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Everything posted by dragonofruin

  1. Plenty of failsafes. Luna could certainly hope so. Ice Storm was a sharp mare and she seemed to be prepared for the worst, and yet Luna still couldn't quite shake that little paranoid voice in the back of her mind over this ship. It could become such a threat to them.. as much a threat as it would be to any other invaders who wanted to take a page out of the Storm King's book. The princess sighed quietly and listened to the argument between Ice Storm and Tempest- the latter mare who Luna wasn't taking much of a liking to with her attitude. The sheer arrogance and hostility. Aside from the matter of the banner design, Luna could see no other reason for her to stay here now that topics were starting to move further along towards the realm of this particular mission. "It would do you well to heed the suggestions and advice of your fellows. I know you are confident in the task you have set yourselves, but you will get nowhere if you cannot work together," Luna spoke up, her voice soft, and echoing the same sentiment Ice Storm had just uttered. The alicorn doubted Tempest would pay her much mind, but she would speak regardless. "Ice Storm, once you have figured out ideas for your organization's banner, perhaps you can send them along to me to look over and perhaps I can help you decide on one. If you have no more need of me here, I might return to Canterlot." She'd rather not linger here, and around Tempest, any longer than she'd have to be. A glance was cast over at King Sombra, who was still lazily slouched in his seat and listening in on the conversation with something of an unreadable expression on his face. An eyebrow would be the only response to the disgust that Tempest aimed at the three of them and he pushed himself to sit up in his seat with a soft snort. "Well, if we're decided.."
  2. The smirk that still lingered on the umbrum's muzzle widened to a vicious, fang-baring grin, amused by her quip, though it did not lessen his guard. He could feel her magic building and soon saw it for himself- flaring bolts of unchanneled magic crackling around her like barely controlled lightning. It made his hackles rise. The mere sight of it was exciting, though he was not caught nor entranced by the display. Sombra held his ground as she began to charge him, dark magic bubbling up around his own horn as he focused his magic on the ground between them. As a bolt of magic arced his way, Sombra jerked his head up, pulling up a wall of crystal in between himself and Tempest. He was a proud stallion, and with most dealings with ponies, he refused to ever retreat in a fight- he preferred to meet his opponents head on, especially when most of them were too weak to even be much of a threat to him. Though fighting the royal sisters certainly kept him on his toes. Sombra didn't wait for what the result of Tempest's magic would be when faced with crystal and turned his attention to the offensive, summoning a pillar of black crystal that came jutting diagonally out of the ground on Tempest's side- his intent was to ram her in the side with it, if he could. He was relying entirely on his sense of her magic rather than any visual for the moment.
  3. Luna frowned and she fought herself not to fidget in her chair over Tempest's remarks. What could she possibly say to protest against the mare's views of ponies, and when she was one herself? Hardship did not make a pony better than all the others, nor did the lack of that hardship left ponies soft and stupid. Sure, perhaps their education system within Equestria needed improvements, and perhaps the country itself was largely a peaceful one.. but ponies were at least happy because of the latter, were they not? The princess tried to bite her tongue, knowing that if they started to argue over inane topics like this one, then they would get nowhere. She turned away, paying more attention to what Ice Storm had said. "Even an elite force may not be enough. We truly do not know what lays out in the world, and what sort of powers exist who might overpower your force to seize your grand warship, but I have spoken my words of caution." Her voice was quiet, and as solemn as ever. Luna cared more about the safety of Equestria as a whole than a ship, and she wouldn't hesitate to ground it in one way or another if it were ever used against them. She would try to have faith in Ice Storm, and her elite force that was STAR. "Aside from that, I might.. ask that you avoid using any sort of theme that might suggest that I am involved. I know that your organization may be called STAR, but perhaps avoid using anything 'galactic' or 'space-y'. Ponies may often think of me when they think of the night sky, and.. we are meant to be subtle in this are we not?" Princess Luna asked, her head tilting, and her blue mane gently glittering as it drifted with the movement. "I am certain we can draft designs of thy flag until we find one that is both pleasing and acceptable, without giving too much away." Tempest's arrogance, to Sombra, was astounding. And he thought he was arrogant. He had to wonder where Tempest even got it, considering.. Possibly her training and her life under this Storm King she once followed. He'd have to find some time to get to know this mare better so he could see exactly how her mind worked, but until then he could only observe her and listen to the three mares and their discussion. He'd said nothing against Tempest going it alone, initially, to wrangle her strange creatures under her hoof. If Sombra had known what Tempest had been thinking about them all, he might've been a little ruffled. As it was, he did not, and the king could only coolly watch her. "You get quite angry when you feel challenged," Sombra quietly remarked with a slight tilt of his head. As tempted as he was to nettle her a little, he decided against it. "I think we have a good enough plan, as it is. Let her go, and deal with them. We can take what they have, afterward."
  4. The king grunted softly at Tempest's response, his ear twitching towards the unfamiliar term test goat in the midst of all of it. His eyes flicked up at the potential time table and annoyance briefly rippled through him before his emotions settled again. "If you took a year to locate it, I would consider it a very poor job," he quietly commented, his voice a low rumble of sound that mixed with the Everfree Forest's soft ambience. "You can only sneak a war fleet onto Canterlot when those who live there are too naive to feel concerned over the ships approaching it, who can only gawk in awe and interest at the approach of something so alien, so unfamiliar. You could take them off guard, but to sneak something like that so close to the country's capital?" Sombra scoffed in disbelief, rolling his eyes. That sharp, red gaze of his soon refocused back upon Tempest, his ears perking up as Tempest mentioned something in passing he found interesting. Did she know where to find it, the artifact he sought? If she could find it so soon.. His attention shifted to her challenge. A spar. Tempest wanted to test her might against his, and it intrigued him. A pony wanted to fight him, and a pony with a broken horn at that, but he wouldn't underestimate her. Her attitude and the way she moved alone spoke of well-earned confidence, suggesting that she knew how to fight even if she didn't have as precise magic as he might with his horn still whole. A smirk slowly spread across Sombra's muzzle and his magic briefly flared, unhooking the clasp of his cape at his throat and removing it to set it aside, draping it over the old log that he'd previously been sitting on before their meeting had even started. "If you want to spar to test me, then I happily accept. It's been far too long since I've had a proper fight. If you're not scared, then come at me."
  5. Sombra waved Heart Shield's responses away with a hoof, rolling his eyes. "This isn't going to be a later today thing. I only meant so long as you were working in the castle. Within easy reach to me, should the day and time come for me to finally want to get out of the castle for a while so I can explore the ruins of another one." His earlier mention might not have been phrased in just the right way, so hopefully this correction would do. If not, then he'd have to give up on the guard as hopeless in understanding. "By all means, you still should finish up your shift. You'll have plenty of time afterward to prepare for the eventual trip we'll make out into the Everfree Forest. On whatever day I decide to go. Unless.. you want to go tonight. If you'd like to rush, I suppose I could figure out how to open up my schedule later, but.." Sombra vaguely gestured with a hoof, indicating his uncertainty about doing so. In truth, he could do whatever he wanted at any time if he wanted, it wasn't as if he had any real obligations- not unless Princess Celestia asked him to spend time with her or to join her on some event. He just liked to be difficult. The red-caped king took a few idle steps towards the doorway to the meeting room, his short black tail giving a little flick. He wasn't going to leave just yet, he wanted to wait and see what Heart Shield's answer would be. When he would want to visit the old castle and when it would be appropriate for the pair of them. Sombra wasn't in too big of a rush to leave, not when he'd gotten so much entertainment out of the royal guard, but what he could do in one sitting was limited.
  6. Sombra grunted and considered what Heart Shield had to suggest about their trip to the Everfree Forest. The Bucephalus Brook.. Looking back on his memory of the map of Equestria he'd seen, they could pass right by, or even through, Ponyville and simply follow the brook towards the bottom edge of the forest, near where the Castle of Two Sisters was sheltered within the trees, on a cliff over a gorge of some kind. Nodding to himself, he found the plan agreeable. If it was any other way, it might've been more of a waste of his valuable time than anything. "For once, you've said something intelligent." His eyebrows rose with an expression of disbelief, as if it was almost impossible to have thought otherwise. It soon disappeared from face as he gave the gold-armored guard a faint scowl. "If you left me behind I would be very annoyed with you, though I doubt I'd get lost. It wouldn't be hard to find my way if I know where I'm going." The king shrugged and leaned forward, pulling himself to his hooves. He took a moment stretching out his legs after having sat there for so long and stepped away from the cushion he'd been sitting on. He was now standing across from Heart Shield, giving him a quizzical look. "Of course. I'm busy catching up on everything I've missed over the last thousand years, and spending time with Princess Celestia. She's quite enjoyable to be around, and nothing what you ponies make her out to be." Sombra tilted his head, the corners of his mouth quirking up into a vaguely smug smile. "Regardless, it's nice that you've decided to take me up on my trip. I'll be sure to contact you when I wish to go. You should stick around the castle a while longer so I won't have to hunt you down just to drag you along."
  7. "Truly I am, and that isn't a bad thing," Sombra was quick to reply with a lift of his eyebrow, giving Heart Shield a look. Now that he'd gotten his two bits in on the matter, he let it go and focused on the rest of what the guard had to say. "Indeed.. That castle is a hazard for mortals. If anything happens to you in there, it won't be my fault. I may or may not help you. It really depends on my mood at the time," he quietly mused, rubbing at one of his groomed sideburns. They were obviously styled, but it wasn't as if he couldn't smooth it back into place. "It would be, wouldn't it?" Sombra agreed and shrugged. "It could've been longer than that for all I know. We've certainly been lurking in this room for what feels like a while." A soft snort escaped the stallion, and there was amusement in the sound. "You probably could, with wings like yours, but.. you'd be leaving poor ol' me behind to traverse the woods all by my lonesome. It wouldn't be fun at all. Isn't a worthy adventure meant to be with other ponies, or however it goes?" He rolled his hoof, gesturing along with what he was saying. If he had to admit anything, not that he would, he might be just a little jealous of those with wings. They were something he would like to have, if just to go out on a few flights with Celestia. Another snort followed, this one expressing his annoyance with what Heart Shield had uttered. Hardly! This pony meant nothing to him, even if Heart Shield had proved to be very entertaining to push and antagonize. "So what do you say? Will you join me on this little trip to the Two Sisters' castle? It might be fun. Of course, it'll have to wait when I feel like it. After all, I am a bit of a busy stallion."
  8. Sombra scoffed and muttered something that sounded like uncreative under his breath. "I think it does, but live whatever fantasy that you wish." The grey stallion shrugged and gestured at her with a black hoof. It was dropped back to the ground, and his eyes narrowed when he caught the word monsters. It was a word he never wanted to hear anypony use against him; only he could call himself a monster. Coming from anypony else, it was foul, an insult, slander. "What're you talking about?" The king retorted with a roll of his eyes. "You continue to make such silly assumptions. When did I ever say I was trying to? I already have. Celestia enjoys my company," he hinted with a sly smile that bared the point of one fang. "There's no need for hope when she so willingly allowed me in. If you don't believe me, perhaps you can go and ask her yourself. Believe me when I say she doesn't bite." Amusement tinged his tone as he allowed Tempest's laughter wash over him. She wouldn't be the last pony laughing here, not when she really thought he'd never have a chance and that Celestia was just toying with him. It was hardly the case! "Perhaps it could be," Sombra rumbled thoughtfully, idly agreeing with Tempest. There were things that he could do to better this sorry excuse for a country, and he hardly needed to resort to old habits. There were plenty of opportunities to try new things, to improve the country's education and defenses himself.. He hardly needed to look like Celestia's trophy husband when he could do so much. "Ahuh," Sombra grunted, his face falling to its usual expression. "Played along, sure," he muttered with disbelief, fighting the urge to roll his eyes a second time. However it helped her sleep at night. Moving on.. "The alicorn amulet is an Equestrian artifact of mysterious origins. It magnifies the power of its wearer, and corrupts them the more that it is used because it is a dark magic artifact. Its whereabouts are currently unknown to me, but I believe it to exist. I've been searching and I haven't yet been successful.. With some of my time occupied as it is, I think it'd help if I could rope another pony in to help me find it. You. You seem like a smart mare, I'm sure you'd be more than capable of helping me track it down." Sombra used his magic to create a brief illusion of its appearance, hanging in midair, from the depictions he'd seen of it in the book he'd read. The title currently escaped him- something with artifacts in the name. "I do hope you know subtlety is important for this, or that you know it at all." A challenge.
  9. The heated speech that Ice Storm had to give took Princess Luna by some surprise, and as she was mentioned in it about how she endorsed what Ice Storm was doing was enough to make her shuffle uncomfortably in her seat. It was all so.. strange to her. Almost over the top, but not in any sort of 'fun' way. While Luna understood that Ice Storm wished to protect Equestria, as much as she wanted to, as well as present themselves as strong and defensible, there were some things about it that bothered her. She didn't want Equestria to look as if it was preparing to do anything extreme, to give the wrong sort of message.. nor to cause any harm. The dark princess blinked as Tempest Shadow pointed a hoof her way, and her expression darkened to a scowl. Wasteful? Make things worse? She protested against it. "Of course, I am 'about stopping bloodshed', but you know not who you speak of. If I have heard correctly, I will not be coming on this 'mission' of yours, only to provide a few ships for Ice Storm to use for the travel, as well as collecting weapons and materials from what remains of the Storm King's troops. In what way could I make this worse? I am not some foolish, bumbling princess." A silver-shod hoof lifted as if to try to stop any retaliation. "I do not care if it was you who took us down in a mere moment. We were unprepared for the kind of magic you were using." Luna would like to believe the unspoken not anymore, but the world was full of surprises. The Storm King's armies had strange magic that Equestria had never seen before. They might never be prepared for the next threat to come along, but they could try. "Ice Storm," the moon princess turned her attention to the pale mare, "I may be able to give you an airship so that you can reach your destination and bring back what you need, but my concerns.." she trailed off, trying to find a way to phrase it. "I do not want this to get out of hoof. Seeing the beginnings of this warship you intend to have built.. I feel like it could cause as much problems as help us. I.. cannot be certain, but I only wish to insist on caution. It could very easily be used against us, if in the wrong hooves. A tyrannical weapon. Only at the first sign of danger should it be brought out." Luna frowned. "But.. I will be sure to keep Equestria safe. 'Tis been my duty ever since I was crowned one of its princesses, I need not be reminded." King Sombra sat by listening to the entire rant, and the two darker mares who'd decided to speak up. He'd given Ice Storm a slight, acknowledging nod of his head. If she needed him for some mission, he'd be glad to come along. Though Celestia would have questions about his absence, and as much as he wouldn't want to lie to her.. he was sure there would be a way he could twist it so he could get out for a while. Seeing beyond Equestria's borders to see what remained of this Storm King's armies and armories were like intrigued him greatly- an opportunity he couldn't pass up. "I'd be glad to come along. I want to see all that there is," the king answered in a rumble. His eyes flicked between Princess Luna and Tempest after he'd given his answer, knowing that there would most likely be sparks between them- they were both hot-headed. "Maybe sending Tempest in first," Sombra gestured to the unicorn, "is a valid point to see what sort of reaction there'll be. If it'll be safe."
  10. A laugh escaped him. "I never said everypony should be like me, not that they could be. No matter how hard they try, it will always be a poor imitation.." he replied smugly, curling a foreleg and resting his chin on it, his red eyes heavy-lidded. Heart Shield's voiced suspicion was enough for Sombra's posture to quickly change as the umbrum put a dark hoof on his own chest, feigning offense. "You really think that I would try to do you in the moment your back is turned in the dark ruins of an old castle? How dare you suggest I would stoop so low!" Amusement bubbled up near the end of his exclamation and Sombra had to struggle not to let it dissolve into his rumbling laughter. His hoof dropped. "It sickens me to know what sort of assumptions you ponies would leap to all because I'm not, what? An innocent, wide-eyed fool?" A pointed look was given to Heart Shield and Sombra soon dropped his act of mock-offense. There was some truth to his words, but ponies somewhat had a right to be suspicious of him; he viewed many of them as expendable if it meant getting anything that he wanted. Even a deal with a devil like him wouldn't spare them. "Regardless.. It's been fun this past, what, half hour? I don't think I'd want to do away with you even in a place as secluded and dangerous as the Everfree Forest, not when you're so entertaining. If you're still working here even after we return from that trip, I wouldn't mind doing this again on another day when boredom finds me," King Sombra assured. "Though, mind you this doesn't make us friends."
  11. Dark eyebrows rose up Sombra's forehead as the king himself gave Heart Shield a questioning look, and his eyes seemed to say you very well know what. The antagonizing would only get worse, and Sombra would not be merciful- he would keep pushing those buttons until the pony had a meltdown or went stomping off in a rage, knowing that no matter what he did he'd never be able to get the upper hoof on the king of shadows. A soft chuckle escaped Sombra over the assertion Heart Shield made, and in that chuckle was the umbrum's clear disbelief. If only just to nettle the royal guard a little further. "I'm sure you do, little golden pawn," he remarked with a slight tilt of his head. "I won't tell you that there are 'other, better jobs' out there than this. If you needed to do something for bits you should have thought of something better than becoming a peasant." A single laugh escaped him, mocking in its sound; Sombra couldn't help finding amusement in it. "That is what I said. You should get out of this castle once in a while," he was projecting a little, "and do something. I think it would definitely be.. fun to go and check out the pony sisters' old castle. I, too, want to see what secrets it might hold and what old books they'd left behind. Old books that would have important knowledge, records of spells.. The Canterlot Archives is wonderfully extensive, but I'm certain there is still a lot that is missing." His head tilted as he considered it and he plucked at the white-fur hem of his cape. Truthfully, one of the reasons that he wouldn't reveal was that he wanted to see if there was any more information about old artifacts, including one that'd caught his interest.
  12. For a moment Tempest's nose was pressed up to his, and Sombra was impressed by her boldness. He had a few inches and more muscle on him, as well as a working horn, in comparison to her, and she was doing something that nopony else would dare do and had gotten into his face. A wide, wicked grin spread across his muzzle and as they'd relaxed back, he studied her face and listened closely to the comments she had to say just to sound like she'd always have a hoof up on him. How very wrong she was. "Bold of you to presume I would ever be your obedient slave," he quipped. "Even more so to think I even care about a throne in an empire of glittering fools afraid of their own shadows. That place may look shiny and the ponies 'kind', but it's all nothing more than a shallow surface. They would judge others for slight differences, might even judge you," Sombra pointed out, nodding towards the jagged stump of horn on Tempest's head. "I'd hardly call any part of my situation losing when.. I'm courting Princess Celestia." His wicked smile could hardly stand to get any wider, and bared almost every sharp point of his monstrous teeth. There was a terribly smug aura about him and his smile. "I could eventually become the future king of Equestria, should everything go well, and rise above such petty stations." "So, skilled you might be, and I'll be sure to ask Celestia how you took them all down and what sort of tricks you used.. but until then.. why are you not clad in chains and living within the Canterlot dungeons? Certainly after every terrible thing you've done to them would have gotten you there, or did they somehow change your mind to go against your task to conquer them? Something about friendship and magic?" Sombra scoffed, amused. It was only a guess on his part, and he wouldn't realize how close he was to the truth until somepony told him. "Regardless.. Dark magic doesn't cost you your 'soul' although, I'm certain there are some branches of it that might. Dark magic is not a toy or a tool. It, and magic as a whole, can be quite dangerous. Treating it lightly will get you nothing but death, or worse." His eyes lingered on the remnant of her horn for a moment. "Now, you'd be correct that dark magic can and will corrupt you, as a normal pony. Do not treat it so lightly either when you could never know the extent of it.. what it could do to you. Nopony would possibly be able to prepare against it, no matter how strong they believe their wills." The king paused and dipped his head to Tempest. She wanted to know the price? "I want the Alicorn Amulet."
  13. Sombra scoffed and waved a dismissive hoof at Tempest. There wasn't a chance he was going to get into that again; the only time he'd ever told anypony about it was to make a point, and to drive home how very wrong about him they were. He didn't do it for attention, or sympathy, or even pity. "I hardly mean that," he broke in. "I only wish to correct what you supposedly read about me." His interruption would hardly serve to stop Tempest from her rant and he inclined his head at the mentioned betrayal. So she knew that well, didn't she? It certainly sounded like it, and it was nice to know that she'd understand what it was like to go through that- no matter what sort of relationship she might've had with her former king. "He sounds quite foolish," he muttered as if in some attempt at sympathy before a deep frown crossed his face, red eyes narrowing at what Tempest had to imply. The umbrum snorted, nostrils flaring as he took a step closer to her, further closing the distance between them. "I never lost to them," Sombra growled low. "The first time.. it was a pyrrhic victory for me. They may have finally managed to wear me down and banish me to the ice, but they lost the empire. They had to live with that knowledge for a thousand years. If not for their pawns' interference upon my return, I might have gotten it. But.." the shadow king trailed off, tilting his head in thought. "Perhaps it was best it turned out the way it had. I've found something much better than ruling that place of misery." His slit-pupiled eyes flicked up to Tempest and her expressed interest. "I highly doubt that. Those meddlers would have never let you rule Equestria." If only he knew exactly what happened, he could've rubbed it in her face. Alas.. "As much as I love to talk about myself, I'm not interested in talking about it again. If you have questions about something specific, I'd gladly answer, but I'd rather move on." Sombra mirrored her, sitting down across from her and letting his fur-lined cape settle around his back legs. "It isn't just about power. It's about being clever, and predicting the moves your enemy will make. Albeit, I'm definitely looking into something that could give me more.." Sombra trailed off, toying with the thought of telling her. "You'd be right, however. I took the empire by force and enslaved its sorry citizens. They deserved it," he grumbled. "It doesn't matter now.. I'd rather talk about dark magic.. and what you might be able to do for me in return."
  14. The answer he'd gotten was vague, and in his opinion, an awful answer because of it. What would he get to learn about what ponies supposedly 'knew' about him if they only gave him a bland I've heard a lot about you nonsense? Sombra snorted, slouching a little against the table. Sulky. "Yes, it is. If I find you tolerable, I'll be more likely to be lenient. If not, then.." A grey hoof gestured at Heart Shield and their situation as a whole. Anypony he didn't like, he'd antagonize and press all of their buttons until they either fled the room or melted down with rage for his own entertainment. Heart Shield's small joke earned an eye roll from Sombra. "Yes, yes. However you want to feel about it," he retorted. Moving on.. "Ah. That must've been the only time in your entire life that you did something of your own free will, rather than listened to what somepony told you to do," Sombra quipped. "It's a shame you won't tell me of this misadventure of yours.. Nonetheless, I've been curious about the Everfree Forest. I've never really gotten to go there or explore it in full. Ponies like to claim it's dangerous, it seems, and I'm curious about why.. or if they're just afraid because the animals aren't cute, cuddly domesticated ones like the pets that they keep. The wilderness is called that for a reason, and it's a chaotic place for little prey animals to venture into." The umbrum rubbed at his fuzzy chin with the tip of his toe, looking thoughtful. Timberwolves definitely sounded like a threat, but they were just animals defending their territory. Strange animals, but animals nonetheless. "Perhaps you could accompany me into the Everfree Forest? Certainly if it proves to be a letdown, I can always visit the next thing that I've taken a fascination with: the royal sisters' old castle. I'd like to see how many old books they must've left behind.." Sombra's phrasing suggested that it'd be easy to do away with Heart Shield within the Everfree for whatever reason that took him, but his tone and overall attitude made it difficult to tell if he was planning something or if it'd just be a simple trip.
  15. King Sombra's voice had successfully distracted Luna from the beginnings of the ship and she moved to join the trio, standing closer to Ice Storm than she did Tempest or Sombra. The former was studied curiously, catching the glance that Tempest had given her as well as how she addressed Sombra. Vice Admiral? Her expression seemed to ask as she looked over at Sombra, who saw her looking his way. He only arched an eyebrow and shrugged in reply before his attention returned to Ice Storm and the other dark mare in the room, whose name he'd yet to properly learn. "Is that so?" Sombra replied dryly, following after Ice Storm as she lead the way to the balcony. His eyes curiously followed the dark, broken-horned mare's excitement as he picked a chair to settle down in, sinking back in such a way that suggested he was sitting in a comfortable throne rather than an ordinary chair. His posture was a lazy slouch back, his forelegs draped over the armrests. "What will we need to discuss, and in Princess Luna's presence? I had no idea she even knew of this little organization of yours until now." An eyebrow arched, silently questioning Ice Storm and that particular lack of information. Of course, if he were in Ice's position, he'd probably withhold something like that too because it would suit him, but to be on the receiving end was unacceptable. In silence Princess Luna had followed the trio out onto the balcony and sat in the chair furthest from Sombra, looking on with concern over Tempest Shadow's excitement over the airship. Her teal gaze would eventually be pulled back to Ice Storm, curiosity in her bright eyes over the same thing: what could they discuss now that they were all together here, summoned here by the leader of STAR? Luna carefully tucked away her concerns, ready to bring them up once she had an opening to- and that would be as soon as their discussion began. As a princess of Equestria, she felt she had to express them at least.
  16. The quiet, rustling ambience of the forest was violently interrupted by that display of wild magic and singed remains of timberwolves. Sombra's head snapped around towards their origins, his expression souring at the interruption of that blessed silence to see the dark silhouette of the mare striding out from between the trees. Tempest Shadow's stride was self-assured and confident, and he read her body language on her way over to him with some interest glinting in his eyes. Noting the way she looked at him past the calm facade over her face and heavy-lidded eyes. If he had anything to say about her appearance, he could say that he found Tempest striking. One of few other ponies who wasn't brightly colored, and a slim, athletic form that he could admire. Her eyes were what caught his attention most of all, angular and long-lashed, and the expression of them sharp, full of intelligence. His gaze lingered on the jagged remnants of her horn, too, and to a lesser degree, the long scar over her right eye. It told him that whatever had happened to her, had been violent. What pain must she have endured to have had her horn broken like that? He wondered. Sombra rose to his hooves at her approach, a tall and striking figure himself. Her comment about terrorizing a manticore earned only a raised eyebrow of intrigued, silent up until she decided to get straight to the point, a quality he liked. It saved him precious time from having to dance around the point of this meeting and avoided the typical inane small talk ponies tended to fill silence with. "You want to learn dark magic?" he replied questioningly, his deep voice a rumble of sound. "Hm." The former tyrant grunted and weighed his options. Tempest Shadow had left it open for him to ask for whatever he liked in return for teaching her such a thing, and he was uncertain. Could she even use dark magic without a horn to channel magic, like any other unicorn? It was out of his own curiosity that Sombra decided he would teach her just to see what she was capable of. "I could. We'll have to see what I'll want in return later.." Sombra's voice trailed off, thoughtful. "I know very little about you, I'm afraid, and I'm curious about what exactly it is you know about me. After all, most revised history books that must mention me must only tell lies when none have ever dared to ask me the truth of it all. I can already tell you one thing that you'd be wrong about." A small smirk appeared on his muzzle. "As long as you are willing to listen, then.. yes, perhaps I could."
  17. Sombra grunted softly after Heart Shield's little realization, and he fought the urge to roll his eyes. Ponies, his expression seemed to say with disdain. "Did you? Pray tell, what exactly did you hear about what I am?" he asked, genuinely curious. What did ponies supposedly learn about him, if anything at all? What lies might be passed around about him through their revised history books? It was something he made a note of to look into later when he had the Canterlot Archives at his hooves, as well as any bookshelves sitting around the castle; they couldn't all just be for decoration, after all. The topic shifted somewhat and he snorted. "Only certain ponies gain the privilege to get along with me, and you are not one of those ponies. In time, perhaps, depending on my mood and if I ever come to find anything likeable about you.. I may be more agreeable." The tall stallion shrugged, indicating the uncertainty of it. Even he didn't know if that would become a possibility. "Nevermind indeed," he agreed, amusement tinging his tone. It was best Heart Shield didn't know, but Sombra did enjoy the thought of rubbing his relationship with Celestia in everypony's faces. She was his and his alone, and he wanted to make that clear, not to mention to express the pride he felt that she picked him of all ponies. Of all creatures. And, perhaps he also enjoyed throwing out hints of what he participated in with her, too, just to see the looks on ponies' faces. Another smirk pulled at the corners of his mouth as his attention returned to Heart Shield to hear out a brief overview of the guard's life story. He scoffed. "You've never gotten up to anything? No pranks, no adventures? Never did anything bad? Pray tell, what is this trouble with the Everfree Forest you've mentioned or did you only get yourself lost?"
  18. The descending sun cast a certain faint glow upon the dark Everfree Forest, streaming through the gaps in the thick canopy in rays of yellow-orange. The night was still some hours off, but the sun had already begun to move lower across the sky, a time of day that had been picked deliberately by the pony who now sat in a clearing within the dark woods. He was perched upon an old log of a tree, one rear leg crossed over the other and his signature disgruntled expression on his usually sour (if handsome) face. King Sombra had come across a note from the mare in STAR, the one who called herself Tempest Shadow, requesting a meeting with him. Something that he was coming to find a mixture of annoyance and amusement in, that the only ways ponies wanted to meet with him by some sort of letter to meet him in a secluded spot. It was a growing trend, albeit the last time with Ice Storm, he had been the one to decide the meeting place. This time, he hadn't been, and he could understand why Tempest had picked the Everfree in which to speak. It was far more secluded than some reading alcove in a castle, and nopony would ever stumble across them because nopony was foolish enough to go into the Everfree at any hour of the day. Usually. He had arrived a little early, and he'd found the place empty. The log was growing uncomfortable under his rump, and he shifted in place for the nth time, trying to make himself comfortable and running a hoof against the underside of his cape to sweep it aside, wanting to avoid snagging it on some peeling scrap of bark or a remaining branch. He liked his cape, and he didn't want to rip it by accident.. This matter was just in the back of his mind, a distant, petty problem that he wasn't too focused on. His attention was mostly on the forest and the fascination he held for it was mostly hidden. This was the first time he was in a forest and had a chance to really look at it rather than lurk out of sight of the town when he'd first come south. It and its earthy scents were something to be admired, but it was only a distraction while he waited for the arrival of the dark mare with the broken horn.
  19. A nod confirmed what Heart Shield had repeated and Sombra gave a little shrug with one shoulder. "It's difficult to explain. They were sort of.. displaced in time. They didn't experience anything. To them, it was like no time passed at all between when the empire disappeared, and when it returned. Nopony was harmed, I assure you." Except for the slavery, and working them to exhaustion, and sometimes worse, in that mine shaft. His gaze briefly flicked to the pegasus's wings and he quietly grunted. "You actually can, you just aren't conscious of it. How else can you walk on clouds and control the weather?" An eyebrow arched as he asked that question and gave a little start from Heart Shield's own. His expression soured and he turned on his cushion, putting his left side to the guard. "No, I don't, and I never will. I'm not sure if you've noticed, but I'm not a pony," Sombra grumbled. It was one little detail he had to correct despite how uncomfortable he was with talking about it. It wasn't something he wanted ponies to know after how the crystal ponies treated him in the past over it. Equestrians would be no different. "That isn't really an apology," Sombra pointed out with a soft grumble, looking over at Heart Shield with a disgruntled expression. Moving past it, he shrugged. "As far as I'm concerned, Chestnut Falls was the only one that wasn't bad. The rest of them?" The umbrum made a sweeping gesture with his hoof to indicate his point. He snorted. "How.. odd that I'm discussing this with you of all ponies, but.. perhaps. Ponies will continue to see me in a negative light no matter the case, and I've no interest in changing myself just to fit into their narrow idea of acceptable." A soft noise escaped him at that supposed nugget of wisdom that Heart Shield offered up. "Do whatever makes me happy in life?" he repeated with a thoughtful tone, and glanced over at Heart Shield with a broad smirk. There was an inappropriate joke that he could make, and he struggled between the decision to make it and to withhold it. The smirk faded and he huffed softly. "Really? I highly doubt your life has been so boring as you think.. Certainly you have some juicy details, or are you really that dull?"
  20. Out of the last pair of them, Princess Luna was first to arrive, finding her way to the ravine's entrance by wing rather than wasting her time walking. She'd gotten the letter from Ice Storm that mentioned that the construction on her airship was just beginning and she wanted to come and see it for herself. It was as much curiosity as it was to gauge what exactly Ice Storm was building, what sort of capabilities it had.. In truth, she was nervous about a warship being built in Equestria. It felt like it would send the wrong kind of messages, but at the same time.. perhaps make it clear to others that Equestria was not so soft and undefended as it seemed simply because they strove for peace and unity. It was a situation of mixed possibilities, and Luna was left uncertain about how to really feel about it. It would be after Tempest Shadow's arrival that Princess Luna would enter. Heading underground had forced her to walk, and she did so on silver-shod hooves. She wasn't sure what to expect as she entered through the doors and paused, spying two familiar figures. She lingered nervously on the edge, as of yet unnoticed and her teal eyes drifting past them every now and then to the construction. It would be a little after that King Sombra would come striding in with his confident gait, his head held high and his hooves silent on the hallway floor. He faltered when he saw Princess Luna and quietly grunted, startling her. Her flinch was subtle, and she stepped aside, glancing back at the umbrum with wide eyes that soon narrowed. Of course, Luna hadn't forgotten what she'd learned from Ice the night of their conversation. Sombra strode past her to meet up with Ice, looking like his usual grumpy self- if a little more so after the travel and having to walk all the way from that noisy city to this place. His red, slit-pupiled eyes would briefly linger on the other, darker unicorn with interest, including the jagged stump of her horn. "Ice Storm," he purred softly, his focus switching back to the pale pony. "Is this all you've called me here for?" Sombra queried, looking out over at the construction with an impassive face, one eyebrow slightly raised.
  21. A smile flashed across Sombra's face with his amusement, briefly shared with Heart Shield on the matter. "Of course you couldn't," he murmured; it almost sounded like a challenge. Shrugging, his attention switched back to their other topic at hand: the royal sisters. "Seeing as you've apparently brushed up on your history, you should know.. but let me explain, if you don't understand. They tried to save the Crystal Empire from me, the tyrant, but I placed a curse on it some few weeks before they'd ever attacked because I.. wasn't in the best state of mind at the time. I was paranoid. I knew something would have to happen eventually. So in that eventuality that I'd be attacked by the southern kingdom's rulers, I would ensure that the empire would disappear along with me for however long I was gone." An eyebrow arched at Heart Shield, silently questioning him if he'd gotten it yet. "They tried to save the empire. They failed. They lost to me, and it seems that they never allowed that failure to make it into their history books, not until recently I'm sure. They kept it a secret for so long, nopony knew that they'd lost an entire city of ponies.." Because of me seemed to hang in the air, unspoken. "They were prejudiced; I'd daresay even racist. They looked down on me because I wasn't like them. Because my coat did not become crystalline, because I never gained a cutiemark like them.." Surprise flitted across his face as he realized what he'd let slip, and he hurriedly tucked the reaction away behind his usual mask. "The other orphans bullied me often, and most adults.. I can't say they were all that concerned, I suppose. Except the mare who ran the orphanage, but there was only so much that that poor, overworked pony could do. They only ever believed the worst of me, without reason. Their princess, Amore, was the worst. Always kept on that mask of kindness, yet she let me suffer all of those years. She knew what I was, what the magic of the Crystal Heart was doing to me during the faires, and she did nothing. It was cruel. I was just a colt, then, with no clue why I was always in agony on that day." Sombra's face twisted in anger, into something hateful, before he hid that emotion too. "I've hated princesses ever since that day, but.. perhaps I've made an exception. I can't say my intentions are good.. at least for anypony else. Only for myself. So! Heart Shield, do you have any personal dirt to tell me about?"
  22. The former tyrant visibly bit his lower lip, a nervous gesture, and he glanced over at the rest of the ponies at the party. They were all dancing, even Princess Luna had joined in, if her movements looked a little awkward to his eyes compared to the others. It told him she probably didn't have as much experience. He was even less so than her- in fact, he'd never even danced at all. As much as he wanted to try, to mimic one of the dancer's movements, Sombra couldn't quite bring himself to. Instead, the stallion chose to find a moment after Celestia had looked over at him to slip back towards the tables, finding another glass of untouched wine to levitate and sip from. There wasn't a chance that anypony was going to make him dance, or attempt to, out in public like this. Maybe some time later he could try to get some lessons from Celestia, or if he dared to, from Luna, but until then.. He'd rather sit at the outskirts of the makeshift dance floor, watching everypony and listening to the energetic music Buck had struck up. It was better that way, at least for him.. as much as he wanted to join Celestia and dance with her on her birthday. The first they'd spend together. Their relationship would have room for a lot of firsts, however.. This would just have to be that first birthday to spend together- as he had no birthday to celebrate, it would have to be hers. The comment from Ice Storm had been caught by the moon princess and Luna cast Ice a smile as she danced by the pale mare, turning in place on quiet hooves. "Indeed? I might hold you to it, though I would hardly come between you and Raven!" she replied, or tried to through the heavy beats of the music that Buck was pounding out. His skill with playing multiple instruments and singing in a different language was honestly impressive, and through the beginning of the next song he played, Luna couldn't help but come to a rest to watch him, as well as eye the other partygoers, smiling through her attempt to catch her breath.
  23. The king quietly grunted and studied the pony's body language, noticing the stiffness of Heart Shield's stance, the narrowed eyes and splayed back ears. The poor pony was at his limit. Nopony else was likely to be as irritating as Sombra could be because he knew just what to say and just where to put the pressure to get a pony so close to rage. It tickled him. He now knew he was toeing a dangerous line with Heart Shield- if he went any further, he'd likely end up provoking the guard into attacking him. Not like Heart Shield stood a chance against him, anyway. "You'd so willingly quit your job?" Sombra made a noise in his throat, somewhere between impressed and disappointed. "It seems a lot of my exploits have gotten out, now that the princesses' failure is.. ah, out in the open. They must have had no choice but to have what'd happened recorded." His tone was thoughtful as he pondered it aloud, a hoof drifting up to his chin and sliding around to rub at one of his well-groomed sideburns- something that was always particularly styled. "I had my reasons for making the crystal ponies dig that mineshaft- they helped speed up a process that I wasn't interested in stooping to, and they deserved it with as foul as they were. Ponies aren't so innocent and good as they like to believe about themselves. They're just as flawed, and as terrible, as I am- I'm just honest about my nature." Sombra shrugged and eyed Heart Shield with a little twist to his lips. "They did do that to me. They sealed the Empire's fate in the process though; that was how my curse on it worked. As long as I was sealed away, so was it. They lost no time at all, it was as if there was no interruption to what happened.. but me? I had to endure that wretched, icy void of a prison for those thousand years. Drove me mad, but.. the Crystal Heart seems to have fixed that." An eyebrow rose. "What issues I had with the princesses is now long since put behind us when Celestia has allowed me so close to her," he purred, hoping to make the implications of that emphasis clear. He no longer seemed as focused as before on harassing Heart Shield, perhaps because he'd let up again to talk about himself for a moment, something he always enjoyed doing if just to put the image of a self-obsessed pony in others' minds. A diversion tactic.
  24. "Is that how you feel? Then by all means, enjoy being a serving pony," the shadow king quipped with that same, smug smirk on his muzzle, taking joy in antagonizing the stallion. It amused him, that some ponies would willingly be so subservient and still believe they thought for themselves. If that was what helped them sleep at night, then he couldn't take that away from them. It would be cruel. "I wouldn't submit myself to it anyway. I enjoy this life of luxury that I've found, and wooed for myself a fair and lovely princess. Others should be serving me." He was visibly enjoying this, and it became more and more apparent the more Heart Shield's annoyance shone through. He took pleasure in seeing how much he was riling the gold-clad guard up. "To use one of the usual, boring pleasantries ponies like to overuse- it's a pleasure to know you, Heart Shield. So you've heard of me after all? I was under the impression that the royal sisters had kept their failure of saving the Crystal Empire from me a secret for so many years.. at least until it finally made a reappearance and they had to admit to that failure. It was inevitable that it was to happen." Sombra shrugged and shifted in his seat, leaning back against the table. "So what sort of things have you supposedly heard about me? What sort of rumors and blatant lies have you believed?" His focus on aggravating Heart Shield had shifted, for the time being, giving the pony another reprieve from his antagonizing in favor of his curiosity. It was likely to be like this with King Sombra- occasionally putting on the pressure and letting up to see how and when the target of his attention might snap.
  25. Any sign of the guard's growing agitation only seemed to feed Sombra's enjoyment in their conversation, if it could be considered conversation. A low chuckle rolled out of him, and he leapt on the opening that the pegasus had so willingly left him. "Indeed? You must enjoy it then," he remarked with that smug little smirk of his. His detour to harass one of the guards for a day was turning out to be extremely fruitful, and a good way to assuage the boredom that'd been creeping up on him. "I highly doubt the princess needs to order you to listen to me, servant that you are, when I hold a higher station than you. And did you not say that it was a personal preference to submit oneself to another pony?" His voice rose in a questioning lilt and he cast the armored pony another of his smug smirks. Perhaps he was enjoying himself a little too much, and Celestia was likely to have some words with him later about bothering the guards like this if this pony said anything to her. He likely would, considering how he was treating him. Trying to muffle another soft round of laughter behind closed teeth, Sombra attempted to find some calm again. "So, since I am to be sitting here and talking to you for a little while, perhaps I should bother to learn your name. What is it? You already know mine, of course. At least, I hope you do." Sombra tilted his head against his propped up hoof, resuming a lazy, relaxed posture where he leaned on the table. Waiting with an apparent patience for an answer, or any possible reactions from an irate guard.
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