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Posts posted by dragonofruin

  1. 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."

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  2. 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.

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  3. 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.

  4. 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."

  5. 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?"

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  6. 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.

  7. 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?"

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  8. 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.

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  9. 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?"

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  10. 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.

  11. 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.

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  12. "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.

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  13. 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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  14. A smug air seemed to rise from Sombra after he'd heard that jab, and his monstrous teeth became a little more visible past his smirk. "I highly doubt the princesses need you lot to guard them when they're powerful enough to protect themselves. Unless they've actually grown this soft.." he murmured, his voice close to a purr. With the way he spoke, it almost sounded as if nothing at all was going on between himself and Celestia. "It sounds like a nice, cushy little job, if dreadfully dull. I would never want to submit myself to such a thing, let alone be in the position where I'm serving another." His voice carried a tone of disgust, and his snout wrinkled.


    "I find it cute that you think that Celestia would ever order you to escort me out of this castle, considering I just might become the future king of Equestria. Dear Celestia certainly enjoys my company, quite a lot I might add." The purr returned to his deep voice again and a ghost of his earlier smirk lingered around his lips as he studied the pegasus, and the annoyed lines of the stallion's body language. He moved a hoof up and set his cheek against it as he propped his foreleg against the table, his head tilted and his face taking on a more lazy expression. Sombra also found it cute that this pony thought he could even make such a jab, when he'd been anticipating it long before ever since he even brought it up. The guard had been set up for it.


    "Isn't that nice?" he idly queried. "You'll have to listen to me too."

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  15. After the positive responses she'd received from Ice Storm and Raven, Luna could only smile shyly, a little pleased with herself. Their praise was always nice to hear when she received it, and she wasn't sure how many other ponies might mean it as genuinely as they did. Some only said it because they thought it was what she wanted to hear, and they wanted to get into her good graces for their own gain, whatever it might be. These two mares, however, weren't like that.


    It was also throughout this, that Luna had attempted to ignore Sombra's exclamation and his blatant attempt to steal everypony's attention. Not that it worked out all that well, with most ponies' focus going to the shy Caramel. The poor foal looked a little distressed from all the attention, at least before Buck managed to soothe her with music.


    Sombra was looking particularly sour that his spotlight had been stolen so easily, and he could only sit back frowning, though his attempt at sulking was interrupted by Raven's exuberant hug. He grunted and eyed her, begrudgingly lifting a hoof to wrap it around her shoulders and halfheartedly pat her. Since he was in public, to an extent, he had an appearance to keep up, and he didn't want to look like he just willingly gave out hugs whenever somepony wanted one! Those were reserved for very few ponies, like a certain flustered mare marching over to cuff him in the shoulder.


    His smirk flashed across his face, making a quick return. "Indeed I am, my dear Celestia, and I can only get worse if the mood should take me. You're lucky that nopony is bothering to listen to me, or else I would have told them every little detail." His smirk spread wide into a playful smile that bared many of his pointed teeth, the look of somepony who was all too willing to embarrass somepony else for the fun of it. It was unfortunate that at that moment, Buck had whipped out many more of his instruments and began to play them, filling their part of the grounds with loud, energetic music that Sombra could feel beating even through his ribcage. It was the slightest bit alarming, for somepony such as himself who'd never encountered any club scenes, much less anything like them.


    A pale hoof grabbed him, nearly snatching him off of his hooves, and he found that Celestia had pulled him in to dance. "I don't.. I don't dance," Sombra admitted a little quietly, his eyes flitting away from Celestia's as if he couldn't hold eye contact with her. Not that he could, with the way she was dancing.. though his eyes did linger on the way her body moved. Nearby, Luna had gotten to her own hooves and went prancing by, finding a spot on which to dance, herself. She wasn't terribly good at it either, but she tried, a smile on her face and her mane fluttering and roiling about her head and neck. She didn't need her sister to tell her, though Celestia's dancing was certainly encouraging. Luna wanted to get herself to let loose once in a while.


    Sombra could only watch, scuffing a hoof against the soft grass uncertainly. He wasn't sure if he.. could be so carefree as the sisters. A glance was cast back towards Ice and Raven, to see if they were joining in or not too.

  16. Sombra snorted and finally stepped away from the guard, satisfied that he'd managed to ruffle the pony. Picking one of the cushions at the table, he sat down, one elbow on the table's edge as he partly faced the unnamed pony. His expression, as sour as ever, but a glitter of amusement was in his red eyes. It seemed he'd found himself an easy target to torment for his own entertainment, something to do to assuage the boredom.


    "Like what?" Sombra asked, a dark brow arching questioningly. The following admittance after the guard's statement drew a low chuckle out of the umbrum and he nodded, as if he'd been expecting it. "Of course it would get boring. You have nothing to do in this castle except to stand around and try ever so vainly to look pretty. I can't imagine that armor does any good, unless its just gold plated. Do you ever do any proper training exercises? Sparring? Anything that might help you learn worthwhile skills that you'd need as a soldier, or is it all wasted on.. standing around?"


    He was trying to ruffle the pegasus's feathers, verbally of course, and however obvious it might be hardly mattered to somepony as antagonistic as Sombra was. He wanted to see how far he could push the pony, and just for his own entertainment. "I highly doubt the princesses would give you any commands, not when everything is always so peaceful and quiet around here. Not unless its to shine their shoes or.. perhaps on occasion, throw some troublemaker out of the castle at their behest." A smirk flashed across the former tyrant's face, as if anticipating any possible quips that'd involve just that- that he was just that troublemaker.

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  17. Those red, slit-pupiled eyes were staring intensely down at the armored guard in a face that could usually be described as grumpy. His height clearly outmatched the average pony's, but he was not so tall as Celestia. Her sister, perhaps. The guard might have a momentary reprieve from that sharp gaze as Sombra swept the room again with his eyes, studying it.


    "I might see why. It certainly would be dangerous if some errant pony off of the streets were to wander in here. I'm sure a few files might prove dangerous in their hooves.." A filing cabinet, and what looked like a couple of bookcases up against the walls looked to be the only other furniture in here next to the table and cushions. From the look of it, the princesses might not use this room much except for the occasional important meeting or visiting dignitary perhaps.. As he didn't know, Sombra could only guess from what he could see of it. His eyes returned to the blushing guard and eyed the tentative smile the pony now wore.


    "Is this what you guards do all day? Stand around doing nothing else but watching something? A room?" The king scoffed. "Such a dreadfully dull, but comfortable job, isn't it? A shame you should live in so peaceful a country. I can hardly see why this castle even needs the likes of you, yet.. the princesses are far too busy to keep an eye on what's theirs."

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  18. Whenever Celestia was busy with her duties as princess, King Sombra did what he could to occupy himself. Now that he was no longer so much of a secret, he had no need to lurk out of view- instead, he spent his time wandering the castle, getting to know its layout and finding what all it contained. The Canterlot Archives was, thus far, his favorite place in the castle if only for its stores of knowledge both ancient and new. Whenever he spent his time there, reading, he got to learn so much more than he would have at some dinky library in town. Not when there were restricted sections.


    This day, however, found him strolling through the castle again, looking freshly bathed and groomed in his signature cape. It was all he had left of his old 'getup' and he wore it for his own comfort. He felt naked without it, and Sombra would rather not let ponies know he lacked a cutiemark. Those inequine red eyes of his roved over the castle's decorations, from the tapestries to paintings and the occasional vase of fresh flowers- initially he'd come to dislike the opulence of Canterlot Castle, but.. perhaps it was growing on him. Something fitting of one such as himself, and Celestia..

    The room were investigated too, and he found there were quite a lot of guest bedrooms, parlors.. a few offices.. Today, however, as he peeked in on one room, which looked to be like some sort of.. meeting room with a round table in the middle surrounded by cushions, he found a lowly guard. Sombra initially overlooked him as just part of the scenery, a mannequin dressed up in the Royal Guard's signature golden armor, until he came to notice the eyes and realized this was no mannequin.


    A glance was given to the rest of the room before Sombra took a few steps in, an eyebrow arching. The boredom he'd felt as of late with his natural preference to antagonize ponies wasn't a good mix with the former tyrant. "What could you possibly be guarding in here?"

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  19. The former tyrant made a soft noise in his throat, considering what little Ice Storm had to give him in the way of information about their project- it seemed the two mares had come together on a shared goal, which was a new development to him. It was a shame that he wouldn't get to find out anything in the way of how it was working out for either of them. "I see. I'll be sure to corner you later for all the details," he murmured, his inequine red eyes sliding towards Raven and a smirk lazily making its way across his muzzle.


    "Why, of course, I would be happy to regale you with all the little details about how I managed to seduce your fair sun princess!" Sombra announced, as if he intended to catch everypony's attention just to embarrass Celestia a little, and on her birthday no less. It might have been an attempt on his part to get her attention, for he did adore being the center of her attention whenever it was possible. He turned his gaze upon Celestia, in time to register that she'd introduced the chubby little filly who'd appeared at her birthday party. Caramel Cream. Sombra wasn't sure how to respond to that except to give the foal and her clumsy bow a look that he'd intentionally tried to soften just so it didn't look like he was glaring at her. As he often appeared to be doing when his neutral expression was eternally set into a resting bitch-face.


    Princess Luna was trying not to overhear Sombra's tale in favor of focusing on other things, such as Thunderbuck's reply and the little filly Celestia had introduced. She couldn't help dipping her head to the chubby foal and offering Caramel a gentle smile. "Good evening, Caramel Cream. We are glad you made it to the party," she said gently. "We may not have any games, but we have plenty of snacks."


    The alicorn straightened up then to nod at Buck, a gentle smile still lingering on her lips. It widened upon hearing his music, of which was lovely with his skills with the violin. She listened to it until Raven's voice caught her attention and her teal eyes shifted to the mare. "I am glad you enjoy the night so, young Raven. I hope it brings you as much comfort as it does Ice. Though I must admit I am not responsible for the stars, nor the moon, save for the raising of it. Yet bringing the night still gives me joy, something to look forward to. To know others now feel the same is a.. comfort."

  20. The zony bit her lower lip and finally relented as Heart Shield gave her the okay, her hooves moving to scoop the coins towards her. One of her hooves dipped to pull up her bit purse and she opened it to deposit her twenty bits into by sliding them in off the table's edge. "Thank you," she said, trying to put as much gratitude into her voice as she possibly could. She wasn't dirt poor, but.. she and her mother had always been poor, and all she had was a wagon to live in. Yuna always tried to make what money she could, and on occasion, treated herself to something nice. She hadn't been expecting to make this much, if anything at all in Canterlot, so it was a pleasant gain.


    Her dark eyes shot up towards Heart Shield when he shifted in his seat, sounding intent on leaving. "Oh, no, no!  You haven't been a bother to me at all!" Yuna insisted. "It's.. actually been rather pleasant to just have a casual conversation with another pony. Most wouldn't give me the time of day, at least in Canterlot; it's not exactly the friendliest place after all. Nice, but not.. friendly." She shrugged, her wing twitching with the movement. If he did intend on leaving so soon..


    "I'll keep that in mind. It was nice talking to you, Heart Shield."

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  21. Yuna was left momentarily speechless by the amount that he was offering her. She usually charged much, much less than that for predictions and fortunes told in order to sell her gimmick to any interested ponies, especially those that might not want to pay too much for what they saw as a little entertainment. Her eyes stared down at the little pile of gold coins, teetering between happily accepting the amount he was so willingly giving and hesitating on taking so much. She didn't want to look greedy.


    "You- You don't need to!" she stuttered and chuckled nervously. "I mean, this is so kind of you to offer- to offer this much!" This occasion was one where she couldn't help but stumble over her words as she fought through her mixed feelings and what she was picking up around Heart Shield.


    "I.. I think so. If it's not a threat, it's at least something.. dangerous?" Her brow furrowed and she rubbed her cheek with one white hoof. "This is sort of one of those cases where it really is kind of foggy." Yuna dropped her hoof and shrugged helplessly, eyeballing the bits again as she dragged her cup back over. "I don't feel as if you're in any real danger, but.. as I've said, anything can change. It wouldn't hurt to stay on guard." Her lips twitched towards a not-quite-smile and she sipped at what was left of her coffee. It'd cooled a bit, and she had thoughts to buy another despite how much the caffeine threatened to keep her awake when it was time for her to sleep.

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  22. Yuna sighed softly and made a noise in her throat, appreciating the stranger's sympathy. Her coffee had been on its way up to her lips for another sip when his next question came, a request, and she lowered it back to the table, her ears perked. "I don't normally do any fortunetelling without my cart or some of the things in which I use to divine the events in somepony's life, but.. I suppose I could manage something while we're here."


    The zony slid her cup carefully aside with both hooves and laid them flat on the table's wooden surface, focusing her dark gaze fully upon Heart Shield across from her as he spoke of the Royal Guard. How they'd been his goal. It wouldn't be difficult for anypony to guess that he might have hopes to move up in the guard, whatever it might entail, but would it happen? She quietly took a slow, deep breath, hoping that, perhaps, her talent might whisper something to her about this stallion. "Yeah, Canterlot's about as much as I can manage on a good day if the rich ponies don't rile me up," Yuna commented as she eyed the pony, trying to allow herself to relax.


    The Royal Guard. There were few possibilities in so peaceful a kingdom as Equestria, and what she could gather about Heart Shield so far was that he seemed to be a kind pony, a hard worker. Loyal, determined. "I feel that.. your future certainly holds good things for you. You won't do so badly in the Guard that you might get demoted, or cast out. Your heart's in the right place and you always do well.. though there may be no chance of a promotion anytime soon. The lack of any real conflict would make it difficult to make it, though.. even then, the future can always change. It's never one fixed thing. One little decision is all that it takes."


    Yuna paused as she thought. There were a couple of other things she was getting stronger feelings about now than the others, especially with what she'd just now told him. Distant, but.. "In time, it's possible you'll be able to make captain of the guard one day. Even though you're kind, you have the leadership skills that may come of great use to you, and to others as one. Perhaps your skills will come to be of use to you, because I feel you may eventually come face to face with a threat, something dangerous. I don't know when. Only that you will. At Canterlot Castle."

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  23. Elysium could only nod to Gray's agreement, a half smile tugging at the corner of their mouth in the wake of the earlier, fuller one that had just faded. "Indeed?" they replied. "It is good to be an explorer, to fill your life with seeing what you have never seen before, what others may never experience when they live every day the same way," they said, their tone wistful. They'd always been a little bit of a romantic, if just to try to find the wonderful things in life in order to brighten up their own. It had never been -- all that great.


    "You speak as if you are so terribly old, yet you don't look that way to me. How old can you possibly be? Middle-aged? Older?" Elysium snorted and took a few steps around Gray, eying him. Grey fur, black mane.. There wasn't much that gave away his age to them. Their eyes even sought out any form of wrinkles on the pony's face, even so much as crow's feet, to try to judge for themselves. They flicked their purple tail, the hair glittering softly in the light. The sun was still high in the sky, and a glance told Elysium how many hours they might still have left in the day. It wasn't something to really worry about yet.


    "We can only hope you still have your house. I feel that is something I'm not going to be worrying about, not with the little cabin I'd found out in the woods and claimed for my own. It hadn't looked like anypony had lived in there in some time.. It's nice, secluded. Only me and a little cat I've taken in. Maybe you can find such a home; I'm not sure how willing I would be to invite you into my home when you're just a stranger I met on the road." Their voice had a joking tone to it. "Still, it would be good to consider what you'll have to do if your house is taken."

  24. Yuna offered Heart Shield a smile to be friendly and nodded to his question. "I do, quite a few. Some ponies treat what I do as a joke, an act. Entertainment. Something to distract them with while I take their bits, or whatever," the zony shook her head and rolled her eyes. "It partially.. is entertainment, and while some ponies who claim to be fortune tellers might do that.. I don't. My talent is precognition; sometimes, I can get a good enough read on somepony that I'll know what's going on or what might happen.. and I use it to try to help ponies," Yuna thought to explain.


    Falling silent, she listened. A local to Canterlot, but originally from Ponyville. She'd been there just before she first came to Canterlot, and it was rather pleasant for a small country town. The kind of place that she might like to live, if she ever thought to find somewhere to stay. Currently Yuna didn't know if any place could feel like home to her, or if she might find something that would keep her in place.


    "You're with the Royal Guard?" Yuna asked, a detail snagging at her attention; it'd taken her a few seconds to register that he'd said the guard. It was certainly an interesting thing to find out, if only because she'd never run into or conversed with one. She noticed his brief moment of silent and took another sip of her coffee while he looked out the window, of which she gave a cursory glance out onto the street. "Yeah, I've certainly seen a lot of Equestria, but mostly small towns and the like. I haven't dared to try the big cities." Not after her life growing up in Baltimare.

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  25. Yuna shrugged and dismissed his apology with a little gesture of her hoof. "It's fine, really. This place is pretty packed, and it'd be greedy of me to try to keep this booth all to myself when ponies need to sit down." Socializing with ponies might be strange for her, even awkward, but she'd feel bad if she shooed him off, or anypony off, just to hog a booth. It wasn't the kind of pony she was.


    "I'm Yuna," the zony replied. "I'm not from here, no. I come to Canterlot just to explore the place, maybe buy myself a few nice things with the bits I'd saved up from fortunetelling.. It's my talent," she clarified with a shrug of her shoulder. "I'm actually from Baltimare. I uh, do a lot of traveling because of my job." Being given something to talk about, Yuna took advantage of what she could say without feeling like she had to hunt for it. It was as good a conversation as she could manage as any. And after she'd uttered the word job, Yuna had to seriously consider if fortunetelling was good enough to be classified as a job, even if most might consider it merely entertainment. A hobby? She mentally shrugged, uncertain. Whether it was a job, or not, Yuna used her talent and fortunetelling to do her best to help ponies. To help them avoid trouble or danger, to recognize when some ill might be about to befall them or their loved ones.. There was a long list.


    "So, uh.. Heart Shield, I'm guessing you live in Canterlot?"

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