• Published 4th Apr 2021
  • 2,166 Views, 89 Comments

Sombra's Recovery - MisterEdd



Hunted by the crown, Sombra tries to evade capture while rediscovering who he is.

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Let's Get (A) Physical

As the carriage neared Canterlot, Spike peered up from his seat to once more take in the sights and smells of Equestria's capitol. The scent of a hundred different baked goods, confectioneries, refreshments, and vegetables filtered through Spike's nostrils and he could no longer contain the nostalgic sigh that'd been building since their approach. Alabaster-stone buildings decorated with purple, yellow, and violet accents came into view, many of which were storefronts that featured striped cotton awnings and large display windows. Crowds of shoppers, almost exclusively ponies, packed the cobblestone streets, a multi-hued cascade of coats, manes, and garments belonging to both the rustic and high-class residents. The city's few non-equines stood out quite obviously; griffons, donkeys, zebras mainly worked the different businesses and if they were customers, they tended to travel in small groups consisting of their own kind.

It seemed as though decades had flown by since Spike and Twilight first moved from the bustling city to the small town of Ponyville. While it was true that Canterlot held its equal share of good and bad memories, he would always feel the pull of his birthplace, the location where he'd spent his formative years. Too much had simply happened for him to ignore, even amongst the recollections of hushed tones and lingering stares he'd grown accustomed to in those days. Any non-pony species were treated like an exotic novelty at best and a possible criminal at worst. In spite of the idyllic image of harmony that Equestria propagates, ponies could be alarmingly xenophobic, an unfortunate truth that Princess Celestia had done her best to mend but only to a certain degree.

The spires of Canterlot Castle soon came into view, an immediate wave of relief washing over Spike and causing all negative thoughts to vanish from his mind. The castle was the one place in all of Canterlot that he felt the safest, as Princess Celestia had never nor would ever let anything terrible happen to him. An imaginary blanket of scale-roasting warmth soon enveloped him, his muscles tightening in memory of Princess Celestia's winged embraces and the accompanying scent of honey and jasmine. He looked forward to being wrap-squeezed into another one of her hugs. The carriage soon pulled into the castle's courtyard and came to a smooth, gradual stop.

Two of the royal guards immediately began unloading Spike's luggage while the others escorted him inside the castle, their faces as hard as the steel-tipped spears they carried. The royal guards' sacred duty was to obey their princesses and though Spike knew they'd never let any harm come to him, the young drake always found them unnerving, mostly due to the fact that they were only protecting him out of loyalty to Princess Celestia and wouldn't otherwise bother with him. True, Spike had befriended many of the guards and knew that they had his back for reasons other than oaths or employment but that niggling feeling persisted. There were times in which he hated being Princess Celestia's ward, a position that afforded him privileges that he didn't earn but were bestowed upon him for doing nothing more than existing.

They rounded a corner and Spike had to silence a groan at the sight of a pompous-looking unicorn in a pristine blue suit apparently flirting with a bored-looking earth pony maid. Following the maid's stare, the unicorn turned his head and scoffed dismissively at Spike, giving the maid time to bow and hurry off in the opposite direction. The unicorn in question was Prince Vladimir Léon Blueblood, Princess Celestia's great-great-great-grandson, though this was shortened to "nephew" for simplicity's sake. He was easily the most unpleasant pony Spike had ever met, a vain, spoiled brat that looked down his muzzle at anyone that didn't meet his ridiculous standards of status and pedigree. The prince's evident disdain for the working class, as well his abhorrently poor treatment of Rarity during a previous Grand Galloping Gala made Spike dislike Blueblood even less than he already did, which was considered to be impossible at a prior point in time.

"Well, now I'll have to go chase her down," Prince Blueblood grumbled, magically pulling a handkerchief from his breast pocket and dabbing at his forehead. "Thank you so much, Skewer."

"It's Spike."

"Whatever."

Blueblood stuffed his handkerchief back into his pocket and loudly sniffed.

"Anyway, this little tête-à-tête has been intriguing but I must be on my way. Do be sure not to lose control of your fire breath and singe the carpets. They're made of fine Saddle Arabian silk and I'd hate to see such beauty squandered because you couldn't hold in a sneeze."

"I'll be sure to do that," Spike said through gritted teeth.

"See that you do. Au revoir, reptile."

