Princess Cadance wanted answers from King Sombra regarding his rise to power in the Crystal Empire. He gave her a bit more than she bargained for.
King Sombra actively destroyed records about the Crystal Empire before his reign. Princess Cadance has slowly been reverting that destruction and has reached a point where only one question remains. How did King Sombra come to power in the Crystal Empire? Records are silent on that one.
It's fortunate then that during recent events, King Sombra himself was captured and locked up in Tartarus. So it should be a simple matter to go there and ask him. That's at least what Princess Cadance and Shining Armor think.
It turns out King Sombra knows quite a bit more than the royal couple realized. He knows where Princess Cadance came from.
Chapter 1 There was only one way to describe the atmosphere in Tartarus, despite its ominous look, caged up monsters, and the huge-three headed guard dog. It was boring. The two most infamous residents didn’t even speak much to each other. The dark gray unicorn with the red curved horn usually just laid on his side and seemed to rest. The centaur ticked another line on the markings he was making on his cage floor.
Sombra wasn’t sleeping. He was sorting out all his jumbled memories, getting them finally in order. Having been exiled to ice and then blown up had crisscrossed them all over the place in his mind. He hadn’t had much of a chance to fully commit to it after his resurrection. He had focused on his plans to restore his race, the Dark Ponies. However, that went down the drain when he was captured. Now all he could do was go through his memories and sort them out.
But the monotony of their stay was about to be lifted for a little while. A portal opened right above the glowing platform the cages rested on. Tirek eyed over and Sombra relented to lift his head to glance up. Both raised their eyebrows when seeing the pink alicorn step through, along with a white unicorn stallion.
“Visiting hours are over; in fact, I do not believe we have visiting hours,” King Sombra grumbled and laid his head back down.
An old book dropped down right in front of him outside the cage. Sombra narrowed his eyes; then he glanced upwards. Standing in front of him were Princess Cadance and Shining Armor, both looking grimly at him.
“Are you bringing me reading materials? I didn’t know you were so kind,” he snorted and slowly raised his head again, glaring just as grimly at the royal couple. For a moment he wished his magic wasn’t blocked with the manacle on his horn. He had a clear shot at the ponies that now sat on the throne he had claimed so long ago.
“We have been slowly piecing back together the history of the Crystal Empire - history you systematically erased,” Cadance said and pointed towards the book. “This is the last remaining copy that was found that tells of the empire before you grabbed it, carefully hidden by a very brave crystal pony.”
“A brave crystal pony? I was not aware such a creature existed,” the king mocked and smirked a little when seeing the incensed look come over the Princess. Her husband raised a hoof to place it gently on her for support and comfort.
“Unfortunately, the book does not cover one part and you rather successfully erased it from the memories of the crystal ponies,” Shining Armor now glared at the king. “How you came to power. Even Princess Celestia is unsure how you went about it.”
King Sombra’s brow rose. He carefully and suspiciously regarded the two ponies outside his cage. Then he looked at Cadance, tilted his head; there was something familiar about her. Not just from remembering his defeat when the princess had his slaves activate the crystal heart and destroy him. His jumbled memories were recalling something else.
“Mi Amore Cadenza,” he whispered, then his eyes flew wide open and he sat up staring at the princess, looking bewildered. “It cannot be.”
“What? You know my full name? Considering you spent such a long time spying on Equestria before striking again, I’m not surprised you’ve heard it,” Cadance grunted, wondering though why the Dark Pony looked so stunned.
Of course, she was just an infant. She does not remember. Sombra’s bewilderment started to change into amusement. Slowly he began grinning. “Tell me, princess, do you remember your mother?”
“I do not. I was an orphan raised in a village of earth ponies before using a magic spell to defeat an evil force. That event gave me my horn,” Cadance responded, giving her husband an uncertain look.
“We are getting off-topic,” Shining Armor claimed. “We are here because we were hoping you would like to gloat about how you initially conquered the Crystal Empire.”
“Oh, but we are not actually off-topic at all.” King Sombra slowly looked at the prince, his grin turning wicked. “In fact, you have no idea how connected your lovely wife is exactly to that event.”
“What?” Cadance frowned heavily. Her husband arched his brow, looking mildly confused.
Sombra’s grin was now so wide it nearly split his muzzle apart. His memories were coming together now, slowly and surely he had begun piecing everything together. The king glanced over at Tirek’s cage; the centaur was listening, but so far saw no reason to interrupt.
“What say you, Lord Tirek? Should I give a poor orphan mare her dearest wish, to know more of her parents?” he asked and chuckled mockingly.
“Oh, don’t stop the show now, King Sombra. Clearly the poor souls are just dying for some answers. They did come here seeking them.” The centaur smirked, just as entertained as the Dark Pony was.
“How does this relate at all…” Shining Armor started but light blue magic shut his muzzle up. Cadance had activated her horn and used her magic to silence him. The alicorn, however, was staring sharply at the king.
“What do you mean, my parents? You knew them?” she asked, half between angry and intrigued.
“My dear Mi Amore Cadenza, I didn’t just know them.” Sombra slowly looked back at her, his grin turning sinister. His voice lowered to a whisper. “I killed them.”
“What?” Cadance face fell, her magic faltered and it lost the grip on her husband’s muzzle. Shining immediately put a leg around her, before glaring angrily at the king.
“What the hay are you talking about!?” he snapped.
King Sombra started laughing, madly and loudly. It had finally dawned on him why the princess was so familiar. For a while, nothing came out of him except the mad chortles. Slowly he rose up, shifting the chains around his legs a little. When he finally stopped, the king looked at the royal couple with a smug smile.
“You were so small and delicate when I held you aloft for the entire citizenry of the Crystal Empire to see as they blessed you. The crystal used to gather up all the love shone so brightly before being put into the Crystal Heart. Your mother watched so proudly, your father was exploding with it,” Sombra said softly, seemingly enjoying the memory.
“What are you talking about?” Cadance blinked when Sombra described a crystalling ceremony very accurately.
“Mi Amore Cadenza, I was your Royal Crystaller,” the king whispered and grinned wickedly when seeing the stunned looks come over the faces of the couple.
“I really need something to snack on while listening to this. Could either of you provide me with some magic in a bucket while I listen?” Tirek remarked, chuckling a little himself at the expressions on the royals.
“You’re lying!” Cadance snarled, her ears bending low. “You took over the Crystal Empire over a thousand years ago. I haven’t been alive that long.”
“There is a reason I do not like time ponies very much,” King Sombra sighed deeply and shook his head. He returned his attention to the two ponies. “Very well, I shall start from the beginning.”
