• 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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3 - The Shadow

A jolt caused Twilight’s eyes to shoot open and she suddenly sat bolt upright with blurry vision. She gave a small groan as she placed a hoof to her forehead and tried to blink away the sand that had built up in the corners of her eyes. Her vision began to settle and clear, and with a few final blinks she was able to give heed to her surroundings.

She was still in the compartment aboard the Crystal Express, the door leading out into the rest of the carriage firmly closed with the blinds shut. Looking out the window, Twilight could see a vast landscape of ice and snow leading out in all directions, all fleeting amongst the gentle chugging of the train intermittent with the occasional hard bump like the one that woke her up.

Her book was sat open on the table in front of her, and she figured that at some point during the trip she must have dozed off and slumped up against the window. A theory supported by the condensation gathered around the spot on the glass where she’d been breathing onto it. Twilight couldn’t be certain when it was she’d fallen asleep, only that they definitely hadn’t been in the Frozen North when she had.

Maybe she’d been a little too excited after all, and she had unknowingly worn herself out.

“Final stop!” an announcer came in over the speakers. “Crystal Empire!”

Hearing that, and figuring it was a bit too late to get back into her novel, Twilight packed the book away into her saddlebag and prepared to for the train’s imminent arrival at the station. As she did so, a shine in the corner of her eye caught the unicorn’s attention and caused her to glance back out of the window.

Indeed, there it was. Having passed around a snowy hill, the full majesty of the Crystal Empire appeared before them. The train rumbled around a left-leaning piece of track towards a harsh transition between the snow and perfectly green grass, and passing the threshold was like stepping through a portal into another world entirely. The thankfully gentle snowfall was replaced with a bright and perfectly clear day you’d expect from an ideal summer.

And there was no mistaking the sudden warm feeling that seemed to spread into Twilight’s very soul. A feeling of happiness and, of course, love. Everything in the compartment where she sat almost seemed to brighten immeasurably, and Twilight couldn’t help but smile as she accepted the Crystal Heart’s effects. Even without a full pulse from the magical artefact, just being within its area of effect was enough to explain why property demand was high for the ancient city.

Something that gave Cadance and Shining Armor a headache, of that she had no doubt.

The Crystal Empire had been back for only a matter of months; three in fact. The crystal ponies who chose to remain in their lifelong home in the aftermath of King Sombra’s death, and even those who elected to leave the bad memories behind, all had to acclimatise to a world a thousand years ahead of them. Take the Crystal Express as a prime example, this newest of introductions to the city was a completely baffling piece of technology to them. Engines, electricity…

She wondered how any of them would react to a place like Manehatten.

From medical practices to simple school curriculum, it was all woefully out of date and even… archaic in nature. It was actually quite fascinating to the scholarly unicorn, seeing as the Crystal Empire was truly a slice of a time known only to the royal sisters.

But it was also one that her brother and sister-in-law had been painstakingly trying to modernise. To train the crystal ponies to live and work in this distant future, and to prepare them for anything they might find outside of the Frozen North.

Twilight had to imagine that just the knowledge of their Equestrian annexation, even with Cadance’s ancestry to Queen Amore and recent ascension to be an equal ruler of Equestria alongside Celestia and Luna in light of that fact, was a lot for them to take in. Never mind anything else.

And despite it all, she had to give them credit. They had adapted exceptionally well thus far, embracing new technological innovations to their city and rushing at life with an eagerness to learn all the new skills necessary. Especially those in professional positions, like doctors and guards.

She had to imagine that was a by-product of their prolonged slavery. Being free to live their lives again, well… They truly were all starting again in more ways than one, so why not grab life for all its worth?

Point being, many nobles were being left disgruntled when their applications for building lavish crystal mansions on site were justifiably denied by the local princess.

“Crystal Empire! Prepare to disembark!” came another announcement, and Twilight was knocked from her ruminations to see that the train was slowly pulling into a newly constructed station at the very edge of the city.

The train gave a hiss as its air breaks kicked in and it pulled into a steady stop at the platform. The station was quite small and rudimentary, constructed of wood rather than crystal, all due to the hasty nature of its construction. It would probably be upgraded to crystal later. Still, it served its purpose well enough judging by the ponies already disembarking and, in a scant few cases, boarding. Twilight too levitated up her saddlebags and replaced them onto her back. She opened the blinds before stepping out the doorway and into the corridor, carefully making her way past the other departing ponies towards the nearest exit. When she got there, Twilight hopped down onto the platform and allowed herself to breath a sigh of relief.

