• 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.

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18 - Forgiveness

“So, you really think this dark mage of yours has run off to the Crystal Empire?” Applejack asked idly, walking alongside the others through the hallways of Canterlot Castle towards the throne room.

They didn’t say anything, but Twilight could tell that her recent revelation was still bothering him. She would catch them shoot sideways glances at her, or rather next to her. Likely picturing a certain former King of the Crystal Empire trotting alongside her. It was elating to know that they still trusted her enough to support her and keep things on the down low for the time being, and she was equally thankful they had ceased pressing the issue for the moment.

Just having them there was helping immeasurably.

“Pretty sure,” the alicorn replied. “It is the best lead we could come up with, and from what little we know about this guy it just makes too much sense.”

“I suppose it takes a dark mage to know a dark mage!” Pinkie Pie remarked as she bounced along.

“And I could think of worse locations to chase the ruffian through,” Rarity said gleefully. “I have been long meaning to revisit that wonderful place. My word, I can already feel the inspiration it shall provide!”

“Nice priorities there, Rares,” Rainbow Dash teased. “Hope that inspiration helps us stop the end of the world. Again.”

“You never know, darling. Just don’t ruin the Crystal Empire for me.”

“Me? Neveeeer…”

Twilight chuckled at the back and forth between her two friends, before then returning her focus at the task ahead.

And the pony she had to talk to.

Honestly, she kept running over ways to get out of it. Maybe they could talk to Luna instead? Just go on ahead without telling anypony?

But Celestia had to know. As her peer, a Princess of Equestria in her own right, it was her duty. Both Celestia and Luna had to know about their suspicions, and it had been Celestia who’d summoned them here to begin with.

Best to just get it over with.

“So… how we playing this?” Pinkie asked. “You know, since Princess Celestia’s mortal enemy is helping us and all.”

“Won’t she be mad?” Fluttershy asked worriedly.

“Which is why we aren’t saying nothin’,” Applejack noted with distaste.

“Let me do the explanations,” Twilight said. “I’ll just say that the idea came into my head. Not technically a lie, since he is literally inside my mind.”

“Sorry sugarcube, but I hate ‘technicalities’.”

Twilight cringed. “I know… But we need to.”

Applejack sighed, pulling down her hat partially over her eyes. She didn’t reply, electing to just grumble dejectedly behind the rim.

She’d already promised. Twilight hated making her so uncomfortable, but what was the alternative?

Celestia wouldn’t understand.

“You okay, Twilight?” Spike asked, hurrying his pace to walk beside the mare. “You don’t look it…”

“Better than I was,” she replied honestly. “Don’t worry, Spike. We’ll be off to the Crystal Empire in no time.”

There wasn’t time for him to debate the point, the throne room’s entrance coming into view.

Twilight took a breath without slowing her pace, trying to calm her quickening heartbeat as she bypassed the saluting guards and made her way inside.

Celestia was already waiting.

As was Luna.

Both elder alicorns turned to look at the seven of them as they entered, the throne room doors remaining ajar behind them. There was a moment of awkward silence that deafened the ears of all present, even the guards. All eyes went between Twilight and Celestia, all but for the two in question. They just glanced at one another momentarily, before they then averted their eyes shamefully.

“Indeed…” Luna said to Celestia, apparently responding to some unheard remark. “I shall leave you to it. Tell me how it proceeds.”

“You’re not staying…?” Twilight asked, rather hoping she’d decide to do so.

“I do not believe my presence is required for this. I would suggest your friends also depart once you have spoken of business and proceed to more pressing concerns. Be well.”

The Princess of the Moon departed, closing the door shut behind her.

“What is she up to…?” Sombra mused distrustfully within Twilight’s mind.

“What was that about?” Spike asked, mirroring Sombra’s own thoughts.

“Just… some advice and stern words only family could bring,” Celestia replied cryptically. "It matters little… how are you all?”

Even if her friends looked right at her, Twilight didn’t respond. After a couple moments of this, Applejack cleared her throat and decided to try and break some of the ice.

