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A Strange Place [Novaburst; Invite Only]

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It'd been a matter of some months of traveling south into Equestria on hoof before he found anything of interest. It would have been faster if there was another form of transportation, but Sombra had not yet learned of the train- he had only ever seen the odd tracks of wood and metal, crossed during part of his travels. Equestria, Sombra came to notice, was terribly bright and sunny, made up of great swaths of untouched wilderness with pockets of civilization.

 

The first place he finally stumbled upon was a lively, sprawling town. The architecture of the buildings and the material that made them up looked entirely alien to Sombra's eyes, having only ever seen the Crystal Empire. Pale walls, wood trim, and yellow straw-thatched roofing. The ponies, on the other hoof, were nothing new; the only difference was that they didn't have the shine that the crystal ponies had. They were bright and pastel, but dull. Dull, like him. It might've been a nice change, if the mere sight of ponies hadn't set him on edge. It was after some quiet backpedaling that Sombra decided to skirt the edge of the town, wandering in between the scattered buildings and studying what he could see thus far without drawing attention to himself. Or so he believed. It was still, entirely possible that ponies had seen him, and some no doubt still saw him, lurking on the edges like a wolf watching a flock of sheep.

 

For the first time in a very, very long time, King Sombra found himself at an utter loss of what to do. He was still weak. No throne, no crown, and no position of power. He couldn't take what he needed by force, and not in Equestria- if the royal sisters got wind that he still lived, they'd certainly come after him. The thought of being locked away again in some other manner of prison by their hooves filled him with fear, and he hated it.

 

After Sombra had gotten to see a little of this town of ponies, he withdrew towards the dark forest that seemed to border part of it. Having no knowledge of what it was or its history, the only thing that he saw in it was temporary refuge. A place to linger until he had some sort of idea, some sort of plan, on how he would deal with entering this town. If anypony dared follow, he might not see them; he was too wrapped up in his own thoughts, for the moment.

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Shadow Scribe who had been watching, noticed the arrival of Sombra in the town. Since he was friends with Twilight, he should do something nice for her. Capturing an enemy she had vanquished before was a nice thing, right? If so, all he had to do was the capture of the former monarch of the Crystal Empire. It should prove to be rather simple for him to pull off, an easy task should he manage to do so. On the other hand though, Sombra did have something that Shadow Scribe didn't. A skill set that would make permanent disposal of the Frost Wolves - not just the ones that had bothered his uncle, but all of them easy enough.

 

Pursuing him into the Everfree Forest,  Shadow Scribe approached him from behind, and made a barrier that blocked others from hearing them.  "Alright, Sombra. I could turn you over to Princess Twilight, as she's one of my friends. OR you could work for me, and help me with several projects, and ultimately reform yourself, in return for room, and board. What do you say?" asked Shadow Scribe. Shadow hoped Twilight would not hate him too bad for doing what he was about to do. Yet, if his uncle continued at the rate he was going, the chances of his survival were far slimmer than Shadow liked.  "So what is your decision?" 

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King Sombra was pulled from his thoughts by a puzzling thing that had appeared: a magical barrier. In the seconds before he heard the voice, he squinted at the shimmering field with apparent confusion, mid-step. It wasn't as if he thought it had appeared from nowhere, either- it had just been so sudden. At least, it seemed to be when he'd been so lost in thought.

 

His body stiffened when the pony spoke. It sounded like what he was being offered was some sort of deal, but he didn't know this pony. He hadn't even known he'd existed until now. Sombra slowly turned, his expression already settling into a scowl. Briefly, his eyes slid past the other stallion to look behind him and around them both before he deigned to answer, making sure there weren't any others lying in wait if the pony's plans went wrong. There didn't seem to be. It was just them, and the magical field. Snorting, Sombra drew himself up to his full height to look as intimidating as he could, despite looking so travel worn.

 

"Who is this 'Princess Twilight'?" he first asked, his voice a low rumble. This was the first he was hearing about another princess. "Why should I be swayed to do your bidding, when I have never heard of nor cared about a Princess Twilight? The threat of taking me to her will get you nowhere; if you can even drag me before her, or anypony else for that matter!" His tone almost sounded like a challenge, as if Sombra were saying try me.

 

Suffice to say, though he hadn't shown it, the offer for somewhere to sleep did intrigue him. If there was a way he could bend this situation more to his advantage than the pony's, then this silver stallion just might have a chance to get him to budge. Sombra just had a few more questions.. but he'd wait to hear out the answers of the first two that he'd asked before he'd say anything else. Let the pony explain.

