But before they could get started, Sombra was told he had a visitor. She was waiting in the throne room with Princess Cadance.
"Sombwa!" the happy little filly raced over and beamed brightly at him.
"Little one," he said softly, a trace of warmth in his voice "what brings you here?"
"I was hoping you could help me wiv my homework.." she said sheepishly "we gotta do a weport on the cwystal empires histowy, and i figured you’d know plenty of fings!"
Sombra felt a smidgen of unease. What he knew about the kingdom? Well, his own personal history would probably give the kid nightmares, so-
"The empire itself has changed, it was a much harsher place back then," he said lightly.
"That’s perfect!" she smiled.
"We just have a little job to do," Twilight Sparkle told Bright Spark ÒThen he’s all yours~"
Bright Spark looked delighted. Sombra couldn’t help a small smile.
So Bright Spark sat to one side with the guards as the Princesses formed that same circle again with Sombra at its centre.
"What are they doing?" Bright Spark asked.
"We need a shard of his magic.." Twilight Sparkle explained "and in order to get it, that choker has to be removed. But Sombra has a very powerful, very different magic, so we have to be careful."
“He wont hurt anypony!" Bright Spark piped up in his defence. Twilight Sparkle smiled;
"We know kiddo, but we still have to be careful.."
Sparks eyes widened in surprise as she watched the powerful spell being laid down to safeguard everypony when the choker was off. She seen and heard it click open, seen Sombra shiver slightly.
But as Celestia stepped forward to gather the needed magic, every window in the throne room shattered at the same time. The other two Alicorn’s supporting the spell faltered, the lines wavering. It was enough. The shadow ponies, several in total, attacked at once, forcing Luna and Cadance to retreat.
Then a larger shadow pony soared in through the window, landing in front of Sombra, who was fighting to keep his magic in check. It grinned, and a shield of faintly greyed out magic swished up around the two of them. It was mimicking Twilight Sparkles magic from the market fight.
"Now we finally have a chance to talk, you and I.." it drawled.
"What’s happening?" Twilight Sparkle cried, as she dove aside to avoid a bolt of black magic fired at her. She and the others threw up shields of their own, Bright Spark huddled beside Twilight Sparkle.
"I’m just here to talk to your little weapon," the shadow pony grinned.
"Buck...Off!" Sombra managed to snarl.
"Now now, don’t be so hasty. We’ve had our disagreements, but I think you'll find your place is not here..."
"What’s he saying?" Luan murmured.
"Don’t you see it, "Sombra"?" the thing called him by name, "they collar you, use you as a weapon, how is this fair? You’re forced to fight over and over, and for what? A populace that will turn on you once you serve no purpose? Simply seal you away in that darkness with those dreams.."
Sombra felt a twinge at his defenses. He tried not to think about what would happen once this was over.
"Sombwa!" Bright Spark cried.
"You have such raw power, yet you’re always feared, mistreated for it," the thing paced back and forth in front of Sombra, "how is this any different? They want you to save them, yet they keep you under lock and key!"
"Shut up!" Sombra growled.
Sombra looked at the Princesses, all trying to fight off the other shadow clones. It was true Celestia had brought him back to save the empire from this thing, but hadn’t she said something about the crystal heart? That it had other plans?
He thought about the breakfast, the one where the ponies had revealed they’d seen his past, and wanted to give him a chance to have a REAL life. Real FRIENDS. He recalled Shining Armor’s outstreched hoof, even though the stallion had hated him for a long time!
"NO.." he growled.
"Ah, so wilful.." it grinned, seeing the loosened collar. With the spell partly unwound so Celestia could extract the magic, it seen a weakness "you’ll feel better once I get rid of THIS!"
"NO!" Sombra blurted, too late, as he felt shadowy, slick shadow hooves on his neck.
There was a discordant snapping sound.
The Princesses all looked over at the sound. They seen the collar, its lock spell fully opened now, roll across the floor, coming to a stop by Twilight Sparkle.
"Oh no.." Celestia said, worry written all over her face.
The shadow thing laughed, stepping back. Sombra appeared to have passed out, hunched over on the floor, his mane obscuring his eyes.
"On your feet, my nemesis of darkness-"
Then Sombra looked up, and grinned. But there was nothing good about the gesture.
