• 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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28 - A Sparkle in the Darkness

A shadow loomed over the Crystal Empire, one so terribly familiar and completely horrifying to all of the residents of the presently chaotic city. Its green eyes looked out over it all with equal measures of desire and disgust, both ethereal orbs promising divine retribution of the highest magnitude to all those who had dared take what was rightfully his.

Rightfully theirs.

Midnight looked up at King Sombra as he regarded his subjects, holding a new appreciation for the power within that shadowy mass. A form he could hold indefinitely, while she had fallen from her own after such a comparatively short amount of time…

The dark alicorn glanced towards the horde and stunned draugr and, beyond them, the horrified ponies holding the line.

Even with her newly embraced power, she had been unable to stop the undead by herself. She had been trapped in the middle of the crowd, alone and without a friend in the world. Those moments where she’d been certain of her own death, so alone and terrified beyond measure. It was like she’d been swallowed up by a wave of despair, ready to be spat out into oblivion.

She only remained breathing thanks to Sombra. Alone, she had been almost defeated. Just as he had twice before.

But Midnight supposed that their path was now set. At least neither was alone, now. They had each other.

And yet she couldn’t help but cringe as the traumatising memory of those final moments returned in force, a hole of longing opening in her heart.

But she had to ignore it, had to shake the feeling off. Her distant grandfather was no longer a spectre buried deep within her mind; he was here. In his full glory, shadows already seeping into every crystal, Sombra lorded over the Crystal Empire. But even now, it wasn’t over. Not yet. Not while the dead still existed within the limits of the city.

They wouldn’t for long.

“My slaves…” Sombra’s shadow addressed the large crowd of gathered ponies. “Gathered into a joint grave, the dead surrounding you at every turn. A hopeless fate brought about by fragile freedoms, yet you still cling to the delusion.”

A troubling chuckle reverberated throughout the Crystal Empire, it almost sounded like the very crystals were laughing at the crystal ponies. It even sent a shiver down Midnight’s spine.

“But you should not fear the dead, no… Your fears belong to me alone. Me, and my proud protégé.”

There was great murmuring among the gathered ponies, more than a few starting to take steps backwards. Or, at least, as many as they could take before bumping into the next pony directly behind them.

“So, let us return to where you belong. Your safety awaits in chains, and your servitude is required.”

The shadows started to vibrate and spill out further into the city. The effect was immediate, the crystal ponies erupting into the full-blown panic that the Element Bearers had been trying to prevent! Almost like all knowledge of the track’s destruction was forgotten amidst the terror, the crowd began to try and push and shove their way towards the station.

“Pathetic. As ever.”

The draugr, too, seemed to be stirred back into action. But rather than running away, the beasts started to fire up at the shadow much like they had Midnight Sparkle. Sombra turned to regard them with a withering glare, contempt growing in his eyes.

“Leave the politics for later,” Midnight dismissed, lighting her horn with her returning magic. “Let’s deal with these creatures, finally. I’m sick of them.”

“As you wish, Granddaughter.”

Then the shadow struck with a ferocity far greater than Midnight had ever considered.

The world instantly went dark around the corrupted alicorn as the shadow consumed the entirety of the horde’s remnants. Even as she lit her horn with light, she could barely see her own hoof in front of her face or the crystal road beneath her hooves. Screeches of alarm from the remaining undead sounded somewhere from within the haze, continuing growls and retching as they fought something they likely couldn’t even define. Midnight was tempted to return to shadowform herself to better understand what was happening, but her drained magical capacity made her decide against it.

But without it, it was like the very air itself was trying to probe at her mind. At her fears. Sombra likely hadn’t intended it so, not towards her, but it almost seemed a part of his very existence to do so. More flashes of recent experiences crossed through Midnight’s mind, from her fight with Celestia all the way to her near death to the horde.

It was… disconcerting. She’d almost forgotten what it was like to be at the receiving end of such darkness.

There was a feral growl from somewhere nearby, Midnight turning to see an equine figure shambling through the shadow. It gave a shriek, punching up towards the alicorn with intent to kill.

She caught the creature in her magic, slamming it down into the crystal so hard that all movement stopped immediately. She then tossed it somewhere back into the shadow, eyes peeled for further attempts on her life from the infuriatingly persistent abominations.

More growls sounded behind her, the alicorn spinning to find two more of them coming towards her. She prepared her spell, ready to strike them down!

