• 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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Crisis in Canterlot

"Hee-ya!"

CLACK!

Spike grit his teeth, swinging his staff in a broad horizontal arc, his blow making contact with the dummy's head. The impact turned the head sharply to the right so that the crudely drawn-on eyes stared at Princess Luna. Switching feet, Spike pivoted to around so that his staff twirled around the left, his hands changing positions to compensate for the new stance. Stepping forward, Spike jabbed in a spear-like stab to the dummy's torso, drew back and repeated the motion, falling into a rhythm as he became more accustomed to the action. Staff-fighting, as it turned out, was much simpler than he'd initially thought and had rather quickly adapted to its usage, taking to it like a fish to water.

"Pause!"

Princess Luna nudged the staff upward with her fore-hoof, using her hind-hoof to push Spike's back-foot.

"Put a little more space in between your legs and bend your knees. This will help keep you balanced as you deliver and receive hits to and from your opponent."

"Yes, sensei," Spike acknowledged.

So far, the drake had to admit that Princess Luna was a better teacher than he would've imagined. She was professional without being overbearing, critical without being strict and complimentary of Spike's successes without the feeling that she was only doing so in order to spare his feelings. It was nice to not be babied by someone just because of his young age, short stature or his status as Twilight's ward. When Spike stepped into the training ring, he wasn't a kid; he was just a student learning combat from his teacher. This gave him the thrilling sense that he was gaining some control over his life, however the amount or length of time.

The dummy's padded right hoof shot out and was quickly blocked but Spike was unable to counter the left hoof, earning him a swift smack on the shoulder.

"Ow!"

Spike rubbed his injured shoulder tenderly.

"Are you alright?" Princess Luna knelt down beside him. "Let me see."

"I'm okay," Spike winced. "Really, it's fine."

"Hmm, it doesn't look too bad."

Princess Luna rose to her full height.

"I think that'll be all for today."

Bowing deeply, Spike thanked her, set his staff back on the weapons rack and exited through the doors. Now that he'd memorized the set-up, Spike could easily traverse the southern part of the castle without a guide, a fact that made him feel more like a young adult. Ever since he was old enough to remember, he'd been shadowed by a royal guard and to not be in that position it was simply liberating. He didn't know how but Princess Luna convinced Princess Celestia that Spike didn't need escorts to and from his lessons, though it came with the caveat that a guard would be assigned to him at every other instant, especially at mealtimes. It wasn't a perfect set-up but it was admittedly better than nothing and perhaps Princess Celestia might further change her mind if she saw his progress.

So far, Spike didn't run into anyone and if he did, they'd notice his stiff movements and the patches of sand that clung to his scales, particularly on his back and legs. As he was a royal guest and Princess Celestia's ward, they'd probably hoof-wave both his dirty appearance and awkward gait and go back to their duties. The truth was, Spike hated to think of the mess he'd be leaving for the maids so he'd adapted a kind of shuffling-waddle akin to a penguin, hoping that only a few grains dotted the carpets instead of piles. This was actually one of the few times he wasn't envious of being a dragon instead of a pony; having sand or dirt get stuck to your fur had to be a real pain and would require a bath instead of a quick rinse with a wet rag. A post-workout shower, with or without jasmine scented candles, would do wonders for his sore muscles and sand-speckled scales.

"Hey, Spike! Spike!"

Flash Sentry came trotting towards Spike, his golden armor glistening in the sunlight.

"Oh, hey, Flash. How's it going?"

"Oh, you know, same junk, different day," Flash chuckled, shifting his spear from one shoulder to the other. "What about you? I heard you were doing some training with Princess Luna."

"Yeah, it's really cool! She's teaching me magic and melee combat."

Flash gave him a high-hoof. "Alright! That's awesome!"

Spike liked and even kind of admired Flash, growing to enjoy his company during the brief period Twilight dated the pegasus. At the time, Flash seemed like a perfect match for Twilight: young, good-looking, member of a well-to-do family, clean history, kind, and a royal guard. However, it soon became clear that Twilight, although fond of Flash, had her heart set on another and ended the relationship, instead asking that the two remain friends. Obviously, this didn't sit well with Flash, who was blatantly still smitten with Twilight but tried to be there for her in a platonic fashion. Things became complicated when Twilight started seeing Sombra and Flash, still under the impression that the umbrum was a public menace, could not bring himself to even say Sombra's name.

