• Published 4th Apr 2021
  • 2,134 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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Training Day

The Canterlot Library was the most extensive source of information in all of Equestria, a literary treasure trove comprised of over one-hundred-and-forty million books. History, science, mathematics, art, all nonfiction subjects could be found within and for the most die-hard readers, it was like arriving in Elysium. Spike saw it as one of the most boring places in the world but necessity demanded that he spend time there, particularly in the Magic Section. It sounded straightforward enough, except for the fact that the Magic Section led to Alchemy, Transmutation, Evocation, Sigil Magic, Shamanism and about a hundred other subsections, each complete with their own mile-long row of shelves. Only a complete nerd like Twilight could be able to safely navigate their way back to the exit without getting lost in the labyrinth of books and Spike found himself wishing Twilight was here.

Why did I turn down the offer of a guide again?

This was his first time being in the library by himself and now he was lost. Ever since being named the Element of Empathy and helping to save the world, Spike found his reputation had received a huge boost. Now instead of just the crystal ponies, he had fans all over Equestria and this raised his confidence levels through the proverbial roof. Then came the revelation about his latent magical gifts and suddenly, he felt strong enough to arm-wrestle Lord Tirek. The only drawback was his pride, leading him to insist that he could travel the Magic Section of the library alone and at night.

He nervously slid a finger across the surface of the metal band around his neck as though it were a protective amulet. It was actually a magic inhibiting collar that had been specially designed by Professor Mandrake in order to keep his sporadic breath powers in check. Crafted out of a rare metal known as adamantine, it was a thin ring of brass-colored metal with silver "cracks" running along the surface and adorned with a series of sigils. Aside from ensuring Spike didn't accidentally hurt anypony, it also looked pretty cool, easily passing for just an ornate piece of jewelry. So far, it did its job and he hadn't experienced a single hiccup, both figuratively and literally.

The only sounds Spike could detect were the plopping of his feet on the stone floor and the squeaking of the Rodeo Flyer wagon he dragged behind him, interspersed with the crackling of wall-mounted torches. His wagon was haphazardly stuffed with books, the sight of which would've driven Twilight into a compulsive freak-out, followed by a frenzied haste to straighten and organize everything by title, size, index number, color and subject. As much as he loved Twilight, both as a friend and big sister-figure, there were times in which he needed a break away from the borderline obsessive-compulsive alicorn. He wondered if things were going alright between her and Sombra given that they'd just reconciled over an argument shortly before he left. Spike truly wanted them to be happy and to work through their issues, to make it as a real couple.

If such an odd pairing like theirs could endure, then there was hope for him and a certain unicorn yet.

Rounding a corner, Spike dug in his heels and came to a halt, arriving in front of a statue depicting Clover the Clever and Gusty the Great standing side-by-side, their expressions solemn and authoritative. Gusty's right foreleg was propped up by a large bell and her left foreleg rested on a sword's crossguard. Meanwhile, Clover was grasping several scrolls under his foreleg and wore an ornate key around his neck. Despite having taken alternate routes, this was the third time Spike had passed said statue and judging by their stone-carved glares, they were silently judging him.

Yep, it was official: he was lost.

"'Spike, are you sure you don't want somepony to show you around the library?' 'No thank you, Princess Celestia. I can manage it on my own.'"

Spike sat down in a crouching position and folded his arms over his chest.

"So much for the great Seventh Element Bearer," he remarked bitterly.

"Even the great slip up sometimes, Spike."

The feminine voice sent Spike leaping into the air and tumbling backward, flipping the wagon over onto its side and depositing all of its contents. Rubbing his head, he found Princess Luna standing over him with an apologetic look, one hoof held over her mouth.

"I am so sorry, Spike! I did not mean to scare you, I swear!"

Wrapping Spike in a blue aura, she lifted him to his feet before placing the wagon back on all four wheels and cleaning up the scattered books.

She dusted him off with her hoof and chuckled sheepishly.