And then a spear of darkness swam through the shadows, somehow distinct enough to just been seen. It shot through both draugr, each one stopping in their tracks as their eyes began to glow a sickly green.

“What are doing!?” Midnight shouted out to the shadows around her. “You’re supposed to end their threat. Forever!”

“I never saw a use in the mindless undead. Too unpredictable, too stupid,” a hushed voice whispered along with the wind. “But these beasts are here. They are now. And they are mine.”

Midnight’s eyes widened, feeling sick to her stomach. Was Sombra serious? These monsters were a sickness! What if he lost control? Never mind that, their very existence was… unacceptable! The things they had done…

Her glowing eyes flickered a moment as doubts started to eat away at her mind once more.

And then, just as suddenly as it had come, the darkness started to recede. The light of the sun returned, allowing Midnight a view of the city around her. The horde remained, for the most part, though they all now shared that distinctive glow in their eyes. So too had they become docile, rooted to the spot almost certainly by the King’s demand.

Sombra was in control of the draugr horde, ready to spread and convert at his leisure.

And there was the unicorn himself, still a shadow high above the city. His eyes were once again locked onto the crystal ponies, those ethereal orbs looking almost… jubilant.

“Now… for you.”

“Sombra!”

Those eyes were pulled away from his would-be slaves by Midnight’s disapproving call, looking down to see his descendant glaring up at him. And then, in response, the shadow started to shrink and simultaneously descend. Black crystals erupted from the ground beneath him as the visage of the unicorn returned, fully draped in his red roped and grey armour. He stood atop the crystal, looking down upon Midnight Sparkle.

“Yes, Twilight?” he asked with an air of caution.

“TWILIGHT!” another set of voices called out, diverting the eyes of both dark ponies.

And there, unobstructed by the pacified draugr, were her friends. All five mares and the young purple drake looked at her with a mix of trepidation and determination. A distance behind them, looking like they were preparing for another fight, the Crystal Guard were gathering at the behest of Cadance and Shining Armor.

Whatever it is they were about to do, the Element Bearers had clearly been sent to try some diplomacy first. And now Midnight stood with them on one side and Sombra on the other, each giving her expectant looks.

“Them again?” Sombra said with clear annoyance. “Radiant was never this infuriatingly persistent.”

“I have no idea who that is, but maybe she should have been!” Pinkie Pie shouted.

“Girls, it’s not safe for you here,” Midnight stated. “Get behind the line. Now.”

“No can do, Sugarcube,” Applejack denied with a shake of her head. “You’re farther in the muck than Winona during rain season, and we gotta save ya’ll.”

“Save?” Sombra scoffed. “I believe she is trying to do so to you, though your appreciation is clearly limited.”

“Shut it, you psycho shadow!” Rainbow Dash snapped. “We’re talking to Twilight!”

“Yes, insults. Your lack of-”

“You heard her,” Midnight interrupted. “Shut. Up.”

Sombra blinked. “What did you say?”

“You were not meant to use those things!” Midnight shouted in a rage, gesturing to the draugr with a wing. “They’re… wrong! Just wrong!”

“It is up to us to decide such things,” Sombra arrogantly claimed. “To use any means necessary to defence what is ours. Do you not want to keep these foals safe?”

“Who you calling a foal!?” Rainbow Dash blurted out.

“That aside,” Rarity started. “Darling, you know this is… wrong. I understand you want to keep us from getting hurt, I really do. But this…”

“This isn’t the way to do it,” Fluttershy decreed with forced confidence, taking a trembling step forward. “Forcing ponies to be your slaves… I don’t want to be safe if that’s the way to do it...”

“None of us do,” Applejack agreed with the pegasus mare. “It’s crazy! Nopony wants to be in chains.”

“But you saw what happened there!” Midnight shouted. “I- I should have been able to stop that. But now ponies are dead because I couldn’t. If I can plan and organise everything, then we can stop it happening again. That’s what control can give us.”

“At what cost?”

“Is there a price for safety?” Sombra jeered. “Do you not see how they flaunt your gifts? This is why we take, there is no understanding for those below our station.”

“Is that how you see us…?” Pinkie Pie asked sadly. “But all friends are important…”

“Let them not fill your head with such folly,” Sombra urged. “The step has already been taken; we must work quickly to consolidate our control. There will always be dangers to strike away at all your love, unless you stand with me now. You have resolved to restore us to what we were, and this is the moment of victory.”

