• Published 22nd Jul 2019
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The Life of Penumbra Heartbreak - Unwhole Hole

The seven-month life of Penumbra Heartbreak, the alicorn daughter of the King Sombra

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Chapter 1: Omen Birth

Lightning flashed across the sky, its silent flash momentarily lighting the darkened halls of the Crystal Citadel with a strange violet glow. Thunder followed, but it was muffled by the heavy snowfall and manifested only as a long, somber roar.

In this momentary blast of light and magic, three figures were illuminated. Three ponies who moved quickly through the corridors as the storm raged outside. Or, rather, two ponies, and a mare who was not.

“How?” demanded the one who led the other two. “I order it. Tell me now, how such a thing could even be possible.” He turned sharply to one of the others. “There were spells in place. Was it not YOU who designed them, and oversaw their administration, Luciferian?”

Beside his king stood an almost equally stately stallion, as white as his king was black: a unicorn whose genetic background exceeded that of purebloods, save only for the curse of his long violet mane, tied back into a tight braid. He wore a long leather coat over mage-armor of his own design, perfectly formed and symmetrical save for one tall armored boot over his front left foreleg. This pony, the last of his House, had the audacity to smile.

“My king. The spell is infallible. You oversaw the design as well.”

The king stopped and turned sharply, looming over the white stallion. “And yet it has occurred.”

“No. My design was perfect. Unless someone interfered with it. Even accidentally.” He glared across the hall to the other equine, a mare who had been repeatedly reminded that she would never, ever be called a pony. She, like her counterpart, wore heavy clothing to insulate against the cold, although it bore strange markings, impossible bones, rings of gold, and many knots. Her face was covered in a strange mask.

“Twilight, your behavior is puerile. I assure you, the king’s harem is quite sterile.”

“Unless your ridiculous herbs interfered with my spell!”

“Can you not except that some things cannot be explained? Or must your tiny worldview be constantly maintained?”

“And I have no time for your incessant arguing,” snapped the king, silencing both. “The evidence is empirical, and indeed has an explanation. We will deal with the situation first, and then that explanation will be found.” He turned and began walking- -an immortal king, one of the last black unicorns, clad in dark thrill and red velvet, a king who wore a crown of iron atop a bladed horn. “And when that explanation is found? I will paint these walls red...or silver.”

The pair of servants looked at each other- -the scion of House Twilight and an apostate zebra. Neither saw a break in the other’s composure or a weakness to exploit, and continued on in in the lightning-lit shadow of the Crystal King.

They arrived at the door to the main stable. Two thrall guards had already been posted; the luminescent green eyes of their masks lit the hallways and the crystal blades of their spears. Both bowed silently as the king approached, and stepped aside in turn.

Inside was a wide hall as lavishly appointed as it was cold. Soft furniture and tapestries lined the walls and crystal lamps provided warm, pleasant light. Yet all inside was eerily silent. A few of the girls were awake, and sat nervously on cushions and behind curtains in doorways and the farthest reaches of the room, still dressed in their sheer, jeweled nightgowns and staring with disturbingly harsh eyes. All were to afraid to approach, or to make a sound. They had lost the luxury of fear, but they knew that something was horribly wrong.

The king passed through the room without looking at any of them, taking a side-hall to a series of rooms. In one of the smaller alcove rooms, a pony was already waiting for him. Unlike the other girls in this place, she had been permitted to remain some shred of her dignity and stood tall and straight- -though her eyes were as cold and harsh as the mare’s of the king’s harem. Her clothes were perfectly pressed and her steel-blue mane combed perfectly. She did not even attempt to disguise the circular scar in the center of her forehead.

“My king,” she said, bowing deeply.

“Steward. Bring him. NOW.”

“Of course my liege.” The steward made a motion with one of her hooves, and a pair of crystal thralls bushed a badly beaten Pegasus gelding to the ground before his master’s feet.

The king stared at him with a look of withering reproach. The gelding did not even dare to look up. He only quivered, his forehead pressed against the luxurious silken carpets of the harem stable.

“Freeflight,” said the king at last. “You disappoint me.”

“My liege!” squeaked the Pegasus. “My liege, I beg you- -” His pleading was interrupted as he screamed in agony. Red magic had surrounded the bases of his wings, pulling them harshly together.

“SILENCE,” whispered the king. “Look at me, Freeflight. NOW.”

The gelding shook, and with the greatest of difficulty raised his tear-filled eyes to his king. Those terrified eyes met a pair of red eyes, their pupils narrowed to thin slits with anger. Yet, when the king spoke, he spoke with icy calm.

“I placed you in charge of my mares because I assumed you understood the responsibility required. You were to protect them, care for them, to prepare them when I required them. Caring for them was your duty.”

“Yes, my lord, please! I- -I know that, I apologize, I APOLOGIZE- -”

“And yet you failed to notice that one of them had fallen pregnant.”

“My lord!” the gelding was whimpering, but steeled himself. “Hope- -Hope was the smartest of them, the most clever. And the kindest. She hid it! Somehow she was able- -NO! PLEASE NO!”

The king lifted him by his wings, holding the gelding’s face near his own. “Freeflight. For this failure, I should tear your wings free of your body and send you to the crystal mines.”

“Not the mines! Please, anything but the mines!”

“Then I ought to end you here and now? Do you really think you deserve a quick end, after what you have done?”

Freeflight whimpered. “Please, please…”

The king nodded. “Alas, that is not the fate you will meet. Not today. Because you had the courage and loyalty to bring this news to my attention yourself, even if your actions came too late. I shall give you a second and final chance. You will live. You will even keep your position.”