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"Seriously? You've never heard of the Alicorn Princess - Twilight Sparkle?" asked Shadow Scribe, giving Sombra an incredulous look. However, he was not frightened by the attempt of Sombra to scare him because he had faced worse during the training he had under his uncle. Sure he had never been to the Crystal Empire during Sombra's reign, but something done like Sombra had that was so easily undone made Shadow Scribe think of him as very not scary.  "Because she can use the power of the Elements of Harmony to defeat you,  or rather, the Rainbow Power as it has been dubbed recently," stated Shadow Scribe. "The Rainbow power is the most powerful thing in Equestria, followed by the Elements of Harmony, and Discord who is reformed, and now serves on the side of Equestria." 

 

Shadow Scribe began to power up his horn, preparing a variety of attacks that he would shoot at Sombra should he need to, all of them were made to knock him unconscious, but Shadow did not attack yet. Instead he also focused his efforts on making the Field change. Instead of merely blocking out noise, the field was modified by him so that it would hopefully inhibit exiting the field until he was done. Sure it was more draining than the typical field someone might employ, but well, Shadow could live with that problem - for the time being anyway.  "So, the choice is ultimately up to you. Do I send out a distress beacon for Princess Twilight, and the Royal Guard to come here and arrest you Sombra, or will you agree to work for me for a time - and eventually reform under my tutelage?" 

 

 

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The pony's baffled expression was only answered in kind by a flat look from Sombra. Of course not. Any chance of finding a source of information hadn't been possible until he'd found this town. It was possible he'd passed others on his journey south, but he hadn't wanted to waste so much of his time wandering endless green expanses for some sign of pony life. The king was silent a moment longer, studying the other stallion's face while he spoke of something called the Elements of Harmony, although a quiet chuckle escaped him at Rainbow Power. It sounded so utterly.. ridiculous.

 

"Discord.." he murmured. What little news reached the Crystal Empire had mentioned the spirit of chaos. Discord? They had him as an ally? Sombra's expression changed, his brow furrowing. He still didn't know what the pony meant by reformed, but he was definitely going to find out.

 

Red eyes flicked up to the other stallion's glowing horn, and he could tell just by looking that the pony was preparing himself for.. something. No doubt dealing with him. Sombra adjusted his stance, eying the magical field around them. He was feeling considerably.. boxed in. Rolling his shoulders, he exhaled heavily through his nostrils and fixed the pony with his hateful gaze. "I still have many questions, pony," he replied, almost spitting the word. "You seek to offer some sort of deal, and yet.. beyond shelter, none of it benefits me. Threats are not the only way to get somepony on your side. Perhaps you should settle yourself before you make any rash decisions." A frown crossed Sombra's muzzle then, and he eased himself down to sit. It was a move that expressed his sheer refusal to budge- not yet.

 

"What is this.. 'reformed' business you keep talking about?" Sombra asked, an eyebrow arching. "And.. what more do you have to offer me? I need more than just a bed, or shelter. If you want me for whatever projects you have, you're going to have to do better. Seduce me." It wasn't meant romantically, or in any way beyond convincing, but the umbrum chose that particular phrasing just to see how the pony would react. For his own amusement, of course.

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"Shadow Scribe is my name.  And you don't know much, if anything about modern day Equestria. I on the other hand know a lot of information that you would wish to learn about, so as to better be prepared to do whatever it is you would do when you aren't trying to conquer the Crystal Empire," began Shadow Scribe. Shadow examined Sombra for a moment, and noticed the hateful glare. Likely the former king had noticed what Shadow had been preparing to deal with him. It hadn't had the desired effect of putting him off guard. The mere mention of seduction though was something Shadow chose to ignore, to instead focus on the task at hand. If he could bring in Sombra as an ally of Equestria, well.... yeah.

 

Twilight would be proud of him, and the fact he'd have done it without the Rainbow Power to back him up would be even more impressive to her, thought Shadow.  "Reformation generally involves turning from evil to good, or from completely chaotic to tolerant, but still chaotic in the case of Discord.  In addition to more information on Equestria, Sombra,"  Shadow's horn lit up, channeling dark power, the same kind that Sombra did. "You'd have someone who could probably learn some of the same techniques that you have at your disposal. I've got a few of my own, as well, ones you have never seen before," stated Shadow Scribe as he cancelled the glow around his horn. Hopefully Sombra would take the bait. If he succeeded, Shadow might even be able to get a kiss from Twilight out of this. "I also have something else to offer you. I can help you get more information about the world, and survive. However, it will cost your plans to conquer the Crystal Empire, or any inhabited parts of the world." 

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Sombra made a note of Shadow Scribe's name, and noticed that he didn't get so much as an eye twitch from the stallion for his comment. Sorely disappointed, he briefly looked away with a look of boredom crossing his face. It was soon gone, Sombra's eyes snapping back at the offer of information. Knowledge. It'd be easy to see how quickly his overall attitude lit up. The comment about the Crystal Empire went ignored as he listened for more.

