Prologue: FIENDship is Magic
It was a beautiful day in the Crystal Kingdom, as two ponies entered the palace throne room. One was an alicorn, the Princess Mi Amore Cadenza, (or Cadence, as she preferred to be called,) and the other was her sister-in-law, a unicorn named Twilight Sparkle.
“I want to thank you again for coming back so soon, Twilight.” Princess Cadence said, as they walked. “Celestia tried to teach me how to do it, but I can’t make it work.”
“Are you kidding?” Twilight replied with a laugh. “We’re sisters, remember? When you call, I come running.”
Looking at the crystal protruding from the top of the throne, Twilight’s expression turned serious. Twilight closed her eyes in concentration, and a purple aura surrounded her horn. However, it was not her normal magic she needed. Dredging up the worst memories she could think of, Twilight focused on her fear, anger, and other darker emotions. Her purple aura turned black, and when she opened her eyes, they were no longer purple, but bright green, with red pupils.
“I don’t like to use it. It hurts my head.” Twilight commented, referring to the Dark Magic she was currently wielding. “But this is important.”
Focusing her magic, Twilight fired a black beam into the crystal on top of the throne. Reacting to the Dark Magic, the crystal cast a shadow over the room, revealing a secret staircase leading down through the floor.
Seeing it for the first time, Cadence looked down to see the stairs descending beyond the limits of her sight. A tone of awe creeped into her voice as she asked, “You went down this by yourself?”
“Yeah, it’s spooky, huh?” Twilight replied with a rhetorical question. Moving to the top of the staircase, she asked, “Are you ready?” Getting a nod in reply, they began to descend into the darkness.
As they walked, Twilight asked, “So, do you think he’s coming back?”
“Sombra?” Cadence replied, knowing immediately who the younger pony meant. “No, I think he’s gone for good. But we should be prepared. They thought they had him beat before, too.” Pausing, at a slight sound, Cadence asked, “Do you hear that?”
“Probably just an echo.” Came Twilight’s response, a she forged ahead into the shadowy depths.
Shaking her head, Cadence brought up the reason they were there. “It’s just that we have all of this information missing from our records. The Crystal Ponies’ memories came back, but there were a lot of books and records that Sombra had destroyed.”
“And you think he might have kept something?” Twilight asked, before grinning and adding, “Do Bad Guys keep journals?”
“Well, he sure liked himself.” Cadence replied dryly. “I’d be surprised if he didn’t record something.”
“Here we go!” Twilight exclaimed, as they reached the bottom of the staircase, and approached the magical door that had given her such trouble the first time she had come here. This time, however, the door opened with ease, but what was beyond it was not the staircase she had ascended.
Instead, there was room that looked like it could have been King Sombra’s study, with a desk, globe, and several busts of the tyrannical king himself.
“I knew it! I knew he had to have a room like this.” Cadence said eagerly. “Just look at it.”
“I am. I so need an office like this.” Twilight responded, just as eager. “Well, except for the busts of myself.”
Seeing a journal lying on the desk, Cadence walked over to it and said, “Here it is. This must be his diary. This could tell us everything we need.” Twilight joined her as she opened it. “Okay, you evil pony, let’s see what you had to say.” Flipping to the beginning, Cadence began to read aloud.
Sombra… it was the only word I could remember when they found me.
“When they found him? Who?” Twilight asked in confusion. Cadence did not have an answer either, so she just shook her head, and kept reading.
No matter what they asked, the
only thing I would say to them was this one word. So, they made it my name.
And that is how I, the King of all Monsters, named myself.
Not having any family to return a lost colt to, the Crystal Guard brought me to Chestnut Fall’s orphanage. Although I was welcomed with opened arms by the caretaker, there were… obstacles. When it came to lessons, I was years behind my classmates. They knew all about things I had never even heard of. Saying their words felt like chewing peanut brittle. Like my mouth wasn’t supposed to say them.
But I was a quick learner. And Ms. Chestnut Falls would always help me when I couldn’t understand the homework.
Sadly, the same could not be said for others. The other foals could tell I was different, and I was ostracized for it. In my youth, there was only one other young pony who was kind to me.
Her name was Radiant Hope, and she was the most amazing pony I’ve ever met. She was a bit weird, but I enjoyed it. She had the greatest imagination, and was the most beautiful unicorn I have ever seen.
Soon, Hope and I were the closest of friends. I sat next to her in every class. We had our own language we wrote notes in. A little secret code, all our own. The other ponies still laughed at us, but as long as we had each other, we didn’t care.
The others wouldn’t let us play their games, so we made up our own games, where only we knew the rules. Or I thought I did. Sometimes, only she knew the rules.
And all that year, every time we got any jewels, we saved them up, in preparation. Hope’s favorite memory was this time her parents had taken her to what she called ‘The Most Magical Celebration in All of Equestria’.
