Can You Find it in Your Heart?

by Ravenmane

First published

As broken as he is. As unforgivable as he acted. Could anyone find it in their heart to care for a tyrant such as King Sombra?

I deserve no forgiveness. If I could take it back, well... I would never have met her. Somepony who could forgive me. I think. Look, it confuses me so stop asking!

Sombra, Former Ruler

I hate him and what he did to the Crystal Ponies is something I will never forgive. So why is it that I care when ponies scorn him? When they hurt him, why does it make me cry? When I see him, why does my heart skip?

Twilight Sparkle, Princess of Friendship

Is it just me or has Twilight gone crazy? Dude's a jerk.

Spike, Number One Assistant

Can we please change the subject?

Princess Celestia, Co-Ruler of Equestria

Author's Note: Other is flagged due to the character flag limit. Expect Cadance, Shining Armor, Luna, and Discord at least!

1 - The Broken Lord

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Broken. Beaten. They are naught but words. Words to describe what has happened. Dead would be better, though I had the misfortune to survive what transpired once more. One could say that I was indeed broken as I was shattered into countless pieces and left for dead for the second time in the lands known as the “Frozen North”. Perhaps they did not expect me to survive. Perhaps they knew less of history than I would give them credit. Perhaps they never knew the truth.

There was no doubt in my mind that the kaleidoscopic tale had been forgotten by all but those who were triumphant. These victors were sisters who would spin a lie that became the history of the Empire. Perhaps it was out of shame that the lies were woven. What I had done to spark their ire and my downfall seems so trivial that my true sins, while still unforgivable, were minor by compare. What they had done was a greater sin. They struck at one who dared to hope his life could be bettered. A monster that they created had become the result of that dashed hope.

My name is Sombra and once upon a time I found myself on the wrong side of the fury and magical prowess of two sisters. This tale is not what you are here to know; nor are you here to hear what sealed the fate of my subjects at that time. I know my past will surface, but it is not the reason for this story. You are here to understand the unicorn I once hoped to be and learn of my fate, my shame, and my future.

Like the phoenix I rose from the ashes. Unlike the phoenix, I returned to a corporeal existence in a frozen tundra devoid of life from a fractured shadowy existence. From where I rose, I once more saw the Empire I once ruled upon the horizon. The haze of ages and madness of confinement had yet to muddle my mind so I knew it was not more than a decade which had passed, I prayed for less. My mind was still my own as I turned my back on my homeland, one I failed to protect once before. I knew I became a monster when the crown rested upon my head and I was named king. More importantly, I knew my home had turned its back on me already.

Was I angry because of this?

No, the scorn was deserved. My sins were not something I could wash away with pleas before the new rulers, while an army at my back to lay siege to my homeland would only prove myself a monster deserving of my fate. I may need to travel to the very ends of Equestria for penance. Perhaps further still would suffice. Anything to find peace for what transpired more than one thousand years ago.

Testing my magic, I crafted a cloak from the shadows that were cast near the place of my rebirth. I no longer considered the crown an icon of my right to rule, merely a grave reminder of the beast that I had become. I cast the vile thing aside and proceeded south towards the mountains that once separated the Empire from Equestria.

For nearly half a day the former tyrant traveled with nothing driving him other than a desire to escape the cold that threatened to end his life for good. As his vision began to fade in the harsh weather, a small wooden platform with a lantern and two benches came into view. Slowly, he made his way onto the platform and fixed a crudely summoned hood onto his cloak, desperate to close more of the wind from his face. A screeching sound caused him to lose focus from fiddling with his protection. Much to his bewilderment, a train had stopped at the station he was only remotely aware of.

“Well, what are you waiting for,” said the conductor as he ushered Sombra over. “Better not dawdle or you’ll freeze out here!”

With a quick, silent adjustment to hide his features, Sombra did as the conductor said.

The old pony had seen many strange things in his life, but the lone pony that was concealed beneath a fur-trimmed cloak at an abandoned station was something that was still strange to him. “What were you doing out in the cold?”

“Where is this going,” Sombra replied, his voice clung to the air just as the cold chilled his bones.

“We’re going into Equestria. Strange though, never seen anypony at it since the station in the Crystal Empire was put in. Thought it was decommissioned already so I never really paid it much thought but there you were when the train stopped. Do you have a ticket son?”

Sombra shook his head. “I’m not exactly from around here.”

“Ah, nomad then? Well, doesn’t matter to me. Not going to throw you off the train and back out into that weather. Once we’re in a warmer region I’m going to have to ask you to leave. Saving you from hypothermia’s one thing, giving you a free ride’s something else. There’s a stop near Trottingham that should be fine. Won’t be more than a few hours till we get there. Think you’ll find your way from there?”

Sombra nodded. “Can you tell me much about Trottingham?”

“Knew a mare from there once who told me a lot, quaint little village in the forest. If you plan to take the train anymore then you might need something to trade, forgive me for saying it but working for bits doesn’t seem to be up your alley.”

The former king sighed and got comfortable as the conductor left for another compartment. I’ll have to find a more suitable place than some little village in the woods to find peace, he thought. These trains though seem to be my best opportunity to find such a location. I could perform some magic and barter passage then. This detour will aid in knowing the news regarding Equestria proper. Perhaps an understanding of my most recent lapse of awareness. Deep down, Sombra knew he would never know of the lapse in time that nearly erased him from history. He stared out the window at the tundra.

“Never again…”

2 - Trottingham and Minty

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I am not doom driven, thought Sombra when he was asked to leave the comfort of the train. I was once good, and I will endure. I must endure. If I cannot, who will know the truth? Who will know that they made a monster?

“Trottingham’s a few hours down these tracks if you’re interested in going there,” said the conductor as Sombra departed the compartment. “There’s roads to other places, but closer civilization sounds better to me. No hard feelings about leaving you out here?”

“No,” replied Sombra in an even tone that sent a chill down the old pony’s back.

“Well, traveler like you ought to be fine then. Best of luck to ya!”

Sombra watched from the very plain looking platform he now stood on as the train departed, leaving him alone with his thoughts once more. After the train faded from his sight, the fallen unicorn turned his eyes upwards. He smiled as he observed the stars slowly coming into view in the twilight hours of the day. “I love this time of day,” he said to the sky. “The colors, the good memories,” he face slowly sunk as one memory took hold, “so why did you spoil it Celestia?” The somber moment suddenly died as his face filled with anger. “How could you do that to me? Hypocrite! Deceiver!”

His teeth clenched as his fury rose to the breaking point. “Monster,” he roared. The echo of his voice made him aware of his rage and caused Sombra to go quiet. “I’m not a monster,” he said as he once more hung his head.

As night rose, he followed the tracks, just as the conductor said. At least, until a small town was on the horizon. This place is as I suspected, he thought as he examined it from a distance. Too small for my needs, ponies will know one another too well and once my identity is uncovered I will lose the chance for the solace I desire. I cannot think such things, I yearn for that solace. The belief I deserve it left me this way.

While not something he found suitable, given his former status as first a prince, then a king, Sombra did his best to form a makeshift shelter from the brush on the forest’s edge. Rest and dawn were all that were on his mind along with the need to find a place to travel to and the means to get there.

“First a plan,” he said with a yawn as he tried to get comfortable on the cold dirt. “A map, currency, and a ticket for the train would be a start. Peddle magic and hear of news.” As the few remaining thoughts coalesced in his speech the desire to sleep beat the uncomfortable shelter in the slow battle the two waged under the light of the moon.


The light of the sun and the chirping of birds greeted the unicorn when he woke the next day. As he stretched and squinted at daybreak he tried to remind himself of his own, dark powers. No forbidden magic, he thought. Not even if my life is on the line should I ever use it. I cannot allow the to beast break free once more.

As he reached Trottingham, the thoughts regarding his dark magic grew from a silent promise to never use it into a voice in the back of his mind telling him to use them.

Such a small place, whispered the voice, nopony will miss it. You need things and they have them all.

Sombra shook his head. No, I cannot simply take what I want. That has caused me nothing but trouble all my life.

Yes and look where being honest got you. A shame, a disgrace, a penniless pony with nothing but hate for a past you can never change. No wonder you can’t accept it, you need the power to survive in a world that hates and fears what you are.

Sombra shook his head again and finally became aware of the ponies staring at him. He hastily used magic to pull his long mane out of his hood to try and make some excuse to sate the leering eyes. Unfortunately for him, his display managed to draw more onlookers.

“Unicorn huh,” said a mare with a pale green coat as she nervously approached him. “Have some skill to you?”

Sombra blinked and backed away a little from the earth pony. “I am merely a traveler miss. I can use my magic for some financial aid if you think I can help you.”

“Relax,” she said calmly as she pulled her white mane from her face. “I’m Minty and I’m sure I can help you. There are more than a few ponies who could use some magical answers to their problems.”

Sombra shook his head slowly. “Ponies cannot look to magic for all the answers. I do not mean to speak like a sermon, but I know that much from my own experiences.”

“Yes, but not everypony here can afford to replace a plow or reach where their roof leaks. We don’t often see unicorns and they’re usually too busy or uptight to lend a hoof to their magically handicapped brethren.”

Sombra was shocked. “My apologies, are you speaking like that because of–”

“How formal you’re talking? Not really, but I found it better to use bigger words to get unicorns to help us. You’re a traveler though, and you didn’t show up on the train, so I just figured you were like that to handle boredom.”

“I can try to act more like you, but I would not expect it often.”

“It’s fine. By the way, what’s your name?”

A half-truth is still a bad start, he thought as he planned his words carefully. Concealed from Equestria was one thing, but sharing his name had more danger to it than a shady pony ever would be. “Do you promise not to laugh?”

Minty nodded. “I’ve heard a lot of silly names and I doubt yours will make me laugh.”

“Onyx Lament,” he lied, praying the naïve mare would fall for it.

She smiled and held out her hoof. “A pleasure to meet you Mr. Lament.”

Sombra took her hoof and kissed it softly, careful to keep his identity concealed. “The pleasure is mine and please, Onyx would be better. ‘Mister’ makes me sound old.”

Despite the furious red her cheeks had turned, Minty clung to every word. “Of course Onyx. Can I help you find some work around town?”

“Actually, I’d like to know what has happened recently. I heard about a place to the north along the train.”

“Oh that’s the Crystal Empire, supposedly it’s been around for a long time but nopony ever heard of it for centuries. The Equestria Games were held there last year, all the top athletes and famous ponies were there. Oh, and my friend Quiz Bowl was up there too but she came up as part of the Ponyville pep squad. I wish I could’ve gone with her, but our fields weren’t doing so well so I stayed here.”

“So do you need my help?”

Minty nodded. “If you know a thing or two about irrigation we could use a hoof there. That aside, is it true unicorns can enchant things to make them better?”

“It takes a focused mind to enchant things. I might be able to repair and harden them, but I would definitely require rest after a few.”

“And something about irrigation?”

Sombra shook his head. “I knew ponies who knew a thing or two, but I don’t think I can help you much in regards to that.”

“Well the tools would be a wonderful start. Flax is out of town and he’s been trying to fix that house of his here in Trottingham for years. I heard he and Wheat Grass have a new place so he wants to sell it. I’m sure they can pay you what you need if you can help them.”

“Will they be returning soon?”

Minty began to lead Sombra away from town, towards a large field filled with ponies working hard with all kinds of fruits and vegetables. “They’ll be back in town tomorrow. I know it isn’t much, but Trottingham isn’t like Manehattan or even Ponyville so we can’t really offer much in the way of payment.”

“You mentioned Ponyville before, where is it?”

“About four hours south by train, but it’s a winding track with more than a few bridges. It could take days to reach on your hooves.”

“What’s it like there?”

“Last time I was there it was really peaceful but I don’t know about now. There was this monster that came through Trottingham a few months back, stole the inborn magic everypony has, but we got it all back a few weeks later. There was another one too, but it didn’t do much of anything. According to Quizzie’s reply after I told her about it, that monster went all over Equestria taking magic from everypony it could.”

“Then I was lucky I was on my own.”

Minty nodded. “You’re a really lucky pony Onyx, it was–”

“Disconcerting? Perhaps that isn’t the right word. Appalling perhaps?”

She stopped and shuddered. “Both and more Onyx. Are you talking from experience?”

“It’s… not something I’d like to talk about in detail. It was humiliating,” Sombra sighed. “No, it was humbling but in a very tactless way. I thought I knew what it meant to have power but then I encountered something far beyond my abilities. I was defeated, but I began to learn that power isn’t everything. Without control, power can turn you into a monster.”

Minty smiled. “And one such monster managed to miss you and the biggest lesson you learned right?”

“The only lesson that I think matters to me anymore. Power, regardless of its origins, is dangerous and can be used improperly. Now, what of the other monster; the one that did nothing?”

“Quizzie said it spends time in Ponyville sometimes, might want to make your way there and talk to it yourself.”

“It stays there? It’s not on a rampage?”

“Quizzie said it was tricked but that’s it.”

Sombra nodded and grinned. “I’d like to begin now, what does everypony need?”


After a long day of repairing plows and figuring out how to better irrigate the fields near Trottingham, Sombra had realized how the common pony lived. The names of ponies he helped still escaped him but the bits were good, the praise was a different beast altogether. As the sun began to set Minty led the former king to a house with ladders and large piles of lumber nearby.

“I’m sure Wheat and Flax won’t mind if you stay here,” Minty said as she retrieved a key from under a rock next to the door. “You’ll be helping them tomorrow after all.”

Sombra smiled weakly, knowing his face had always been a mystery to the mare. “They won’t mind Minty? I’m a stranger to them,” he shook his head, “I’m a stranger to all of Trottingham.”

“Trust me, they’re really lax about this stuff. No, more like they’re lax about everything so don’t worry. If you want to seem less intrusive then I’ll leave them a note.”

The pleasant mare opened the door and Sombra walked beyond the threshold. A quick appraisal of the house revealed that several spiders had decided to take up residence in addition to a fine layer of dust on everything.

“There’s a bed upstairs or cushions on the first door to your right if you’d prefer that.”

“Minty,” Sombra said as he went upstairs, “I mean no offense but there’s a bit of a smell.”

“Well, they worked on all natural spa supplies so I’d wager that’s from some experiments. Just get comfy and be ready for them in the morning ok?”

The former king removed his hood as soon as his head was obscured from her sight. “Bright and early then?”

“Bright and early,” the mare confirmed, “just don’t be put off by how they dress or act. They’ve been out of town for a year or two but I remember they dressed a bit strange even back then. Good night Onyx.”

“Good night,” replied Sombra with a yawn.

After he heard the door close and lock, Sombra looked around and found a very musty bedroom. With one more yawn he drew the blinds and fell asleep, kicking up a cloud of dust as he hit the bed for a long deserved rest.

3 - A Simpler Time

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Sombra woke the next day, not with the dawn but with a sneeze. Infernal plague of idleness, thought the unicorn as he slowly stumbled out of bed. Too tired to cleanse the room or too lazy. Pointless debate would be childish. With each passing step, Sombra sneezed at an increased rate. “Don’t last long damnable,” Sombra sneezed, “infernal blight of a cough.” No doubt there’s no food, but why don’t I feel hungry? Tiredness but a lack of other needs? How does that even work? Even the occasional cough couldn’t shake the thought from Sombra’s mind. Knowing he had no interest in either food or drink was more than odd to the unicorn, it was impossible.

Applying magic to cleaning the bedroom distracted Sombra from his sneezing. Opening the window, he began to clear the dust with the vigor he expected from a pony after a full meal and peaceful sleep. His mind raced as his sleeping hours surfaced. A dreamless sleep bothered him even more than his preexisting problems. “I should be dreaming. Nightmares at least but why is it vacant?” Does my mind wish to hide from some guardian of dreams? It makes no sense. None of it fits. “I need answers.”

Further ramblings and thoughts were silenced by a knock on the door downstairs. “You awake in there,” called one voice. While not exactly deep, it still sounded like a stallion.

“Minty said it’s a unicorn,” said a second one, “maybe they’re exhausted from the work she got them to do yesterday.” This voice sounded feminine to Sombra’s ears as he fixed the covers of the bed.

“Gotcha, you feelin’ alright in there? Don’t mean to wake you or anything but this note says you can help us out.”

“Wheat, just calm down. We can’t rush them.”

“Says it’s a stallion Flax. She told him to be up bright and early. Says so right here.”

“That’s what it says? I can’t make heads or tails of this thing.”

As the bickering continued, Sombra donned his shadowy cloak and went downstairs towards the door.

“Least unicorns have good penmanship right?”

“Totally. Think we should just get started?”

“Wake him up that way? Wheat Grass, you still have some stuff? Thought you were giving it up.”

“You might be awake but I’m not! I want to be in bed and sleeping on the train wasn’t my idea of rest! The bedframe back at the farm would’ve been better!”

Sombra hesitated as his magic enveloped the lock’s latch. A sigh was stifled by one last sneeze, one that forced the door open from the momentary loss of magical control.

“Ah, so you’re awake,” said a mare with long, straight mane at the door. She wore a plain looking brown jacket and pink tinted glasses. “I’m Flax Seed and this,” she gestured to the stallion next to her, “is Wheat Grass.”

As Sombra slowly looked towards the stallion he noticed the strange frayed looking jacket he wore long before his half-combed mane. “Onyx right? Onyx Lament?”

“Yes,” Sombra managed before a sneeze took hold. “I was told you need help fixing this house up.”

“Yeah,” said the stallion. “Roof beams don’t let us get to everything that needs patching. Also have’ta replace some of em or it won’t look so good.”

Sombra stared at the two of them with an unamused look on his face. “The house needs to be cleaned, floors needs polishing, and the railing of that staircase should be replaced since it’s barely holding up as is. Just how long have you been trying to sell this place?”

“I’d say two years,” interrupted Flax Seed as her companion began to open his mouth. “Maybe two and a half. It’s been a while since we came up here so this dummy could try and fix it up.”

“It’s not my fault things took off way they did,” quipped Wheat Grass. “Ever since Rarity fixed everything up we just don’t have the time.”

“Rarity,” asked Sombra.

“A very helpful unicorn from Ponyville,” replied Flax Seed.

Again with Ponyville, thought Sombra, it’s starting to sound like a very peculiar place. “Know what it’s like there?”

“It’s pretty quaint,” added Wheat Grass, “kinda peaceful an’ stuff. Heard a bunch ‘a stuff goes down there though.”

Flax Seed sneered as she glared at Wheat Grass. “If I’ve told you one thing I’ve told you a thousand times stop talking like that! We do business from Manehattan to Sacramareto now and that kind of talk doesn’t help us at all!”

“Calm down Flax Seed,” said Sombra with an authoritative tone in his voice. “Wheat Grass, try harder at what she says. Now, we need to focus on the task before us. We need to fix this house up. Wheat Grass, I want you to tell me where both of you can’t reach on the roof. Flax Seed, I want you to begin to clean the inside. Any objections or can we get started?”

Both ponies looked at each other and back at Sombra before shaking their heads. Flax Seed passed Sombra and took a broom resting against the wall while Wheat Grass went over to grab a ladder. Sombra calmed down that instant, content that one crisis was averted. Even if he had to resort to raising his voice.


Work progressed nearly in silence for several hours and small talk was minimal. Focus was always returned to working on the repairs either by Sombra or Flax Seed when something distracted either of the earth ponies.

So this is a simpler life in a peaceful time, Sombra thought as he helped replace one of the beams supporting the roof. I may not be used to it, but I can appreciate the quiet. He smiled. It keeps the monster at bay and that is a victory all its own.

“I finished with the upstairs boys,” said Flax Seed as she descended the staircase. “Need a helping hoof?”

Wheat Grass looked over and smiled. “Yeah, Onyx is great at helping me get this out, but we got the roof all fixed and doing it all over again would be a real drag. Sorry, I mean a problem.”

“It was fine Wheat,” stated Sombra calmly as Flax Seed took his place. “It’s fine to act naturally from time to time. If you don’t then you start to sound like some uptight pony with better things to do.”

“See Flax, even Onyx agrees. You’ve gotta relax sometimes. It’s not like we’re selling stuff all the time. We can like, be ourselves doing this stuff.”

“So Onyx, you’ll take his side when we can’t even see your face?”

Sombra kept his focus on holding the roof up despite Flax Seed’s attempt to startle him. “I don’t get the best of receptions Flax so I’d rather keep my face concealed. It’s not either of you, it’s how ponies have treated me after they see it. Silently judging the scowl they think they always see or the color of my eyes, my curved horn. They think I’m evil just because of how I look and don’t give me a chance. That is why I hide my face Flax, so they can only judge the fact that I hide my identity.”

“That’s deep,” said Wheat as he finished hammering the beam in place. “So you travel a lot then?”

“I want to find someplace where I can do some good. That place. Ponyville right? That sounds like a good start doesn’t it?”

“I don’t think you can hide your face for long if you go there,” said Flax Seed. “I’ve heard that strange things come and go through Ponyville and you’ll look really suspicious. It might be better if you try a less populated location.”

“No, it sounds like a good place to start. Yesterday Minty told me that most of the trains go through Ponyville anyways so that makes it easier to find a different location if I don’t fit in there.”

“Sounds like a good plan,” added Wheat Grass as he came down his ladder. “I know you think so too Flax so don’t worry. Anyways, I think you’ve more than earned enough to get you wherever you want to go Onyx. How about you let the roof down so we can see if it’ll hold.”

Gently, Sombra lowered the roof, silently hoping that they wouldn’t have to put it all together again. As Wheat Grass and Flax Seed joined him, the roof finally rested on its supports and remained in place. “I would like to say that this looks like a job well done you two.” Sombra stepped away and turned to face them. “Flax Seed, Wheat Grass, this has been a very enlightening experience. If I stay there then feel free to look me up next time you find yourselves in Ponyville alright?”

Flax Seed hurried upstairs and retrieved a satchel of bits. “I found this when I was cleaning,” she said after setting it next to Sombra. “Bits like that will get you a ways and with our help you might be able to go all over Equestria. Well, as long as you eat sparingly and take the train the long way to some places.” She went outside and quickly returned with a pair of saddlebags, which also jingled with the sound of coins. “For services rendered and so you aren’t lugging a big bag everywhere.”

Sombra nodded as he rested the saddlebags over his cloak and added his previous earnings to them. “I mean it, feel free to look me up if you find out I’m in Ponyville. If not, then I might see you somewhere else sometime. If that happens at least talk to me for a while.” He calmly left the two without another word. He did something good for somepony else and it felt good.

