• Published 6th Mar 2019
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The Last of the Dark Ponies - Askre

Private Iceland and his brother Barricade are once again entangled in the machinations of King Sombra.

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Chapter 23. I can’t believe the bastard is winning.

Chapter 23

“I TOLD YOU TO LEAVE HER OUT OF THIS!!” Private screamed and prepared to shoot more energy blasts. He was tackled down by Barricade since this brother seemed ready to jump around in rage and risk falling off the path.

“Bro, calm down. We’ll get her away from him!” he whispered sharply, holding his wildly struggling brother down. Thankfully, Barricade was still the stronger of the two and had no trouble holding the livid stallion to the snowy ground.

“Sombra! Let her go!” Rainbow Dash shouted and was just about ready to barrel into the smoke, but she had learned her lesson from last time when she did that.

“I will,” Sombra looked at Rainbow Dash. “Just as soon as my prisoners return to my lair.”

“Yeah, that’s not going to happen,” Starlight growled. She tried to ignore her rising headache. She fired up her horn, but a sting in her head fizzled her magic out. Oh no.

This hadn’t escaped Sombra’s attention and he laughed mightily. “What’s the matter Starlight Glimmer. All out? Shouldn’t have been fighting a magic duel with that nasty bump on your head.”

The ponies looked at each other worried. Starlight couldn’t use her magic, Barricade was currently busy preventing his brother from trying anything foolish in his rage and Rainbow Dash needed the rest of her friends for the Elements of Harmony.

“I can’t believe the bastard is winning!” Barbell stomped a hoof to the ground.

“I’m waiting. I can be satisfied with this lovely looking mare,” King Sombra looked at Dew Doe and smiled, his eyes glittering with greed. She glared right back at him and had folded her front legs since she couldn’t get rid of the tendrils. “She is so sweet looking; I could just eat her all up.”

He moved his head in and seemed prepared to give her another lick, but a powerful light blue blast of magic struck him in the head. The king roared in pain and his grip on Dew Doe loosened. The pegasus wasn’t prepared for this sudden release and started to plummet to the ground.

Rainbow Dash immediately flashed off in a blur and caught Dew so she could correct her own flight. The two pegasi then quickly flew back to the path.

“What!?” Sombra snarled and looked up. His eyes opened wide in shock. Flying high above them were Princess Celestia, Cadance, Luna and Twilight Sparkle. It had been Cadance who had fired the first shot.

“Sombra! Ponyville has been freed from your curse and Discord was kind enough to teleport us right here where you are!” Celestia bellowed so loud it created a gust of wind that blew Sombra back a bit.

“Whoo hoo!” Rainbow Dash hooted when seeing who had just arrived.

King Sombra roared in rage and immediately shot out tendrils towards the princesses. All four of them immediately separated and started shooting at them with their powerful magic, dissipating the shadows immediately.

However, it had just been a diversion. Other tendrils were heading straight for two particular ponies. Private was in the process of racing towards Dew Doe when a tentacle snatched him up and another grabbed Barricade and they were both pulled into the air.

“No! Private!” Dew Doe cried, having been just about to grab the unicorn in a tight hug.

“Barricade!” Barbell shouted, stomping a hoof on the ground, giving Sombra a nasty glare.

“Let them go, Sombra!” Twilight demanded. She already saw there were enough pegasi around to catch the unicorns if he took that demand too literally.

“I think not! Since I can’t have all my prisoners, I shall settle with them,” Sombra snarled and shot powerful shots of dark magic straight at the friendship princess. Cadance dove in the way and put up her love shield that easily dissipated the energy.

It was enough delay for the king. He immediately activated a spell and with the unicorn twins, he disappeared in a teleportation spell.

“NO!” Twilight shouted when seeing what had happened.

“Don’t worry Twilight. It’s just a short reprieve. Discord assured me he would be tracking Sombra. We will know where he goes soon enough,” Celestia said and was looking furious. “Let’s get those other ponies away from here in the meantime.”

Barricade and Private were dropped unceremoniously on the ground as King Sombra finally released them from his hold and reformed into his pony body in front of them. Private groaned and slowly looked up. They were in what looked like the old ruins of a town, close to a series of jagged gray brownish mountains to the north, to the south a desert stretched into the distance.