The Crystal Faire. A celebration to restore the spirit of Love and Unity to the Crystal Empire, so as to protect it from harm. It wouldn’t be until later that we discovered just what that ‘harm’ entailed. She told me about the beautiful Crystal Princess and the Crystal Heart that was the center of the celebration. I couldn’t wait to see it, so Radiant Hope took me to see where the Crystal Heart rested. It was open to the public, but I had never been there before.
Little did I know that I was meeting my greatest enemy, and that I was about to have one of the most important moments of my young life.
In the reflection of the Crystal Heart, I saw a terrifying shadow. As fate would have it, Princess Amore, ruler of the Crystal Empire, showed up at that moment. She told us that the Crystal Heart had the power to reflect what was in a pony’s own heart. After what I had just seen, I didn’t want to believe it, but I later came to realize that her words were true.
Hope was ecstatic, apparently having seen herself as a princess, and hoping that that would one day come true. However, I was too overcome by fear and confusion over my own fate to be happy for her. When the princess asked what I had seen, I told her I hadn’t seen anything, just my shadow. I was wracked by guilt all the way home. I believed I had lied to the princess.
I didn’t realize how close to the truth I had come.
But all that worry and self-doubt were long forgotten four days later, because it was finally my time. It was time for my first Crystal Faire. Hope woke me up early that day, eager for us to set off. She reminded me of all the wonderful things we would see, but heading for the door. However, I merely laid there as she left. I thought of all the things we would do.
And then, a slow terror crept over me.
I couldn’t move my legs. I cried out in panic, and Hope rushed back to my side. She got Ms. Chestnut to help, and I was taken to the hospital. The doctor had no idea what was wrong with me. He couldn’t find a piece of mane out of place.
And it only got worse through the day. Not only could I not see the Crystal Faire, I felt as weak as I had ever felt in my whole life.
Eventually, Radiant Hope told Ms. Chestnut she would stay with me, and Ms. Chestnut went off to see the Crystal Heart. I wanted to be strong for Hope, but I felt like I was being torn apart. It wasn’t until late that night, after the festivities, that I was finally able to get some sleep. Hope didn’t fall asleep until after I did.
And the next day, I felt as if it had never happened. Hope and I began planning immediately for the next year’s Crystal Faire.
But a year later, there we were in the hospital again.
And the year after that.
Every year, we grew, my desire to see the Faire grew, and my pain grew. Until…
One year, the pain reached its peak, and crack began spreading across my body. Shadows seeped out of the cracks in my flesh, and I began to come apart. It felt like nothing I’d ever known. Like I was leaving the weak Sombra behind.
Panicking, I cried out to Hope for help. She was just as terrified as me, the tears in her eyes showing how much she truly cared for me.
It was a transformation. It was a moment of becoming what you are supposed to be. A moment of pure destiny.
It just wasn’t mine.
Hope had use her magic to heal me, and in doing so made her cutie mark appear. For a moment, I was actually happy for her, when we were alone there, sharing her special moment.
I knew that it meant something, but I couldn’t figure out what it was until I saw how everypony else reacted. Then, I realized that the ability to heal and ailment was powerful magic. And everypony knew what happened when a unicorn developed really powerful magic.
The moment I saw the letter, I knew what it was. It had the seals of the Two Sisters on it. They wanted her to come study with them. That meant they thought she had the potential to become a princess. Which meant…
The only thing I wanted to do was run.
I knew Hope, and I knew that with Celestia and Luna’s help, she would become a princess. She would leave me behind and if my whole body didn’t disappear without her here…
What she had seen in the reflection of the Crystal Heart was real. It had never seemed real before. I knew it was, and I knew… I knew.
If her destiny had found her, mine would find me. And in my eagerness to run from it, I had run to it.
I fled the Crystal Empire, charging blindly into the frozen wastes to the north of the city, where I had been found as a foal. There, I encountered a being unlike any I had ever seen. It was a formation of blood red crystal, but it spoke with the most soothing voice I had ever heard.
It said it was my Mother.
It told me the truth of what I was, that I was an Umbrum, a shadow pony. It explained that I was the antithesis of ponies in the Crystal Empire. That those ponies feared my kind, and that was why they created a weapon against us: the Crystal Heart. It explained why the Crystal Faire had always caused me such terrible pain, the most recent nearly killing me.
And finally, it said that my time had come, and in a burst of magic, awakened my true power.
And just like that, it was like somepony had turned on a switch in my brain. Suddenly, I knew who I was. I knew why all of those terrible things had happened to me. I knew what I had to do. And I knew how to use the magic of my people. I didn’t realize it until later, but that was also the moment my eyes and horn changed.
The image in the Crystal Heart had been clear, but I had never understood it until just then. I had always taken it to mean that the darkness would overtake me. But the darkness was me. The true me. The me that had been hidden for so long. Destruction was my talent, and Darkness was my cutie mark.
