• Published 20th Oct 2018
  • 9,047 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.

  • ...

17 - Revealing Truths

The next day’s investigation was turning out about as fruitful as the previous day’s.

That is to say, not at all.

Twilight boredly shifted through pieces of debris atop a metal table inside a room adjacent to the guard barracks in Canterlot Castle. She had been scanning, re-scanning and then scanning again every single shard for even a scrap of DNA evidence her magic could potentially pick up. They’d even used non-magical options like luminol for any kind of trace in case something about the dark mage could obscure their magical methods.

Every option turned up as empty as the last.

Twilight proceeded to extract two unfortunately familiar fragments from the bottom of the pile, little pieces of the former entrance to the restricted section, and proceeded to give them one more thorough examination. Being thorough never hurt, but even she was starting to reluctantly accept the futility of the effort. Who knew how many times she had examined these pieces alone? And, of course, they yet again came up with no useful trace beyond the simple indication that something dark magical in nature hit it quite hard indeed.

Twilight huffed, throwing the pieces aside and turning to examine the room in full. There were several more tables filled with fragments and evidence, all set up at the Princess’ request for personal examination.

All useless.

“For all this mage’s clear lack of aptitude, they were intelligent enough to not leave any definable trace,” Sombra noted, appearing once more next to his protégé. “Fortunate for them, for that modicum of common sense within them is likely the very reason they didn’t destroy themselves with their own spell.”

“That would have made things easier…” Twilight moaned. “The Royal Guard has been investigating this for days now. And even in the time I’ve been here, I can see that Canterlot is going to be a dead end. There’s just no trail to be found, not unless we find traces of the same dark magical signature elsewhere.”

“Elsewhere indeed…” Sombra noted to himself, giving a hum as he appeared to enter deep thought.

“What is it?”

“A consideration. You took all of my works from my sanctum, yes?”

“You’re in my brain, you should know,” Twilight said, gesturing to her own head. However, she then started to form an inquisitive expression of her own. “Though saying that… did you have anything in there we didn’t find?”

Sombra seemed to go on guard. “Perhaps.”


“It is of little consequence, you shall find out in time,” Sombra rebuked. “Unless, of course…”

“The Crystal Empire. That might just be where the culprit ran off to!” Twilight declared with a ‘eureka’ sparkling in her eyes. “Whatever you’re hiding in there, whether this dark mage knows about it or not doesn’t matter. It would still be a tempting target if they want to learn your secrets, they won’t know it has all been catalogued.”

“It is possible. The Crystal Empire is the seat of my power,” Sombra noted, Twilight trying to ignore the present tense. “Even now, those crystals still remember my presence. It is logical for any impersonator to wish to study at the heart of my strength.”

“Well, it’s a lead. Celestia knows I’m not going to find any others around here,” Twilight said, disdainfully nodding at the assembled junk. “Though it would be difficult getting past the guards.”

“And yet they have done it before,” Sombra pointed out with a hint of a mocking tone. “Do not assume they have not, yet again, already gained access to what is not theirs.”

“Well, hopefully, he’s still there at the very least. Or has left something telling us who they are.” Twilight hummed in through, rubbing her chin as she mulled something around in her head. “Alright, I’ll have to tell the others about this. If we can catch a train relatively soon, we might be able to catch them red hooved!”

“Assuming we are correct, there is no certainty.”

“It’s better than nothing, let’s see if we can find my friends,” Twilight said, starting towards the door before she just… stopped. Her magic had been lit ready to grab onto the handle, but even that died out as conflict entered her eyes.

“Your thoughts dwell on those interfering mares,” Sombra observed. “What is this longing I detect, Granddaughter?”

“It’s just… After our talk last night, it’s had me thinking…”

“As I am aware. For all your protest, you yet wonder if I speak only truth.”

“Maybe. But it’s not entirely that.”

“Oh? You believe me to have misinterpreted what I so clearly see?”

“Not entirely, but…” Twilight sighed. “It’s Radiant Hope. How important she was to you.”

Sombra frowned. “Why do you mention her once again?”

“Did it ever hurt? Acting like you didn’t care?” Twilight asked, and despite his mask, she had a feeling that she’d struck a nerve beneath that cold exterior. “That’s what you did, right? To ‘protect’ her?”

“I need not pretend, I was the cold corrupted dark mage who wrought doom to her city.”

“Please, don’t try to deny it now. Not after everything we went through yesterday,” Twilight gently pleaded. “Even if she didn’t know you anymore, I know you still loved her. She didn’t go down with the Crystal Empire, you saved her too.”

“My son required his mother.”

“I still don’t believe you stopped feeling for her, not after what I saw. So, did it hurt pretending not to?”

