A Somber Tale

Ch. 4: A Lesson in Dark Magic (Part 2)

‘You will need to harness Dark Magic to cast the spells I shall teach you to accomplish that, after all.’

Sombra’s words echoed in Twilight’s head, as she tried to stop herself from shaking. She had not been this excited since she learned that her brother was marrying Cadence, and the last time she had been this nervous was when she had been trying out for Princess Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns.

‘W-What are you going to teach me first?’ Twilight asked, trying not to sound too eager.

‘The first obstacle is that barrier. It seems designed to prevent physical objects from passing through, making it useless against anypony using my signature spell, Shadowform.’ Sombra explained.

‘Shadowform?’ Twilight repeated. ‘But I thought it was the Princesses who turned you into Shadow?’

‘Nay, that was an attempt on my part to evade their spell to trap me in the ice.’ Sombra replied. ‘Unfortunately, you know how well that worked out. However, I believe my more recent siege of the Crystal Empire proves how useful it can be, as well. The barrier before us is semi-transparent; if Light can pass through it, then Shadow can as well.’

Twilight could not help but grin at the possibilities that such a spell presented. Before she could reply, though, she was interrupted by a spoken voice.

“Twilight, are you alright?”

The unicorn blinked in surprise as she noticed her five closest pony friends and her dragon assistant standing on the other side of the barrier, looking at her oddly. Then again, she could hardly blame them, since they could not hear her conversation with Sombra, and thus it must have looked like she was staring off into the distance, grinning for no reason.

“Heh, sorry,” Twilight said in embarrassment, before her smile returned full force. “Don’t worry, though. Trixie may think she has won, but I’m just getting started!”

“Is that true, Twilight?” Spike asked, the hope clear in his voice.

“Yep. Just watch this!” Twilight replied confidently. Telepathically, she asked Sombra, ‘So, how do I do the Shadowform spell?’

‘Confidence is important in any magic, but do not grow arrogant.’ Sombra cautioned. ‘Discord and Nightmare Moon let themselves become overconfident, and you know full well what happened to them.’ Twilight wanted to ask how he knew about such events while trapped in the ice, but Sombra continued before she had the chance, although she made a mental note to ask him later. ‘Begin by charging Dark Magic, and then let it suffuse your entire body.’

Closing her eyes in concentration, Twilight did as he instructed, so eager that she did not even need to get angry, her excitement strong enough to fuel the spell. She felt absolutely giddy as the Dark Magic flowed through her body, making her feel more powerful than she ever had, outside of the magical surges she had as a foal.

‘Next, pull your shadow from the ground, and wrap it around your body like a second layer of skin. Now, weaken your grip on the magic,’Sombra went on, ‘but do not lessen the power behind it. Let the magic drift outward, and take your body with it.’

As Twilight continued to follow his instructions, she gasped, as her sense of touch seemed to warp, sending her sensations she had never felt before. Opening her eyes, they widened as she saw her body replaced by a purple, smoky form, stretching up from the ground.

‘Impressive. Now, let’s see how well you can control your new form.’ Sombra told her. ‘Flatten yourself against the ground, and slip underneath that crude excuse for a barrier.’

Narrowing her eyes in concentration, Twilight began trying to figure out how to move her new ‘body’. After a few moments, she managed to press herself to the grass beneath her, and slip forward like a snake. As she passed the barrier, she felt a tingle pass over her body, but it did not stop her. Raising up from the ground, she cried out, “YES! It worked!”

…or at least she tried to. Instead, it came out as an extended, breathy whisper, “Yeeeeesss! Iiiit woooorked!”

‘I forgot to mention,’ Sombra spoke up, his amusement clear in his tone, ‘that the Shadowform spell distorts the user’s voice.’

“T-T-Twilight i-is that y-you?” Spike suddenly spoke up in a terrified tone.

Turning to her friends, Twilight saw them huddled together, various levels of fear clear in their expressions, as they stared at her altered form. Realizing that they had no idea what she was doing or how, feeling guilty for scaring them, she quickly asked Sombra, ‘How do I change back?’

‘Ending the Shadowform spell requires doing almost the exact opposite of when you used it. Re-focus your magic, and draw it back into your original shape. Withdraw the magic from your body, back into your horn, and let your shadow fall away, back to the ground. After that, either move on to the next spell, or let your Dark Magic fade away until you need it next.’

Quickly following his directions, Twilight felt her body return to normal. Moments later, her friends crowded around her, happy to see her safe, but still worried and curious.

