• 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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15 - The Moon's Advice

The next morning was not a happy awakening.

In all honesty, Twilight couldn’t be sure when exactly it was that she’d fallen asleep. Everything after leaving the throne room was a bit of a blur, obscured by forming tears and an emotionally ravaged mind. As one might imagine, this all led to a restless night where, upon the dreaded sun’s rising, the young alicorn found herself feeling even more tired and drained. Not a state she wanted to walk the castle in, bringing about a great desire to simply spend the rest of the day in her room and sulk.

Tempting.

But not very practical.

So, with great effort, Twilight was able to pry herself from the bed and up onto her hooves. Whatever the case may be, there was still an important reason that she’d been called to Canterlot in the first place. For all she knew, her friends were also already up and about in their usual eagerness to be of help towards others. She couldn’t just sit around while there was investigating to do, especially not with such a dangerous pony running around with Sombra’s research in their possession.

Besides, any and all distractions would be welcome.

Dragging herself to a nearby vanity mirror, Twilight inwardly groaned at her dishevelled state. Still, it was nothing that a quick wave of her magic couldn’t fix. Perhaps not to the quality Rarity might produce, but at least she didn’t look like she’d been chased through a bush by an enraged Angel Bunny.

With that basic task completed, and forgoing breakfast due to a general lack of any kind of appetite, Twilight then proceeded to exit the room and immediately head in the direction of the archives. That was where she needed to be.

Where she really needed to be…

The short trip was made in silence, only receiving silent nods from guards and concerned looks from the staff as the Princess passed. Her foul mood wasn’t exactly subtle, something that had become a bit of a theme ever since Sombra turned up inside her head.

Not that it was entirely his fault alone, but it had certainly been the core of it all…

Ignoring a sense of indignation radiating from the spirit, Twilight pressed forth until she was outside and approaching the other building. The entire structure was surrounded by a thick cordon of guards, the Solar Guard started to come and replace their Lunar counterparts now that the night had departed.

But the moment they saw the Princess approaching up the path, a couple stood aside and silently waited for her to pass. She did so without hesitation, moving on into the building proper.

Yet more guards were present inside, a flurry of activity going on around Twilight as they combed every inch of the place for evidence. There also seemed to be a few ponies without the ornate armour of the Royal Guard too; ponies called in from other branches of Equestria’s government and forces perhaps.

How much had been found in the days since everything had happened?

There was one specific spot where Twilight could find out.

Moving past the reception and upstairs, retracing her steps from her previous visit to the archive, Twilight trotted all the way up to the topmost floor. Upon entering, she was almost floored by the sheer devastation that awaited her.

The entire entrance to the restricted section had been destroyed. It honestly looked like someone had brought in a starved manticore and let it run wild in such an enclosed space. Her horn tingled slightly from the increasingly familiar presence of dark magic still permeating the air, further drawing Twilight’s eyes down to markers on the floor seemingly placed out to indicate where the fallen guards had laid.

“Most concerning,” Sombra mused as he appeared beside Twilight. “This display troubles me.”

“It’s not unlike what you did to Celestia’s vault,” Twilight muttered under her breath, all too aware of the other ponies in the area.

“On the contrary. My spell was controlled and precise in its intended function. Feel the air, the pure uncontrolled energies of darkness that yet infect this site. There was no control behind this, no finesse, just pure uncontrolled waves of magic. Had they attempted the same thing in the superior wards of Celestia’s little collection, the backlash likely would have caused the perpetrator to vaporise themselves.”

Twilight just hummed in response, slowly stepping over the rubble and around the spots where corpses had only recently lain. Heading into the restricted section proper, the alicorn trotted around the bookshelves and back towards Sombra’s own works. As expected, a significant swath of what had been recovered in the Crystal Empire was missing.

“I’m seeing a lack of books on the fundamentals, enthrallment… and necromancy,” Twilight noted with no small amount of worry.”

“Indeed. Yet they left behind any references to shadowform, crystallisation, the afflictions of fear…” Sombra further noted. “The thief had a specific agenda.”