It felt like only an instant before he found himself at the train station, paying for a one-way ticket to a town he was more than eager to visit. As they say, curiosity killed the cat. I should be thankful I am no such animal…

4 - The Hoof Fate Deals

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Though his train ran late into the night, Sombra had convinced himself that such a trip would take far less time than it was actually taking. To think I expected a reasonable timeframe, he thought as he paced along the aisle of the caboose. He may as well have taken the car for himself, not due to any desire to be alone, rather the lack of riders caused him to remain in a state of solitude. Two hours indeed, have they chosen the longest way on purpose? Perhaps the faint moonlight is the problem. No, I could see the lights at the front and the pace has been fast and steady. Then the intent is… yes, that would explain it. No sense in arriving so quickly if it would be near the witching hour. Travelers such as myself would remain without lodging and perhaps other dangers that lurk in the shadows for all…

As Sombra’s thoughts trailed off he made his way to the window and ignited his horn, casting a beam of light along the passing landscape. His eyes drifted from the spot where the light met the ground occasionally as he evaluated the situation. “Too steady for a winding trail as Minty said it would be and the change in elevation would shift the beam more if the descent was steeper than it is. Based on the difference in elevation, Ponyville must lie in this plain. If I remembered Equestria properly then I would not require such trivial guesswork. I should be able to estimate its location but time,” he sighed, “time appears to be my enemy tonight.”

Sombra dismissed the light from his horn, pausing shortly after the fact. Odd. Why am I met with silence? Surely the creature would stir from the prolonged magic but it remains silent. Perhaps it requires food and is suffering because I’ve yet to eat. A smile drifted across Sombra’s face. Serves it right. With a yawn, Sombra found a comfortable bench, adjusted his hood, and went to sleep.


Even if he wanted to, sleep continued to prove fruitless for the former king as the sun began to rise. A dreamless sleep once or twice was acceptable, even the inability to recall dreams would suffice but it had begun to wear on Sombra’s patience.

“Any further nights like that will prove far less welcoming,” he mumbled. “I wish I understood it but it makes no sense. Anxiety would keep me awake or provide nightmares,” Sombra winced, “not to mention attracting unwanted attention.” He knew of creatures that interfered with dreams, but he always had suspicions on the topic regarding any more direct influence. “It’s just blank, it doesn’t add up.”

The car’s door opened and the conductor leaned in. “Ponyville in thirty minutes,” she said. “Getting off there looking like that might not be the best idea. Folks there aren’t very welcoming towards secretive ponies.”

Sombra looked at the mare, sure that his face was still hidden. “Perhaps it might be best if I clean up a little as opposed to removing my cloak entirely. You seem familiar with the place madam, could you please tell me if there’s a place where I can get my horn done and my mane well attended to?”

“There’s a place in town, but it doesn’t sound like your kind of place. You stallions don’t often like those girly spas and such.”

“How skilled would you say their masseuse is?”

“Oh Aloe is one of the best I know. She and her sister don’t normally cater to stallions but I’ve seen ‘em in there before.”

“Should I be looking for anything in particular while I try to find their spa then?”

“It’s right there on the main road, take a left when you get out of the station and head a few blocks. Look for the building with the sweeping roof on your right and that should be it. Reach the castle and you’ve gone too far.”

Sombra didn’t reply, he found himself speechless. Of all the towns in Equestria I had to pick the one with a castle, he thought.

“Something wrong sir?”

Sombra shook his head. “I’m sorry, I’m not exactly used to being around civilization that often. How long has this castle been there?”

“You haven’t heard? Princess Twilight has lived in Ponyville for the past few years. Wasn’t always a princess though, but she became one and the envy of mares all over Equestria because of it. If you’ll excuse me, I should get back to my duties.”

Sombra smiled. “Thank you for taking the time to help me. You really didn’t have to.”

“Well I thought it best you knew before you got off the train. Best make sure you keep your hooves clean, I’ve heard the princess packs quite the punch.”

“They often do,” Sombra mumbled as the conductor left the car. “I doubt this one would be any less than them in terms of raw power,” he added bitterly.


Caution, Sombra reminded himself as he departed from the train. No need to spook the ponies. Thinking it was one thing, but the stares and quickly clearing station was something else altogether. It’s almost as if I called them serfs. After heaving a sigh and making a quick adjustment to his cloak, Sombra made his way through the vacant station and onto the main street of Ponyville. Looking to his left he saw a large crystalline castle held up by a more obviously crystaline tree. Only the hoof of Fate would cast its shadow over me so blatantly, he thought as it completely sunk in that there was a castle in a place everyone called a town.

With a little reluctance, the former king proceeded down the road leading towards the castle. Block after block was the same thing to Sombra: thatched roof buildings and busy ponies going about their lives. The occasional odd look from a pony didn’t bother him, nor did the hurried gallop of a purple earth pony crossing the street.

“Let’s see, sweeping roof on my right,” Sombra mumbled as he did his best to focus on that one direction. After a near collision with a mailmare and nearly knocking over a flower stand, the shrouded unicorn found the roof in question, though the large sign that said ‘Ponyville Spa’ in elegant golden letters was far more obvious. “Most stallions in their right mind wouldn’t but,” he carefully plied his magic and slipped inside as a smirk grew on his face, I am not most stallions…


“Ah, welcome to the Ponyville Spa,” said a very cheerful pastel blue mare from behind the counter. “I take it you did not want your friends to see you being pampered sir?”

Sombra’s smirk twisted into a polite smile. “Actually I’m new in town and I was hoping to make a good impression. The conductor of my train suggested I visit.” While he was sure he remained concealed one thought crossed his mind: he would have to remove his hood and show it to some unknown pony so soon after travelling.

“Ah, well I’m sure that either my sister or I can help you in that department. May I ask for your name?”

Sombra removed his hood and did his best to remain pleasant. “I know it’s an old fashioned one, but my name is Lamentius. Lamentius Amore.” Closer Sombra, not completely but this is progress.

“Well then Mr. Amore, follow me and we can get started right away. Is money much of a concern?”

“Well that all depends on the rate miss…?”

“Lotus, and please, the pleasure is all mine Mr. Amore. I can already tell you need your horn taken care of and that mane of yours is out of control. Still, you seem quite statuesque, like one of those nobles up in Canterlot. No offense.”

The edge of Sombra’s mouth twitched at the mention of nobles. You are no longer one of those ponies, he hastily thought as he recovered. “None taken Miss Lotus, but I suppose you could say that the northern winds carved that statuesque look you seem to see.”

No you idiot, he mentally commented, you should be more humble than that!

“Like a beautiful gemstone that just needs some care,” Lotus said with a sigh before leading Sombra into the spa proper. “We’ll get that shine back and you’ll feel like a new stallion.”

Sombra looked away as his face flushed. “Well, I wouldn’t want you to go out of the way on my account.”

“Aloe, we have a cute one!”

“I’m tending to Miss Rarity,” called a voice from a different room.

“Come and see him Aloe,” Lotus whined as she went towards the sound of the other mare’s voice. “Oh let me take over, go and set the dear stallion up. We shouldn’t let his looks go to waste.”

The hurried sound of hooves was followed by an eager voice. “So he’s—”

Lotus pulled a pink mare into Sombra’s view. “He needs a little work but yes, I’m almost certain. Mr. Amore, this is Aloe and she’ll get everything started.”

Aloe leaned back out of Sombra’s sight. “I’m sorry Miss Rarity, but this is something that needs my expertise.” As quickly as she turned around to apologize, Aloe had returned to the fallen tyrant’s view. “Lotus, can you please take care of the rest?”

“Don’t take too long,” Lotus said before leaning in close to Aloe, “he’s cautious about his bits. Just remember, a modest price.”

Aloe nodded and happily took over leading a very embarrassed Sombra away.

5 - The Wild Card

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This is insulting, thought Sombra as Aloe filed the point of his horn in an attempt to dull and round it. My pride will have to endure this… this humiliation.

“I’m sorry,” said Aloe as she stopped her work. “Don’t tell me you aren’t put off by this. I’ve seen your eyes twitching in the mirror as I work.”

“My pride will have to endure,” he told the spa pony. “A traveler like me needs to accept it as something fitting for prolonged social situations. Will I need to visit for it again?”

“I’m sorry.”

“Please, I can understand this sort of thing. In my mind it makes sense, but my pride hates it. It finds this to be a grave insult, but I know that my pride has brought me many hardships. Each was more painful than the last so my pride cannot be something either of us should regret wounding.”

“Good, now just relax and I’ll finish sooner. Your twitching has been more of a distraction, like—”

“I was in pain yes?”

Aloe simply nodded as she took the file once more in her mouth and went to work.

As minutes turned to hours, Sombra found himself relaxing more and more. It wasn’t until he gave a contented sigh in the spa’s hot tub that a voice other than either spa pony’s registered in his ears.

“So you do have a new stallion customer,” said the voice.

“He is a little rough around the edges,” came Aloe’s voice in a reply, “but he does seem to be exactly what we’ve been looking for.”

Sombra slowly opened one of his eyes and saw a white coated unicorn being tended to by both earth ponies. A white unicorn with a purple mane and tail, he thought as he slowly sunk lower in the water, I swear I’ve seen that before. Could she… no, that’s quite silly. The odds are just too low if that’s the case. But if so then that could be a problem.

“Not romantically I take it.”

“No, but he is quite handsome for a traveler. From his grey coat to his long, flowing mane, he seems almost too perfect. With that strong jawline and immaculate posture, well, do you think the princess might enjoy his company? Even if it’s just for appearances, I think they would make a lovely couple.”

“Well Twilight does seem a little out of it since she had that one letter but I don’t think some random pony would be the right thing to introduce her to, especially if he’s just that radiant.”

So, not every tradition has perished in this age, thought Sombra as he sunk further under the water, making sure his ears remained above the surface so he could continue to eavesdrop. How wrong he knew what he was doing seemed a moot point, it was a source of information and that was more than welcome enough to suppress his guilt.

“Anyways, has Pinkie been through for her usual mane fluffing routine?”

“No,” replied Aloe, “but she was in yesterday with Miss Valley.”

“Discussing Roseluck’s party no doubt.”

“Yes. They talked for a while, but you know Miss Pie better than me and how fast she can talk.”

“Oh dear, do you think Lilly was keeping up with her?”

“Perhaps as much as anypony can, but they talked for the entire visit so perhaps she did the unlikely and followed everything. Do you think you need anything else Miss Rarity?”

“I suppose not, go and see to your find. Please, treat him to a massage on me. He is what you wanted in a stallion customer correct?”

“Lotus already took care of his massage, but I will bill you for it if you really want to offer.”

Sombra rose again, the random act of kindness perplexed him more than the conditions he still couldn’t understand.

“I suppose you should, you know how much I understand the need for perfection.”

“And we do appreciate your advertising in Canterlot so much. Did you hear, both Princess Celestia and Princess Luna booked an appointment with us next month? There are many fine spas in Canterlot, but they want to come to Ponyville.”

Sombra’s eyes widened as he surfaced. That sounds like my cue to get out of town. Well I would have a month but… no, leaving tonight would be better. Nothing to tie me down. No regrets when I’m on the other side of… perhaps the world would suffice. Playing by Fate’s design is one thing but crossing their paths is something far more foolish. Encountering a mare scorned is too risky and I doubt I would last more than one or two seconds. Last time… last time fared better but I had little to lose by then. There’s too much at stake for another last stand and I doubt either of them will be as merciful as before.

As he watched the unicorn leave, Sombra sighed. The memories of his conflict with the sisters rose to his mind as if they happened yesterday. All the mistakes, all the horrible things he did, all the sacrifices laid bare in his mind all over again.

“Are you feeling well Mr. Amore,” asked Lotus, causing him to jump. “You’re crying.”

Sombra looked at Lotus as he rubbed his eyes. “I’m sorry, just a few bad memories is all. It’s not that important.” I never knew so much pain would still haunt me, he mentally noted.

“But you’ve said next to nothing since your session began, are you sure you’re alright?”

He nodded as he got out of the tub, a soft smile returning to his face. “It will pass but I don’t like dwelling on it. I would rather drop this line of conversation please.”

“Then consider it dropped. After Aloe is done ringing Miss Rarity up she’ll do something with your mane.”

“And not my tail? Should it have any work as well?”

Lotus paced around him with a curious look on her face. “No, I think it looks fine but I’d rather leave it to the mare who does a better job. No offense, but she does have a better feel for stallions.”

Sombra smiled. “Perhaps a towel then?”

Lotus giggled as she offered him a towel. “Are you embarrassed?”

“Only by your ogling Lotus,” he replied as he dried himself off. His smile only broadened as he saw the blue earth pony’s face flush.


After tending to his bill and returning to his cloak, Sombra returned to the main road of Ponyville. He was pleased with more than the attention his mane certainly needed. The damage his pride suffered felt pointless as long as any degree of questioning for a razor sharp horn as distinctive as his own curved one had diminished. He strolled around Ponyville with his hood down, taking in the sights but maintaining a certain distance from the castle that never seemed to vanish from his sight.

I don’t want to but, Sombra shook the thought from his mind as he paid for a large bag of dried apple slices. They would contact her if they were watching me.

“Don’ mean to intrude on yer thinking,” said an orange pony behind the counter of the stall, “but yer holdin’ up the line.”

Sombra looked over his shoulder and moved away with a smile. “My apologies miss—”

“Applejack, now if you’ll excuse me I have orders to fill.”

Sombra idly nodded as he slipped the dried fruit into his saddlebags and continued along his way. ‘Applejack,’ well I suppose that clan has spread like weeds after all.


As day slowly turned to night, Sombra’s mind returned to the eventual arrival of the last pony he wanted to see. The train station was far different than the last time he was there, even as he was adjusting his hood once more.

“Where to,” asked a mare who drew his attention. She was an earth pony that was pink from mane to tail but perhaps the more curious notion that came to Sombra’s mind was that he wasn’t in line and she was asking as though he was.

“How far south does the rail go?”

“Just to the border and it continues after a checkpoint at the border. Planning to leave Equestria?”

“I realized that, regardless of where I travel, I may not find myself welcome in these lands. How much is a one-way trip?”

“I won’t lie, you seem to be pretty hard on yourself but it’ll run you fifty bits and you’ll need to wait for tomorrow.”

“What interest is it to you,” he snapped.

She smiled and moved to wrap a leg around his neck. “Because you need a place to stay for the night and I could use the company. I mean, it gets so lonely when I don’t have company and it’s supposed to be really cold tonight.”

Sombra rolled his eyes. “The cold doesn’t bother me. It never has.”

“You also seem too down in the dumps to go off somewhere you don’t even know. Maybe if you had a friend you wouldn’t feel so down. If not, then someone to see you off might be nice. Whaddaya say, want to stay at my place tonight? I can see you off in the morning and hopefully you can leave in better spirits.”

The former king chanced a better look at her. If one added make-up and a checkered costume, he thought, she could easily pass for that jester I saw in the Empire. If that is the case then my earlier suspicions would make more sense but- there’s just no way.

“I doubt I can talk you out of it so I may as well,” Sombra replied with a sigh.

As she dragged him along in silence the unicorn’s mind was racing. If she was the jester then the smile on her face told to me that she was blissfully unaware of who I was. Perhaps even what I’d done. I doubted it would last once my hood was removed.


“So where are you from,” she asked as she led him to a house on the corner of a fork in the road.

“The north,” he replied. “So far that I barely saw the sun all year.”

“I’ve never been that far north before. Is it further than the Crystal Empire?” She bounded ahead towards the house on the wedge and fumbled with the lock.

“I’ve spent time in the Empire yes, though I travelled further north after each visit.”

The pink mare continued to fumble with the lock as Sombra joined her at the door. With a brief application of magic, he turned the key and opened the door, gesturing for her to enter first.

“Thanks,” she replied with a smile as she bounded indoors.

Sombra hesitated as he took his first step through the threshold of her home. It was a very nostalgic sensation to the unicorn, an unsettling boldness that he had believed to no longer possess. “Have you… have you been to the Empire?”

“I was there when it was being attacked by this scary smoke-pony thing and a couple of other times since then. Did you hear about that smoke-pony thing last time you were there or about the Equestria Games? I was there for that too.”

“Well, I-”

“Come to think of it, can you tell me your name? I better know it before I see you off.”

The Hoof of Fate indeed, Sombra mused. “If I tell you, will you promise me that you can remain calm? I… Well… Let’s just say that I’m not used to a warm reception when anypony hears it.”

“I promise that I can try.” She looked at his obscured face with some confusion. “It isn’t something bad is it?”

“Not when I was born,” he hesitated but fought through it and revealed his face. “It was only later in my life that Sombra Lamentius Amore became synonymous with evil.” After a very brief silence, the mare fell over stiff as a board. A smile came to Sombra’s face as he witnessed the strange action. “You are far more receptive than I anticipated for a pony witnessing the aftermath of my exile. If memory serves, it was in a jester’s costume no less. Quite remarkable.”

“Um,” she said through clenched teeth after a few minutes, “I think my legs are stuck. Can you help me?”

With a careful application of magic, he enveloped the pink pony and stood her upright. “I can certainly try, I’m just going to help your legs relax so try to remain calm.” Sombra waited for her to manage some sort of reply before he leaned in and began to massage her forelegs. “I have no intention to cause problems, though I would wager that the resident of the nearby castle will consider me a threat once word reaches them.”

“Twilight probably thinks you’re a bad pony.”

He paused, noting that this would be far more challenging than he expected. “I cannot deny that I have a very unsavory reputation, but I have had many problems in my life. I would assume that my history was not recorded in its entirety so I would expect that if it was recorded at all, the alicorns would have done so.”

She lifted one of her forelegs and shook it around over his head as he moved on to one of her other legs. “You don’t like Princess Celestia or Princess Luna much do you?”

“Does a fly admire the hoof swatting it? Dislike is not the word to use for my opinion.” Sombra knew that his eye twitched in irritation despite any attempt to restrain it. “My apologies, I know they govern Equestria and you undoubtedly respect them. My feelings should not paint them in a different light to you.”

“It’s okay,” she said with an unbridled eagerness that caused him to pause in shock. “Did you fight them? Was it hard? I mean, I know you lost if you did, but was it harder than what you thought?”

“Imagine that you were still just a foal. Try to remember what it was like before,” he struggled to find a proper analogy for the earth pony, “before your cutiemark had arrived. Now imagine that you had to confront the most powerful beings you have ever encountered with only the uncertainty you had in your own future. That was how paltry I felt when I lost. When they approached the Empire I was so full of myself and the would-be army I managed to scrape together that I foolishly believed we stood a chance. After all, it was just the two of them,” He couldn’t help but chuckle. “Sorry, I remembered how ridiculous it all seemed.”

“It’s ok, what happened next?”

“Well, I had a very crude army of two hundred ponies and I have no doubt that very army considered it lunacy. They wore the armor, had the weapons, and were trained as best as I could manage, so I called them an army like any naïve noble with an armed force. The sisters ignored them and we clashed in a battle of magic. Two against one were odds I thought I could handle, but my arrogance became my downfall. The rage in Celestia’s eyes was like a funeral pyre and I saw only a distant coldness from Luna as they irrevocably changed my view of them.

“When the dust cleared I was broken, cast to a mist and frozen in ice. From my would-be tomb I saw no empire where once it stood and the sisters withdrawing. I reflected on the loss when I could, though my anger had often risen as the years wore on. Alone with myself in an unyielding tundra, aware of everything and without the ability to do anything. I think the phrase is ‘cabin fever’ for what came next and insanity was not far behind it.”

“And that’s why you don’t like them?”

“No, my disdain is a story I have no interest in sharing. I may in time, but today is not that time.”

“So you were angry at everything when you got free?”

“I was furious, but the rage I felt was enhanced with the knowledge that I was free. Looking back at my additional defeat I could see I was more than rage. I had truly gone insane and that rage only made things worse. What the Crystal Heart did to me. What it really did to me. It allowed me to see just what I had become once more. My anger was stripped from the surface of my mind and I felt the haze of madness clear but I was once more broken. In time I managed to take shape once more, but I was not confined like during my previous defeat. After months spent simply attempting to remain solid I decided to find a way to make peace with my mistakes. Since rage no longer clouded my thoughts at all times, I wanted to give back to the world somehow. I know not how, but I thought of that to be the best means of making amends.”

“Did you know there was a castle here?”

He shook his head. “I only decided to take the train here from what I learned during a brief time Trottingham. Selecting a town was my attempt to distance myself from a princess, but it seems the Hoof of Fate had other plans. I merely heaved a sigh and accepted that what money I earned could not permit me to escape an encounter with an alicorn. If I chose to find a different locale then word would reach one in time or a chance encounter would be made. With nothing but failure in my mind I decided that if Fate wished it, then who was I to deny it?”

She cringed. “You don’t think it’ll go well do you?”

Sombra nodded. “I think that by leaving Equestria, I can escape any further encounters with alicorns. I will walk to the border if I must.”

“Wouldn’t you starve before you got there?”

“I cannot say for sure if I would. I don’t feel things like thirst or starvation anymore. I currently think it stems from my fractured existence but time may be what I require to solve that puzzle.”

“Well beating yourself up too much will really stop you from doing anything else. So you made a bunch of mistakes, but I know somepony else who made a ton of mistakes and he’s not beating himself up over them anymore.” The pink mare wrapped her foreleg around his neck, the other stretched out before them. “Trust me, I’ll take you to see him and I’m sure between you, me, and him, we can come up with something you can do.”

Her attitude is quite infectious, Sombra thought as a broad grin began to grow on his face, even more than how genuine it is.

“I’ve never met anypony like you… uh…”

“Pinkie Pie,” she said cheerfully.

“Thank you Miss Pie.”

She shook her head. “Just ‘Pinkie’ ok… um, can you tell me the rest again Sombra?”

He laughed, but whatever he found funny was lost on Pinkie. “Sombra is more than enough Pinkie. I would rather my full name used in a formal sense. Hating them would be no excuse to at least state my full name when in their presence. Ancient formalities would entail that all need to maintain a certain decorum between royal houses. Rulers are to be spoken to with the respect of their stations and I must admit that such standards are things I was raised to maintain.”

“Um, what does that mean in regular everyday Equestrian?”

Sombra cleared his throat as he did his best to try to explain ancient customs in simpler words. “It means that, should I have to confront your rulers, we have to follow rules that were established long ago to know more about each other.”

“But you already know each other right?”

“It is a tradition from a time when I was young, from a very long time ago and if they follow those rules then I will follow them. If they don’t then I will do my best to learn how nobles of your era act.”