The dark pony laughed, but the sound cut off a second later as it was flung back by a powerful burst of magic. It’s shield shattered as it slammed into it, then hit the ground and quickly righted itself. It looked up to see Sombra striding towards it. His mane flowed like ripples on waters surface. His eyes glowed that unnatural green. A dark purple aura was swirling up around his legs and horn.
"How many do you think have tried to manipulate me for their own ends my whole LIFE?!" Sombra snarled, red eyes glowing.
"How can you deny ME?" the dark clone pony fumed ÒThey treat you like a dog, I would let you have all you’ve ever wanted! I’ve seen it in your mind, who you are!"
"Times change. You’ve seen my PAST. Not my future. And I-" Sombra’s fury grew. Dark purple crystals burst up from the floor, surrounding the shadow clone, their razor sharp spikes inching towards its core.
"I AM NOT YOURS TO TOY WITH!!" The furious unicorn roared. The shards pierced the centre of the things mass shattering the core and eradicating it.
"Nice try.." its consciousness had simply shifted to another of the clones the Princesses were battling. "But you cant stop me, there’s too many of us!"
As it spoke, more swarmed in the windows.
Sombra gave a furious roar, and blasted the one that’d spoke with a shot of dark magic.
"Keep trying!" it mocked, popping up behind him.
--So many....why am I...fighting..?-- in the face of his full power unleashed, Sombra’s mind began to falter.
Then he seen Twilight Sparkle’s shield go down, as she was forced to dive aside again. In the chaos, Bright Spark was torn free from her hold. He seen the tiny filly tumble end over end into the middle of the room. And one of the pony clones dove for her, teeth filling its mouth-
"NO!" his voice cut through the shrill, cackling laughter, the terrified cry of the little filly branding itself in his mind..
Sharp fangs bit into the would-be attackers throat and threw it back. Bright Spark blinked, her scream tailing off. Sombra was standing over her, using his body to shield her.
"Sombwa!" she said, tears of relief filling her eyes.
"Don’t you DARE harm her.." Sombra’s voice was feral, a snarl of fury from deep inside.
As many as possible launched at him. He swiped them aside, buffering them back with a mix of shields and attack magic. But some got through. Their teeth bit into his legs, his neck, trying to get at little Bright Spark. But Sombra refused to let them get near her.
He wrapped her in a small bubble of magic, and resorted to using his other asset, brute strength. Powerful blows from his hoofs cracked core after core. With sheer numbers came a weakness sin the cores. But even with this knowledge, there was too many. The real one had to be nearby. These were ALL fakes, the real one wasn’t in this room.
--No time to search. Destroy them all!-- his mind crowed, feeling the euphoric rush of his magic, back where it belonged, at his beck and call.
"Sombwa.." Bright Spark didn’t like how Sombra seemed to hell-bent on fighting, even when he was bleeding. Wasn’t he in pain? What if he-
He glanced at her and deep in those red eyes she seen a flicker of the Sombra she knew. An almost apologetic look...
"I’m sorry you had to see this."
She blinked, seeing him closing his eyes and lifting his head. His horn began to glow, the dark purple magic dizzying to behold. Above his head a small dark ball began to grow. With it came a strange pressure, like an immense wave about to break.
"Oh no..." Luna recognised it, so did Twilight Sparkle and Cadance. It was the spell from his memories, the one he’d used to banish everypony from the palace!
"Sombra!!" Celestia cried "please stop!!"
But it was too late. There was a sudden stillness, then the ball exploded, a bright sphere of power that swept over the room, and beyond. It swept like a force of nature through the whole castle. Where it touched, the shadow ponies turned to crystal, becoming harmless statues. It swept on, encompassing the entire castle. Atop the castles roof, the one Sombra had sensed tried to flee, but it too was changed into a crystal blob.
Outside, everypony looked up at the sonic boom that accompanied Sombra’s spell. They seen a bright purple aura flare out from the castle, enveloping it and the surrounding areas. It was a beautiful, yet frightening sight. So much dark magic...
Then it faded, the air going still once more.
"What was that?!" one mare panicked.
"That dark unicorn....Sombra!" someone said.
"What’s he done?"
"Oh will you calm down!" They all looked round as a mare spoke crossly "there’s probably more to this than just assuming he’s up to no good!"
"Exactly!" another mare "he’s been....saving us...."
The Princesses had closed their eyes when the spell had swept towards them, expecting to be vanished away or worse. But all they felt was a strong tingling feeling, then they blacked out briefly. Bright Spark had stared in awe as the spell whooshed past her.
