The King & Shy

After a terrible storm sweeps through the Everfree, Fluttershy finds the weakened but still powerful King Sombra on her doorstep. Unable to resist his dark magic, she finds herself trapped by a spell that forces her to aid him, protect him, and heal him until he is strong once more, all while keeping his revival a secret from her friends. Unwilling to risk bringing her friends into the situation and endanger them, Fluttershy decides on a riskier tactic
If she could reform Discord, why not the Tyrant of the Crystal Empire. After all, with his spell keeping her from betraying his presence, it might be her only hope. Can she kill the Dark King with Kindness? Or will the ancient sorcerer once more stretch his shadow across Equestria?
http://www.fimfiction.net/story/328886/the-king-shy

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5. A New Day

The light of Celestia’s dawn broke through Fluttershy’s window to play along the floorboards and glinting pictures in her room. The reflection caught Fluttershy’s sleeping face and she flinched from the intrusion. Groggily, she blinked away the drowsiness of the early morning. She was used to waking up with the roosters, as Applejack said it, and was often up and about hours before the rest of Ponyville.

This morning, though, was different. Instead of getting out of bed, looking ahead to a day of tending to her animals, catching up with her friends, and the general easy-going life that she loved about a small place like Ponyville. Yesterday had changed all of that though. Now, she was fighting for her life and, worse, she had to do it alone.

Five minutes ticked by as Fluttershy languished in the paradoxically cheery dawn as she tried to work up the energy to get out of bed. She knew that it would get easier once she started but the initial impetus was eluding her. She couldn’t lay in bed forever, either. She didn’t know if the Master was much of a morning pony but she got the impression that he probably was. A scowl inched its way across Fluttershy’s face as she rolled onto her back and glared up at her ceiling.

Master, she thought, I just called him ‘Master’ in my own head. I can’t even get away from him in my mind. What is he doing to me?

It was the geasa. It had to be. Sombra had told her that he hadn’t done anything to her mind beyond the initial spell but she didn’t know if she believed him. He had been nothing but brutally honest with her since the beginning so even knowing who and what he was Fluttershy found it hard to distrust him. That and he had no reason to lie to her. She couldn’t defy him. Fluttershy told herself that over and over but in the end she kept coming back to back to same argument.

Why can’t I defy him? Fluttershy fought another wave of tears as she kicked her covers off and rolled out of bed and onto her hooves. Even when I’m allowed to it’s like… I don’t want to. Is it really just… me?

It felt like her mind was filled with a buzzing white noise as Fluttershy stepped out into her living room and made her way to the kitchen, the air was chilly and summer was fading. Soon the leaves would begin turning, the Running of the Leaves would be held, and soon after that she would have to say goodbye to her hibernating animal friends until next year.

‘If I’m even still here next year,” Fluttershy muttered softly as she began boiling water for the morning tea. “I wonder if I’ll even make it to the end of the Fall?”

“I should think so.” A deep voice answered Fluttershy’s self-directed question, startling the butter-yellow pegasus from her grim imaginings.

Glancing over at the hallway she saw Sombra standing at the threshold of the hall watching her. He looked… good. Better than yesterday at least. He stood a little straighter, she hadn’t noticed it before but he had almost seemed to sag with the weight of his own body yesterday. Now he was… much healthier-looking.

“Forgive me, your Majesty,” Fluttershy turned and curtsied, bowing her head as she did. “I did not hear you wake up or I would have hastened to make up some breakfast.”

Sombra seemed to consider this for a moment before he shook his head. “No, I think not,” he cut through Fluttershy’s instinctive protest like a fine blade as he continued past her to the living room window and peered outside. “I can safely assume they serve breakfast foods in the village proper, yes?”

Fluttershy nodded silently as the teapot began to whistle. Moving mostly by instinct, she began the process of adding her own personal mixture. Fresh, black Minotauran tea leaves along with the pit of a fresh peach and a peelings of an apple from Sweet Apple Acres.