A cold shiver made its way down Twilight’s spine at the implications. “Controlling the dead?”

“As it would appear, Granddaughter. To play with corpses is a dangerous practice, one so easily squandered and uncontrolled. My usage for such things were limited beyond experimentation.”

“Lucky us…”

“Draugr are durable but of limited intelligence, slaves whose wills were bound to mine were far more useful. That, and I held little desire to rule over a moving grave,” Sombra explained “And yet the thief also stole the basics, so they are an untrained novice. That is even more dangerous.”

“You trained yourself from scratch,” Twilight pointed out.

“My own natural ability carried the weight of my ambition, something we share,” he rebuffed. “I know nothing of this novice’s abilities. Indications of his delving into such advanced spells suggest a lack of patience and readiness I would not allow of you. The spells inside that book, completed by one not prepared, could have results that benefit nopony.”

As if Twilight wasn’t on edge enough. “How so?”

“Abominations. Mutations that are as unpredictable as they are dangerous. Our family’s collective knowledge must be returned to us, Twilight. Only we can use it safely.”

“I’m not sure about that last part, but I definitely agree to the ‘getting it back’ part. Who knows what kind of damage this dark magic could cause…?”

As Twilight trailed off, she started examining the empty bookshelves more closely. A cursory scan with her magic for any recognisable signatures only returned the same dark magical taint that was infecting the rest of the area. With a hum, she realised that if anything was to be found here, it likely had been already. Asking one of the present investigators would be the next logical course of action, though a final thorough check wouldn’t hurt.

Staying focused on the shelves, Twilight started looking through the remaining tomes to see if they’d been disturbed. For even a crumb of evidence left behind, maybe a tuft of a mane lodged between books?

But, as she moved one aside, two large cyan coloured eyes suddenly met her own.

Twilight yelped, jolting up and bashing her head painfully into the shelf above. The world swam for a moment as the mare stumbled backwards, rubbing the new bump on her head as she squinted through the pain at the pony who was now rounding the bookshelf with an apologetic, if somewhat amused, look on her face.

“Forgive my abrupt arrival, Twilight Sparkle,” Princess Luna said, standing tall and regal with her star-filled mane flowing gracefully behind her, albeit with a noticeable degree of tiredness in her ancient eyes. “I simply heard you talking to yourself and wished to see if any discoveries had been made.”

“It’s- Ow!” Twilight made a note not to poke that new bump. “It’s fine, Princess. I was just going over what had happened to myself.”

It was somewhat eerie how naturally these lies and half-truths were starting to come to her.

She nodded. “I see. Anything you wish to reveal?”

“I’m afraid not. I actually only just got here, I was about to ask around.”

“Ah. Yes, there is much to digest of these events. It is a most troubling incident, and one that could have profound repercussions should the foul villain remain uncaught.”

“Looking at what’s been taken, you’re not kidding,” Twilight replied, giving the empty shelf one last cursory glance before making a move back towards the caved-in entrance. “But I should get to it, I really need to figure all of this out. And I’m sure you’re in need of rest after a long night, Princess.”

“Indeed, my Realm of Dreams does call to me,” Luna confirmed as Twilight walked away. However, what she said next stopped her in her tracks. “And yet, the talk I had with my sister indicates that my presence in the waking world is yet required.”

With a small twitch of her eye, Twilight slowly turned to look back at Luna.

“Twilight, please try not to look so distressed,” Luna said softly. “Recall that you are among friends.”

Twilight huffed. “It’s been hard to feel like it lately.”

Luna gave her a sympathetic smile. She then started to trot towards the mare, shooting the other ponies in the room a look that said ‘be gone’ before sitting down next to her fellow royal alicorn.

And, once they had privacy, she started to talk.

“I know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of my sister’s ill-advised machinations. Her history is one filled with mistakes and their consequences. Her mask hides a great deal of uncertainty as a result, on that you can trust me.”

“She told you?”

“That you descend from one of our greatest enemies? Yes, Twilight Sparkle, she did,” she replied without a hint of malice. “Last night left her most distressed within her dreams. I tend not to intrude into my sister’s fantasies, but this nightmare drew my attention.”