Her little bubble barrier had protected her. Now it’s job was done, it popped with a little PING sound.
Shaking her head to clear it, she seen Sombra standing there, the aura around him much dimmer now.
"Sombwa!" she spied something gleaming, and bounded over to it. It was the choker.
She bounced to a halt in front of him, the choker in her mouth.
"Pwease..." she pleaded. Sombra looked down at her. She could see he was fighting to draw breath, the aura flaring and dimming as he fought to control it.
"Ungh..." Celestia opened her eyes, lifting her head.
"Sister...?" Luna asked, blinking away stars.
"Wha...Sombra..." Twilight Sparkle groaned. Next to her, Cadance stirred.
They all looked over, and seen Bright Spark holding the choker. Sombra, his aura flaring powerful and bright, looking down at her.
"Pwease.." spark whispered "I want my fwiend back....boop?"
That one little word reached his heart. He blinked, the green glow fading from his eyes.
"Little one..." he uttered.
Unaware the Princesses were awake and watching him, he lifted the choker, staring at the spell embedded in it. Closing his eyes he completed the broken spell by instinct, returning the choker to how it’d felt before. All that remained...
He stared at it a moment. He’d relished the feel of his magic, having it back again. His spell had worked. the room was a gallery of crystal ponies, no longer a danger.
But he could not live in this time and still have his power. He was certain, wasn’t he? He was still a dangerous force. To keep what Twilight Sparkle and the others had offered him. He had to be kept away from his own power. It was simmering even now, no doubt wanting to break free and run rampant, overtake his mind and body...didn’t it?
"Sombwa?" Bright Spark looked worried "what’s wrong?"
So much uncertainty meant his self-judgement was clouded heavily. He couldn’t see how even now, he was keeping his magic on a leash..
"My magic is a threat everypony, if I don’t do this..." but the reluctance in his voice was clear. He took a deep breath, closing his eyes, and allowed himself one last glance inward, seeing the dark purple shimmer of his aura. Funny, it almost looked beautiful like this...
Forcing himself to quell the sense of disappointment and loss, and before he could regret it, he latched the collar back around his neck. The next second, the weight of its magic hit him like a hammer blow. A sense of shock radiated through him, as the connection to his power was sealed away. He felt a sense of loss, like he was being torn in two deep inside his heart.
Bright Spark seen the flash of panic in his eyes as he started to raise a hoof towards his neck, then shook his head vigorously, stamping the hoof back onto the floor.
The spell locked into place with a final surge of power, and he gasped in pain, feeling like he’d had part of his very core taken away. He’d woken up with a funny pain that first day. This was it now, magnified greatly. Back then, his body had been mourning the loss of his power, but being unconscious while this had been done, it’d made it easier, he hadn’t been able to identify the cause.
Bright Spark watched tearfully, seeing how much he was hurting.
He stood unsteadily on his feet, visibly shaken. Then the chokers gem glowed, and a fresh wave of pain made him collapse to the floor.
“Sombwa!" Bright Spark wailed, racing over to crouch by his hooves. She rubbed her cheek against his, hoping this would bring him round.
He opened his eyes at the contact;
"Little one..." he said softly "I’m sorry.."
“For what? You pwotected me!" she sniffled "you defeated the eviw ponies!"
"That was that power, that the ponies of the past feared so," he said softly "do you understand now?"
"I don’t CARE!" she blurted "Sombwa is Sombwa, magic is magic!"
"You’re a good filly..." he said, his voice laced with pain and tiredness "don’t let anypony take that from you."
The Princesses were standing together in stunned silence. They’d seen Sombra willingly lock his own powers down. They’d seen how much the process had hurt him.
"That is why I did not wish him to be awake when I first placed it on him," Celestia said "to feel his magic vanishing, its a painful process. I did not think such a situation would arise.."
Now Bright Spark was trying to get him to give her a smile, but he seemed too worn out to even lift his head.
"Somrba.." the little filly looked up as Celestia came over to sit in front of him.
"What..?" he said dully, staring at a point beyond her.
"You stopped them from hurting everypony. We misjudged your intentions with that spell. You saved us."
"...." he didn’t answer, just stared blankly into space. She frowned, he was really out of it this time!
He got to his feet with a monumental effort, still not speaking a word.