"My apologies, again. Are you alright?"

"I'm okay. It's really not a big deal. And I wasn't scared. You just startled me, that's all."

"Of course. Sister sent me down here to retrieve you. She knew you'd get lost."

"I wasn't lost!"

Princess Luna looked at him skeptically.

"Okay, maybe I was a teeny bit misplaced."

Princess Luna gave Spike a scalp rub and giggled.

"Well, let us un-misplace you. I know this place by heart."

Something blue-gray scurried past Spike's leg and the dragon was about ready to panic when he saw that it was just Tiberius, Princess Luna's pet opossum. It stared up at him with big black eyes that Spike would've normally found creepy except these eyes were so cute and full of innocence. Spike bent over and gave the opossum an affectionate chin scratch, earning him a soft clicking purr.

"Hey Tiberius. Good to see you."

"He followed me down here." Princess Luna shook her head in amusement. "He doesn't like it when I'm gone for long periods of time but that's okay. I love my Tibby-wibbins."

Tiberius scampered away from Spike and climbed up Luna's foreleg, which she then lifted so that the two could nuzzle one another's cheeks. Even with her sociology training and network of friends, Princess Luna was a very private mare, preferring to spend whatever free time she had by herself, a trait that, according to Princess Celestia, she'd possessed long before Nightmare Moon's influence. As she herself had learned during her thousand-year solo-rule, pets were excellent for emotional support and so suggested this to Luna. They went through the usual options-dogs, cats, hamsters-before trying more exotic choices like snakes, bats, and foxes but none of them clicked with the rather fickle Luna. During a picnic, the sisters discovered a opossum eating Celestia's specially-reserved cake and Luna instantly fell in love with the marsupial and adopted him, much to her sister's consternation.

Still, no one could argue with the results.

Spike followed Luna and Tiberius through the labyrinthine collection of seemingly never-ending bookshelves until they arrived at the security checkpoint right back where Spike started. The two guards stationed there gave the pair nods of acknowledgement, their eyes steadfastly watching any and all possible breaches. Spike may've declined the offer of a guide but Princess Celestia insisted that guards be posted while he perused the necessary books for his research. On the one hand, he was touched by her continually looking after him but on the other, she still treated him like a little kid, just like everyone else. He helped to save Equestria too and if experience were years, he'd be a young adult by now.

"What seems to be the better, Spike? You appear to be deep in thought."

Spike jolted slightly at Luna's voice. "Oh, um, it's nothing."

Princess Luna quickly glanced down at him, then peered straight ahead.

"Believe me when I say that holding things in hinders more than it helps."

Maybe she'll understand if I explain it to her?

"I guess...I'm just tired of everyone treating me like I'm just some kid. Especially Princess Celestia and Twilight. I just want..."

"...To be treated like an equal?" Princess Luna finished.

Spike was stunned silent, only managing a weak nod.

Princess Luna's lip curled up. "That is a feeling I am all too familiar with."

Passing through a grand archway and past two bowing guards, Princess Luna continued.

"Even with my former position reinstated, I sometimes feel as though Tia does not fully respect me or the work that I do. We rule together but I am nothing more than a decoration."

"Well, even if Princess Celestia doesn't appreciate the work you do for us, I know that I and many ponies do."

"Thank you, Spike. Still, even with the time that has passed since my return, it still seems as though I am a stranger to my subjects. I am not the most sociable of ponies, not even when Tia and I were growing up. Discord actually helped me with that."

"Discord?"

A nostalgic grin crept onto Princess Luna's face.

"He was my foalhood friend. Sometimes it felt as though it was us against the world."

It might've been Spike's imagination but he could've sworn the princess was blushing.

"So, um, were you and Discord, you know, together?"

Princess Luna's cheeks greatly reddened. "Are you asking if we dated?"

"Um...y-yes?"

"We did. Faust, we were so madly in love."