Sombra was looking distinctly uncomfortable at this point. “This line of questioning is pointless. Cease it at once.”

“Because that’s how I feel lying to my friends,” Twilight declared, and immediately she felt Sombra’s safeguard tighten within her mind.

“You still wish to tell them?” Sombra questioned in an irritated tone. “To warn them?”

“I want their help… And I want to protect them from what we might face,” Twilight answered. “That’s what you tried to impart on me, right? Protecting the ponies you love? Well, this is my method. Telling them the truth, letting them stand beside me knowing what we’re running into.”

“They will betray you.”

“No, they won’t!” Twilight shouted, stamping her hoof in a surge of anger. “Not them! Never!”

“They will not understand what you do to protect them. It will turn their view of you sour, that is why you force it on them for their own good.”

“I will not be like that, it won’t turn out like it did for you!” Twilight objected, and she inwardly knew she’d struck another blow. “I’m not going crazy and enslaving Ponyville, and while they might find it hard to accept at first, I know for a fact that they’ll stick by me no matter what.”

“I warn you, Twilight. Informing them could undo our destinies.”

“I don’t care! Besides, letting them in might be a chance to show you that friendship can work!”

“You do little to convince me.”

“Then do it for me!” Twilight pleaded. “Sombra, it’s tearing me up inside! I HATE not being able to tell them, not having them there to support me. And it’s not fair on them either, they deserve to know! Please, I need them! I… I can’t do this much longer without knowing they’re there…”

“You do no need anypony to succeed, it is they who need you!” Sombra dismissed.

“We need each other. And we’re better for it, stronger. That’s how friendship works.”

Sombra growled, turning his back on Twilight as he gave an enlarged sigh. Why couldn’t she just see? Simple friends were a waste of time, existing only to disappoint and regress. And yet, Sombra could indeed feel the heavy amount of love she felt towards them. It went beyond a casual friendship, that he could not deny.

But all the worse. If she felt such a way, they needed her protection, even if they didn’t understand it. It was her will that should hold sway, no matter how they came to view her in turn. It was for their good, everypony else didn’t even matter. That was how it had to be, any other way would just invite future pain and failure.

And yet…

Sombra could feel the turmoil within those glistening eyes digging into him. The curse of being inside her mind, he could feel all that she did. And it was terrible, such emotional suffering…

She shouldn’t feel this way. She had to have resolve! Dedication! Her empathy made her weaker, she needed unwavering certainty to rule! To protect!

And yet, as he felt the last pony on Equus he actually had some level of care for suffer, he felt his own begin to falter.

When Twilight entered the lounge, her friends had already collapsed into the various chairs around an empty fireplace with various levels of irritation etched into their faces. Rainbow Dash looked particularly restless, the only one not actually sitting as she idly hovered over a bemused Applejack.

“Hey, girls,” Twilight greeted with a tired smile. “Any luck.”

“Oh, hey Twilight!” Pinkie greeted first, who actually appeared to be in typically good spirits. If only because it was her keeping the room from entering a metaphorical greyscale. “You look kinda rough, you okay?”

“Ask me that another time,” Twilight replied, finding a seat on a sofa next to Fluttershy and collapsing into it.

“Oh dear,” the yellow pegasus muttered. “Do you want me to get you something? Some water maybe? A bunny to cuddle?”

“As nice as that’d be, no thank you.”

“No luck?” Applejack asked.

“Of course she hasn’t!” Rainbow Dash moaned. “None of us have! I was expecting to be stopping the bad guys, not staring at junk for hours on end! Urgh, we have no idea where this dude is!”

“Do let her speak herself please, Rainbow Dash,” Rarity lightly scolded, causing the mare to pout.

“She’s… not wrong,” Twilight admitted. “Nothing came up.”

“See!” Rainbow rebuffed.

“At least it saves on paperwork,” Spike grumbled, idly writing on a scroll in the corner. “Not much to document if there are no clues.”

“I don’t know, I had some fun,” Pinkie claimed. “When Detective Diane Pie didn’t find any clues, at least around our current case, though the mystery cake thief turned out to just be Princess Celestia’s snack time, I just went around trying to cheer ponies up with treats and musical numbers.”

“How’d that turn out?” Rainbow asked in bemusement.

“Not as well as in Ponyville, some really were determined to be grumpy. But I got a few smiles, so it was worth it!”

“I’m sure they appreciated it,” Fluttershy supported.

“Still doesn’t help the lack of leads,” Rainbow muttered, crossing her forehooves mid-air.

“As much as I hate to say so, Rainbow ain’t wrong. We’re about as lost on this thing as a blind pig in a new barn,” Applejack pointed out. “I’m not sure what else we can do here. Not unless the Princess has got something we can actually do.”

