• 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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26 - Midnight

The train station was up ahead, the Bearers of Harmony quickly approaching the building before most of the crystal ponies had arisen from the various side streets in their attempts to evacuate. There was still a significant amount of bodies piling into the station already, however, all those who had been the first to get the news and acknowledge the royal order to evacuate the city.

But those already there were clearly the luckier ones. Twilight could only imagine that the Crystal Express was rapidly approaching its maximum load and would soon need to depart. Everypony else… Well, they would be stuck here until the next train arrived. And as the alicorn looked behind her, the highway was now being filled with countless more civilians stampeding towards their only hope of escape.

All while the draugr continued to push towards them.

“Everypony, please board in an orderly fashion!” a guard commanded, he and a small contingent of his fellows doing their best to keep the peace amongst the terrified herd. “We are working on getting seats for you all, please be patient!”

The guard then saw the Princess and her friends rushing over, his features quickly sifting through a variety of emotions Twilight was barely able to catch. Relief, hopefulness, dread and despair in one big unholy mix.

She could relate.

“Your Highness!” the guard said, becoming the group to one side. “Thank Celestia you’re all here. What’s the situation at the palace, ma’am?”

Twilight bit her lip. “Not good. We need to speed these ponies along.”

He regretfully shook his head, his voice entering a low whisper. “That’s not going to happen. The train is about to depart, and we have yet to get an ETA on the next arrival. Even then, I’m not sure how many more ponies we can evacuate.”

“Not enough,” Applejack dryly commented. “Ya’ll seem in a bind.”

“Your compatriot speaks truly,” he confirmed. “Ponies are, for the most part, cooperating and remaining calm right now. But… most of us are trying to keep back the infection. If the line breaks and the creatures reach the crowd… We won’t be able to contain the ensuing panic.”

“But won’t that swamp the train?” Rarity asked worriedly. “A crowd of scared and desperate ponies may very well be a dreadful eventuality.”

“Then nopony will be leaving,” Pinkie Pie noted sadly, her mane delating somewhat. “M-maybe I can try to keep them preoccupied?”

Twilight nodded. “Good idea, Pinkie. If anypony can keep their spirits up, it’s you.”

The mare perked up a bit, giving the Princess a determined salute. “Aye aye! Operation: Keep Everypony Smiling is underway!”

And with that, the mare bounced off into the gathering crowds and vanished. In truth, Twilight inwardly believed that this might be a morale boost too big even for the infamous party pony. Maybe she could keep them distracted for a little while, but once the draugr hit…

The alicorn just had to hope Pinkie had something extra special contained in that physics breaking mane of hers.

“We’ll take any help we can get keeping things in order,” the guard said with approval. “Morale is most certainly needed, now more than ever.”

“What about the rest of us?” Fluttershy meekly asked. “I… I don’t want to be so… useless…”

“You are anything but, darling,” Rarity comforted the pegasus. “But I do agree that the rest of us could be doing something to help.”

Twilight hummed, her eyes scanning down the grand highway. There were thousands of ponies now, all waiting for their chance at escape. A daunting crowd of terrified faces that chilled Twilight to her core. Her mind flashed back to the changeling invasion once again, ponies running for dear life against dark chitinous figures coming down upon the city like meteorites. But this… this was beyond that in so many ways.

Maybe it was because the changelings had subdued the city in mere moments, but she wasn’t sure if the prolonged nature of the current crisis was more or less terrifying.

But her friends were right. They had to help in any way they could.

“Some of us should head back, see if we can help Cadance and my brother,” Twilight decided. “I will go. I’m an alicorn… A Princess of Equestria, I can do more there.”

“You sure?” Applejack asked. “Might do folk a lot of good seeing a Princess with ‘em.”

“It’ll do more to see her back there shooting lasers from her egghead,” Rainbow disagreed. “And I’m going with you! I’m too fast for any of those bone heads to hit me anyway.”

