• Published 20th Oct 2018
  • 9,047 Views, 567 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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6 - A Chat with the Dark

Twilight slipped through Ponyville, doing her best just to get to the train station and on her way to Canterlot as quickly as possible.

The town itself was as cheery as ever, ponies going about their days and waving to the Princess as she passed. But for once, Twilight didn’t wave back. Not a nod, or even a smile, was sent their ways as those who saw her were left to wonder about the alicorn’s mood in momentary confusion and even insult before shaking it off and moving on with their day.

Twilight couldn’t help but feel a pang of guilt for every unrequited gesture, but she wasn’t in much of a mood for pleasantries, and neither did she have the time. She was now all too aware of the shadow hanging over her, and the Princess could not think about anything else.

She had almost made it to the train station when she made a momentary stop, standing in the middle of the street as she adjusted her saddlebags and took a moment to breathe. She had her notes, a good number of bits… everything she would need. Despite her abrupt departure, Spike had been as prompt as always in assistance her.

He’d been even more concerned when Twilight specifically told him not to tell the other princesses about her coming arrival in the capital. But he had nevertheless agreed to her request, he was reliable like that.

Too bad he wasn’t reliable enough not to tell a certain other group of ponies.

“Twilight!” was all the purple mare heard before two blue hooves slammed into her amidst a prismatic blur, a weird sense of Deja Vu running through the alicorn’s head as she hit the ground with an ‘oomph’.

“By Celestia, Rainbow Dash. Get yourself off of her!” Applejack scolded as she gently bit onto the pegasus’ mane and pulled her off of the Princess. She leant down, offering Twilight a helping hoof up off the floor. “You okay, Sugarcube?”

“Uh… yes?” Twilight said with little metaphorical alicorns circling her head as she tried to shake the daze. “Ugh, why was I rammed? Again?”

Now that Twilight was on her hooves and able to regain her bearings, she now realised that all of her friends were surrounding her with a shared look of concern between them. And annoyance towards Rainbow Dash’s brashness, but mostly concern.

“Well, you’re the one running off to Canterlot for no reason and going all Daring Do about it!” Rainbow Dash retorted defensively. “What gives, Egghead?”

“As blunt as she’s putting it…” Rarity began. “It is most peculiar for you to run off like this, darling. Spike seemed to be really worried about you.”

Twilight frowned. “Wait, Spike told you that I was going?”

“Something about you has him spooked, Twi,” Applejack explained.

“He said that you seemed really worried about something when he came home,” Fluttershy noted worriedly. “And that you didn’t want him to come with you but wouldn’t tell him why. I mean, I’m sure you have your reasons, but…”

“You didn’t want us to come either!” Pinkie Pie moaned. “And a road trip is no fun without your friends to go with you!”

“What gives with that?” Rainbow Dash asked. “If there’s something up, we wanna come with! The Elements of Harmony stick together, right?”

“I mean, you have your own lives going on…” Twilight refuted half-heartedly.

“Don’t worry none about that, Twilight,” Applejack stated. “Spike also said you didn’t want Princess Celestia and Princess Luna to know ya’ll were coming. Now, it’s clear that something has you wound up tighter than a stack of hay during a harvest. So, what’s the deal, Twi? What’s going on?”

“I…” Once again, she had the desire to tell her friends everything, and once again she inwardly screamed in frustration as the desire never manifested into her action. “I don’t see why you’re all making a big deal out of this! It’s just research, girls! Like when I went to the Crystal Empire those months back!”

“But then it was Princess Celestia wanting you to go,” Rarity aptly pointed out. “This secretive aspect isn’t usually a part of your nature, and it has us a little worried.”

“You do trust us, don’t you?” Pinkie Pie asked sadly.

“I… Of course I trust you!” Twilight desperately assured. “B-but… I can’t. I just can’t. My… research needs to be independent. I need to do this by myself. There’s no other way.”

“Horseapples,” Applejack growled. “This ain’t like you at all. When friends are in trouble, we tell each other. Let us help, Twi. That’s all we want.”

“Who even says I’m in trouble!?”

“Shucks, Twilight! Look at you!” the cowpony retorted, her voice raising. “You look like a wreck right now! Spike was right on the money when he came to us, and yet he was worried he was just being paranoid!”

Twilight gritted her teeth, tempers rising all around her. And not helping matters was that dark chuckle in her ear, clearly enjoying the show of negativity.

“Applejack,” Rarity addressed more softly, trying to calm the earth pony before turning back to Twilight. “Can’t you at least explain why we can’t help? What is this research of yours?”

“I… can’t tell you that either. I’m sorry.”

“Oh, come on!” Rainbow Dash shouted. “This is ridiculous! I’m with Applejack on this, I don’t get why you’re just… shutting us out!”

“It’s personal, alright!?” the Princess exploded, her wings flaring outwards. “I appreciate that you’re worried but, just… butt out, okay!? I need to do this by myself. Maybe I can tell you when it’s done, but until then, just… STOP!”

“Girls!” Fluttershy half-shouted. “Please, stop fighting! T-this isn’t what friends do either! We… maybe we should just trust Twilight…?”

There was silence for several moments, but it was soon followed by a sigh from the apple farmer in the group.

“Alright… alright…” she relented. “I didn’t mean to get all worked up, just… I don’t get what’s happening here, Twi. You’re not yourself.”

Twilight turned away, unable to look any of her friends in the eye. “I know.”

And then, to their shock, she just started to walk. Not another word was said as the alicorn made her way to the train station and away from her friends, leaving them all lost and confused as to why their friend was being so secretive. And what exactly had gotten her so worried and even... scared.

