|Siege of the Crystal Empire|
|Published:|| September 16, 2015 (#34)|
October 21, 2015 (#35)
November 18, 2015 (#36)
December 16, 2015 (#37)
|Letterer:|| Neil Uyetake (#34, #36-37)|
Gilberto Lazcano (#35)
| Gallery • Allusions • IDW Publishing|
IDW Limited • IDW Publishing Forums
Night of the Living Apples
Don't You Forget About Us
Siege of the Crystal Empire is the thirteenth story arc of IDW Publishing's comic series, spanning issues #34 through #37. In the story, a mysterious new villain brings several of the series' past antagonists together to attack the Crystal Empire.
The issue begins in the Arctic North, identified as a prison similar to Tartarus, where a pony in a cloak makes her way across Equestria. During her travels, she recruits Flim and Flam, Iron Will, and Lightning Dust to join her for an unknown purpose—with the promise of getting revenge on the Mane Six or reclaiming lost glory.
At the Crystal Empire, Twilight Sparkle and her friends help set up for the Crystal Faire. Twilight encounters Flim and Flam, who have supposedly moved on from selling apple cider to selling lemonade. Though they claim to be "legitimate business ponies" now, Twilight doesn't trust them. At the same time, Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash run into Iron Will, and Lightning Dust appears to antagonize Rarity and Pinkie Pie with water balloons.
As Rainbow and Fluttershy chase after Lightning Dust, Applejack discovers a hive of changelings hiding inside Flim and Flam's lemonade machine, and Queen Chrysalis also appears for a rematch against Twilight. The ensuing chaos gives Iron Will the chance to grab the Crystal Heart. However, thanks to the efforts of the Mane Six, Shining Armor, and Princess Cadance, the situation is quickly brought under control, and the culprits are captured.
Unfortunately, the Crystal Heart has gone missing, for Iron Will's bag has been switched with another, and Chrysalis reveals that the attack was all just a distraction to lure the ponies away from the palace. Realizing that Cadance may be in danger, Shining Armor races to save her.
Meanwhile, the cloaked pony—with the Crystal Heart in her possession—uses her magic to enter King Sombra's personal study under the palace throne room. The pony reveals herself as Radiant Hope, the mare who befriended Sombra a thousand years ago before he turned evil. She finds Sombra's shattered horn, and Sombra's spirit appears before her, still angry and resentful of her betrayal.
Claiming to want to make things right, Radiant Hope uses her healing magic to restore Sombra's physical form.
A flashback to a thousand years ago shows Radiant Hope growing up in a Crystal Empire orphanage and befriending a young Sombra. She would discover a talent for healing magic, be invited to study under Princess Celestia and Princess Luna, and witness Sombra's descent into darkness. After Sombra is defeated and the Empire disappears, Radiant Hope is unable to focus on her magic studies and leaves for the Arctic Wastes. There, she encounters the umbrum and learns of Sombra's true nature—as well as of a possible way to save him.
In present day, Radiant Hope explains to Sombra that she traveled to the umbrum's realm, recognizing them as the pixies that only she could see as a filly, and that Sombra was meant to be their champion and protect them from those who would do them harm – such as the princesses. Upon learning that Radiant Hope has the Crystal Heart, Sombra races to the surface to exact his revenge. Cadance notices this and runs off to alert Celestia and Luna.
Back outside, as dark clouds gather in the sky, Shining Armor hurries to save Cadance, but Sombra intercepts him. Sombra proceeds to release the other villains from captivity, forcing the Mane Six to battle them a second time. This time, the Mane Six are defeated and captured, and Twilight fights both Chrysalis and Sombra. After Sombra seals Twilight's magic, Chrysalis thinks their victory is assured, but Sombra thinks otherwise.
Just then, Princess Celestia and Princess Luna arrive. They engage Chrysalis and Sombra in battle until Radiant Hope intervenes to stop them from hurting Sombra again. Hope's intervention allows Sombra to cast a spell that turns Celestia and Luna to stone, much to Hope's horror and Chrysalis' delight.
With Celestia and Luna trapped in stone, Sombra prepares to do the same to Twilight, but he is too weakened to do so. After Radiant Hope convinces him to spare Twilight, Sombra makes plans to set the umbrum free. Chrysalis opposes this plan, saying the umbrum are vicious monsters and that there will be no emotions for the changelings to feed on if they are freed. With opposition from both Sombra and Hope, however, Chrysalis is forced to go along with it.
As Sombra and Hope return to the palace, Sombra tells Hope to stay in the throne room while he goes to his study alone. Back outside, with the threat of the umbrum looming, Chrysalis and her changelings prepare to leave. The other villains, having doubts about their actions, look to Chrysalis for guidance, but Chrysalis says she doesn't care what happens to them. After taunting Twilight once more, Chrysalis flies away from the Empire with her swarm.