Hearing that Princess Luna and Discord were once a couple was quite the earth-shattering revelation. It seemed like such a random pairing and yet, it made a lot of sense. One was a socially-awkward princess who lived in the shadow of her more popular older sister and the other a mischievous draconequus who was no doubt treated differently due to his appearance. The two were outcasts and found solace in one another, a mare of night and a bringer of chaos, both of which were second-class to the day and order. He actually found it romantic and a bit inspiring if not for the obvious fact that the relationship ended badly for them.

"So what happened? Between you and Discord, I mean."

Princess Luna stopped, Tiberius now clinging to her shoulder, his tail wrapped around her upper foreleg.

"It appears we have arrived at your room."

Lo and behold, they stood in front of the door marked with a paper cutout of a gem, Spike's name scrawled on it in crayon. Princess Celestia pretty much kept everything Spike made as a hatchling: crayon sketches, finger-paint drawings, warped clay pots, birthday cards, paper Hearth's Warming snowmares, et cetera. Sadly, Twilight did the same thing, the two going out of their way to embarrass him with anecdotes about his childhood or pictures of him sucking his tail. It was stuff like that that made him upset with the two, and pretty everyone else for that matter. With the exception of Sombra and Luna, Spike's friends went out of their way to keep away from fights and other "nasty business."

"I guess so. Hey, listen, thanks for everything, Princess Luna. It means a lot."

The mare bowed and smiled fondly at him. "I am always glad to help a friend. Now, do not worry about your friends' treatment of you. They only do it because they care for you."

"Yeah, I know."

Princess Luna then rubbed her chin. "I do think that there is something I can do to help you."

"You do?"

"Indeed. I will talk to Tia and although I cannot promise anything, I can try to alleviate your issues concerning your feelings about your friends' perception of you."

Spike wrapped his arms around Princess Luna's foreleg.

"Thank you so much!"

Princess Luna chuckled and gave his head an affectionate rub.

"You are welcome. Good night, Spike. Pleasant dreams."

~*~

The next day soon arrived and despite the rough night of sleep, mostly due to excited anticipation, Spike awoke feeling refreshed and highly motivated to get to work. Today was when he officially began his magic training and having sat through both Unicorn School classes and Twilight's lectures, he had a pretty good idea of what to expect. What he was clueless about was whatever Princess Luna had in mind to help him as she was purposefully vague about what that entailed. He looked to the small mess he'd made of his room, mainly the random piles of books and crumpled up balls of paper and in any other circumstance, would've cleaned everything up before Twilight could even have time to scold him. Since Twilight wasn't there, however, he decided he'd deal with straightening things up later.

Practically leaping out of bed, he rushed out of his room and down the halls, his stubby little legs carrying him as fast as they could. Entering the dining room, he found both princesses seated at the elongated table, several piles of Prench toast sat still-steaming on the finest plates bits could buy.

"Good morning, Spike," Princess Celestia cheerfully greeted him.

"Good to see you up and about, Spike," Princess Luna said softly.

"Morning, Princesses."

Spike climbed onto a chair so that he sat with Princess Celestia on his left and Princess Luna across from him. Due to the latter's nighttime schedule, he didn't get to see her often whenever he visited Canterlot with Twilight so it was a nice change of pace to share breakfast with her. Filling his plate with four pieces of Prench toast, Spike grabbed a handful of crushed gems from a nearby bowl and scattered them on the toast like one would strawberries or bananas. Topping it off with a generous amount of syrup, he dug in with gusto, not missing the shared look of amusement the Royal Sisters shared with one another. Ignoring this, he ensured to swallow and give himself a moment before he spoke as not to appear ill-mannered.

"So what's on the docket for today?"

Princess Celestia flashed her sister a conspiratorial grin before addressing Spike.

"Well, after a compelling talk with Luna last night, I've agreed to let her teach you magic instead of Professor Mandrake."

"Wait, really?"