“Well, about that…” Twilight started. “I might have some idea of where to look next. Nothing concrete mind you, but an idea.”

“Hm? Wish to share, darling?” Rarity enquired.

“Uh, later. There’s… there’s something else I want to… to…” Twilight found her tongue immediately caught by that dreaded internal pressure.

All of her friends glanced between one another, and then back at Twilight with renewed concern.

“You want to tell us something, Twi?” Applejack asked. “Ya’ll don’t look so great.”

“We’re here to listen, if you want,” Pinkie Pie assured the alicorn. “As long as you want!”

“I… Thank you, girls. I want to… It’s…”

And yet, still, she couldn’t form the words. Inwardly she screamed as she tried to fight Sombra off, but his control still refused to give in. A small tear managed its way from the corner of Twilight’s eye, and now her friends really started to worry.

“Twilight, do you wish us to call Princess Celestia?” Rarity asked.

“Or a doctor? Are you sick?” Fluttershy asked worriedly.

“Sick!?” Spike blurted out, suddenly quite freaked out. “No! Don’t be sick! It’ll be okay! Please don’t be sick! Twilight!”

Twilight couldn’t answer, just gaping as she inwardly pleaded. A giant pit opened in her stomach and she started to feel light headed, a physical sickness starting to be felt deep inside of her. She was shaking, desperate. She pleaded to the one none of them could see, hoping against all hope that he would relent and allow her to just speak.

And then…

“Sombra is living inside my head!”


All eyes just stared at Twilight, looking at her as if she had suddenly turned into a dragon as they all seemed to process what she had just declared. Twilight, on her part, just panted as suddenly she felt all of Sombra’s deeply applied force depart from her mind, at least in part. It was like she’d shed a saddlebag full of Bulk Bicep’s exercise equipment, and the shock of the gesture had her eyes open as wide as dinner plates.

“I hope you are right, Granddaughter. Or we are already among the damned.”

Then the silence was broken.

“Ha! Good one, Twilight!” Rainbow Dash laughed. “You had us going for a moment! Pfft, King Sombra! Riiiight.”

Twilight just gave her a deadpan glare.

“…Not joking, huh?”

“It happened in the Crystal Empire, when I went for that trip a little while ago. Though, I didn’t know until recently,” Twilight started to explain. “Sombra survived as pure dark magic, but he was still slowly dying without a body. He… wanted to use my body as his own.”

“Why didn’t you tell us?” Fluttershy asked in horror.

“I couldn’t. As he was gaining strength to overtake my body and… kill me, he got more and more control over me. I couldn’t tell you.”

“But now you’ve found a way around it, right?” Applejack asked, tilting her hat backwards as her eyes betrayed her growing anger. Yet, she didn’t give time for Twilight to answer before speaking again. “Well, that explains a whole lot! Everything you were upset over, all those trips of yours. Everything!”

“We gotta do something!” Rainbow Dash demanded. “Nopony messes with our Sparkle!”

Twilight raised a placating hoof. “Girls-”

“You’re darned right, Rainbow!” Applejack agreed. “Rarity, you and Fluttershy go grab the princesses! Pinkie, you have the guard. Rainbow, you and I will stay here and-”


That got their attention.

“A-are you okay, Twilight?” Spike asked nervously, tapping his claws together. “I-I should have seen, I should have…”

“It’s not your fault, Spike,” Twilight tried assuring the young drake.


“Sombra made sure I couldn’t tell. No matter how much I wanted to.”

Spike sniffed, wiping an emergent tear from her eye. Seeing this, Twilight held out an inviting wing, to which he wasted no time in jumping up and snuggling into the alicorn.

“We gotta get him out of you, Twi,” Applejack said. “We need to get moving, if you know anything else that can help…”

“You’re not telling anypony. This stays between us.”

“WHAT!?” came the universal shout from all of her friends.

“Why the hay wouldn’t we kick his flank! He’s probably behind the archive stuff too!”

“He’s not, we were nowhere near there at the time,” Twilight calmly rebuked. “And despite how things started, he’s not actually wanting to harm me anymore.”

“I’m sorry dear, but I find that quite hard to believe,” Rarity responded doubtfully.

“Wait…” Spike suddenly said in realisation, looking up from beneath Twilight’s wing with a renewed look of horror. “Twilight, that spell… Was it…!?”

“I’m so sorry I lied, Spike…” Twilight said, choking up a bit at his horror-filled and hurt expression. “It was dark magic. Sombra’s been teaching me.”

And in came the protests.