“When I first came to the Crystal Empire, I was still grieving the destruction of both my empire and my sister, Queen Ira. However, I still sought power and I could already tell there was unique power in the Crystal Empire,” Sombra began and sat down, gesturing to the couple to do the same. Cadance and Shining eyed each other skeptically before doing so.
“I wasn’t even aware of the refugees that came to Equestria further south - would probably not have cared at the time,” the king shrugged. “So, I went to the Crystal Empire…”
“And conquered it,” Shining Armor interrupted with the roll of his eyes, not bothered by the stinging glare he received from the Dark Pony.
“I recall you wished to know how I went about it? There is a little more between me arriving at the Crystal Empire and the point where I finally ascended to the throne,” Sombra grunted then looked at Cadance, who had been a little amused by her husband’s interruption. “And it involves her parents.”
Cadance scowled. She returned to giving the Dark Pony her full attention. Shining Armor did so as well. Sombra continued to glare at them for a little while, wondering if they were going to continue to interrupt him.
“If you thought I just arrived in the Crystal Empire blasting away with my powers and enslaving the population as I walked the streets, you are mistaken. No, at first I just arrived as any regular visitor. I still didn’t know nearly enough about it to just start claiming anything,” the Dark Pony snorted.
“Please proceed then,” Cadance said. She was starting to get very curious since the king seemed willing to talk. Shining nodded, feeling much the same, he had just not been able to resist the earlier jab. It was rather nice to see the king locked up and chained like this.
“You know who Princess Amore was, I expect?” Sombra asked.
“She was the last ruler of the Crystal Empire before you took over, yes we know,” the princess responded with a small snort. “The princess you usurped the throne from.”
“Are both of you going to keep jumping ahead?” Sombra snapped, now looking more like a teacher tired of his know-it-all students. When there was no response except the amused smiles of the royal couple, he continued.
“Are you also aware that Commander Hurricane was still alive and well, living in the Crystal Empire?” Sombra then inquired, smirking a little when seeing the amused smiles change into uncertain frowns.
“I had heard stories, but there were no confirmations. Are you telling me they are true? Commander Hurricane lived his last days in the Crystal Empire?” Cadance asked, almost amazed to have this legend confirmed. Shining still looked confused.
“He was still alive? He was a pretty larger-than-life pegasus, but still just a pegasus.” The prince had difficulty wrapping his mind around this.
“The stories go that after retiring from ruling the Pegasi tribe after the formation of Equestria, he traveled and came to the Crystal Empire. There was an accident involving a magic mishap he helped stop, but it nearly killed him. It’s said that Princess Amore poured her magic into him to keep him alive,” Cadance told her husband who could only arch his brow.
“They are true, that is what happened,” King Sombra confirmed her words with a nod. “When I arrived, the two of them were married.”
Once again the royal couple could only just stare stunned at the king. This time he was not grinning or smirking. He had assumed a neutral expression as he regarded them. On the inside, he was laughing a little.
“I didn’t, of course, tell them who I was. The Lost Son of Queen Rabia had long since faded into legend. I presented myself as Umbra. The Commander didn’t trust me for a second, but Princess Amore had a kinder and more understanding heart. She had, of course, heard of the destruction of the Dark Pony Empire and welcomed me to her court, thinking I was just one of the refugees, one who had come to her nation instead of Equestria,” Sombra finally resumed his smirk. The couple was now frowning again.
“And she was expecting at the time of my arrival. Seems there was still life left in the old Commander,” the king chuckled.
“Princess Amore had a baby?” Cadance asked skeptically. She had heard no stories about that.
Sombra’s smirk grew into a wider grin and he could tell the couple hadn’t caught on yet, even if they had been discussing it not that long ago, being too engaged in all the new information about the Crystal Empire’s past he was providing them. He didn’t mind telling them. This was actually helping him get some of his memories in order. There was also the added bonus of their varied reactions.
“As I considered my options, I started to study the Crystal Empire, spent my time studying its history and its laws in the royal library. Princess Amore was rather impressed by my abilities and knowledge. I used no magic on her, just kept myself courteous and proper in her presence, eventually gaining her confidence,” he continued. “After all, I was myself a prince from a royal court, even if she didn’t know yet the Commander suspected.”
“What about the baby?” the princess asked urgently, looking far more interested in that than other parts of Sombra’s story.
“Ah, the baby, what a precious little creature she was. Born so pink and with a multicolored mane and tail, she inherited her father’s wings. The first pegasi princess to be born in the Crystal Empire,” Sombra stared at Cadance, wondering if she was finally catching on.
“She… was a… pegasus?” Cadance whispered and was starting to look pale. Shining reached over to place a leg around her.
“Indeed and they named her…” King Sombra paused for a second, slowly his smile turned wicked. “Mi Amore Cadenza.”
Princess Cadance felt numb hearing this. She just stared forward, unable to say a word. Shining was already embracing her and trying to comfort her. The alicorn didn’t seem to respond to it, she was frozen like a statue.
“And as I had already provided some excellent service to your mother, she appointed me your Royal Crystaller,” Sombra told her. “Despite your father’s protests.”
“You monster!” Cadance suddenly snarled and scowled hard. She pushed Shining away from her, rose up and grabbed Sombra with her magic and slammed him into the cage bar.
“Honey, please calm down,” Shining tried to grab a hold of his enraged wife as she continued to slam the king into the bars.
“Not…” Surprisingly, Sombra kept talking between the slams, only slightly grunting in pain. “Just… a … monster… the… king… of… monsters!”
Finally the magic vanished off him and Sombra crumbled to the cage floor, feeling a little disoriented and in pain after the beating, but stubbornly refusing to show it. He slowly glanced over and saw that Cadance had wrapped her legs around her husband and was crying. The king chuckled, he could already tell that the physical pain he was feeling was nothing compared to the emotional he had just caused Cadance. He felt somewhat vindicated, considering these two had a hoof in his death.
“Shall I continue?” he asked when the sobbing stopped, but the couple was still embracing each other. Both slowly glared at him.
“I think you have said enough,” Shining Armor snorted, almost tempted to resume slamming the king to the cage bar, yet knowing it wouldn’t help.
“No… let’s finish this,” Cadance whispered icily, wondering if she could convince Princess Celestia to drag the cage to the Crystal Empire and have Sombra blasted again with the Crystal Heart.
“Well, there isn’t that much left to tell really. What Princess Amore didn’t know and Commander Hurricane only suspected, was that I was up to something the whole time. I didn’t just study the Crystal Empire. I was very busy slowly corrupting Amore’s guards, staff, everypony around her except the princess and her stalwart husband,” King Sombra started again, rising up to sit and cringing slightly at the pain in his head.
“I didn’t initially intend to divide and conquer. I indented to ascent to the throne legally. You see, I had discovered that laws of the Crystal Empire allowed their rulers to be betrothed when very young to other royalty,” Sombra explained, smirking when seeing the uncertain looks return to the royal couple. “But Amore was already married and so that really just left me with one option.”