"Sombra..." Celestia sounded concerned. But he just stared straight ahead, not hearing her. Then he walked calmly past her, heading for the door.
"Sombra!” Luna teleported in front of him, almost eye to eye "snap out of it, listen to us!"
But he just stared at her, or through her. She got the feeling he was seeing something else. Then he simply walked past her, ignoring the guards that piled into the room.
"Sir." one of them tried to stop him, but Luna barked at him to let him go.
"He needs some space..." she said quietly.
"What happened here?" Flash Sentry asked, seeing them all looking a bit lost, and in Bright Spark’s case, in tears.
"A sacrifice, that’s what happened." Luna said shortly.
"Huh?" Flash looked confused "what was that purple blast?"
"Sombra’s magic." Celestia said "he eradicated the threat in one swift move. The darkness is gone, for now..."
"The choker glowed..." Twilight Sparkle said once the guards had left, with orders to remove and destroy the crystal statues.
"Yes, the element of magic, your element Twilight Sparkle." Celestia sighed "he was able to use his magic to help rather than hurt, it’s true purpose. But deep down, he still fears a reoccurrence of his past, losing his mind to it, so he cannot see the good in what he has done!"
"He had his magic, he could’ve run free, yet he chose to put the limiter back on." Cadance shook her head slightly "It wasn’t an easy decision, but I’m guessing he wants to stay in this time with everypony, he gave up his power again so he could.."
"That’s why he’s sad?" Bright Spark said "I thought his magic was so much awesome, it was pwetty, and stwong!"
"Its also a sore point for him," Twilight Sparkle said gently "he was made to fear his own power by ponies in his past. Nopony knew what dark magic really was back then."
"So why cant he use it? Why that neckwace?" Bright Spark asked.
"Its to make sure his magic cannot cause any undue damage.." Luna said gently "its hard to control, and if he were to lose control again, we’d be in trouble..."
"Oh...so it’s no his fault?" Bright Spark asked.
"Not entirely, no." Luna said "he should not fear himself. as the prophecy Cadance found explains, a pony born with dark magic is able to live in the light. He just cannot see that."
"He has overcome a great deal.." Celestia said "but the hardest hurdle is his own barriers. We cannot force that, he must do it alone.."
Sombra wandered through the palace halls. Hearing only a faint ringing in his ears. He felt hollow, empty. NO emotion, nothing...
"Oh, hay, there you are!" Shining Armor looked up as he spotted Sombra walk past "what just happened...did you..?" He trailed off as Sombra appeared to not even hear him, just plodded on.
"That’s odd..." somepony remarked.
"I think something’s wrong.." Shining Armor frowned, and hurried after Sombra.
By the time he and Flash, who’d been trailing him since leaving the throne room, caught up to the taller stallion, he was outside in the gardens. Just standing there, staring into space.
"I tried to ask him was he alright, but he wouldn’t answer sir!" The guard by the door cast Shining Armor and Flash Sentry a concerned look "I’m not even convinced he can hear me.."
"Whatever happened, its to do with the purple ka-blam spell..." Shining Armor said "I’m going to guess HE did it..."
Flash had wandered up to Sombra by this point, and now tentatively reached out a hoof to tap his foreleg.
Sombra jumped, backing a few steps away from flash before apparently realizing he knew this pony.
"What..?" he asked, but he seemed dazed.
"You OK? You’re acting funny. And not ha-ha funny..." Flash said carefully.
"I don’t know..." Sombra said flatly "what’s going on?"
"Uhh...we were hoping YOU could tell US that!" Flash piped up.
"You need to see the doc," Shining Armor said carefully "you’re bleeding..."
Sombra blinked, looking at a cut on his left foreleg, which was trickling blood onto the grassy lawn.
"C'mon..." Shining Armor said lightly, realizing the stallion was probably in shock, it would explain why he was so unresponsive. "You can just sleep...that’s what you need..."
This seemed to get through the thick haze that had taken over Sombra. He allowed himself to be ushered back inside, to the doctor. Who took one look at how exhausted and spaced he was, and ordered some tea be made, the first step to helping treat shock.
Sombra sat through the check-up without a sound, without a word. The doctor was a little concerned, but he knew better then to push Sombra.
Luckily, there was enough magic in the crystals he’d summoned to fight the clone ponies with for Twilight Sparkle to make extra goggles. So she wouldn’t have to put Sombra through that again.