“So you mean like how to act like an uptight party pooper?”

He shook his head. “That is not my thought on the subject, but perhaps that is how you would see it. You had requested your ‘regular everyday Equestrian’ translation and I have done my best to comply. Translating such a thing is difficult due to the length of time that I have been entombed. Is it enough for you?”

Pinkie paused, her hoof pressed to her chin in thought. “I think so, but if I have any questions can I ask?”

“Of course. I will try to translate so you can understand, but I cannot promise that at all times.”

Translating ancient concepts to this pony, the mere thought caused Sombra’s blood to boil. Such is the price of progress. I need to accept this concept in order to forge a life in this era.

6 - Pinkie Pie: The Extra Special Day!

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Work and play make for a regular day in Ponyville when your name is Pinkie Pie. Well, I suppose there are other ponies who do both work and play regularly but I’m the one who goes by Pinkie Pie and nopony else can match me at work and play.

Anyways, today was just like any other day. I watched Pound and Pumpkin in the morning, hung out with Dashie and Fluttershy between eleven and two, I worked at Sugarcube Corner from two fifteen till five thirty, and then it stopped being a normal day. It became an extra special day!

So there I was, going home after a quick party planning session with Lilly for Rose’s birthday next week when I saw this pony at the train station. I’d say it was around seven thirty or so. Even though they wore a cloak with a hood, I knew it was a pony. What made it extra special was that meant they were new and that means they could be a new friend to everypony!

Well, little did I know then who it was under that cloak. Come to think about it, he wasn’t quite what I remember back then. See, I brought him back to my place so he could spend the night somewhere other than some silly park bench on a chilly autumn night. After I asked him his name he made me promise not to scream and I did as I promised. When the hood went down I stood before nopony else but that king of all meanies: Sombra.

Well, I thought he was a meanie, but he talked a bit after I went stiff while trying to keep my promise by not screaming and I found him to be an ok pony. He was probably a little misguided way back then, but I think he’s pretty sincere about stuff, even if I don’t really know all of what he was talking about. I’m not some poly… um… poly… uh… truth telling thing so it’s just a hunch but I’m more than sure he meant every word. Even a simple, fun-loving pony like me saw the power he has, even if he doesn’t want to show it.

I said we can talk to Discord tomorrow and I know he’ll be in Ponyville because I asked him to, but I just don’t want them to have a bad first impression. If they start fighting then Twilight will know Sombra’s here and she’ll tell Princess Celestia and probably Princess Cadance for good measure. I mean duh, Crystal Heart and everything last time anypony ran into him being all evil and stuff.

How Sombra feels about Princess Celestia tells me that’s the biggest thing that I can’t let happen. I mean, the way he talked about facing Princess Celestia and Princess Luna a long time ago would make anypony know better than to have Princess Celestia know he survived everything. She might actually kill Sombra before he can do any good with his life like he’s some evil monster that can just get back up whenever he’s beaten.

I know Twilight’s got her own problems anyways and she’ll do more than call on Princess Celestia, she’ll find out who knew he was in town and I don’t wanna make her mad. I don’t like it when Twilight’s mad. It gets all cold and dark and before you know it, it’s hotter than a cloudless day in the middle of summer back on the rock farm and you’re dressed for the coldest night in winter.

On the other hoof, if I can get her to accept him in town then she might solve one of her problems. Under that frownie face and those creepy red eyes I get this feeling that he’s really kind and he might be just what she’s looking for in an extra special friend! I might not be a matchthingy but my whip cracking tail and rocket sneeze hasn’t lied to me yet.

7 - Why Statues and Icicles Don't Mix

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The light of the morning was far from the only thing that stirred Pinkie Pie from her morning routine. I smell a something down there, she thought as she fumbled out from under the sheets of her bed. “Cinnamon, buttermilk, and,” she inhaled deeply, “something new? I wonder what he’s up to down there.” The smell continued to rouse the groggy earth pony downstairs and towards her kitchen. “What’s cookin’ Sombra?”

“A long time ago I made these for a pony who later grew cold towards me,” echoed his voice. “The least I can do before I go is treat somepony to them. I enjoy the memory while it was good, but a hoof in the right direction before the kindness is lost is wise yes?”

Pinkie smiled as she entered her kitchen, seeing her company making a large mountain of pancakes. “I guess, but you still wanna leave? I mean you remember that I said I knew someone who isn’t all down like you were?”

“I heard yesterday that the mare who grew cold toward me will be travelling here. I don’t intend to remain when she arrives.”

“Princess Celestia’s coming to Ponyville? Didja hear why she’s coming?”

“Some sort of spa treatment with her sister. Despite her sister’s fury, I never seemed to evoke much of Luna’s ire. Perhaps it was because of our friendly attitude towards one another and not the rage of a lover under the impression that she was neglected.”

Whatever Pinkie expected to hear was clearly not what was so idly mentioned. “So you and Princess Celestia were–”

“Intimate? It was a very long time ago and I was more of a suitor. There were several stallions, each vying for her hoof for their own reasons. I’m sure it needs not be repeated, but it was a different time. There were many who would trade their lives for a chance to gain more than a pleasant smile from her. I had so much more than they could dream of, even if most seemed to be of her ill will.”


“Why good morning Pinkie,” called Discord from the front hall. “How are you this fine da–”

The smell coming from the kitchen gave him pause as he took it in. “Are those cinnamon and magic pancakes I smell?”

Sombra leered at Pinkie as she continued to devour her pancakes. “Please tell me that’s your associate,” he muttered as his own stack remain untouched.

Pinkie nodded to her unicorn guest. “I’m in the kitchen,” she called out before turning to face Sombra. “Now there’s no need to be alarmed. I invited–”

“Discord,” Sombra interrupted as his brow knitted.

“I take it you’re out on good behavior,” interjected the draconiquus as his gaze locked with Sombra’s. “From what I understand you were nothing more than a popsicle.”

“And last I saw, you were still a garden accessory.”

I’m reformed which is more than I can say about you and your foul temper.”

“Well, I know the stories; heard them from Celestia herself back in the day.” The irritation Sombra felt towards Discord only seemed to increase when he said the princess’s name. “If you’re reformed then I’m the king of the world.”

“Well then why are you here your majesty,” Discord asked sarcastically as a heavy gold crown appeared on Sombra’s head courtesy of a snap of his fingers. “Here to talk to the common pony about their lot in life?”

The unicorn dismissed the conjured crown from his head effortlessly and took a deep breath. “So tell me Pinkie, what is it you expect me to learn from this statue?”

“For starters, if you don’t have anything nice to say about somepony then you shouldn’t say anything at all,” she quickly replied.

“Well, he was a rather nice decoration way back then. Never a speck of dust to be seen and very well maintained. Yes, he was indeed quite the conversation starter, but a very good looking one.”

“I hardly see how that’s nice,” replied Discord as he turned his face away from both ponies.

“Well I could be rude and insensitive towards you, but I hardly see the point in poking the proverbial dragon. I learned from my past failure and know I can do better but I can only guess that you went back to business as soon as you were free.”

“Oh that is such a lie.” Discord vanished and reappeared besides Pinkie. “Pinkie, you can back me up right?”

Pinkie glared at Discord. “He stuffed me and my friends in a maze and made us all mean to each other.”

“Well I–”

Then he did whatever he could get away with when we first tried to reform him.”

“Now see here!”

Sombra mirrored Pinkie’s glare. “So why aren’t you still a lawn ornament Discord? It sounds to me like you have yet to learn a lesson about doing whatever you want.”

“Oh but I did.”

“It just took you time. Enough for you to recede into your old ways with a magic devouring monster perhaps?”

Discord scowled at the former ruler. “And what would you know of that?”

Pinkie turned her suspicious glare towards Sombra shortly after the question was spoken.

“My first stop on my way here brought me enough information to place together with your arrival here. The ponies of Trottingham are quite industrious for a small village in the northern woods. One particular mare told me about a creature that came through Equestria devouring magic and a second which seemed to do nothing. My guess is that she was generous and speaking by compare.”

Discord’s scowl slowly faded. “So I expect you are a changed stallion and I can go on my merry way, off to tell Celestia that you’ve returned. Nothing to fear from the dark and brooding smoke unicorn.”

“I don’t do that anymore,” replied Sombra curtly. “Now relax and have a few pancakes before we continue with our respective tantrums.”

Much to the surprise of everyone in the kitchen, the remainder of breakfast was relatively uneventful. The occasional attempt to get Sombra to either open up again or reveal why he came to Ponyville was often met with stern silence from the unflinching unicorn.


“So what are your suggestions Pinkie,” asked Sombra after breakfast was finished and plates were cleaned.

Pinkie looked to Discord, who turned his nose up at the idea, then back to Sombra. “Lesson two is an easy one: introduce yourself to other ponies. I can’t stress the importance about being honest about the bad you’ve done. Not everypony will see you want to be a better pony but it won’t hurt to prove you’re honest about trying. Discord didn’t have to because he hit Ponyville hard when we first encountered him so most ponies around here knew what he was capable of.”

“I have been trying to be more honest about who I am so it can’t be too hard can it?”

“Oh you have no idea,” replied Discord as he turned to shoot a look of disgust at the unicorn. “To feel so small, it’s insulting really. And the aftermath, don’t even get me started. With a rap sheet like yours, they’ll want you gone before the sun sets.”

Rap sheet, thought Sombra as he tilted his head in confusion.

“He means all the bad things you’ve done,” whispered Pinkie. “I think you’ll be fine though.”

“Do you think I should begin with ponies I’ve already spoken to,” Sombra asked the pink mare loud enough for Discord to hear him.

“It wouldn’t hurt.”

“What about if word reaches the resident of the castle? Such a thing may get you in trouble for harboring a criminal. Is she not a genuine concern in this scheme of yours?”

Discord looked Sombra in the eye with an almost concerned look on his face. “Well, if you want my opinion, I would find a few ponies who won’t spread it around. The fewer ponies who know, the lower the odds of Princess Twilight discovering you. It’s not that I care for your safety, I care about my friend getting in trouble.”

“And by extension the trouble that would find you Discord?”

“Well, I could try to deny it but we both know that won’t end well. You’ll have to get used to problems finding their way back to you if you really want to reform at all.”

“Because of this ‘rap sheet’ you spoke of? Could you not speak of my reputation like any creature with your degree of eloquence?”

“And lose Pinkie in the process? I shudder to think that you would rather we speak in less than a modern way.”


After a great deal of debate, and Discord vanishing in a fit of boredom, both ponies settled on risking coming clean with both spa ponies.

“Will this really work Pinkie,” asked Sombra as they took a roundabout route to the spa.

“I dunno. Oh, we take a left over here. Anyways, it’s just not something anypony can guess. Maybe they heard stories – it’s a right up here – but they might not have. You’re not exactly a pony you forget meeting so it all boils down to legends.”

“So, what did you know of the Empire on your first visit?”

“Absolutely nothing, but that doesn’t mean everypony hasn’t heard something from somewhere. Maybe some northern places had legends about the Empire or maybe there was some super-duper cover-up that Princess Celestia did.” Pinkie gasped. “I just got a crazy thought, what if she covered something up because of what you were to her?”

Sombra stopped dead in his tracks. “So she covered everything up because we were enemies or are you implying that our earlier relations were part of this conspiracy of yours?”

“I dunno, it could be but I’m just telling you what I’m thinking.” Pinkie jumped up on a nearby bench and made herself comfortable. “It’s right down that alley on your right and around the corner. I need to come up with some ideas so I’m counting on you to keep things calm.”

Sombra sighed. “Yes, remain calm, no magic, and most importantly, ignore the eerie voice should it rear its proverbial head.”


By the time Sombra had entered the spa, what confidence he mustered had faded. He realized how difficult this would be as his eyes gravitated to the counter and the pleasant mare behind it.

“Miss Aloe,” said Sombra nervously. “I uh – there’s something I need to say.”

The pink spa pony smiled at him cheerfully. “What can I do for you Mr. Amore? Back again for something else?”

“It – it isn’t that. I have something to admit and I’m not sure how to put it.” Sombra sighed as he tried to ignore her giggling. “I’m afraid I was not as truthful yesterday as I should have been to either you or your sister. My full name is Sombra Lamentius Amore. I was once the ruler of the Crystal Empire and it was not the brightest of chapters in the Empire’s history while under my rule.”

Aloe’s eyes widened as the gravity of his confession began to sink in. “So you were–”

“Once upon a time I was merely a stallion – a prince – yet still no more than a stallion. In time I was the herald of a dark chapter in Equestrian history.” He gulped as fear began to take root in his heart. “I was vain. I was cruel. I was a monster. Regardless of that, I still felt horrible lying to you and your sister. I just – I was afraid of what you would think were I honest.”

“I think you should leave.”

Sombra looked at her for only a moment longer before hanging his head. “Can you please promise me that you won’t tell anypony else?”


“Please, I’m trying to undo the damage I’ve done to my family’s good name and the last thing I want is to be denied that task. You don’t know what it’s like being the black stain on that lineage. To worry about any other who bears the name of my family. It hurts, as if my soul is ablaze from my sins.”

“Do you mind if I tell my sister?”

Sombra still didn’t look at the spa pony, even as he nodded. “I’m sorry for my lies Aloe. Be sure to tell Lotus that I wish I could apologize to her as well but I suppose I should leave before you change your mind. Thank you for putting up with me the other day.”

Aloe watched the crestfallen unicorn leave, feeling both hatred and pity for him only complicated her thoughts of keeping his secret.


Pinkie Pie waited for Sombra to stand near her from her bench two blocks away before saying anything. “No luck?”

The former king remained silent as he shook his head.

“Well, did you talk to anypony else?”

“I bought something from a member of the Apple clan after going there. As I recall, her name was Applejack. There was also a pony who decided to pay for my massage, a unicorn named–”

“I don’t think either of them is a good idea. Bad first impressions are really hard to fix. You sure Applejack didn’t notice who you were?”

“Would she?”

“She’s one of my friends who went to the Crystal Empire with me. The same is true with Rarity. I think that’s damage to fix another time don’t you?”

Sombra nodded. “Well then, can you tell me about the alicorn in the castle?”


8 - Back in the Spa...

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“Did I hear that right out there,” asked a cyan pegasus as she set her magazine down. “King Sombra’s in town?” Not once did she waver from batting away anypony wanting to tend to her.

“That certainly didn’t sound like him,” replied a small purple dragon with cucumber slices over his eyes.

“Do either of you plan to do anything premature,” harped a lavender alicorn before trying to relax and enjoy her massage.

“Well, no it’s just,” the pegasus scoffed, “look, even you have to admit it’s sketchy Twi. I mean, Discord is one thing, but we also had that time when Chrysalis captured Applebloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo and that time when we had to deal with an evil, supercharged Rarity. I just think it’s too convenient for some other evil creature to come into Ponyville as easily as anypony else.”

“Well, what should we do then? I mean he sounds like he can be reasoned with–”

“And what, ask him to leave? Twilight, I think you’ve got a screw loose or something. The guy enslaved an entire nation; you don’t just do that for kicks if you’ve got a level head.”

“I just think we don’t have the whole story. For all we know he did have a reason.”

The young dragon groaned. “He’s evil Twi, why would you care if he has some sort of tragic backstory? I mean, he might just make one up to get somepony to sympathize with him.”

Twilight shot him a glare. “So we should just run him out of town, is that what you’re saying Spike? One thousand years is a long time, what if he was aware of it?”

“About that, what happened a thousand years ago to cause all this stuff to happen? I mean there’s Nightmare Moon and Sombra, something big had to happen right?”

“Well we could ask him. Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather ask Princess Celestia or Princess Luna but I doubt they’d answer without wondering why we were curious. Also, I share your concerns but this is more of an opportunity to learn than a complication. If worse comes to worse we can just send a message to Princess Celestia while we work to contain things. What we need to know right now is why he’s here specifically and what he thinks he can do. I don’t think he planned to run into any of us when he arrived but he…”

Spike lifted a cucumber slice and looked at the mutually skeptical pegasus as the silence Twilight caused continued. Both of her friends knew better than to stop her train of thought, this was far too important to get lectured at for the next hour about interrupting ponies.

“It’s perfect,” said Twilight after a few more minutes of silence. “Spike, Rainbow, don’t you see? He didn’t know where to go. He knew to avoid the Empire, but there wasn’t much else. You know how ponies tend to gravitate towards Ponyville right? Well, somepony must have helped him along and led him here. It makes perfect sense, especially if it was a friend of a friend or something else like that. If he knew there was a castle here then there’s no way he would’ve come here. A castle would’ve meant, by what was probably established in that era, an alicorn lived there. I wonder if he knew about the Castle of the Two Sisters or how he would act if he knew Princess Celestia and Princess Luna were up in Canterlot.”

“Well, what if Discord lured him here believing it would be fun?”

“I wouldn’t call it fun again Rainbow Dash,” replied her chair as it took on the distinct misshapen pattern of the draconequus. “I don’t think unleashing a popsicle that insults me sounds very fun, do you?”

Rainbow Dash bolted out of her seat and landed near Spike the dragon. “Wait a sec, an insulting popsicle?”

Discord’s face appeared on the mismatched chair. “What, would you have preferred ‘ponysicle’?”

“I think she means why you called him that,” clarified Twilight.

“Well, much like the stories he heard about me, I’ve heard about him, his tyranny, and his fondness for stairs.”

“Twilight, can we add that to the things you want to ask him about,” added Spike. “I mean, all those stairs down from the throne room and all the stairs leading to the top of the castle, if that isn’t a sign that he has some issues then what is?”

“Fine,” replied Twilight, who had finally conceded to the fact that she would be out one massage. “Where can we find him Discord?”

The draconequus had yet to change from his chair-like appearance, only proving to be more unnerving as his clawed chair arm began to stroke the back cushion where his goatee looked stitched on. “He seems to be hanging onto every word Pinkie Pie says so I would try looking for her. She thinks she can help him just like Fluttershy helped me but I know better. Some stains don’t come out and his are the things nightmares are made of, or so I’ve heard.”

“No, you’re right, they don’t come out,” replied Twilight as she tried to avoid looking at Discord. “I can’t forgive his actions, but I want to know why he became what he was. There has to be a reason in there and I’m going to find out what it was.”

9 - What He Fears Most in Equestria

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Much to both Pinkie and Sombra’s displeasure, no pony seemed to want to or care to show any sign of friendship towards him. “Perhaps I should evade the name and reputation,” he suggested to the pink mare.

“But your name is important,” she quickly replied. “Try not using that reputation you’ve got on the next pony. How about,” she waved her hoof around, quickly moving it away from the path leading to Sweet Apple Acres, and irritatingly stopping in front of a nearby building. “Ok, try there.”

Sombra followed her hoof, and looked to the large building of pink, purple, blue, and white. “Are you sure? What is this place?”

“I think it might be better to be nice and don’t say anything about the name. Rarity might be better than most ponies if you wanna find an easier one of Twilight’s friends. If you’re lucky she won’t even be in and her sister will answer it. Sweetie Belle’s super easy going and less dramatic than Rarity. If Rarity does answer then try to use that princely charm. I mean there’s no way she’ll resist it.”

“But it looks as though somepony boarded up a carousel and called it a home.”

“That’s exactly what I mean. No comments like that and use that princely charm. Remember, you’re a pony of refined tastes. I mean, no telling her you’re a prince. She’ll ask lots of questions if you do so keep to the refined pony.”

“Any other ideas then Pinkie?”

“I really like your ‘no magic’ thing so keep that up too. Be polite and make sure you don’t tell her about who you are and where you’re from. She’ll try to get you to tell her but don’t. To her, you’re La – um Lama – help me out here.”


“Yes. That. You’re Lamentius and, if you can’t keep it secret tell her you’re from Canterlot.”

Sombra blinked. “Is that the name of the castle on yonder mountain?”

“Yes, but don’t tell her anything specific. She’s popular with some ponies up there so keep it vague. Um, say that you’re eager to see what her new designs are.”

“Alright,” Sombra said with a brief nod. “Where will you be so I can report?”

“I have to go to work now so you’ll be on your own for the rest of today. I’ll be back home late because I have a party to manage so wait for me to get back before coming in. Don’t lurk around my house later though, especially at night, no need to make anypony think you’re a stalker or thief or something. Keep up the no magic thing.”

Sombra nodded and the two parted ways. He felt like he was on eggshells as soon as he began to head towards the boutique.


Sombra found his courage as soon as he stood before the purple door. As he raised his hoof to knock, the door opened to reveal the very unicorn he saw yesterday as he hid in the spa.

“Can I help you,” asked the mare quickly.

Charm you idiot, he thought, use that thing that stole a princess’ heart. “I’d be quite beside myself if I came all this way and not speak of your new designs Miss Rarity. May I?” Sombra offered her a pleasant smile and his best attempt to return to the posture he once held.

Rarity’s eyelashes fluttered as she stared at him. “Oh while I’d love to, I’m afraid I must be going.”

“I also wish to thank you for your generosity yesterday,” Sombra added.

Much to Sombra’s surprise the white unicorn smiled and backed up. “Please do come in. I suppose my friends will understand if I run a little late. I never did catch your name.”

“That would be my fault Miss Rarity,” Sombra replied pleasantly. “My name is Lamentius.”

Rarity led him deeper into her boutique. “And where are you from Lamentius?”

“I am from Canterlot, though it pains me so to have yet to meet you. Your work and name are all I’ve known so I’m quite to finally meet the beauty who’s brilliance has taken the city by storm.”

Rarity blushed as his compliments continued. “Did you hear of the incident at my new branch?”

“I’m afraid not, I’ve been out of Canterlot for a while. Surely you were able to get things back in order.”

“Naturally dear Lamentius. I’m afraid many of my designs are for mares this season, but never fear, I have something for the elegant stallion on the go.”


Pinkie found her shift at Sugarcube Corner somewhat boring for once in her life. Thoughts of Sombra’s ability to charm his way into another pony’s good side occupied much of her downtime. At least, until she found herself before one of her many friends, one bearing a very upset expression: Twilight Sparkle.

“Where is he Pinkie,” the alicorn asked curtly.

“Where is who,” Pinkie replied with a cheerful grin.

“Where is King Sombra?”

“What makes you think King Sombra of all ponies would be in Ponyville?”

“According to Discord, he’s here and you know what he’s up to.”

Pinkie made a quick mental note to handle the ‘traitor’ in due time. “Don’t you think Discord could be lying to you?”

“I have reason to believe him this time so where is he? He isn’t behind the counter is he? What about in the kitchen? Perhaps hiding in your house?”