"Thanks. I was on my way to my room to wash all of this gunk off."

"Mind if I tag along?"

"Not at all!"

They made their way towards the northern part of the castle, the next few minutes spent in silence until:

"So, uh, how's Twilight doing?"

Spike thought it'd be in all of their best interests if he didn't mention to Flash that Twilight and Sombra had a nasty argument. After all, he didn't want to give the poor guy hope where there wasn't any.

"She's good," Spike answered, keeping his gaze ahead. "She's still getting over the whole Midnight Sparkle/Nightmare Moon thing but she seems to be much better than before."

"That's good." Flash then frowned. "Is she still seeing...him?"

"...Yeah. He's visiting her in Ponyville at the moment."

"I see."

They arrived at Spike's room and Flash stood at attention.

"Well, I'll be right here if you need me."

Despite being upset by the recent conversation, Flash still managed to remain pleasant and semi-professional with Spike. He was definitely going to shoot up the ranks soon enough.

"Thanks, Flash."

The sweat and dirt didn't take long to clean away but the soothing sensation of the water spraying from the faucet led to an extended shower. Spike let the water wash away the aches of his training, the stresses that came with being around Twilight and the other Elements. Ever since that fateful day when he and Twilight arrived in Ponyville, they'd become involved in various misadventures and battles against super-villains, making Spike wonder if something other than Princess Celestia brought them together, some great cosmic force that necessitated the Elements' meeting. He'd never really been a big believer in things like fate or predestination but as time went by, he found himself quickly changing his tune, adopting a more open mindset. After all, how can he go through such experiences in a short amount of time and not reject the notion of coincidence in favor of destiny?

Primrose the Prescient wrote that book on prophecies and that's what pretty much started all of this. Plus, she just happened to show up in order to guide Sombra. I wonder if she knew all about this and has some great plan that hasn't been realized yet. Has she been working with Princess Celestia this whole time?

Turning off the faucet, Spike patted himself dry and soon rejoined Flash in the hallway.

"Let's go pay Princess Celestia a visit."

The two headed towards the throne room, one of the great double doors opening and out strode Prince Blueblood. He clicked his tongue and shot Spike a dismissive glare.

"Oh, I see you're still here. If you're here to see Auntie, she's busy."

As much as it would've been entertaining been to turn Blueblood into a poncecicle, Spike elected to keep his hands at his side and his collar remaining where it was. Unleashing his unstable and as-yet-unmastered magical abilities weren't worth it, even for this jerk. Flash, meanwhile, was standing perfectly still, though his spear rattled slightly in his grasp. He'd stated his dislike of the snobbish prince multiple times, though considering everyone in both the upper and lower class viewed Blueblood with contempt, that wasn't saying much. Giving Flash a subtle head-shake, Spike hardened his expression and raised his chin, unwaveringly staring Blueblood in the eye.

"With all due respect, Your Highness, I'll be the judge of that."

Blueblood was momentarily thrown off by the defiance in both Spike's face and voice.

"Yes, well...do what you want. Don't blame me if Auntie personally tosses you out."

Puffing out his chest with a hmph, Prince Blueblood marched past Spike and Flash, throwing the former an indignant scowl. It wasn't until he was out of sight that Spike exhaled loudly, allowing his shoulders to sag. Blueblood was a pompous windbag but that didn't mean that he was completely useless. Aside from Princess Celestia's wealth and influence, the prince had his own connections within the aristocracy and could make someone he detested vanish if he really desired it but thankfully, he appeared to view Spike as too insignificant for such an effort. Spike heard a snorting sound and found Flash snickering, no longer able to conceal his amusement at what had just transpired.

"Look at you!" Flash chuckled, lightly elbowing Spike in the ribs. "'With all due respect, Your Highness, I'll be the judge of that.' Faust, when did you grow a spine of steel?"

Spike shrugged. "I guess that training with Princess Luna must really be doing a number on my confidence."