“I think we’d be better off assisting Pinkie Pie,” Rarity said in reference to both herself and Fluttershy. “Maybe I can help ensure the little ones get quick seats on the train…”

“A-and I could try and keep ponies calm…” Fluttershy said, though seemed to shrink at the sheer size of the crowd. “If that’s okay with them…”

“They will more than welcome it, dear. I’m certain of it.”

“Alright,” Twilight agreed before she looked down at her assistant. “Spike, you stay here too. They could use your organising.”

“But what about you?” he asked with deep concern.”

She nuzzled the drake’s head. “I’ll be fine. But I need you back here, okay?”

He reluctantly nodded. “A-alright. I can do that…”

“Then I’m coming with you and Rainbow Dash,” Applejack announced, adjusting her lasso. “I don’t have any of those fancy weapons and doohickies, but I can still knock some skulls together and keep the varmints’ traps shut with this here rope.”

“Just try to remember to duck, yeah?” Rainbow suggested.

“Don’t you worry none about me. Always was a good dodgeball player back in our school days.”

“Ugh, those games were always so barbaric,” Rarity blanched.

“Only because you’d keep getting yourself hit,” Applejack jabbed with a smirk.

“All that mane preparing just for some brute with a bouncy ball to-”

“Before we get side-tracked,” the guard interrupted. “I think your dragon friend is choking.”

Sure enough, Spike coughed up a few embers of fire before belching and unleashing a torrent of flame that ended as quickly as it had begun. And, from that burst of fire, a scroll seemed to come into existence and fall down onto the hard crystal below their hooves.

“Guess they got our message…” Spike mused, picking up the scroll and quickly reading it. “Yup, Princess Celestia and Luna have sent word for every available train to divert to the Crystal Empire after offloading their passengers. They’re also flying straight over here with a bunch of pegasi from both the Royal Guard and EUP army.”

“That’s welcome news,” the crystal pony said. “I just hope they get here in time…”

“I’m sure they will,” Twilight assured him.

“Do not be so foolish. The flight is long, all they shall find is a kingdom of the damned.”

Twilight flinched, her eyes once again trailing over all of the gathered ponies. In her mind’s eye, she could see images of them but an hour or so from now, shambling bodies with dark magical constructs taking the place of the once bright personalities behind each of their eyes…

“All because they lacked one with the will to do what was needed. A shepherd leading their flock, even if they lack the realisation of their own fragility. The curse that is their own freedom.”

No. That wasn’t going to happen! She wasn’t going to listen to him! Never! She… It wasn’t…

And yet, looking at them now, all she could see was a long stretch of corpses.

“Come on,” she said to her friends. “We know what we’re doing, so let’s do it.”

“Ya’ll heard the mare, hop to it!” Applejack concurred, sharing a few encouraging looks between the others.

They all watched as Rarity, Fluttershy and Spike vanished into the crowd as the guard too returned to his own ponies. Twilight couldn’t help but feel a little lonelier at their departure, taking as much comfort as she could in the remaining presence of Applejack and Rainbow Dash.

“We need to shoot,” Rainbow stated. “Need a lift, AJ?”

Applejack gave her a flat look, but pretty soon she realised that fighting her way through the crowd would probably take far longer than was acceptable.

“Yeah, alright. Just try not to drop me, you hear?”

“Pfft, please. Who are you talking to again?”

“That’s what worries me,” Applejack deadpanned as she hopped onto the pegasus’ back.

“Hey! Well, I’ll show you, AJ!”

“Enough!” Twilight snapped, her friends looking at her with shocked expressions as she unfurled her wings. “Helping now, joking later!”

The alicorn took off, missing the concerned look her friends shared before Rainbow went to follow. They all quickly found themselves high above the crowd, allowing them to appreciate just how large it was. So many people, and beyond them…

Flashes of light from cast magic, yet more bodies swarming against an all too thin barrier of guards with a mix of feral abandon and increasingly calm and collected strikes. It was hard to make out the details, but even from there they could see the fight against the dead wasn’t going well. The line had been pushed quite some ways back from the palace, getting dangerously close to the back of the crowd quite fast indeed…

They had even less time than Twilight thought.