“Good, you spoke of acquiring a bedframe for my chambers, I have decided to accompany you on your errands,” Sombra gave a faint sniff as he spoke before giving Fluttershy an approving nod. “A most fragrant mixture, mouse. I approve.”

“Ah… thank you, your Majesty,” Fluttershy was still processing his declaration. She couldn’t rightly tell him ‘no’. Literally, in fact. But…

Shaking her head Fluttershy checked the tea with a sniff and nodded. It was done. If it the fragrance was too thin then the steeping would not be complete, but too overpowering and the flavors would be overpowering, the sweetness of the apple and the peach clashing with the bitter sharpness of the leaves. She had perfected this mixture some time ago though, and it irked her that she hoped Sombra liked it.

“May I ask how your Majesty intends to move about the village?” Fluttershy asked softly as she poured two generous measures of tea. As she turned to face the King she nearly stumbled  and dropped the tea at what she saw.

A darkly handsome stallion was sitting at the table where Sombra had been. His coat was not quite as dark as the King’s, and his horn was the more traditional spiral cone instead of the sharp, hooked blade that the Tyrant was known for. His eyes no longer flickered with emerald and lavender power, but were instead a warm shade of amber. His mane was still a rakish tumbledown, but combined with his slighter frame the whole of him was almost dangerously charming. Fluttershy felt her heart beat deafeningly for a few moments as she tried to will the image of the Slaver King overtop of this new intruder. There were many similarities, true. His expression was still a confident smirk, though much of the cruelty was lost along with the fangs. His eyes glimmered with hidden depths but now she could easily imagine it was with intellect and humor, rather than with wickedness like before. His cutie mark was very strange too, a horned and bisected circle surrounded by a triangle on top of a plain cross.

“Did I not tell you, mouse?” The new stallion asked playfully as he telekinetically retrieved his teacup. “I am Coal Axiom, humble researcher and scholar of the Imperial College, come to Ponyville to witness the unusual flora and fauna and magical phenomena of the Everfree Forest firsthoof.” Smirking, he took a sip of the tea before humming appreciatively at the robust flavor.

Fluttershy joined him nervously at the table with her own tea. Silently, she took in his new form which Sombra seemed not to mind.

When he did speak again, he reached across the table and cupped a hoof beneath Fluttershy’s chin. His touch was delicate, gentle even. As if he was actually concerned that he might harm her. “And you, mouse, are simply a kind-hearted Pegasus caretaker who generously offered to open her guest room to a weary traveler so he might be nearer to his place of interest.”

Fluttershy shivered. She didn’t know if it was out of disgust, fear, or… something else. Surprisingly, she didn’t find herself disliking the sensation of his touch. Sombra’s hoof was featherlight on her fur, barely even brushing her skin. A part of her desperately wanted to tell him to stop but the rest of her was frustratingly noncompliant. Sombra brushed her cheek almost affectionately with his hoof before pulling it away and returning to his tea.

Stop it, Fluttershy thought angrily to herself. You’re not allowed to be unhappy that he stopped. You’re relieved that he took his evil hoof off of you and you feel much better now that he isn’t touching you anymore. Right?

“As you say, your Majesty,” were the only words that came out of her mouth.

Right?

++

“Tell me about yourself, mouse,” Sombra said, breaking the silence that had persisted since they had begun the long trot to the village center. “I would know more of my servant before I begin interacting with the plebeian masses alongside.”

“That’s not a very nice way to talk about them, you Majesty,” Fluttershy responded a little sullenly. “They’re ponies too, good ponies. I’ve known many of them for years.”

Sombra smirked and gave a derisive snort. “They are still the common masses, no matter how you paint them. They will always be tarred by the brush of mediocrity until they are forced to rise above it, as you have. Now, I have entertained your side-topic, you will answer my question.”