“Oh, thank Celestia you’re alright!” Rarity exclaimed.

“What happened there, sugar?” Applejack asked.

“That was kind of scary…” Fluttershy added.

“Yeah, how’d you even do that?” Rainbow Dash wanted to know.

“You looked just like Nightmare Moon and King Sombra!” Pinkie Pie pointed out what the other ponies were reluctant say.

Still feeling ecstatic at her success, Twilight laughed said, “Don’t worry, that was just a new spell I learned, girls. I’m not going to crazy and try to take over Equestria, or anything like that. However, I am going to go show Trixie some real magic!”

Hearing that, her friends relaxed, and followed her as she galloped back into town. As she led the way, Twilight asked Sombra hopefully, ‘So, are you going to teach me another spell to use on Trixie?’

‘Indeed, my ever eager student,’ Sombra thought back. ‘I am not so foolish as to design an artifact like the Alicorn Amulet without preparing a means to counter it.’

As she approached the center of town once more, Twilight’s grin returned full force, as she heard what he had in mind, and how to do it.

Twilight saw Trixie still celebrating her victory, with the residents of Ponyville cowering before her, too scared of drawing her attention to try and flee or hide. Raising her voice, Twilight called out, “It’s a little early for you to be celebrating, Trixie!”

“What!?” Trixie cried in surprise. Whirling to face her rival, she demanded, “I banished you! How did you get through my barrier?”

“It was actually pretty easy.” Twilight replied, knowing it would get under the other unicorn’s skin. “And it only took me a single spell to get back in.”

“Impossible!” Trixie objected. However, she calmed down after realizing something. “But it doesn’t matter. You still lost! You couldn’t reverse the Age Spell!”

“You may have won your little game, Trixie, but I’m done playing.” Twilight said, as she began charging Dark Magic again. Focusing on what could happen if Trixie actually won, Twilight grew angry at the other unicorn, and used that to fuel her magic. “No one will separate me from my friends!”

“Fine, let’s see how well you can back that up… when you’re a helpless filly!” Trixie said, before casting her Age Spell at Twilight.

Only for Twilight’s body to part around the beam of magic, (letting it merely hit a flower behind her, instead,) as she entered Shadowform once more.

“Nooooo mooooore oooof thaaaat.” Twilight said, as she reached a tendril of shadow forward, and wrapped it around Trixie’s horn. Pushing her Dark Magic into her opponent’s horn, Twilight blocked Trixie’s magic from getting out.

“WHAT!? How are you doing that?” Trixie asked, as she jumped away in shock. Trying to cast another spell, only for her magic to fizzle uselessly, she looked up, only to see amethyst crystals embedded in her horn. Wide-eyed, she shrieked, “WHAT DID YOU DO TO MY HORN!?”

Returning back to her normal form, Twilight replied smugly, “Anti-Magic Crystals. It doesn’t matter how much the Alicorn Amulet amplifies your magic, if you can’t use magic at all. And since you can’t cast any more spells, I believe that makes me the winner of the duel.”

Although shocked by Twilight’s sudden transformation, her return to her usual form and declaration of victory brought cheers from the onlookers.

“Wait, you knew what this amulet was, and yet you faced me without asking me to take it off?” Trixie asked in shock, cutting through the cheers.

“A wise pony once told me, ‘You cannot expect your opponents to always fight fair, so you must learn to find ways to overcome foes that that are more powerful than you.’” Twilight replied, “You came here to teach me a lesson, and I did learn something, even if it wasn’t what you meant.”

‘I have been called many things in my time, but I do not think “wise” was ever one of them,’ Sombra commented telepathically.

“Twilight, how’d you do that?” Spike asked, as he and her pony friends rushed forward. “That looks like what King Sombra did to Shining Armor…”

“That’s because it is.” Twilight said, not wanting to lie to her friends any more than necessary. Although, she still could not risk telling them the full truth. “When I went back to the Crystal Empire a few days ago, I found a book that explained how to use his Shadowform spell, and a couple others. I figured that this was the perfect chance to see if I could use them to protect ponies, instead of just causing harm.”

Although the listening ponies tensed up at her open admission of using Dark Magic, her explanation relaxed them, since it meant she was still the same Twilight Sparkle they had come to know and care for.

“What about me?” Trixie demanded. “You won, and I’ll leave, but you can’t just leave my horn like this!” The unicorn’s tone was practically begging by the end.