Celestia and Luna didn’t even have a chance to get there in time.

“Behold, in our absence, the full breadth of the weakness that has doomed the Crystal Empire. Your Empire.”

They were doomed. After all the hardships she had faced since becoming the Elements of Magic, this was where they finally faced something their friendship couldn’t defeat.

N-no! There was still a chance! There had to be…

But the Elements of Harmony were going to be of no help. Not with the gems that the six mares represented sitting comfortably in a tree so many miles away…

“But why rely on such relics when you have your own potential?”

The fliers grew close to the ongoing action, the remaining ranks of the crystal guard forming a cohesive shield wall against the draugr. Said shield was a mix of physical and magical, polearms raised over the barrier to attempt to ward away potential attackers. But their enemy was one who didn’t fear being cut, and so they slammed against them anyway. Sometimes, a pony making up the wall would stumble and be dragged out. Other times, the creatures would arc their spit over the wall and, unless the projectile was intercepted, another would fall to the infections.

Step by step, the ponies were being pushed back towards the evacuating civilians.

“Twilight!?” Cadance called out in shock as she saw her sister-in-law and two of her friends land, the Princess herself having been trying to lend assistance to a stallion who appeared to have taken a slash from a blade. “I thought I told you to go help with the evacuation?”

“The others are, but I decided we’ll be more help up here,” she responded, seeing Shining Armor break off from the wall towards them.

“Well, I guess you have as much in it as I,” Cadance mused, glancing at Twilight’s wings. “Alright, but it’s not going well here.”

“That’s an understatement,” Shining Armor stated. “We’re losing ponies. And we can’t plug up all the side streets they’re trying to use to get around the shield wall. I have squads scouting them out, but I don’t think too many are left.”

“Let us see what we can do!” Rainbow Dash demanded.

Cadance looked reluctant. “Just be careful.”

“Please, my middle name is careful!”

Applejack gave her a wry look. “I thought it was ‘Danger’.”

“That too! Now, come on!”

The prismatically maned pegasus took to the air with unparalleled speed, almost immediately shooting off over the wall and into the crowd. Not a moment later, the mare arose again amidst a rainbow streak as two draugr went flailing back towards the palace with shrieks of surprise.

Applejack too went to go see where she could help, but quickly found herself struggling to find anywhere her lasso might be of use. So, she started pacing behind the retreating wall, looking for holes she could help plug.

All the while, Twilight approached Cadance and helped with the injured guard. She cast a healing spell that Cadance was unable to before passing him off to a medic for further treatment.

Then, a loud horn sounded through the air. The Crystal Express was departing from the city.

“I’m going to head towards the station,” Shining Armor announced. “Things are about to get hectic, and I may be able to cast somewhat of a shield over the entrance. If nothing else, protect the ponies already inside should things get worse.”

Both mares nodded as the stallion started to move back, the crowd parting for the Prince of the Crystal Empire as he went.

Cadance gave Twilight a look, Twilight acknowledging it as a sign to act. She still had all her alicorn magic, she could do some good for the defence.

Opening her wings, Twilight took to the air as she spied another rainbow blur and more surprised draugr flying unexpectedly through the air. There was a surge of movement amongst the horde, a group seemingly looking to try and brute force the right flank. Seeing this, Twilight veered off towards the potential incoming breach and readied her magic.

A surge of the horrid projectiles was launched at her, the dead seeing her arrival. She shot multiple from the sky with quick beams of mana before blocking the rest with a shield around herself. This was followed up by a multi-layered build-up of magic in her horn with she let out with an amazing pulse of pure energy. The wave of magic struck against the coming horde, driving many of them back, off of their hooves and forcing the rest to stop their charge and regroup.

The Crystal Guard seemed to be reinvigorated by the Princess’ actions, polearms striking forward and impaling any who did happen to get too close. Where a single strike was seldom enough to stop one of the beasts, continued assaults or, as Twilight had come to learn, strikes to the head felled the creatures well enough.