As Twilight gave the platform a look over, letting the fresh air wash over her as she stretched out her stiff limbs, she remained unaware of a presence carefully watching her away from prying eyes. It stayed in the corners, the dark places where ponies didn’t take much notice, and it recognised this pony. One of them.

And she was just what it needed.

Twilight took satisfaction as she finished ridding herself of the small aches in her joints, turning to face the train as it finished unloading its passengers before the doors closed up again. This was followed by another hiss as the breaks released and the train began to pull away once more. As it moved, one of the grand highways leading straight up to the crystal palace became visible, filled to the brim with ponies going about their daily lives. The highway was lined with homes and businesses for as far as the eye could see and intersected with smaller streets connecting the whole city together.

It would be a long, if interesting, walk up. However, Twilight wouldn’t have to walk.

Twilight departed the station and crossed over to the Crystal Empire itself, walking towards the lavishly decorated crystalline carriage waiting for her. Two purple stallions in the armour of the Crystal Guard were hitched to the front, and another opened to door to the wagon upon spotting the unicorn and gave her a respectful nod.

“Ms Sparkle,” the guard greeted with a hint of reverence that made Twilight inwardly cringed. It came from being one of the ponies who saved the city when it returned, as well as being Princess Cadance’s sister-in-law as well as Prince-Consort Shining Armor’s biological sister.

Even when she was Princess Celestia’s personal protégé, that in itself being quite a respected position, she never got quite as much recognition as she’d been getting since the Summer Sun Celebration that marked Luna’s own return to the throne.

Neither was it something she was particularly used to. Or ever would be.

“Thank you,” Twilight said to the pony as he helped her up into the carriage. “Is everypony else already here?”

“I believe there are one to two stragglers, but they should arrive soon,” the guard explained as he also stepped up into the carriage and closed the door behind him, signalling the ponies out front to start moving. “Prince Shining Armor has commanded me to bring you straight to the throne room. I believe the others are eager to begin.”

“I know I am!” she replied brightly.

“We’ll be sure that the Crystal Guard will do its part to protect the expedition from whatever foul things the tyrant might have kept hidden,” the stallion spat with barely restrained hatred to his former slaver. “Might I speak freely, ma’am?”

Twilight blinked “I... guess?”

“I cannot thank you and your friends enough for what you and the Princess achieved. Ending that monster, freeing us… Avenging our Queen,” he said, though it caused Twilight to inwardly frown at the word ‘avenged’. Revenge had never been her intent, only to help those who needed it. “And… might I ask… Is not Sir Spike with you?”

The sudden eagerness and hopeful nature of his tone made Twilight smirk. All of them had received a celebratory status among the crystal ponies for what they’d achieved, but Spike most of all for being the one to ultimately deliver the Crystal Heart back to its podium.

“I’m afraid he’s back in Ponyville,” she answered, seeing the pony’s immediate disappointment. “But he wanted to come! Maybe next time?”

He brightened a little. “I will hope that he does. I don’t believe he’s seen the statue yet.”

Twilight stopped. “…Statue?”

He grinned. “Why, yes! The statue to honour his delivering of the heart!”

Spike had a statue. Oh dear, this was never going to be forgotten by the prideful drake.

Well, she’d let Spike discover that for himself.

“Well, I’m sure he’ll be thrilled,” Twilight stated honestly. “I don’t think I ever got your name, Mr…?”

“Crystal Shield. Private Crystal Shield,” he replied. “Or at least that’s the new rank that the Prince has introduced for my level. It was ‘apprentice’ before.”

“You were a guard for Queen Amore?”

“I was in my first week when Sombra did his little coup,” Crystal Shield explain, and Twilight bit her lip at his suddenly haunted expression. “We never saw it coming, and I couldn’t even imagine… Amore was dead before we even knew what was happening. And there I was, on my first week where even my instructors hadn’t a clue what we were supposed to do.”

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have asked.”

“It’s fine,” he assured her. “Just… the next thing any of us knew, our armour had been taken from us and replaced with chains. Many of my friends were taken for his army, had those helmets forced onto them. Those green eyes… They didn’t even know who I was.”

