• Published 20th Oct 2018
  • 3,600 Views, 494 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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29 - Until We Meet Again

This… was almost surreal, or so Twilight had to muse. Not even ‘almost’, really. It just plain out was. Sitting here, on the Friendship Express as it chugged along back towards Ponyville after all they had been through. The track had been a surprisingly quick fix after Twilight had… inconvenienced it during her little ‘moment’. At least with the application of the magics of multiple alicorns getting everything back in working order.

And now they were here, the first train back so as to get a certain stallion sitting across from the young Princess of Equestria, and the source of the surrealness, out of the Crystal Empire before he could be trampled in an angry mob.

Or change his mind, which would probably be the worse option.

Sombra, on his part, was keeping entirely to himself. He had squeezed his way into the corner by the window, his armour and usual regalia swapped out for a rather simple cloak that covered much of his features. A hood was draped over his head and still curved horn, the recently revived pony’s eyes watching the green landscape of Equestria roll by without any real recognition or care. Not that much could be seen now that the night had fully claimed the land.

Twilight had to muse if he could go back to how she knew he must really look beneath the dark magical corruption. He had a normal horn once; she had seen it after all. Was he stuck like this? Or could he revert at any time, simply choosing not to?

One more thing they would have to work through.

The rest of her friends were bunched up in the same compartment, of course. Spike was stuck sitting to Sombra’s side, though he seemed to be desperately trying to inch away from the dark mage. Which, of course, also happened to get him closer to the next pony along, who so happened to be Rarity. Twilight couldn’t be certain whether this was just some scheme to be closer to the fashionista or to actually escape her ancient relative.

The answer was probably ‘yes’.

Applejack and Rainbow Dash were seated sequentially after them, stuffed irritably into a corner by the young drake’s antics. The rest sat to Twilight’s left, and the alicorn was constantly transitioning between looking at their cautious glares, the forlorn King and too staring blankly out at the passing countryside. There was much running through the mare’s mind, various thoughts and feelings flooding and draining at a million miles per hour.

Everything that happened at the Crystal Empire… it already seemed days ago, rather than a mere few hours. Everything they had gone through, all that suffering around them, and now they were casually sitting in a train as if returning home from a long day at work. Never mind that Sombra, the spectre who had been living in her head for quite some time now, once again had a form and was sitting directly opposite.

Her mind always came back to that point.

Surreal.

“So…” Pinkie Pie started in some attempt to break the metaphorical ice. “How’s it going?”

They all gave her an odd look.

“You remember being with us the whole time, right?” Rainbow deadpanned from her uncomfortable position pinned between Applejack and the wall. “Preeetty hard to forget any of that horseapples.”

“Truuue,” she conceded. “But everypony is being quiet and mopey. And that’s sad! And boring! Borad? Sadoring?”

“We get the point, darling,” Rarity interrupted before a tirade could begin. “But I think we are dreadfully tired. Our lives being at risk, again, certainly has me ready for some beauty sleep.”

“It’s also night, so most ponies will be in bed…” Fluttershy corroborated. “Oh, I hope all my animals are sleeping alright. Angel can get so worried…?”

Rainbow snorted. “Yeah, so worried I’m sure he has free run of the place and all the stolen snacks he wants.”

Fluttershy gasp. “He wouldn’t!”

“You are too soft on that demon.”

“Then maybe we should see what she can do for that demon, too!” Pinkie chirped, pointing a hoof at Sombra.

Rarity glared at the mare. “Pinkie Pie! Rude!”

“She’s not wrong,” Rainbow Dash rebuffed.

“He’s as much a demon as I was earlier today,” Twilight said sadly, causing her friends to flinch. Pinkie, in particular, suddenly seemed to regret her choice of words.

“I… just thought he needed a bit of kindness, that’s all…” the party pony muttered sheepishly, tapping the tips of her hooves together.

Twilight sighed. “I know. And I also know I can count on your girls’ help in the days to come. But I doubt this is going to be a smooth transition. I learnt that the hard way.”

Sombra silently sneered, but otherwise said nothing.

“We can see that…” Applejack mused.

Twilight sighed. In truth, she had no idea just how long it would truly take. When she first decided on this path no long after discovering their connection, she had naively and arrogantly believed she could change Sombra quickly and decisively. Nightmare Moon, Luna, had reconciled after finding herself accepted by both Celestia and the modern world. Discord had just required to the knowledge of what it was like to have a friend at all, making it unbearable to lose said friendship through his former evil.