Turning on his left hind hoof, Prince Blueblood pranced down the hall and out of sight, probably looking for the maid he'd been trying-unsuccessfully-to woo. Spike rolled his eyes and continued towards the throne room, the clanking of the guards' armor resuming as they followed alongside him. Why any mare would find a buffoon like Prince Blueblood in any way attractive was mind-boggling; apart from the title and access to riches, Blueblood had nothing to offer in terms of respect, kindness, or selflessness. Although Rarity had, at one point, harbored a crush on the prince, it was nothing more than her innocent desire to have a fairy tale romance and once that illusion was shattered, she'd mercifully awakened quickly and now no one could bring up the stallion's name without her pointing her muzzle up in disgust. Tartarus, even Sombra possessed more qualities of an ideal husband and he was a dark sorcerer and former despot.

The throne room doors swung open wide, revealing the stunning chamber that lay beyond and no matter how many times Spike saw it, he never ceased to be in awe. A series of columns lined the perimeter and reached up to the expansive ceiling, giving anyone, especially a small creature like Spike, an immense sensation of vertigo. The walls were mauve and violet-colored and awash in sunlight that'd been captured by the stain-glass windows, flooding the room with pink, blue, yellow, and green light. Spike and his entourage made their way along the red carpet, stretching up all the way up to a triple-tier golden dais where a white alicorn sat upon a singular throne, listening intently as a unicorn mare was dictating information from a clipboard. Taking notice of Spike, Princess Celestia nodded towards her assistant and flashed her a smile of serenity and warmth.

"Thank you, Raven. That will be all for now."

"Yes, Your Majesty."

The unicorn bowed and soon passed Spike, giving him a nod before exiting.

By the time Spike turned back around, Princess Celestia had already descended the dais and nearly reached him, her long-limbed stride ensuring to close the distance in half time it'd take an ordinary pony. Already anticipating what was to come, Spike hopped onto his tippy-toes with arms held out as Princess Celestia bent down and wrapped a foreleg around him.

"It's so wonderful to see you! How was your trip?"

"It was fine. I ran into Blueblood."

Princess Celestia's smile faltered. "Oh? I hope he didn't give you any trouble."

When Prince Blueblood was a colt, Princess Celestia became his legal guardian and bestowed all the love and affection that she could muster upon him. Unfortunately, despite her best efforts, he became a materialistic, self-centered snob much like ninety-nine percent of Equestria's upper class. The only reason she put up with Blueblood's nonsense was out of familial loyalty, that and any negative press that would've arisen had she thrown him out on his entitled flanks. Spike despised the stallion, as did pretty much everypony in Canterlot, but at least he was secure in the knowledge that Princess Celestia shared his sentiments towards the prince. The mystery of how someone that had the best mother-figure in the world could possibly turn into such a rotten pony was one that would never be solved.

"No, he was just his usual 'charming' self," Spike replied, using air quotes for emphasis.

"Yes, my 'beloved' nephew does know how to leave quite the impression, doesn't he? But let us talk about something far more important. I'm sure you have many questions concerning your new abilities?"

Spike nodded. "Yeah. I'm actually a little nervous to learn the answers."

Princess Celestia nuzzled him. "I'm sure it'll be nothing serious. You'll be back in Ponyville before you know it."

"I hope so. Uh, I mean, no offense! I meant-..."

"It's quite alright. I know what you meant, Spike. Now then, let's go get you tested."

The School for Gifted Unicorns was considered by most, if not all, to be the premiere learning institution of magic, a prestigious academy that'd been established four-hundred years ago for the betterment of Equestria's unicorn youth. The large golden compass over the school's main entrance served as a reminder for its students to always remember where they've been, focus on where they're going, and to keep striving forward to where they will be. While Twilight saw the school as a site of learning and the advancement of the thaumaturgical arts, for Spike, it would always be the scene of his birth, the focal point for the greatest moment in his and Twilight's life. Who could've guessed that so many possibly innumerable variables had to take place in order to ensure that Princess Celestia, Spike and Twilight were all in the right place at the right time? Spike didn't know if it was the will of Faust or some deeper, more ineffable force at work but what he did know that he was incredibly fortunate that thing turned out the way that they did.

As classes were still in session, the two could safely journey through the hallways without being spotted and while Princess Celestia might not mind the attention, Spike wasn't in the mood to get stampeded by overzealous students hungry for autographs. They soon arrived at a maroon-colored door, the image of three stars over four wavy lines emblazoned on the front, and Princess Celestia carefully turned the knob with her magic, pushing the door wide open so that she and Spike could step inside. The room was massive, easily big enough to contain an Apple family reunion, the walls tapering to a peaked roof, which was decorated with a mural of the Royal Pony Sisters locked in a sort of dance within a half-world of both brilliant day and star-littered night. Rows upon rows of rectangular tables lined the gold and dark blue tiled floors, each table holding up stacks of books along with a collection of bottles, beakers, tubes, and a hundred different magical and scientific instruments that Spike couldn't even begin to identify. In short, this room was, as Rainbow Dash would no doubt put it, an egghead's paradise.