Sombra looked solemnly over the ruins before glancing towards the crumbling remains of a large building to the west. He let out a deep sigh as memories of a different time were playing out in his mind.

“Ugh… where are we?” Barricade groaned as he was recovering from having his head slammed to the ground.

“We… we are in what used to the be the Dark Pony Empire,” Private whispered, recognizing the remains of the capital. He eyed the building to the west that Sombra was still staring at, recognizing the royal palace - or what was left of it.

“Soo… wait, isn’t that like all the way near Saddle Arabia?” Barricade finally looked up and let out an even louder groan. “Oh, come on, we were being rescued! The princesses had arrived!”

“Why are we here?” Private glared at Sombra, who still hadn’t said a word. The unicorn hadn’t quite forgiven him for how he had treated Dew Doe.

“Does it matter? He probably has more fun torture in mind for me and…” Barricade still lay on the ground, then he glanced at his brother. “And… what did he do with you anyway?”

“I’m… I’m his servant,” Private muttered, eyeing his brother, not really wanting to indulge further details to him.

“Don’t you mean slave?” The unicorn on the ground snorted avoiding looking at Sombra and shuddered a little.

“That probably isn’t far off either,” Private muttered and offered a hoof. Barricade arched his brow, but took it and allowed his brother to help him stand up.

Private returned his attention to Sombra, who still appeared to be lost in thought. His brother still avoided directly looking at the king. The Dark Pony stared almost entranced towards the ruins of his former home. Ignoring the warm wind blowing in from the desert and blew his cape around.

“I told you to leave Dew Doe out of this!” he addressed the king, not caring if he would be punished. He was still quite angry.

“These streets used to be filled with life. Merchants selling their wares, ponies going about their business, foals playing amongst the buildings,” Sombra muttered like he hadn’t heard his prisoner, his eyes and mouth twitching.

“All gone, in one fell swoop. Scattered, destroyed. Just because they couldn’t accept that we broke off, just because we were different. Everypony slaughtered as they fled - stallions, mares, foals, wherever they tried to hide. Children watching their parents being murdered as they tried to protect them, before being themselves butchered,” the king sneered. “Then they paraded the broken, violated body of the queen around the streets, as if some great victory had been achieved.”

“Sombra, I’m talking to you…” Private started to sneer, but then he caught on something the king had said. “What do you mean broke off?”

He jumped a little when Sombra snapped his head to glare down at him.

“You don’t know? Well here is a secret the Saddle Arabians refuse to admit to. Dark Ponies are just off-shoots of them. We were Saddle Arabians, just ones more attuned to dark magic. But we were hounded and persecuted simply because we were slightly different than the ‘correct’ versions of them. Then the first queen, Odio gathered us together and we moved north. Suddenly we were traitors as well because we refused to conform and ‘correct’ ourselves and ‘change for the better’, like they so nicely put it,” Sombra snorted and started to walk towards the ruins of the palace.

“I always did wonder why he was so tall.” Private looked at Barricade. “I just realized, he’s the same size as a Saddle Arabian unicorn.”

“I will just take you word for it,” Barricade muttered, still doing his best not to look at the king. He was really uncomfortable.

“Will you two come along!” Sombra snapped, causing the twins to start a bit before quickly following the king.

“So, why are we here?” Private asked again when he caught up with Sombra. Since he couldn’t seem to address the Dew Doe issue, he might as well find out why they had come to this place.

“You’ll see,” was the only response the dark unicorn gave as they came closer to the palace.

They passed what were once the gates and were soon in what had at one time been the courtyard. Sombra glanced around and frowned at signs that indicated excavation, though they didn’t look that recent. He looked at Private, not really needing to say the question on his mind.

“Archeologists have been here several times. Mom and dad are the ones who thoroughly examined the royal palace,” the unicorn quickly explained. “The uh… crown jewels of your mother are in the Saddle Arabian capital now.”

“I may have to correct that,” Sombra snorted and continued onward.

“If it makes you feel better, the Saddle Arabians really, deeply regret what their ancestors did. They call the destruction of the Empire their Greatest Shame. They allow us descendants to visit the sights of the old empire. Mom and dad were given special permission to excavate here. Not even Daring Do was permitted to touch these sites,” Private quickly said, not liking the sound of what the king had just said.

“These Saddle Arabians tortured, raped and murdered my sister!” Sombra snarled at Private who backed up so quickly he bumped into his brother who fell to his haunches.

