• 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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30 - Of Light and Dark

Nothing had changed in Canterlot.

It was like nopony had even noticed the events that had just transpired but a short while ago. Or even if they did, they no longer remembered or cared to do so. Even those who walked amongst the halls of Canterlot Castle seemed content in acting none the wiser to anything that had happened within those very walls.

Twilight couldn’t help but envy them. For most of Equestria, the recent disaster was but a story in the local news. A charity had been set up, renewing old sentiments for the then-recently returned crystal ponies, in order to help get the lives of the draugr’s victims back in order. But it was still, for them, far away troubles. A bit of gossip, a talking point while having your morning coffee in some café before work.

But not for her. She had lived it, been at the heart of it. She was quite literally related to the original source of all their problems, a source that had now wandered off into the wilderness potentially to never be seen again.

Sombra was still out there, somewhere. Maybe he was still watching from a distance, maybe he’d left for some far-off nation with no intention of coming back. Zebrica, perhaps? Abyssinia? She doubted he went back to the Frozen North, considering Cadance’s threat the last time he was there.

Twilight sighed from her position on the couch, laying on her back amidst the backdrop of the royal lounge. The room was less formal than Celestia’s study, decorated with several sofas doused in Saddle Arabian silks, lush expensive carpets and many cabinets filled with an unnerving amount of liqueur. The young Princess of Equestria had to wonder if that moonshine belonged to the obvious contender.

But she couldn’t really appreciate the luxury of a lounge seldom few ponies could ever be allowed to enjoy, lest they too have a royal title. No, her mind was firmly on the former king who had caused her so much heartache. He was the reasons she had been forced up to Canterlot once more, an inevitable outcome after she had told Celestia about what he had done.

She couldn’t hide it. Not after everything they had suffered between them already. And now she feared facing her mentor, especially after promising to keep an eye on Sombra in his road to redemption.

Twilight groaned as she sat upright, lighting her horn and taking hold of a glass that was sitting on a nearby table. It was filled with Sweet Apple Acres branded cider she had found in one of the cabinets, her choice of beverage having come down between that and a vintage bottle of ridiculously rare and expensive red wine. She had chosen the cider for fear of opening and consuming such a priceless artefact as well as a desire for a familiar and comforting taste. Comfort was what she sought, after all.

It had been about a week since her distant grandfather had departed as it was. A week before Celestia had elected to respond and ask her to come back to the capital. She really hoped this would be the last trip she would have to do for some time, more than ready to just stay in Ponyville for the foreseeable future. Maybe see to that wildlife sanctuary they had been planning? Fluttershy would be overjoyed.

Her friends…

Of all of them, none were more disappointed by Sombra’s absence than Pinkie Pie. She had really wanted to throw that party and to try and get the dark mage to smile. The rest were more… concerned. They hadn’t said much beyond the usual words of support, but she had seen it in their eyes. They were justifiably worried about him keeping his word, and to what the other princesses would have to say.

The former point Twilight had no doubts about. If she had learnt anything about him, it was that he would keep his word as far as his own flesh and blood was concerned. As for the latter…

Twilight took a gulp of her cider, hoping to do away with those pesky nerves.

Celestia would understand, right? After all that had happened, she would have to trust her judgement. Or at least accept it, hope for the best…

Twilight could already see that little disappointed frown that would turn her insides to jelly.

Twilight groaned as she got up from her seat, placing her drink aside and starting to pace. She couldn’t get comfortable with all this waiting! She just wanted to get all this over with so things could finally go back to some semblance of normality. A tiny part of her almost regretted discovering the truth about Sombra in the first place, but the rest of her being squashed that inkling like a particularly nasty spider. Not knowing would have been worse. Shadow Flare would have done what he did either way, and Sombra would have had nopony to talk him down.

Maybe things really were for the best for how they turned out, but it was still no less troubling to the young alicorn.

