole my works?” he rhetorically questioned in complete disgust. “This criminal possesses that which they should not. It is most imperative that we retrieve them, my descendant.”

“So wait, they used that black gooey stuff that King Meanie Pants used back at the Crystal Empire?” Pinkie Pie asked. “Who is this guy, anyway?”

“That is yet unknown. The culprit was confronted by several guards, but any who were close enough to see their face were… terminated.”

A wave of horror crept through the group. Not only had this dark magically powered pony broke into Canterlot Castle and stolen from the archives, but they’d killed ponies!

“So, what do you want us to do?” Twilight asked.

“For the time being, I ask you remain close in case the Bearers of Harmony become necessary.”

“But we don’t even have the elements!” Applejack pointed out.

“You have long since proven your capabilities without them. And if they do become necessary, their collection can be arranged until the deed is done,” Celestia explained. “Twilight, I believe you can put your mind to use assisting the investigation. Anything the rest of you might also have to offer, you may feel free to do so. I do not need to state that the rise of a new dark mage in Equestria could spell disaster.”

“Only if it’s the wrong dark mage,” Sombra said. “But on this occasion, the Princess of the Sun speaks true. That knowledge is ours alone, Twilight. We must reclaim it.”

“We will do what we can, Princess,” Twilight confirmed with a nod.

Celestia gave them all a smile. “I know you all will do your best. Rooms have been prepared for you all, the guards outside who brought you to me will take you there. Twilight, you will make use of your own royal quarters in the castle.”

“Got it.”

“Well, I guess we had better get to it then,” Applejack remarked.

“Team Super Cupcake Friendship, go!” Pinkie declared.

“Pinks, never call us that again,” Rainbow Dash deadpanned.

“One final thing,” Celestia interrupted before the pink mare could retort. “Twilight, I wish to speak with you in private. Now.

And just like that, Twilight’s hopes that her own crime hadn’t been discovered evaporated. She knew. Twilight could feel it in the way the Princess of the Sun regarded her.

Of course she knew.

“Twilight, what’s going on…?” Pinkie Pie then asked worriedly. “Something doesn’t feel right all of a sudden…”

“It’s okay girls. We just need to talk,” Twilight assured them. “I’ll catch up.”

The girls looked at her with renewed concern but acquiesced to the request of the two Princesses of Equestria. Slowly, they all started to depart the throne room and vanish behind the great ornate doors. Spike was the last one through, turning around and looking like he wanted to say something. But then he thought against it, vanishing out of the throne room as well.

Her friends are gone. Now it was just the two of them.

Well, three.

“I am-”

“Very disappointed in me. I know,” Twilight deadpanned, her tone actually managing to catch the Princess of the Sun completely off guard. “When did you figure it out?”

Celestia was silent for several moments, her surprise at Twilight’s demeanour in the face of a coming reprimand more than obvious. But then she regained her composure, standing up tall so that she stood domineeringly over the younger alicorn.

“Your magic has always been skilled, but my eyes have seen many such spells in my many years of life. I have developed a knack for perceiving what others cannot, as such I came across your little heist while investigating the other break-in. I believe it to have been by the same culprit, but then I studied the magic’s age and signature.”

Celestia let out a breath, closing her eyes for a moment before she opened them with renewed disappointment.

“It was several hours older than the second break-in, and it held you magic signature. You, Twilight, somehow managed to break into my personal chamber and rifle through items I hold close. Of all ponies, I had never imagined YOU to completely disregard another pony’s privacy. Perhaps I could expect it from Luna in an act of sibling rivalry for the sake of a joke, but I highly doubt you had such intent.”

Celestia looked to Twilight for an answer, but much to her inner aggravation she received none.

“Twilight! Why did you break into that chamber? Why go against me in such a horrid manner?”

“Why?” Twilight parroted with a humorous chuckle. “Oh, you’re the last pony who should be asking me ‘why’. In fact, it should probably be the other way around. I’m not the first out of the two of us to violate the rights of the other, am I!?”

“What are you-”

“WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME THAT SOMBRA WAS MY DISTANT GRANDFATHER!?”

A penny dropped.

Celestia was silent, horrified as to the words that had just come out of Twilight’s mouth. Her mind suddenly found itself racing, finding herself in one of those rare moments where she simply had no idea what to say. In a mere moment the tables had turned, and now it was Twilight confronting her.

“You… how…?”

“I had… suspicions…” Twilight dodged. “But after you always denied knowing anything about Sombra’s son, I found that genealogy book among your collection. You had detail on every single descendant. Branch families as well as the main family line! I even found myself and Shining Armor, covered in little written details about ourselves. It’s good to know I inherited his magic!”

“You… you were never supposed to know…”

“And yet the lie has unravelled,” Sombra said in clear satisfaction, taking glee in what was transpiring.

