• 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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9 - Stirrings in the Shadows

How beautiful the day looked. Leaves swayed in their gentle breeze, while birds sang from the branches in their wonderous melodies that would see Fluttershy swoon. Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns was abuzz with activity that was just as joyful as their surroundings, trotting to and from their classes as they chatted the day away in their own individual friendship groups, stacks of books held in their magic with even more stuffed into their saddlebags. An air of academics and an eternal cycle of studying permeated the air, the kind of environment that Twilight Sparkle lived and breathed for.

A place she now visited, slowly trotting down the pathway as she regarded the various buildings that made up the campus.

A place she seemed to be unable to find even a modicum of joy in. While the world was as pastel as ever, all of it just held a rather dim grey film to the alicorn’s shell-shocked eyes.

Sombra’s descendant.

She, Twilight Sparkle, Element of Magic and Princess of Equestria… was the heir to an ancient tyrant she herself had opposed. And to top it all off, Princess Celestia, someone she had admired and cared so deeply for, had hidden this knowledge from Twilight since… forever, really.

Had she been afraid? Trying to protect her? Trying to protect ponies from her? Or is it as Sombra said, a perverse form of punishment on the dark king?

Did… did Celestia ever really care for Twilight? Or was their interaction a necessity due to both her heritage and her sheer magical power?

Twilight didn’t want to think that. She didn’t even want to consider the possibility that there would be even an inch of truth to any of the dark mage’s words. But, ironically enough, the truth is all that she had heard from his mouth since the day he turned up inside her head.

Her supposedly hated enemy being so open and transparent, while her beloved mentor held deep secrets that she should have known all along.

Was it too late for all of this to turn out to be a bad dream? A mental manipulation from Sombra? Perhaps Princess Luna would yet turn up and cast it all aside, allowing Twilight to continue the rest of her rest in peace.

No. It was not to be. All of this was real, and it was just a fact that Twilight would have to accept.

But how in all of Equestria was she meant to even begin?

Twilight stopped in the middle of the path, taking a look around herself. Ponies were not blind towards the Princess’ foul mood, all passing by with looks of nervous worry on their faces. Though if any of them had entertained the thought of asking her what was wrong and if they could help in any way, something stayed their hooves.

Perhaps it was the fact that she was a Princess, and the sight of the alicorn made them trot as if on eggshells. Or maybe it was something else. A sense. A feeling. Like something wasn’t all as it was meant to be. Something dark. Something terrible.

They just let her be, too afraid to approach the Princess of Equestria for the time being.

And that only made Twilight feel all the worse.

There was a bench nearby, one sitting between two smartly cultivated bushes in front of one of the buildings that made up the campus. Twilight, with a depressed sigh, started to move off towards the bench to attempt to simply sit among the peacefulness of the scene and try to get her thoughts in order.

There were a lot of them.

Hopping up onto the bench and laying down on it, Twilight rested her head on top of her forelegs and gave off a small huff.

She still had a swirl of mixed emotions regarding Celestia, Twilight trying to examine every moment of her life in an attempt to find any point where the Princess might have slipped up even a little in regard to Twilight’s ancestry. Anything that might have betrayed ulterior motives to their relationship through the years.

But there was also the matter of Sombra himself, and what the unicorn now intended for Twilight with their familial connection revealed.

His heir. A Queen. He actually wanted her to learn from him and use his dark magical secrets to usurp the throne from the other princesses.

Which was the most utterly ridiculous thing of all.

Never mind how Twilight was currently feeling about her secretive mentor, she still didn’t want to depose her! That’s not even taking Luna and Cadance into account. Those two had nothing to do with Celestia’s actions, nothing had changed between them!

Not to mention usurping the throne with dark magic and declaring yourself a tyrant was just plain immoral to begin with. She couldn’t believe Sombra would even ask that of her, how did he think he was even going to start in trying to persuade her to follow such a terrible path?

Twilight groaned, rubbing her temples to try and stave off her headache. It was all too much, and it had all been dropped on her so suddenly! And she STILL COULDN’T EVEN TALK ABOUT IT!

