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Meeting in the Woods [Closed]

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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.

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Her arrival was nothing short of exploseove. With a thunderclap a timberwolf is sent flying out from the woods in a storm of magic lighting before the poor beast exploded in flaming splinters. Two more run out from the woods, both failed too get far before an ark of lighting exploded from the tree line, everything in its path bursting in to flames as the two wood monsters do the same before exploring. Stepping out from the bush line Tempest was decked out, head to hooves in heavy black plate armor that was alive with shimmering sparks of electricity. The mare looked at the flaming remains of a timberwolf and let out an bored snort. “And I was told the everfree was dangerous. Most fun I had was manticore and the thing ran from me.” She pulled her eyes up to the stallion resting before her. “But he did make me late sadly. I’m glad you made it, this is hardly the most charming of places to talk but I do not wish others to overhear why I asked for this.” Walking closer she eyed the stallion up. He was handsome and hit the marks she liked. But this meeting had nothing too do with his body.

 

“I will save us both time and get to what I want. Train me in dark magic. In turn I will be called for favors. So long as they are reasonable given my and your rank and without drawing to much suspicion. You may be a king, but you have no crown. For now. We are both hardly trusted by the powers to be. I can not blame them. I hope you have taken time to know something about me as I have learned about you. Plenty of books on it in fact.” She grins, it was smug in how confident she walked and spoke. Yet all of it was given with power to back it. “What say you? What can I do or give to make you teach me.”

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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."

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“As long as it's not a dramatic sob story. I’d rather not start a much of us one upping the other in how dreadful are life was.” Tempest says slowly pacing back and forth. “And of course the books will be overflowing details that are made up, wrong and painted the other side as better. The winner makes the book after all… Trust me I know. I helped make some doing just that for my old king. Even if some parts were no lie at all about how talented he was with leading armies. Shame he was not as gifted with understanding how bad a move it may be to stab his most powerful commander in the back.” She spoke the last lines with a feral snarl to her words.

 

Rolling her shoulders the mare steps closer to the king, her eyes narrowing. “But what I know and believe in is power. And you had power… Even if you did lose to the very sisters I crushed underhoof in hardly five minutes. The captel? Less than a day. In less than a week I won the war. I did not lose but I was betrayed. I’d have won that if I was even stronger. If I had the magic you hold… than I’d be queen today. As such the one thing I do care about is that magic. How good, loving and grand a king you really may have been? That’s one thousand years late pragmatism. But if you demand that be the price, so be it. I will hold onto every word with baited breath.” With a wave of her hoof she lays down, crossing her front legs. “I got all day to hear every last detail you feel is worth shoving down my ears.”

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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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Tempest did not flinch as he moves closer, his words growled like some wolf. In fact she stands up and moved closer as the two meet nose to nose as she snarled just as much as he talked. “I do believe a pink mare with a shipping fetish sites down on your throne. How long you withheld such pleasantry as a clean victory too them hardly matters in the fact you now work for me and Ice underneath the two mares that battled you. Its losing by any other name.” As he backed away from her she did the same, laying back down. “And in truth, I was never one to be queen. I’d have given that to some pony more fitting of the task as I acted overlord.” She waved a hoof. “But such talk is pointless. We both lost in the end one way or another. Trying to lay down a bigger yellow river gains us nothing.”

 

“As for what you say… Being clever and predicting the moves my enemies is something I am very skilled in. like I told you… in a day all of canterlot was in chains and before a week this land was crushed underneath my blow. You can ask celestia herself how I bested her… Luna… that pink mare with a dreadful name in just a few moments. It was checkmate in one move. At least almost. Twi was a deep pain in my flank for a few days. But even she was out moved, out played and tossed in a cage.” She smirks. “What I need is the raw power to win if my plans fail. To overpower whatever betrays me. I care not for some cost to my soul or other such foalish beliefs that follow that line of thinking. I have heard well the corruption of such magic.” She snorts. “A small price to pay for the power it gives and only the weekist willed can fall to something so petty. So let's cut to just that… Dark Magic. Name. The. Price.”