This was exciting! Professor Mandrake was nice and all but Princess Luna was someone he was familiar with and trusted with his life. Besides, who else could say that the Princess of the Night herself was their magic teacher? In fact, as far as he knew, Princess Luna had never taken a student before so this was a historical occasion. And him being a dragon was even more awesome!

Wait until Twilight hears about this!

"In addition," Princess Celestia continued, albeit a bit more worriedly. "I've given Lulu permission to train you in melee combat as well, provided that you only train with wooden weapons."

Princess Luna's smile faltered somewhat at the mention of "wooden weapons" but she quickly perked back up.

"You see? I told you that I'd find a way to help!"

Spike found himself flabbergasted. Was this really happening?

"You're going to teach me how to fight?"

"How to defend yourself," Princess Celestia corrected him. "As an Element of Harmony, it is expected of you to undertake dangerous missions for the good of Equestria and while I'd prefer to keep you out of harm's way, you've already proven yourself more than capable on multiple occasions. Self-defense is an invaluable skill that I'd rather you learn here and now rather than not at all."

"Thank you. Thank you both so much!"

"Enjoy your breakfast, Spike," Princess Luna began in a playfully serious tone. "Your training starts in an hour."

~*~

Following Princess Luna's directions, Spike arrived in the southern section of the castle, one which he was unfamiliar with and required a royal guard to show him around just so he could commit the location to memory. He was led to a massive, multi-tiered room surrounded by columns and giant rectangular windows, all leading to a glass domed top. The walls of the ground floor were decorated with an assortment of weapons new and old and alcoves of statues depicting armored ponies, their bodies frozen in mid-battle. In the center of the room, there was an enclosed arena of sand large enough to fit the entire population of Ponyville. It was, in a word, awe-inspiring.

"Ah, you are on time, I see."

Princess Luna entered from an unseen entrance, an excited, toothy grin on her face. She was wearing a set of purple-black armor, complete with a plumed helm and ornately decorated breastplate, plated armor protecting her limbs and flanks. It wasn't until she moved that it was apparent that the armor actually carried the qualities of a beetle's shell, subtly changing color in the sunlight. A sword hung from her side and she grasped a black-shafted spear with a long head that tapered into a fine point. Spike stood in awe, as though witnessing what the mare before him was like in her glory days as a warrior-princess battling the forces of evil.

"Whoa, you look awesome!"

"Thank you," Princess Luna replied smugly. "But unfortunately, this isn't going to stay."

Removing her sword and scabbard, she levitated them off to the side along with her spear. She then peeled the armor away piece-by-piece, depositing them onto a nearby display mannequin.

"Sorry, I do not often get to show off."

"It's okay. So what is this place? I've never been here before."

Princess Luna gazed around her surroundings with an almost nostalgic wistfulness.

"This is the Royal Coliseum. Grand exhibitions used to be held here, from gladiatorial matches to marvelous displays of flight and acrobatics. Sadly, this place was converted into a royal guard training area, only to be abandoned once again. It took some time but I finally managed to restore it somewhat to its former glory."

Spike could almost hear the cries of excitement from applauding nobles, the smell of food being served to the crowds, the clang of swords against shields. It was almost like stepping back in time.

"Now then..."

With a clap of Princess Luna's hooves, a pair of royal guards wheeled in a weapons rack while a third set down a wooden dummy carved to resemble a pony, its riveted joints allowing for better articulation in a simulated fight. The three guards stood in a row, bowed, and then promptly left without a word. Princess Luna gestured towards the weapons rack.

"...Choose your weapon."

Spike looked over his choices, all of which were, of course, constructed out of various types of wood. Long swords, scimitars, axes, daggers, falchions, quarterstaves, and clubs were all on display. He considered going with a dagger that could work for him as a sword but he refused, reasoning that he didn't know anything about swordfighting. In the end, he went with a pinewood cudgel that was the right size to function as a staff. Taking up the cudgel in both hands, Spike turned and faced Princess Luna, who seemed to nod in approval.

"Not a bad choice," she considered. "That is a good place to start."