She turned and trotted over to the window, looking out over the castle grounds as various ponies walked by without a care in the world. The sun, the grass, it all looked quite inviting. She could just leave. Go back home and take a month or so to regain her bearings.

But running wouldn’t help either, would it? Running from the truth. Running from Celestia. Twilight had messed up badly in the Crystal Empire in becoming Midnight. She would have to live with it. Even if she ultimately managed to reign herself in before going too far, at least in the grand scheme of things, it had still happened. She had almost lost herself to the madness inherent in everypony, especially in alicorns. In her kind most of all it was ever-present, always flowing with power and insanity both.

At least she had a new method of bonding with Princess Luna, right…?

Twilight sagged. She really hoped that letting Sombra go hadn’t been yet another mistake.


“Eeep!” Twilight yelped, jumping and spinning around to see the concerned eyes of Princess Celestia staring at her from across the room. “P-Princess…!”

“I am sorry for startling you,” Celestia apologised. “And for keeping you waiting. There is always some noble waiting to accost the crown despite court being out of session.”

“I-it’s alright…” Twilight responded. “I was just thinking.”

“As I can see. I know when you are over stressing yourself to no end, Twilight.”

“You always do…”

Celestia gave Twilight a small motherly smile, striding over and standing next to Twilight as she returned to looking out of the window. There was silence between them for several moments, Celestia looking at the younger royal calmly as the latter seemed to be trying to find the right words to say.

“Celestia…” Twilight finally began. “I’m so, so sorry.”

“I know,” she replied sympathetically. “But for Midnight, you have nothing left to apologise for. You showed excellent restraint in being rid of your darker half so quickly.”

“I needed my friends.”

“For which they so gladly provided their voices. And you listened. The royal vault paid for the damage to the track, and the guards who attacked you in their panic are no worse for wear. The very fact that you subdued them so peacefully shows you were still hanging on to your morality.”

“It doesn’t change the fact that I was Midnight!”

“No,” Celestia conceded. “And nothing ever will. But the circumstances were extraordinary, your resolve proven, and you are easily forgiven. You saved the Crystal Empire from both the plague and from Sombra in the end. Take solace in that, but never forget what we alicorns are capable of when pushed to our limits.”

“I won’t,” Twilight agreed. “I never want to see that face again.”

“On that, we are in agreement. I… feel glad I never bore witness to it myself,” Celestia admitted sadly. “You are very dear to me, Twilight. To know my failures contributed to yet another fall…”

“It wasn’t you,” Twilight comforted her in turn. “Everything was just too much. Between Sombra and the draugr… Even the changelings and Discord weren’t so stressful, though the latter got close.”

“Indeed. However, speaking of Sombra…” Twilight cringed, knowing what she would say next. “You let him go, so I understand. Even after what we talked about, he walks free and without restraint.”

“I wouldn’t say without restraint…” Twilight sheepishly retorted. “I am his restraint. Even when I’m not watching him.”

Celestia raised an eyebrow. “Oh?”

“We… talked, before he left,” she explained. “It wasn’t like he just slipped out and that was that… Not for lack of trying, actually. But still, he thinks he’s a burden. He doesn’t want to see me hurt again, and him returning to his old ways… It will hurt me. A lot.”

“And he knows this, of course.”

“Why wouldn’t he? I know he’ll be true to his word. As long as I stay as I am, he won’t even be seen by anypony. He’s alone…”

Celestia frowned. “And yet that worries you.”

Twilight bit her lip. “…Yes, it does. I didn’t want this. Things could have been better if he’d just given friendship a chance! If he’d listened to me! But now he’s sad and lonely and I can’t do anything about it.”

The Princess hummed thoughtfully. “I wouldn’t be so sure of that, Twilight.”

Twilight’s ear twitched at Celestia’s words, the younger alicorn mare glancing up at her teacher with an inquisitive expression. She couldn’t see what she meant; Sombra had made his position perfectly clear. He couldn’t accept Twilight’s world, but neither could he change it. He was going to be alone for as long as she existed, and even beyond that.