Fluttershy winced, and Sombra felt a faint pang of annoyance. Her small, and likely accidental disregard of his initial order had caused the geasa to lash out, punishing her for the small disobedience. Well, that was her fault either way. Had he not generously explained the limits and boundaries of the enchantment? She would learn in time, though. In truth the retributive pangs she had suffered since he had ensnared her mind were markedly fewer than he had expected. Sombra chalked that up to her naturally servile attitude.

“As you say, your Majesty,” Fluttershy answered after taking a steadying breath. “I’m twenty-four years old and was born in Cloudsdale. I grew up serving one of the few remaining aristocratic Pegasi houses. I attended primary and secondary schooling with excellent grades, although my grades in Flight School were very poor as I’ve never been a strong flier. After I came of age I earned an apprenticeship under Ponyville’s previous veterinarian, Misty Piper, I took on her post after she retired five years ago. Soon after that I met my current group of friends, Pinkie, Applejack, Twilight, and Rarity. Rainbow Dash I’ve known since I was a foal. Together we recovered the lost Elements of Harmony and cleansed Nightmare Moon, turning her back into Princess Luna.”

Sombra stopped stock still at her last words, Fluttershy glanced back with confusion painting her features. “Your Majesty? Uhm, are you okay?”

“You said you recovered the Elements of Harmony?” Sombra’s voice was low and deadly and Fluttershy’s eyes widened slightly in alarm at his tone. After several seconds she gave a small nod.

“I was given custody of the Element of Kindness,” Fluttershy said, worry clear on her face. Sombra could hardly believe his ears, “although we had to return them to the Tree of Harmony some months ago to keep it alive. Now we carry the powers of the Elements within us, at least, a little bit. I don’t really understand it, to be honest. Really, I’m just a caretaker.”

Impossible. The thought continued to race through Sombra’s mind as an alien sensation gripped his heart. Fear. The Elements had torn his power away from his, banished him, and stolen his kingdom. They were, arguably, the most powerful magical artifacts in existence. As inscrutable as they were impossible to manipulate. They were supposed to be wielded by the godlike Alicorns but now, to hear this tiny, insignificant pegasus living in the backend of nowhere tell it, their power was in other hooves. He wanted to accuse her of lying, a bitter irony, but he knew she wasn’t. He could hear it in her voice. The little mouse was genuinely confused.

“Who holds the power of the other Elements?” Sombra hissed, eliciting another flinch from Fluttershy as his geasa compelled the answer from her.

“My friends I mentioned,” she answered, her face contorted in pain. “Rainbow Dash is the Element of Loyalty, Applejack is Honesty, Rarity is Generosity, Pinkie Pie is Laughter, and Twilight is the last Element, Magic. Together we can use their power,”

“And you said you were forced to return the physical foci to the Tree of Harmony?” Sombra asked, stalking closer to Fluttershy. He could feel her desire to run away from him. Or even just to step away. The geasa compelled her to remain in his presence though. “Yet you still claim them?”

“Yes, your Majesty,” she answered. Tears were starting to form in her eyes and her legs were shaking. “After we returned them we discovered a chest with six locks on it by the Tree and over time we found the five of the keys. When a villain named Tirek, who had escaped Tartarus over a year ago, took our magic away did we find the last key and unlocked it. I don’t… remember very much of it but I know there was a bright rainbow, a pure light that became part of us. We used to to undo Tirek’s magic, return his stolen powers to the ponies he took them from, and banish him back to his prison.”

No. Disbelief shuddered through Sombra’s frame for a moment before he mastered himself. What she so casually speaks of… even in my time it was mere legend and fancy. The fabled remnants of myth but… how can she describe it so easily? I had to parse out the legends from a hundred conflicting tomes. If this little mare is telling the truth though then what she carries within her is more valuable than all of Equestria and the Crystal Empire combined.

“I see,” Sombra’s eyes were fixed on the little mare in front of him. “So you and your friends defeated Tirek the Betrayer, one of the last great Sorcerers, then? I will keep that in mind. Shall I expect your friends to be as unassuming as you are?”