"Hey sugarcube!" Applejacks voice startled Twilight Sparkle and she jumped.
"Applejack...hay..." she sighed "sorry, I was miles away."
"Ya gonna eat dinner?" Applejack nodded at the food on the table
"Oops!" she said sheepishly with a grin "silly me, of course!"
"So what actually happened?" Rainbow Dash asked "suddenly all these things pop up, then the next thing we know, they’re turning to crystal!"
Twilight Sparkle let out a small sigh.
"Big mess Rainbow Dash.." she said. "Those things attacked just as we were about to extract a second batch of Sombra’s magic. One of them, the one with the sky tears consciousness in it, broke the spell on the choker!"
“WHAT?!" Rarity yelped.
"Seriously. It attacked just as Celestia had unlocked it. It got it off Sombra, tried to manipulate him. Make him turn on US."
“What happened?" Fluttershy gasped.
Twilight Sparkle blinked "it was something else...." she said at last "he turned on IT."
“Seriously, wow..." Rainbow Dash tried to imagine it "that’s..."
"He said he was sick of being used, and that he was not IT’S to toy with!" Twilight Sparkle shook her head "then he just laid into it!"
They were silent for a moment.
"Wow," Rainbow Dash said "that’s pretty cool. 20% cooler then I had him pegged!"
"I’m sure he’d be happy to hear that Rainbow Dash, but where is he?" Applejack asked.
"He’s, in his room.." Twilight Sparkle said "that’s the other part of what happened.”
They fell silent while Twilight Sparkle told the story of him using that massive spell, then putting the choker back on. About how painful it must’ve been to feel his magic being torn away again. How her brother had told her Sombra went into shock and was currently sleeping off a sedative.
“That’s why she put it on him when he was out cold.." she said at last "I got the feeling it really hurt him..."
"And he’s feeling ill because of it?" Rarity asked.
"No," Twilight Sparkle shook her head "I think he’s missing having his magic, and its making him miserable.."
"Aww ponyfeathers...." Applejack sighed "that sucks!"
"Getting it back then losing it again, that’s tough," Rainbow Dash sighed.
"He put it back on because he wanted to stay with us..." Fluttershy piped up. Twilight Sparkle nodded.
Celestia had a lot on her mind. She called a Princess summit the next morning, and put forward her thoughts;
"What that creature said, its been on my mind..." she began.
"What part?" Cadance asked.
"The part where it pointed out an unfortunate truth I’m certain Sombra was keenly aware of. That we ARE using him to fight our war for us, how are we any better than it? We rendered him powerless, and asked him to fight for us. I had expected his tactics and brute strength would be enough to ensure victory, but he cannot keep using that resource, it’s weakening him.."
They all thought a moment.
"We assumed he would be violent, uncontrollable," Luna said "but he has become a far different pony now..."
“He used the full force of his power to protect that little filly, and locked it away so he could keep living here." Twilight Sparkle nodded.
"What do you propose, sister?" Luna asked.
"I think we need to give him part of who he is back. Although I don’t think he can manage it all flooding back at once, after all this time without it, it could cause shock. But he has proven he CAN use it to do something good.." Celestia said.
It was a unanimous vote. Sombra deserved this much for all he’d done.
Celestia said she’d handle it, since Cadance and Twilight Sparkle were busy, and Luna slept in the daytime!
Sombra was surprised when she asked him to meet her in the throne room.
"Its easiest here, more room.." she remarked, reading a scroll as he walked in.
"What is..?" He trailed off when he seen that familiar spell circle "ah, you need to reset it, don’t you?"
“In a manner of speaking~" she smiled cryptically, but the subtlety was lost on Sombra, who just looked confused. But, with a barely audible sigh, he sat himself down in the circles centre.
"This may hurt a bit.." Celestia said "it’ll be brief.."
Sombra nodded, closing his eyes.
He tensed automatically as he felt the collar loosen, felt the power unfurl and stretch, relishing its freedom again. The sensation of it made his chest ache. He realized how much he missed it. With his eyes closed he was able to see the magic’s unusual aura. Like a glittering purple galaxy. He was aware of Celestia’s magic in the background, a pretty golden shade. Then, he felt the familiar tug of the collar.
The glittering aura began to fade...
Then it stopped, at about half its "size" as it were. He felt a pulse of panic and confusion, what was going on?