So why was Celestia giving her a knowing and somewhat hopeful look?

“Once upon a time, facing him on the field of battle, I thought him nothing but a heartless beast,” she mused. “But he is willing to give up all he gained for your sake. Because he cares for and loves you, Twilight. It is a sentiment I can relate with.”

Twilight gave an embarrassed chuckle. “Well, I am his granddaughter… Plus some.”

“Exactly. His heart exists with you, and so long as it exists it can also grow. Give him his time and solitary travels across Equus, he will have a long journey to think back across all that has occurred. He will miss you; I know it. Eventually, the isolation will make that heart yearn for the one family he has. And then, just maybe, he will be ready to receive your instruction.”

“Do… do you really think that’s possible?”

“I can only hope and speculate, but yes. You’ve proven he is more than a mindless monster, and for all his complexity, the road to redemption is not lost on him yet.”

“But you said if he ever left my side-”

“We’ll consider this detour part of the process,” Celestia decided with a wink. “Should I be proven wrong, I will take action against him. But… something tells me it shall not come to that. He has your blood, after all.”

“A very ancient version of it,” Twilight lightly joked. “So… everything is going to be fine again?”

“I think so, Twilight. This trial is over and, for the time being, your life awaits you back in Ponyville. Put this behind you, but do not forget its lessons. I know… I know I have taken mine to heart.”

Twilight smiled up at the Princess of the Sun, moving in closer as a giant alabaster wing was draped over her smaller form. It was there they sat for some time in contentment, their previous contention long behind them. Twilight had to believe that Celestia was right, she would see Sombra again. He would come to his own conclusions, watch his descendant from afar and realise his error in judgement. One day he would return, and then they could begin to make things right again.

But until that day, life would go on. Twilight, for all her troubles, was finally happy again.

One Week Later…

Twilight huffed with exhaustion as she wandered into the Golden Oaks Library with Spike at her side. She dumped her saddlebag on a nearby table and slumped onto a sofa. Spike glanced at her sheepishly, tapping his claws together as she stared up at the ceiling.

One week. Exactly one week was all the normality she got before the usual Ponyville craziness happened again. This time it had occurred when her friends had decided to go to the Castle of the Two Sisters for some research. While Twilight had gotten some rather productive work done, including the recovery of an old diary of Celestia’s, her friends had scared themselves into a frenzy and caused absolute chaos around the castle! Seriously, she turns her back for five minutes and Pinkie Pie is activating all the castle’s traps with an organ!

And then Twilight laughed, letting the humour of the situation roll over her as Spike breathed a sigh of relief. Oh, their faces when she’d managed to freeze them all in place…

“Well, you’re in a good mood,” Spike commented.

“This was the kind of chaos I’d sorta missed,” Twilight admitted as she sat up. “Nothing world-threatening with shattering revelations - just me and my friends and their usual craziness.”

“Sheesh, I remember when you preferred nothing more than a quiet library and a good book.”

“Nothing beats a quiet library and a good book!” Twilight playfully retorted. “But it’s nice to have some fun with the girls.”

“Never a dull moment when Pinkie Pie finds a trap door,” Spike quipped. “You don’t suppose she has a concussion from ringing the school bell with her head, do you?”


“Don’t question Pinkie Pie. Right.”

Twilight shook her head with bemusement, retrieving her saddlebag and pulling free her research papers. Despite the slight derailment and self-caused scares, she couldn’t claim the time hadn’t been productive. Even if they hadn’t necessarily found what she was looking for, the glance into the lives of the younger Royal Sisters was fascinating! Oh, she had to ask them about it the next time she was in Canterlot!

Glowing with studious glee, the Princess started to sort through all her documents and file them in the most logical and efficient manner she could. Spike assisted, following her direction to the letter as she had him store them safely away while retrieving more texts from the shelves that might be of some use for follow-up research projects. Very soon, a rather sizable pile were gathered on the table, scrolls wrapped neatly with some quills ready for further writing of her discoveries.