Sombra was not so unlike the latter, he couldn’t bear to lose Twilight. But unlike the Spirit of Chaos, he seemed to lack any interest in true redemption. This would be a very long process. He just… had to live. He just had to experience a normal life, and then perhaps Twilight could chip away at his damaged heart piece by piece.

She didn’t want to believe he was irredeemable. She couldn’t believe that. No matter how much he had enclosed himself, no matter how much he had rejected her prodding up to that point…

The pony Radiant Hope had loved had to be inside, somewhere. And there was no better group of ponies in Equestria to unlock it.

And, more than likely, Twilight herself was the only one capable of leading them toward that goal. The reason being obvious.

But her continued efforts, all that arguing and debating, could wait for another day. The yearning for sleep weighed greatly down upon the young alicorn’s mind, and she wished for nothing more than to embrace the bedsheets waiting for her at the Golden Oaks Library.

“Let’s just go home. Whatever happens next… it can wait until then.”


The night was a cold one, a wandering breeze swiftly moving through the air and between the coats of the arriving ponies. Ponyville’s train station was all but abandoned, as one might expect so late at night in such a usually quiet town, aside from a single late-night passenger waiting to embark and those who had to work the night shift.

Ponyville itself was quiet, only a few lights marking the town out with the assistance of the overhead moon and stars. If anything, the lack of ponies filling the streets was a good thing for the group. It would make the return to their homes far easier, particularly for Twilight Sparkle and those who would be accompanying her to the library. There was no doubt that ponies would begin to notice the presence of Sombra, and the Princess of Equestria’s ears already burned with the numerous questions inevitably yet to come.

But there was time for all of that later, a problem for the future iteration of Twilight Sparkle. For now, that inviting bed was but a few streets away…

Behind the group, the single waiting pony boarded the train before the doors shut up behind them. A loud hiss signified the release of the breaks, the steam train beginning to pull away from the station and move off into the night. Very soon the chugging of the locomotive could no longer be heard, leaving Ponyville’s station completely silent once more.

Another breeze passed over Twilight, one filled with both relief and tension. It was like everything so far had been one trial, one which was now over. But, undoubtedly, more were now beginning.

Well, Celestia never said being a Princess was going to be easy. But come on…

Twilight huffed, and then said huff quickly gave way to a yawn.

“Yeah, we need to drag you off to bed,” Spike declared.

“You say that like I’m about to protest.”

“Yes, because Twilight Sparkle isn’t at all known for all-nighters.”

Twilight gave a small whine of protest, but otherwise didn’t respond. Her indignation only increased by her the giggling of her friends, and even Sombra had the gall to look amused! Even if he tried to hide it, she saw that smirk!

“You can’t go to bed now anyway, sillies!” Pinkie then stated. “We still need Sombra’s ‘Welcome to Ponyville’ party! It’s tradition!

Sombra gave her a flat look. “No.”

“Awww. But tradition!”

“Your traditions are clearly the result of an imbecile. I shall not partake.”

“But there’s cupcakes~”

Sombra growled.

“And piñatas!” Pinkie said, his discomfort clearly lost on her. “Oh, and how about-”

“Ah think that can wait,” Applejack said, the voice of reason prevailing. “We’re all mighty tired, Pinkie. Maybe tomorrow, break the ice a little for everypony whose gonna run into him.”

“I’m not sure a party will solve all that ice,” Rainbow said doubtfully. “There’s going to be a lot of weirded out ponies when they see you.”

Sombra gave the pegasus an uncaring glance.

“Well, I’ll get on it! We have to start somewhere!” Pinkie said, not deterred.

“We can talk about that tomorrow, then,” Twilight said, in about as much of a mood to party as her distant grandfather. “But that’s enough excitement for the day. Let’s just go home.”

That finally seemed to calm Pinkie down, the excitable mare seeing the nods of agreement from the rest of their friends and conceding the point.

And with that, there was little else to do but part ways. Each of Twilight’s fellow Bearers of the Elements of Harmony once again promised their support in the days to come, much to her eternal appreciation, before moving away from the train station in the direction of their individual homes. They all had the realm of dreams waiting for them, and individuals ready to greet them, when they arrived at their homes.

And they all deserved the rest, now more than ever. Of all the dangers they had faced together, the draugr were now easily was among the most traumatising due to all those that had been lost to the horde before it was stopped. But now, perhaps, things could go back to normal…

For them.