“W-wait… you intended to…” Cadance’s anger vanished to be replaced with disgust. “Marry me!?”
“Well when you were of age, of course. I do have standards,” Sombra snorted and rolled his eyes. “My plan was basically corrupt the castle staff and the guards, get rid of Amore and Hurricane, raise you as your custodian, being your Royal Crystaller, and when old enough, yes, marry you and rule through you.”
“I’m from Dark Pony society. We are matriarchal. It’s the mares who rule, but stallions can sometimes gain power through their wives,” the king shrugged as if this were completely normal. Judging by the expressions on Princess Cadance and Shining Armor, it was anything but normal to them. They looked both disgusted and horrified.
“Well, corrupting the staff and getting rid of Princess Amore and Commander Hurricane worked,” Sombra sighed and shook his head in dismay. “However, it was all disrupted by unexpected guests.”
“What unexpected guests?” Shining asked, feeling relieved that things hadn’t played out like the Dark King had intended.
“At the same time, Princess Amore was hosting two guests. What I didn’t know these two guests were there because of me,” Sombra growled as he recalled these events in his mind. “You see, in my travels I had acquired scrolls of time magic from the race called time ponies. The time ponies were trying to get them back and had sent agents. There were two time ponies in the court.”
“They never got their scrolls back; they never got the chance. When I finished corrupting or mind-controlling the last of the crystal guards, I went straight into the second part of my plan, getting rid of Princess Amore and Commander Hurricane,” Sombra wasn’t smirking or grinning anymore, he looked almost annoyed now.
“Princess Amore never saw the knife into her chest coming. She thought I had just arrived in the throne room to discuss some matters with her. She didn’t even get a chance to scream, just a quiet ‘why’ before the life seeped out of her,” the king continued, ignoring the withering glare from the princess.
“Then the time ponies burst in. They had figured out my plans, thinking they could warn Amore in time. They couldn’t. It was already done,” King Sombra snorted in contempt. “They could have saved your mother, they could have traveled back in time and stopped me at an earlier point. They didn’t because their own laws forbid them to change things that have passed.”
“They saw me over the dead body of the princess and that meant it was too late, even for them,” the king rolled his eyes and chuckled mockingly.
“I ordered the guards to kill them, blaming the death of the princess on them The guards were more than happy to as they were now under my full control… however, there was still Commander Hurricane,” Sombra raised his hoof to rub his forehead tiredly. “I somewhat regret not dealing with him first.”
“Anyway, to cut this short, he burst in as well, knocked the guards away from the time pony couple and ordered them to go get you and take you away while he dealt with me. We battled in the throne room, but already the life was draining out of him, no longer being kept alive with Princess Amore’s magic,” the king continued.
“I was distracted by the battle. The time ponies had managed to get to your cradle in the nursery. By the time Hurricane lay dead at my hooves, they were gone with you,” Sombra finished and slowly lay back down. He eyed the couple who stared silently at him, looking grim again.
“Tell me, in that village you grew up in, did your earth pony foster parents have hourglass cutie-marks?” he asked curiously.
“They did not,” Cadance stared coldly at the king who just smirked at her. “I was found in a forest by them.”
“Typical time ponies. Probably couldn’t stand the thought of raising a ‘normal’ pony. Always so high and mighty about themselves just because they know time magic,” Sombra snorted and shook his head.
“I think you can guess reasonably well where it went from there. With the rulers dead and the infant princess gone, I took the throne of the Crystal Empire.” The king laid his head down on top of his front legs.
“I’ve heard enough,” Cadance growled and stood up, she grabbed the old book up again and stomped away with Shining Armor following. The couple was soon gone through a magic portal.
“What an engaging story,” Tirek finally saw fit to make a comment again. “Any of it true?”
“Every single word,” the king responded and fell silent, smiling.
Chapter 2 Princess Cadance stared at the decorative stained-glass window that depicted Princess Amore, the last ruler of the Crystal Empire before King Sombra. The alicorn raised a hoof to gently touch the image of the pale vermillion colored unicorn, her long mane in gradient raspberry to cobalt blue. On her head was a blue crown. A golden heart was on her forehead held up by a blue band, a similar but bigger heart was on her chest, held up by bands in the same color that went around her neck and barrel. On the raised hoof of the former ruler, the smallest heart was fastened on a smaller band encircling her gaskin.
Sombra’s words lay heavily on the princess as she stared at the picture of the long-gone ruler. She didn’t want to believe them, wanted them just to be a sick game of his, trying to get into her head. Yet Cadance wasn’t sure. She had seen this window many times by now and never could shake the feeling that there was something familiar was about the mare depicted there.
What Celestia and Luna could tell her about Amore was that she had been a very kind and loving ruler and the Crystal Ponies had adored her. What they couldn’t tell her was how she had been lost. Unfortunately, around the time King Sombra took over, Discord was already beginning to cause havoc in Equestria.
It had started small. The chaos spirit had seemingly been testing the waters, but it had kept the Celestial Princesses busy. Then he had fully taken over and at almost the same time Sombra had suddenly risen as the ruler of the Crystal Empire. Cadance wondered if Sombra had been aware of the trouble in Equestria, thus timed his take over to match. By the time the sisters managed to defeat Discord, a very long time had also passed in the empire, long enough for Sombra to have completely destroyed the records of his rise to power and a good chunk of the history of the Crystal Ponies.
Cadance sighed and slowly dropped her hoof down. What if the king was telling the truth? What if that mare in the window was her mother? Why had she then been taken to the distant future to be raised by earth ponies before she ascended and was taken in by Celestia? This trip to Tartarus had really just raised more questions.
And why no mention of her marriage to Commander Hurricane? The princess frowned. Surely Celestia and Luna would remember that. They had met the Commander and the other founders of Equestria. Starswirl the Bearded himself had been their teacher and he had also been the teacher of Clover the Clever.
“Something troubles you?” a voice addressed her from behind. Cadance glanced over, never changing her solemn expression as she regarded the midnight blue alicorn standing there.
“Luna,” Cadance turned towards her aunt. “What brings you to the Crystal Empire?”
“Celestia told me that you and Shining Armor had gone to Tartarus to interrogate King Sombra,” the Moon Princess said and walked closer. She looked at the window, especially the image of Princess Amore. “I take it the fiend told you something you didn’t want to hear.”
“Did you know?” Cadance just asked, she did her best to hide her emotions right now. She needed to know if things had been kept away from her. She refused to jump to conclusions, refused to let the king’s words affect her.