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For a moment Tempest's nose was pressed up to his, and Sombra was impressed by her boldness. He had a few inches and more muscle on him, as well as a working horn, in comparison to her, and she was doing something that nopony else would dare do and had gotten into his face. A wide, wicked grin spread across his muzzle and as they'd relaxed back, he studied her face and listened closely to the comments she had to say just to sound like she'd always have a hoof up on him. How very wrong she was.

 

"Bold of you to presume I would ever be your obedient slave," he quipped. "Even more so to think I even care about a throne in an empire of glittering fools afraid of their own shadows. That place may look shiny and the ponies 'kind', but it's all nothing more than a shallow surface. They would judge others for slight differences, might even judge you," Sombra pointed out, nodding towards the jagged stump of horn on Tempest's head. "I'd hardly call any part of my situation losing when.. I'm courting Princess Celestia." His wicked smile could hardly stand to get any wider, and bared almost every sharp point of his monstrous teeth. There was a terribly smug aura about him and his smile. "I could eventually become the future king of Equestria, should everything go well, and rise above such petty stations."

 

"So, skilled you might be, and I'll be sure to ask Celestia how you took them all down and what sort of tricks you used.. but until then.. why are you not clad in chains and living within the Canterlot dungeons? Certainly after every terrible thing you've done to them would have gotten you there, or did they somehow change your mind to go against your task to conquer them? Something about friendship and magic?" Sombra scoffed, amused. It was only a guess on his part, and he wouldn't realize how close he was to the truth until somepony told him.

 

"Regardless.. Dark magic doesn't cost you your 'soul' although, I'm certain there are some branches of it that might. Dark magic is not a toy or a tool. It, and magic as a whole, can be quite dangerous. Treating it lightly will get you nothing but death, or worse." His eyes lingered on the remnant of her horn for a moment. "Now, you'd be correct that dark magic can and will corrupt you, as a normal pony. Do not treat it so lightly either when you could never know the extent of it.. what it could do to you. Nopony would possibly be able to prepare against it, no matter how strong they believe their wills." The king paused and dipped his head to Tempest. She wanted to know the price?

 

"I want the Alicorn Amulet."

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“Bold of you to presume I’d be so foolish as to believe you’d ever be obedient to me at all. You know nothing of what I can do. I am nothing like dregs of society you have known to infect this land. And wave away the loss all you want, it will not change where we stand.” Tempest says back, her tone as uncaring as ever as her eyes stay locked with his. Her willpower made clear in how unflinching she was to his words. “And may be judging me? Cute. I know they are and so is the rest of this land. They look at me with worried eyes as much as they do to you. We are both monsters in are own ways. If they did not look at me as such… they’d be foolish.”

 

Now… She giggles. Gently at first before she was laughing hard and strong. “Ohhh, courting Princess Celestia? Do save the fancy talk for nobels. You are trying to get underneath her tail and she’s not smacked you down? You make it sound as if you have hope… what is all the more fun as that means she is letting you try. Celestia, playing with a pony like you…” She had to stop talking for an other burst of laughing. “Future king of Equestria as well? What a time to be alive! Maybe this land is not hopeless yet. Maybe yet it can be saved and given a spine!” She pulls herself up, walking back and forth she relaxed her self.

 

“But such fun fancy's aside, I walk free out of luck and skill. I bowed my head only to save my tail. But they did not change my mind nore did they sing some song about friendship and magic and blasted the darkness from me. No. My king betrayed me and in doing so tossed his victory away. Twi, for whatever reason saved me. Something about friendship. I do owe her my life and for that she has my thanks. So I played along and walked free…” She chuckles, no need to tell him her plans. Yet.

 

Finly he got to what she wanted… Dark Magic. “Do not waste more of my time firing off how dangerous it is.” She snaps back as he speaks to her like some filly in school. Now the price was… well… “What in the #$@$% is the Alicorn Amulet? And more so, WHERE is it?” She says back walking closer to him with a smug grin. “Details. The more the better.”

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Sombra scoffed and muttered something that sounded like uncreative under his breath. "I think it does, but live whatever fantasy that you wish." The grey stallion shrugged and gestured at her with a black hoof. It was dropped back to the ground, and his eyes narrowed when he caught the word monsters. It was a word he never wanted to hear anypony use against him; only he could call himself a monster. Coming from anypony else, it was foul, an insult, slander.