There was a click and he felt the room spin briefly as the spell settled down.
He opened his eyes, seeing the spell lines fading into the carpet.
"Something’s off, I think you left it too loose," he said quietly, not wanting to get his hopes up.
Celestia chuckled, making him glance up at her. She was smiling.
"I assure you there’s been no mistake or error Sombra," she said calmly "it is exactly what you think. I changed the spell. I didn’t want it to overload you, so I kept it back a bit. But the spell will retreat a little each day, allow your magic to return to full capacity-"
"Why?!" Sombra blurted, he looked confused. "You seen that chaos with the shadow things. I barely kept control of it THEN, after I lost my temper!"
"And yet none of us were harmed. You eradicated only the shadow ponies. Little miss Bright Spark was unharmed, she can see more then we can.."
Sombra thought about her getting upset when he told her his magic was bad. She grumpily responded magic was still magic.
"You see?" Celestia could see the emotions flickering through his eyes "she knows you wont harm anypony, she was very vocal in pointing that out after you wandered off..."
"I don’t remember much after the spell locked in again..." Sombra shook his head "I could see you al, but I couldn’t hear what you were saying."
"That spell was not designed to be used like that, not while you were conscious. It sent you into shock as far as I can tell.."
Sombra shuddered, it’d felt awful. The sensation of his magic being torn away again. Yet he could feel it now, less overwhelming, but THERE nonetheless.
"Take some time to get used to it..." Celestia said gently "get some rest..."
Sombra was still fighting to understand, but on autopilot he heard himself, saying something about thank you, he needed a walk...
Then, when he next snapped back to reality, he was standing outside.
"How did I get here?" he muttered.
"Sleepwalking?" the bored guard at the door suggested.
"That'll do..." Sombra shrugged. he started to walk out towards the street outside, then realized nopony was trailing after him.
The guard responded to his confused look with a shrug "Princess Celestia’s orders, she said to leave you be..."
“Right..." Sombra looked a little wary, but eventually he seemed to accept it and carried on outside.
He wondered where Twilight Sparkle and co had gotten to? It felt odd not to have somepony following him, be it a guard or a little pony Princess.
"Sombra!" He snapped out of his daze as he heard a female voice calling to him. He stopped, seeing Shining Sea across the street. he strode over to her, and as he reached her, a tiny blur whooshed out from the shop-
"SOMBWA!" Bright Spark gave him another of her glomp-hugs "you feewing OK?"
"I’m fine little one.." he said gently "but what of YOU?"
"I’m fine!" she beamed "yesterday was scawwy, but you got wid of ther eviw ponies!"
"Yes, they’re gone. The statues were broken down."
"I couldn’t believe it when she told me what happened!" Shining Sea said "that so many would attack the Princesses like that! Still, they had your help, so they were in safe hooves."
"I told mommy about how your magic was supposed to be so scawwy, but I didn’t fink so!" Bright Spark bounded up and down happily.
"You’re a clever little spark aren’t you..?" he chuckled softly "your mother is very lucky to have you!”
Shining Sea nodded proudly, nuzzling the top of her daughter head, making her giggle.
There was a loud booming sound, and Sombra instinctively moved to shield the two. He looked up at the sky tear, and did not know what was going on.
"What is THAT?!" Somepony cried, seeing what looked like an inky tornado flowing into their world.
"I’m not familiar with the type of thing I’m seeing.." Sombra said at last. But he FELT it "it’s this things version of magic..."
"Eep" Bright Spark squeaked.
“Everypony, get out of here, RUN!" Sombra yelled. Some did, recognizing that he knew what he was talking about when it came to these things!
The swirling mass seemed to see the surge of movement and suddenly swept down, sweeping along the street like a ink tsunami.
Bright Spark screamed and clung to her mommy. Sombra closed his eyes.
--Come on magic!-- he thought --if you’re here, WORK!!--
There was a whoosh, and the trio vanished, appearing atop the shop roof.
"How in Equestria?" Shining Sea blinked. Sparks eyes widened.
"Your magic!" she said happily "the pwincesses let you keep it?"
"Part of it..." he said.
But down below he had more to deal with. The other ponies had been covered by the inky wave, up to their hooves in it. They struggled and fought to get free, as a dark shape shot out from the tear.
"Its trying another harvest!" Sombra’s fury rose "I have to stop it, can you two manage up here?"