“It sounds horrible.”

“It was. But… that’s over now. The bastard is dead, and I got to finally be a guard. Adapting has been… strange, but worth it. It worked out in the end.”

“I’m glad you think so,” Twilight replied. “Are the other crystal ponies okay with everything?”

“Thanks to your brother and Princess Mi Amore Cadenza, I’d say so,” he answered. “It’s a long process, but we’re working through it. But I must admit, I’m not overly keen on going into the tyrant’s little lair.”

“A lot of Queen Amore’s personal items are probably down there,” Twilight pointed out. “I know what you went through was terrible, but I don’t think it should be forgotten and left behind. There’s so much history to be found.”

“I don’t know about any of that, but it will be worth it to free the Queen’s personal items from his clutches,” Crystal Shield mused. “She deserves that much from us. But I was more referring to just being there, so close to his dark magic.”

Twilight nodded in understanding. “Well, I know I’ll feel better with you there to keep an eye on us, Crystal Shield.”

Then young guard smiled. “That’s kind of you to say, ma’am.”

What was left of the journey was spent mostly in silence, Twilight looking out of the window and watching as the crystal buildings all passed them by. A shadow began to creep over the carriage however, and that signalled Twilight that they were pulling up to the entrance of the palace.

The carriage did a small turn, allowing the idly spinning Crystal Heart to be seen from where Twilight was sitting. Her escort then proceeded to get out of the opposite side of the carriage, before he walked around and back to Twilight’s door, opening it and generously offering a hoof to help her out. Twilight accepted the help, climbing down from the carriage before Crystal Shield closed the door behind her and gave a quick shout at the other guards to depart.

“Welcome back to the Crystal Empire, Ms Sparkle,” the stallion said.

“Thank you, Crystal Shield,” Twilight responded. “And it’s just Twilight, please.”

“Very well, Twilight.” The guard gave a quick glance around, taking note of the other silver armoured mares and stallions guarding the various entrances and patrolling around the palace’s perimeter. “As you can see, we have established a twenty-four-hour watch on the heart, seeing as it’s what keeps the Frozen North out of the city.”

“Shining has done a lot to remake the old Crystal Guard, huh?” Twilight noted.

“Your brother is an inspiration,” he complimented. “We’ve learnt a lot from him, and not just Equestria’s latest tactics. Though, the majority of the new Crystal Guard are transfers from Princess Celestia’s Solar Guard and, in a few select cases, from the EUP army.”

Twilight gave him a sad smile. “Right, you said that you had friends forced into Sombra’s army.”

“Too many. And they were all outside the city when we… moved.”

“I… would love to hear about them later. If it’s no trouble to you,” Twilight requested gingerly. “I’m here as a historian first and foremost, and… I think their stories should be told.”

“Yes… I suppose they should,” he agreed, if a little hesitantly. “I’ll stop by your group when my shift ends. Then… well, I guess we’ll see.”

“Thank you, that sounds perfect.”

“Yes… Well… Anyway, I still need to deliver you to the throne room. Please follow me.”

Twilight gave a brisk nod and followed his lead as they were allowed into one of the four entrances and ascended the staircase up to the main body of the palace. Crystal Shield led her through corridor after corridor, all of which looked so different now that Twilight wasn’t in a race against time to defeat a shadow monster from the distant past.

All the while, she remained ignorant of the shadow following her now.

“Here we are,” Crystal Shield announced as they reached a pair of large crystal doors, which he placed a hoof on before swinging them open. “The Princess and the others are all waiting inside, Twilight.”

“I appreciate it, Crystal Shield,” she thanked the stallion, before joining him in heading on inside and beholding all the others within.

Immediately obvious was the tall pink pony sitting on the throne. An alicorn, Princess Mi Amore Cadenza. Or Cadance, Twilight’s sister-in-law and former foalsitter. Standing next to the throne was an alabaster stallion in his old guard armour from when he was the Captain of the Solar Guard rather than the Prince of the Crystal Empire. This was Twilight’s brother, Shining Armor.