“Clearly,” Twilight said in response to them both. “But I know. So why, Celestia!? You knew who I was from the day I was born! Was I a threat to you? A weapon to be used? Is that why I became your student? Is that why I’m a bearer? I’m your tool!? A thing!?

“No! I… Twilight!”

“Was any of what we had real!?” Twilight screeched, tears starting to bur her vision as she pushed out with a hoof and shoved the shell-shocked Celestia backwards. “All those years! Were you just pretending to care!? Just so you could keep an eye on me! So you could weaponize me and even send me against Sombra himself! Was it some kind of twisted revenge for what he started inside of Luna!? WAS IT!?”

“What would telling you have accomplished?” Celestia rebuked. “You or Shining Armor? Or even your mother? What would telling any of you have achieved?”

“We deserved to not be lied to for a millennia!”

“The truth is simple, Granddaughter.” Sombra frowned darkly. “She will offer no forgiveness for the sins of mine, passed down through our line.”

“I was protecting you!”

“Liar!” Twilight bellowed. “You were protecting yourself! You didn’t care about us! About me! No, I’m just another Sombra waiting to happen, aren’t I? Had to keep me close, just in case…”

“You are being ridiculous!” Celestia shouted in turn. “Yes, I tracked his descendants. But I never once thought you a danger, Twilight. I did care for you.”

“Did?”

“Do!” Celestia quickly amended. “I just- Twilight, my omission did not give you the right to do what you did.”

“It gave me every right!” the mare disagreed. “You sent me against family without realising it! I don’t need to be an Apple to know that that’s just… not right! Yeah, he needed to be stopped, but… you should have told me!”

“…Perhaps. But I had good reasons.”

“Oh, I’m sure you did,” Twilight scoffed. “So, I broke into your precious little vault and learnt the truth. But if you think I had anything at all to do with the second break-in then you’re out of luck.”

“I never even considered it,” Celestia retorted. “But now I have to ask, what will you do now?”

“My brother and parents should now. Cadance too,” Twilight declared. “Unless she already knew…”

“No,” Celestia denied. “Nor Luna. Only I found Sombra’s offspring in the aftermath of the Crystal Empire’s fall.”

“Then you should tell them,” Twilight growled. “Or I will.”

Celestia swallowed, emotion rising up along her features. “Do what you believe is best. You are also a Princess of Equestria, after all.”

“Glad you know it,” Twilight stated as she turned around and started to head towards the doorway. “I will still do my duty. But I’m not your pupil to push around and lie to without consequence. Not anymore. I’m one of you, don’t forget it.”

“I never have,” Celestia muttered. “I believe we both have much to think about.”

Twilight stopped briefly, turning her head ever so slightly to glance at Celestia out of the very corner of her eye. But then, wordlessly, she pulled the throne room door opened and slipped out through it before slamming it shut behind her.

And there was left Princess Celestia, unbelieving as to what had just transpired. In just a moment, it was if her entire relationship with Twilight Sparkle had been torn asunder. Perhaps forever.

All because of a stupid lie.

She returned to her throne, shakily sitting herself down on it and gently removing her crown. And there, etched into the back of the frame, were two names. The names of ponies that, at some point in their lives, she had failed in such a terrible way that the consequences of her failure were unimaginable.

Luna.

Sunset Shimmer.

Two ponies she’d thought gone forever. Both returned due to the actions of the wonderful mare who had just stormed out of the throne room. A mare who she had just hurt by doing what she thought was the right thing, and yet was no longer certain…

Her horn brightened, and a third name was soon etched alongside the others.


Sombra couldn’t have been happier.

The bond between the Princess of the Sun and his descendant was well and truly decimated. Celestia’s hold on Twilight was at an end, and with it, all that she had taught the young alicorn would be in doubt. Philosophies called in question, entirely new possibilities opening up for the both of them now that the Sun had failed.

Another victory.

Another step closer to their ascension.

Twilight, of course, could not share in his jubilance. But it was all part of the process, even as she stormed through the halls with barely held back sobs. Even as she made it to the royal chamber marked with the lavender starburst cutie mark and threw herself onto the nearby mattress, letting her wails be unleashed as grief wracked her body, it was all part of the plan.

Yes, this was how it had to be.

All part of what had to be done.

Everything was…

Was…

Twilight’s screams continued, her despair assaulting the King’s ghostly ears. He materialised next to her, looking down at his distant granddaughter as she let her sorrow loose, unaware of his physical presence. And there, much to his discomfort, his cheer seemed to collapse.

This feeling… It wasn’t one he had felt for a very long time.

Sadness.

Empathy.

He looked away uncomfortably, unable to look at his descendant in such a state. It was… unnatural. He was King Sombra. He didn’t… ‘feel’ like that.

And yet his gaze returned to her, and he found himself sitting down at her bedside. And that is exactly where he remained until the alicorn cried herself into a deep sleep.

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