"We’ll be fine!" Shining Sea said bravely "don’t worry about us, go get that thing!"
"Be carefuww!" Bright Spark called. He gave her a nod, then leapt off the roof, a crystal spike shooting up from the ground for him to perch on.
The creature seen him and launched right for him.
"Why wont you just die?!" It fumed. Sombra waited until it got close, then closer...
"What’s he doing?!" one mare yelped "he’s gonna get hit!"
But soon as it came with striking distance, Sombra vanished in a puff of purple-black smoke. And reappeared on another crystal platform a few meters away. With the creature’s back to him he was able to fire a burst of magic at its core. It hit it dead on, stunning it.
"Or he could do that..." the same mare said in surprise "I thought he didn’t have his magic?"
“Well obviously the Princesses did something!" somepony else added.
"How?!" the shadow creature snapped.
"Fight fire with fire. You have your little dirty tricks, and as it happens, so do I!" Sombra laughed. He closed his eyes, summoning the full limit of what Celestia’s spell had allowed him. When he opened his eyes, their trademark glow was back, the unearthly light making his deep red eyes stand out.
"Mess with something your own size!" Sombra declared.
It raged and drove at him again. But he simply vanished as soon as it got close, reappearing on another crystal slab that struck up from the black inky goo.
"Psyche" Sombra smirked.
"Enough tricks little pony!" it sneered. Flying upwards, it fried a bolt of black lightning at him. A semi-transparent shield flared up, deflecting the bolt away before it could hurt somepony. Sombra leapt from the crystal he was on, vanishing and reappearing on a rooftop further down. The thing kept attacking, focusing so intently on him it didn’t hear something move behind it.
"Sucker," Sombra snickered. It whirled round, seeing...a second one. Oh crap. An illusion. While it was staring at the one behind it, the version it’d been firing upon, actually still the real one, came to a stop on the next summoned crystal platform. He closed his eyes. In the air in front of him, a massive bow made of dark energy took shape, and without hesitating he freed the spear Celestia had given him from its pouch, slotting it in and pulling back-
Too late it realised it’d been tricked. It turned just in time to be speared through by the projectile. The creature exploded, the spear embedding itself into the side of a wall.
Sombra sighed in relief. That’d was close. He hadn’t been sure if he’d be able to do that spell, but it’d worked!
The ponies cheered, and would’ve clapped had they been able to move their hooves.
"How do we get out of this..?!" the pony speaking was gnawing at the black goop.
"Don’t," Sombra advised her "it tastes disgusting."
"Blecch! Good point..." she conceded.
Sombra stared at the inky goop. He had an idea. That spell again.
"Everypony stay still..." he said, raising his voice to be heard "I think I can get rid of it, just hold still..."
He closed his eyes, remembering that same spell he’d used to turn the shadows to crystal. It just needed a little tweak, but the basic element was still the same.
The ponies seen the glowing ball appear in the air above where he stood, felt their ears pop as the air pressure shifted.
"Ooh!" Bright Spark pointed a hoof at the ball "lookit mommy, this is so much awesome!"
There was a pop, the air displaced for a moment, then the ball exploded outwards, a rushing purple magic sweeping over the area in a wide circumference. Where it swept past, the black goop vanished in a flash of heatless, painless flame. Purple flame. Soon it was gone, only a little at the edges where the spell couldn’t reach was left.
The purple light faded, and Sombra opened his eyes. When he seen it’d worked, he gave a sigh of relief.
The ponies cheered properly, stamping their hooves in delight as they found themselves free. Sombra jumped down from the crystal platform, and another little spell got rid of those.
Just one thing left;
A puff of black smoke and Shining Sea and Bright Spark appeared in front of him.
"Wow.." Shining Sea blinked.
"Awsome!" Bright Spark beamed at Sombra. Sombra patted her on the head with a soft smile.
"Your magic, it’s amazing..." Shining Sea said at last "I’ve never heard or seen such a thing. And dark magic too..."
Sombra nodded, closing his eyes, quelling the fiery aura. When he opened his eyes, they’d returned to normal.
He then became aware of the ponies surrounding them. He wondered if that little display had scared them.
"Is everypony alright?!"
It was a patrol, running down the street towards them " what happened?"
Shining Sea spoke up.
"That thing attacked us again, but Its all taken care of."