Around the two royals was a gathered collection of guards, some of them crystal ponies while others were Equestrians who had come to the Crystal Empire with their former captain. They were all around the outside of the room, looking after the other gathered unicorns that were clustered in the centre in various deep conversation. All unicorns from Celestia’s school. Some were alumni like Twilight, some were professors, and one or two were even particularly promising students accompanying their teachers. All of them were selected by Celestia herself to research the history of the Crystal Empire on the Princess of the Sun’s behalf.

Twilight’s earlier excitement was returning fast.

“Twily!” Shining Armor announced on spotting his sister, quickly trotting over to the mare while Cadance arose from her throne and followed on. “There you are, kid! Knew we couldn’t keep you away from something like this.”

“I have the key,” Twilight jokingly pointing out, gesturing towards her horn. She then moved towards the stallion and embraced her sibling lovingly. “I missed you, BBBFF.”

“Same here, LSBFF,” he responded in kind, before breaking off the embrace. “Though I wish it was on more social grounds, rather than going into creepy evil dungeons of doom.”

“Excuse his vocabulary, he and some of his buddies from his guard days have been playing Ogres and Oubliettes,” Cadance said with a chuckle as she walked up to her sister-in-law. “Not that it isn’t apt, mind.”

“Cadance!” Twilight greeted enthusiastically. “Should you start, or shall I?”

“I always lead,” she replied jokingly. “Try to keep up!”

“Sunshine sunshine, ladybugs awake! Clap your hooves and do a little shake!”

“Always with the chant,” Shining said with a mirthful roll of his eyes.

“Because it’s amazing,” Cadance rebuffed, whacking Shining playfully with her wing.

“Yeah, Shiny,” Twilight concurred. “Anyway, we all know you’re just jealous that you didn’t think of it first.”

“Oh, don’t start with that,” Shining replied in bemusement “I’ve had enough of you two teaming up against me when you were a filly, Twilight.”

“And may it never change,” Cadance remarked, sharing a hoof bump with her sister-in-law.

“Alright, Princess. Come on, we still have an evil lair to search.”

“Wait, aren’t we still waiting on a few ponies?” Twilight asked them as they moved back towards the larger group. “Crystal Shield said there were some stragglers.”

“They can join when they arrive. But now that you’re here, I don’t think the rest of these ponies will want to wait,” Cadance noted.

“No we will not!” chirped a stallion who emerged from the group before the two royals and their sister. “Pardon the intrusion, but I think we are all too eager to unlock all the historical value in this sanctum. The mind races at the possible finds!”

The stallion had a dark purple coat and a rather unkempt blue mane. On his muzzle was a pair of black rimmed glasses, and he held a pair of saddlebags on his back that was marked with his cutie mark, that being a dark purple horn that was surrounded by a lighter lavender magic aura not dissimilar from Twilight’s own.

“Twilight Sparkle,” the stallion greeted. “A pleasure to see you again.”

Twilight blinked. “I’m sorry, but I don’t think I know you.”

“Understandable, we were but foals,” he responded. “My name is Shadow Flare. We were in a couple of Princess Celestia’s seminars together back during our days at her school.”

“Oh, I see. Sorry, I never really got to know anyone else in my years at Celestia’s school beyond a few,” Twilight explained apologetically.

“Again, understandable. Most of us took classes, but you tended to have private lessons with Princess Celestia as her protégé. It’s only natural that you wouldn’t have interacted overly much with the rest of the student body.”

“And rarely getting her head out of a book,” Shining jabbed.

“Shush,” Twilight scolded lightly, flicking him with a tail. “But thank you, Shadow Flare. It’s nice to make your acquaintance again, anyway. You’re eager to get going?”

“Outlandishly so!” he replied cheerily. “I can scarcely imagine all the secrets locked away in this sanctum of King Sombra’s. I think this will be a very productive day indeed.”

“Well, then I shouldn’t keep you all waiting,” Twilight decided. “But, um… I might need a moment to get this right.”

“Clear the way,” Shining Armor commanded, and the guard immediately moved to clear the area before the throne until only the two royals and Twilight Sparkle remained. “All yours, Twily.”