Still, the right flank managed to hold some ground due to her efforts. However, it was painfully apparent the middle and left were still being pushed against, the defensive line starting to become unbalanced as a result. The wall was becoming slanted, more than a few members of the line glancing around in confusion at the sudden occurrence, hurrying to compensate.

Assisting one end wasn’t enough, they all needed her help.

Twilight swerved again, skirting the top of the shield wall and lashing out with more waves of her magic where she could. She did her best to support the ponies there, trying to keep the pressure off of them where she could. They were all dirtied and tired, their stamina slowly dropping even if the fight was far from leaving them yet. And if they fell, the innocents who had made it beyond the line would soon be next.

So many lives, all depending on her doing what she could to lighten their load…

“Destroy the abominations, do not focus your efforts on saving these insignificants. You are far more than mere support.”

But without her, if she focused on them rather than the ponies beneath her, the wall might collapse.

“Necessary sacrifices. Let go of the Sun’s lessons and embrace my own. Use all your strength to overcome this challenge and take what’s left beneath your hoof.”

She wouldn’t trade lives! Not while there was still a chance!

“You are alone. Your friends will die. Your family will die. Forget the nameless faces you seek to protect, do what needs to be done.”

“But they all have families too…”

“Ours is the only family the matters.”

“That’s… That’s not…”

There was a huge shout as, quite suddenly, a wave of draugr burst out from one of the alleyways alongside the shield wall like an exploding water main! A hail of their putrid spit hit many of the defenders, screams of death ringing out as the horde beyond took advantage and pushed against the opening wall.

The defences started to collapse.

There was a clear sense of alarm and panic spreading through the ranks of the Crystal Guard, the left flank struggling to reorganise itself while the middle and right were only able to hold their own positions as their peers fell to the onslaught.

Cadance was trying to move the wounded to safety with the assistance of the medics. Rainbow Dash and Applejack had both seen what was going down, the former moving to focus her efforts there while the latter was once against struggling to hogtie one of the undead. Twilight herself moved in, her magic building once more for another large wave she hoped would allow the guard a moment to push back against the intrusion.

And then a pulsating mass of green and black came into view in the corner of her eye, but an inch from her head!

She didn’t have time to think.

She didn’t have time to breathe.

She just did.

Twilight exploded into darkness, the projectile phasing through the shadow and dissipating within its depths. Many eyes, both amongst the guard, civilians and even the now numerous and intelligent draugr, all turned in shock and awe to see the sight. More than a few crystal ponies started to scream of King Sombra’s return, hurling blame at the shadow for the current crisis as they started to hurry their way towards the station.

Then the shadow reformed into a pony, the form of Twilight Sparkle appearing in the air with her wings gently beating amongst the breeze. An eerie silence overtook the Crystal Empire as all looked towards the lavender pony, snowflakes drifting past and landing amongst the stunned bodies in the increasingly wintery city.

They all stared.

And they were all scared.

Twilight saw Cadance and her friends, all of them looking up at her with horror. And every single one was a stab at Twilight’s heart, her secret now revealed to everypony around.

They all knew. They would never trust her now. Cadance. Celestia and Luna. She could see it in her eyes! They all saw her as a monster! A freak! No better a dark mage than Shadow Flare! They all hated her, and she still couldn’t do anything! She couldn’t stop this! Not with her friends, it was like they were all beating against a solid wall!

A storm raged within Twilight, a green tint building and starting to pour from her eyes and tears fled down her cheeks. They wouldn’t understand why she had to do what she did. They would shun and alienate her, her title meaning nothing as Equestria turned against her.

Something snapped inside Twilight, the green glow steadily turning a corrupted blue as her pupils started to morph into slits.

It didn’t matter now.

They all thought her a monster. They wouldn’t understand this, so why should she care what they understood?

She could protect them all, even from themselves. Just like Sombra had tried to warn her, a warning she had so stubbornly refused to listen to.