“Twilight, he’s trying to be nice, can’t you give him a chance? I mean it’s like everypony isn’t even trying and he’s even admitting he’s been evil. One pony even threw rocks at him today. It also took us forever to get the tomato out of his coat from another pony who yelled at him and said they never wanna see him again.”

“For good reason,” shouted Twilight. She quickly cleared her throat and calmed down. “I know your heart is in the right place but keeping an evil pony around is just asking for trouble.”

“And letting Discord do what he wants isn’t?”

“He actually shows signs of reformation, but Sombra? I don’t think there’s any going back from what he’s done.”

“Well I think he can change. He sounds like he want to change too.” Pinkie frowned. “Nopony is giving him a chance to show it and I just asked him to lie to Rarity a little while ago. I mean, he needs a friend other than me, even if they don’t know who he really is. A friend is something he really needs and his history with Princess Celestia isn’t helping anypony.”

Twilight had turned to leave, ready to head to Carousel Boutique, but she turned to look at Pinkie with concern. “What is his history with Princess Celestia?”

“Well, I don’t know all the details but he let it slip that they were in love long ago. At least they were to some kinda degree. Well, that and something caused them to drift apart but he didn’t say what it was. Also, that he wasn’t all there when he got loose, aware but stuck in ice.”

“That would make sense, but the Crystal Heart was locked away. Did he say why he did that?”

Pinkie shook her head. “He didn’t wanna talk a lot about the past and I don’t think it’s going to make a good impression to bring it up right away. I told him a little about you an–”

“He’s afraid of alicorns isn’t he? It makes sense if Princes Celestia and Princess Luna beat him. Was he afraid of the castle?”

Pinkie nodded. “He wanted to avoid going near it as much as possible so it makes sense. He said that a castle meant an alicorn lived here. I bet you’d scare him senseless if he was here back before Tirek.”

“I don’t think he’d be the only one.”


Sombra set his cup of tea down on its coaster. “Rarity, my dear, is that normal?” He tried to point towards her flank as politely as he could.

She followed his hinting and looked at the movement of her cutiemark. “I’m afraid I need to go Lamentius.”

“Do you mind if I clean things up? I don’t want to be a bad guest but–”

“No, no, I’ll take care of it when I get back.”

“Please, I can tell you’re in a hurry and I have little to do today.”

“Well,” Rarity rubbed her chin, “I suppose if you don’t mind housesitting until my sister comes home.”

Sombra looked at her with an alarmed expression. “You would trust me so easily? What if I were here merely to charm you then rob you blind?”

“Lamentius, charming as you are, I trust you to stay here and watch my home until my sister comes home. Now please, I do have something to attend to.”

As soon as Sombra heard the door close and lock, leaving him alone in the boutique, he smiled broadly. “She trusts me,” he said to the emptiness.

At least until she knows the truth, harped the voice in his head.

“Shut up,” Sombra hissed as he began to clean up after the small talk he enjoyed with the unicorn he now considered a friend. “Rarity trusts me, Pinkie has faith in me, yes I could ask for more but it will come in time. The difference between you and I is simple. I have found some peace and you remain a voice in my head that only fears this progress.”

As Sombra began to wash the dishes he and Rarity used, a knock on the door gave him pause.

“Rarity,” called a voice from the other side of the door. “Can we talk?”

Sombra idly flipped the lock’s latch with his magic, finding it far simpler to use when left alone. Magic invited ‘the voice’ but it was far easier to silence like this.

“It’s about your new guest,” called the voice after the door opened. “You need to know it’s King Sombra and… Rarity? Are you here?”

“To whom may I ask is inquiring about my person,” called Sombra from the kitchen.

“Somepony who you might not enjoy seeing,” replied the voice as it grew closer to the former king.

“I’m busy highness,” he replied. “These dishes need to be cleaned and I’d rather not face you.”

Twilight waited in the doorway. “I can understand why. Can you answer a few questions for me?” Even watching the supposed tyrant cleaning dishes couldn’t deter the alicorn from seeking the truth.

“If I feel comfortable then I will.” Sombra squinted his eyes and rubbed a stain on one of the teacups harder. He smiled as it faded and he dried it carefully. “You understand why I wish to avoid some things do you not?”

“It still hurts to talk about some topics right?”

“I also suspect you will not trust what I have to say in regards to certain things. Perhaps my closeness to your mentor would leave you skeptical. I doubt you would believe other topics due to their fanciful nature. Perhaps who was once my mentor would make your skin crawl?”

“I doubt it would.”

“No, what Pinkie has told me makes me consider that such a topic would be one better suited for a later date. Perhaps one that would be in favor of speaking to you face-to-face.”

Even Princess Luna wasn’t like this, thought Twilight. “Why are you so content to speak with me like this?”

“I still remember the fury I saw in her eyes and I have no doubt I would see that expression upon your face regardless of your attempts to disprove this notion. I fear you, not because of who you are. Rather, I fear you because of what you are. A thought has come to me if you care to think of my musing as well.”

“Only if you answer one thing for me. Why did you hide the Crystal Heart?”

“Would you trust any with an ancient artifact such as the Heart? More importantly, could you trust yourself?”

Twilight was silent, whatever she expected to hear was lost. In her head it made sense, but hearing it so brazenly spoken by a pony ignoring her seemed improbable.

“I still wonder why the sisters did not confront me and instead sent others to contend with a foe they defeated easily before. Any thoughts?”

“Well, Princess Celestia wanted to test my magical abilities so naturally she sent me in her stead.”

“And so many other ponies in place of her sister? Can you be so sure that she thought more of you than her own abilities?”

Twilight’s eyes darted back and forth as her mind raced. “She couldn’t bear to see you again,” she hurriedly replied.

Sombra turned to look at her, a broad, toothy grin on his muzzle. “Exactly my dear princess. As unnerving as it would be for me, so too would it be for her.” Getting his point across managed to keep him composed enough to ignore the fact that he was looking at an alicorn.


Meanwhile in the castle…

“What in Equestria does this mean,” mused Rarity. Just moments ago she witnessed her cutiemark travel across the map to the Crystal Empire, only to return to Ponyville and turn black. “I should ask Twilight if she has any ideas…”

10 - Lifelines

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As the minor victory faded from Sombra’s mind, his brain managed to remember what he was looking at. A sense of dread began to swell as he began to shake. “Please leave,” he said quickly.

“But can’t we–”

“Go,” he shouted before covering his mouth. What color could be found against his charcoal fur was quickly fading.

I’ve seen this before, thought Twilight as she backed away slowly. He’s relapsing into his fears like Fluttershy. With magical assistance, Twilight closed the door behind her as she retreated carefully.

Sombra was left alone once more, panting heavily. Fear had completely taken hold as he collapsed in the kitchen just to retain what little sanity he could maintain.

“She isn’t Celestia,” he muttered. “Celestia isn’t here. She isn’t here. I’m still safe.”

The pink one said she knows Celestia, harped the voice. You know she’ll know soon enough and when she does you won’t last. You know this will never end well.

“Silence,” Sombra cried. “Leave me alone! Just… just leave me alone.”

Don’t give her the chance. Take that alicorn down. Use your magic. All of it!

“No! I am no monster,” he shouted as he rose. Sombra recovered from his breakdown slowly, despite his defiant outburst. “I am no monster,” he repeated adamantly minutes later, even as he wobbled on his uneasy legs. Even if I did, Sombra thought bitterly, Celestia would know.

He took his time, careful to ensure that everything was as Rarity once had it save for a mannequin with an outfit fit for any stallion that, even in his dated opinion, had been perfectly designed for both casual and formal events. Very elegant, Sombra thought as he circled around the mannequin to see it from all angles. She is quite gifted. Perhaps a special eye for the intricacies of more than just the cloth. He stopped as his attention turned to the door. I wonder how much of my lie she saw through.


“Twilight you have to help me,” said Rarity as soon as she found her friend.

Twilight had sequestered herself in the palace’s library for the better part of an hour after confronting the surprisingly calm tyrant. She set her book aside and looked to her friend. “What’s wrong Rarity?” Her voice was pleasant as she tried to suppress her hesitation.

“Well it’s the map, I’m not sure how to do what it says. My cutiemark went to the Crystal Empire but then it came back to Ponyville and turned black. It went back to normal, but I still don’t know.”

Twilight wanted to reply immediately but forced herself to act like she was thinking. “Maybe it wasn’t sure what you needed to do was in the Empire. Maybe it’s here in Ponyville.”

“Well, do you have an idea why it turned black?”

“I think that the map knows something about the nature of who you need to help. Try to have an open mind about who the map wants you to help.”

“Do you think they might have come from the Empire?”

Twilight blinked, startled at her friend’s conclusion. “That could be the case. Have you met anypony new recently? Somepony that seems out of place?”

“Well no except for – but he’s from Canterlot. Lamentius couldn’t possibly–”

Twilight cocked an eyebrow skeptically. “Lie to you to protect himself? He was charming wasn’t he?”

“Well yes, but he–”

“Try to trip him up. If you can’t then he’s from Canterlot. If you can then ask him about the Empire.”

“I think I’ll start with the Empire,” replied Rarity bitterly. “If he was lying then I gave him enough hints to work with.”

“Don’t go overboard Rarity, he might be running from something and scared of what happens when it catches up to him.”

Rarity narrowed her eyes. “Just what do you know Twilight?”

“I’m just trying to help you figure it out, just like you asked.”

Rarity continued to glare at her friend for a moment longer before leaving, allowing Twilight to sigh in relief. I wonder if that’s his real name, Twilight wondered before returning to her book regarding fears.


By the time Rarity returned home, she found a stark difference from how she left it. Everything was in its place, Sweetie Belle and her friends were sitting still working on a project quietly, and her unicorn guest was nowhere to be found.

“Sweetie Belle, where was the stallion who was here,” she asked as she approached her sister.

The unicorn filly looked up to her sister. “Don’t be mad but he said he wanted to make up for something,” she replied. “He’s in the kitchen.” After feeling like she gave her sister enough of a reply she returned to the project she was working on.

Rarity, despite her curiosity, passed the quiet crusaders and went into the kitchen. What she saw was exactly what she expected to see: dinner was being cooked by her guest. A smile came to her face as she realized that her sister wasn’t lying or attempting to hide that she tried to cook on her own again. “Tell me Lamentius, have you ever been to the Crystal Empire?”

The unicorn stopped his work and smiled. “I think it’s been nearly a year since I was there,” he replied with a smile before returning to his pan.

“Well, a year ago was an interesting time wasn’t it?”

“A dark figure nearly conquered the Empire didn’t it?”

“Yes, though nopony from Equestria came to the Empire for nearly half a year. Might I know just who you are?”

“I’m not from Canterlot, as I’m sure you are now aware.”

Rarity narrowed her eyes as she neared and examined his work. “Who are you really,” she repeated.

“A pony best left forgotten by most. One still feared by many,” he replied idly. “I understand that we’ve met once before Rarity.”

“Get out,” she snapped.

“Let me at least make you dinner to apologize,” Sombra replied as he remained where he stood.

The white unicorn stomped her hoof. “Out. Now!”

Sombra glanced towards her. “No final request for a prince? I had no idea you were such an uncouth mare.”

Much like the last visitor to the kitchen, Rarity was silent at a revelation given so calmly. “A prince,” she repeated after her brief silence.

“Prince Sombra Lamentius Amore, son of Princess Melodia Amore, brother to Crown Princess Radiant Amore. That would be my full title if you would enjoy the mouthful that a title was back then. Bear in mind that a true prince is making you dinner. Not many ponies could say they had the luxury of a meal produced by royalty.” He screwed up his face as he returned to cooking. “I know for certain Celestia has had breakfast, lunch, and dinner cooked by a prince since I had done that once upon a time and Luna joined us once for lunch. Celestia once made a valiant attempt to prepare a lunch in return for me. Sadly, I have been away for too long to say for certain if any other has, let alone if any true prince has lived since my time.”

“‘Since your time’?”

“Well, there was Orion’s son Ionas, Helios of Trot, Edris of Saddle Arabia, and I can’t forget Clodius of–”

“I get the idea,” Rarity interrupted. “Fine, I’ll have this dinner but I want you to leave after that. Do I make myself clear?”

“Milady, you have been as clear as a picturesque night in the Empire,” he replied with a brief nod.


After a quiet dinner, the irate fashionista found herself with a plethora of questions to ask. He made Princess Celestia meals, she wondered. Even with magic, when would he have the time to court her and make such lovely meals?

“Girls. Milady. I believe my welcome has been worn out and I need to leave,” announced Sombra after whisking the dishes to the sink.

“We’ll see you around town sometime won’t we,” asked Applebloom as Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo groaned.

“Of course,” replied Rarity as she cut Sombra off. “The least I can do is give our dear Prince Charming here an elegant style to reflect his refined palate. You will stay in town right?”

Sombra blinked and smiled as he tried to recover. “Of course, do you think Princess Twilight would accept this ‘Prince Charming’ of yours as a reason to stay with her?”

Rarity pursed her lips as she thought about it. “No but, do you have other living plans?”

Sombra nodded. “As long as Pinkie is home already then I will have a bed that is mine to borrow.” He gently kissed Rarity’s cheek. “Thank you Rarity, for trusting a stranger such as me. Even if you were unaware at the time.”

Rarity blushed despite her attempts to hide it. “Of course.”

As Sombra left the boutique, the trio of fillies waved at him. “See ya later Sombra,” called Scootaloo.

He turned to look back at the ponies in the doorway and waved back at them. “Until next we meet Scootaloo,” he called back before travelling towards Pinkie’s home.


While Sombra had to wait for the pink earth pony’s return, it was brief and made him aware of the cold she once spoke of.

“Didja wait long,” Pinkie asked him after they entered her house. “Oh, how did everything go with Rarity? Did you run into Twilight? What happened? Tell me, tell me, tell me.”

She has the curiosity of a child, Sombra thought. “I began to find myself growing cold but I was not here for long. As for Rarity, I used the alias you suggested at first, but it felt hollow shortly after we parted. She had me housesit after she left in reply to some movement to her cutiemark. Do you know what that means?”

“Well, there’s a map in the castle that does that to me and my friends sometimes, but we never know when it’s gonna happen so…”

“So it was unexpected and altered her plans more than I had,” he continued. “As I was housesitting, I was visited by Princess Twilight. She called for Rarity by name so I considered it best to unlock the door and endure the inevitable. Until the end of our talk, as I was cleaning dishes from tea with Rarity during the conversation, we had yet to meet eye-to-eye. It was as soon as she answered something I asked that my pride took hold, turning me to face her in a display of boldness defeating fear. Shortly after, fear took hold stronger than ever and I asked her to leave.”

“Why were you scared?”

Sombra gulped, the mere question brought it back to his mind. “Her eyes, her rage, I can still see them so readily. I saw it on Princess Twilight’s face though only a moment earlier I knew it wasn’t there. When I managed to calm down, I knew it was never there but–”

“But you still saw it. You saw Princess Celestia’s reaction on Twilight’s right?”

“Yes, her rage was something could I see. The fury, the thought of betrayal, perhaps all she could see was a monster. That was at the end of our relations, perhaps you can understand why I am not comfortable near the princess now.”

Pinkie nodded. “I’ve got a friend that was once scared of her own shadow, we can talk to her if–”

Sombra raised a hoof to silence her. “After your last advising friend I don’t think that would be a good idea. Any other ideas?”

Pinkie rubbed her hoof against her muzzle. “How did the rest of it go?”

“Well, I met Rarity’s younger sister along with her friends. Now they saw right through me so I came clean and asked what they thought I should do. Sweetie Belle suggested I should start by making dinner and admit the truth to her sister.”

“What about Applebloom and Scootaloo?”

“Applebloom said I should pour on the charm I tried to hide behind. Scootaloo told me to get in Rarity’s good graces I keep it fancy and perfect. Fancy I can do, but perfect seems a tad vague but it seemed to work.”

“So, what was on the menu?”

“I made a lovely caprese salad with a balsamic reduction, Dijon and honey glazed salmon, and while I had to hurry with it, I managed to prepare a shortcake which I decorated in strawberries, each carved to look like a flower.”

“I should get the Cakes to hire you,” Pinkie replied as she licked her lips. “Oh, but won’t Rarity be mad that you used her food?”

“I doubt it after seeing how much she enjoyed each bite. While I may have used magic to prepare the meal, I found my magic problem only surged after I asked Princess Twilight to leave.”

“Well that’s great. So, how did she take it?”

“I think I had her at ‘a prince making her dinner’ but before that she insisted I leave at once. I did as she asked and left shortly after dinner.”

“So, think it went good?”

“Well Pinkie, it was fine. At least it went better than I could hope. I am worried that Applebloom will inform her sister, whom you suggested I avoid.”

“And I bet Scootaloo might tell Dashie so this might not be good. I’ll see about getting the girls together to talk this over. I mean you’ve got me in your corner and Twilight doesn’t seem like she wants to get you out of town.”

“I think that Rarity warmed up enough to convince Sweetie Belle and her friends that I’ll still be in town.”

“So I’m gonna put her somewhere between Twilight and me as far as friends go. All those ponies willing to speak for you might make it tense but I’ll give it my best to win the others over.”

“Still, there is one thing that bothers me Pinkie. Who do you think was first to inform the princess I was in town?”

“She said it was Discord so I guess he wasn’t over with you after poofing away in the morning. Oh, were you hungry at dinner? I mean, you didn’t eat anything at breakfast and didn’t have anything all day so I was getting worried.”

“At first it was to be polite, though I had found myself eager for more as dinner went on. I have my suspicions but reasoning any is not something I find easy. May I retire for the night Pinkie? My day has been quite long and sleep seems more welcoming than further questioning.”

Taking the pink mare’s return to drooling as a sign that he was free to go, Sombra climbed the stairs leading to the two bedrooms.


“Show,” Pinkie said the next day before gulping town the pancakes crammed in her mouth, “I was thinking you go back to trying to talk with ponies today.”

Sombra turned his attention from the mug of hot chocolate he was struggling to hold with his hooves to focus on Pinkie. “I doubt I can find success even close to yesterday afternoon. Do you have a backup plan?”

“Well, my ‘Plan B’ will be at the meeting I wanna get going. You had your panic attack in front of Twilight right?”

“The start of it, yes.”

“Then I’m sure Twilight will bring it up. I can back her up on it with what you’ve told me.” The pink pony gasped as something pushed itself to her memory. “Last night I had an idea while I dreamed of cheesecake. Spike is Twilight’s assistant and he helped get the Heart to Princess Cadance so he’ll probably be against you.” She quickly looked around before leaning over the table. “He has a crush of Rarity,” she confided before returning to her side of the table.

“Do you think she would use that sentiment to sway him or is she unaware of his feelings?”

“Quite a few ponies, if not everypony, knows about it but I think she knows better. He’ll be suspicious and even I don’t think batting her eyelashes will change his mind.”

“Well then, if I may ask, what exactly is this ‘Plan B’ of yours?”

“A really kind pegasus that always tries to overcome her fears. You might really spook her, but I can tell there’s a connection there.”

She isn’t the only one I can see a parallel to, Sombra silently added. You act quite like Him after all…

11 - Twilight Sparkle's First Convention of Friendship

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At first I thought Pinkie was insane when she said we needed to get everypony together at the castle. Then I realized who it was. It was easy to get most ponies. At least until Applejack…


3 hours earlier…

“Applejack, we really need to talk,” Twilight said sternly. It was at least the fifth time she said it.

“And I told you ‘ah need to do mah chores,” the earth pony replied.

“If I help you, will you come to the castle?”

Applejack stopped and stared at her friend. “What’s so important?”

“Well, there’s a pony in town that we need to talk about.” Twilight paused, hoping to hear something else. “I’ll also need help getting Fluttershy to come once she find out.”

Applejack sighed. “Alright, you help me an’ we’ll get Fluttershy, but you have ‘ta tell me what’s going on now.”

Since the word ‘alright’ Twilight had gotten to work feeding the farm animals while collecting eggs from the chickens with magic.

“Fine,” the farmer said with a groan, “you’ll need to tell me sooner or later.”



“So what’s this all about Twilight,” called Rarity as she took her seat at the table. “It isn’t about our new long-term visitor is it?”

Spike perked up in his seat. “What visitor?”

Twilight took her seat next to her assistant. “Now, we are gathered her today to hold what I want to call the First Convention of Friendship. The topic today will be King Sombra.”

Former King Sombra,” clarified Pinkie. “His name is Sombra La-something Amore.”

“It’s Lamentius,” said Rarity curtly. “He introduced himself with that name when we first met. Son of the former princess and brother to the crown princess.”

“Can somepony tell me why he’s still here,” asked Spike.

“Because he’s still welcome,” replied Twilight. “Now, let’s return to the topic at hoof. Rarity, can you tell us what you know about him?”

“Well, he told me that he is a prince and he talked casually about what he did. Glossed over it actually, but he said that he knew he was feared by some and best forgotten by many.”

“Anything else?”

“That he used to make food for Princess Celestia while he was courting her. After having dinner with him, I had no idea how he could prepare such beautifully perfect food while trying to win the heart of anypony. I mean, breakfast, lunch, and dinner?”

“Geez,” interjected Spike, “sounds like he can do everything. I mean, nopony’s that perfect.”

“Well obviously he didn’t do every meal every day,” harped Rainbow Dash. “I wanna know why he came here in the first place. Also, why speak to Rarity?”

“Well, I told him to try since he was going nowhere with anypony in town,” Pinkie admitted. “I’ve got a hunch somepony in Trottingham told him about Ponyville so he came to check it out.”

“That supports my working theory,” added Twilight. “So what does he want Pinkie? When I asked him he was a little evasive.”

“I think he wants to break even. I don’t think he likes his history, like he knows it’s wrong or not all there.”

“‘Ah bet he’s just tryin’ to make excuses,” said Applejack before she slammed her hoof on the table. “He’s up to something, mark my words.”

“I’m with AJ on this one Twi,” added Spike as he balled one hand into a fist and slammed it into the other. “I mean I thought about it some and he had to know it would be easier to get revenge on ponies nowhere close to the Crystal Heart.”


“You have got to be kidding me,” said Rarity as she cut Fluttershy off. “If anything he’s a wonderful chef, a polite guest, and you should have seen how the girls were when I came home. So quiet and polite and well behaved. Housesitting for one afternoon and everything is neat and orderly, dinner is better than a five-star restaurant, and the girls are quiet. How could I ask for more?” She turned to look at Pinkie. “If he wasn’t staying with you then I would die just for him to take care of things for a few more days.”