"I'll say! Not many ponies I know would dare to even think about saying something like that to Prince Blueblood. At least, not to his face."

"Good thing I'm not a pony then, huh? Come on, let's go see Princess Celestia."

They entered the throne room, the whole chamber bathed in multicolored light from the sunbeams piercing the stain glass windows. Walking up to the throne, they found Princess Celestia and Raven Inkwell as the room's only other occupants. Princess Celestia perked up upon catching sight of Spike and gracefully climbed down the steps to greet him, Raven dutifully following close behind.

"How goes your training, Spike? I do hope Luna isn't too hard on you."

"Actually, it's going great. Princess Luna's a pretty cool teacher."

Princess Celestia beamed at him and the room seemed to glow even brighter.

"I'm very pleased to hear that. Luna's been so much happier as of late so it appears these lessons are mutually beneficial."

Her gaze then settled on Flash.

"And how are you, Flash Sentry?"

"I'm doing well, Your Majesty," Flash bowed. "I'm just proud to do my part."

"You're too modest," Princess Celestia smiled. "Your track record thus far has been spotless. I believe I see a promotion in your near-future."

Flash's mouth opened and closed like a fish.

"Th-thank you, Your Majesty! Thank you!" He finally sputtered. "Wow. What an honor!"

Raven cleared her throat. "Your Majesty, you wished to comprise your letter?"

"Ah, yes, thank you, Raven. Spike, I believe we should send Twilight an update."

Spike stared at his feet. "Are you sure? The last time she learned that I was learning to fight, she and..." He stopped himself before he revealed too much. "She wasn't too pleased."

Princess Celestia shook her head humorously.

"Twilight will just have to learn that she can't protect everyone all of the time. You're growing up and yes, while you need to be kept safe, neither she nor I can look out after you forever. Now, are you ready to learn the spell?"

"Yes," Spike answered with a bit more confidence.

Raven passed Princess Celestia a folded-up sheet of paper and walked back to the bottom of the throne's steps. Princess Celestia then gave the note to Spike.

"Thank you, Raven. Now Spike, I want you to send this to back to Raven. First, you must picture where you want to send the letter. Make a mental picture of the surroundings, the furniture, everything. Feel the magic build inside of you, like a shaken soda can. And then, release it."

"Come on, Spike," Flash lightly encouraged him. "You can do it."

Nodding, Spike took the paper and grasped both ends with each hand, rubbing the surface with his fingertips, familiarizing himself with the material. Drawing in breath, Spike held it for a minute, then released it. He could feel the familiar heat of his dragon's-fire expanding within his chest, the flames pushing against his ribs like waves against the shore. This, in turn, lead to the tell-tale tickling in the back of his throat, alerting him to the oncoming flame-breath. Sucking in air through his lips, Spike exhaled, completely incinerating the paper in a burst of green blaze.

There was snap-crackle sound followed by a green burst of fire as a piece of paper landed in Raven's hooves. Unfolding it with her magic, she showed the paper to everyone present, revealing the words, "Hello there" written on the inside. Beneath that was a picture of a winking smiley face.

"Well done, Spike," Princess Celestia congratulated him. "Now that we know it works, we can-..."

Their collective hearts dropped as Princess Celestia was suddenly hoisted into the air, her limbs flailing as gusts of roaring wind trap her within a raging cyclone.

"What's happening?!" Spike screamed over the noise.

"I don't know!" Flash responded in kind.

Glowing white orbs manifested around Princess Celestia, rapidly spinning in several arcs to form a sphere, entrapping the bewildered monarch. She fired a magic beam from her horn, only for the attack to immediately dissipate upon contact with the sphere. She released a golden flash of energy that Spike assumed to be a teleportation spell, only for that to utterly fail too and she seemingly accepted her unknown fate. A ribbon-like streak of bright golden light flowed out of Princess Celestia's chest, followed by three identical streaks rushing from her horn and wings, the three streaks joining into one and leaping through the nearby window. She issued a thunderous cry of immense agony as columns of white light shot out of her mouth and eyes and the room enveloped in a snow-white haze, momentarily blinding everyone present.