“Thanks,” she said to her brother as he and Cadance also moved off to the side, standing just by Shadow Flare and Crystal Shield. “Okay… I can do this…”

Twilight planted herself in front of the throne, thinking back on that day three months prior. How she had opened the gateway with a spell of dark magic. Recalling the process, she scrunched her eye shut and focused on all the negative emotions that one would usually keep under lock and key. All the times one of her friends had irritated her, like when Rainbow Dash would keep crashed into her library despite Twilight always telling her to be careful. For added negativity, she also recalled what Sombra had put her through, the vision of her worst fear, Celestia’s abandonment and disappointment…

A spark of pain an anger from the memory lit inside her, and she felt a sick bubbling make its way up her horn as it felt like her eyes were leaking something. There were several gasps around her as a splitting headache also made itself known within Twilight’s skull, and she resisted a scream as she quickly let loose the one dark magic spell she knew towards the throne itself.

She let go of those bad feelings, letting the dark magic fade away and leave her system completely.

The magic reacted with the throne, and a shadow spread out as Twilight took a step back before revealing the entrance to a staircase that, given the design of the palace, simply shouldn’t exist in the same space.

“Fascinating…” Shadow Flare muttered in awe.

“Not the word I’d use,” Crystal Shield noted with a wince. “Is she okay?”

“Twily…?” Shining Armor stepped forward in concern, his sister standing still with a hoof on her head and her features still scrunched in pain.

“Y-yeah… fine,” Twilight replied, shaking her head a little and trying to rid the sudden cobwebs overtaking her brain. “That was worse than I remembered, that’s all.”

“Here,” Cadance said, stepping forward and lighting her horn with cyan magic. Twilight seemed to relax and sigh in relief as the spell washed over her, her eyes becoming less glazed. “To help with the headache.”

“Thanks, Cadance.”

“Alright, ponies!” Shining Armor announced. “Crystal Guard, escort these unicorns down to the bottom. Stay sharp, evacuate on the first sign of trouble. Move it!”

The guard jumped into action, herding the scholars together and beginning to lead them down. Twilight took the rear for the time being, standing near her brother, Crystal Shield and Shadow Flare as they prepared to descend.

“I’ll see you when you return,” Cadance said, silently wishing she could go with them if only to make sure everything would be fine. But somepony had to run the kingdom while they were tomb raiding. “Be careful.”

“Always,” Shining replied just as they started down the stairs, quickly fading from view.

The trip down the staircase was made carefully, the spiral down being quite narrow in places and without any kind of railing. It made sense of a being who could turn into shadow and fly, but for them any wrong move could mean a long drop and a sudden stop. The guards did their job, though, and all ponies made it to the bottom safely.

This just left one more door for Twilight to open.

Repeating the previous process, which didn’t seem quite so bad the second time now she’d dusted off the old spell, Twilight sent a beam of dark magic towards the door and watched as it melted into the doorframe.

“Careful,” Twilight warned as she cut off the magic spell, letting the dark magic fade along with her approaching migraine. “This door can go to a few places. It could be trapped.”

All ponies watched with bated breath as the dark magic worked along the door’s frame. Breathing all but stopped when the spell finally concluded, and the door swung open. It was quickly followed by a universal sigh of relief when nothing but a simple hallway was revealed on the other side.

“This is new,” Twilight noted. “Last time there was a fear trap and a staircase to the roof.”

“Split into groups. Go with an escort, pick a room to begin searching,” Shining announced. “I’m with Twily, I go where she goes.”

Twilight hummed, peering into the dark hallway with a shiver down her spine. She sent a quick pulse of magic down the hallway as the others started to organise themselves, searching for any obvious traps that might do them harm.

Nothing.

With luck, Sombra thought that nopony would have made it this far. Or if they did, he’d already be dead. Which, of course, was the case.

“I think the bottom right,” Twilight decided. “The end door looks important. Let’s leave that until last.”

“Fine with me,” Shadow Flare remarked. “I’ll be tagging along with your group if that’s no issue.”

“None,” Twilight confirmed with a friendly smile. “Come on, let’s see what Sombra has been hiding.”

Twilight was the first into the hallway, Shining Armor staying close behind as they headed straight for the door in question. On reaching it, Twilight carefully placed her magic around the handle while staying vigilant for a trap. Once again, there was nothing. On swinging it open, her eyes widened as a large space made itself known.

A very large space. One filled with all kinds of things! Art. Statues and… yes, books!

“Well, jackpot,” Shining mused.

“That’s…” Crystal Shield muttered, trotting into the room and staring in sadness up at a large statue of an alicorn mare Twilight didn’t recognise. “Queen Amore. This statue used to sit in a plaza near my home.”