 

"Awfully foolish of you to assume good and evil are the only things in the world," he idly commented in the momentary pause of Shadow's speech. What he'd done in the empire, it wasn't for the sake of evil, although he knew his actions would certainly be considered as such. Was he evil, then, if this pony was offering to.. reform him? Sombra huffed softly and glanced up, catching the sign of dark magic flickering around the unicorn's spiral horn. More intrigue. "Who ever said I wanted a student?" he grumbled. It was entirely possible, the king knew, from the phrasing that Shadow would want to learn more from him, to exchange spells so that Shadow would learn what he knew. Dark magic was one of the things Sombra was best at, after all.

 

"It may surprise you that I have no interest in returning to the Crystal Empire. The place is nothing but misery. It took the magic of the Crystal Heart tearing me apart to see that." Frowning again, Sombra's eyes drifted back towards the town- some of the buildings he could still see through the trees. The shade here in the forest had done wonders to making him feel a little better, at least. "I will make one thing clear: you cannot hope to change me, to twist me to your own needs, to make me a pet. I do not know why you wish to reform me, and I do not think I would care for the answer. However, in exchange for the information you offer, a place for me to sleep and time for me to regain my strength, I may consider helping you with your.. projects, and the magic if I feel like it. Before I can fully agree, I wish to know what these projects of yours are. It does no good for anypony going into something without knowing what it is, first." Sombra had a degree of unpredictability about him, a demon that did things on a whim and when he so chose. Any deal made was less of an understanding, mutual partnership and more of use- it was always for his own gain, and without a single care given in the world for what the other wanted. But he'd play along, for now, knowing he had the threat of discovery hanging over his head.

 

Well played.

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"One of the projects is one that will take place past the Frozen North. There is a pest problem called "Frostwolves" that seem to plague the area. While the Princess of the Crystal Empire did dispatch guards, or her husband did to rid my uncle of the problem, I worry for his safety, if he continues to live in that frozen wasteland. Thus, since he will not take my advice and move out of said place, this leaves but one option. One option that is very valid, given the ferocity of the Frost Wolves."   At the words Sombra spoke, Shadow Scribe paid rapt attention memorizing each of the words he had spoke. Shadow continued to consider what Sombra had said. Going along with what Sombra wanted for now was best, because he could always call the Princess, or the Royal Guard, or the Royal Equestrian Army at any time, or call his uncle down upon Sombra.  "Well, Sombra, you're one step closer to being reformed, not wanting to claim the Crystal Empire as your own anymore, and hopefully not Equestria," stated Shadow, as he thought about it.  "One of the projects I do plan on working on, though will require your brand of expertise, and some quite clever workings, to make sure a certain inmate does not escape Tartarus any time soon, if Cerebrus decides to leave it again. I am of course referring to Tirek, because I have no desire for him to be able to drain my uncle - at his age that could prove to be fatal." 

 

Shadow paused for a moment, before powering down his horn for the most part.  "We shall sleep at my place in Ponyville. Be warned, at the slightest sign of you going back to your evil overlordy ways, I will not hesitate to report you to the Princess."  Shadow lit his horn, and then fired a beam at Sombra. It was harmless, but if it connected it would allow Shadow to keep an eye on where Sombra was at all times, and would resist any attempts by Sombra to remove it.  "Allow the beam to hit you, and we will go to my place, or I will call the Princess." 

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The Frozen North. A sliver of dread twisted at his stomach unpleasantly at the prospect of having to go back to the place he'd just tried to escape from. He wanted nothing to do with that place, or the Crystal Empire, ever again if he could help it. It didn't matter if he was the only one of his kind that was free, that there was nothing else like him.. it didn't even matter if it'd been his destiny to free the umbrum. He'd had enough.

 

Sombra's ears splayed out to either side of his head and he averted his gaze, staring down at the earthy forest floor with its layer of leaf litter and twigs while he heard Shadow out. There was something about helping Shadow's uncle who, for some reason, thought the Frozen North was a fine place to live. The king's snout wrinkled and he exhaled heavily. If taking out a few frost wolves was all he needed to do to earn himself a place to sleep and rest.. so be it. "Perhaps you should consider forcing your uncle to move if those beasts are such an inconvenience. The Frozen North is not a place to take lightly. It is a miracle that the crystal ponies have managed to make a home there at all." That would be Amore's doing. He'd heard stories about the frost wolves, and they were one reason to convince foals not to go wandering out of the empire unsupervised, not to mention the icy temperatures.