Friendship had failed her.

And because of it…

“Because of friendship, everything you love will die…”

No…

NO!

There was a burst of dark energy around Twilight as she began to change, a terrible scream echoing throughout the Crystal Empire and reverberating off of every surface. The mare started to grow, approaching a size akin to Princess Luna as her wings turned a blue that was almost black in colour, twisting and elongating in a sinister manner. Her coat too darkened a shade, her mane beginning to blow ethereally in the wind not unlike the Sun which she had once believed in. A snake of dark magic slithered around her body, splitting off to form a piece of regalia on her chest in the form of a six-pointed star alongside four deep purple shoes with lavender diamonds adorning the front.

So too did her horn elongate, glowing a bright cyan much like the dark magic trails pouring from her eyes. She could feel her bones creak and her jaw ache as her teeth realigned themselves, sharp fangs replacing the flat equine teeth she had known since they had first emerged.

And then the screaming became laughter. Horrible, tortured laughter that betrayed the pain driving deep into the mare’s soul.

And there she hovered, far above her new subjects as the sky itself seemed to darken. That very darkness she radiated made even the dead shift in discomfort

“Twilight,” Cadance muttered from down below, her voice quivering with naked terror. “No…”

“And so it is,” Sombra declared from within the corrupted alicorn. “Most fascinating, the true form of an alicorn. And now, my dear Twilight, it is time to reclaim what is ours.”

The mare looked down at Cadance at her friends, each one pleading with their eyes for her not to do this. Not to fall to the corruption in a similar vein to Princess Luna once upon a time. It was just as she expected, just as she despised. They truly didn’t have a clue. Even with their impending deaths they still clung to their fragile view of freedom and the ability to choose.

But they didn’t know the truth. And that was that her pure bloodline were the only ones who could decide what was best, not unlike a parent disciplining a misbehaving child. She would protect them all, especially those for whom she gave her love, even if they hated her for it.

Maybe they would understand one day.

But as long as they lived, she didn’t care.

“Sombra,” the alicorn with Twilight’s cutie mark spoke. “And you, my little ponies…”

All hung on her next words, waiting to hear what she would have to say. Living or dead, all were enthralled by the sight of the dark figure high above the cityscape. The darkness was enough to strike terror in their hearts while also captivating them with the strange beauty emanating from the winged pony.

Their salvation through chains.

“Behold all that is Midnight Sparkle,” Midnight announced her emergence to the world. “And fear not, never will you suffer again. In servitude to me, all will live the existence I desire of them.”

“Twilight, STOP!” Cadance shouted. “You need to calm down, your magic is clouding your mind!”

“What do you take me for, sister?” Midnight asked, taking her words as an insult. “I am magic itself; I know the perils of letting its energies use you as a puppet. But I am more than in control, this is what I choose.

“B-but you can’t!” Rainbow Dash protested. “This is not okay! At all! Sombra’s messing with your head, you know he is!”

Cadance’s eyes widened. “Excuse me!?”

“She’s right, Sugarcube!” Applejack agreed. “He’s got your head all messed up! Get down here, we can sort all this out!”

“Oh, we’re well beyond that,” the corrupted alicorn dismissed. “I will save you, even though you try so hard to destroy yourselves!”

“What are ya’ll yammering about!?”

“Friendship will only get us so far,” Midnight proclaimed. “No, I have examined all the variables and my conclusions are clear, I know what Equestria needs for true security. You all belong to us! I care not for your objections, your false ideas of individual freedoms. I know what is right, I now realise what I should have from the start. And here is where it begins…”

Midnight turned, her eyes narrowing further as she examined the stunned horde of undead before her. A horde created by one who too wanted to protect Equestria, but he had failed to grasp how to actually do it. But where Shadow Flare failed, she would not.

With Sombra to guide her…

“All who stand against me, they shall all be destroyed!

And then, like the shadows themselves had come to life as a force of nature, she struck.

Midnight had fallen across the land.