“If I could just–”

“Come on Rare,” shouted Rainbow Dash as she cut Fluttershy off. “He’s gotta have some angle if everything was like that. I mea–”

“Girls,” shouted Fluttershy, her brow furrowed. “Sorry, but it’s my turn to talk now. I want to give him a chance. I mean, we gave Discord a chance didn’t we?”

“And he doesn’t always give us the best reason to keep him around,” mumbled Spike.

Twilight turned her attention to her assistant. “He’s not a treasure trove of information like Sombra is. I get the feeling that if we can get his alicorn anxiety under control then we can learn about all sorts of things that might help us with all sorts of things.”

Pinkie smirked as she leaned on the table. “So he was underselling how well your little encounter went.”

“You spoke with HIM,” spurted Spike.

Twilight silently nodded. “He’s interesting. Very casual about everything. It’s hard to put it right but there’s something about it that’s not easy to put in words.”

Rarity smiled. “I know what you mean. I know I called him Prince Charming once, but that was all I could call him in front of the girls.” Rarity’s eyes narrowed as the smile faded from her face. “Little did I know, they already knew who he was. It is hard to place just what it is but maybe that’s his charm. Or maybe it’s mystique hidden behind a pony living his life. You don’t think–”

“That was what Princess Celestia saw in him? Could be but I don’t know. Maybe he has some other trait that she liked.”

Rainbow scratched her head. “So I’m not confused, did he go all evil cause they broke up?”

“We’d know if he wasn’t scared of Twilight,” replied Fluttershy. “We can all agree that much could help in some capacity right? Even if there’s nothing more than a hole in history that can be filled.”

Twilight listened in silence in her attempt to put pieces together. “I’ve got it,” she exclaimed and caused everyone else from getting involved. “When we met he said there were things I wouldn’t believe or think he was making it up. What he knows is important, ponies can help him find a better life if they know what he knows. So, I want to put it to a vote. All who are in favor of keeping him in Ponyville?” Twilight watched as three hooves rose. “Okay, and those who oppose?” Two hooves were raised, as did Spike’s clawed hand. “Motion carries, Sombra stays for now.”

“Woah, so ties go in favor or something,” asked Rainbow as she leaned forward and locked eyes with Twilight.

I vote for him to stay. Four votes in favor, three oppose, so he stays for now. Any other questions?”

“Who wants ice cream,” asked Pinkie cheerfully as she set a large tub on the table.

12 - A Shy Prospect

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“Wait, don’t go,” Sombra pleaded as two mares ran away from him. “Sometimes I wonder if this is even worth it. Is it so hard to just try and be friendly?” With a quick flick of magic he hid himself under his summoned cloak.

You can do this, thought Fluttershy as she peeked around the corner and looked at the black cloak. He’s just a unicorn. She gulped. Just a big, creepy, shadow magic using unicorn.

Sombra lowered the hood of his cloak before dispelling it. With a sigh of defeat he hung his head and began to advance on Fluttershy’s location. “Maybe somepony on the next block will put some effort towards it.”

He looks devastated, thought Fluttershy as she mustered the courage to approach him, but it can’t be all bad. Rarity said he was polite so maybe I can help him after all.

Sombra’s ears perked at the sound of hooves and he looked up and towards the source, hopeful he was looking to a willing pony. He trotted towards the hope of his salvation, one with wings and a canary colored coat. “I – uh, sorry but this is still a little hard for me to say but my name is Sombra and I was wondering if you would like to be my friend.”

Fluttershy was surprised but smiled warmly. “I um– my name is Fluttershy and I want to help you Sombra. If you don’t mind some help that is.”

Sombra tilted his head. “Would you mind explaining what you mean by help?”

“You’re afraid of something and I know what it’s like to be afraid so I tho–”

“You know the princess don’t you,” Sombra asked with a sigh. “Along with Pinkie right?”


I see her high and mightiness wants to mend my scars indirectly, thought Sombra as he tried to smile to Fluttershy. “You know a thing or two about fear then? How about past experiences? Betrayal? Loss? Desperation?”

“Um, let’s try working things out and seeing how much we can handle before going into too many details. I have my own fears so I thought I should help you.”

“I hope I do not strike you as frightening, I do not wish to undermine your assistance by making your trouble greater.”

“A teeny tiny bit, but being here helps. What did you feel after Twilight left?”

Sombra’s eyes darted around before closing them, trying to remember. “After I lost my focus I broke into a panic attack.”

“Hyperventilation? Um, it’s rapid and uncontrollable breathing.”

“Yes. I collapsed and felt like I would never be safe. There was something cold. Something dark. I didn’t like it.”

“Like you were never going to be happy again? I don’t think I can help with that much but I’ll try. Anything else? Don’t worry, it’s all important. I need to know how much I can do.”

Sombra nodded, his eyes still closed tight. “Before I collapsed I told her to leave. I was in a panic. I began to see Celestia cast over her. I saw the rage in her eyes during our conflict upon this princess. I knew it was a mere illusion but I was still–”

“Worried,” asked Fluttershy as she tried to reconstruct the event in her mind. A stiff nod from the unicorn helped her put the last piece in place. “Can you tell me why you’re so afraid of Princess Celestia?”

Sombra’s eyes opened faster than Fluttershy could blink. “She took everything I still held dear from me. She turned me into the monster history knew me as.”

“Not history, just stories whenever ponies got curious about the lands beyond the Crystal Mountains. Please don’t take it the wrong way, but I just want to say that history isn’t your enemy.”

“Yes, merely tales of my darkest of days.”

“Was there ever a good time?”

“Yes, but not now. Please, that time still brings me pain. Good memories turned to ash when our war began. Our very short yearlong war.”

“I think we should head to my house before other ponies hear. Can you keep going? I mean, it helps to let it out.”

“All that I feel comfortable sharing. You understand right?”

“Repressed memories aren’t healthy to keep. You don’t need to be a doctor to know that.”

“You just need to know what it’s like to be truly afraid. To know the true face of fear. I know.”


“There are a great many animals here,” commented Sombra after they entered Fluttershy’s house.

“I have a special kinship with them.”

“Just as me and the crystals.”

“Can you tell me what happened to your cutiemark?”

“There’s always a price to be paid. Yes, always a price. For some it’s their sanity and others pay with something more tangible. Can we move on to a different topic please?”

“Ok, then tell me about the dark time. If that’s okay with you.”

So she is still scared. I doubt this will help allay her fears but it will be good practice. “Well, back then I called it that for only so long. The dark time, the war of fear, the troubled nights, and so many other names. With each passing week I called it something else. I planned for war but I had no idea how outmatched I was. A single fight. Such an unfair fight. A duel of alicorns against a lone unicorn. The defenses I placed were useless and what I sacrificed was lost in vain. You can’t win against an angry alicorn, let alone an angry alicorn and her sister. In the recesses of my mind I knew I would lose and all I hoped was to buy time for her – for Celestia – to calm down.

“Now, before I continue I need you to know that I lost myself along the way. Well, mostly lost myself. Part of who I once was had been strong enough to linger in my mind. In this time I would call it my sanity but now something else has taken its place. That thing is something I fear more than anything else. Rage fuels my fear of Celestia. She made me into a monster, but this? This is a voice in my head that feeds on my fear. It lures me, tempts me, to become what I once was.”

Fluttershy gasped. “Can you control it? Are you sure you’re always in control?”

“I think I can silence it for a time but it feeds on my fears. Fear of rejection. Fear of my past relations. Fear of my kind. Fear of myself. It feeds on them all.”

“But you aren’t that pony anymore right?”

“There are times where I wonder but when I feel as though I could lose control I know I have yet to weaken.”

“How do you know?”

“Simple, Pinkie still roams the town. If it were to take hold then she would most certainly be first on its agenda.”

“So you can cont–”

“Yes, but I cannot silence it. It still speaks, but in no more than a whisper in my mind. I think the princess can help with it but–”

“I think I understand Sombra. If you can control your fear then you can get help with everything else. It won’t be easy but I have a few ideas. You might not like the first one, but just remember why you’re doing it.”

“Why am I suddenly very terrified towards your idea?”

“You’ll thank me later,” Fluttershy replied as she flew off to a small cabinet. After digging around for a while, she pulled a thick white ribbon out. “I needed this once and I think it can help you.”

“A blindfold? Are you planning to blindfold me and speak to the princess that way?”

“No,” she replied. “I want you to blindfold yourself so you don’t have to see Twilight while you talk to her. We’ll take it one step at a time. First a blindfold, then a screen, and then, when you’re ready, you can try another face-to-face.”


“You need to talk to her sooner or later don’t you?”

“Yes ma’am,” Sombra grumbled as he brought the blindfold over to sling around his neck. “So, when are you planning to start this plan?”

“As soon as you’re ready we can begin.”

“Very well,” replied Sombra as he blindfolded himself. “Best to begin before I change my mind. Just be sure not to let me run into anything.”


“I feel like a fool,” muttered Sombra as Fluttershy led him through Ponyville.

“That’s good, you should have just come to the castle before putting it on.”

“Yes, though I doubt you would let me into the castle. Me, in a place of power? In my opinion that is far from a good idea.”

“Stairs ahead, they curve gradually to the right. Twilight wants to trust you can do better but she’s smart so just relax and it can all get better.”

“Then why aren’t we starting with the screen,” asked as he carefully followed her advice.

“When I needed this method we had a light behind the screen so I could see my fear behind it. Five steps from where you are you should turn right.”

Sombra nodded and counted his steps carefully before turning right and reaching out as soon as he expected something unsure of his location.

“Oh, there’s a door but it’s open. Keep going until you hear Twilight tell you to stop. I’m not going any further so you’re on your own now. The blindfold should tell her what the plan is.”

As Sombra was left with no more than the sound of his hooves he was aware of only one thing: he was alone. His heart raced and the solitude sunk in. No, he quickly thought, I am not like that again. I can feel, I can smell, and I can hear. I am only a prisoner if I forget that I am free.

“This could work,” echoed a familiar voice. “Rarity, get something to separate us when we get to step two. I need something that he can’t see through without an external light source. Even then he should only be able to see a silhouette.”

“I’ve just the thing,” rang the unicorn’s voice before a breeze passed by Sombra’s right side.

The former king continued on, guided only by the sound of his hooves and the occasional alert from Twilight that he needed to keep going. Once the echoes of his hooves resonated louder, Sombra slowed.

“Just a little further Sombra,” echoed Twilight’s voice.

He remained still. “Just tell me how many steps you’d prefer.”

“Ugh,” echoed one voice followed by the flap of wings. With a sudden push and a second flap of wings the voice returned. “That’s better right?”

“Yes,” replied Twilight’s voice, “thank you Rainbow. So, Sombra, how do you feel?”

“Uneasy,” he replied. “I know that I am in the castle and I find that a problem. You trust me in a place of power yet you seem quite hopeful.”

“You think the castle is a place of power?”

“Yes. Not all hold ancient artifacts princess, they are symbols and–”

“You are aware that if you took control Princess Celestia and Princess Luna would notice the change right?”

“Yes, it remains a thought in my mind. You understand yes?”

“You did battle with them so I can understand your concerns.”

“More than battle, the declaration was made near here. The old castle is nearby.”

“How would you–”

“Celestia was nothing if not nostalgic. I hardly expect her to part from a vantage that would show her former home.”

“The castle’s in the Everfree Forest and I can show you the way if I can help you overcome your fear.”

“In return there is a place in the castle that you may enjoy. Provided it still exists at least. Who knows what would happen when Celestia or Luna found it.”

“You mean if right,” asked Rainbow.

Sombra smiled. “Clearly I still know better than the average pony. One of them would have found it. Without their resident, a private study rarely remains private for long.”

Twilight beamed. “A secret room? You built a secret room in the castle?”

“I did, though I am willing to doubt that it remains hidden. Just how long has it been since my failed defense?”

“Wait a sec,” said Rainbow. “Your defense? You were on the defense?”

“It was a single battle, though I would find it more accurate to call it a duel. Well, it is more fitting, but against Celestia and Luna I would call it a battle from a technical view.”

“So how come you aren’t using something like the ‘Royal We’ or that flowery language Princess Luna used when she came to Ponyville?”

Sombra laughed at Rainbow’s question. “She still talks that way?”

“Well the first time any of us spoke to her after she thought of herself as normal she did,” replied Twilight. “But to answer your question, it’s been one thousand years. Well, between your defeat and return it was just a little over that. But that brings me to a question I’m not sure you can answer. There were several things that happened that year, do you have any idea why?”

“My defeat aside, what happened?”

“Beside the disappearance of the Crystal Empire, Princess Luna became Nightmare Moon, the fall of Timbucktu, and something that collapsed the caribou civilization.”

“I am so very sorry for Timbucktu’s fall. I knew a pony from there and I merely smiled when we parted ways. What happened?”

“Queen Chrysalis happened. She leads the–”

“Changelings, yes, I know of her. I suspected she was more than a myth. Before you ask, I doubt she would be a useful ally were I to have made contact. As for the caribou, I caused it. Something had to be done to those northern raiders and I was in an ideal position to remove them from all civil species.”

“You killed their king?”

“What? No. Drove him insane? Yes. Any killing was performed by something else. I believed that by removing the leader I would remove the threat. Even if I were to fail in defending my home, the legend of the caribou’s fall would live on and secure the northern border.”

13 - Royal Acclimation

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Despite Sombra’s apparent progress, it still took half a week to move from blindfold to silhouette. Despite the lengthy information Sombra gave the ponies on the first day, he worked his hardest to evade answering anything else. “We are trying this again,” he told Twilight adamantly.

“Don’t you think you need a break? I’m willing to help, but this is mental trauma, you can’t fix it in a few days.”

“With each passing day her visit draws closer and I suspect that when that comes, we will come face-to-face once more. The first since our conflict and the best I can fare is a mere two minutes. Even then, that is a mere shadow. How well do you think I can last without such a barricade?”

“But you’re doing so well when you don’t see me.”

“Yes, because I can think of you as something else. I know the truth, but–”

“Out of sight out of mind right,” she asked as she cautiously moved around him.

“Yes, now tell me where you’re going.”

“Remove your blindfold,” the sound of her voice caused Sombra’s ears to twitch as he searched for the source.

After trying to discern the alicorn princess’ location, Sombra removed his blindfold. A cold chill ran down his back, knowing that somewhere in the room, beyond his sight, lurked Twilight.

“You’re nervous.”

“Though I still cannot see you, I am aware of your presence.”

“You have nothing to be afraid of, even in front of Princess Celestia. I have confidence that she can see how much progress you’ve made. That you can change.”

Sombra’s ears continued to swivel, trying their hardest to find Twilight even if he felt that he was better off not knowing. “As if it were that easy.”

“Tell me more about it then.”

Sombra fidgeted nervously. “During my time with her, my mother grew ill enough for me to want to return home. I tried to excuse myself politely but,” Sombra lowered his head, “I was too late.”

“What happens if the ruler dies? Sorry, when the ruler dies.”

“The eldest daughter takes the throne. If she is too young, an advisor is appointed though they can be ignored. If there are no daughters then a steward is appointed unless the princess’ son was able to find a mate and produce a daughter of their own.”

“It sounds to me like the Empire was very strict.”

“I may as well have had no rights. Yes, because I was the son of the princess I had more weight to my words in the court but I had little more. I remember enforcing more respect to all my subjects when I was in charge, even if I was descending to madness.”

“But you enslaved the ponies right?”

“In that age what we considered slaves are clearly not what you consider slaves today. They are still paid for their work, still treated like normal ponies, given breaks, and even treated for illness. I suspect you think of the term as working slaves until they are no longer able.”

“Instead they were what, some part of the social structure?”

“Yes,” Sombra replied with a smile. “They are only supposed to be in that status for a time. I had planned for a year and a day based on my own estimates for preparations. As for the fighting force I created, that was a conscription of soldiers.”

“How did you get control if your sister was supposed to rule?”

“She asked me to help advise her, but whatever it was that had plagued my mother extended to her. She was strong, but the news of conflict with Equestria was something I was far from prepared to handle.”

“What caused that conflict?”

“Something petty on Celestia’s part. I had to change my agenda from romance to managing a kingdom.”

“But weren’t you–”

“Young though she may have been, my sister was clever. She appointed me as her successor, or to be more accurate demanded it. It caused quite the uproar but it had been a request from her deathbed, not something any would have treated lightly.”

“So what was this petty thing Princess Celestia did?”

“I suspect that the change in my agenda was something she did not take easily.” Slowly Sombra turned towards Twilight, remaining silent until she was within his sight. “We had been growing very close, but even a fool could tell that everything fell apart when I returned to the Empire. Would you mind if we spoke of this no longer?”

Twilight nodded. “I understand that it isn’t to talk about, but was that something you thought I wouldn’t believe?”

Sombra chuckled as he showed no fear before the alicorn. “No, there are far more unbelievable things that dot my history. Looking back, even garnering as much of Celestia’s attention as I had seems quite fanciful. I think the mentor of my early days would cause you far more alarm.”

“Are you feeling okay?”

After the ebony unicorn calmed down he smiled. “Telling you about my relations with Celestia eases my heart. I think I can move on, though time may change that sentiment.”

Twilight smiled back as she nervously approached him. “Do you want to get a bite to eat?”

“I don’t wish to impose.”

“We’ll just go to a restaurant and get something light. Oh, and try to use more contractions, they suit you living as a normal pony.”

“If you insist then I would love to accompany you to a restaurant. Did you have anything in particular in mind?”

He said love, Twilight thought as her cheeks began to turn pink before shaking her head, but I have a feeling he doesn’t really mean it like that. “Well, I thought we’d just try something really casual. I want to see how ordinary ponies react to you, especially when you’re with another pony. Do you think you have your anxiety under control enough for you to do that?”

Sombra approached Twilight, his smile and stride never wavering. “That sounds lovely princess. Do you mind if I still call you that instead of your name? I’m just – I’m not used to something like that. I know it makes me sound old, but in my day nobles addressed each other with both name and title. Just using another’s name was a sign of closeness.”

“Would it help you if I did the same for you?”

“If you wish to try it then you may. Just remember, I am not a king but a prince. You have no idea how many times I had to teach those fillies that sort of thing.”

“Before we go, do you mind telling me where your cutiemark went?”

“I’d rather tell you that grim lesson on our way. Not the tale, just the lesson.”

As the two continued to talk, making their way down to the street below, Spike watched in secret. This won’t end well, he thought. They’re both smart enough to realize someone wants to sabotage it but I’m willing to say that I told her so.


“The common pony is far more relaxed with you here,” commented Sombra calmly. The two of them had decided to share a fresh batch of hayfries.

“Well, they must find you quite intimidating. You’re still a prince after all and one with a very dark reputation.”

Sombra sighed. “I’d rather they know I’m trying. Princess, would you consider this a ‘Plan B’? I know Pinkie had one in mind, but some initiative bested her as far as I’m concerned.”

“I’d call the whole thing a Plan B. Pinkie isn’t always the best at making clear plans so trying to get you to overcome your fear of alicorns might have been her roundabout way of getting ponies to open up to you.”

“Because if their princess could be friendly towards me, then I couldn’t be all that bad right?”

Twilight smiled. “Exactly.”

“You have a little something on your cheek princess,” Sombra commented before levitating a napkin over and wiped it off.

“Isn’t using magic a problem,” she asked as he lost focus and twitched.

“Yes, but I’m still in control. I need to know how much I can use before I provoke an incident if I’m ever to use magic again. It seems that much fine control was too tempting to pass.”

“Well, we can try to tackle that in due time. Oh, Pinkie said you didn’t need to eat or drink when you first showed up but you do now?”

Sombra nodded. “I suspect everything was still getting back in place and simply eating something was enough to push those needs back into my rather confusing biology. So I was defeated and broken into thousands of shards of shadow; why would that of all things deprive me of hunger?”

“Because you were a creature made of shadows you didn’t need to sustain yourself conventionally. I think.”

“Princess, it’s a sound theory though I would prefer not to test it further.”

“Is anything still missing?”

“I am not sure how well I’m sleeping, my dreams are a blank and I remember them that way.”

“Well, I’m not an expert in that field. If you can get back on Princess Luna’s good side then she could help you.”

“She would be far easier to appeal to. There’s less complexity in our history.”

“So, what is your history with Princess Luna?”

“I spent some time talking with her, trying to find out what her sister liked. I was raised under the notion that it was rude to guess what your significant other likes. I also had a knack for finding the little details. I’m not sure if that skill still exists after all these years.”

“Yeah, about that, just how old are you?”

It took five minutes for Sombra to recover from laughing at the question. “Let’s see,” he said as he wiped a tear from his eye, “if we include my time in ice then I would be one thousand and twenty three in the spring.”

“Twenty three? You mean to tell me that–”

Sombra nodded. “Removing my reconstruction time and lordship over the Empire, I would’ve charmed my way into Celestia’s heart at the age of twenty.”

“Did you have any idea what the–”



“I know and it’s rude to think of her like that. Celestia was no prize for me to achieve, nor was I factoring the age difference between the two of us. She and I had the potential to be together but that time has passed.”

“Are you interested in getting back out there and finding somepony?”

“I’d rather answer that question after Celestia and I meet once more. Hypothetically speaking, do you really think I stand any chance?”

“Rarity seems very interested in you so…”


“Well, you’re already on Spike’s bad side for past events, but he has this crush on her. He might also be jealous.”

“You can assure him that I was trying to be polite. Just between us, she seems that she’ll be high maintenance which is something I’d rather avoid.”

“But even back then, wouldn’t Princess Celestia be high maintenance?”

“Hence the reason why I’d rather avoid another high maintenance relationship. I know she wouldn’t be able to face me in a purely unfair fight, but I’d rather avoid returning to that stressful a relation.”

“What would happen to Princess Cadance if you were married and had a foal?”

“Well, before that point I would have to make some statement that I have no intention to return to the throne and that she is the proper ruler. You understand my intent yes?”

Twilight nodded. “That you and your family have no intention to lay claim to the throne. So you, your mate, or your children can try to put themselves in charge of the Empire.”

Sombra nodded as he leaned over to wipe the alicorn’s cheek off again. “That none of my line could lay claim to the throne to be exact. Well, an ambitious member would try to marry into it and that would make them legitimate. That is the exception to that sort of declaration. Would Princess Cadance–”

“Her whole name is Mi Amore Cadenza if you’d prefer that.”

“Right, would Princess Cadenza understand my intent if she heard it?”