“Celestia didn’t, I suspected when I returned from my own exile.” Luna walked closer, still not taking her eyes of the image. “We had no way to confirm it. We had never seen Amore’s child. By the time she was born, we were busy with Discord and you know how that ended up.”
“What about Commander Hurricane?” the Love Princess asked, her gaze slowly returning to the window.
“Would it have mattered if you knew they were married? It would not have confirmed anything. All we knew was that he was lost along with the Crystal Empire and Princess Amore when King Sombra took over,” Luna told Cadance and looked at her. “Had Celestia known, she would have told you. All she knew was that she met an unusual pegasus filly who suddenly ascended to alicornhood because she defeated a magically powerful foe using her very strong love.”
Cadance didn’t respond and was starting to suspect why Luna had come to the Crystal Empire. When Shining Armor and she had returned from Tartarus, Princess Celestia has asked them how it went, noting how upset the love princess looked. Cadance hadn’t really spoken much to her aunt, just told her that Sombra was a monster who deserved far worse than to be locked up in Tartarus. Shining had then explained the gist of what the King had revealed to them. She looked at Luna, surprising the Lunar Princess by smiling a little.
“I don’t blame Celestia at all, Aunt Luna,” Cadance told her, her smile dropping a bit. “The Crystal Empire had already faded out of the memory of most ponies when my foster parents found me. How could she suspect that a foal found a thousand years later would be Amore’s daughter?”
“Well, so much for the grand speech I’ve been playing in my head,” Luna pretended to huff, but then smiled herself when hearing Cadance softly chuckle. “I take it your anger is then directed at your mother’s murderer?”
“I was hoping it wasn’t true, just him trying to get into my head. But considering how much knowledge of the Crystal Empire was lost… a lot of the things he said did match up with what we had already discovered. There were just details missing and we thought we might as well see if he cared to fill them in,” Cadance became solemn again and looked at the window. “And I guess part of me just didn’t want to hear those details. Not from him, at least.”
“If we had known, we probably wouldn’t have tried to negotiate with him first to let go of the Crystal Empire,” Luna confessed and shook her head. “But Celestia hoped, she had always hoped that the prince she once knew was still in there and would listen to her.”
“Frankly, I have never understood matters of romance,” the Moon Princess muttered and returned her attention to the stained glass. “It always just seems to get in the way and complicate matters more than need be.”
“She was in love with him?” Cadance frowned a little, recalling the Sun Princess telling her that once she had been smitten by Sombra, but she never outright said love.
“After our visit to the Dark Pony Empire a long time ago, she wouldn’t stop talking about him,” Luna grunted in annoyance, but then shrugged. “Ah well, we were both young back then. Although now I think she just wishes for her friend back, though she has not told me that directly.”
Cadance nodded and started to walk away from the window. It was located in a particular room in the castle, meant as a memorial to the lost princess. There were a few items on display, including the history book Twilight had found in the library, and Amore’s blue crown.
“Alright, I am a little annoyed I was never told, but like I said I know it was not Celestia’s fault. I can’t expect her to look at me and instantly think ‘Oh Amore’s lost daughter.’. You two probably thought I was dead and gone along with the empire,” she said as she stopped by the display of the crown. Luna took a moment to give the window another look before following her niece.
“We did. We hated missing the crystalling. If we only had… then maybe,” Luna sighed as she examined the crown regretfully. “Celestia would have recognized Sombra instantly… hmm, it is curious that his arrival in the Crystal Empire coincides with Discord’s arrival in Equestria.”
“You don’t think they were working together?” Cadance scowled and turned to the other princess.
“What? Me working with King Smokey? How absolutely absurd!” a voice protested. The two princesses turned around, only to see the misshapen form of the chaos spirit in the stained-glass window. He looked insulted.
“Eavesdropping again, Discord?” Luna snorted and her eyes narrowed a little. Cadance just rolled her eyes. She somehow was not surprised.
“Well not directly. I just heard that little Cadance finally got to hear about her dear late mother.” The spirit dropped his insulted expression and gave a toothy grin. He slithered to the image of Princess Amore, placing his eagle arm around her and patted the late ruler with his lion paw on the head.
The princesses exchanged unimpressed glances, then walked back over to the window. Discord seldom showed himself without one reason or another, even if those reasons didn’t always make sense. Both were mildly curious as to why he had decided to pop up.
“So King Sombra was telling the truth?” Cadance inquired, scowling a bit. She still found it hard to believe.
“That you are the product of the wonderful union between Princess Amore and Commander Hurricane?” Discord asked in turn as he crossed his mismatch arms on the back of Amore, watching the two living princesses with an amused smirk. “Yes, that is true.”
“Care to explain then why your reign of chaos coincided with his tyrannical rule?” Luna asked sharply.
“Ugh, you’re starting to sound so much like your sister,” Discord groaned and let his lion arm hang down as he placed the eagle talons under his cheeks. He glanced at the princesses who still just watched him, waiting for an answer to the question.
Rolling his mitch-match eyes, the spirit suddenly stretched forward until his front half actually exited the window while keeping the back half hanging over Amore’s back. He peered down at the two alicorns, a smirk crossing his lips.
“King Sombra’s memories are all jumbled after his long exile and being blown to pieces. He told you the truth as he remembers it, but he didn’t tell you everything,” the spirit revealed and let his back half come out of the window. Now he stood in front of the princesses, crossing his arms across his chest.
“He told me enough, I think. Why are you evading Luna’s question?” Cadance was starting to wonder if it was even possible to get a straight answer from the chaos spirit.
“Because you are not asking the right pony.” Discord started floating and shifted to be horizontal in the air in front of them as he shrugged his shoulders.
Before either princess could inquire further, the spirit waved them goodbye and disappeared in a flash. The two alicorns exchanged uncertain glances, both thinking the same thing. What was the spirit up to and why was he taking an interest in this?
“Perhaps another trip to Tartarus is in order,” Luna commented dryly. Cadance groaned in disgust.
“Please don’t tell me I have to listen to that horrible monster again,” she eyed skywards almost in desperation.
“You will not be alone, dear niece. I shall come with you,” Luna reached to pat her on the back gently. “And I think I can get that fiend to talk more properly. Or at least try.”
Cadance sighed in surrender. What had started as a simple historical inquiry had become far more personal for her tastes. With one last glance at the window, the princess slowly nodded and walked with Luna out of the room.
As soon as the two Princesses had exited the room, Discord’s head peeked up from the corner of the stained-glass window. He waited a moment to make sure the two alicorns had in fact departed and that no one else was around. Then he stretched out until he was in front of Princess Amore again. He placed his eagle arm around her neck.