Midnight was at war with herself. As much as the draugr were wrong, their very nature horrible, a small part of her could see the practicality in their continued usage. At least until their power base had been secured.

But where would this lead? Would she find herself in another position of hopelessness, alone and without her friends? Friends who didn’t understand, truly, why she acted as she did?

But this wasn’t about her. So what if that did happen? Her fate wasn’t what counted, only of those of her friends and family. She could feel the dark magic still flowing through her veins, the sheer strength her new form granted her. She could craft Equestria into any form she wanted, research the most viable course and implement it to the letter. Only they would control the flow of history thenceforth. She could protect them all…

Midnight took a step towards Sombra.

“Twilight…?”

Midnight turned her head, her eyes widening at the pleading, tear-filled gaze of Spike. He was shaking, almost like he was holding back a complete emotional meltdown. Only a single glimmer of hope sparkled in the corner of his draconic eyes, but he was holding onto it with all he had.

“W-would you be happy…?” he asked. “Would we…? Sombra doesn’t look happy.”

The King growled. “Excuse me?”

“I want the risk if we can go back to how things were…” he continued. “I don’t want to be safe if it means no one can be happy. Especially not my Mum…”

The glow in Midnight’s eyes vanished. “Spike…”

“He’s right, nopony will be satisfied with the world Sombra wants for us,” Applejack agreed, placing a sympathetic hoof onto Spike’s shoulder as he cried. “Not us. Not ya’ll. Would it be worth it?”

“I would say the risk of normal life is worth the moments we can spend together,” Rarity agreed with Applejack. “I couldn’t imagine it any other way.”

“Imagine if we could never share a party ever again!” Pinkie said, aghast at the idea.

Fluttershy gasped. “Oh my, how horrible!”

“Think about it, Twi,” Rainbow Dash stated. “You do this, you go alone. But without that guy up there calling the shots, we will always have your back. What happened back there? We would have helped if you’d just asked. Where any one of us might get our flanks kicked, the whole bunch of us can keep on going.”

“We love you, Twilight,” Spike concluded. “W-we just want you back…”

She stood there, her once again lavender eyes staring wide with shock. How could she… How could she have been so blind? From the moment she had taken the mantle of Midnight, it was like her soul had been screaming. Pain had fuelled her darkness, but she had believed it would all be worth it just so long as they would all be safe in the aftermath.

But could she say it was worth it? Would they be safe from them? Their suffering in Sombra’s chains… Could that truly be called ‘safe’?

No, she wouldn’t be happy. She wouldn’t be happy because they couldn’t be happy. Nopony could. Everypony loses.

Even Sombra.

The alicorn let out a slow breath, a warm glow spreading throughout her body as she turned back to Sombra. And then, when her eyes opened up again, Twilight Sparkle gave her ancestor a resolute smile.

“They’re right. Of course, they’re right,” she said calmly. “I forgot for a moment. So scared of losing them, and with everything you were telling me… I would have lost them anyway, and I would have been the threat that took them away.”

“What is this!?” Sombra bellowed in rage.

“That was how you lost Radiant Hope,” she continued. “That was how you lost your son. You could have been with him for all your days… If you hadn’t given a reason for Celestia and Luna to stop you.”

“You agreed with me, Twilight!” Somrba stressed. “You chose Midnight, I never forced it upon you!”

“True,” she admitted. “I guess I have to live with that now. But that’s okay, because now I’m more certain than ever.”

Twilight glanced back at her friends, their moods clearly brightening as they all came to stand by her side with victorious grins and sighs of relief.

“Friendship is Magic,” Twilight recited. “That’s all the protection we need.”

And then Sombra shouted. It was a terrible shout, one filled with rage and loss. Indignation oozed from him of having been thwarted, once more, at the last possible second. To have all his teachings gone to waste, and at being rejected once more.

“YOU SHALL NOT HAVE HER!”

The King stamped down with a hoof, crystals erupting all throughout the Crystal Empire in one massive display of power! And, alongside this, the draugr once again began to have some life to them! Their eyes flashed as they started to growl, looking around and locking on to the crystal ponies to continue their assault.

“Sombra, stop!” Twilight begged with growing horror as the fighting restarted anew. “It’s over!”