 

His attention was snagged next by Shadow's next plan: it had something to do with a being in Tartarus. "Tartarus? The prison?" He thought it was just a legend. "You'll have to explain much of this to me sometime, about Tirek.. and Cerberus leaving his post," Sombra replied, expressing that he expected answers later. A pony couldn't just drop information like that and not follow up! "What's so important about your uncle that you fear this Tirek getting a hold of him?" Family importance was one thing, but the way Shadow spoke about his uncle suggested something.

 

A low chuckle escaped Sombra. Evil overlordy ways. It struck him funny, somehow, despite the welling indignation against Shadow for assuming the worst of him.. but yet, he couldn't fault him. He'd done terrible things, and he was fully capable of doing much more if he had the reason to. For now, there were none- he just wanted to get by, to be allowed to experience life as it was for the first time-.. The spell hit him and Sombra released a wordless snarl, on his hooves at once. It hadn't hurt, but it was alarming enough to make him think he was under attack; he had to resist the urge to retaliate. With eyes narrowed dangerously at Shadow, Sombra took a few, slow and threatening strides towards Shadow to loom over him. "I am not your pet to leash and drag around on your whim! I'll only tolerate so much, and perhaps.. you should work on yourself as much as you seem to want to work on me." A snort. "I'll agree to this.. deal of ours, if you keep your magic to yourself."

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"All that did was allow me to monitor you,  make sure you didn't cause too much of a problem. I can't exactly help you, if I end up in a dungeon, now can I?" asked Shadow Scribe as he considered the words of Sombra. Forcing his uncle to move was a good idea, actually.  "One, he's old. Two, he's like you, or me, and of the horned persuasion. Three, well, Tirek drains energy from them all, but he uses too many anti aging things on himself. Four, I'd rather not bury him any time soon, thank you very much due to those giving out, and the natural order of aging catching up with him. Five,  he has been working on anti aging formulas, and many, many other things. I would rather not bury him, but when I do, it will have not been because Tirek decided a repeat performance of drain Equestria was in order," growled Shadow Scribe. Forcing himself to calm down he looked Sombra in the eyes for a moment. 

 

"So, you said "Force my Uncle" and therein lies the problem. I'm not strong enough to beat him. Even with my skills, he's got an arsenal of relics that could give him the upper hand should I attempt to relocate him from his home in the Frozen North."  sighed Shadow Scribe. "There's one of the problems. You know what the second problem is, his "neighbors" I have pointed out to you that need to be given a permanent reason to avoid him. "  Shadow muttered the last part.  "And very well, I'll keep my abilities to myself for the most part. Though when I learn some of your more powerful techniques, we will need to spar, to see if I get it right. I've got a long way to go, after all, for my plans to eventually make myself appealing as a potential colt friend to Twilight, though I've never really dated before."  blushed Shadow Scribe. "So shall we shake hooves on hit, or how do you want to do the deal? Also could you explain to me what you wanted to do with the Crystal Empire originally when you had taken it over? I am curious, I'll admit. Oh. I just had an idea. Once I've "reformed" you, I present you to Twilight as reformed, if you would be okay with that, Sombra. It will permanently keep you free. Oh, and I could write your biography - maybe then whatever goal you had could be accomplished without the need for conquest, or anything." 

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King Sombra held Shadow's gaze, his body radiating aggressive tension. It didn't seem to ease off much throughout the time that Shadow spoke, and it was only after the explanation of the spell that Sombra gave Shadow a last searching look before he half turned away. An ear was still cocked towards Shadow that showed that he was still attentive, even though he didn't appear to be paying any attention after he'd heard what he needed.

 

"I'm not like either of you," Sombra briefly interjected and fell silent again. It wasn't an important detail and not one he felt like telling Shadow anytime soon. He'd learned to keep everything to himself- it was better that way. Out of Shadow's following explanations, what Sombra could gather about this Tirek was that he drained energy. Whoever he was, he sounded like a troublesome foe if he was capable of that. Shadow's uncle sounded like an.. interesting pony, from what Sombra had heard thus far. Some sort of mage looking into a way of cheating death- or at least cheating the process of aging.

 

Sombra grunted softly, noting that he might have yet another project on his hooves that he'd have to help Shadow with. It sounded like quite a lot to ask from him, in exchange for what he wanted.. or perhaps he was merely being greedy. A wild part of him considered outright asking for a castle to live in for what was being asked of him, but he stifled that particular voice's temptations.

 

"If I decide to teach you more about dark magic," Sombra put in again and glanced up, his eyebrows lifting. Potential colt friend? Did he hear that correctly? Judging by the blush that appeared across Shadow's cheeks, he had. And just like that, the king found another small foothold over his.. new companion. "Twilight. The same Twilight you spoke of, the princess?"  A soft rumble rolled through his throat, close to the inequine growl that Sombra was so capable of, but this time with a pleased note to it. "I see."