Twilight wasn’t sure ‘normal’ even existed in her world, not now.

“Alright, that leaves us,” the alicorn said to Spike and Sombra. “You coming?”

“Lead the way, Twilight!” Spike confirmed, before they both then glanced to the side to see Sombra staring idly off into the moonlight. “Or, at least, I’m ready.”

Sombra paid them now mind, the hood of his cloak now down as he seemed to study the distant satellite. Whatever was going through his head, Twilight couldn’t say. But, after a few moments of respectfully waiting for him to finish, she coughed into a hoof to get his attention.

“Sombra…?” she called out. “Are you alright?”

“A question with an obvious answer,” he said with a small amount of bitterness in his voice. “But do not let it concern you. I shall follow on.”

Twilight went to say something more, but then stopped herself as her ears flattened.

Yes, this was going to be a very long road indeed.

The return to the library from that point was made in silence, only accompanied by the occasional hoot of an unseen owl. The streets were entirely empty and silent as the grave, leaving the path to the golden oak holding their home entirely open for easy navigation. Twilight, on her part, couldn’t help but let out a breath as said tree finally came into view. Her pace quickened until she was stood before the front door, unlocking and admitting the group quick entrance into the library and home before flicking on a light.

“Hoo?”

Twilight’s ears perked up; her eyes being drawn to a perch that was hanging near a small high up open window on which sat an owl not unlike the one she’d heard hooting earlier. Perhaps they were even one and the same, which made sense.

“Owlowiscious,” Twilight greeted her pet. “You’ve been a good boy, I hope?”

“Hoo.”

“Good to know.”

“I never saw the need for a pet bird in this library of yours,” Sombra said as he entered after Spike, closing the door behind him. “An unnecessary annoyance.”

“Hoo!” came the indignant retort from Owlowiscious.

“Sombra, that’s who!” Spike said impatiently.

Twilight rolled her eyes. “Spike, go to bed. I’ll be up in a moment.”

“Oh, alright. Do… be careful, okay?”

“She has nothing to fear from me,” Sombra reminded the drake.

“Right…”

And with that, Spike reluctantly slid away upstairs. Undoubtedly, he’d be dead to the world in his basket by the time Twilight did the same. With the two ponies left alone, excluding the ever-watchful owl, Twilight turned back to Sombra with a disapproving look.

“Owlowiscious happens to be a part of the family,” she stated. “And a useful assistant when required to be.”

“A well-trained annoyance is still an annoyance,” he dismissed. “Much like that drake. Though he remains something of a son to you, it appears.”

“Well… I…” Twilight blushed. “Anyway, you can have the guest room. I assume you remember where it is?”

“Of course,” he confirmed. “And I shall take my leave to it. I have much to contemplate, much like the punishment I now have to endure.”

“It’s not punishment,” Twilight argued. “It’s rehabilitation. The Magic of Friendship.”

“Being subjected to a concept I shall never nor ever want to be infected with is a punishment,” Sombra retorted. “More so that I cannot do anything to free myself due to your blackmail. But as it is, I will endure it for your wellbeing. Much is my weakness.”

Twilight sighed, but she chose not to spread the matter further. “Alright, fine. Goodnight, Grandfather.”

Sombra paused as he approached the stairs, glancing back at her with an odd expression. “Farewell, Granddaughter.”

Twilight watched him ascend, sharing a tired glance with the owl perched above her.

“Hoo?”

“Tell me about it…” Twilight muttered. “Goodnight…”

Twilight made sure to switch the light back off as she followed Sombra upstairs. She walked past the now closed door of the spare bedroom as well as the bathroom, as much as a shower seemed appealing, and moved straight into her waiting bedroom. As predicted, Spike was fast asleep and snoring soundly in his basket. Hopefully, his dreams were more pleasant than what any of what he’d seen might make of them.

She moved past her bad, giving it a longing look as she idly wandered over to the balcony. She traced a hoof along the surface of her telescope and glanced up at the stars. She let the peaceful scene bleed away the remnants of her dread, worries and fear as her mind and heart calmed. Things would be okay now, the direst part of all this was finally over.

Yes, with that in mind, she was ready to fall beneath her sheets…

And then something caught her eye, a wisp of shadow darker than even the night sky. It seemed to come from the library itself, from another window, floating off into…

“Oh, dang it.”