“You can’t be serious, Sugarcube!” Applejack spluttered in shock. “That’s… It’s…”

“Crazy!” Rainbow agreed. “You do some crazy spells, but this is WAAAAY above and beyond!”

“This has to be some kind of trick from Sombra…” Rarity muttered in disbelief.

“Yeah, Twilight, that stuff isn’t exactly fun…” Pinkie said sadly.

“Pinkie Pie is right, what were you thinking!?”

Fluttershy shuffled uncomfortably. “Maybe we should hear her out…? There… there must be a reason…”

“I wanted to learn it so that I could better protect you girls. And Equestria,” Twilight tried to justify to them. “I can control it. Control myself. Use it to understand and stop ponies like the one who we’re after right now! Besides, Celestia and Luna know dark magic!”

“But… Twilight, they don’t use it,” Spike pointed out. “Luna only knows it because she was Nightmare Moon, and have we ever seen Princess Celestia use any beyond that spell she showed you?”

“It doesn’t mean she’s not hiding more. I wouldn’t put it past her,” Twilight retorted.

“Forget the other princesses, you’re… well, you Twi!” Applejack stated. “Prove me wrong, but dark magic ain’t exactly what I’d call friendly.”

“But I’m able to control myself! I’m not using it for evil purposes, I just need to understand it.”

“Okay, darling, the magic is one thing. We trust you. But…” Rarity trailed off.

“Why aren’t you letting us kick out King Crystal Butt!?” Rainbow finished for her in a not so eloquent manner.

“I agree,” Applejack concurred. “Name me one good reason why we shouldn’t turn him in after all he’s done.”

“…He’s my grandfather.”

Silence again.

This newer revelation seemed to roll around in their heads for a moment, and it was almost as if some brain cells had blown at the sheer magnitude of what had just been told to them. Applejack, having asked the question in the first place, seemed to be the first to slowly nod and register the information.

“Huh…” the mare began. “I… think you got me there.”

“GRANDDAUGHTER!?” Rainbow suddenly bellowed. “What. The. Hay!?”

“It’s true,” Twilight assured them. “I… You know how I was looking into his son? Well, he had foals of his own… That led to my own mother, and then to Shining and me. And… Celestia, she knew! She had a book keeping track of us! She… she lied to me!”

“Oh my…” Fluttershy whispered.

“Do your own parents know of this?” Rarity gently asked.

Twilight shook her head. “Not yet. I will tell when I can, when it’s right…”

“Seems like you and the Princess need to talk some more…” Pinkie Pie mused.

“And say what?” Twilight snorted. “We said plenty to each other. It’s… complicated.”

“I’ll say,” Rainbow muttered. “This is way too much family drama. Like, a thousand years’ worth of it.”

“A little over eleven-hundred, actually…” Twilight muttered.

“What happens now…?” Spike asked.

“What does he want from us?” Fluttershy asked.

“Nothing right now. Not from you girls, anyway,” Twilight answered. “It took a lot to convince him that I could trust you with this. I… I have gotten to know him, he’s damaged. He still loves, but it's all twisted and broken. I think I can fix it.”

“You think you can reform the most evil figure in pony history?” Rarity inquired with a curious glance.

“Wouldn’t be the first time!” Pinkie cheerfully noted.

“I want to try. He is family, and after what I saw, what turned him into this… I think I can make a difference. I want to do this, but I need your support. It’s… Oh Faust, it’s been so hard…”

Spike snuggled up to her a little harder as she released a small sob. Likewise, the girls seemed to relent a little.

“I think we can help you, it’s what friends do,” Fluttershy supported. “Right, girls?”

“Can do. But if he tries anything, I’ll sonic rainboom his flank!”

“Technically, that’s Twilight’s flank right now, silly!” Pinkie Pie pointed out.

“Oh, right…”

“I’m sure there are other ways to exact justice on the ruffian,” Rarity stated with a huff. “Well, at least this further reinforces your royal status. Not that it was needed of course, but it shouldn’t be ignored all the same.”

“But… you want us to lie about this to the princesses…” Applejack said uncomfortably, biting her lip.

“I’m not asking you to lie for me,” Twilight assured. “Just try to be discrete. Don’t say anything at all, just go on like you were before I told you.”

“It still seems downright deceitful to me,” Applejack remarked with a wrinkle of a nose. “But… you’re my friend, and I also know the value of family. I’ll try. That’s all I can say.”

“Thank you, that’s all I ask.”

And for all that it was worth, despite Sombra’s displeasure at the development he himself had allowed, Twilight spirits soared to new heights. Even higher than magic studies could provide her, bringing her back up to some semblance of the mare before Sombra’s arrival.

She had her friends. Now, for all that awaited her, Twilight had the certainty Sombra so loved to preach about.