 

"I am.. uncertain, about whether I should tell you anything about it. I don't need some nosy pony looking for and messing with something he doesn't understand." Sombra focused his unusual eyes back upon Shadow with an intensity that suggested he was trying to pin the pony in place with a look. "I'm also equally uninterested in somepony writing a biography about me. My goals are best left uncompleted, at this point. I've told you, the Crystal Empire is a waste of my time, and my life.. but if I were to ever choose to tie up loose ends, I would prefer to do it myself than hoof it off to a lackey." Sombra pointedly eyed Shadow. "If you merely want to lie to her, this Twilight, so that I may continue to walk free rather than be confined for centuries in Tartarus, as I have no doubt they'd do within seconds of seeing me, then.. fine. I will pretend."

 

The king faced Shadow again with his head held high and offered his hoof. "I will assist you, so long as you assist me. On my own whim, I may decide to teach you, and I may decide to tell you a little about my original intent.. so long as you do not go looking into anything."

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"Very well, we have an accord," said Shadow, as he shook hooves with Sombra.  "I will not do the biography then, since you are uninterested. Perhaps we should move you somewhere more tropical - an island perhaps. It would be a good choice, because it would be farther away from here, which is close to the castle Celestia, and Luna call home," stated Shadow as he considered the options about it. Shadow then sighed. "Anyway, Sombra, since we're rooming together for the time being until I can save up enough bits to buy you an island to call home and build you a castle on," said Shadow Scribe. "Now, we need to figure out how we can prepare things so my uncle will have no choice but to move to a more hospitable environment, and that's AFTER the Frost Wolves are convinced they don't like attacking ponies - by extinction, if need be." 

 

Shadow was not going to let his uncle come to harm. It was one of his primary goals.  "Now our first order of business is to make sure you can blend in, when we go into town. I'll need to take you to a tailor, and get you some clothes so you'll better blend in with the populace. I know you may not like the idea, but it would help you be less noticeable." admitted Shadow Scribe as he looked Sombra up and down. 

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Sombra had no sooner shaken hooves with Shadow before he was withdrawing his hoof with a faint sneer on his muzzle. Moving to a tropical island sounded like a very bad decision, to him, and he didn't care for it. Islands were surrounded by water, and the very idea of it made him uncomfortable. "I prefer something better: hiding in plain sight. A place so close to home is always the last place they look." Perhaps he knew this from experience, not that it'd ever been intentional to start with.

 

Shadow's comment about a castle made Sombra twitch and eye the stallion, as if trying to determine if Shadow was capable of mind reading.. or if his spell let him see into his thoughts. Sombra passed off a shudder with a roll of his shoulders and grunted. "Lure him out of his home and let me destroy it. It should convince him," he muttered. It wasn't a serious suggestion, and the closest Sombra could come to making a joke. "Wild animals aren't likely to learn, collectively, to avoid ponies. The Crystal Empire is protected by its magic; everywhere else is free game to frost wolves. Perhaps your uncle has a lesson to learn about his choices," Sombra mused.

 

An ear twitched and the comment about blending in prompted the king to glance over his cape. As much as he didn't want to go without it, Shadow had a point. It was too recognizable, and wandering around with it on with the way he looked was certain to make it evident who he was. It annoyed him to know this. He liked this cape. It was his, and he'd made it with what skills he had. His armor, too, but that had been destroyed.

 

"I suppose," Sombra begrudgingly agreed, and caught the way Shadow was eying him. He shuffled uncomfortably on his hooves and finally moved away, stepping up to the edge of the magical field. Poking at it with his hoof, he sourly glanced back. "You'll have to drop this, first. Shall we go then?"

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At the statement of destroying his uncle's home, Shadow was actually considering it. Once the relics had been removed, and packed up that was. Shadow listened to the advice of Sombra, and dissipated the field.  "I will try to find someone we can trust to make you your new garments, Sombra."  stated Shadow Scribe. "I could also keep your cape safe and secure, until such time as you are deemed safe, and thus could go around as you are now, but here..."  Shadow lit his horn, and summoned an armor that was Sombra's size, as he and Shadow shared the same build almost. The armor would need a lot of modifications by Sombra to fit his tastes, but was still useful.  "Consider this a gift, Sombra." 

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It wasn't difficult for Sombra to tell that Shadow actually seemed to be seriously considering his jest. It should've been a little surprising, but if he was to be honest with himself, it probably would serve as a good enough plan next to destroying a few frost wolves to scare off the pack. They'd have to deal with a very angry uncle, but he wasn't concerned about the feelings of Shadow's family, or other ponies' for that matter.