“Huh…” Shining hummed, walking up alongside the young guard as the rest of the group began to spread out into the room. “So that’s her. She looks a lot like Cadance.”

Twilight also noted the family resemblance, glancing between the statue and Crystal Shield sadly. But it wasn’t the only artefact in the room, which seemed to have been something of a treasure room it appeared. Walking past the statue and further in, Twilight examined several more items of interest. A set of armour that looked like it was designed for the Queen, along with several smaller sets that were perhaps for elite members of her guard. One of the paintings held a purple unicorn, one who was posing on a sofa on a balcony in what appeared to be a pre-Sombra Crystal Empire. Peering at the plaque, it was entitled ‘Radiance and Hope’.

If there was any doubt that they’d find the history they were searching for, they could now be laid to rest.

Twilight looked away from the painting towards a book sat atop a cloth cover that obscured something else beneath it. But looking at the book, her eyes widened as she realised it was a dark magical tome!

“Well, what’s this doing here?” Shadow Flare mused, trotting up beside Twilight and also examining the book. “An odd place to keep dark magic spells, don’t you think?”

“Maybe he left it here by accident…” Which, of course, would mean he probably had a study or a library where he kept his magical secrets. Or both.

“I’ll make sure the others know that this is here,” Shadow Flare assured Twilight. “Go look around some more, I think I’m going to see what else can be found right here.”

“Start beneath that sheet,” Twilight suggested. “This is more than I imagined…”

“It is indeed.”

Twilight left Shadow Flare to it, walking back towards the door as she turned to examine the whole room with awe. So much history. So much research. She had such a huge project ahead of her! She felt the huge grin morphing onto her features, the scholarly filly inside her bouncing around in glee. There was an element of sadness, especially seeing ponies like Crystal Shield. But that just made it feel all the more alive.

She couldn’t wait to free it all from the depths of Sombra’s sanctum. Celestia was going to love what Twilight had to report!

Still… When she thought back on the dark magic tome they’d just found, Shadow Flare was right about it being out of place. She had to wonder…

Twilight backed out of the room as the rest of her group were busy cataloguing their findings, moving out into the hallways and towards the door right at the end. She’d wanted to leave it until last, but now she was curious…

She took hold of the handle and swing the door open, taking a step inside and looking around with wide eyes. Just as she’d hoped, the door had led right into Sombra’s personal study!

Doing a lap of the room in giddy awe, she saw the desk had Sombra’s journal just sitting there! All of the King’s thoughts as he waged his coup and campaign of domination... All of it was in those pages! And looking around the room, bookshelves contained more dark magical knowledge which Twilight would have to bring before the Princess for judgement. Busts of Sombra around the room that would most definitely go in a museum when all was said and done, and… and…

A blank wall?

Twilight frowned, staring at the one completely sparse wall in confusion. The rest of the room had something going on with it, whether it be practical or pure decoration. But this section of wall was completely blank, completely unassuming and boring…

Twilight smirked. If there was one thing she’d learnt about Sombra while fighting him, it was that he loved his secret passages.

Loading up that dark magical spell once more, Twilight let loose on the blank wall in the hopes that she was onto something. And when the dark magic and pain had ended, Twilight looked up to see that the wall had completely vanished.

A door sat in its place.

Twilight gave a loud squee, prancing for a moment before catching her enthusiasm and attempting to calm herself down. But she’d found it! Sombra wouldn’t be able to hide anything from her!

This was so exciting!

Once again finding no traps, Twilight opened the door and stepped into the unknown. She was ready for anything. More dark magic knowledge perhaps. Maybe a dangerous artefact in need of disposal. But this…

“What…?”

The room beyond was… nice? More than that… WHY WAS THERE A FOAL’S COT!?

Looking around the room with her jaw hitting the ground and her mind all but flatlining, Twilight had to take several moments of rebooting to process what she was seeing.

“Okay, so… Sombra had a kid. Alright. Fine. That’s… what?” She had to take a moment to do the breathing technique that Cadance had taught her as a filly to calm herself. It was like everything she’d known about the dark mage had been turned upside down! “Okay, so… what can I find…?”