“She’s a good kid. You would be really proud of her,” he told the image with a gentle smile. “But her battle is not with me, it’s with King Smokey. I just had to put her back on the right track.” he then muttered and left the window, floating in a sitting position with both claw and paw under her cheek. “Couldn’t be letting them get distracted because my selfish desire to have chaotic fun prevented Celestia and Luna to be there and help.”
“Eh, what can I say? I’ve changed. I still have fun, but now I have fun with friends,” he glanced at the image again, grinning wide as he gestured away with a paw and leaned back, resting his eagle arm on the very air.
“Oh come on, don’t look at me like that,” Discord grunted and looked away crossing his arms in a huff. “I was selfish back then. When I heard that the Lost son of Queen Rabia was traversing towards Crystal Empire, still grief-stricken and mad over the loss of the Dark Pony Empire, I figured he would distract you. It was a golden opportunity to start sowing a little chaos in Equestria.”
“Okay, okay it was a lot of chaos,” he groaned in this one-sided conversation with the silent image.
“But I never intended for anyone to die,” the spirit hung his head before disappearing in a flash.
King Sombra growled and slowly opened his eyes when constant banging on the cage bar roused him from his slumber. The Dark Pony peered as he made out legs, one set dark blue and the other pink. Then slowly he glanced upwards, staring at the serious faces of Luna and Cadance. The Moon Princess was pulling her hoof back, having been the one to rattle his cage.
“Two visits in two days? I’m starting to…” Sombra started to sit up, then it fully registered with his brain who it were standing there. “Oh hello, Princess Luna.”
“We have more questions for you, Sombra,” the Lunar Princess stated.
“And I suppose you think I’ll answer them,” the king grunted, tempted to turn around to lay down with his back turned to them. However, he figured they would just walk to the other side of the cage. “I already told Princess Cadance a story yesterday.”
“We are not here for stories, we are here for answers,” Luna snorted. “Specifically how fortuitous it was for you that Discord was causing trouble in Equestria when you ascended to the throne.”
“What, you think that childish spirit and I were working together?” Sombra’s brow rose and then he started laughing.
“I fail to see what is so amusing,” Luna frowned, but she didn’t get an answer just then as the king had to take a moment to compose himself again.
“If you knew anything about me and my empire, you would know that we Dark Ponies hate Discord. Do you think Equestria was the only place he’s tried to invade? He’s tried it everywhere for quite a while. A long time ago, well before I left the empire, he came to us. Mother took particular pleasure showing him how explosive dark magic is when interacting with his chaos magic,” King Sombra growled, sneering a little bit. “I was rather glad to give him the same treatment when he tried to spread his reach to the Crystal Empire. He was actually stunned that I had taken over it already. He thought Amore was still ruling and thought I would manage to cause some disturbance but the Crystal Heart would keep me at bay.”
“No, I had no idea Discord was south in Equestria. I was actually expecting your sister and you Luna to come swooping in. Imagine my surprise when that annoying spirit showed up instead,” the king muttered and rolled his eyes.
“Sombra,” Cadance finally spoke up, staring hard at the Dark King. “Discord told us that you haven’t told us everything. Is there anything more you would like to share.”
“Not particularly, not to you. I’ve told you how I came to power and how I… wait a minute…” Sombra started to frown, something was not right. His memories were still not quite in order. Things appeared now a little different. “No that can’t be right.”
“What?” Luna exchanged a glance with Cadance. The king looked downright confused now.
“He wasn’t there… blue box… no this isn’t…” Sombra started to rub his head and cringed as if he was in pain. “What? I don’t have a son.”
Luna arched her brow, Cadance looked confused. The king was now just muttering to himself and looked downright lost as if he was trying to piece together memories he didn’t even recognize.
“What’s going on?” Princess Cadance eyed her aunt.
There was no response from the Lunar Princess. Her expression had turned graver as she watched the distressed Dark Pony. Sombra’s face grew darker and he suddenly lay down and said nothing more, just cast his eyes downward with a hard scowl.
“Is your son named Temor?” Luna asked out of the blue, looking as if she had an idea of what was going on.
“I have no son, by that name or any other,” Sombra growled still not looking up. “That was another…”
“Another you, from another world,” the princess nodded her head and looked at the perplexed Love Princess.
“A few months ago, when Sombra was still at large, I entered the dream of Private Iceland, the pony he’s so long tormented. He had a very startling experience; he had been pulled to the threshold of the dream world and the spirit world. He had an encounter with a different Sombra,” Luna explained to her. “That Sombra had a son, Temor.”
“What?” was all Cadance could really say in utter confusion.
“The spirit world is a very confusing place, it doesn’t just exist in this world, it just exists. Spirits can anchor themselves to the reality they once belonged in, but they still see things the living don’t,” the Moon Princess told her and looked at Sombra. “Sometimes they see how things were different, they see all the possible streams of the timeline.”
“I have a feeling Sombra, that in your time as a spirit, you saw all the possible realities you could exist in and that your memories have a few moments that do not belong to you,” Luna returned her attention to the silent Dark Pony.
“What are you saying?” Cadance asked, not quite sure what this was all about.
“Discord was correct, yes King Sombra told you what he remembers, but not everything he actually knows. What he remembers from back then is not necessarily what happened as he thinks happened,” her aunt told her, still keeping her eyes on the king. “Isn’t that right, Sombra?”
“Commander Hurricane was already dead.” The king looked up, the scowl had disappeared and now he just looked thoughtful. “Yes, when I came to the Crystal Empire, Princess Amore was still mourning him. I arrived shortly after the funeral.”
“Is that correct?” the Love Princess asked and looked at Luna, her eyes growing wider when seeing her aunt nod.
“Celestia and I attended the funeral of Commander Hurricane. When we departed, we did not know that would be the last we would see of Princess Amore. She had not given birth to her child. We intended to visit when that happened, but then Discord showed up,” Luna sighed sadly.
“Did you kill my mother?” Cadance turned to the king, scowling hard, she was resisting the urge to slam him again at the cage bars.
“That I can’t tell you,” Sombra said and laid his head back down. “I have memories but I am no longer sure they are mine.” End chapter 2
Chapter 3 “So did he or did he not kill her?” Cadance asked, utterly confused. She and Luna had stepped away from King Sombra’s cage, walking down the steps leading to the walkway that led to the gates. It was the Moon Princess who had gestured for them to walk away, as the king seemed unwilling to respond any further.
“I do not know,” was all her aunt could say. Luna looked thoughtful as she considered what they had learned. They stopped at the bottom of the stairs, Cerberus walking over, all three heads panting.
“So Sombra does not have a son?” the Love Princess then inquired.
“No, as I already explained, he was remembering memories belonging to a Sombra from a different world. I believe now that he’s imprisoned, that it is first now fully registering with him how affected he was back when he was a spirit. He could focus his mind on other things before, so it never truly appeared to bother him,” her aunt explained.