 

The king responded with a grunt and took a few casual steps towards the town, now that the field was no longer keeping him trapped. He'd requested it be removed, rather than trying to tear it apart himself; he wasn't strong enough yet, and he didn't want to make it apparent. All he'd told Shadow, and all the pony had to know, was that he needed to regain his strength. That was it. His lips parted to ask a question, about whether Shadow Scribe could read his thoughts and immediately shut his mouth. It probably made sense that he'd think Sombra wanted to keep his cape, rather than discard it. Accepting the logic, Sombra turned his attention to the armor Shadow had summoned.

 

The umbrum quietly studied the metal and the way it was made. It looked like it would fit him, with a few small adjustments to accommodate his height; he was thinking along the same lines without knowing it. "This will be extremely useful, especially when we go north. My old armor was destroyed, unfortunately. I only have an adequate enough knowledge of metalworking, so what I couldn't do, I made up for with magic." It'd explain why his armor had been shattered, the same way he had, by the Crystal Heart. "I will accept your gift. It pleases me, as much as something can please me. Now, send it to your house. I may end up attracting as much attention, if not more, if I walked the streets of this idyllic little town in full armor as I would bare."

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"You will of course have to replace what I've done to the armor, other than forging it," admitted Shadow. The armor was dismissed, as was the Field. "All the Field did was block sound around us,  but I've dismissed it for the time being. "  Shadow then looked at Sombra for a moment, and asked. "How would we go about convincing the Princess that I've successfully reformed you?" asked Shadow."Also, later could you teach me the most useful thing I read you could do in the history books? The turn to shadows thing, and travel was the most interesting one of your techniques, other than the Fear thing, if the fear thing could work on animals. Anyway. We need to figure out if you have any food allergies, as well. I don't want to cook something that could kill you by accident. We'll also need to discuss the terms of our arrangement in greater detail when we reach my house." 

 

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The king watched the armor disappear in a blink of light and responded with another wordless grunt as he started walking towards town. No doubt Shadow would join him if he wished to carry this conversation; Sombra wasn't intent on lingering here in the woods when there was the prospect of a bed and a roof, and maybe even a chance to bathe! His time in the open would be brief, and he'd make it so. He merely nodded in response to the comment on the armor.

 

"You know about me," he state, mulling over that little fact: history books. So they'd written about him.. He didn't know how to feel about becoming so infamous for his crimes- and they were crimes. No matter how justified he felt in what he did, he knew the damage he was doing. It was all in the past as far as Sombra was concerned. "This is something I feel I can tell you about, at least." The pony was terribly curious and it was something he could relate to: a desire for knowledge, the desire to know and to never be left in the dark. It was out of a small weakness for the connection that Sombra decided to divulge that curiosity and know that he wouldn't be exposing something that'd make him vulnerable by doing so.

 

"I am not a pony. I am a creature called an umbrum, what ponies might foolishly refer to as 'shadow ponies.' I do not know of their origins- all I know is that they terrorized the crystal ponies over a thousand years ago when they were first trying to carve out their slice of civilization in the Frozen North. Princess Amore was responsible for finding the crystal that became the Heart in the mountains north of them. It.. magnifies magic, specifically what might be considered good, like light and love." A soft snort followed. "It was her love magic that made it possible for her to banish the umbrum at last- an act that would mark their very first Crystal Faire, and allow them to keep their home protected." It was a small history lesson before he bothered to actually answer Shadow's question, and it was most of the truth. Some of the more important parts Sombra chose to withhold.

 

"Becoming shadow is what is inherent to my kind. When the sisters locked me away, they stripped my physical self from me- I was little more than the meanest ghost. It was painful and I cannot fathom what trying to become shadow would do to a pony, a mere mortal, if you attempted it with dark magic." The king could try to convince Shadow not to try, but ultimately Sombra couldn't stop him if he dared to.

 

Realizing he hadn't addressed two other topics Shadow had brought up, Sombra rumbled softly. "Manipulate her, obviously. Whatever it is she wants to see in me, whatever change, surely I can pretend well enough." Of course, he knew very little about this Twilight Sparkle as it was! It'd be impossible for him to tell how much she might see past the act. A pause in his step allowed the stallion to shrug one shoulder. "As far as I know, no allergies. I doubt we'll have any problems."