 

"What're you talking about?" The king retorted with a roll of his eyes. "You continue to make such silly assumptions. When did I ever say I was trying to? I already have. Celestia enjoys my company," he hinted with a sly smile that bared the point of one fang. "There's no need for hope when she so willingly allowed me in. If you don't believe me, perhaps you can go and ask her yourself. Believe me when I say she doesn't bite." Amusement tinged his tone as he allowed Tempest's laughter wash over him. She wouldn't be the last pony laughing here, not when she really thought he'd never have a chance and that Celestia was just toying with him. It was hardly the case!

 

"Perhaps it could be," Sombra rumbled thoughtfully, idly agreeing with Tempest. There were things that he could do to better this sorry excuse for a country, and he hardly needed to resort to old habits. There were plenty of opportunities to try new things, to improve the country's education and defenses himself.. He hardly needed to look like Celestia's trophy husband when he could do so much.

 

"Ahuh," Sombra grunted, his face falling to its usual expression. "Played along, sure," he muttered with disbelief, fighting the urge to roll his eyes a second time. However it helped her sleep at night. Moving on..

 

"The alicorn amulet is an Equestrian artifact of mysterious origins. It magnifies the power of its wearer, and corrupts them the more that it is used because it is a dark magic artifact. Its whereabouts are currently unknown to me, but I believe it to exist. I've been searching and I haven't yet been successful.. With some of my time occupied as it is, I think it'd help if I could rope another pony in to help me find it. You. You seem like a smart mare, I'm sure you'd be more than capable of helping me track it down." Sombra used his magic to create a brief illusion of its appearance, hanging in midair, from the depictions he'd seen of it in the book he'd read. The title currently escaped him- something with artifacts in the name. "I do hope you know subtlety is important for this, or that you know it at all." A challenge.

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The rest of the driveling waste of time they talked about can be done later, Tempest's focuses was fully on her new objective. “An artifact hunt? Well I am no slunch at such things… I did plenty of that in services to my ex-king. He loved such things and did teach me some tricks as well… like never use something unless you know fully what it will do to you in payment, So don’t worry about me even thinking about wearing it. Hate to be your test goat for such a thing.” She stands up, stretching almost like a cat before rolling her shoulders. “I will have it before a year is out and that is the most extreme time table, it will shorten dramatically as I track down leads and info on it but until I do that’s the best I can say. And don’t worry on subtlety, I sneaked a warfleet on top of canterlot itself. Keeping myself out of view is foals play.” She turns away from Sombra and flicks her tail at him, looking off in to the woods.

 

“And I think I know just where to start.” She mutters as magical electricity sparks and pours from her broken horn and rolls over her body in a lightning crackle of power. It reaches out to a tree, warping over the wood as smokes and burns before the tree rips apart in a shower of splitters and flames. “But first… I’d like a round of sparring. First blood. Nothing on the table to be won or lost."

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The king grunted softly at Tempest's response, his ear twitching towards the unfamiliar term test goat in the midst of all of it. His eyes flicked up at the potential time table and annoyance briefly rippled through him before his emotions settled again. "If you took a year to locate it, I would consider it a very poor job," he quietly commented, his voice a low rumble of sound that mixed with the Everfree Forest's soft ambience.

 

"You can only sneak a war fleet onto Canterlot when those who live there are too naive to feel concerned over the ships approaching it, who can only gawk in awe and interest at the approach of something so alien, so unfamiliar. You could take them off guard, but to sneak something like that so close to the country's capital?" Sombra scoffed in disbelief, rolling his eyes. That sharp, red gaze of his soon refocused back upon Tempest, his ears perking up as Tempest mentioned something in passing he found interesting. Did she know where to find it, the artifact he sought? If she could find it so soon..

 

His attention shifted to her challenge. A spar.

 

Tempest wanted to test her might against his, and it intrigued him. A pony wanted to fight him, and a pony with a broken horn at that, but he wouldn't underestimate her. Her attitude and the way she moved alone spoke of well-earned confidence, suggesting that she knew how to fight even if she didn't have as precise magic as he might with his horn still whole. A smirk slowly spread across Sombra's muzzle and his magic briefly flared, unhooking the clasp of his cape at his throat and removing it to set it aside, draping it over the old log that he'd previously been sitting on before their meeting had even started.