"Sombwa’s magic did it!" Bright Spark bounce dup and down to get the lead guards attention.
"Your magic? Ah yes, the Princesses orders.." the guard nodded.
"Don’t look freaked out," Sombra sighed "its only...partial..."
"It was enough to wipe the floor wiv that fing!" Bright Spark, still bouncing, pointed out to the guard.
"That’s all I need to hear," the guard said. ÒSeems like you already dealt with the situation. I’ll report it back to the Captain."
Sombra was a little surprised when they didn’t question him. He’d expected a freak out. Unless...had Celestia already told Shining Armor to tell his guards she’d be giving him his magic back?
--Celestia is not somepony you underestimate-- he thought wisely.
They checked to make sure nopony was hurt, and carried on their way. Seeing her still bounding about,. Sombra caught Bright Spark up with his magic, floating her in front of him.
"I’m convinced you’re part spring little one, you’re very bouncy."
She giggled, reaching out and tapping his nose.
"Boop!" she cried happily.
Sombra chuckled, tapping her little nose very very gently with one hoof.
"Boop yourself!" he retorted.
Shining Sea smiled at the cute little scene. The ponies watching were stunned by the difference in Sombra. He looked different when he smiled. They’d never seen him so...contented. And his magic! They’d been a little scared when they’d seen him using it at first, but he’d dispatched that thing and freed them. No more, no less.
Sombra’s stomach growled, reminding him he’d skipped lunch. As if in response, little Bright Spark’s made a tinier gurgle.
"Tummy talking!" she giggled. "lunchy lunch mommy?"
“Of course dear," Shining Sea chuckled as Sombra set Bright Spark back on her hooves. She looked at Sombra "would you like to join us?"
"Pwease?" Bright Spark caught onto the idea and gave him a pleading look.
"If its...not a problem," Sombra coughed. "That’d be excellent."
Bright Spark hugged him again.
"YAY!" She looked very happy.
By now the other ponies were clustered nearby. As Sombra turned to go, one of them called out to him. He stopped, looking over at them;
"Is somepony hurt?" he asked, thinking the spell had missed one.
"No, we just wanted to thank you!" the pony at the head of the gathering said.
Again Sombra wore a look of bewilderment for a second, then realized.
"I see..." he said at last “there’s…no need.”
"There’s plenty need. You don’t seem to see how much you help the ponies here..“
Sombra made a funny sound, and looked slightly awkward.
The pony continued “its YOUR magic that helped us, so why not thank YOU?"
Hoof steps to one side heralded one of the ponies bringing back Sombra’s spear.
"Yours I believe," the stallion held it out. Sombra folded it back up, tucking it away again.
"The Princess was right to do what she did," the same pony said "used the right way, your magic is far more powerful than that thing!"
"I’ve never seen dark magic handled so well," one pony spoke up "how on Equestria did you learn to use it like that?"
Curious murmurs and nods of agreement rippled through the group, their curious gazes fixed on him.
Sombra fidgeted, then figured he may as well be honest. Trying to make up a lie here and now wouldn’t wash, they’d seen the ease he’d used it with. Telling them he’d been trained in it probably wouldn’t pass.
"I was born with it," he shrugged at last.
"Seriously?!" one mare yelped "all my years as a historian I’ve never heard of that happening? Why was there no record of this?"
Sombra shrugged "because when you’re born in a backwater village who’s elders practically wet themselves at the slightest anomaly, you generally don’t keep a record of it.."
"If I might ask," the same mare walked closer "where WERE you from?"
"A village called Snowvale, probably long gone by now...." Under his breath "if I’m lucky.."
"Snowvale...that name, I’ve heard it before..."
"It wasn’t anything special.." Sombra shrugged "unless you count being incredibly small minded and petty an achievement!"
"I must see what I can find out.." the mare murmured, lost in thought as she wandered off.
"Where’s Snowvale?" somepony else asked.
Sombra frowned "I cant remember much of that time anymore..." he said "but I think I was traveling for weeks before I reached here...it was always freezing there, hence the name. Beyond that, I cant tell you anything more..."
"Sounds very remote..." somepony said.
"In more ways than one," Sombra said oddly, then shook his head when he caught them looking confused "never mind."
"At any rate, thank you." the first pony that’d called to him spoke up again "we’re glad you’re here now.." then they dispersed.
Sombra felt a funny twinge, but not a bad or painful one. This felt...nice...