“I know you believe in me, deep down within you,” Sombra growled. “And, if it will return you to my side, I will destroy your friends and show you where friendship leads!”

Another stamp of his hoof, his horn glowing with its putrid magic as six shards of crystal sprung into the air with jagged edges like spears. And in but a moment, each one struck forth towards their intended targets around Twilight.

“NO!”

Twilight’s eyes lit up with dark magic, sending out a wave of pure shadow that resonated with all the crystals it touched and reduced them to atoms. In response, she cut the stream of dark magic and switched out to her usual mana, letting a beam of destruction magic build in her horn until it was unleashed upon the structure Sombra stood atop of.

The magic caused the crystal to crack and shatter, causing Sombra to start falling until he morphed into shadow and reformed a moment later amidst the rubble.

“Let’s get him!” Rainbow shouted.

“Wait!” Twilight said while holding out a hoof. “It’s my turn.”

Sombra snarled. “Your turn for what, dear Twilight? You are not my equal in the dark magical arts. Even in the light, you are exhausted and diminished. You cannot defeat me. You cannot protect them from me!”

“You’re right… and you're wrong,” she claimed. “You’d be against all of us, the Elements of Harmony together. But despite that, it’s my turn to talk some sense into someone who sorely needs it.”

“What?”

“Don’t you see? Don’t you listen?” Twilight started sincerely. “Everything you’ve done, what I almost did, it’ll just make us as miserable as the ponies we’d enslave. Radiant didn’t love you-”

Don’t.

“-after what you did, not the pony you became. Your son… what would he have become under you?” she then asked. “Would he have lived a happily married life? Would he have been what he was?”

“Silence! You are not above discipline!”

“Neither are you,” she retorted. “But you still have me! I’m still here! All you have to do is stop the draugr and end this!”

“But you won’t be safe,” he calmly claimed. “You will never be safe. There will always be something to snatch you away, just like I lost the rest of my family. Our dynasty will live on… it has to! I will not be swayed by friendship’s lie!”

“Maybe not,” Twilight said with a sad smile, lighting her horn. “But through darkness… I’m lost anyway.”

Twilight’s horn started to brighten, and then crackle and pop dangerously as she started to build up pure mana with little direction or control. All eyes turned towards her in both confusion and shock, but Sombra’s particularly with dawning horror.

“Twilight, stop!”

“Like we said back in the Everfree Forest…” she recalled. “Inverting a normal spell, unlike shadowform, tends to be a little dangerous. Especially if it’s intended to kill.”

“Twilight, what in Equestria do you think ya’ll are doing!?” Applejack protested.

“If he doesn’t stop, then he is going to lose me anyway,” Twilight said with finality. “It’s his choice.”

“NO!” Spike shouted in alarm.

At once, they all moved to stop her. And, expecting this, Twilight flared her wings as an extra layer of magic was added to her horn. All at once, as her eyes lit up a bright white light from the amount of energy she was exuding, her friends were all frozen in place with a levitation spell. They could not speak, but their eyes continued to plead and protest.

“I’m sorry. But there’s no other way to keep my promise.”

“This is insane!” Sombra spluttered.

“Yeah. It really is…”

Sombra shook his head in disbelief… and desperation. “No. This is but a trick. I know you have no wish to sow your own demise, this is but a falsehood.”

“Sombra… Grandfather, I think we both know you’re better at knowing bluffs when you see one.”

"Do you truly expect me to believe you would throw away such a prosperous existence and future simply to stop your own legacy?"

"I know you're going this far to try and protect me. Our family. Everything left that you love," Twilight responded, giving him a peaceful smile despite it all. "But I take after you a little too well, I think. So, you should know how far I'll go to protect those I love!"

And for that, Sombra had no retort.

"...You're a cruel pony, Granddaughter."

"Well, I did learn from the best."

And then it was over.

All at once, the draugr seemed to stop for mere seconds before they dropped lifelessly to the ground, the magic within extinguished. The dark crystals around the city shattered one by one, the bright colouration to all parts of the city touched by his corruption returning in all its glory. A silence spread over the Crystal Empire, one that was both relieving and ominous in equal measures.

But it was done.

Twilight let out a heavily relieved sigh as she let go of her dropping her friends to the ground.

“Oh good, because I was really worried I-”

Something hit the back of her head. Hard.