Books. Research. Discovering things new and old. Now, this was what Twilight lived for!

When did it get dark out?

“Spike, what’s the time?”

“Eleven at night,” he replied. “I was keeping track.”

Twilight grumbled, having not been doing so herself. And now her stomach was also grumbling with dissatisfaction at her lack of eating.

Spike chuckled knowingly. “It’s a bit late, but I could still cook something up if you’d like.”

“No, that’s alright. Maybe just go grab a takeout, the hayburger joint should be open another hour or so.”

“Hayburgers coming right up!” Spike replied with a dutiful salute. “Before I go, though, we got a package from Derpy while you were nose deep in those books.”

“What!? Why didn’t you say so?”

“I tried. I believe ‘shush, working’ were the words I heard.”

Twilight gave an indignant noise, but otherwise accepted Spike's offer of a small square package before he took his leave to go and gather their food. As the drake left, Twilight examined the package with no small amount of curiosity. Just who had bothered to send her something like… whatever was inside it.

Twilight left her research apparatus behind and started to make her way up the stairs with the small box held in her magical grasp. On reaching the landing, the mare quickly moved through the door up ahead and into her bedroom. She flipped on a light switch and let the darkness retreat before her, closing the door up behind her and planting the package onto the bed.

She put her magic to work unwrapping the carboard outer layer and revealing the small black case within. It was held shut with a simple clasp, one that came undone with no difficulty as the lid swung open.

What… was that?

It was a necklace. A small beautiful crystal of a deep dark violet colouration held at the end of a black chain. The crystal itself was encased in a shell with a highly ornamental in design, the centre of which was the undeniable image of her own six-pointed starburst cutie mark.

And it was magical.

Dark magical.

She could feel the shadow within the pretty thing, albeit it was subdued, a result of its own creation. She could imagine it came into existence much as the other blackened crystals had back in the Crystal Empire, produced from the ground with a simple dark spell. But this one… it hadn’t been done so haphazardly nor intended as a weapon or barrier. No, this crystal had been sculpted by dark magic with precision so that its surface would shine in the light while remaining mysterious and draped in shadow. It was hard to explain, but it felt like she was looking at an almost perfect synchronisation of the light and dark.

Twilight’s breath caught in her throat; the significance of this package not lost on her.

It was a gift. Crafted lovingly by Sombra himself, shipped in secret so it would find its way back to her in Ponyville. Something to remember him by, perhaps?

But whatever it was, Twilight felt drawn to the necklace. It was a perfect blend of two worlds, each working in tandem to make something wonderful. It resonated with the mare, reaching deep down into her soul like it was a reflection.

Twilight gave a small smile as she brought the necklace around her neck and let it sit in place. It seemed to ever so slightly tug at her magic, both kinds of it, further increasing the resonance she felt inside the crystal.

She glanced towards a nearby mirror, admiring the new piece of jewellery she wore. Twilight had stopped learning dark magic ever since the incident in the Frozen North, and yet she allowed a small trail of dark magic to begin pouring from the corners of her eyes. She felt at peace with the darkness already inside her, the spells she had learnt even if she held no desire to continue that path. The reality was that the darkness had always been a part of her, but the road of friendship was her choice. Like the crystal, she was light and dark both, each working with the other to try and be the best pony she could be.

She let the dark magic fade, treasuring the gift around her neck. Celestia had been right, things were going to be fine. She was going to be fine.

She now believed wholeheartedly that the darkness would no longer sway her for ill.

And yet, even as she turned away from the mirror, she only subconsciously acknowledged the slight shift in the image. Lavender fur corrupted and darkened, a mane floating like a malevolent shadow with glowing eyes that, while distant and unfocused, were filled with bitterness and contempt.

Unaware consciously of its continued existence, Twilight left the mirror and the shade behind, turning off the light and moving back through the door and into the rest of the library she called home. The room fell into darkness, silent as the grave.