The cot was empty, which begged the question… what happened to the foal? Looking around the rest of the room, there was one open empty chest with several more filled with children’s toys from that era. Basic little things, not like a lot of the fancy tech companies were producing for foals now. A bookshelf also had ancient children's tales that… Actually, Twilight was pretty sure some of those tales had been lost to time.

Exciting!

Twilight coughed, not allowing herself to get distracted. Admittedly she hadn’t thought that she’d find lost children’s stories in an evil sanctum, but hey, she wasn’t going to say no to more research.

But onto more pressing matters…

There was a book on one of the chests. Moving over to it, Twilight picked the book up and read the title aloud.

“The Chronicles of Fatherhood,” she muttered with a frown. “Sombra loved dramatic titles, huh?”

She was still finding it hard to imagine that shadow monster as a father.

Opening it up on the first page, Twilight peered at the firsts words on the first page before proceeding to read the opening paragraphs. Sombra’s own words.

I have a son.

In truth, this journal is quite that impromptu project. I never intended for it, but… I must admit to being at a small loss. With my Mistress’ pregnancy I had long contemplated the coming fatherhood I was to experience. Creating life rather than ending it is a… new prospect. But one I didn’t think too much of at first. After all, the coming war with the royal sisters was far more important.

But now…

He will be heir to all I have built. My legacy, one destined to take hold of this kingdom when the time is right. My progeny will reign for a thousand years and another thousand after that, all through rock and metal and time. My throne. My slaves. It all shall be his.

Once the royal sisters are either dead or enslaved with the rest of our foes.

And yet… what if I fail? Are we destined to become two corpses in one grave?

That cannot be allowed.

A son. Sombra had a son.

And he’d been worried for his future.

Maybe… the son had been sent away alongside his mother. Maybe… Sombra’s family line still continues! Maybe-

A flicker of movement was caught right in the corner of Twilight’s eye, and she turned in alarm to face whatever she’d just seen.

She couldn’t even scream as a mass of shadow leapt from the doorway and latched onto Twilight Sparkle’s face. She fell backwards, thrashing as she lit her horn and tried to pry the creature from her. But no matter how hard she seemed to pull, the thing was determined not to budge! This had to be a trap she missed! She just had to…

The creature wrapped a shadowy tendril around her horn, stopping any further build-up of her magic. To make things worse, Twilight’s heart sank as she felt it probing around her mouth, almost like it was trying to get inside!

‘No no no!’ she screamed internally, falling back onto her rump and resorting to trying to pry it off with her hooves.

But if her magic failed, her hooves weren’t going to do anything. She couldn’t see a thing and was trying so desperately hard to keep her jaw clamped shut. But with her nose covered by the shadow, oxygen wasn’t being introduced into her system. Her head started to feel light, and a whole new darkness overtook Twilight as she collapsed to the ground and into unconsciousness.

Now the shadow could begin its work.

It slacked, simply opening up the mare's mouth and crawling its way inside. Once it had access, the mass began to spread itself upwards and towards her brain, swirling around inside Twilight’s head until it found a comfortable spot.

Then the shadow melted away, seeping into a deep part of Twilight’s mind and into dormancy.

Twilight began to come to, giving a groan as she began to process what happened. She… was on the floor?

“What…?” The mare tried to recall how exactly she found herself in such a position. She’s been examining Sombra’s journal about fatherhood, and then…

Nothing.

Rising up, she saw movement from the doorway as her brother hurriedly entered the room and fixed her with a look of concern.

“Twilight!” Shining shouted, crossing the room and reaching her quickly. “You disappeared, and we didn’t know where you went! And then we heard something coming from in here and… what happened…?”

“I don’t know, I think…” It was still foggy, but a small voice at the back of her mind was saying… Yes, that was it. “I fell, hit my head. I didn’t mean to worry you, BBBFF.”

Shining sighed, looking around the room and only now taking in the sight. “Um, Twily? What is this?”

Twilight took a look back across the room herself, getting back on track. Sombra’s son. He had a son! Maybe…

If she could find out where his family was to that very day, it would be a huge historical breakthrough!

“I’ll explain later,” Twilight said to him, taking the journal and gently placing it into one of her saddlebags. “But I think we just hit upon something incredible!”

Author's Note:

I only planned this to be a 2000 words or so chapter...

Didn't work out that way, as you can see. :twilightblush: