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My First New Year's Alone · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–25000
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Heart of Darkness
Sombra licked his lips. His final destination lay on the other side of the portal before him. He had with him naught but the armour which favoured him so over the years. There was no army needed, no soldiers to fight this war – only the magic he wielded, unmatched by another unicorn.

He walked through the portal.

It was all the stories had said, and more. The Crystal Empire shone with an intensity he thought unimaginable. Its inhabitants cheered and played about in childish glee, unperturbed by the qualms of reality. Entertainers and performers and sideshows spread all about the town. The festivities were in full swing.

Sombra wretched.

A crystal pony made a jolly approach. “Hello there! What brings you to the Crystal Empire today?”

“The fare.” A sinister grin punctuated his response.

“Feel free to join in! By the looks of that armour, I bet you’re looking for the jousting. It’s just over there, right by the Crystal Heart.”

Sombra’s eyes lit. “Crystal Heart.”

“Oh yes. The Crystal Heart is the heart of the Crystal Empire. The joys of all the crystal ponies at the fair give it the strength to bring happiness to all of Equestria.”

“Good.” Sombra locked on to the crystal heart, pacing slowly toward it.

The crystal pony rubbed the back of her neck. “Well, it’s nice to meet you too.”

He reached the Crystal Heart and looked up to it. Even in the setting of a field of crystals, it stood out like a diamond in clay. The splendour of the fare gave it enough strength to power an entire kingdom with goodwill for centuries.

And he would corrupt it – a true testament to his might.

Sombra’s horn glowed with a black as dark as the abyss. Tendrils of black crystals rose from the ground and formed a cage around him and the Crystal Heart. Thick thunderclouds engulfed the skies and plunged the Crystal Empire into a shadowy darkness. The crystal ponies screamed and scrambled about the fare grounds. A few astute unicorns organised themselves to penetrate the prism that contained their sacred heart. They surrounded it at all sided and lay the heads down, pointing their horns at the black crystals.

“On my mark!” one instructed. “One. Two. Three!”

The unicorns assaulted the prism with beams of crystal magic at all angles.

It had no effect. Sombra erupted into a hideous evil laughter.

The unicorns slowly tired from their efforts until they too joined the crowds of screaming and scrambling ponies.

“Fear. Good.” He tapped his horn to the surface of the Crystal Heart. He could feel its power waning, but it was still strong. He turned to the crystal ponies. They would first need to let darkness into their hearts.

He shot the librarian with a glare, and a vision befell her. She stood in the library as ponies rummaged through it, collecting all of the books into a flaming pile that lay in the centre. She screamed and screamed, but had no voice. The pillage continued until she collapsed and was brought back to reality.

Sombra then spotted a pair of lovers in the chaos. Into them both he injected a vision of the other. They stared with sullen eyes, heartbroken. “How could you?” they said. Each could see the sadness in their partners’ eyes, but could not console them, no matter how hard they tried. They moved their lips, but could not speak. They each slapped the other, and then each slammed the door on the other. When they escaped the nightmare, their crystal coats were as dull as their spirits.

Another pony caught his gaze, this time a jouster. He felt his legs wobble beneath him until finally collapsing. He could not get up. The world washed away and he awoke in a hospital bed. The doctor looked over him with low eyes. “I’m sorry. There’s nothing we can do...”

One by one, Sombra brought their fears to life, until all of the crystal ponies were left as mere shadows of their former selves.

He looked up to the Crystal Heart. It was ready. With a tap of his horn, the last bright light in the Crystal Empire was overcome with darkness.

Luna paced back and forth about the Canterlot throne room. She shot to attention as the double doors opened. Her head dropped when she saw it was her lieutenant returning empty handed.

“Where is she?” Luna asked.

“Dealing with insurgents in Los Peagsus, Your Highness.”

Luna flustered. “What? She does not think this cause for alarm? The Crystal Empire has been overrun! We can feel it.”

The lieutenant rubbed the back of his neck. “It would seem that it is not at the top of her priorities, Your Highness.”

Luna went to stomp her hoof, but resolved to maintain her composure. “Very well. We shall take to this matter ourselves. Hark the general. Move out when the stars command it.”

“Yes, Your Highness.” The lieutenant saluted her, then exited the room.

Luna followed shortly after, fully intending to get a head start. The guard would take time to assemble – more time than she feared could be allowed.

She weathered the Arctic North alone, till finally reaching the portal to the Crystal Empire. In contrast with the icy blizzard that surrounded it, the portal was laden with black crystals, which suffocated it like a tumour. It appeared to flicker, as if its energy were to fail at any moment.

She looked up at the sky. The night is ripe, she thought. She gave the signal, then entered through to the other side.

It was much as she feared. Thunderous clouds enveloped the skies as far as the eye could see. The empire was barren, with no sign of life anywhere. Luna consoled herself in the thought that they were merely sleeping, but soon after the thought saddened her. Was there not one pony out to lavish in the night?

As she walked through the town, faint whispers scattered about the air.

“Leave this place.”

She gulped, but continued towards the castle.

“There is nothing left.”

Luna jumped. “Who is there? We demand thou show thyself!”

“Save yourself.”

Luna paused. Now was not a time to be brash. She closed her eyes to focus on the magical energies in her surroundings. There was little she could see; everything was clouded in a black darker than the night. Then a faint glimmer caught her attention. She opened her eyes and beelined in its direction. It was in a house. She pushed the door open, finding it to be unlocked. Inside a crystal pony lay cowering in a corner of the darkness.

“P-please don’t h-hurt me.”

“We wouldn’t think of it,” Luna assured her. “Tell us what has happened.”

“I d-don’t remember.”

“Surely you must – something, anything.”

The pony forced her eyes shut and screamed in intense pain, then returned to her cowering state. “No. N-nothing’s happened. We’re fine. Please leave.”

Luna nodded. “Thou art ill – not by ailment, but by curse. Be sure, we shall rid thee of this evil.”

Luna left the house and realigned her path to the castle. The whispers continued, but Luna decided that they were of no use, opting to ignore them.

On entering the castle, she noted an eerie familiarity with it. Every room, hallway, and staircase was positioned identically to that of Canterlot’s castle. In all ways except colour and adornments, they were much the same building. It was difficult of course to ignore the protruding crystals that hung from every direction like stalactites.

Luna reached the throne room’s double doors. After preparing herself for what lay on the other side, she pushed through them.

Inside, Sombra lounged on the throne with a grim smirk. Behind him hung the Crystal Heart, warped by black crystals and volatile sparks of magical energy. The moon shining through the enormous windows gave the room its only light.

As Luna walked into the room, its doors slammed shut behind her. Unperturbed, Luna faced Sombra and augmented her voice to a boom. “Foul being, release the Crystal Heart at once.”

Sombra remained lazily seated, beginning into a bellow. “Haa-haa-haaa. Princess.”

“We are Princess Luna of Equestria, and this castle lies within our borders. Thou may yield now and face trial of court.” Luna lowered her horn into an attack position. “Else thou shall face trial of the night.”

Sombra erupted into a devilish laugh. “The night.”

Luna fired. A magic missile soared through the air at breakneck speed before striking its target dead-on. The throne exploded in a great ball of smoke and rubble, and but for the sound of crumbling rock, the room was silent. Luna could not see through the dust. She remained on guard, for she was certain that it would not be that easy, and waited for it to clear. A pebble rolled past behind her, and she jumped to face it, only to turn back after seeing it was no threat.

The dust finally cleared, revealing but an empty throne with the Crystal Heart still behind it.

A low roar echoed throughout the room. “This night... too dark for you, Princess.” A cacophony of laughter permeated in all directions.

“Sheath thy tongue, demon, lest we should do it for thee.” Luna threw her head in all directions, trying to isolate the source of the echo.

“Demon? But you... princess in the night.”

Luna remained steady, ears perked. Presently, she jerked her head to face a pillar and fired a magic missile. A great explosion followed, before the pillar collapsed entirely. “Shouldst thou cower longer, we shall render this castle to dust.”

“This castle... yours.”

Luna fired at another pillar, but missed, striking and destroying a wall.

“Destroy it.”

Luna positioned to fire again, but soon relented. She perked her ears again, for the hole in the wall weakened the rumble of Sombra’s laugh. She waited for him to speak. Nothing. Only more laughter. There had to be a better way to coax him out of hiding. She looked to the Crystal Heart. The sparks and swirls of Sombra’s magic continued to fashion it like a daemonic artefact. Decidedly, she galloped to it within horn’s reach. She recognised the spell; Celestia had shown it to her. She pressed her horn against it and felt its pulsating spasms reject her. Trying harder, she released all of her magic into the Crystal Heart.

All around her, the castle suddenly collapsed. Luna closed her eyes and braced herself, but no injury came to her. She re-opened her eyes to see herself in the Canterlot throne room. She rubbed her eyes and shook her head.

Celestia barged in through the throne room’s double doors. “What have you done, Luna? Have you no temperance? I expected more of you.”

“Sister, I –”

“Never mind that, now. There are more pressing matter to attend. Return to Everfree Castle and maintain watch there. I shall take to cleaning up this mess.” Celestia slammed the door shut on her way out.

Luna lay by the throne, sobbing. “I’m sorry.”

The throne room collapsed around her, but this time she did not brace herself. When the rubble washed away, she was back in the Crystal Empire. Sombra stood before her as she lay broken, still sobbing.

“The night... shadow of the day. You... weak... watcher, not guardian.”

Luna wiped the tears from her eyes. She stood up firmly and fixed her eyes to his. “We are Princess Luna!” She charged her horn.

Sombra’s eyes and horn glowed a fierce green, and his body began to take an ethereal form.

Luna fired, but the shot passed through his now ghastly figure.

Sombra soared across the throne room as a cloud of black smoke, laughing his devilish laugh. He struck her horn with a beam of green magic, and little black crystals formed around it like a seal.

Luna went to fire again, but the crystals on her horn blocked her spells. Her teeth clenched. “What is this?” Without magic to augment it, her voice came out as a whimper.

She heard a loud banging against the double doors. “Princess Luna? Are you in there?” She recognised the voice as that of her general’s.

Sombra continued to roam about the room sporadically. “Bring... the sun.” He hovered over to the double doors, then opened them, revealing a Luna’s guard on the other side. Sombra grabbed Luna with his magic and flung her through the doors, then slammed them shut. His grim laugh punctuated the act.

The guard stared at her in a mix of concern and bewilderment. A few noticed the crystals that riddled her horn. “Are you –”

Luna shook her head and stood up firmly, attempting to maintain appearance. “We are addled. Call the retreat. We must return with a stronger force.”

The guard saluted her, then split in all directions.

Luna hung her head, then said to herself, “We must return with my sister.”

[Celestia & Luna squabble, then head out to take on Sombra. Shit goes down, some stuff gets said, and the black guy dies in the end. Oh, and the Crystal Empire “vanishes” in collateral damage.]

Celestia looked over her subjects with a benevolent gaze. Luna and two royal guards stood beside her, silent. Thousands upon thousands of ponies looked up, gazing eagerly upon Canterlot Castle’s royal podium.

Celestia began. “People of Canterlot, people of Equestria, fear not. No evil threatens this kingdom.”

Her face turned grim. “But the sense of fear you might have felt was not mistaken. A great evil was here.” Her face returned to that of triumph. “But together we stood strong and vanquished that evil.”

The crowd erupted into cheers and celebrations.

Celestia started again, this time her voice booming. “Do not fear, my ponies. We know you are good ponies. The good in your hearts will always be there, no matter what. Hatred will never overcome this great kingdom.”

The crowd simmered down.

Celestia wiped her brow. “Thank you.”

The royal sisters departed the podium and headed back into the castle, and the two guards followed closely behind them.

Celestia turned to one of the guards. “I want all records of the Crystal Empire burned. Should knowledge that the ponies’ happiness is dependent upon the Crystal Heart spread, there’s no telling what might happen. History must forget. Equestria will live on.”

Luna run in front of Celestia, blocking her path. “You can’t just write away an entire civilisation, Sister!”

Celestia pushed past her. “There is no choice.”

Luna ran back in her path. “Would you listen to what I have to say, just for once?”

Celestia stopped, then deadpanned. “What do you have to say, Luna?”

“Tell them the truth.”

Celestia sighed. She walked her sister over to the wall, so that the guards could not hear them. “As much as it pains me to do so, this is what must be done. Please try to understand.”

Luna said nothing.

“Please, Luna.” Celestia looked to her sister with puppy dog eyes.

Luna turned her head and stomped off in a puff.

Celestia sighed. She turned to the two guards. “Burn it all.”