“Nothing they say or do will let me forgive them that!” the king’s eyes began glowing green and purple smoke began pouring out of them.

“Bro, now would be a good time to remember that you are the quiet one,” Barricade whispered, looking just as terrified as his brother.

“Yeah… uh sorry,” Private gulped.

Thankfully to the twins, the king turned away and resumed walking. His eyes turned normal red again and the purple smoke vanished.

The twins remained silent as they followed Sombra. It was difficult for the untrained eye to see where they were going. Crumbled walls and broken columns didn’t really tell much where exactly in the palace they were. However, Private could, with his restored memories, recognize how things used to look. He soon realized they were headed directly to where the throne room had once been. Sombra navigated the palace as if it was still fully standing and he had never left it in the first place.

“See those slabs? That’s the remains of the steps that led up to the throne,” Private whispered to his brother as they entered a wide area.

“Fascinating,” Barricade said dryly, never having shared his family’s passion for archeology.

Sombra stepped up to where throne had once sat. For a moment he stood there in silence before turning around to face the brothers. They still stood close to the entrance. The king didn’t change his expression as he activated the dark magic in him.

The ground started to shake and with a rumble an opening began forming right in front of the throne. Private’s jaw dropped and then the unicorn rushed to this newly form hole in the ground before his brother could stop him. Stairs led down into the darkness.

“Where did this come from? Mom and dad scoured this room for weeks and found no sign of hidden chambers,” Private exclaimed. The unicorn was so surprised that all anger and resentment had vanished. Now his brain was just reeling at the possibilities at what was down there. He grabbed a nearby rock and threw it down. Several seconds passed before he heard a distant thud.

“There are chambers here only accessible to my bloodline, dark magic isn’t enough. It has to be performed by a blood member of the royal family,” Sombra explained and stepped down the stone slabs. He arched his brow when Private lit up his horn and darted down the stairs.

“Private!” Barricade protested and froze when realizing he was alone with the king.

“Well what are you waiting for?” Sombra looked at the remaining twin and gestured to the hole.

Barricade gulped, but lit up his own horn and quickly went down the stairs. Sombra followed and used his magic to close the hole behind them. They continued down the stairs and found Private at the bottom in a small chamber. The unicorn was looking eagerly around. There were ancient runes carved on the walls.

“I know history is your thing, bro, but please don’t leave me alone like that,” Barricade whispered sharply once he was next to his brother.

“Sorry, new chamber. Look at these runes! Old dark pony script. Mom would have a field day here translating them.” Private seemed to have completely forgotten that he was currently a prisoner and not on an archeological dig.

“Our mother? Who just recently was a prisoner of that guy?” Barricade grunted and saw he wasn’t quite getting through. His brother was just too excited right now at all this history in front of him.

Sombra walked past the twins, chuckling a bit at Private’s enthusiasm. He used his dark magic again and some of the runes began glowing. Then slowly a doorway formed that from a glance seemed to lead to a small library. The king was mildly taken aback when hearing a squee and saw a rush of gray and blonde as Private dove into the doorway.

“Throw pancakes in there and I think you just gave Private his heaven,” Barricade grunted, hoofing his face.

“Well, I knew his passion was in history but… I’m at loss of words,” Sombra actually sounded stunned at his prisoner’s reaction.

The two entered the chamber and saw Private rushing around, looking at every bookshelf, being careful not to touch anything. He briefly examined things before turning to the next. There was a reclining couch in one corner of this smaller room and a side table with old golden wine goblets resting on top. At the opposite corner was a large standing mirror, but the surface was completely black.

“What is this place?” Barricade dared to ask since his brother was clearly too busy forgetting their current situation.

“My mother’s private study,” Sombra responded and walked over to the couch, regarding it for a moment before turning to the bookshelves. “She used to study powerful magic here.”

“Private, PRIVATE!” Barricade tried to get his brother’s attention. Finally, the other twin stopped running around and turned towards him. “Could you focus? Have you forgotten we are not exactly here on our own free will?”

“Sorry,” Private grinned nervously when seeing his brother glaring at him.

King Sombra just chuckled and walked over to one of the bookshelves. He started to examine the books himself, picking them up to briefly go through them. Private in the meantime sat down, feelingly mildly embarrassed to have lost himself in the moment of seeing an ancient study in such pristine condition.