Her blue aura surrounded a blackthorn quarterstaff, which then sent the object flying over to float in front of Princess Luna. She gave it a few practice swings, then pointed it at Spike.

"Now, we begin. First, spread your feet. One of the most important factors of any form of close-ranged combat is hoof-I mean, foot-work. Foot-work and balance. Too far. Put them closer together. Closer. Closer. Perfect! Raise your staff up a little higher."

Spike did as he was instructed, feeling more laser-focused than he had in a long time.

"Good, good. Now, place your right foot in front. Bend your knees. Yes, now your stance is more secure, making for more stability and allowing for better blows."

"So when do we get to the fighting?"

"Soon, young drake. Soon."

Princess Luna poked the back of Spike's left hand.

"Bring your hand back a little...good. When handling a staff, keep your hands spread apart. One hand for keeping it steady, the other for maneuverability."

"Yes, sensei."

"Sen-what?"

"It means 'teacher.' I read it in a copy of Juvenile Gecko Warrior Freaks."

"That works, I suppose." Shaking her head, Princess Luna continued. "Give me a jab."

Hesitating, Spike saw the determination on Princess Luna's face and half-heartedly extended his arms, the tip of his staff slowly moving forward. Princess Luna's staff deflected the blow, which was nothing more than a gentle love-tap. The mare shook her head disappointingly.

"Too soft. You need to give it more oomph! Use your shoulders and actually lunge forward. Again."

Heeding her advice, Spike twisted his shoulders when he struck, hitting Princess Luna's staff harder the before.

"Excellent! Now give me a side-swing."

WHOOSH!

Princess Luna nodded. "Good, but try twisting your body more. Put your hips into your attack. Again."

Taking a step forward, Spike swung his staff, this time incorporating his hips.

CLACK!

"Very good! You're learning quickly!"

Spike relaxed, letting his shoulders sag. "Thank you, Princess."

Without warning, Princess Luna brought her staff down in an overhead-strike. Spike only barely managed to bring his own staff up, blocking the blow and nearly knocking his staff out of his hands. Princess Luna gave Spike a tiny smirk and withdrew, giving him time to recover from the sudden assault. Spike let out a chuckle, rubbing his chest.

"Remember, Spike," Princess Luna stated. "Never let your guard down during an engagement."

"O-okay."

Princess Luna chuckled, placing both her staff and Spike's back on the weapons rack.

"That's enough of that for today. Let's move onto magic training."

Bringing the wooden dummy forward, Princess Luna waved a hoof at her throat.

"Take off your collar."

Spike's eyes bugged at this.

"I'm sorry?"

"Remove your inhibiting collar."

As much as Spike respected and trusted Princess Luna, he was hesitant to follow her order. He remembered how much damage he caused, both at Sugarcube Corner and the Castle of Friendship and didn't want that to happen again. Professor Mandrake said he had an ambient thaum count of one-hundred-and-fifty-seven, but later remarked that it could become even larger, somewhere in the hundred-nineties, well beyond the average unicorn level. To put it in prospective, Princess Celestia's thaum count was four-hundred-and-twenty, Princess Luna had three-hundred-and-ninety-four, and Twilight was measured at around three-hundred-fourteen. As it turns out, ambient thaum readings can grow overtime; the more powerful the spell a unicorn or alicorn casts, the more their bodies are able to adapt to the energy output and thus they are able to absorb more thaums, so it appeared that Spike's potential has yet to be reached.

Spike nervously wrung his hands. "I don't know about this..."

Placing a hoof on Spike's shoulder, Princess Luna knelt down and locked eyes with him.

"Spike, please...trust me."

It was difficult to look away from that gentle face or sympathetic teal eyes.

"Alright, I'll do it," Spike sighed.