In the palace throne room, Cadance approaches Radiant Hope, and Hope notices Cadance's resemblance to Princess Amore. Cadance tries to convince Hope that Sombra's intentions for the Empire are evil, but Hope refuses to listen. She goes to warn Sombra, but Cadance—successfully casting dark magic—closes off the path to Sombra's study.
Cadance once again tries to convince Hope that the umbrum are evil, but Hope disagrees, having lived among them for centuries without aging. In an attempt to understand Hope's view, Cadance asks if she can meet the umbrum, and Hope eagerly agrees. She teleports them to the red crystal spire in the Arctic Wastes, and they pass through into the umbrum's world. In this strange, colorless world, Cadance meets the pixie-like umbrum that Hope has made close friends with. Wary of being in a princess's presence, an umbrum named Rabia tells Cadance not to use her magic while in this world, and Cadance agrees.
Back at the Empire, Twilight tries in vain to break Sombra's sealing magic on her horn. Shining Armor reminds the rest of the Mane Six of the harmony they share with Twilight, and when they tell Twilight how much they believe in her, the friendship magic between them breaks Sombra's spell.
In the umbrum's world, Cadance sees the umbrum as cute, friendly, and welcoming. But when she uses her magic to illuminate a dark room, the umbrum are revealed to be monstrous and grotesque. They drop the act completely and reveal that they were only using Hope to resurrect Sombra and set them free. Faced with the true horror of the umbrum, Cadance and Hope flee to the outside world, and Hope teleports them inside Sombra's study.
Realizing how wrong she was about the umbrum, Hope urges Sombra not to release them. Sombra is about to do just that when Twilight and her friends arrive to stop him. In a fit of rage, Twilight blasts Sombra with magic, but Hope jumps in front of him to receive the attack herself. As Hope falls injured, an enraged Sombra opens the door keeping the umbrum imprisoned and unleashes them upon the ponies.
Some time after the previous issue, the umbrum have completely taken over the Crystal Empire, and the captured Twilight and Cadance are brought before "Emperor" Sombra to be sentenced. The umbrum demand the location of the rest of the Mane Six, who Twilight and Cadance helped escape, but they refuse to talk. When the umbrum use Shining Armor as a bargaining chip, Cadance reveals that Twilight's friends are in a remote place called Canterine. Despite Cadance's compliance, Sombra turns Shining Armor to stone.
Sombra prepares to turn Twilight and Cadance to stone as well, but Twilight stops him, saying it must be in public in order to truly quell the rebellion. She suggests doing it on the dais where the Crystal Heart was kept, and the umbrum agree.
Sombra goes to fetch "Empress" Hope from her room, but she only stares blankly out the window. Sombra informs Hope of Twilight and Cadance's upcoming public petrification and his plans to invade other cities in Equestria, but Hope doesn't listen. She realizes how wrong she was all along and recognizes Sombra as the monster he is. When Sombra says this is the destiny that the Crystal Heart showed him as a colt, Hope argues that she doesn't believe in destiny, having abandoned her own destiny as a princess. Nevertheless, she resigns herself to be Sombra's unwilling co-ruler.
As Sombra prepares to carry out Twilight and Cadance's petrification, Twilight's friends appear with some of their Ponyville friends to launch a rebellious attack. Rabia puts a stop to the attack and tells Sombra to turn the princesses to stone. Hope suddenly speaks up and takes out the Crystal Heart. She says as long as the Heart is whole, the umbrum can be locked away again.
Rabia tells Sombra to smash the Crystal Heart, but Sombra hesitates, remembering the first time he saw himself as a monster—his supposed destiny. Now all he sees in the Heart is his reflection. Realizing the meaning of Hope's earlier words, Sombra thanks her and places the Heart on its pedestal, much to Rabia's shock. The Heart's magic drags the umbrum back into their prison below the Empire.
With the umbrum gone, Twilight and Cadance are freed from their chains, and Celestia and Luna are returned to normal. Being an umbrum himself, Sombra begins to fade away, but he is glad to finally be able to witness the Crystal Faire. Before Sombra vanishes completely, Hope uses her magic to maintain his form. With the princesses' help, Sombra is transformed into a real unicorn.
For Sombra's role in saving Equestria from the umbrum, the princesses give him a second chance to decide his own destiny. Sombra decides to use this second chance to find the fragments of Princess Amore that he scattered across Equestria and restore her, and Radiant Hope accompanies him.
- Flim: Why do these Apples care so much? Who asked them to be hall monitors of all Equestria?
- Flam: It's a bum rap, it is. Every time we set up it's like Apples fall right out of the trees.
- Iron Will: Iron Will doesn't know, Bertha. It's like Iron Will has lost all his charisma. Even the other goats have left me.
- Bertha: Baaa!
- Iron Will: You're right! I did say me! Now I said I! Iron Will is losing it!
- Lightning Dust: You know, I outraced Rainbow Dash at every turn. I just had the guts to do what needed to be done to win and she cared more about making friends. Why does a Wonderbolt need friends? I should be a Wonderbolt right now and she should be the one sitting here.