Mother told me of why I had been sent to the Crystal Empire. I was the only one that could destroy the Crystal Heart, and free the army of Umbrum waiting beneath the city.
However, when I imagine how Radiant Hope would react if I destroyed the Heart, it made me hesitate. While I cared not what befell the other Crystal Ponies, I truly cared for Hope, and did not want to lose her.
However, Mother made it perfectly clear; with my true powers awoken, I would not survive the passage of another Crystal Faire.
I knew that if I was going to make my move, it had to be then. The Heart knew my secret, and I was certain that Princess Amore did, too. Even then, months after the Faire, the Crystal Heart had so much power over me, that I could not touch it directly.
It was either me, or the Heart. Finally, as slipped a sack over the Heart and pulled it from its resting place, I knew I would never have to suffer through another Crystal Faire.
However, Princess Amore appeared, and from her words, it quickly became clear that she knew what I was, and why I was there. She was the one who had made the Crystal Heart. She knew that the Heart had made me sick. She knew how it had made me suffer, and yet she had never said anything. Never done anything.
It was then that my fury peaked, and my magic burst forth. In an instant, I turned the Princess on the Crystal Empire into solid crystal.
If my fate had not been sealed before, it was then.
But even in my darkest moment, I felt my fear melting away. I had been so afraid of everypony my entire life. I had defeated a Princess, and now I knew there was something stronger than Love. Fear. Fear was the strongest power of all. And I would take the fear they had put in me, and repay each of them with it.
It was then that Radiant Hope appeared. Perhaps she had been look for me. Perhaps she had wished to speak with the Princess, or see the Heart. I knew not which. However, when she saw the Princess turned to crystal, her expression turned to one of horror.
She wanted to help the Princess, to use her magic to heal her. Even then, she was concerned for me, urging me to flee before anyone else found out what I had done. She didn’t yet realize that I had changed.
I told her that I wouldn’t run. I reminded her of the teasing. How everypony had looked down on us. How they had made me suffer. I would repay them all, for both our sakes, and would become King of the Crystal Empire. I offered to make her my Queen. But all she could think about was helping Princess Amore. So, I shattered that thought…
By shattering the Princess.
I couldn’t bring myself to truly destroy her, but I spread the pieces of her crystalline form all throughout the world. Maybe somepony would restore her one day, but I’ll be too strong for her and her Crystal Heart by then.
However, my actions broke Hope’s heart, making her truly see me as a monster. When I recount it, I will say that that was my one mistake. I still loved Radiant Hope, and let her leave.
The foolish girl, still thinking she could ‘save’ me, told our tragic tale to the Two Sisters. They decided to do what they do best.
I enslaved the Crystal Ponies to dig down and raise my Umbrum army, but time runs short. I know I am no match for them, but they will not save these Crystal Ponies. I will make them pay with a thousand years of suffering!
And Radiant Hope, she’ll suffer the worst! She betrayed me to save this ‘home’ of hers. I’ve developed a new spell, just for her.
How bitter will her victory taste, when she has no home left?
Silence hung over the room for a moment, as Cadence and Twilight stared at the journal in shock.
Finally, Twilight said quietly, “And then there’s nothing else.”
“That must be the last thing he wrote before Celestia and Luna banished him.” Cadence replied, her tone just as soft.
“Should we take it with us?” Twilight asked, starting to get over her shock from the unexpected tale. “Should it be in the library?”
“I don’t feel right moving it.” Cadence started to look around nervously, as she gave her response. “In fact, this whole place gives me the heebie-jeebies. I need some air.”
“You go on back,” Twilight said, looking around the room as well, but with an inquisitive gaze. “I’m going to keep looking around a bit more.”
“Well, alright.” Cadence turned to the door, before looking back over at her sister-in-law and saying, “Thanks again for the help, Twilight, and please let me know if you find anything else of interest.
“I will!” Twilight called out as she began examining the room more closely. “Still, I feel bad for him. He never got to see the Crystal Faire, and it was all he ever wanted.”
That brought Cadence to a halt at the door. Turning back with a frown, she said, “That, and to crush the crystal ponies under his hoof. I wouldn’t feel too sorry for him, Twilight.” Looking back out the door, she added, “There’s that sound again…”
“Like I said before, it’s probably just echoes.” Twilight replied. “Crystal can do odd things to sound, after all.”
Sighing, Cadence left the room saying, “I suppose you’re right. Best of luck with your search.”
As she climbed the stairs, Cadence never noticed an odd object slowly rolling down them, creating the small sound she had been hearing. The object only stopped when it reached the bottom of the stairs, halting in front of the magical doorway. As it grew still, shadows gathered around it, and a sinister whisper spilled forth.
“Long live the King!”
Hearing something outside the door, Twilight went to check, thinking that perhaps Cadence had come back for some reason. What she saw, however, left her stunned.
On the ground before her laid a familiar curved, red horn.