Once the haze dispersed, Spike rubbed the dots from his eyes to find Princess Celestia lying motionless on her side facing away from him. Flash and Raven rushed over to her and Spike hurriedly joined them, the two adults gently turning the mare over. Princess Celestia's mane, once a prismatic, flowing cloud of vapor, now laid flatly against her back and shoulders in pink waves. More startlingly, however, was that her wings were missing and there was a bare spot on her forehead where her horn once rested. She was just...ordinary.

"Your Majesty? Your Majesty!"

Princess Celestia moaned, her eyes fluttering open to gaze up at Flash.

"Wh-what...?"

"It's Flash Sentry, Your Majesty. Are you alright?"

The three gave Princess Celestia enough room to sit up. She was noticeably shorter, now only barely peering over Flash's scalp. She gasped and a hoof flew to her head, patting around for her horn while her other searched for her wings. Upon realizing that they were missing, her forelegs dropped limply at her side and stared blankly ahead. In all of the years Spike had known Princess Celestia, which was his whole life, he'd never seen her look so vulnerable or frightened. To him, she was a stone pillar, an immovable force of sheer will and power that would never crack or break down.

He placed his hand over her hoof and rubbed it soothingly, giving her a hopeful smile.

"You're going to be okay, Princess. I just know it."

Though her actions were delayed, Princess Celestia smiled at Spike in return.

The throne room doors burst open, with Princess Luna and Prince Blueblood frantically entering.

"Sister!"

Princess Celestia rose to her hoofs, her face aghast with shock.

"Oh, Lulu...not you too..."

Whatever it was that was afflicting Princess Celestia had somehow found its way to the Princess of the Night. Similar to her daytime counterpart, Princess Luna was missing her horn and wings, a light blue mane replacing her usual star-studded gossamer one. An unspoken dread filled the room. The primary rulers of Equestria and guardians of the realm, the two responsible for moving the sun and moon, had been rendered powerless and thus unable to perform their sacred duties. If this strange phenomenon was occurring here, did this mean that Princess Cadence and Twilight Sparkle had also been affected, or were they next?

"I am afraid it is so, Tia." Princess Luna's head lowered in defeat. "I had hoped it was just me but it appears that you too are the victim of this unknown malady."

"Auntie, what happened?" Prince Blueblood asked Princess Celestia, though Spike was uncertain if this was due to genuine concern or self-interest. "I bet it was the work of that Lord Tirek ruffian."

Princess Celestia shook her head. "No, that's not how his magic-stealing works. He has to be in close proximity with a target in order to feed off of them. Besides, it appears only I and Luna have been affected. You, Raven and Spike still have your magic."

"What about Twilight and Princess Cadence?" Flash inquired. "If this is only affecting princesses, then we need confirmation before we can form a plan."

"You're right, Flash," Princess Luna conceded. "After all, knowing is half the battle."

With Princess Celestia's guidance, as well as some very unwanted suggestions from Blueblood, Spike composed a letter to Princess Cadence and, using the new spell, sent it hopefully directly to her. Every second that ticked by without a response only heightened the tension that'd been steadily mounting. Prince Blueblood began biting his manicured hooves, Princess Luna was tapping a hind-hoof impatiently and Princess Celestia paced back and forth. To his credit, Flash managed to retain his composure, tossing some playing cards into his upturned helmet, dumping it and repeating the motion. Spike just sat on the floor twiddling his thumbs, trying not to look as panicked as he felt.

FWOOSH!

Spike burped out a sheet of paper and everyone collectively sighed in relief. Opening it up, he found that it was written in pink, curly lettering and bore the Crystal Empire Royal Seal.

"It's from Princess Cadence!"

"What does it say, Spike?" Princess Celestia gently asked him.

"Oh no! Princess Cadence has also lost her horn and wings!"

Princess Luna closed her eyes, her head drooping in melancholy.

"That is three out of four. Let us pray that Twilight Sparkle has been spared."

Another letter was written and this time, a response was almost immediate.

"Twilight's fine and is confused by what's happening."

"Thank Faust for small miracles," Flash muttered, wiping his brow and replacing his helmet.