Fluttershy nodded at first before stopping and saying, “Uhm, well, yes and no. Most of us are just regular Ponies, but Twilight is a Princess. She ascended after solving one of Starswirl the Bearded’s unfinished spells. If you look over there you can see her castle.”

Pointing her hoof east, Fluttershy gestured towards a glimmering spire. Sombra had wondered what it was but had dismissed it as tertiary to his other questions. Landmarks had not been high on his list of queries. Now that he looked at it more closely he make out the minarets and flags that flew from them.

“A fledgling Princess? Twilight is the purple one, I assume?” Sombra asked, not looking away from the castle in the distance.

“Uhm, yes, your Majesty.”

“Interesting, I had guessed at her nearness to Alicornhood when she defeated my traps in the Empire,” Sombra mused as he stepped back onto the road, “but I had not thought she would ascend so quickly, nor that should make her territory in such a backwater. I will have to take special care to avoid her direct arousing her suspicions.”

“As you say, your Majesty.”

“Now, tell me more about your friends,” Sombra said as he began walking towards town.

Sombra’s good humor had taken a backseat to his concern. Suddenly his choice of location for recovery seemed far more dangerous than he had initially guessed. Orders of magnitude moreso, in fact. Furthermore, if Fluttershy guessed at what he was truly doing then, with this new information in hoof, Sombra suspected no amount of pain or threat would stop her from outing him.

 

++

 

Normally Fluttershy found the distance between her home and Ponyville to be almost reassuring. The introverted Pegasus liked being far away from even the limited bustle and excitement of civilization that the small village represented. When she did have to go into town on one of her errands, usually grocery shopping or her weekly spa visit with Rarity, she enjoyed the long, leisurely walk as a way to collect her thoughts, prepare herself for interacting with lots of Ponies all at once, and to enjoy the lovely countryside all around her. It was peaceful.

‘Was’.

Fluttershy couldn’t help but feel nervous walking alongside Sombra ever since their conversation. He seemed much more on edge than she had ever seen him. Even when he was collapsed in her backyard he had seemed collected. Controlled. Now it was almost like he was… frightened. Or at least concerned. On the one hoof that was good, right? It meant there was something he was afraid of. If he was afraid of being beaten it meant he could be beaten. On the other hoof, though, it also made him a lot scarier. Fluttershy knew firsthoof how bad choices could be made out of fear. Sometimes it felt as though she had lived most of her life in a constant state of fear. Sombra didn’t seem like the type to act rashly and, as terrifying as he was, Flutterhsy actually took some comfort in his cold and calculating nature. His fear seemed to sap some of that from him. The third-hoof problem was that his concern had put up a wall between them. She felt cut off from him and if she couldn’t reach him how was she supposed to reform him?

In the end, that’s still my best chance to make it out of this, Fluttershy thought to herself as they approached. Maybe… maybe I just have to be a little brave this time. Like I was last night.

Mustering up all of her courage, Fluttershy sidled a little closer to Sombra and leaned in. Keeping her touch as soft and light as one of her feathers, Fluttershy gave him a gentle nuzzle on the side of his right foreleg. Sombra flinched violently and stopped, whirling his head around to stare at her. Bracing for an outburst, Fluttershy opened her mouth to speak first, keeping her voice calm, quiet, and even, just like she did when she was with an injured animal.

“Whatever is bothering you, your Majesty, you can always tell me about it,” Fluttershy said, not daring to look anywhere but his eyes. “Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t tell anypony. Just because it wasn’t my choice to take care of you doesn’t mean I won’t do my very best to help you get better. I just… I just wanted you to know that, your Majesty.”

For once, the mighty king seemed completely lost for words. He opened his mouth slightly but nothing came out. Some of the tension had left his haunches though and, feeling daring, Fluttershy took a risk. Taking another step closer, she leaned in and rest her head on his shoulder in a kind of half-hug. She didn’t dare try to put her forelegs around him. Fluttershy had a strong feeling that would be going a step too far.