There was a thump as Twilight faceplanted the wooden seat.

“Are… you okay?”

Twilight waited a moment, just registering the voice that had just addressed. Then, slowly, she started to look up and regard the unicorn who had just tried to talk to her.

Well, at least it was a familiar face.

“Shadow Flare,” Twilight greeted the pony half-heartedly. “I’m sorry, it’s just… Forget it. It’s been a while, right?”

“Right. We last saw each other when we recovered those artefacts in the Crystal Empire…” the unicorn recalled, though frowned at Twilight’s attempt at changing the subject. “Are you sure you’re alright? Smashing your face into a bench doesn’t exactly seem like something a ‘fine’ pony would do.”

Twilight just hummed in response, sitting up straight and properly looking over Shadow Flare. He was much as she remembered him, a couple of saddlebags on his back that were stuffed full of all the academic equipment you would expect from an alumni of Celestia’s school. He adjusted his glasses as he studied the alicorn in turn, not losing his frown.

“You look terrible,” he stated. “No offence.”

“None taken. At least you’re talking to me,” Twilight replied. “Everypony else is treating me like I’m infected with the plague.”

“It’s unfortunate. But natural, given your status,” Shadow noted, slowly moving to sit next to the Princess on the bench, not getting any argument from her. “But seeing as we met before all of that business, I know you’d prefer a friend right about now.”

A genuine, if small, smile appeared on her face. “Thank you. Things are just… confusing right now. Family drama, I guess.”

At least ‘family’ wasn’t on Sombra’s censorship list.

“Ah,” Shadow simply said in turn. “Right. I guess that can be messy.”

“Oh, you have no idea.”

“I don’t suppose you’re willing to tell me what it is.”

“I… No, I don’t think I can.”

“I understand,” he replied with a nod. “Well, whatever it is, I hope it all turns out for the best. You do have friends to rely on in the meantime. I know about the other bearers.”


Shadow Flare blinked. “Now what?”

“I… sorta also made a mess of things there as well,” Twilight muttered, leaning back against the backrest of the bench. “I might have snapped at them before coming here. They were just trying to help, and I got angry.”

“Well, that’s… unfortunate,” Shadow remarked, rubbing his chin. “Do they know it’s about your family?”

“I didn’t tell them.” Of course, she didn’t really even know at the time. But that didn’t make her feel any less terrible about it. “I just… don’t know what to do, Shadow. Things are a mess here, they’re a mess in Ponyville… I feel like my life is about to collapse at any moment. If it hasn’t already.”

“It’s really that bad, huh?” he asked, getting a small nod in return. “Well… I can’t say I’m an expert on family troubles and friendship lessons, I’m a bit of a shut-in really, but… well, I think if you explain to the girls why you snapped at them, they’ll understand. If they’re really your friends, once they know it’s about family that should be all the explanation they’d need. At least, unless you were willing to share more.”

“I really can’t…”

“Then that’s where you should start. If I were you, it’s what I’d do.”

“I suppose…” Maybe they could still support her, even if they didn’t know what exactly they were supporting her for. Maybe… she needed her friends after all.

She couldn’t solve this by herself. She thought she could. She thought she had to. But she couldn’t, not now…

Ponyville. It was time to head home, there was nothing more to be done in Canterlot. Twilight didn’t want to face Celestia yet. It was inevitable, but right now… She didn’t want to think what would happen, especially with Sombra here to escalate things.

Twilight had to know why she did what she did. But she wasn’t ready…

No, she still had to solve the Sombra situation first. She needed her friends, especially with how things had changed.

They were family, after all. And if Sombra saw his son in Twilight, if this revelation had caused him to, on the off chance, develop some feelings of paternal affection towards her…

She could save him.

She had to save King Sombra. That was the only way out of this. She had to teach him the Magic of Friendship, to show him how wrong he was about the world. Perhaps she was now the only person in Equestria who could, but if there was a chance then she had to take it.

And she would need her friends for this. Their kindness. Their generosity. Their honesty. Their loyalty. Their laughter.

Even with the weight of the revelation still crushing down on her, she was already feeling a little better as she imagined them jumping in to share that load.