“We’re doing just fine, your Highness. A bit flustered and all with the lack of progress, but I think Twi has an idea about that.”

“Is that indeed the case?” Celestia asked, her hesitant eyes settling on the younger alicorn. “…Twilight?”

“…I might have one or two,” she replied with attempted neutrality. “I’ve had a lot of time to think.”

“As frail as she looks now, do not let it concern you,” Sombra warned. “She is quite practised in forms of manipulation. Yet another weakness of freely expressing one’s feelings, it is so easily squandered.”

“As I understand it, the investigation of my guard has gone poorly,” Celestia noted, trotting over to one of the stain glass windows and looking up and out of it. “False leads and general dead ends, few traces to follow as to the thief’s identity.”

“It’s true. There wasn’t so much as a hair left behind, and they’ve clearly covered any definable magic signature. A good move, in hindsight…” Twilight said, though the latter was clearly in partial reference to how her own little heist had been discovered. A fact not lost on the otherwise passive Celestia. “But I had an idea come into my head. I don’t really know for sure, but I might know where he has fled to.”

Celestia turned, giving her a small smile. “Then I would hear it. I trust your judgement.”

Sombra growled. "Lies for the weak! Beacons for the deluded!"

Twilight had her own doubts.

Celestia paused, before letting out a sigh.


“The Crystal Empire,” Twilight curtly stated. “This pony seems to have something of a fixation on Sombra. His teachings, legacy… It makes sense. Who would you want to emulate but the most powerful dark mage in recorded history?”

“A power destined for another…”

“We cleared out anything of use that we knew of on our last expedition into Sombra’s sanctum,” Twilight continued. “But they might not know that. Or… ‘maybe’ he knows something we don’t. Either way, I think it’s the most logical conclusion. Our only lead.”

Celestia hummed, returning her gaze to the window and gazing back out of it. She seemed to consider Twilight’s words, thinking the plausibility of the scenario through in her head.

“I would agree that it is a strong possibility, even if not a certain one,” she finally responded. “But in the lack of other leads, I would ask that you reunite with Prince Shining Armor and the Crystal Guard to commit a full investigation. My sister and I will continue to oversee efforts here, we may yet uncover something thus far missed.”

“Want me to send a letter ahead?” Spike enquired.

Celestia nodded. “That would be appreciated, Spike. I believe they would like to know… And they should know a great many things…”

A renewed air of uncomfortableness descended onto the mares and dragon, Celestia noting the atmosphere and turning to face the Element Bearers.

“You are aware, aren’t you?”

“You see, uh…” Applejack started to answer, but her tongue became tied.

“Yeah, I mean, she… Ugh…” Rainbow helpfully added.

“Oh dear,” Fluttershy muttered simply.

Celestia gave another sigh. “It is only natural she would tell you of all ponies, and I am glad she had the support. But for the moment, my sister is correct. This cannot be delayed, and I would ask you to leave us be for a moment.”

Twilight froze up.

“Are you okay with this, Twilight?” Rarity asked gently.

Twilight didn’t answer.

“Rarity,” Applejack softly addressed. “This is family business, we ain’t got no business here.”

“Are you sure…?” Fluttershy asked worriedly.

“Yeah, I’m not sure what to do here…” Pinkie Pie agreed.

Rarity shook her head. “If the dear wants us to stay, then…”

The unicorn looked at her royal friend, but again seemed to get no recognition.

She took that as her answer.

“…But I think Applejack is right. We should give them space.”

“Thank you…” Celestia said to them, before then looking at Twilight. “In fact, perhaps my study might be more… comfortable for this.”

“Do whatever…” Twilight replied, not meeting her gaze.

Celestia was silent a moment, but she then nodded in confirmation. She lit her horn the usual bright gold, giving her former student’s friend a final glance and noting their troubled eyes before engaging the teleportation spell around both herself and Twilight.