Cadance rubbed her forehead tiredly as she tried to make sense of all of this. Luna in the meantime flew up to scratch Cerberus behind the ears on one of the heads. The pink alicorn glanced back up to the glowing platform, her eyes focusing on Sombra’s cage. The Dark Pony looked to have fallen asleep again.
“Is there any way to get the information we want?” the princess of love wondered. She was not convinced that Sombra would be very cooperative anymore.
Luna landed back on the ground next to her niece. She was staring towards the platform as well, regarding the slumbering form of the Dark King. Her eyes narrowed a little as she considered an option that was only available to her.
“He is currently sleeping. I could enter his dreams. Dreams are often memories,” Luna said and frowned heavily. “However, considering who we are speaking of, it might be too dangerous. Sombra may not have his magic with that block placed on him, but he still has his tongue and you yourself have felt how stinging it can be.”
Cadance could only nod, remembering how easily Sombra had gotten under her skin yesterday just by talking.
“Do you care to tell me in more detail what he told you yesterday? Shining Armor gave Celestia only an abridged version,” Luna looked at her niece. “I might be able to spot the inconsistencies.”
The Love Princess sighed and braced herself as she began telling Luna exactly what Sombra told her. The Moon Princess listened attentively, only occasionally furrowing her brow during the tale.
“Alright we know he did not kill Commander Hurricane - he was already dead. Removing him out of the story, however, isn’t overly tricky. If these two time ponies existed in our world, it is possible they witnessed your mother’s murder and managed to evade Sombra and escape with you…” Luna’s stopped as suddenly something came to her. “The time ponies. We are in the wrong place to ask questions.”
“Oh, please don’t tell me we have to deal with the Time Pony Council,” Cadance groaned in exasperation.
“No, no, I have a specific time pony in mind,” Luna assured her and opened a portal. “Come with me.”
“You know, this really isn’t a very constructive way to form any kind of relationship!” a brown pony yelled as he clung to dear life to a tree branch. The tree was dangerously close to a cliff and attacking the tree were several timberwolves trying to bring it and the pony down.
“I was just passing through your territory. How was I supposed to know this was your budding grounds,” the pony snapped and cringed when the tree shook more as the wooden wolves growled and continued to ram themselves up against it.
“Okay, let us just calm down and think about this rationally,” he continued to try and talk to them, but the creatures seemed little interested in conversing. The tree was loosening from the soil and starting to lean dangerously over the cliff edge.
Oh, how I wish the myth that we time ponies can change into a new pony form when near death was true right now, the pony grimaced when gaining an uncomfortable view of the rocky bottom of the cliff.
Suddenly there was a yelp as a bolt of magic landed on the ground close to the wolves and they jumped away in panic. A second and third bolt sent them all fleeing. The time pony looked up and raised his brow when seeing two alicorns, one pink and one blue, descending from the sky.
“Having some timberwolf trouble, Doctor Whooves?” Princess Luna asked as she and Cadance landed next to the tree. She grabbed the pony with her magic and safely floated him to the ground next to them.
“Let’s just say I have gained a new appreciation for the term ‘papa wolf’ and leave it at that,” Whooves said as he put a hoof over his racing heart. “Thank you, your highnesses.”
“It was no trouble,” Cadance said with a smile.
“So what brings you two here?” Whooves asked as he took another peek down the cliff. At that moment the tree loosened completely and crashed downwards. The time pony gulped when seeing it smash at the bottom.
“We need to ask you something related to King Sombra,” Princess Luna explained, prompting the doctor to give her an uncertain glance.
Cadance sighed and started telling him about her visit to King Sombra in Tartarus, both yesterday and today. Luna noted instantly that Whooves looked uncomfortable at certain points in the telling, especially when the two mysterious time ponies were brought up.
“Well I suppose it was only a question of time, pardon the pun,” Whooves muttered and sat down.
“What can you tell us, doctor?” Cadance had now noticed how uncomfortable Whooves looked.
“We time ponies have been dealing with King Sombra for quite a while. He found his way into our hidden lands and stole copies of some volatile time spells, spells he later used to do some damage with. You can ask Private Iceland about that,” the time pony began. Both Luna and Cadance nodded.
“Initially yes, we did send two agents after him…my great-great-great-great grandparents,” Whooves looked down and shook his head. “And they rescued you, Cadance, after Sombra had wormed himself into your mother’s court, either corrupting or mind-controlling her entire staff and guards. They were too late to save your mother before Sombra had her own guards attack her, claiming she was a changeling spy having replaced the princess. My great-great-great-great grandparents were also accused of being changelings and had to run for their lives. They managed to grab you and had hoped to deliver you straight to Princess Celestia.”
“But Discord?” Luna asked and nodded when Whooves groaned in confirmation over what had complicated that plan.
“So why was I delivered to an earth pony village nearly a thousand years later?” Cadance asked, confused.
“Three guesses and the first two don’t count,” Whooves grumbled and though the Love Princess didn’t catch on, Luna did.
“The Time Pony Council ordered it?” Luna rolled her eyes and shook her head. “How many lives have they irrevocably altered with their insane decisions?”
“Too many.” Whooves snorted and shook his head. “Anyway, the Time Pony Council refused to allow my great-great-great-great grandparents to take care of you for the time being while the Princesses dealt with Discord. Instead, they ordered you to be left at some random village at some point in time when Discord was no longer ruling Equestria. My great-great-great-great grandparents decided to take it a step further. They decided to leave you at a point in time that would ensure you could return to the Crystal Empire as its rightful ruler eventually.”
“But that didn’t happen until a thousand years later because after my sister and I defeated King Sombra, his curse on the Crystal Empire kicked in and it vanished for that long,” Luna said and both Whooves and Cadance agreed.
“We knew of course when Discord would no longer rule. That was 30 years tops, so you can imagine how happy the Time Pony Council was when they learned Cadance had been pushed a thousand years further forward because that’s how long it took for the Crystal Empire to return,” the time pony said with a slight smirk.
“Not very happy at all, I can imagine. I see that your tenacity to ignore and disobey the Time Pony Council is a family trait,” Princess Luna chuckled and smiled when Whooves took a deep bow from his position.
“Guilty as charged. My family has always been vehemently against how it operates. This is why my family has always worked so well with you and your sister,” he claimed with a proud smile.
“So Sombra was mostly telling the truth after all, just mixed up with those… uh, other world versions?” Cadance looked at Luna, still not quite getting that part.
“Oh dear, don’t get me started on them. Did you know there are versions of us time ponies in other worlds that travel time in strange boxes? That guy in the blue one is insufferable. He actually rammed his damn - excuse my language - box into the timestream, sending a shock wave across the multiverse that affected our world. We personally now aren’t affected by it, but it created several alternate timelines, one of which where Sombra is raising Private Iceland as his own son. It’s a mess!” Whooves groaned.