"So what do we do now?" Prince Blueblood whimpered.

An inky black shape glided into the throne room, converting into a vaguely-equine form. Two green orbs flashed within the darkness of the shape's face, followed by a sinister grin. Prince Blueblood fled past the figure, who didn't bother to stop him, instead focusing on the others. Slowly, it advanced, its features becoming more and more defined. Now resembling a stallion, he stopped and eyed them all with a kind of malicious amusement.

He looked like Sombra, except a mass of rippling darkness clung to his shoulders like a cloak. He also looked more lean, almost emaciated, as though he'd been missing meals, giving his face a much more angular, jagged look to it. His cheek scar was gone and there were three openings on each end of his mouth. The stallion smiled at them, revealing rows of sharp teeth, bringing to mind a shark about to go into a feeding frenzy.

"Hello everyone. It's been a long time since we've all been together in the same room."

"Sombra?"

The stallion's eyes flashed as he regarded Spike.

"Hmm, yes and no. I'm Sombra's better half. Call me Tenebris."

Princess Celestia stepped forward, undaunted by the newcomer.

"I take it that you're behind all this?"

"Guilty as charged, Tia," Tenebris smirked cruelly, then appeared to inspect the mare. "That's a good look for you, by the way. You too, Lulu."

"Don't call me that!" Princess Luna snapped.

Flash raised his spear at Tenebris, who looked entertained by the threatening gesture.

"Get away from them, you monster!"

The spearhead snapped off, the shaft cracking and fracturing in Flash's grasp, forcing him to drop the remains of his weapon. A shadowy claw sprang from Tenebris' cloak, gripped Flash by the throat and pulled him towards Tenebris, who held a hoof up to his own lips. The claw's fingers wrapped around Flash's mouth, cutting off his angry protests.

"Quiet. The adults are talking."

"What do you want?" Princess Celestia demanded.

Tenebris flashed her a predatory grin.

"Equestria. Does that sound good enough?"

He then sent out a claw that grabbed Spike and lifted the dragon into the air.

"You're going to write a little letter for me and send it to Twilight."

"N-never!"

"That wasn't a request," Tenebris snarled, the claw tightening around Spike's throat. "Do it. Now..."

~*~

After Twilight sent her reply, she and the others waited for Spike to give them further updates on the situation in Canterlot and the Crystal Empire. Somehow, the other princesses were de-powered and their alicorn statuses revoked, leaving Twilight as the only active princess left in Equestria. Just the thought of the other princesses, especially Celestia, as ordinary mares felt wrong to Twilight, like putting mayonnaise on a hay burger. Princess Celestia had always been a larger-than-life figure, the ruler and metaphorical mother of the nation, a goddess and guiding light to millions. What would happen if word of this got out, if the public learned that both the Royal Pony Sisters and the Princess of Love were powerless?

"This has to be my counterpart's doing."

The six mares all looked at Lumos, who hadn't spoken up in quite a while.

"Wha' makes yah say tha'?"

Lumos shook his head, sighing as he collected his thoughts.

"He's out there somewhere and the other princesses lose their magic? It can't be a coincidence."

"Well, you don't know for sure, Darling. It could be unrelated," Rarity speculated.

The stallion looked unconvinced but said nothing else.

FWOOSH!

Twilight caught the scroll and unfurled it.

"Is it Spike? What does it say?" Fluttershy asked.

Before Twilight had a chance to read it aloud, the words on the page swirled around and formed an image like that of Sombra's head. The mini-Sombra grinned and began to speak, visible words accompanying his voice, every syllable like an icicle piercing everyone's hearts:

"Twilight, by now you've no doubt been aware of the princesses' magic problems and it is with great pleasure that I take credit for this act. You must be asking, 'Why? Why would you do this?' Let me ask you a question in turn: if you want to cripple an eagle, how do you do it? You have to clip its wings. I can't have Celestia or Luna ruining my plans and as for Cadence...well, you'll see soon enough.