Reluctantly, his claws fumbled at the snap-latch on the back of the collar. He finally managed to hook a nail into the latch and pulled it free, releasing the collar into his left hand. A semi-transparent field of golden amber spheres vibrated around him, rising and falling in an arc along his body, closing in around him like a gilded portrait frame. The aura pulsated, ebbing and flowing, pushing outward in violent bursts before settling and resuming their peaceful rotation. Still, in spite of the seeming lull, Spike remained on edge, biting his lip and waiting for something to go horribly wrong.

A few long, agonizing minutes passed without incident. Spike inspected his arms, then his legs, giving his chest and stomach a good pat-down but found nothing out of place. He opened his mouth and held it open but nothing came out. Frowning, he peered up at Princess Luna, who retained her calm composure.

"I guess I won't be exploding today," Spike half-joked, throwing in a nervous laugh.

Princess Luna grinned. "It appears not. Now, focus on the dummy. Observe its features, its size, its texture. Commit it to memory."

Spike switched his gaze from his sensei to the wooden dummy. It was full-sized and carved almost entirely out of mahogany, save for the iron bands around its neck, pasterns and barrel as well as the aforementioned riveted joints. Lacking any identifiable features like a mane, tail or cutie mark, the dummy was a simple mock-up purposely made to be damaged without any kind of impersonal attachment. A pair of dopey eyes and a toothy grin had been crudely painted on, possibly by some bored royal guards messing around in between shifts. A series of clefts and dents were randomly scattered along the dummy's exterior, no doubt the result of sword and spear strikes.

"Good. Breath in and out." Princess Luna's melodic voice drifted in. "Feel the magic within you. Let it flow like a gentle stream."

Obediently, Spike closed his eyes, inhaling deeply, feeling the air travel into his lungs, filling them up. He then exhaled, that same air exiting his mouth and nostrils. A sort of tingling warmth started to emerge within the center of his chest, spreading outward until, eventually, his whole body carried with it the sensation of being submerged in hot water. His golden amber aura became more solid, the spheres tumbling around it in faster revolutions. Instead of fear, there was only serenity.

"Open your eyes and focus on your target. Release your magic but don't overextend yourself. You're taking the cork out of the bottle, not emptying it."

Spike's eyes opened, revealing the wooden pony a few feet in front of him, Princess Luna standing off to the side. He trembled slightly, that old fear of destruction and injury rising to the surface. Remembering his breathing, Spike shoved the fear back down and took aim at the dummy, particularly its chest, using a large cavity near the center as a bull's-eye. Slowly, he lowered his bottom jaw, the heat inside his chest growing hotter and hotter until it threatened to incinerate him from the inside out. He exhaled, this time allowing the magic that'd been building up within him to flow, the liberated energy traveling up his chest and throat, then past his lips.

The force of the magical attack sent Spike flying backwards onto his rump, hitting the sand hard enough to create a little hole for his tail and rear. Rising to a half-crouch, he rubbed his sore posterior before examining the damage he'd inflicted. The front half of the dummy had been frozen solid in a shell of ice, crackling and steaming as the ice finished expanding over its target. Clumps of variously-sized icicles protruded out of the shell, creating a spiked carapace for the wooden pony. Princess Luna tapped her armored hoof against the ice and whistled, impressed by the feat.

"My Faust, you have done something very impressive, Spike."

"Um, thanks, sensei."

Just in case of something going wrong, he slipped the collar back on and latched it in place.

"I think that will do for now," Princess Luna decreed. "We will reconvene here for a lesson in the evening. Does that sound satisfactory?"

Spike nodded. "Sounds great. Although I think it'd be safer if we both bring winter wear."

Author's Note:

Something that bothered me about the series was the way Spike was handled. From beginning to end, he doesn't change much and is more-or-the-less the team mascot, always relegated to the emotional support role. Even in "The Last Problem," he is shown years later still acting solely as Twilight's number two. Spike seemingly has no aspirations or dreams of his own, only meant to serve Twilight and that's kind of sad. It would've been nice to really see Spike grow, for him to transform from being a child in need of protection to a teen that can handle himself.