If Twilight were here, she'd be rolling on the floor and foaming at the mouth.

In spite of the massive room, only six ponies were currently occupying it at the moment: three unicorns, two earth ponies and a pegasus, all of whom were taking notes, performing magic, or working with tools both known and foreign to Spike. Five of the scientist-mages placed their various experiments on hold as the alicorn gracefully strode past them, a young dragon waddling at her side. There was a time when the staring and whispering would've unnerved Spike, especially when he was just a wee hatchling, but he'd since become accustomed to the awestruck chattering of Canterlot's citizens whenever Princess Celestia was around. It'd also helped that his celebrity status in the Crystal Empire greatly boosted his confidence. Now that he was both an Element of Harmony and his friends' equal, Spike felt as though he was on top of the world and he never wanted this experience to end.

At the other end of the room, an old stallion was finishing a calculation on a chalkboard when he took notice of his new guests. He smiled softly and bowed.

"Ah, welcome Your Majesty. And welcome Spike the Dragon."

"We're always welcomed, Professor," Princess Celestia beamed with a nod.

Professor Mandrake had been teaching at the school for decades and was generally well-regarded by both his peers and students. He was a grayish cream-colored unicorn with a grayish, red-brown mane and beard that almost reached his stomach. A light blue embroidered smoking cap with a golden tassel on the crown matched his high-collared robes, which were a staple of any self-respecting wizard young or old. Behind his half-moon glasses, his oddly youthful blue eyes shimmered with a mixture of both wisdom and compassion but also mischief and merriment. The professor took in the sight of both the alicorn and dragon curiously.

"And how may I help you today?"

"Young Spike here has developed, well, for lack of a better word, 'element breath.' Aside from fire, he has also summoned ice, lightning, gusts of wind and different stones and minerals."

Professor Mandrake regarded Spike with equal parts intrigue and worry.

"Is that so?"

Spike nodded. "Yes, sir. But I seem to have a handle on it for right now."

Professor Mandrake smiled. "That's good but for safety's sake, let's take precautionary measures."

He led Spike over to a small circular platform with a raised border around it, its interior and exterior covered in mystic symbols. "Please step inside."

Spike looked to Princess Celestia, who gave him a reassuring nod. Taking a shaky breath, he entered.

"Red Sulfur."

A unicorn appeared front and center. Keeping his gaze downward, he cast a guilty side-glance at Princess Celestia. Professor Mandrake, either failing to notice this or simply choosing to ignore it, addressed his student:

"We have a most extraordinary situation on our hooves. This young drake is exhibiting unusual exhalation-based magical abilities. In order to determine what is occurring, we must first collect the necessary data. I need you to ready the thaumaturgical equipment whilst I activate the power-dampening ring."

"Yes, Professor!"

Red Sulfur immediately went to work collecting various electronic devices. Professor Mandrake's horn shined with a red-orange glow as bursts of light shot from the ring's symbols, generating a series of pillars that interlocked to form a cage of blazing blue-white energy. Balling up his fists, Spike's toes curled, his nails scraping the platform's surface as his whole body began tensing up. He knew that the symbols were there for his and everypony else's benefit, to prevent any rogue magic from hurting anyone outside the ring. No, what caused his steadily-rising anxiety was what kind of answers the researchers would find during their examination and the million thoughts racing through his head didn't help the situation either.

What if I'm unable to control myself? What if my dragon body can't accept the newfound power and I implode? Will I have to isolate myself to make sure that I can't hurt anyone?

"Spike."

He met Princess Celestia's serene gaze.

"You're going to be alright, Spike. I promise."

Slowly, he unclenched his fists and allowed his body to relax.

Meanwhile, the young adept had finished readying the equipment, which consisted of a control board covered in knobs, switches and buttons. A trio of gauges all flipped their needles to zero, apparently there to measure something that Spike was unfamiliar with. Several computer monitors flickered to life, each one spitting out figures and lines of text. Something resembling a dish antenna atop a pivoted metal arm protracted outward and stopped just a foot in front of Spike's muzzle. It was beginning to look more and more like something out of a sci-fi novel or a comic book.

"The thaumometer is ready, Professor," Red Sulfur added and flipped a toggle switch.