“Thank you, Shadow,” Twilight thanked the stallion. “I think I needed that. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I can’t do it alone. I was wrong about that.”

“Well… you’re welcome, I guess,” he responded. “So, you’re going to be okay?”

“No,” she admitted. “Maybe not for a while. But… well, I have to hope.”

“Right, well… I wish you the best all the same.”

“And where are you going, might I ask?” Twilight said, glancing at his saddlebags. “You look prepared for a major project.”

“I suppose I am,” he confirmed. “I’m returning to the Crystal Empire later today, actually. I’m doing some follow-up research into the city’s history. You know, making sure we left no stone unturned the last time we were there.”

“Sounds fun. I hope you find what you’re looking for.”

“So do I,” he stated, hopping off of the bench and giving her one final glance. “See you around, Twilight Sparkle.”

And, with that, he departed.

Twilight didn’t stick around too long after that either. If Sombra intended to try and warp Twilight towards his dark way of thinking, to prod and poke at the negative emotions swirling around inside her in the wake of finding out the truth… Well, then she would just have to turn him first.

Time to see which one of them was the most stubborn.

That Night

The royal archive within the ground of Canterlot Castle was dark, the Lunar Guard patrolling around it much as their day counterparts had when the sun had graced the sky. But now the moon was up, and Equestria had become Luna’s domain.

Those who worked within the archive had gone home for the day, and the building was closed off towards all but those who had special clearance. And since Celestia had yet to select a new student, that was only the Princesses of Equestria and the Royal Guard.

But the figure in the shadows didn’t care. That archive had knowledge that they needed, his knowledge. Knowledge they just had to claim as their own.

With the darkness as their ally, the figure moved towards the building unseen by the patrols around him. The figure had waited a long time for this, studied their patterns and routes until he was sure he could make it to the archive undetected.

Those within the building were a different story, but the figure would deal with that when the time came.

After avoiding the outside patrols, the figure slyly made his way into the archive building. A unicorn in the blue armour of the Lunar Guard was passing through reception, his horn alight and searching for any intruders.

It caught sight of one just as the figure launched a small and practised bolt of magic at him, the guard falling into unconsciousness before he even hit the floor.

Months of preparation had led to this moment, and they were not about to be denied.

The figure traversed through the building, using their extensive knowledge of both the archive and their own magical abilities to either avoid any further guards or to otherwise incapacitate them.

And then they’d made it to their destination.

The restricted section. The door of which would open only for the alicorns, of course.

Fortunately, they were intending on making their own door.

Dark magic started to bubble up the surface of the figure’s horn, a spell not all that dissimilar from the one Sombra had used earlier that very day to gain entry to Celestia’s private collection. It was, perhaps, less powerful. But then again, so were the wards on the wall he targeted.

The wall gave after some resistance, though the noise meant that they would not have long.

The figure rushed into the restricted section, breezing past many tomes and heading directly for Sombra’s. Their eyes scanned the shelves, locating exactly what was needed for the task ahead. The books were swiped away and placed into a waiting saddlebag, the figure then moving to make their escape.

“Halt!” a thestral shouted as he and two others burst through the door leading to the staircase and confronted the figure with their swords drawn. One of the outside patrols, the first responding to the break-in. “You are trespassing on the property of the princesses, surrender!”

No. They would not surrender. They had spent too long planning, too long needing what was contained within the ancient dark mage’s works. The very thought that these fools would think to halt their climb to greatness was… infuriating. They dared? They dared!?

The anger bubbled inside the figure, coalescing in the charge of dark magic remaining in their horn. And then, in one quick and uncontrolled burst fuelled entirely by emotions without much actual thought, the spell was unleashed at the three guards in its way.

Crackles of dark energy struck the guards, bypassing their armour and hitting the vulnerable flesh within. Without even the ability to moan in pain, the ponies within started to wither like a flower in winter.

Then they were dead.

Without a moment to lose, feeling rather proud of their crude display of dark magic, the figure proceeded to slip away before the rest of the regiment arrived.

This, after all, was only the beginning.