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"Ah. So it would be too risky. The only interest I had in it," stated Shadow, as he trotted quickly, moving in front of Sombra.  "Was to hasten transportation,"  said Shadow as he thought about it. "Since you're willing to appear to be reformed, we've got a lot of education to give you when we reach my home. You've got a lot to learn, Sombra, before you could be able to convince Twilight," sighed Shadow, as he looked at him.  "I will teach you about Twilight, the Rainbow Power, and Equestrian History. However. In return for those lessons, you will teach me lessons beyond what my uncle was able to instruct me. He taught me quite a lot."  Shadow continued, until they reached his home, and opened the door. Thankfully the trip had been without any sort of incident or problem as they had made their way there.  "I'll heat up a bath for you, and lay out some clothes of mine, since we are the same size." 

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Sombra made a noise that came short of a laugh. "You'd have better luck with teleportation, if you know your limit and how far you can go without burning yourself out." Shadow entered his vision when the other stallion took the lead, and the king allowed it for now- his new companion would know better about where to go in this town, and where his house was located. Having somepony else in the lead let Sombra casually saunter along and get a better look of the sights. There were many houses of the same style, but occasionally there was a building with a design different enough from the rest that it stuck out. He'd have to investigate them later to find out why, if he ever had the chance to.

 

His attention drifted halfway back towards Shadow's voice. This time he seemed to be offering quite a lot in exchange for a few lessons in dark magic, and this Sombra could appreciate. It was always going to take some bribery and cajoling just to get the tyrant to budge- much like enticing a wild animal with a few sweet morsels in exchange for some cooperation. He could choose not to regardless of the fact that he'd lose what was being offered, but he could also appreciate Shadow's determination to learn. His lessons would have to come with a note of warning, considering what they were dealing with.

 

"Very well," Sombra accepted, enticed by the prospect of a bath. The clothes, on the other hoof, he'd have to look at to see if any of them were up to his standards. The walk to Shadow's house proved more uneventful than the umbrum expected it to be, beyond getting a few curious glances from ponies. There'd been a few startled ones too; it seemed his good looks weren't enough to make up for what was most frightening about him. Their loss. It wasn't likely to be a problem if their plan worked out the way they needed it to.

 

If Shadow was opening up the door for him, Sombra would merely invite himself in and start nosing around, curious about what a home's interior was like, and a modern one at that.

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Shadow nodded, and watched as Sombra walked in. Sombra could see the interior of the house was well crafted, and he could also see glyphs had been etched onto the floor. Glyphs that had a purpose, a purpose that would block any and all detection of the power a Unicorn used, unless they were right outside or immensely powerful.  Eventually he led him to the area of the house where the tub was. "You can help yourself to a bath, and anything else you need, I've laid the clothes outside the bathroom door. Oh, and one other thing, Sombra. "  Shadow said as he heated up the bath to the perfect temperature. "We do need to do something about your public image, make you appear to be less frightening, before I introduce you to Twilight. New clothes would help, possibly if we straightened your horn," rambled Shadow. Shadow knew reforming the dark king was not going to be an easy task. Yet, it was worth doing. 

 

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Sombra stepped around the interior of Shadow's house with the caution of a pony in an unfamiliar place. The faintly glowing glyphs on the floor, in particular, caught his attention, and the king lowered his head to eye them closely. The magic was strange, nothing that he'd seen before. Was it something new, developed over the years, or was it something old that was particular to Equestrian magic?

 

Filing away a question to ask Shadow about them later, Sombra straightened up and followed after Shadow while the stallion fetched the clothes and soon lead him to the room where the bath was. The floor was tiled and the walls were a pleasant color. An ear was cocked towards the sound of the other unicorn's voice throughout the explanation, paying attention to what was said just in case anything would be important to remember. Sombra lifted a hoof to touch his horn self consciously, frowning faintly over having to hide it. It wasn't something he felt comfortable with, or certain about. What if he ran into this Twilight Sparkle far later, without any disguise, and she saw the truth? It'd have to be considered, first.

 

"Illusion," Sombra replied softly, dropping his hoof. "It wouldn't be too difficult to disguise certain aspects of my appearance, if I wish," he mused. There was something of an idea taking place, but it was one the umbrum felt he'd have to wait to toy with until he was freshly cleaned and standing in front of a mirror.

 

Sombra mentally set it aside and finally moved, heading into the bathroom to the peculiar tub. It was made out of some hard, white material that vaguely reminded him of glass, with metal feet, strangely shaped knobs and a spout. The time-displaced stallion stood there, toeing at the bathtub before he finally unclasped his cape at the neck with his magic and set it aside. Automatically, he curled his tail around one, visibly bare flank, knowing that Shadow was still in the vicinity, and slowly stepped into the tub, provided Shadow had finished preparing it for him. Although the weather was warm outside, the hot bathwater felt terribly pleasant on his worn body as he sank down into it with a soft sigh.

 

Resting his chin on the bathtub's edge, he lazily peered at the unicorn with half-lidded eyes. "I have some ideas, but they'll have to wait until after I've finished with my bath. Exactly how soon do you want us to meet with this princess? You seem eager to show off to her to gain her attention."

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"As soon as we are sure you are properly prepared," said Shadow, making some mental calculations. "Maybe a month, or more,  preferably less. I know I'm not royalty," sighed Shadow as he looked at Sombra. Once Sombra settled in the bath tub, Shadow said. "If you need anything, I will be waiting outside. Also, do try and not wreck the place. The markings you looked at were ones that prevent others from finding out what brand of power I use, so it will avoid panicking civilians."  Shadow did not want to deal with panicked citizens of Ponyville if he could avoid having such a problem. 

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A soft grunt followed Shadow's answer. The hot waters had effectively lulled Sombra into a lazy state of comfort; it felt as if he'd been frozen inside, and the heat was thawing him out, thawing his bones. He'd allow himself a moment to savor just lying there in the tub and relaxing, something he felt he'd earned after everything he'd been through and the miles he'd crossed.

 

"Very well," he muttered. Wreck the place? Sombra wasn't sure what Shadow expected him to do the second his back was turned. It wasn't as if the king intended on tearing apart a nice home that'd become his shelter. It wouldn't be until after Shadow left him in peace that Sombra finally convinced himself to move, reaching for a scrub brush and soap with his magic and getting to work on thoroughly cleaning all the travel's dirt from his body. It took him a little time, and draining the tub to rinse himself off with fresh water afterwards- getting hot water was achieved by twiddling with the tub's knobs until he found the temperature he wanted. How.. convenient the modern day was! That peasants should be able to bathe as well as royalty seemed a wonderful thing.

 

Sombra stepped out once he was finished, allowing the tub to drain a second time while he scrubbed and dried himself with one of Shadow's clean towels. He felt fully refreshed for the first time in centuries, and it felt wonderful.

 

It put him in a better mood, so much so that when he approached the mirror and started in on grooming out his mane, Sombra couldn't help taking a moment to admire himself in the mirror and smoothing down his sideburns with a hoof. He had a pleasant view of his face, and as much as he wanted to linger and eyeball himself in the mirror, he didn't have the time to. Shadow was no doubt still waiting for him. Sombra reluctantly finished grooming himself and stepped out of the bathroom to see what sort of clothes Shadow set out for him, nosing through them to see if they were to his liking before he'd bother to put them on. "I'm ready, I suppose," Sombra spoke out to the house for some sort of answer, and wondered what Shadow must have planned next if he'd set out clothes.

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The clothes Shadow Scribe had laid out for him was a robe in the style of the Crystal Empire's royalty, a robe that Sombra may want to wear actually. It was made out of high quality silk and was perfectly fitted to Sombra. They were perfectly styled to the tastes of Sombra. When Sombra spoke out, Shadow approached.  "Alright. First thing is first, get dressed. " Shadow Scribe said as he looked at Sombra expectantly. "Now we need to figure out how we are going to convince the Princesses, all of them that you have given up evil, before we can truly begin anything. Perhaps a letter written to them, and teleported to Celestia, and Luna at their castle in Canterlot?" asked Shadow Scribe. 

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It took Sombra by surprise to find Crystal Empire clothing here, and that befitting royalty. How did Shadow get a hold of something like this? he wondered, eying the silk. Stolen? Or was his arrival somehow.. known? It seemed too far fetched to be possible and the king quickly dismissed it as Shadow stepped into the room. The get dressed statement was met with a grunt and Sombra hesitantly swept the robe on, letting the silk settle neatly on his back and over his bare flanks. It felt a little awkward to wear, but it went mostly ignored for the sake of this.. charade he was going to be playing.

 

A smirk crossed his face. Teleport into their castle? "Have you no sense of how to make an entrance?" he quipped. If he stepped through the doors of their throne room, he at least wanted to do it in a way that would let him build things up a little. Let him see the shock on their faces, the confusion, maybe even anger. It wasn't that he wanted to antagonize them, Sombra just wanted to have a little.. fun.

 

"I would prefer to write the letter to them first to schedule an audience with them, perhaps, and indicate the matter is important." Sombra paused, pondering how he'd play this out. What he had so far might be good.. He didn't want them to know who he was until he was right in view. "So. I have this.. robe, now. What else is it that we need? You mentioned something about a tailor before, unless you have altered that plan?" Sombra tilted his head, questioning. "Speaking of.. how did you get a hold on something like this?" He flicked at the hem of the robe with a black toe, indicating it. It was more out of curiosity than anything of importance that he asked; if the sisters saw him in this, an amused part of him wondered how they'd react. Offended?

 

"What of this Twilight Sparkle?"

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