“We’ll take your word for it,” Luna couldn’t help but chuckle a little again, Whooves looked so irritated.
“I don’t even understand half of it, so don’t worry, I won’t ask any further. I’m quite happy with this world as it is,” Cadance assured the time pony.
“But do you, Cadance, now feel satisfied that all your questions were answered?” Luna asked the younger alicorn. Cadance frowned.
“Well, I rather not think too hard about it but… Sombra being my crystaller, was that true?” the love princess wondered and looked at Whooves, who smiled nervously as if he really did not want to answer that question.
“Why is that so important?” Luna wondered. Before Flurry Heart, a royal crystalling hadn’t been performed since before Sombra took power. She was a little murky on the details of the office of a crystaller.
“No, it’s just that the Royal Crystaller is basically the caretaker of the royal foal. I’m not relishing the thought that King Sombra probably held me in his filthy legs as a baby,” Cadance shuddered.
“Ah,” Luna nodded, understanding why that wasn’t exactly a pleasant thought. Then she frowned. “Would he even know how to care for a baby?”
Then the Moon Princess smirked and looked at Cadance. “Want to go torment Sombra some more?”
“Are we even allowed to do something like that?” her niece whispered.
“Oh, we won’t cause him any physical or mental harm, just embarrass him a little,” Luna chuckled.
Cadance arched her brow, then glanced at Whooves who just shrugged, not really wanting to comment on this. The love princess looked at Luna again, then she smirked herself.
“Aunt Tia will not be happy about that,” she remarked and rose to stand.
“I won’t tell her if you won’t,” her aunt chuckled.
“Are you wasting what little magic you have left to write letters?” King Sombra asked skeptically as he watched Tirek in his cage, writing a letter then with great effort managing to send it away. Every time the centaur did this, he looked even older and frailer.
“Oh if this works, it will be more than worth it,” Tirek chuckled gleefully, then entered a coughing fit. Feeling tired, he laid down, still smiling wickedly.
Sombra shook his head. Then one of the monsters in a cage down below roared for some reason or another. “Oh, be quiet down there.”
Surprisingly there was a whine and things went silent. Tirek looked at Sombra, mildly impressed. He did his best to see further down and noticed that some of the monsters did glance towards the Dark Pony’s cage almost fearfully.
“I see that your title King of Monsters isn’t too out of place,” the centaur remarked.
“Grogar may have fathered them,” Sombra looked at Tirek and smirked. “I ruled them.”
Then he sneered a little and rolled his eyes. “Didn’t do me much good. Discord started his havoc in Equestria when I took over the Crystal Empire, so the ponies just thought the monsters I sent down south to scout things out were his doing.”
“Back when I was in hiding after my resurrection, I decided to test the field a little. I sent a bugbear to Ponyville, just to create a little ruckus.” He eyed to the cage with the bugbear. “Of course Princess Twilight and her meddlesome friends took care of it.”
“Then Celestia clearly went on a cleaning spree across Equestria,” Sombra rose a little to scan all the cages. “Yes, she got most of them. I swear next time…”
Tirek wouldn’t hear what Sombra planned for next time, a glowing portal opened and through it came Princess Luna and Princess Cadance. Sombra groaned in exasperation and slumped back down. He gave them a very tired ‘now what’ look because he already knew they were here to talk with him.
“We have confirmed parts of your memories and filled in the gaps for the rest,” Princess Luna announced as she and her niece approached the cage.
“And I take it you are here to share those gap fillers with me?” Sombra snorted, then became unsure when seeing the smirks come over the two alicorns.
“So you were my Royal Crystaller after all,” Cadance said and laughed to herself.
“I fail to see what’s so amusing about that?” the king raised one eyebrow.
“Oh just the thought of you trying to feed an infant, changing a diaper,” Cadance tried to stifle more laughter, having already witnessed poor Sunburst trying to do that with Flurry Heart. There was no reaction from Sombra. He just stared at them for a long minute.
Luna and Cadance became aware that there didn’t seem to be anything at all coming from Sombra - he just stared at them. Tirek was laughing and coughing, but the king just remained silent.
“Did we break him already?” Cadance looked at Luna unsure. That had been way too easy.
Sombra finally crossed his front legs, moved his eyes for a moment as if he was trying to find the right words before finally peering uncertainly at the princesses.
“And you find that amusing?” he asked, confused.
“Well…” the love princess found that reaction rather odd, it was as if Sombra wasn’t bothered at all that they knew he had probably done these things.
“I’m a Dark Pony, a stallion. Who do you think did the majority of the child-rearing in our culture?” Sombra asked and this time the princesses were the ones who looked confused. “Do you know anything about my time as a prince in my mother’s court? I raised my sister from infancy. Sure we had servants to help, but I was the older brother. It was my job to take care of her.”
“Wait, did you come here expecting me to be embarrassed that you knew I took care of an infant?” Sombra blinked, then started laughing. “For the record Princess Cadance, you were a very fussy infant. If your porridge weren’t exactly right, you would throw it across the room.”
Both alicorns were at a loss of words, they had a hard time picturing the dark king holding and caring for an infant, yet here was Sombra making light of it, even sharing an embarrassing story about Cadance as a baby.
“And don’t get me started on your flight bursts. You started flying so early; you went all over the place. It sometimes took me hours to find you again,” Sombra snorted and rolled his eyes, sounding far more like a parent right now than a dark, defeated ruler in a cage.
“Once, you actually grabbed such a firm hold on the Crystal Heart in one of your escapes, your mother and I had to let you sleep with it until your grip loosened,” the king continued and sighed tiredly.
At this moment, Luna and Cadance decided that it was high time to leave. Things had not gone at all like they had pictured and by the looks of it, Sombra appeared to downright enjoy reminiscing about this, despite his apparent frustration. Without a word, the two princesses disappeared through a portal.
“Well, you handled that well. They were clearly here to try and gain some satisfaction from the mental image of you handling an infant.” Tirek had stopped laughing, but he was still smirking himself, finding it an amusing thought.
“Exactly. These ponies… they always expect me to react with roaring rage or great embarrassment.” Sombra shook his head. Then he grinned. “But it was all true, want to hear more of the chaos Princess Cadance caused in her infancy?”
“Embarrassing stories about one of our enemies,” Tirek rubbed his chin thoughtfully before grinning. “I’m all ears.”
“Oh then let me tell you when that Princess of Love escaped into the Royal Library. It took weeks to reorganize all the books she threw around,” Sombra began, mocking laughter soon echoing through Tartarus.
The two mildly embarrassed Princesses stepped through the portal, glancing at each other and chuckling halfheartedly.