In a swirl of magic, the throne room distorted and vanished from existence, giving them a very brief glimpse of the golden void of light before being so suddenly ripped from it and placed down into Celestia’s private study with a loud pop. The room was neat and immaculate, entirely silent but for the birds chirping on branches beyond the nearby balcony. It all looked undisturbed, yet to be visited by the Princess of the Sun on that day. Not another soul could be seen or heard, helped by the multitude of privacy spells over the study.

This left Celestia and Twilight completely alone.

“So…” Twilight spoke first. “What did Luna say to you?”

Celestia gave her a sad smile. “That I’m an old fool. That I didn’t consider the full range of consequences beyond the outcomes I desired. That she half wants to hit me for being so negligent and half wants to hug me for my honest intentions. All that I know already, and all that I deserve.”

Twilight hummed but was otherwise silent.

“She also made some good points about what you did. I still don’t approve, and I won’t say I’m not hurt by it… But I understand wanting to know the truth I hid from you, especially one as great as this.”

Twilight turned away. “I didn’t mean to hurt you. But… I trusted you!”

“I know. But… Luna also said she spoke to you as well.”

“I… Yeah, she did,” Twilight confirmed. “And… Ugh, I’m so angry! I still can’t believe you did any of that! I trusted you more than anypony! I… I… You betrayed me! And not just me, my family! Shining… He still doesn’t know!”

Celestia let out a breath, closing her eyes. “I know…”

“And yet…” Twilight continued, feeling a sudden ping of alarm from Sombra. “She also made some good points about you.”

“Twilight…” Sombra said in a low, warning tone.

“I know you were looking out for me, that what we had was real. I’ve always known.”

“Do not be taken in by this farce!”

“And I KNOW I was wrong to do what I did. I hurt you, but I felt like you deserved it. Part of me still does! A BIG part of me! But… Ugh, I’m so confused, Celestia!”

“I know. And maybe I did deserve the reality check,” Celestia said softly, walking over to and sitting beside Twilight. “My love for you, my faithful student, has always been unwavering. You are not him. You have his power, but your spirit is your own. You are not bound by that legacy.”

“There is ONLY our legacy!”

“And yet fear kept the truth within me,” Celestia admitted. “Fear of what it might do to you. You… are stronger than that, I know. But I have always been weak towards fear when it involved the ponies I care so deeply for. Luna, Sunset… now you. My best intentions for those I love always leads to their downfall… I am so, so sorry…”

Even as Sombra’s rage startled to bubble and boil, Twilight let all recognition of him fade away as she leant into Celestia with a tearful sniff. A small tear dripped down onto Twilight’s mane from above, a large alabaster wing draping around her lovingly.

“I… I don’t think I can forget what you did to my family…” Twilight muttered sadly. “Not yet, I… It hurts…”

“I know… It feels the same, you too breached my trust. But I do not wish to lose you, I just… I want to save something I love, somepony, just this once. Not to lose you for so long as I did them…”

“I don’t want to lose what we had, either…” Twilight replied in an emotional whisper. “But you… I… We… How do we move on from here?”

“We have both erred, and I hope we can both learn. Mother knows it is long since time I learned the boundaries of what you can do for those you love, the line you can never cross…”

Twilight looked up at Celestia, eyes wide.

“I shall tell the others the truth, when our current crisis is resolved,” Celestia promised, looking down at her daughter-figure. “They do deserve the truth. It is high time I faced up to my mistake.”

Twilight sniffed, nodding in agreement as she looked away and leant back into the larger pony’s soft fur. She felt so warm, so safe… For the moment, her turmoil seemed to disappear entirely. The conflict between the ideologies of her two mentors didn’t seem to matter, for all their differences in approach and yet eerie similarities in their commitment of terrible deeds for the sake of a corrupted love. But this moment wasn’t corrupted, it felt as pure as the pearly white feathers wrapped around her form. And that, for the moment, was all that mattered.

Until she heard five words that filled her with a profound sense of dread.

“You disappoint me, Twilight Sparkle.”