“Well, provided she listened, I think she’d listen. I mean, the last time you were in the Empire…”

“I made quite the impression, I know. Anyways, can we stop picking at these hayfries now?”

Twilight smiled. “Sure, I’m glad you could come. Oh, would you like to move into the castle? I mean, it can’t be all that comfortable living with Pinkie.”

“Planning to keep a closer eye on me while I’ve managed to suppress my fears then?”

“Well, I was just thinking that it might be nice to have to nearby if I have a question for you. I mean, you’ve been really forthcoming and–”

“I see. Thank you for the invitation. It would be my pleasure to take you up on such a generous offer.”


After making a quick stop at Pinkie’s house for his things, Sombra and Twilight returned to the castle. Each had a content smile as she led him through her home.

“I understand why you don’t want to be here,” said Twilight as she continued to lead the way. “You don’t want to relapse but I also know that you don’t want to turn an invitation down.”

“Well, this is far more polite than Pinkie’s invitation. She simply dragged me along and I just accepted it.”

“I think Spike will be the only thing that won’t find you all that welcome in here.” Twilight stopped and opened a door, showing him a very plain looking bedroom. “I know it isn’t much, but I’m sure we can fix it up later on.”

“Thank you princess,” said Sombra with a gentle bow. “This is more than enough for now. When I feel more welcome then we can discuss any potential improvements.”

“Would you like me to show you to the old castle sometime?”

“Tomorrow would be excellent, provided the weather is favorable.”

“Of course,” Twilight said as her smile broadened. “I’ll come and see if you’re hungry when it’s time for dinner okay?”

After Sombra returned her smile, Twilight left him in his new home. Replacing her however was the baby dragon peering in from around the door frame.

“I understand your name is Spike,” said Sombra casually, “I hope we can find peace between us in my time here.”

Much to his dismay, Spike scoffed and left with a scowl on his face.

He just needs time, the unicorn thought as he closed the door and made himself home.

14 - History of the Defeated

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Sombra smiled as he looked out to the clear skies that greeted him the next morning. “Telling her these things is one thing,” he said to the dawn. “That place should prove to be a better source of information.”

“Sorry for overhearing,” said Twilight from Sombra’s doorway, “but what place?”

The unicorn turned to see her. “You’ll see,” he replied as his grin remained plastered on his face. “Breakfast first, then you can show me where the castle is.”

“I should warn you, Spike’s making it.”

“Should I be concerned or simply on guard?”

“On guard, I’ll do my best to help but he won’t make it easy for either of us.”


After a light breakfast, or at least light for the wary stallion, and a cautious trip through the Everfree Forest, the duo stood before the Castle of the Two Sisters.

“Now as I recall it was over here,” said Sombra as he hurried into the dilapidated castle.

“What are you talking about,” growled Twilight as she hurried to keep up.

“When I stayed here,” his eye twitched, “well you know. Back when she and I had a warmer relationship, I had to remain close. The journey was a long one by carriage and my mother, rest her soul, thought it was better to remain here. I thought of why once, but I figured it out very quickly.” Sombra smirked as he turned down a dimly lit hall filled with suits of armor. “It was a cutthroat occupation you know. Vying for her hoof.”

Twilight remained silent, doing her best to remain at the stallion’s side was proving to be enough of an undertaking. In the poor illumination of the corridors, Sombra seemed far faster than she anticipated.

“King Orion sent his son and he was the one I considered my greatest rival. I never knew if he felt the same but he left quite the impression.”

“Wait, King Orion? King of Timbucktu? That King Orion sent his son for Princess Celestia’s hoof? I never read about that. He was the one who you knew?”

“I’m sure that would break Ionas’ heart knowing it was forgotten that he competed for the affections of a princess of Equestria.” Sombra paused and stared at a suit of armor before igniting his horn, illuminating the entire hallway. “We were at each other’s throats within the hour of our first true meeting. We met once before then, during our introductions to Celestia. Extenuating circumstances prevented our rivalry to escalate then. If you will,” he pointed to the damage done to the armor, “please note how badly damaged this suit of armor is. Perhaps the emblem on the breastplate will help identify it.”

Twilight looked over the damage done to the armor. “For its age it’s in very good condition.” She leaned down for a better look at the faded breastplate. “A trident and wings,” she said as she squinted.

“No doubt the gold is almost completely gone by now but yes, that is the crest of Timbucktu. This is an artifact of an age where stallions fought over mares with acts that only the insane would consider brave. Ionas would be furious if he saw the shape this is in after all these years. If he cared for something more than another pony it would be this armor, but that would only be due to the capacity he had to care. Mere objects were a distant second.”

“The damage tells me you showed him no quarter.”

“And he showed me none in return.” Sombra turned to look at a suit of armor across the hall, one that shimmered in the hornlight. “That would be mine over there, just as beaten as his. The damage tells me she felt more hatred than regret after our falling out. Or perhaps it was neglect from the memories of our conflict. I do not know and I doubt I will ever know the full story.”

Twilight went to get a closer look. The glistening armor was indeed severely damaged, though it still looked new. She slowly traced the embossed form of the Crystal Heart as the echoing hoofsteps of the armor’s former owner came closer. “Why is it still like this? How come it still looks so new?”

“They just aren’t made like ours were anymore. The smiths of the Empire from my time infused their work with diamond dust and unicorns used that as a conduit for aesthetic enchantments. We thought that it would be a waste to have ceremonial armor in addition to that which we would duel in. Naturally it was expensive to perform such work, but I left it here for a reason. I would not dishonor those who I faced while wearing in with what would occur.”

“You mean the battle right?”

Sombra silently nodded before returning his gaze to a nearby part of the wall.

“What is it?”

“The door should be around here,” Sombra replied as he began to knock against the wall. “Unless she cleared it out or sealed the way.”

Twilight joined Sombra in his search and before long the two found a hollow sound on the wall. As they both smiled at the discovery one thing became rapidly clear…

“When did you come so close,” asked Sombra as they remained only a scant few inches from each other.

Twilight quickly backed away from the former king in a panic. “I uh… I’m sorry but – wait. Why should I be apologizing? We were both growing more consumed with looking for the door that you didn’t notice it either!”

“Ah but I did. Any closer and we may have kissed. Don’t give me some strange look now,” he said as a scowl began to grow on Twilight’s face, “I can tell that I’m still evil to you but I was quite charming back then.” As soon as he finished speaking with a definite air of teasing, Sombra pushed his hoof against the wall and a doorway opened with a click.

Twilight huffed and approached the opening before casting her own hornlight into the revealed doorway. Only seconds later, she turned to Sombra with a scowl on her face. “What is it with you and stairs?”

Sombra smiled. “You try making a secret chamber in a castle riddled with secret passages without going further down. Two weeks after I arrived, I found a large chamber beneath the castle when I had time to explore and realized that if I was to make a hidden sanctuary I had even more hazards to avoid. Simply put, a staircase made the most sense at the time. All the enchantments and stairs in the Empire helped deter me from revisiting a certain place. Anyways, these don’t go too far down. Can your delicate princess legs manage three flights of stairs?”

Twilight turned away and descended down the passage with a disapproving look on her face.

That was too much, thought Sombra as he followed her.


Sombra blew the dust off a thick book resting on a desk toward the center of the room, peeling letters of gold leaf showed only fragments of his name on its cover. “Perhaps this will be an interesting read Twilight.”

Twilight came up beside him. “Oh? What is it?”

“My journal of the time I spent travelling to and living here.”

As Sombra moved aside, Twilight opened the book and began to read. The first several pages were about things she already heard from the former ruler, but she found where his answers ended and his time in the castle began.

Waxing Gibbous 19, 2346

I found the castle here quite intimidating when I arrived. Guards stationed everywhere, watching my every move, I thought the Empire was unsettling but this was something different. I was escorted through the castle by two mares in golden armor, though I am not sure if they were aware of how much I observed our surroundings.

We reached a great hall and standing there before a dais bearing two great thrones, in each was an elegant alicorn, were stallions of all kinds. I had thought they came from other nations as soon as I saw them. We were all told to form a line and be prepared to formally introduce ourselves to Princesses Celestia and Luna. As to be expected, as the late comer, I was to provide my introduction last. At the time I was unaware but strangely unsurprised as to who I would encounter in such a place.

Nearly half of the stallions had introduced themselves by the time the old unicorn was merrily entering from a side corridor. My old master was here all this time, it seemed preposterous at first, but I quickly realized that I should have expected no less from Starswirl the Bearded. Once he noticed me, a thing I tried my best to avoid, he hurried to my side and pulled me from the back of the line. He apologized to Princess Celestia and quickly told her who I was, that I was once his student in the Crystal Empire, and that I was the son of Princess Amore. Princess Celestia seemed genuinely curious and allowed my former teacher to pull me aside. The majority of the day was spent catching up. A light dinner with the other stallions and the Princesses in the evening followed by an escort to my quarters concluded my first day. I hope this is well worth the coldness of this land’s guards.

“You knew Starswirl the Bearded,” erupted Twilight as she finished the entry.

“Ah,” replied Sombra as he turned away from a bookshelf. “Yes, he taught me to control my magic when I was a colt. By the time I began to call him ‘master’ he thought I was ready to continue on my own. Later I asked why he left and it was just that, I had begun to think of him as less of an instructor and more of the center of my learning. From him I learned basic magic, the fundamentals of potion making, and how to detect magical anomalies. If I remember correctly, he wanted to find out what I learned without him and what the state of the Empire was. How my mother was, if I had any siblings, those sorts of things.”

“What was he like?”

“He was very peculiar, much akin to Pinkie Pie. Because of the parallels I could draw, it would hardly surprise me if she and Starswirl were related in even the slightest extent. Now, I want you to read as much of that book as you want. Feel free to ask me more questions if you wish. I will always be happy to answer them. They are good memories, ones that I still cherish.”

“What calendar are you using?”

“The Empire’s calendar. Eight months, each of forty five days, and the years since the establishment of the empire. Some in the Empire may still follow it but no doubt they have adapted to your own.”

Twilight smiled before returning to the volume in front of her. She scanned the next few entries, each seemed more boring than the last until she reached one that caught her eye.

Half-Moon 17, 2346

Today was surprising. As the youngest of Princess Celestia’s suitors, I expected little chance after nearly a month’s time but I was approached today by her highness. She wanted to tour the gardens with me and I was rather quick in accepting her surprisingly forward request.

During our walk we came across a very odd statue. At the time I knew of no such thing and I politely asked. The Princess told me that is a story for a later date, but the way she said it brought a smile to my face. A later date was something special to me. It was as if she had already decided, but no sooner had we returned from our stroll than she hurried off to speak with Helios from Trot. There are times when I do hope she is merely being polite when he tells those awful jokes.

Twilight looked away from the journal only to find Sombra reading a thick book about magic theory. Based on the faded cover and stiffness of the pages, it had to have come from one of the nearby meticulously organized bookshelves. Shortly afterwards, Twilight realized she had returned to the journal’s pages.

Half-Moon 22, 2346

I dueled with Ionas again today, he is five years my senior and yet he still must give his all to best me. Tonight he will be sure to boast of his victory as if to put me in my place. While I consider him my rival, I fear that arrogance will be his undoing. I understand his desire to prove his strength, but in my time with her I have found Princess Celestia more drawn to intellect. I still enjoy the thrill of the fight, but she and I have had more fun discussing magical theory and developing new methods to alchemically treat injuries. I feel a sense of pride whenever we make a breakthrough and my heart skips when I hear her giggle, even if it was due to an unstable compound exploding in the beaker in front of me.

“Last one,” mumbled Twilight, “just one last entry.”

Waning Gibbous 3, 2346

Ionas left this morning for Timbucktu, claiming a sense of dread disturbed his dreams last night and that he must return home to know that all is well. With him gone that leaves only Helios, Edris, Clodius, and myself. I must admit, this was rather unexpected. In a way it is fortunate that the nine were now four, but earlier, when he left, I only thought of him as paranoid. Celestia asked to have dinner with me today. Just me.

Perhaps the oddest thing that happened as of late was Celestia’s insistence that I ignore her title when we are alone. It happened last night while we were solving a few equations. She said it was too formal and that I should treat her just as she treats me. Perhaps this is a sign of favoritism, one each of us has sought since this courtship began.


“‘Though I found great enjoyment in the company of Luna I know my place,’” recited Twilight late in the afternoon. “‘My place is to be beside Celestia, to form a union my mother knows I alone can do. Though it pains me and Melvin to…’ Sombra, who was Melvin?”

“Princess Luna had a friend named Melvin at the time. He was no pony, but a manticore and I spent many nights with tools in this very room to learn how to understand him. Please continue aloud if you wish.”

Twilight nodded. “‘Though it pains me and Melvin to speak of such things, we both agree that it is for the best to tell her tomorrow night. For now though, he wishes I sleep so he may return to Princess Luna’s side. I worry about Melvin maintaining this secret but not so much as the news from the Empire. Mother is unwell and there is talk of my sister replacing her. She is still so young and her naïveté could place the Empire in a state of disarray.’ You really thought things through didn’t you?”

“Family is the most important, though I know I displayed anything but in the end.”

Twilight flipped through the book quickly. “What happened next? The rest is blank except for the last page.”

Sombra cocked an eyebrow. “I never wrote in it again, leaving the very next morning. What does it say?”

Twilight levitated the book over to Sombra and his eyes met a short message written in curly letters.

I am so very sorry for what I must do.
I hope that one day you and I can forgive each other.
I beg that you understand why I have to confront you.

“So she did care at the end. She,” he trailed off as a fabric behind the bookcase behind Twilight caught his eye. “What are you my little aberration?” Carefully he pulled the bookcase away to see for certain but what he saw in the light from his horn struck him speechless.

Twilight spun around to see what Sombra discovered and the tapestry she saw cast in their hornlights left her mirroring his silence. It depicted a figure she could only assume to be Sombra frozen away as rays were cast against a barrier around him. These rays came from two figures that were far more familiar to her: the ancient portrayals of Princess Celestia and Princess Luna. She saw similarities in the facial expression on the figure of Sombra that she could relate to imagery of Luna’s when she was banished.

“What do you see in this scene,” asked Sombra once words eventually returned to him.

“That Princess Celestia regretted what she did to you. I think she may have realized she was the one who made you a monster. What do you see?”

“A memory of a dark time in my life and a grim reminder of the monster I became. In hearing your view I feel differently about the memory. I can see how far I fell, how much of a monster I became, and that Celestia later understood what the cause of my fall had been. I want to ask you something further, something that I wish to see if you can understand regarding my motives.”

“What is it?”

“Do you now fully grasp why I hid the Crystal Heart?”

“Why is it so important for me to know that?”

“Towards the end I trusted no one, not even myself. I saw one conclusion only days before our conflict reached its apex: I had to hide the Heart from all lest its power was abused. In my paranoia, I saw that Celestia would cast her love across Equestria, one that none would dare question. In my mind, hers was a love that was easily altered by even the most dire of events.

“From my own paranoia would bring the darkness that haunted me, resonating fear to every corner of the land. Yes, I was aware of what my own intentions would do. To know what damage would never be undone due to the overwhelming dread that would haunt everypony only fueled my decision to lock the Heart away.”

“So you felt like nopony should have the Crystal Heart. Protecting an ancient artifact like that seems quite noble, especially for a pony who used fear and malice to force an empire to do his bidding.”

“As I said, I trusted no one. The Heart was safer locked away where even I could not reach.”

“Because of the traps?”

“Just the one. You know the one I mean don’t you? I designed it to keep myself away from the Heart because it required assistance to pass.”

“And by then you trusted nopony to help you,” continued Twilight. “No trust meant nopony would help and if nopony would help then you would never reach the Heart.”

“For me, it predicted the future to an extent. My defeat was shown to be absolute and the Empire would be put to the sword for my actions. What did it show you?”

“How obsessed I was in regards to the test Princess Celestia presented to me. By failing to stop you from returning to power she cast me aside coldly, showing nothing but apathy towards me.”

“Curious how our fears manifest. Mine was sheer terror at the fate of my citizens while yours was the inability to stop my madness.”

“But if you trusted nopony then how–”

“My trap needed experimenting so I created a temporary model that would release me as soon as the spell faded. Dragged through the streets in chains, watching the Empire burn, knowing that Celestia was waiting to publicly execute me for my deeds, I could stand only so much torment. When it faded, I knew it was ready for practical use. The second experiment was on the eve of the day before my loss. I found the event in your own history books.”

“When did you–”

“I had some trouble getting to sleep last night. Anyways, the caribou warlord was driven mad in what your historians called the Wendigo’s Eve Nightmare. Doing so, I drove his kind from the border of Equestria using nothing but that experimental trap. His fear was his undoing but I may as well have done the deed with my own hooves. Your history books say they have never been seen since.”

“Without their leader, they fell apart into small tribal groups and were later conquered by the griffons. The event wasn’t named until after that information was gathered. You destroyed a civilization’s identity in a single night. It was cultural genocide.”

“I won’t apologize for ending their raids on the borders but one day I may need to take responsibility for my actions.”

“Historians look favorably on the event, even caribou ones. Warlords can’t be allowed to do as they please. Besides, I’d call it a victory overall. You overthrew a violent marauder and hid a powerful artifact in only two days. So much for thinking you had gone mad with power right?”

“I still have to live with knowing what I did. Does Luna know what she did?”


“How does she live with it?”

“She used to live with the guilt but eventually, when it began to become a danger to everypony, she had to forgive herself.”

“It won’t be so easy to forgive myself. What I found in your library tells me she could have been a threat but had yet to truly become one. I was already a threat as far as anypony was concerned so I have to ask you this: can I even hope to be forgiven?”

Twilight smiled. “I’m sure you can be forgiven someday but you’ll have to forgive yourself before it can really begin. I’m not talking about forgiving yourself right now, but when you’re ready you need to forgive yourself.”

15 - What’s in a Holiday?

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Waning Crescent 25, 3349

Princess Twilight is under the impression that I return to chronicling my time among other ponies. I suspect she has ulterior motives though I will not write of them. It took a fortnight to find one she thought proper for me and even then she had Rarity use her artistry to add gemstones. Why she chose not to allow me to do such a thing or simply perform it herself puzzles me.

This castle reminds me of home, back before the trauma I brought to my subjects. Princess Twilight will not speak to me regarding many topics yet she still permits my change in residence. Her dragon assistant Spike is a different beast. Her hope travels only so far, while his loathing seems infinite. I find myself wondering about which of my actions has offended him greater and I suspect it’s not what it should be.

Yesterday the “Crusaders” visited the castle and insisted to see me. We discussed much and the hours flew by as I heard their tales of bravery in search of who they are. They tried to recruit me into their club but I cannot. Mine is a talent that cannot be returned as it was removed with dark magic. The prices we pay for such power is unfair in hindsight, but in the moment one finds it either fair or even a bargain. Perhaps one day I will see its return, but I will have to endure the loss for now.

Celestia arrives in one week’s time and there are festivities that seem to be growing near as well. I am uncertain as to the holiday for the solstice is on the eve before the first of New Moon as it always has. I should begin to prepare for it soon. So much to do, so much to write, I only hope I can finish them all by year’s end. As for Celestia, I must hold my anger at bay when she visits. I still feel uneasy regarding her arrival though Princess Twilight insists that she can ease Celestia from a position of malice. Time will tell, but now the princess thinks she has a way to help an average pony open towards me in a projectile-free way. Snow does not sound bad, but rocks are quite painful and tomatoes are very difficult to wash away.

Sombra sighed and closed his new journal. As he tried to collect himself for the day his ears perked, catching the attempt to close his door quietly. At least I think the dragon tries, Sombra thought before leaving to begin a day he hoped would fare better than the last.


“So is this still Plan B or have we gone past that,” asked Sombra as he looked over a long list of items.

“I think it is,” replied Twilight. “Then again, it is Pinkie so she might not have thought this far ahead.”

“Does she have some sort of average planning time princess?”

“I don’t think so. She can plan really far in advance, but sometimes it seems as though she has small ideas that just fall together into a bigger plan that wasn’t really there. Anyways, can you please stop calling me that? I mean if that’s how it was back then I suggest you get used to how things are now.”

“But what about–”

“That was a pony from Canterlot, ponies around here just call me Twilight. That means you stick out even more if you keep addressing me by title.”

“Very well Twilight. Now, can you please explain to me why there are all these wreathes and ornaments so soon? The solstice isn’t for a few more weeks and festivities can’t be starting already can they?”

Twilight giggled, which only confused Sombra more. “Hearth’s Warming Eve is in nine days. It celebrates the founding of – of course. You wouldn’t have celebrated it since it’s a celebration for the founding of Equestria.”

“Yes, and in the past I had left Equestria at the start of this month. One thousand and three years ago, to me it feels so recent but to the world… I hope many found peace during their lives. Even such a vain stallion like Helios, regardless of what has become of Trot in all this time.”

“Trot is gone, there are only ruins and stories told of a battle with the dragon Xiphos. According to what I’ve read, the stories date back several centuries.”

“It was called the great southern jewel in my time. Xiphos must have struck near my defeat, relatively speaking. So this list of ours, it’s for your celebration right?”

Twilight nodded. “We can try to celebrate the solstice if you’d like to.”

“Not this year, the intent is not something that is easily understood by those who find cheer in this season. As winter reaches its apex, you are supposed to write to those who have passed, things you have done, and hope that you, who have been left behind, can be forgiven by those you miss so dearly.”

“So you write letters to the dead asking that they forgive what you’ve done?”

Sombra nodded. “In my case that’s what it is but ponies can write about the good things too. There are so many I have to write for, so many cruelties that they need to know, so much of my soul that has to be laid bare for their ghosts to understand. There is a ray of hope hidden in such a morbid rite: that there are those amongst the living that can see the good in me. Other than that ray of hope I have little to say in terms of kindness. I take it you understand why I wish to celebrate alone.”

“A chance to be alone with your regrets?”

“An opportunity to make peace with those I miss most of all.”

“Do you miss the time you spent with Princess Celestia?”

“At times, but then I remember how that ended.”

“So even if she–”

“It would be troubling if she still cared after all this time like she had so long ago. I want to move on and I want to believe that, despite her regret, she too has moved on.”

Twilight scowled. “Fine, humor me. Let’s say she still feels towards you like she once did, what would you tell her?”

“That she should remember what happened last time,” the unicorn replied calmly. “That I would rather we move on with our lives.”

“And here I thought your heart was warming.”

“She and I have a wonderful history that I can’t give up, but I think it would be foolish to return to it even if I wanted to.”