 

"If you want to spar to test me, then I happily accept. It's been far too long since I've had a proper fight. If you're not scared, then come at me."

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“Don’t worry, I don’t bite unless you do.” She says stepping closer as her unstable magic pops and sparks from her horn. “But honestly, I hope you do.” With that she charges him, moving with energy and speed even in platemail as her horn scrames in to life like the call of a thunderstorm. The energy flows over her body and platemail in a storm of electrical discharge. It did hurt. It hurt a lot to even use magic. But the pain was its own power for her. From it she put rage in to her magic and force of will. It was a feedback loop not for the fate of heart but it allowed her unleash magic that was as strong as the mare behide it. As she pushed closer it builds up around her horn before unleashing with a thunderclap a jagged beam of magic racing for it's target. Its movement was chaotic as it was fast, much like a thunderbolt seeking land.

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The smirk that still lingered on the umbrum's muzzle widened to a vicious, fang-baring grin, amused by her quip, though it did not lessen his guard. He could feel her magic building and soon saw it for himself- flaring bolts of unchanneled magic crackling around her like barely controlled lightning. It made his hackles rise. The mere sight of it was exciting, though he was not caught nor entranced by the display. Sombra held his ground as she began to charge him, dark magic bubbling up around his own horn as he focused his magic on the ground between them.

 

As a bolt of magic arced his way, Sombra jerked his head up, pulling up a wall of crystal in between himself and Tempest. He was a proud stallion, and with most dealings with ponies, he refused to ever retreat in a fight- he preferred to meet his opponents head on, especially when most of them were too weak to even be much of a threat to him. Though fighting the royal sisters certainly kept him on his toes.

 

Sombra didn't wait for what the result of Tempest's magic would be when faced with crystal and turned his attention to the offensive, summoning a pillar of black crystal that came jutting diagonally out of the ground on Tempest's side- his intent was to ram her in the side with it, if he could. He was relying entirely on his sense of her magic rather than any visual for the moment.

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“Crystal? For real?” Was all the mare had to say about the dark crystals ripping out of the land. Her magic arched in to them with a thundering boom as crystal shattered in a hailstorm of fragments that clanged against her plate. But she had no time to flinch, spotting land parting as the next crystal jutted out she grabbed her platemial in magic, thunderling power rolled over it and warped some of the plates as she tossed her self to the side, rolling back on her hooves she leaps up and unleashed a fresh blast, one much stronger than the last. The thunderclap it unleashed was ear ringing as it dug in to the wall guarding Sombra.


With a hailstorm of fragments it exploded over the wall as bolts of magic leap about peace to peace until they lanced in to the land. It was beautiful in a way, black crystal flying as white hot bullets of magic shimmered and zigzagged in the air from a blast so powerful it can rip a airship in half. At the heart of the storm was Tempest, her face twisted with rage and pain as magic ripped over her body like the heart of a thunderstorm. Relaxing her magic she made note of her senses, she can’t let him nail her from a blind angle when she was to focused on attacking.

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If it wasn't broken.. The crystals were a favorite of his to use because his opponents would have such a small window to react, it would be easy to spear them if he really wanted to. As it stood, he didn't want to kill Tempest, just.. pummel her a little. This was an all out fight, a display of skill and power, something that King Sombra reveled in.

 

The crystal wall between them exploded in a wild storm of Tempest's magic, and Sombra knew then that his crystal had missed her entirely. It wasn't an issue, this fight was only just beginning. He'd be able to get a few good hits in once he learned more about her behavior.. Flying chunks of crystal and magic encouraged Sombra to duck and finally move, strafing the unicorn to try to avoid some of it, though he felt certain he felt something graze his side, and a few points along his legs; a sensation that was distantly acknowledged, when Tempest and her magic took up the forefront of his concentration. If there was anything worse than a graze, he didn't know it yet.

 

Sombra was choosing to keep his distance from now, from the heart of the maelstrom that was Tempest's magic. He could see the fury and pain on her face, even from this distance, and it made him wonder what it cost her to use her magic like this and how it affected her, something that he might be able to use to his advantage.

 

Dark magic charged along his curved, red horn again and he lowered it to lash out with a bolt of dark magic, testing the waters between them to see if he couldn't hit her.

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