- Twilight Sparkle: What are you two doing here?
- Flam: Just selling our legitimate wares, ma'am. You remember our old Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 3000, right?
- Twilight Sparkle: Do I? That was the worst cider I've ever tasted!
- Rarity: There may not be a dungeon deep enough for the offense you've just committed, but Celestia knows I'll keep looking! Security!
- Pinkie Pie: I know what you're thinking. That's a party cannon. There's no way she could stop me with a party cannon, is there? Well, you've gotta wonder: would Pinkie Pie reload a party cannon with a real cannonball just for a good laugh? Well, whattya think? Do ya feel lucky, punk?
- Queen Chrysalis: You've gotten a little stronger, Twilight. You're almost a match for me now.
- Twilight Sparkle: Chrysalis, I was a match for you when I was a foal. And all you've gotten is older.
- Radiant Hope: Look at me, Sombra. Do you recognize me? What's my name?
- King Sombra: Hope.
- King Sombra: The king has returned. Long live the king!
- Radiant Hope: It was wonderful, Sombra! Your people are amazing!
- King Sombra: My people? My people are monsters, just like me.
- King Sombra: So, little pony, you're a princess now.
- Queen Chrysalis: Now this was worth waiting for.
- Lightning Dust: Let's make this quick.
- Iron Will: Iron Will is ready to bring the pain!
- Flim: Ready, brother?
- Flam: Indubitably, brother.
- Queen Chrysalis: Oh, little princess... You're the only one left. No more friends. No more family. No more harmony. How will you ever match me now?
- Twilight Sparkle: You still don't understand, Chrysalis. Friendship doesn't go away just because you hurt my friends. That just makes me fight harder!
- King Sombra: How I've longed for this revenge. Goodbye, princesses.
- Twilight Sparkle: As long as I still have the strength to stand, I will see to it that you are punished for what you did to Celestia and Luna.
- King Sombra: You're a brave fool, Twilight Sparkle.
- Twilight Sparkle: And you're a vicious coward.
- Queen Chrysalis: I am a queen and you will show me the respect befitting a queen.
- King Sombra: This seems like the perfect amount of respect for a queen of insects. A queen of vermin.
- Iron Will: Iron Will is feeling leery about this.
- Lightning Dust: He's saying he's scared and I don't blame him.
- Iron Will: Iron Will is scared of nothing! But Iron Will has a family! He didn't want to overthrow the kingdom!
- Princess Cadance: Well, I wish I hadn't seen any of this.
- Radiant Hope: You can't judge everything by its appearance, princess.
- Princess Cadance: What about its smell? Can I judge it on that?
- Fluttershy: I believe our friendship is stronger than Sombra's magic. I believe that there is nothing we can't do together. I believe in you, Twilight.
- Rabia: Oh. Finally be quiet, you numbskull. You only had one job! You were to resurrect Sombra and set us free! But instead, you bring a princess to our doorstep!
- Twilight Sparkle: You hurt my friends! You hurt my family! You made me doubt myself! Now it's time you learned a lesson!
- King Sombra: You want to fight monsters, little pony? I'll give you monsters!
- Umbrum: All hail Emperor Sombra!
- Princess Cadance: Canterine. The rebels are in Canterine.
- Rabia: You see, Emperor Sombra, she can be reasonable. You may fire when ready.
- Princess Cadance: What?
- Rabia: You're far too trusting. Canterine is far too remote to make an effective demonstration—but don't worry, we'll deal with your rebel friends soon enough.
- Radiant Hope: No more talk about destiny, Sombra. I've never believed in it. You're the only thing I've ever believed in.
- Pinkie Pie: All right, ponies, this is the final line between light and darkness. We are the defenders of that line. We are the nightlight that keeps the world safe from monsters. We are the candles in the relaxing bubble bath of the world. We are the annoying light that your neighbor across the street keeps on all night. What does he need that light on all night for? Who's using that?
- Rarity: Eat fashion, villains!
- Umbrum: I can't see! They're too fabulous!
- King Sombra: Hope?
- Radiant Hope: Yes, Sombra?
- King Sombra: Thank you.
- Rabia: No! Sombra, what are you doing?!
- King Sombra: Making my own destiny.
- King Sombra: You four? Why are you helping me?
- Princess Cadance: I'm the princess of the Crystal Empire. The empire you just saved.
- Twilight Sparkle: And it was your friendship that saved the day. Friendship is kinda my thing.
- Princess Celestia: If Twilight is a believer, then so are we. Right, sister?
- Princess Luna: I would follow Twilight anywhere.
- Sombra: I thought I would start by forgiving someone myself. Princess Amore deserves a second chance.
- Radiant Hope: Amore? But you... killed her.
- Sombra: Not killed. Shattered.
- Radiant Hope: What?
- Sombra: I made her into a statue and scattered her pieces across Equestria. If you helped me rebuild the statue...
- Radiant Hope: We could save her?! We could bring her back?!
- Sombra: I think so.