“Okay, private study. Why?” Private looked at Sombra.

“I’m hoping that mother left something that could help me recreate the Dark Ponies,” King Sombra said. “I had toyed with the idea of going here, but hadn’t planned to just yet. The Princesses have forced my hoof.”

“Are you still going on about that crap?” Barricade snorted, but was ignored. The unicorn gave his brother one last glare to make sure he was behaving himself before walking over to the mirror. He stood in front of it and tilted his head slightly in wonder. He saw no reflection on the otherwise polished surface. Only darkness greeted him.

“So, what’s with the mirror,” he asked and raised a hoof to touch it.

Sombra looked over and frowned, Barricade was inches from touching the mirror when the unicorn suddenly jumped back. An image was forming on the surface. The king threw the book he was holding back to the shelf and approached.

“What the…” Barricade stopped talking as the image became clearer. It was a tall, Dark Pony unicorn - a mare wearing royal garb not too dissimilar to the ones Sombra wore. She looked sternly forward.

“Mother,” Sombra whispered quietly. Private leaned forward where he sat so he could see the mirror as well.

“That’s your mom, huh… wait what the heck?” Barricade stepped further back when the image of the late Queen Rabia suddenly looked down right at him, then she turned her gaze towards Sombra, who looked just as startled as his prisoner.

All three ponies looked up when all around them there was a soft, yet cold-sounding laughter. They all returned their attention to the mirror. The image of Queen Rabia was smiling as her gaze was fixed on Sombra.

“Ah, so my prodigal son returns,” the voice said. The lips of the image moved to match it perfectly. It dawned on the three stallions that it was in fact the mirror reflection that was talking.

“What? What is this?” Sombra for once looked utterly baffled. The queen threw her head back as she laughed mockingly.

“My son, you think you are the only one who can cheat death? Wasn’t it I who taught you that death is merely an inconvenient delay in a world so full of magic?” she returned her attention to Sombra. Suddenly her horn lit up and she began emerging from the mirror.

Sombra started to back away. He looked absolutely shocked. Private rose to his feet, glancing worried at his brother who hadn’t moved. When she fully emerged from the mirror, Rabia was standing right in front of Barricade due to her size.

“Hello there, handsome,” Queen Rabia smiled down at Barricade and raised one hoof to gently touch under his muzzle and lift his head. “Aren’t you a ravishing specimen?”

Barricade was not sure how to respond to that. It sounded like a compliment, but knowing this was Sombra’s mother, he wasn’t sure he wanted that kind of flattery from her. To his relief, Rabia dropped her hoof and returned her attention to her son. Sombra still seemed unable to say anything, just stared in bewilderment at what was happening in front of him. Rabia’s expression turned sterner.

“Is this any way to present yourself to your mother,” she snorted. That seemed to snap Sombra out of his stunned stupor and he sneered.

“You are supposed to be dead,” he snarled.

“Oh please.” Rabia rolled her eyes and took a step closer. At that her son backed up a step. She looked at Sombra, thoroughly unimpressed. “It was I who taught you how to tether your spirit to a magical anchor, taught you how your dark magic could be used to eventually reconstruct a new body. Everything you know, you got from me.”

“Not everything,” Sombra growled and backed up again.

“How to increase your dark magic? Me,” Rabia continued going forward. Suddenly her horn began bending and became as red and knife-like as her son’s. “Mind control using dark magic? Me. Crystal structures using dark magic? ME!”

“Will you be quiet!” Sombra shouted and a burst of dark magic shot out of his horn, aimed at his mother.

Private and Barricade watched stunned as Rabia used her own magic to simply dispel the shot. Sombra snarled and continued to back away. He was now in the doorway of the study.

“You. Do not. Order me!” Rabia’s scowled and from her horn came a powerful blast of dark magic. Her son put up a shield, but the blast tore through it and struck him, sending him flying out of the study with a cry.

“Oh Sombra. I may have taught you everything you know. But I certainly didn’t teach you everything I know,” the queen claimed as she herself departed the study.

End chapter 23

Author's Note:

I would just like to note that I deliberately chose that chapter title, exactly because how the chapter would end. :pinkiehappy:

Originally I had The Dark Pony Empire to the east of Saddle Arabia, but decided in the end to move it north. I've edited the chapter in Possession that refers to it being in the east to reflect this change.

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