Freeflight gasped, and a joyous smile crossed his face. Tears of joy welled in his eyes. He opened his mouth to thank his lord and master, only for the smile to turn into a look of pure horror as the quiet sound of two snaps echoed through the room.

The gelding was dropped to the ground, and he screamed. The sound was so horrible that the girls watching turned away. Even the steward averted her eyes. The king did not, and neither did the zebra. Twilight Luciferian was too busy struggling to contain his laughter.

“You will live,” said the king, “but I will take something from you. Crozea will heal you, in exactly forty eight hours.” He turned to the zebra. “Ensure that his bones knit so that he will never again know the joy of flight.”

“This I can do, in the alloyed time; a punishment worthy of this heinous crime.”

With tears still in his eyes, Freeflight grasped the foreleg of his king and looked up. “Th- -thank you my liege! Thank you! I won’t- -I won’t fail you again!”

“No. You will not.” The king punctuated his statement with a strong kick to the gelding’s forehead- -but of course not strong enough to render him unconscious.

“Steward,” said the king.

“Of course.” The steward directed the thralls toward Freeflight, and they dragged him out by his broken wings.

The king watched him go, and listened impassively to the screams. When the screams became distant, he turned back to his assistant. “The child.”

“She is born,” replied the Steward. “A healthy filly. The midwives are in the next room, waiting for your arrival.”

“I have no need to see her. See to this personally, steward. Take her to the edge of the kingdom, beyond the protection dome. And leave her there.”

The steward’s eyes flashed. “My lord- -”

She might have been about to protest, or to agree, but the zebra Crozea interposed herself between the servant and the king. “To kill her, this is your goal?! That filly is only a newborn foal!”

The king’s eyes narrowed, and though Crozea felt his rage directed toward her she did not dare retreat. Doing so would surely be her end.

“Do you doubt my decision, Crozea?”

“I cannot believe this!” spat Twilight Luciferian. “How dare you doubt his decision?! Those hideous stripes are the only thing that keep you from being out there with the rest of the stablemares, and you have the audacity- -”

“Twilight,” growled the king, immediately silencing every breath in the room. “Now is not the time to press me. I am not in the mood.”

Luciferian’s eyes widened, but he immediately saluted and bowed. “Of course, my king.”

The king directed his attention toward the zebra. “Nor do I wish you to try my patience, Crozea. I have never raised a hoof nor magic to you, nor would I for an infraction such as this, but you tempt me. But I value your opinions. Please, tell me why I should not expose the usurper?”

“This innocent is of a value you cannot bear to lose. Even if you do not see it now, this is not the path you should choose.”

“You should know better, Crozea. There is a reason why I have these spells cast on my mares, why I have your herbs. Why I even allowed Al’Hrabnaz to attempt his surgeries, although the results were…unpleasent. I am immortal. I have no neat for children. An heir only serves as a threat to my eternal rule. Any child of mine is a rival, and must be dealt with as such.”

Crozea frowned beneath her mask, and though she did not acquiesce, she did not speak either.

“I don’t understand why we need to bother with all this,” sighed Twilight. “It’s a child. I can do the job myself. I do not mind. It would be incredibly easy.”

“This child is still my daughter,” said the king. “And as such, she deserves an worthy of a princess.”

“Sire,” said the Steward. “Please.”

“Would you doubt me too, steward?”

“I never would, my lord,” she said, bowing her head. “I do not have the capacity. But in this case, it is my duty to risk my position to request that you at least see the child before you make this decision. I assure you, on my word, that you will not be disappointing.”

The king stared at his steward for a long moment. “Nothing you can show me will change my decision,” he said at last. “However, I am not so weak that viewing my daughter’s face would convince me to change her fate. So show me.”

The steward bowed, and she led the trio to a door. She opened it, and gestured for them to enter.

A strange smell hung in the air inside, and several crystal nurses were already at work cleaning and organizing the room. As the king stepped in, one of them was pulling a sheet over the face of a white unicorn mare.

“It seems that although the child is alive, the mother did not survive.”

“Pity,” shrugged Luciferian. “Hope was one of your favorites, wasn’t she?”

“I have more. Have the remains brought to Necrophilo, to see what went wrong with her.”

“My lord, I am also a competent necromancer- -”

“But you have a stake in this investigation, Twilight. Midwife?’

“My king.” The crystal mare bowed deeply. In one foreleg, she was holding a bundle of blankets. Without a word, she held them to Sombra.

He looked down, and saw that his steward had overestimated the child’s health. She was thin, pale, and sickly. Although her mane had three colors, her gray-pink skin was hairless. Worst of all, a small horn poked out from her forehead. That appendage sealed her fate. Perhaps a child of one of the lesser races might be forgiven, but a unicorn heir was a born usurper.

The child’s fate had been decided. That was, at least, until she yawned and opened her eyes- -and her wings.

The midwife smiled, impressed by the look of surprise that crossed the faces of two of the Thirteen as well as the Dark Lord himself.

“By the daughter of the Veil,” whispered Luciferian.

“This child born,” said Crozea, barely retaining her composure. “She is an alicorn!”

The child giggled and smiled at her father. He did not smile back.

Then a voice spoke. It made no sound, yet echoed through the heads of everyone present. The midwife winced, and several of the nurses cried out in pain as it tore through their minds.

“King Sombra?” said a high, young female voice.

“Eternity Gaze,” he said, barely noticing that she spoke in ideas rather than words. “What is it?”

“They are coming. The twins. I think they want to talk to you.”

Sombra’s gaze hardened. “So be it.”

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