“OWCH!” Twilight bellowed, rubbing the back of her head where an orange hoof had smacked it.

“Never do that again,” Applejack scolded her angrily. “EVER!”

“Okay! Okay! I’m sorry!” Twilight quickly apologised. “But it was the only way…”

“Gah. Sugarcube…”

“And you guys say I’m the reckless one,” Rainbow commented.

“Shush, Rainbow Dash,” Rarity said.

“But you do!”

“So… does this mean we can get back to being cute and stuff?” Pinkie Pie asked. “This got dark real fast.”

“Yes please…” Fluttershy meekly agreed.

“I can’t believe I lost to these ponies…” Sombra lamented. “Twice.”

“Oh yeah, what do we do with him?” Rainbow Dash asked.

“Twilight…?” Spike called out carefully as the lavender mare regarded the former King of the Crystal Empire.

She gave Sombra a level look, one he returned without hesitation. She took a cautious step towards him, almost like she was testing the waters around the dark mage.

“So…” she started. “It’s done? For good?”

“For as long as your threat is in play, it would seem I have little choice,” he said with disdain. “Your dedication is admirable. But disappointing to who it belongs.”

“I hope, someday soon, I can make you understand friendship for what it really is.”

Sombra was silent, averting his gaze with disgust. Twilight gave him a sad look, before her gaze then moved further inwards towards the palace.

“But for now, there is one last thing we must do.”


The Crystal Heart rotated gently, back in its proper place beneath the palace. The magic restored; snow had long stopped seeping into the city as the Frozen North was once again held back by the protective barrier around the entirety of the Crystal Empire.

King Sombra was visibly uncomfortable being near the magical artefact, though he suffered it in silence during the aftermath of the battle against the undead. In the hours since, ponies had started to return to their homes while others got to work clearing up the mess and collecting those who had not been so fortunate. Many ponies had lost their lives, and there was already talks of a memorial for those who fell against Shadow Flare’s greatest error.

Shining Armor and Cadance had continued to direct things while awaiting the arrival of Celestia and Luna, who immediately put their guards to work assisting their crystal counterparts in restoring the peace.

It was another black mark on the history of the Crystal Empire, a city whose people had suffered more than enough. Now though, hopefully, they could finally continue on in the modern world and leave it all behind them.

After the arrival of the other Princesses of Equestria, they had sought out the Element Bearers by the Crystal Heart and prepared to listen to their explanations alongside Cadance and Shining Armor. Sombra listened in, meanwhile, surrounded by more than a few guards with spears pointed at his throat.

And Twilight told them everything. What a sweet relief it was to just vent all that had occurred to them ever since Sombra had latched onto her subconscious. Her eyes, in particular, remained on Celestia the entire time. Her eyes had remained neutral, and Twilight only became more nervous due to that face.

Particularly when the recount came to Midnight Sparkle.

“And… yeah, that’s the gist of it…” Twilight finished sheepishly. “I… I know I messed up…”

“But she came through in the end!” Rainbow Dash loyally defended her friend. “Like we knew she would!”

“Yeah!” Spike agreed. “She saved us…”

“Even if that final gambit was quite foolhardy,” Luna noted with her eyebrow cocked in disapproval. “Your death would have flung him into a rage like no other, Twilight Sparkle.”

“Yeah…” she replied regretfully. “But I knew the threat of it would be enough… So long as it wasn’t a bluff.”

“So, if you knew that, then you also knew you would be fine…” Pinkie pondered. “So, does that make it a bluff or not? A double bluff? A triple backed fudge bluff? Yum!”

“Whatever the case, I must admit to being surprised at his surrender,” Luna continued with a spiteful glance at Sombra. “To think he was here the whole time. I have half a mind to propel the villain into a grave of his own!”

“But that may no longer be necessary,” Celestia noted, giving Twilight an even look. “So long as we can adequately decide on what to do next.”

“I can’t believe we’re actually related to that monster!” Shining Armor said in profound disbelief. “It’s just… what!?

“Shiny, it changes nothing…” Cadance cooed her husband. “It’s quite far down the line, and you’re nothing like him.”

“Brains, for one,” Sombra muttered from the corner, ignoring Shining Armor’s death glare.

“We also still need to tell our mother…” Twilight sheepishly noted.

Shining went deadpan. “Great. I can’t wait…”

“So, what now?” Spike asked. “What are you going to do to him…?”