“So you–”

“I’d rather she be happy, but not at the cost of dredging up painful memories.” Sombra smiled. “I would enjoy being her friend after all these years but nothing more than that.”


After their trip through Ponyville, including an hour long detour for Sombra’s personal arrangements, the duo returned to the castle.

“I can’t believe you just go out with him like that,” yelled Spike as he saw them return before running off.

Twilight sighed as she set her bags down. “I don’t know what’s gotten into him. Ever since he found out you came to town he’s been turning into this.”

“Is it about the ‘evil and nearly killed you’ thing or about the ‘crush swooning because I was charming’ thing?”

Twilight, who had begun to go after Spike skidded to a halt and looked back. “I don’t know anymore. I mean yes, he gets jealous when somepony has Rarity’s undivided attention, but it’s never been a prolonged thing.”

“You don’t think it’s about how much time we spend together? That he sees me changing his life more than he wants it to.”

Twilight cringed. “Seeing as how you live here now, I certainly hope not. I don’t want him to see you like that. You aren’t a threat to him or anypony’s way of life.”

“Well, I’m trying not to at the very least prin–Twilight.” The stallion smiled as she giggled. “Sorry, nearly slipped.”

“Well, you get used to calling me by my name and I’ll try to get Spike from flying off the handle.”

“You have yourself a deal Twilight.”

16 - Princess Luna: The Eye of the Storm

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Impending holiday or not, it remains my duty to protect those of Equestria within the realm of sleep. Tonight is no different. Sister intends to take me to Ponyville as a means to bring us together and rest before our duties of the holiday. I am well aware that my sister would rather sequester within a Canterlot spa, especially due to her secretive one. Just because I am the guardian of sleep, does not mean I avoid investigation when Celestia grows secretive. That was how this eve began, with my own curiosity.

I sensed trouble within the realm upon this night, one that has eluded me for many days, but on this eve I found the way at last. Concealed behind a door like any other was one made of crystal, barred by darkened crystals. There are few minds that conceal themselves with such security. At first I suspected my sister, though I knew far better mere seconds later as her path made itself known. Much as Celestia’s path became present, so too had another familiar to me: that of Twilight Sparkle.

“I see,” I muttered as I placed a hoof upon the barricaded door. “It has been a long time since you were last seen in this place prince of shadows. May I enter?”

Writing appeared upon the door as the question resonated through the way. “Say my name,” was what became visible. “None shouldn’t forget their manners.”

I removed my hoof and smiled. “May I please enter Lamentius?”

The words swirled and became a new message. “I am still a prince you silly traveler. I know not who you are, but I asked for manners.”

“I, Princess Luna, do hereby formally request entrance to thy dreams Prince Sombra Lamentius Amore.”

As the words swirled into a new shape I grinned. “Permission granted Luna,” I read as the defenses lowered and door opened. “Trust none contained herein.”

“Thank you for your kindness,” I said as I entered the blinding light behind the crystal arch.


As the light faded, I found myself in a very familiar place though different than how I last saw it. A large stone hall made ready for a great feast and just as grand would be those invited. Far from me was a large stone dais, one that once bore two thrones and grand flags of my sister and I behind them. Instead there was now no throne, only the flag of Equestria.

“I see,” resonated a male voice from behind me, “the first to arrive is the guardian.” I spun to see Sombra himself waiting at the center of one of the many tables. He wore no finery befitting a noble, but looked far like he once did. From his emerald green eyes to the straightness of his horn, it was as though I stepped into the past.

“I was expected,” I inquired.

“I suspected that there was a guardian of dreams,” he replied calmly as he used magic to pour himself a glass of wine. “Still, I expect there will be more than just the two of us Luna. Please, join me and lower your defenses for a time. I am armed with nothing more than dream wine and… dream silverware I suppose.”

“You have a penchant for twisting dreams to nightmares Sombra.”

“Was it me who made a monster in this castle?”

“The way here said–”

“To trust nothing here correct? I already told you why: I suspected a guardian of dreams. I suspect you’ve noticed something outside this dream though.”

I wearily made my way to the pony I once called a friend. “Had you obscured yourself intentionally?”

He waited for me to sit before pouring a glass of wine for me. “For a guardian of dreams, you might need to further observe your surroundings. My ‘twisting’ has nothing to do with any personalized nightmare. I would have little control during those darker days were that the case. Such magic is beyond a unicorn’s talent, even amplification changes nothing in that fact. If you think nightmares are all I can do then you seem quite mistaken.”

The sound of chairs moving and the rustling of silverware silenced him, just as it drew my attention. Across the entirety of the hall, ponies were seated and looking to us. Far from us I even saw Celestia, a dark look bore upon her face.

“She’s staring at me isn’t she? My dreams reflect how I see ponies. The better I know them, the more real they seem.”

I smiled as I turned back to Sombra. “So your subjects fell prey to your madness?”

“Yes,” replied Sombra as he looked to his drink. “It fueled their hopelessness which fueled my madness and… well… it’s easy to see how it spiraled out of control so swiftly. Still, Celestia’s gaze is upon me correct?”

“Indeed Lamentius. Why do you envision such ire from my sister?”

“It was the last thing I saw for one thousand years. It is now my greatest fear.”

“And your other fears?”

“Rejection. Luna,” his eyes turned to face me as he spoke my name, “you know why I wish to call it that correct?”

“Yes,” I replied with a frown.

“Still I’m here because I want to,” commented the voice of a mare. As I looked for the source, I saw other ponies looking intently to the table Sombra and I shared. “It’s an honor to know you let me in Sombra.”

My gaze returned to Sombra, seeing now that Twilight Sparkle had taken the seat beside him. “You let Twilight Sparkle inside?”

Sombra smiled calmly. “In a sense. Look in her eyes, she is having a troubled dream but is hiding from her fears where she knows it could be safer. Now if you don’t mind Luna, I wish to address these ponies reflected in my mind.”

As I nodded he cleared his throat and raised his glass. “My fellow dreamers, tomorrow I may go to meet my end. I hope this ending shall not come to pass, that we may have this grand meal together not as a farewell, but as a celebration of the good that shall come from more than the dawn. In my mind I call this a time of sorrow, a time where those who dream can see me at my best before my end. Still, I wish this not to be filled with sorrow, but with joy.

“Knowingly or not, I have touched many lives, far more than those here to be sure. While most know only of my ill deeds I say that we feast as equals. Let us celebrate a new dawn, where I hope to exchange with one and all in kindness rather than fear.” His glass of wine levitated before him, having risen for all to see. “To a new dawn!”

“To a new dawn,” resonated the voices of everypony present save for one, the very one I saw displeasure in when first I saw it. My sister’s glass had indeed risen like all others, but her voice did not ring out among the crowd. Instead, her eyes were closed and her head tilted downward.

“Sister,” I said wearily as my eyes had grown transfixed upon her. “Would you hate him still?” Secretly I wondered if she was indeed aware of this dream. As my curiosity elevated, I too wondered about any other pony present.

“They don’t know how much I care for each and every one of them,” commented Sombra, drawing my attention once more to him in addition to the plates before us which now bore food.

“Lamentius, are any truly aware of this dream?”

“Aside from you and Twilight, it would be hard for me to say how many others see this feast. It is merely the surface though. My true slumbering self is making peace with my short stay in Ponyville.”

“A nested dream, Starswirl’s apprentice indeed. Any words of wisdom before I leave?”

“You cannot tell Celestia about this dream. You must let our encounter play out as it is meant to be.”


“I am at peace Luna and I wish to see her knowing that my peace remains unaltered. Should she show me mercy then she will do so of her own free will. Now, wake up Luna. You have a busy day before you.”

It was with those words that I indeed awoke, the blinding sun reminding me of my hunger. Right then, I wished to have had something at his feast.

17 - Day and Fright

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Waning Crescent 32, 3349

The day has come at last. I know Twilight said we don’t have to so soon, but it needs to happen eventually. If I have my way then it will be long before my fears become a reality. I had plenty of sleep last night, even though Celestia haunted my dreams. Her imperious gaze is akin to a foul memory. I want it gone. I have moved on. I think she has but will I tear open an old wound instead?

I wonder about her sister though. Luna and I had a wondrous friendship. Perhaps realizing that my suspicions of a guardian had brought dreams back to my mind. Regardless, my mind’s deepest of secrets may have been penetrated by her interaction with my dreams last night. My obsessions, my thoughts, the past I know, and so much more. I asked that she not interfere with the interaction that will transpire today but I am not sure of her willingness to comply. Should Celestia be warned, I may have a more difficult time convincing her of the sincerity of my attempt to seek peace.

I think the voice understands my potential need for magic today. It has been growing quieter for days, even when I try to use magic for trivial things or in front of other ponies. I want to think it finally understands that I won’t surrender to temptation but it seems too coincidental that it quiets near this confrontation.

“Sombra,” said Twilight from the doorway. “I want you to know that my priority is to protect Ponyville if this meeting turns violent.”

Sombra closed his journal and set his quill beside it. “I intend only to defend myself. My magic is nearly as it once was while I was whole, but I intend to be defensive. Barrier spells, I know the theory, but I’ve no knowledge as to how effective they can be. I’ve spent time gaining better control over teleportation in private as well. Offense is my last resort and I’ve been thinking about that.”

“What is it?”

“You remember how I sealed your brother’s magic? If I do go on the offensive, I intend to go only that far.”

“You think blocking Princess Celestia from using her magic will show you have self-control and that you want to talk right?”

The unicorn smiled as he looked out to the wintery landscape of Ponyville. “I can’t afford to be reckless and neither should she. The damage we could do, even if I do nothing more than defend myself, could devastate Ponyville.”

“I already had a massive battle with Tirek that dragged through Ponyville. There was some damage to the whole of Ponyville but aside from that scattered damage and the explosion of the Golden Oak Library, I think we’ve been lucky here.”

“Yes, but how much damage can the town take before it yields? You had to defend the town and your magic yes?”

“I had all of the alicorn magic inside me.”

“My point exactly. I’m just a unicorn. I have the same odds I had so long ago. Sorry, slimmer odds because I have neither dark magic nor my cursed amplifiers to bolster my power. I don’t want to tear up the town by making crystal barricades either.”

“Crystal barricades?”

“I have a kinship with gems and their ilk. I can make defenses from them with ease, but magic would be safer for the town.”

“Well, then I’ll help you. If Princess Celestia doesn’t treat me as an equal then she lied to me the second she put a crown on my head.”

Sombra smiled. “She can lie Twilight, never forget that she’s just as imperfect as the rest of us. Celestia’s lies are easy enough to see, she breaks that façade of hers in a way that tells you something is off about her words or the situation. That is how I remember it at least, she has had one thousand years to refine her skills after all.”

Twilight giggled as she led him to breakfast. “That hasn’t changed. She tried to get out of a lesson a few years before I came to Ponyville by faking sick. An hour later I left a slice of cake in her office and hid.”

“Let me guess, you caught her out of bed and in perfect health.”

Twilight nodded. “Harmless games are one thing, but something serious is unforgivable. If she doesn’t value my word as an equal then she shouldn’t be allowed to make important decisions on her own. Come on, you should get something to eat before doing this.”


Sombra and Twilight watched from a distance as the royal sisters traveled through Ponyville. “How will we do this then,” Sombra asked. “They’re supposed to be here for a spa appointment and I’m still unwelcome in there.”

“Head to Sugarcube Corner, I’ve got a plan.”

“If it involves me acting innocent with a desert then I have mixed feelings. I worry about the way either would interpret the confusion that kind of scenario would bring.”

“Oh, well how about asking if they need help?”

“Mrs. Cake threw a mixing bowl at me last time I asked. It took Pinkie and Mr. Cake two hours to get her to calm down while she waved a large wooden spoon at me.”

“Um, see if my cake is ready. Even if Mrs. Cake is there, she’ll go and get Pinkie instead of attacking you.”

“What’s the occasion?”

“It’s for after the Hearth’s Warming pageant. Everypony’s coming over and I’d like it if you’d join us. I know your holiday’s important but I want you to be a part of Ponyville too.”

“I appreciate your concern Twilight, but I still will not attend this pageant of yours. Maybe next year, when I’m more accustomed to Equestria.”

“I know, but you can still go and check on the cake right?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Good, you do that and I’ll see what I can do about Princess Celestia.”

“Twilight, you need to know that Princess Luna knows but–”

“I have vague memories about that from my dream last night. Something about not telling Princess Celestia right?”

“Yes. I feel that what will be, will be. Telling her will only change what destiny has in store for us. Fate is real Twilight and it’s my fate to see what becomes of our encounter.” Sombra smiled. “I’ll go and see about that cake now, good luck.”


“Hey Pinkie,” Sombra said enthusiastically as he entered Sugarcube Corner.

“What can I do for my number one magic-y stallion,” she replied in a chipper tone from behind the counter. “Here for some cocoa and a cupcake?”

Sombra shook his head as he held back the urge to laugh at her little nickname. “Twilight wanted me to see how her Hearth’s Warming cake is coming along.”

“Sure thing,” Pinkie set a warm mug on the counter top, “enjoy the cocoa on me while I get it.”

Before he even had a chance to refuse, she had already vanished into the back room.


Twilight nervously entered the spa, her concern was focused more on the lack of anypony at reception than telling her mentor about her potential reformation project.

“Sister you seem evasive,” commented Luna from her mud bath. “More so than usual.”

“Well I–”

“Excuse me,” interrupted Twilight as she nervously entered. “Princess Celestia, can we talk about something?”

“I didn’t think this was enough of a concern for you Twilight,” her mentor replied. “Just Luna and I enjoying a day off.”

“Well, I have something you need to know about. Somepony arrived about a month ago and, I know he’s rough around the edges but–”

Celestia perked from her massage. “Who is in Ponyville Twilight?”

“Sombra,” she replied nervously. Unfortunately for her, a bright flash beat her to any further dialogue.

“This may get messy Twilight Sparkle,” commented Luna. “I would suggest haste on your part, I will join you as soon as I have escaped this bath.”


No sooner had Pinkie arrived with Twilight’s cake then Sombra found himself flying through the wall, the wind knocked out of him as he struggled just to remain conscious.

“Hey,” screamed Pinkie as she set the cake on the counter while saving the unicorn’s cocoa from spilling. “He was just asking to see how Twilight’s cake was going!”

Celestia snapped out of her reaction at the sound of the earth pony’s words. “I did,” she pointed to the hole in the wall as she looked to the pink mare. “That was me right?”

“Mrs. Cake,” Pinkie called as she went into the kitchen with Twilight’s cake, “Princess Celestia threw Sombra through the wall, I’m gonna go and see if he’s okay!”

“That’s fine Pinkie,” echoed the baker from upstairs, “just bring the cake back and I’ll take care of it.”

As his awareness returned, Sombra’s horn ignited, causing him to teleport onto the ground. He assumed a defensive stance and waited for a second strike. Though his eyes shifted to a razor-sharp focus, he was doing his best to ignore a very pressing matter. She broke a few ribs with that strike, he silently assessed. I’m fortunate there is no critical organ damage.

Celestia appeared before the focused unicorn in a blazing light. Sombra’s own defenses darkened the light and had become apparent to the alicorn, though as the light faded so did the darkness. “I’m sorry,” she said in a calm, albeit neutral tone. “I reacted while you were defenseless. I… I wasn’t thinking straight. Twilight told me you were here and I thought that she was trying to ask for help.”

Sombra scowled, his defensive posture turned to one of galvanized fury. “You endangered the citizens, threw me through a wall, and suspected evil from the monster you made of me and you expect me to accept your apology? You forgave your sister without a second thought didn’t you?”


“Yes or no?”

“Yes but–”

“You forgave one monster you created because she was your sister but not the one you made out of a unicorn despite his lesser abilities? Blood is indeed thicker than water Princess. You drove me insane yet you still think you deserve your title?” Sombra’s shouting had brought the citizens of Ponyville to crowd the sides of the street save for the pegasi who adorned the roofs as still and silent as statues.

“Please, just let me explain,” she shouted.

Nearly an hour passed before Sombra eased his stance and softened his expression. Despite the time that elapsed, nopony moved from their place save for Twilight who had come to Sombra’s side.

“I was wrong Sombra,” she said as her eyes drifted to the ground. “All those years ago I was so very wrong. I hurt you and proved your people’s laws to be true because I did something so foolish. I did turn you into a monster and it was all because I couldn’t understand your feelings.”

“There was no standing army before, we were of no strategic value, and I was in mourning. Honestly, what did you think was going to happen? You called for war because I wasn’t there for you. No, it was because you decided on me wasn’t it?”

Celestia looked back to Sombra. The bitterness of his words was not reflected in his stance or expression. “We can’t begin again can we?”

Twilight draped the unicorn with one of her wings, causing him to blush profusely. “I don’t think we could,” he replied softly. “There’s too much bad blood between us, compounded by the fact you just broke a few of my ribs. You made a horrible mistake and I verbally lashed out at you for it just then. I think you’ve had plenty of time to think about what you did. I still think I can forgive you someday, but right now I just can’t.” Sombra turned to look at Twilight. “Sorry, the adrenaline’s nearly to worn off and I think I’ll need some help getting to a doctor.”


“Thankfully your injuries aren’t as severe as you thought,” said a unicorn as he looked over the x-rays of Sombra’s chest. “No broken bones, but there are several cracked ribs.”

Unlike Twilight’s encouraging smile, Sombra didn’t seem that comfortable with both the results and fact that he had been forced into a wheelchair. “And the bad news is what exactly?”

“The bad news is that I’d like you to stay here overnight so you don’t overexert yourself. Any further magic on your part might disrupt the bones as they mend and walking around should already be stressing them.”

“Hence this infernal device,” Sombra mumbled.

“Anyways, most of the more severe cracks should mend enough for you to enjoy your Hearth’s Warming Eve back at your home. Still, no magic transportation or anything faster than a trot for a few weeks. I don’t want you back here because you stressed your body too much from moving.”

“You are rather fortunate,” commented Luna after the doctor left. “Most ponies would not walk away from my sister’s overreacting with so few injuries.”

Sombra looked her in the eye. “Hitting a stud in that wall might have changed the whole thing Luna.” Slowly, his gaze turned towards the silent elder sister. “Did you really think I’d arrive a scant flight from your castle to cause trouble Celestia?”

Celestia nodded silently.

“You are sure you’ve learned your lesson about beating me up yes?”

Celestia sighed. “Yes, it only causes trouble for everypony. It caused your reign of darkness and it caused your injuries today.”

Sombra nodded, satisfied with her answer. “Now you’ve a lot to answer for Celestia, think you can come clean with Equestria?”

“This close to Hearth’s Warming? I don’t want to do something like that to everypony. Not when there’s a holiday about family, friendship, and togetherness nearly here.”

“You’ll need to explain someday Celestia. My question for you is when?”

“I’m afraid I can only say that I’ll tell them when I’m ready.”

“Princess Celestia,” interrupted Twilight as she tried to butt into the conversation. “I just want to say that I’ve read about when he stayed with you one thousand years ago. I have his journal and I–”

Celestia smiled. “I’ve read it too,” her eyes turned back to the unamused unicorn. “I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help it once I found the room. I – I stored everything about you in there. After what happened I couldn’t look at anything anymore. Starswirl and Luna told me not to bury the memories and what I learned, but I just couldn’t bring myself to look at any of it anymore.”

“I think I deserve that tapestry back where ponies can see it.”

Princess Luna rested a hoof on Sombra’s shoulder. “She’s into stained glass these days. If she were to grant you something akin to all that transpired it would take a hall alone to say all there was. All that will be will certainly take even more space. Vignettes perhaps? They can say what needs to be said and gloss over one too many evenings alone.”

Sombra smiled as he saw Celestia try to hide her embarrassment. “And what would you know of those nights we may or may not have shared?”

“The way she carried herself back then changed from time to time, there was a time while you were gone that I worried she may have travelled to see you.” Luna paused and glanced to her sister briefly. “Mayhap to apologize with a foal she sought to hide from all save for its father.”

Sombra laughed as Celestia hurried from the room, sorely regretting it a moment later. “Still so easily tricked isn’t she Luna?”

“Indeed,” replied Luna smugly. “Though I think we may have taken it one step too far this time. Still, I have a feeling that you are destined for the hoof of a princess Sombra. Be it her, I, or even Twilight Sparkle, is best left for time to reveal.”

18 - A Gift Ungiven

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Waning Crescent 35, 3349

Tonight is this celebration the Equestrians known as Hearth’s Warming. I’ve wondered if I am the only pony left who celebrates the solstice in a proper way, though I know that is still in ten days’ time. I’ve done some thinking regarding celebrations over the past few days though. I wonder about my former subjects and how they adopted to this Hearth’s Warming celebration. My suspicions gravitate towards mixing the old and new customs. For them, I think I’ll begin my celebrations tonight. I’ll begin with my former subjects and save my mother and sister’s letters for the solstice proper.

“The doctor said you shouldn’t be using magic,” harped Twilight as she stormed into Sombra’s room.

“These are my personal thoughts,” replied the ebony unicorn as he physically closed his journal. “I’ve no intentions of dictating them to anyone. On that subject, I don’t enjoy when any spy on me writing something so personal.”

“I just wanted to tell you that Pinkie and the Apple family won’t be here for Hearth’s Warming. The Apples are spending the holiday with Pinkie’s family.”

“I believe you told me once they own a rock farm. I’m still somewhat confused regarding that. I’m not a foal, I know what a farm is, but how does one farm rocks? Do you not simply refer to that as a quarry of sorts?”

“You know what, I haven’t a clue what a rock farm is either. Have you tried to find out by asking Pinkie?”

“Yes I have but–”

“She looked at you like you were crazy didn’t she?”

“Yes. Were you met with such a response?”

“As if a rock farm was as normal as the fur on your body.”


As the day wore on, Twilight picked up her cake from Sugarcube Corner and bossed Spike around throughout the afternoon. During that time, Sombra spent most of his time reading up on the details of the holiday’s origin.

This is ridiculous, he thought. Clover was still a foal in my age.

“I know what you’re thinking Sombra,” chided Twilight as she checked in on him. “Before you ask, you remember that I read your journal.”

“I remember Twilight, but this story, I don’t understand its justification as a means to celebrate.”

“Well, what else is there to the solstice celebration? Is there anything more than something that’s more than a little dark?”

Sombra stared briefly but then he nodded. “It’s all about keeping those we care of in our hearts, even if we have to admit to them the wrong we’ve done. I could try to say that I did what I had to, but I should have known better then, just as I do in this era.”