"I have them with me now. Tia, Lulu, Caddy, that Flash Sentry colt and sweet little Spike. Don't worry, he's perfectly safe. That is, unless you do anything to provoke me and believe me, I'm the last individual in the world you want to provoke. Here's the bargain: you come alone to the Crystal Empire. No friends, no Elements, just you. If I so much as suspect that you're plotting against me, you can say goodbye to Spike as a pair of boots in a storefront window.

"Obey me and Spike will go free. You may not trust me but know that I always tell the truth, even when I lie. I look forward to seeing you here. Well wishes and warm regards, Tenebris."

Lumos seized the letter and immediately blasted it with his magic, reducing it to ashes.

"What are you doing?!" Rainbow Dash screeched.

"If Tenebris can send a message, then he can also receive them. He could've placed an auditory surveillance spell on that letter and be able to overhear everything we say."

"How do you know that?" Pinkie Pie scratched her head inquisitively.

Lumos faced her solemnly. "It's what I would've done."

Twilight took a moment to think.

"Okay, let's break this apart and go over it. This 'Tenebris' has taken away the powers of Princess Celestia, Princess Luna and Princess Cadence and is holding them prisoner along with Flash and Spike."

"Right, and he said he wanted you specifically to come alone," Rarity added.

"It doesn't look like I have much of a choice. I have to do as he says."

"Are you nuts? You can't just into his demands," Rainbow argued. "There's got to be something we can do."

"I don't know," Fluttershy considered. "If he's powerful enough to take away the other princesses' magic, then there isn't much we can do."

Applejack placed her hoof on Rainbow's shoulder.

"Dashie's right. We've gone up 'gainst worse villains. 'Member how we took down Discord? Yah know, th' guy tha' can remake reality wit' a literal snap o' his fingers? Or wha' 'bout Nightmare Moon or Lord Tirek?"

"Or Nightmare Moon again?" Pinkie reminded her.

"Right, Nightmare Moon again. Face it, Twi. This ain't th' first time th' odds been stacked 'against us."

"You can't win," Lumos stated bleakly. "So don't even try it."

"What are you talking about?" Twilight asked him. "This isn't any different than the others."

"Of course it is! Do you get it? Tenebris isn't like the others because he lacks the one thing they had: restraint. When we got separated, I took that part with me. I may've done terrible things as Sombra, but at least I had a code, a line I wouldn't cross. Without me, Tenebris doesn't have any qualms about doing whatever it takes to get what he wants."

"You're scared," Twilight observed.

Lumos swallowed with a click. "You should be too. Your first victory against Nightmare Moon was only because of blind luck and the Elements. You beat Tirek thanks to that box from the Tree of Harmony and Discord because of his own arrogance. You heard what Tenebris said about Spike and I one-hundred-percent believe he will harm him because he doesn't care."

"So, what, we should let Twilight deliver herself to Tenebris? Just stand by and do nothing?"

Lumos rubbed his temples. "I don't know, Rainbow. What I do know is Spike and the other hostages, including my daughter, are being held captive by a madstallion Tartarus-bent on getting even."

Applejack peered at Lumos in confusion.

"Ah thought y'll were done wit' th' whole revenge thing?"

"I gave up on it, yes, but that doesn't mean the resentment just went away. Remember, I'm Sombra's best traits so Tenebris is his worse and that means he just a burning ball of hatred and self-loathing."

A light bulb went off in Twilight's head.

"Lumos, you said that you and Tenebris are both a part of Sombra. Doesn't that mean that you're technically the same pony?"

"I...well, yes, in essence. I have his memories and emotions just as he would have mine."

"What are you thinking, Darling?"

"I'm thinking I have a plan. It's going to take all of us."

Twilight held out her hoof.

"Ah'm in," Applejack beamed, placing her hoof on top of Twilight's.

"Me too!" Pinkie cheered.

"Count me in too," Rarity said cheerfully.

"I'll help however I can," Fluttershy added lowly but confidently.

"Let's do this thing!" Rainbow grinned.

Twilight pleadingly glanced at Lumos.

"All of us. Please, I can't do this without you."

Lumos examined the hoof pile and with a sigh, placed his own on top.

"Why not? It doesn't look like I have a long lifespan anyway."

"Yes! G.I. Pooooooone!" Pinkie cried as they all threw their hooves up.