“And me…” Twilight said ashamedly.

Celestia gave her a curious look. “You?”

“I betrayed Equestria,” she whispered. “I became Midnight, tried to enslave the Crystal Empire. I thought I was right, that I was protecting them. But…”

“It was a mere moment of madness,” Luna stated.

“What?”

“Your turn was for but a moment, driven by a desperate situation. You came to your senses, thanks to the very special bond you share with this group,” Luna pointed out. “You chose to be better… I am enviousness for how quick it was for you.”

Twilight gave Luna a grateful smile, but then her nervousness returned as she looked towards the Princess of the Sun.

Celestia sighed. “I must admit… ‘Midnight’ troubles me. I can’t quite picture it, you, in such a state of existence.”

“Princess…”

“But… We are not fit to call judgement on momentary brushes with the dark side,” Celestia claimed. “Not with your victory over it, as Luna has said.”

“Wait, have you had such an experience, Aunt Celestia?” Cadance asked curiously.

She nodded. “The days after I lost Luna were the worst of my life. Ones that almost provoked the flames of Daybreaker, a version of myself who had lost all and thus no longer wished anything more than an inferno. But… I found something to care for, creating an Equestria Luna could return to and find acceptance…”

“Sister…” Luna said with a loving smile, nuzzling her gently.

“But, as we are now, we are all in a firm state of mind and wiser for our mistakes,” Celestia continued. “Sombra, however… I do not believe he is quite as ready to accept his past actions as mistakes; it seems redemption does not come easily to him.”

“Tartarus might be the answer, then,” Luna said with her eyes narrowed at the mentioned unicorn.

“Wait!” Twilight protested. “We managed to turn your life around, Luna! And Discord, too!”

“Both of whom have long since, sincerely, been rehabilitated,” Celestia noted. “Sombra has not. And without that sincerity, we cannot rightfully absolve him of anything. I doubt any other prison aside Tartarus would hold him.”

“Discord changed because he found something to care about,” Twilight pointed out with a glance at Fluttershy, whose cheeks flushed up red. “Sombra cares about me. And only me. In Tartarus, nothing will change no matter how long his sentence. But with me… I can change him. With more time, now that he has surrendered himself, I know I can.”

Celestia and Luna glanced at one another.

“If he steps out of line…” Luna began.

“I’ll send him to Tartarus myself,” Twilight promised. “I won’t let him hurt anypony. Not again.”

“You’re sure you want to be near that guy for even longer?” Shining asked with worry.

“He’s hurled every argument he has at me,” Twilight responded. “After today, I won’t be swayed by his twisted perspective.”

“Time shall tell…” Sombra mused.

Despite the unicorn’s outburst, Celestia nodded. “Very well, I shall leave it to your prerogative as a Princess of Equestria. Though, as both a peer and a friend, I would advise not letting him wander by himself for the time being.”

“Noted,” Twilight replied.

“Then let that be that,” Celestia declared. “The Crystal Empire and its ponies have a long road to recovery ahead. Let us put the darkness of Sombra and Shadow Flare behind us, I think it is high time their tomes be destroyed.”

Sombra flinched, but the former King otherwise said nothing.

“Yes, and one final thing,” Princess Cadance said, giving Sombra a rather smug look. “From this moment forth, you are hereby banished from the Crystal Empire. If you ever come back, even for a second, I’ll activate the Crystal Heart.”

“Seconded,” Shining Armor agreed.

“Then it is agreed,” Celestia stated. “You should head back to Ponyville with your friends, Twilight. Once all of this has passed, I will speak with you.”

Twilight nodded. “Okay. You know where to find us.”

“Indeed. Go now, Twilight. And good luck.”

And with that, the tragedy of the Crystal Empire had come to a close. Shadow Flare’s plague had been eradicated, and Twilight Sparkle returned to her home with a reluctant Sombra in tow. Already renewed plans for his redemption were coming to mind, all kinds of classes, tests and checklists running through her brain and a million miles per hour.

But he, trapped in his solitude and stuck musing upon what had transpired, still had no desire for such redemption. All he had worked towards had been snuffed out in an instant. By those friends of hers. And that dragon, he should have soured their special relationship back when he first realised it. But there was nothing to be done now, not without hurting Twilight.

So, now there was only one course of action left open to him…

This was just the way it had to be.