Tapping her hoof against her chin, Twilight said, “I suppose I could… but only after you hand over that Amulet. It’s getting locked away again, where it won’t get abused.”

Trixie hesitated, but with her horn as it was, the amulet was useless to her anyway. Sighing in regret, she brought a hoof up to undo the clasp, and let the amulet fall to the ground. Twilight used a simple Telekinesis spell to bring the magic over to herself. ‘Um, how do I reverse that, Sombra?’ Twilight asked, realizing he had never told her that.

‘Are you sure you wish to do so?’ Sombra asked in turn. ‘She could prove to be a threat later on. It may be better to-’

‘No. I told her I would reverse it if she gave me the amulet, so I will.’ Twilight cut him off firmly.

Sombra disapproved of such naiveté, but could not help but be amused that she would treat someone who had been an enemy moments before so fairly. ‘Very well,’ He replied. ‘Do you remember when I used that spell on your brother? The process for reversing it is the same now as it was then.’

‘But it was the Crystal Heart’s power that did that!’ Twilight protested, before asking, ‘Are you saying that I have to take Trixie all the way to the Crystal Empire?’

‘While such a powerful source of Alicorn Magic would be effective, a powerful wave of Dark Magic will work just as well.’ Sombra explained.

Twilight did as he said, while asking him, ‘Alicorn Magic? What does that have to do with the Crystal Heart?’

‘As a regular crystal may turn sunlight into a rainbow, so does the Crystal Heart, crafted by the original Crystal Princess, turn the positive emotions of ponies into Alicorn Magic, and project it outward to protect the Empire.’ The ancient king told her.

As the crystals on her horn dissolved, Trixie pressed her front hooves against it in relief, making sure her horn was back to normal. Composing herself, she said, “Very well. I will keep my word, and never darken Ponyville’s doorstep again.”

‘I still think she may become a threat to you again, if you leave things as they are.’ Sombra told Twilight. ‘While you don’t wish to do her any harm, I may have another way to dissuade her from opposing you in the future…’

Twilight was not sure she liked the way he phrased that, but listened, nonetheless. In the end, she agreed to do as he suggested, although more out of curiosity, than anything else. “Trixie, before you go, would you like to see the true purpose of the Alicorn Amulet?” Twilight asked.

“True purpose?” Trixie repeated in confusion. “What do you mean?”

“While this amulet can turn any unicorn into a powerful spell caster, that’s not what it was designed for.” Twilight repeated what Sombra told her. “Its true purpose, is this.” With that said, Twilight put the amulet around her own neck.

As soon as the clasp snapped shut, Twilight felt her magic flare to greater heights than she had ever felt before, filling her senses to the point that she barely noticed those around her being pushed back by the force of it. Twilight felt absolutely giddy, at the unparalleled rush of magic flowing through her. As the magic peaked, Twilight felt something in her body shift, before the excess magic died away, though she could still feel the power within her, ready to be unleashed.

As the magic died away, Trixie and the other onlookers gasped, as Twilight spread her newly grown wings.

“This is the reason it is called the Alicorn Amulet,” Twilight explained, even as she examined her new appendages, Sombra feeding her the information. “It was designed to be worn by unicorn that had already spent time honing their magic, amplifying it further, and allowing them to take on the form of an alicorn.”

“…It seems you really have bested me again, Twilight Sparkle.” Trixie said, her tone humbled. Turning to leave, she added, “It seems I really do have much to learn.”

Although, her friends swarmed Twilight after that, admiring her wings, it was Sombra’s voice that caught her attention. ‘It would be best if you removed that amulet soon, my dear student. While it can be a powerful tool against a superior foe, to use it otherwise would be to take on an unnecessary crutch.’

Nodding in agreement, Twilight pulled off the amulet. Her body immediately returned to her normal unicorn form. Turning to the fastest pony she knew, Twilight held out the Amulet, and asked, “Rainbow Dash, can you take this to Zecora as soon as possible? I’m sure she’ll be able to keep it hidden away, where no one will be tempted by its power.”

“I’m on it!” The pegasus replied, before grabbing the artifact and taking off towards her destination in the Everfree Forest.

“Everypony else,” Twilight said to the other pones gathered, “Let’s get back to preparing for Princess Celestia’s visit!”

As the ponies cheered, and got back to what they were doing before Trixie showed up, Sombra was deep in thought, guarding his mind so that none of his thoughts reached his student.

‘It would seem that you have even more potential than I thought, Twilight Sparkle… And yet, I cannot help but think that an even greater threat is just beyond the horizon…’

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