Celestia awoke with groggy eyes. She tumbled about for a while before deciding to get up. After walking up to it, she peered through her window and saw that the moon and stars were still out. If it weren’t for her squabble last night, the sight would have been merely odd. But something with Luna was amiss. She broke out of her bedroom through the window and headed straight for Ever free Castle.

When she arrived, a sense of foreboding overcame her. The moon shone brightly upon her as she entered the castle halls.

“Luna!” she called, her voice echoing eerily against the brick walls. “Dawn is here! Lower the stars!”

Celestia jumped as a silhouette rushed past her.

A shrill voice pierced through the hallway. “Do the stars bend to thy will, Sister, or to mine?”

“Prithee stop these games and talk to me. Whatever your problems be, we can sort them out.”

The voice came again, but from another direction. “The time for talk is long gone, Sister. For too long I have stood in your shadow. For too long have ponies neglected the night.”

Celestia turned to face the voice. “Luna, please –”

Luna emerged before Celestia in a quick wisp, iron clad in battle-ready armour. Her frame was sharp and stance aggressive. “Don’t call me that name. Luna is dead. I am Nightmare Moon.”

Luna fired a bolt of magic at Celestia, flinging her across the room and into the walls. “It is time for you watch under me.” She fired another bolt, pushing Celestia further into the wall.

Celestia rolled around and shook the rubble off of herself. She conjured up enough strength to put a magical barrier in front of her before the next strike came. Three more strikes came before a pause. Celestia peered through her shield and saw Luna transforming into a starry miasma. Leaving no time to spare, Celestia took flight. She burst out of the nearby window, smashing it to pieces, and turned for the courtyard. Luna followed closely behind, shooting beams of magic wildly in all directions, smashing various nearby structures into rubble.

Celestia continued her flight through the courtyard and into the forest. She rustled through the trees, weaving in and out of them in an attempt to shake her.

The miasma shrieked, following closely behind. “Do you think you can stop me, Sister?” As she seeped through the trees, their leaves fell off, leaving them barren.

Celestia continued her escape, her wings working harder than they had in years. Every few beats she turned her head to check on her pursuer. She was relieved to see she was gaining distance. Satisfied with the space between them, she landed in a nearby crevice. With energy now to spare, she focused her magic.

In a moments time, the miasma came crashing past.

Celestia’s eyes glowed a heavenly white, but its colour did not mask the tears. Her voice roared with a magical boom: “Lower the stars, Sister.” Her entire body began to glow a hot white. “Please.”

The miasma did not respond but for its wild shriek. It continued in a beeline heading straight for Celestia.

As the miasma made contact, Celestia teleported herself out of the forest. She let out a relieved exhale, for she was now within the safe confines of Canterlot Castle. But there was little time to relax. She could feel the night growing colder. The sun must rise.

She looked up. Before her lay the door which contained the Elements of Harmony. With great reluctance, she slid her horn into the keyhole. A few clicks and ticks of clockwork later, the door opened. Celestia wielded the elements, then headed back out for Everfree Castle.

It was much as before, only many parts of the castle were now in ruins. Celestia shivered in the chilly wind as she re-entered the castle. Time was of the essence, so she ran for the throne room.

She barged through the double doors. On the other side of the throne room, Luna sat on a half-broken throne, sneering. Moon light shone through the walls. “Welcome back, Sister. Are you here to beg some more?”

“Ponies need the sun, Luna. You must lower the stars to make way for the dawn, else all will suffer.”

Luna rose from her throne. “They will suffer as I have suffered.”

Celestia lowered her head. “I’m sorry, Luna.”

You are sorry? Hah! It is I who is sorry for you. I –”

Celestia’s body coalesced into a great white light. The Elements of Harmony presented themselves before her, and Luna’s confidence wilted into fear.

“I banish thee, Nightmare Moon, into the moon. May one day you find peace, and return as my sister.” A white bale of pure energy erupted from her horn and pierced through elements. As it went through them, the light refracted into every colour of the visible spectrum, enveloping Luna in a blinding rainbow. She screamed in agony as her body slowly crept away from the Earth.

Celestia screamed as well, but not in physical pain. The barrage of rainbows continued for a long time before Luna was completely gone.

When all was done, Celestia collapsed, with only enough energy left to weep. “Please come back, Luna.”

And so Celestia looked up at the moon longingly, wondering if she would see her sister ever again.
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