“Really? Why?”

“Need you truly ask?” Luna asked, before giving a low sigh. “When I first regained access to the Realm of Dreams, I discovered my sister was plagued with a millennia-long streak of night terrors. Some were of my fall. Some were of my victory as Nightmare Moon. Others were, well…”

Luna bit her lip, seemingly reluctant to tell Twilight the contents of Celestia’s nightmares. And yet, for some reason, she relented.

“When I first ‘departed’, Celestia was ruined within. A spark was ignited somewhere within her, one ready to cast off responsibility and let the world burn around her. She resisted, of course, my sister is of strong constitution. But this spark, this Daybreaker, would haunt her dreams. I did my best to assist in quelling the side of her I helped create. I thought the level of torment these dreams caused her were unique, until last night.”

“A world on fire…” Sombra said with a sneer, unseen by Princess Luna. “Behold the true core of your Celestia.”

For the moment, Twilight kept her focus on the Princess of the Night. “What did she dream about me? Was I becoming like Sombra?”

“No,” she denied, much to Twilight’s surprise. “Rather, you never forgive her. You stopped trusting others, forwent friendship, returned to your old ways. She watched your happiness die because of her lie, and it was tearing her apart. Tormented by the thought that her decisions had driven you to such a tragic outcome.”

“Like they had to you…”

“Indeed. Celestia and I were… not on good terms back then. In short, depression crept at my mind, my misery becoming a constant state of being. Celestia refused to see the signs, too busy being the goddess the ponies of Equestria made her out to be. And then, when I could take no more…”

Luna paused, closing her eyes as she tried to quell an influx of despair and regret.

“I gave in, Twilight. I was too weak, both to resist Nightmare Moon and to resist the seeds that King Sombra had implanted within me. Before my fall I let Celestia become consumed by her light, too afraid to pull her back. And then I did unspeakable things, became something terrible. So, you see, each of us holds part of the blame.”

“Irrelevant,” Sombra dismissed. “The weakness of the Night holds no bearing on you, Granddaughter. You are nothing but justified.”

“You’re saying that I am partly to blame for this?” Twilight asked incredulously.

“What I’m trying to say is that you have both clearly wronged one another,” Luna calmly rebuked. “As impressed as I am with your little heist of my sister’s belongings, for which I implore you to give me some pointers by the way, it was still wrong of you. Each of you has sinned against the other, just like we once did. But I beg of you, Twilight, don’t let it end the same way.”

“She is a fool,” Sombra stated. “Once a prisoner of her jealousy, and now of her shame. For siblings to conflict is expected, but the very rights of your birth were stolen by that blight. We must walk in nothing but certainty, while the conflict within both alicorns demonstrates their weakness.”

“But whatever may come, know that she loves you,” Luna suddenly declared. “A maternal affection brighter than Daybreaker’s rage could ever be. Do not be so quick as to believe it all a fabrication.”

Luna got up, looking down at Twilight with one final smile of understanding.

“Now, I shall leave you to your work, Princess Twilight. I do wish you well, but I must return to my chambers. Good luck.”

And with that, Princess Luna turned to depart from the room, leaving Twilight alone with the ghost inside her head.

“Do not fall for such folly,” Sombra once again implored. “Luna is of a weak will, both to fall and then to return to her sister’s shadow. Celestia’s oppressive nature was demonstrated on both occasions, and again with recent events. All her ‘love’ is but a ploy. You must be stronger than the Night, Granddaughter. You do not need Celestia nor her teachings.”

“I… don’t know what to believe anymore…” Twilight muttered defeatedly.

“Then believe in what I have to teach, and find solace in those studies,” Sombra pressed. “Our previous lesson remains incomplete. I believe we will have some time once the investigation is concluded.”

“Studying, right… I think that will be a nice break,” Twilight agreed, getting up and wiping some forming tears from her eyes. “It might help me get my head in order. I need to figure this out on my own.”

“A wise policy, not falling under the whims of others. And I trust you will come to the correct conclusion.”

If only she knew what the ‘correct’ conclusion actually was...

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