From what Spike could remember from his Magic 101 class, which was incredibly mind-numbing, magic was defined as "an umbrella term for the intangible principal force occurring both in Equestria and beyond." It also described the application of beliefs, rituals or actions employed in order to subdue or manipulate that force in order to bring about desired results, which was generally called thaumaturgy amongst more ardent academics. Magic was an energy field that permeated across all physical matter and whenever it is used, that energy is essentially transformed into a more potent and focused "solid" form. For centuries, the most common unit of measurement for magic was the thaum and the larger amount of thaums, the more complex the spell that was being cast; simple telekinesis only requires three thaums, while fifty thaums is necessitated in order to transmutate animate or inanimate material. Of course, Spike was just a layman when it came to the topic and not a super-mega-ultra-supreme nerd like Twilight so he only had a simplistic grasp of the concept.

How anyone can follow that stuff without falling asleep is beyond me.

A deep whirring echoed as the dish antenna slowly rotated left-to-right, accompanied by a steady beeping sound.

"That's interesting," Red Sulfur admitted. "According to the thaumometer, Spike only has an ambient thaum measurement of seven-the average amount given off by a dragon. I was expecting more-..."

The dish antenna violently shook, the beeping now screeching manically.

"Strike that. One hundred-and-fifty-seven."

Professor Mandrake quirked a brow.

"That's the same as a unicorn."

"How is that possible? It can't be..."

"Can somepony please explain this to me?" Spike asked with a shiver.

"There are two types of thaums: ambient and dynamic," Red Sulfur began. "Ambient describes the amount of thaums that are naturally generated by an animate or inanimate object at any given time. The greater the ambient thaums, the higher the capabilities that magic can either be performed by or on them. Earth Ponies have an average of twelve while for Pegasi it's usually thirty. Unicorns, on the other hoof, possess an average of one hundred-and-fifty to one hundred-and-eighty."

"Okay..."

"Dynamic thaums are when ambient thaum energy is actively taken by the conscious will of a creature and molded into whatever it is required to be. Now, the reason that Earth Ponies and Pegasi have such a seemingly low ambient thaum amount when compared to Unicorns is due to their differences in harnessing magic. Earth Ponies have a natural link to the earth and flora whereas Pegasi can alter the weather. Their dynamic thaum usage outputs less energy than, say, if a Unicorn were to teleport or cast an illusion spell so they have less ambient thaum reserves than their horned counterparts. Creatures like dragons, zebras, and griffons have a low ambient thaum count as their requirement for dynamic thaums is considerably less than that of the Three Tribes."

Spike nodded, actually comprehending what he was being told.

"So because I'm a dragon, I should have a low ambient thaum count since I have no need for dynamic thaums but for some reason, I have the same amount as a unicorn?"

"That is what we've determined, yes."

"What now, Professor?"

Professor Mandrake turned to Princess Celestia.

"Now we need a demonstration of Spike's average dynamic thaum count. This way, we may be able to determine the proper measures taken to aid him in harnessing and controlling his new abilities. Spike, I need you to try and use your new breath powers."

"But I don't know how! It just, sort of, happens!"

"Try, Spike. That magic is a part of you. Just as moving objects is second nature to me, breathing fire is natural to you."

Princess Celestia beamed at Spike. "You can do it. I believe in you."

Nodding resolutely, Spike sucked in air and exhaled. Nothing came out. He tried again, this time breaking out into a coughing fit. His chest puffed out, a large bulge taking shape within his rib cage. The bulge traveled upward, causing his throat to swell up as though he'd swallowed a baseball.

"Professor, the dynamic count is rising-..."

Spike's head suddenly jerked forward, a multi-hued ball of fire leaping out of his maw and exploding against the protective barrier. The three ponies watched incredulously as each flame fell to the platform's surface with a glass-like clink, all of them having been transformed into multifaceted gemstones. There was little time to take in the beauty of the perfectly formed gems as they soon melted into glittering pools of a silvery, viscous fluid. Conjuring fire was one thing but transmutation from gaseous heat to precious minerals to liquid was quite another feat entirely. Taking several deep breaths, Spike banged his chest with a fist and threw the group a thumb's-up.

"I'm okay..."

Professor Mandrake gave his spectacles a quick cleaning and turned to his assistant.

"Red Sulfur, what was the dynamic thaum count?"

"Nearly sixty, Professor."

"So where do we go from here?" Princess Celestia inquired softly.

"It would seem that Spike is quite gifted indeed. Do you have any idea how this started?"

"My student Twilight Sparkle hatched Spike's egg. I think that her magic laid dormant inside of him and that his exposure to the Elements of Harmony somehow acted as a catalyst to jump-start his latent abilities."

"I see. Your Majesty, I believe it would be in Spike's best interest if he were to remain at the castle. I will personally see to it that he is carefully monitored in the case of more flare-ups."

"Am I going to be okay?"

Professor Mandrake regarded the young dragon with an expression of hopeful optimism.

"I believe so, Spike. At this point, all we can do is believe."