Without even a moment of hesitation, all her worries returning like a crossbow bolt to the heart, Twilight lit her eyes with dark magic as she let the shadow flood within herself as her physical form faded from existence. With the shadowform spell engaged, Twilight emerged from the balcony and too flew out into the night.

Her mind screamed at her to stop, especially given what had happened earlier on. But with the wisp she’d seen directly ahead, Twilight instead pushed herself to move faster in her pursuit. The journey rapidly took the alicorn out of Ponyville and into the fields between the town and the Everfree Forest. It was here that the mass ahead of her started to slow, descending down towards the grass below and rematerializing into a vague equine shape. Twilight, too, started to descend upon spotting this action. Her shadow swirled downwards until the tips of the blades of grass were enveloped, the darkness coalescing and returning into the form of the lavender alicorn.

Twilight’s eyes were stern, looking firmly ahead at the emotionless eyes of King Sombra.

“And where do you think you’re going?” she asked angrily. “You’re not to leave my side, that’s the deal here!”

“I am well aware,” Sombra responded, the breeze seemingly growing colder as the two ponies stood a short distance apart from one another in their standoff. “I had intended to slip away before my departure could be prevented, but I see I give you too little credit.”

“Clearly,” she replied with a small amount of venom. “Do you want to be sentenced to Tartarus? Do you want to lose any hope of being with the family you’ve fought so hard for? Is that it?”

“Of course not,” he calmly denied. “But like I said, friendship is a concept lost on me. I am not ‘good’, Twilight. Nor can I be. It is a path wrought with pain and suffering, and I shall have no part in it.”

“There’s far more to it than that,” Twilight tried explaining. “You could actually be happy for once if you just gave it a chance.”

“It is a fool’s hope. And neither of us are fools,” he claimed. “But more than that, I will be a burden upon you. I can see that friendship, even if a pointless exercise from where I stand, means a great deal to you. With my presence, you remain at risk. Vigilantes seeking justice, perhaps. Assassins. Or even just the shun I might receive and infect you with. I have ample reason to leave.”

“I’m willing to take any risk.”

“But I’m not!” Sombra suddenly shouted. “Not with you. My proximity puts you in danger, Twilight. Just like it did my son. I now realise this. I cannot change, and you cannot remain safe and alive while I exist as I do. I must leave, for both our sakes.”

Twilight was silent, finding herself unable to speak as she looked directly into Sombra’s eyes. For the first time in his adult life, they looked pleading.

“…You would be sentenced, if ever caught,” Twilight muttered weakly. “If Celestia or Luna ever caught up to you…”

“An acceptable outcome, so long as you remain well,” Sombra decided. “But I shall not be caught. I will scatter along the wind, among the shadows of the world in complete solitude. I will watch, a story mothers tell to scare their foals. This is my grave, Twilight. This is how my story ends.”

“It doesn’t have to be.”

“But it does,” the unicorn pressed. “You cannot be swayed. I can’t be what you need me to be. For you, I need to do this. Perhaps this is my redemption, for I save the one pony I love in sacrificing my ambition.”

“And you won’t hurt anypony…?”

“Not while you still breathe. So, I suggest you put that alicorn immortality of yours to good use.”

Twilight was conflicted. He wanted this, and he wanted this badly. But there was still so much she could try, she still had faith. But could she really stop him…? Maybe, even, was this for the best? He would be free, but equally benign. Equestria and Sombra would be safe, Twilight would remain content with her friends…

But he wouldn’t be happy, would he?

“I know this isn’t the solution you wished to find,” he said regretfully. “I am sorry for not being the pony you wanted of me. In another world… But this is the end. You shall not see me again, I should think.”

“…I’ll miss you.”

Sombra almost seemed to falter a moment, his mouth hanging open as he found himself at a loss for words. His renewed sentimentality clawed at his mind, but his path was clear. With a hoof, the King of the Crystal Empire took a step towards his descendant.

And then she hugged him, wrapping her hooves around his neck as silent tears streamed down her cheeks. And, almost as if he was no longer in control of his own body, the old tyrant found himself returning the embrace.

He could feel her fur, the tears leaking from her and onto him… And he realised this was the first time he’d ever actually touched her. The first… and the last.

“Farewell, Granddaughter,” he whispered. “For all our failings…”

Twilight felt his body come undone within her grasp, the shadows that replaced it feeling uncharacteristically warm to the touch as they flowed around her and up into the air.

“…my love for you was never one of them.”

And then, as the shadows dispersed along the night’s breeze, Sombra was gone.

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