“Let us never speak of that again,” Cadance whispered and shook her head. A throat being cleared caused both of them to snap their heads forward. Staring down at them was Princess Celestia.
“Luna, Cadance,” the sun princess addressed them.
“Sister, ah, we had just finished that visit we needed to make to give our niece a peace of mind,” Luna started and smiled. It started to drop when she noticed that her sister looked stern.
“My sister, you are aware that we have spells active that track all visits to Tartarus. I allowed that second visit when seeing that Cadance needed to finish up what she had clearly started with Shining Armor when they first visited Tartarus to get some answers from King Sombra,” Celestia said, her eyes narrowed a little. It was almost painfully obvious to the smaller alicorns that she knew something. “Care to explain that third visit I detected on the same day, because we clearly detected an earlier departure several hours ago.”
Sighing in defeat the two alicorns confessed, adding in an explanation of what they had learned both from Sombra first and then what Whooves had told them. They then waited with bated breath for Celestia’s reaction. They were mildly surprised to see a smile crack on the sun princess who then quietly chuckled.
“And you two honestly thought that would work on King Sombra? Tirek maybe, but Sombra?” Celestia chuckled.
“I admit we expected another reaction,” Cadance muttered.
“Oh Cadance, that stallion is utterly shameless. He would brag about tending to his garden of roses if he thought it would rob you of the enjoyment of seeing the reaction you expected,” Celestia claimed as she turned her attention to her niece. “He doesn’t care what others think about him, he really doesn’t.”
“Would you know how to embarrass him?” Luna asked, narrowing her eyes a little when Celestia gave her a knowing smile.
“I might, but after the stunt you two pulled, I’m not telling you,” Celestia shrugged a little, then she resumed a more stern look. “Being powerless is what torments Sombra right now and that is his punishment. Let that be enough. He’s in prison, he’s contained and that’s where he will remain.”
Princess Luna and Cadance just quietly nodded, figuring they had just dodged a bullet and that it was better not to push their luck any further. End chapter 3
Epilogue Princess Cadance stood once more before the stained glass window that depicted Princess Amore. The alicorn thoughtfully regarded the silent image of the former ruler of her empire. She wasn’t sure how accurate the image was. It had mostly been done from memory by the crystal ponies. Perhaps it portrayed a more fanciful image of how they saw their late ruler. Right now she didn’t care or mind, she liked it and it was how she wanted to picture the pony she never got to know.
“Well mother, your empire is flourishing,” Cadance addressed the window. “The Crystal Ponies have mostly recovered from Sombra’s reign. The first foals that will never remember his rule are growing up.”
“We are a protectorate of Equestria now, though we do make our own trade deals. The yaks are constant visitors. They really like our crystal corn and buy it in bulk. We are also in trade negotiations with Saddle Arabia. They produce the best silk in the world and we certainly have the gems to buy it,” she continued and sat down.
“Your granddaughter is full of energy and life, making our lives very interesting. Our own Royal Crystaller has his hooves full, but we give him breaks to catch his breath and clean mashed peas out of his mane and beard,” Cadance chuckled, having a mental image of Sunburst from the morning’s breakfast. The poor stallion had been practically turned green from all the peas. The alicorn sighed sadly. “I wish you could have met her.”
“Honey?” Shining Armor addressed her. He had noticed for the past several days that Cadance kept going to the memorial room, yet she never looked unhappy or sad while doing so, more like she was looking forward to it.
“Shiny,” Cadance looked at her husband and smiled. “Just filling mom in on the latest events.”
The unicorn nodded and walked into the room. He looked at the window and bowed his head a little in respect. When he raised it again he turned to Cadance.
“Are you alright?” he asked and sat down next to his wife.
“I’m fine. The last few days have been shocking, but revealing. Not the best way to get the answers I’ve asked for for so long, yet I can’t really complain,” Cadance told him and patted her husband on the hoof.
“Can you imagine though, if King Sombra hadn’t taken over the Crystal Empire? We wouldn’t have met?” she turned her head back to the window. “I would have been raised as a pegasus princess, the daughter of the legendary Commander Hurricane and Princess Amore.”
“That’s almost a cruel irony I think. How about we never tell the crystal ponies that,” Shining said with a chuckle. The princess nodded in agreement.
For a moment the couple sat in silence, watching the image of Cadance’s mother. It was depicted with a warm smile and the princess liked to think that she was smiling on her. She didn’t notice a mischievous glint come into her husband’s eyes.
“Well ma’am, I’ve done my best to help your daughter in our life here in Crystal Empire. But tell me, was she always such a pain in the neck?” he asked teasingly.
“Shining Armor!” Cadance snapped and dove for her husband who ducked out of the way, laughing.
“Also, did she always snore?” he laughed and ran out of the room, chased by his wife.
Cadance halted in the doorway and looked back, trying to keep an indignant look, but deep down she was laughing. “Never mind him, mom. He’s a dork. Come back here!” she then shouted and raced out of the room to chase down her fleeing husband.
The room fell mostly silent and for a moment there was nothing except the faint echoes of laughter from the royal couple. That soon died out as they went further into the castle. Then there was only the silent watch from the still image on the window.
Suddenly a sliver of a shadow from the display stand holding Amore’s crown started to snake its way across the room. It stopped right in front of the window. Slowly it enlarged in mass and started to form a tall pony shape.
The shadow started to dissipate, revealing a tall unicorn mare, dark gray with a flowing black mane and tail. She wore a red cape, her hooves and chest were clad in armor and on her head rested a steel crown. For a moment her horn was red and bent like a knife but slowly changed into a normal gray and straight one. The red piercing eyes glanced at the door before turning towards the image.
“An Empire in the north,” the mare said softly. She lifted a hoof to touch the image of Amore. “Just like the Empire in the south that I ruled.”
“What drove my son here? Why was he interested in your little empire, Princess Amore? What held him here?” she glanced at the stand with the crown.
“What drives a son to betray his mother? To leave his sister alone and defenseless?” The mare looked back at the window. “You have a beautiful and strong daughter, Princess Amore. My son did you an injustice. A grave injustice.”
“Have no fear. When I’m ready, I shall punish him. It is my duty, after all, as his mother.” She nodded to the image and started to walk back to the shadow of the stand. As she began to merge back into it, the mare took one last glance at the image and she smiled almost in understanding.
“A favor, from one mother to another,” she whispered before disappearing into the shadow. Soon the room was empty again under the silent watch of the Crystal Princess. Above the window was a new plaque that had been added by Cadance.
In memory of my mother, Princess Amore, the Crystal Princess. Cruelly betrayed, never forgotten. A loving ruler and caring mother. The dark shadow no longer touches her subjects. Her empire is free once more. The end