All the while, Sombra just took great satisfaction in the despair growing in Twilight’s heart.

The Friendship Express rolled along the tracks, the countryside passing by the window as Twilight lazily stared out of it. Ponyville was long gone from view, but her thoughts remained on the little town and the ponies she’d left behind in it.

Ponies she’d just pushed away.

She could just see their faces. How worried and upset they’d been, the hurt on Applejack’s face when she’d refused to let them help or even to give up any information as to what was happening.

And she’d wanted to. Oh, she had so wanted to.

She should have known they’d intercept her, and that they’d pick up on all the warning signs. They knew her too well to not know when something was wrong. Her heart ached knowing how she’d just left things with them, how Sombra’s spell had inadvertently caused them to argue and shout…

Just one more thing to fix when he was gone.

“Decaying corpses dragging you into the abyss,” that dark voice whispered into her ear. “Friends are those who would do nought but slow your ascent, stifling the greatness one could hold.”

“Shut up,” Twilight spat, looking over to the seat next to her as the stallion in question materialised before her eyes. “If I could tell my friends about you, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. It’s your fault we just had that falling out! But it won’t work!”

“If you cannot fight your own battles, are you truly capable of the crown you wear?”

“I can. And I will,” Twilight retorted. “But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have friends to back you up. You’re always stronger together than apart.”

“Naïve sentiment, and ultimately foolish,” Sombra dismissed. “There is no room for such things for those who sit upon a throne.”

“Then tell me about your son.”

Sombra’s eyes widened, even if it was for just a moment, before he turned to glare at the alicorn. “Tread lightly, Princess.”

“Why? You’re already planning on killing me, right?”

“…You are bold. It compliments you.”

“You sound almost impressed.”

“There are many things that impress me about you, it’s why you’re the perfect host,” Sombra stated. “I could foresee greatness for one such as yourself. But like Starswirl and the others like you, you are infected with the weakness of lesser beings.”

“If I remember correctly, we beat you,” Twilight pointed out smugly. “Twice.”

“Temporary setbacks, once you are no longer an obstacle.”

Twilight bit her lip, leaning back into her seat as she decided to try and move the topic away from the fact that she could die in the near future. That fact was still more than a little petrifying to ruminate on. “Okay, so back to your son… What happened to him?”

“Why do you care so much for the long passed?” Sombra asked, narrowing his eyes in concentration. “Ah, simple scholarly curiosity. And perhaps some pride and ego, you cannot leave a project unfinished.”

“What did you… Stop looking through my head!” Twilight protested.

“Now why would I ever listen to that request?” he asked with a dreadful smirk. “But as it is, my son will be long dead. The passage of time waits for no single being, not even the shadows.”

Twilight huffed, looking back out of the window. “Don’t you even want to know if your family lives?”

Sombra was silent. For a moment, Twilight thought she’d actually gotten the King of Shadows to feel some level of emotion. But then…

“Queen Chrysalis… there’s a foe to vanquish after Equestria is mine. Your combat skills were impressive against her swarm, but not impressive enough.”

“I said stop!” Twilight shouted. “My memories are for me! Get out of them!”

“Hm, how you turned on your sister-in-law so easily when you noticed her unnatural behaviour,” Sombra continued, ignoring the mare. “You were not afraid to do what needed to be done in that moment, if only the others had listened…”

A bit of long-buried hurt reared its ugly head as Twilight thought back to the night that her friends, brother and mentor had all rejected her.

“Is that bitterness I feel?”

“It… hurt when they did that,” Twilight admitted. “But I wasn’t completely right either. I know Cadance, I couldn’t ask for a better sister… I should have known it wasn’t her, but an imposter. I shouldn’t have tried to stop the wedding…”

“And there it is. The weakness,” Sombra taunted. “She was a threat, whether she was Cadenza or not.”

Sombra was silent for another moment, and then he gave another hum. “Celestia’s betrayal hurt the most, you do care for her, don’t you? You should have realised in that moment that your bond is but a fantasy.”

“Shut. Up!”

“And your brother too,” he said, unrelenting. “Easily manipulated, a muscled fool the likes of whom I would have placed into my army to die in the front lines.”

Anger started to bubble inside Twilight as he continued to insult her family. “I’m warning you!”

“A father in astronomy, a mother craving adventure which she then translates to a page. Hm, you saw so little of them after gaining your cutie mark.”


“But she too has something of a gift in magic I feel, one never explored and yet… it’s almost passed down. A genetic gift, a gift going back… back…”

Suddenly, the King uncharacteristically froze. He blinked, turning to look at Twilight Sparkle with a look of pure bewilderment on his face that caught the mare completely by surprise. He seemed to study her, almost like he was actually seeing the alicorn for the first time. And then, slowly, his features relaxed into neutrality.

“I see.”

Then the shadows dispersed, and Sombra was gone.

Twilight, once again left to her own devices, was left to ponder the sudden end to their conversation. How he had so casually ripped through her memories was deeply disturbing to think about, as was his taunts as to the Canterlot Wedding and his complete disregard for friendship. But right there, for that moment, he had seemed…

Twilight wasn’t really sure what he had seemed.

But that was another worry for later. For now, she had to focus on the issues at hoof. Sombra would not stop until he had gotten what he’d come for. Her, Equestria… all of it. She could not let him win, and she just knew the answers had to be somewhere in his own collection of dark magical tomes. His spells, his art. A clue as to how his magic operated, and a way to counter it.

Twilight sighed, rubbing her eyes as she calmed herself and got her thoughts into order. Looking out the window, she was certain as to what she had to do.

No matter what, Sombra would not win.

She wouldn’t let him.