“But telling that sort of thing to dead ponies is still a grim concept. Why don’t you just ask other ponies if they can help?”

“Normally we do, but it’s an ancient tradition. It helps remind us of who we’re related to and brings ponies closer. One might not be friends with all of their family, but the solstice is the night when you come together as only a family can.”

“Does it get confusing when distant relatives visit and–”

Sombra squirmed. “Let’s not talk about something like that. As far as I know, you’re welcome to say no if you are invited but first an invitation is preferable to arriving that day. The festive part of the solstice isn’t about some disgusting inbreeding thing.”

“I know,” Twilight replied with a sigh. “So, now that you have some understanding about Hearth’s Warming will you do anything with us tonight?”

“I still won’t attend the pageant, but not because I disagree with the celebration. I think I could stand to get started early.”


“It would be in poor taste if I attended after the day before last. I made a scene out of yelling at Celestia. I called her things I thought she was in the spur of the moment. I can’t risk snapping at anypony in town like that. I had to have scared more than a few ponies too, but to act like it’s just a normal day so soon is not something I want to show.”

“But feeling guilty isn’t something anypony who knows you would want you to be.”

“It’s the bigger picture. There aren’t many ponies in town that are willing to give me a chance right now and Pinkie has gone to spend the holiday with her family so my list of potential friends in town is smaller. Still, the unity in the holidays is something shared and that is something I can relate to.”


After Twilight and Spike returned from the pageant, they welcomed more ponies to the castle. Much to many ponies’ surprise, Twilight smiled when she saw Sombra joining them. “Thanks for coming to see everypony,” she said as she rushed to his side.

Sombra politely nodded. “I hadn’t expected many ponies to come to celebrate the festivities with you and Spike. Yes, I expected close friends, but beyond that was more of a surprise.”

Twilight giggled at his comment but led him along. “Everypony, as you all know, this is Sombra. He’s not as bad a pony as many of you have been led to know. He’s made several bad decisions but we all have made our share as well. Only after meeting him here could anypony uncover that much and even then, they still had to give him a chance.”

While many ponies murmured, one unicorn stepped towards Sombra and Twilight. “It’s good to finally meet you,” she said as she adjusted her glasses.

Sombra looked at her curiously. “Oh? My apologies, but I believe you have me at a disadvantage then Miss…”

“Moondancer,” she replied as she offered him her hoof. “Just Moondancer if you don’t mind Sombra.”

Sombra smiled as he reached out and took her hoof in his, surprising her by quickly kissing it. “Just what do you know of me then Moondancer?”

She blushed as ponies began to mingle. “Stories mostly, word travelled fast from the Crystal Empire after your defeat.”

“Nothing good I take it.”

“Mostly but I managed to get my hooves on a few history books that talk about your early life. Did you really learn under Starswirl the Bearded?”

“I cracked the temporal equation when we reunited in the former castle in Equestria back when I was originally in Celestia’s good graces.”


“He was stumped, brief trips were simple by compare. He had already figured that part out, but true temporal travel, everything from days to millennia remained out of reach. As I studied his formulae I found the factor that he required.”

“If you don’t mind, what was it?”

“He never factored for the effect of travelling to the past or bringing knowledge of the future back to the present. We agreed that this variable was needed to account for the potential one’s impact would have between the date in question and the present.”

“So, you figured out what it meant to factor for any paradoxical variables?”

Sombra nodded as he led her away from everyone. “Yes, and it made time travel exponentially dangerous as you travelled from the point of casting. After uncovering the safest distance, where one would absolutely close any paradoxical loop, we swore never to speak of such a thing again.”

“But there’s more to it right?”

“What magic would it be without rules? Self-imposed I assure you, but they were designed to minimize damage that could be done to temporal stability. Firstly, one should never interfere with their past or future self unless there is no alternative. An event that acts as an anchor becomes a fixed point, something to contain the paradox that could have been. Secondly, major events in the past cannot be disrupted. This would mean that, for example, I cannot return to the past and help the Celestia of that time so she does not lash at me in anger. Without that event, I do not resort to dark magic or fail to protect the Empire in my lunacy.”

“So if that didn’t happen then you wouldn’t be here explaining it to me.”

“Perhaps I would explain it to you still, though it would most certainly not be like this. I would imagine it would be through some musty tome you managed to sneak a peek at. Who can say rea– ahh!” Sombra began to retreat before rubbing his temple.

“Are you okay,” inquired Moondancer.

As Sombra continued to wince in pain, he saw other guests look towards him. “As if thousands of voices are echoing in my head. It is quite painful but the source and the reason are more than enough to cast the pain aside for now.”

Twilight hurried to his side. “What’s wrong?”

“Just a theory Twilight, that perhaps the old ways were blended with the new.”

Moondancer blinked as she helped Twilight keep Sombra steady. “What’s going on Twilight?”

“He celebrates the solstice, the evening before his calendar year begins. There’s something that they do and I see where he’s going with his theory. The crystal ponies all think he’s dead so they might try sending him letters about who he was before and the good they remember he did.”

Despite the mares’ assistance, Sombra’s legs still buckled as he tried to suppress the pain brought on by the echoing voices in his head. “They are subsiding, finally allowing me a chance to hear them.”

“So what’s the message,” asked Moondancer eagerly.

“If they would wish for one thing this Hearth’s Warming, it would be for the return of the kind hearted prince they once knew me as. I can’t grant them that wish and it – it breaks my heart to be unable to give them something so true to my hopes.” Sombra sighed as he stood once more. “In time I may be capable of granting that desire of theirs, but I would find it best that I do not hear so many voices within my head. There is already one in there, and I don’t like it that much.”

“So that’s what you want for Hearth’s Warming,” Twilight asked. “You want them not to be so loud right?”

“What I want is to be a better pony but I want believe I make that occur with each passing day.” Sombra looked past the two mares and looked around the room at the other ponies who had returned to their socializing. “Just knowing they try is enough for me. Enjoy yourselves ladies, I’d rather leave before any second wind arrives.”

“What did he mean by a voice,” whispered Moondancer as Sombra left.

“Temptation to return to the darker ways is very real in his case. It tempts him on a daily basis and ignoring it is taxing enough. That pedigree is not just for name.”

“So it’s all about discipline? What happens if he slips?”

“I don’t know, but he expects me to stop him if that happens.”

“Can you?”

Moondancer’s question rung in Twilight’s ears as she watched Sombra leave, a smile on his face and her friend Lyra laughing beside him. That should be me, she thought.

19 - Sombra: Once Upon a Time

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~Waning Crescent 35, 3349 (11:55 pm)~

Frequent are the times in these past few months where I’ve conjured my early years so vividly in my mind. One particular night has always been one that I’ve kept close to my heart. If one of Twilight’s friends from her school days were to hear it, I fear they would consider it blasphemy. I have considered the irony of the situation as I nearly recounted the tale twice this Hearth’s Warming Eve…

~Waxing Gibbous 35, 2346 (Roughly 12 am)~

The moon was high in the evening sky when I snuck from my quarters. Through corridors and concealed passages I travelled what felt like the width and breadth of the castle. Given the source of my directions, I may have made just such a journey. Despite my exhaustion, I still knocked on a thick oak door in the dead of night. The sound of bells accompanied the opening of locks as I regained my composure.

“You never seem to arrive when I tell you to,” asked my former mentor as his door swung open. “Never late, never on time, but always early. For once, that’s something I want to see considering the discovery we’ll make one of these nights.”

“You sounded rather vague yesterday,” I replied as he ushered me into his study. Littering every surface were notes, vials, abacuses, and dirty dishes. Indeed, some things never change and I expected no less when Starswirl told me he was on the verge of something important.

“That’s because it’s only a theory and not something I intend to make a regular occurrence.”

“So how far are we pushing the threshold of magic back this time Starswirl?”

“I think I’ve nearly solved the fundaments of time travel but something doesn’t add up properly.”

“Time travel? Forgive my ignorance but is that impossible or merely insane?”

Starswirl sighed, refusing to look me in the eye. “Call it what you will Sombra, but I have spent my twilight years doing more than functioning as an advisor to the princesses. Imagine it though, if it works then it will be the last thing I’ve done. It’ll be so much more than that infernal mirror experiment.”

“Mirror experiment?”

“It was going to revolutionize the way ponies travel but I never could get the damn thing to work right. It always went to some silly world where ponies walked on two legs and had hands. I did manage to trap a trio of sirens in that other world without their magic though so it wasn’t a total loss.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. “A whole new world out there and you managed to save countless lives in the process of this experiment. Only you would call something like that a failure.”

Starswirl looked at me and smiled. “That’s why I like you Sombra. You’re always seeing the upside to a mistake.”

“Not always, I get the feeling that this journey was a mistake. Look at my competition, Ionas is the second youngest here and he’s more experienced than I am.”

“Yes, but that’s not the point of courting Princess Celestia is it? Age and experience are irrelevant if she still doesn’t like you. Believe me, I’m speaking from experience Sombra.”

I hesitated, trying my hardest to forget the final comment. “Still, I’d only be buying time in the eyes of the Empire’s laws.”

“Maybe with Celestia’s help, you could make some changes so you and any other stallion of your line wouldn’t be ignored like this. But we’re rather far off topic now, let’s focus on this problem right now.” With a single casual motion, Starswirl conjured a large chalkboard laden with various equations. “In theory it works, but it’s still unstable.”

Silence came as I analyzed his formula and did my best to decipher his smudged variables. “Are you compensating for alterations to time you may potentially make?”

“Are you mad? You’re asking for a self-correcting equation and magic doesn’t allow for that sort of thing!”

“Yes it does, you’re just refusing to see it. You’re halfway there with this paradoxical coefficient, but without enough variance it could unravel all of time and space simply from turning math into magic. By integrating flaws in the spell you’ll stabilize the equation and compensate for the paradox in a more versatile manner.”

“Wouldn’t that create alternate timelines instead to shift the paradoxical effect?”

“That depends on how far you intend to go to the past or future and for how long. If this is possible then it would be far beyond the scope of magical proficiency. On the topic of magical proficiency, would you attempt to harness this in some device?”

“Nonsense, after the mirror incident I realized power such as this is impossible to contain in an object. There are too many variables, especially by travelling into the past.”

I nodded. “So very true, how would you be able to close the spell if the object was never invented? I think the spell’s magnitude, or rather duration, needs to be calculated before being able to travel through time proper. By doing that–”

“Brilliant,” my former mentor exclaimed. “By forcing the spell to contain its own loop you prevent somepony from going into the past and preventing them from being able to impact the whole of reality and cause it to collapse on itself to compensate.”

“Still, any able to use this kind of magic should realize that it is a foolish venture. Nothing can be gained by altering the past or bending the present by using knowledge obtained in the future.”

Silence filled the castle past that notion as we worked in silence through the night. Still, it was only the beginning of my work in this theory’s tale. We spent many days and nights arguing and debating potential permutations of the spell.

~Waning Crescent 36, 3349 (12:35 am)~

In those days I never thought Starswirl would even attempt to apply our theory but in this era I’ve learned he put it to practice more than once. Having uncovered that knowledge, I’ve wondered more than once if he understood what he was inviting.

I stand by my belief that time mustn’t be altered. I only hope that my former mentor learned to leave well enough alone by those sojourns.

20 - The One Where Sombra Remains Calm

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New Moon 12, 3350

These past few weeks have shown more trying times than favorable. It is kind that the citizens are less weary but it does not cause Celestia’s occasional visits to relent. I see these visits of hers detrimental to her position of governance more than the similarities of the protectiveness of a mother hen. I do still comprehend her protectiveness, but it undermines her ability to govern to simply visit and ensure that I am not slipping into my old ways.

Much like Celestia, Discord seems to visit in a questionable frequency. If I didn’t know better than I would think his “overprotectiveness” was forced by an external force. Perhaps I am truly overthinking it but it may be time to act more on Luna’s advice if only to–

The sound of a pebble clacking against Sombra’s window drew his attention from his journal. Even in his morning haze, he knew there were several things wrong with the notion.

“I can see above all plausible buildings and there is no proper vantage to reach from the ground,” Sombra murmured as he slowly made his way to the window.

Upon opening the window however, Sombra was greeted by a grappling hook followed swiftly by a very nervous pink pony.

“Sombra,” Pinkie said as she hurried in, “you’ve got to help me!”

“Good morning to you too Pinkie,” he replied.

“Sorry. I need your advice on something. Something I know you’re really good at.”

“This ‘something’ is what exactly? It isn’t dangerous is it? I know what I would be considered ‘really good at’ but you need to give me more information.”

“It’s a ‘top secret’ secret. I need to know how to keep it a secret.”

He sighed. “Well, you’ve already blown the first suggestion I have for you by telling me there’s a secret like that. My amended advice is to tell only one other pony.”

“And if I can’t?”

“To put it mildly, there is no ‘third best’ when it comes to secret-keeping. Tell me, what happens when you betray a friend’s trust?”

“But this is serious!”

“What happens?”

Pinkie frowned and lowered her head. “Losing a friend’s trust is the fastest way to lose that friend forever.”

Sombra nodded and smiled as he tilted Pinkie’s face so she once more looked at him. “Have you told anypony?”

“Only Mrs. Cake but she already knew. I only found out because she dropped the letter it was on.”

“Can you tell me if I should be concerned? You know, like how I was indirectly forewarned about Celestia and had time to prepare for the encounter.”

“Probably, but I hope not. Are you expecting anything negative happening?”

“In case you haven’t been paying attention, I seem to still have powerful enemies. I call them that not from mutual animosity, but merely what they could do to me and those I want to prove I care about. I can understand Discord, but Celestia? She is not a pony I would recommend making angry.”

“I know, she threw you through a wall on sight. How’s the back by the way?”

“Everything’s back to normal. So, what should I be concerned about?”

“Do you promise not to tell?”

Sombra nodded.

“Do you Pinkie Promise?”

“Do I what now? Do you mean if I swear not to tell another soul?”

“Yes. That. Do you swear not to tell another soul?”

“My lips are sealed Pinkie.”

Pinkie leaned in close to her shadowy friend and whispered something that made him go pale. A casual magical act added one final line to his journal entry:

There appears to be a curious wrinkle today…


“I am not sure how it truly impacts me Pinkie. Not directly at least.”

“But it sounds like they’re coming here. Aren’t you worried?”

“I see it much like Celestia: an inevitability. I did not expect it so soon, but I doubt any walls will be harmed in this encounter.”

“Here’s hoping Sombra, but I should get going.”

“Use the stairs Pinkie,” Sombra said as he held the pink mare back from the window, “you’re suspicious enough with a grappling hook and a climb like that one. Oh, and could you head to White Lightning’s and get me a peace offering? Shining Armor would be nice to have on my side, even if it’s just to calm his wife down.”

“Gotcha, one peace offering as soon as I can get it. You can pay me back right?”

“Something we can share Pinkie, like a six pack or something. I’m not asking for that top-shelf nonsense. I can reimburse you so just try to be discreet.”

“But couldn’t you–”

“Yes, but if they are indeed visiting then I would be at a disadvantage if we were to meet on the street. Think of the citizens of Ponyville. It was a poor, albeit inevitable, thing to have an aggressive encounter so close to Hearth’s Warming. Now, how about starting the new year that way as well?”

“No, I guess not.”

“My point exactly.”


As Sombra made his way downstairs for breakfast, Spike was the first person he encountered. Much to the unicorn’s surprise however was the confusion on the young dragon’s face.

“What was Pinkie doing in the castle so early,” he asked.

Sombra smiled as he tried to recover from the surprising change in his usual morning routine. “I suppose she was merely being Pinkie Pie. On a more refreshing note, I’m happy you decided not to greet me with a scowl today.”

Try as he might, Spike found himself hard pressed to give Sombra his usual morning scowl. “Well yeah, but I’m just sick of Twilight getting on my case about it is all.”

“Sleep well last night?”

“Yeah. Did I catch you by surprise?”

“Well, more than Pinkie had. She came in through my window and roused me faster than jabbing my side with a hot poker could. She said something that made little sense and then left.”

“Getting used to that,” Spike asked smugly.

“As much as anyone can expect to. She’s not a pony I suspect any to be prepared for at all times.”

“Her sister seemed to.”

“Yes, but that’s family. As her friend, can you say you’re ready for anything she could do?”

Spike paused, he had been ready to answer but found it surprisingly difficult to answer honestly. “You’re right, I don’t think I can be ready for her to do just about anything.”

“Good, I’d hate to be the only one. Are we done with this line of conversation then?”

“Yeah,” Spike looked at Sombra carefully. After a moment of seeing no more than the unicorn’s cheerful smile, Spike smiled in return. “I’m not saying we’re friends or anything, but–”

“Ceasefire,” the unicorn suggested as he offered his hoof.

“Deal,” replied Spike as he bumped his fist with Sombra’s waiting hoof.


I still feel out of place here, thought Sombra a short while later. Twilight had apparently had her friends convene in the castle for some announcement he wasn’t aware of. He had his suspicions to be sure, but his mind had diverted more of its usual focus towards what Pinkie had confided.

“So what’s the news Twi,” asked Rainbow from her nearby seat. She quickly glanced over towards Sombra then to Twilight. “Something involving your guest?”

“Well, somepony special is coming to visit Ponyville. I asked Sombra to come because it is important he knows.”

“This isn’t another visit from Celestia is it,” asked Rarity. “I can still feel the tension from last week’s appearance.”

Twilight shook her head. “Shining Armor and Princess Cadance are visiting.”

Every eye turned to look in Sombra’s direction. He wore a pensive look as he made his way to the table. “I understand everypony’s concern, but after the rather invasive appearances from Discord and Celestia’s unsettling visits, I think I can rationally cope with them. If I had misgivings, I would be airing them. At the very least, I don’t expect any physical violence from them. Still, perhaps it would be wise to keep any encounters to a minimum.”

“I’d agree, but they’re planning to stay for a few days at least. You have to eat sometime and socializing helps even you out.”

“It evens me out?”

Applejack gave him a deadpan stare. “Last time Twilight said you were spending time alone ‘ah could see a light all the way from my room back at Sweet Apple Acres in the dead of night.”

“I wished to remain isolated for everypony’s safety,” Sombra countered. “I knew what I was doing but I was not expecting that drastic of a reaction. I already said that I’d be more careful with saltpeter in the future. One error does not make me dangerous on my–”

“You do talk to yourself a lot,” interrupted Fluttershy.

“There’s a voice of temptation and I need to silence it. Would you like to have it and be considered crazy instead?”

“Um, no.”

“If everyone would rather I keep my head down and lay low then I’ll do my best. Perhaps a visit to the old castle would be best for all parties involved?”

Despite the vigorous nods of their friends, both Pinkie and Twilight remained still.

“How about we just get it over with,” suggested Twilight.

“Best to get off on the right hoof,” added Pinkie.

A thin smile grew on Sombra’s face from the notion. Well done Pinkie, he thought.

“I suppose so,” he said as he followed along. “This meeting is bound to happen so all the better to get it over with now. Yes,” his eyes shifted towards Pinkie, “it seems to be the best course of action that I can see.”

“If there’s nothing else I need to go and get something Twilight,” Pinkie quickly added.

“Wait, we have time to get this sort of thing ready. They’ll be here tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow. Got it. Need to go!” With nobody ready to stop her, Pinkie vanished from the room.

“Is it just me or is Pinkie acting stranger than usual,” commented Rainbow Dash.

“She seems as normal as I’ve seen her,” replied Sombra. “Trust me, I’ve had some experience in understanding strange ponies and she is fairly normal by comparison to Starswirl.”

“Well, I think I have everything planned already. Cadance and Shining Armor will be staying on the far side of the castle from Sombra, just to keep animosity as low as I can make it. Even with that, I hope everypony can help me out. I don’t think any of us wants another pre-Heath’s Warming shouting match in the streets.”

“Or a straight up brawl,” added Rainbow. “I mean, can you imagine the kinda damage Princess Cadance might do if she goes all fury and hate on Sombra. Or what about your brother Twi, that wouldn’t end without one of them heading to the hospital.”

“I’m sure you don’t mean to say that as though I’m not here,” commented the unicorn calmly, “and I do grasp the gravity of such an outcome. I don’t suspect she has sufficient power to kill me outright, as Celestia would if she so chose to unleash it, but the danger it would pose to Ponyville is something worthy of our attention. Much like Celestia, I have no intention of fighting back and I worry what the collateral damage would be should I defend myself. In Shining’s case, a hospital visit seems like one possible outcome. One I would prefer to avoid if at all possible.”

Twilight looked around the table. “Anypony have any suggestions?”

“Perhaps dividing them, some form of peace offering to one in the hopes of easing the other.”

Rarity smiled. “It sounds possible, I do have some ideas that may appeal to Princess Cadance but she may think you’re just trying to buy her off.”

“How about just some ‘guy thing’ for Shining Armor,” suggested Rainbow. “I mean, you know how a stallion’s mind works so find some common ground with him instead of appealing to a princess who might want to settle things violently.”

Sombra looked to the apprehensive alicorn. “Twilight, do you think your brother would resort to violence or try to hear me out?”

“I think he could hear you out if you had something to distract him enough.”


“But back to what we’ll have to do outside of any potential conflict,” Twilight said as she led everyone through the castle. “When I found out they were coming to visit, I gathered everything I thought of that Shining liked when he was a colt.”

“So a nostalgic surprise,” asked both Sombra and Rarity simultaneously before laughing at their combined conclusion.

“Exactly and I hope he likes the work I put into it.”

“Do you think Cadance will approve of the arrangements?”

“Sombra, I’m guessing here. Much like you, I don’t think they want a room fit for royalty. This is them visiting so I think casual is better.”

“Do you think it wise to decorate with things suited for a colt? What of something more mature? Something they can enjoy as adults. Perhaps something less… gender biased at the very least. Before I get a question, I like my room as it is: suited for a scholar and avid researcher in the properties of magic. When I haven’t been trying to make friends, or at least friendly acquaintances, I’ve considered returning to my roots as a positive use of my time.”

“‘Yer roots,” asked Applejack.

“Before I was a king, I was in love. Before that I loved uncovering the secrets of magic. There was a certain wonder from discovering something new, something that might benefit everypony.”

“‘An’ instead you–”

“I don’t need to be reminded all the time. I don’t like the thought of being remembered for my failings Applejack. I’ll probably regret more of my contributions to magic than things you’ll accomplish in your life. Yes, I do mean to include saving Equestria on numerous occasions.”

“Is it just me or is he taking this thing with Applejack way too seriously,” Rainbow Dash whispered to Rarity.