Baby steps, she thought to herself, and maybe one day we’ll get there.

It felt like an eternity passed before a little more of the tension left his body and, to Fluttershy’s surprise, Sombra lowered his head slightly to press it against her own. She risked another soft nuzzle against his cheek, and this time he didn’t flinch or move away.

“You’re a fool, little mouse,” Sombra said, his voice very quiet. “You have no grasp of the depths I will sink to. No idea how deep my cruelty runs. You will regret your kindness to me, I promise you that.”

Fluttershy pulled away slowly to meet his gaze. Though his frame was still that of ‘Coal Axiom’, Sombra’s eyes were once again limned with dark magic. Strangely, she almost preferred him that way. It was unnerving but… it was him. It wasn’t a disguise.

Taking a deep breath, Fluttershy slowly shook her head side to side. “Respectfully, your Majesty, I will never regret showing anypony kindness.” She gave him a small smile, it was a little weak, and a little shaky, but it was genuine. One of the first real deliberate smiles she had shown him since he had arrived. “Even you deserve kindness. If anything, I’ll make you regret dismissing it in the first place,” suddenly realising the rashness of what she had just said, Fluttershy stuttered out, “if… if that’s okay with you, I mean, your Majesty.”

Rather than be angry, Sombra smirked. “Be careful, mouse, there is a difference between being forthright, and being unfiltered.” Shaking his head, Fluttershy was pleased to see his expression had returned to the more comfortable and confident grin.

Too relieved that her gambit had succeeded, Fluttershy was taken by surprise as Sombra leaned down and pressed his forehead to hers, carefully keeping his horn to the side. Shocked at his uncharacteristic, and blatant, display of affection, he almost missed his next words.

“There is no worse fool than a well-intentioned one,” Sombra muttered.

“Well, if it pleases your Majesty, I would rather be a well-intentioned fool than miss everything good in life,” Fluttershy answered with a small chuckle, a little surprised by her own bravery.

Don’t think about how comfortable this feels, Fluttershy tried to work up some indignation but, to be fair, she had started it, even if she hadn’t expected him to return it. Don’t. Don’t. Do- oh… ponyfeathers, it’s allowed to feel nice.

“We’ll see,” Sombra answered, eliciting a small giggle.

“Hey Fluttersh- Woah!” A loud impact nearby told Fluttershy all she needed to know about who had just interrupted their little moment.

Her head still cradled under Sombra’s, Fluttershy turned to glance over at the cyan Pegasus that had hit the ground to her right. She heard Sombra snort with amusement and Fluttershy could only chuckle a little too... Rainbow had a shell-shocked look on her face as she stared at the two of them that was, honestly, really funny.

“Good morning, Rainbow,” Fluttershy said, extracting herself from Sombra who, surprisingly, seemed a little reluctant. “How's the morning shift going?”

“Uh, okay I guess?” Rainbow answered after retrieving her jaw. “Are, uh, are you two like…” Rainbow Dash gestured back and forth between Sombra and Fluttershy, the latter of whom blushed softly.

“Oh, uhm, sorry, this is… Coal Axiom,” Fluttershy looked to Sombra who gave her a small, approving nod. “He’s from the Crystal Empire and came here to study the plants and animals in the Everfree. I offered him room and board since I’m the only one who lives anywhere near it.”

Rainbow raised an eyebrow before glancing over at ‘Coal’ and looking him up and down with a critical eye. Starting at the tip of his horn, she looked him up and down. However, her methodical pace meant that as her eyes drifted below his neck, she missed the faint spark of dark energy that lit momentarily from his horn.

Fluttershy did not.

She almost cried out as Rainbow’s eyes lost focus and her expression glazed over, but a second later she snapped back to reality and gave both them a crooked smile.

“Yeah, alright, he seems cool,” Rainbow said, smirking. “Not as cool as me though, and like, point-seven-five Rainbow’s on the Awesome scale, I dig the black on black.” looking Fluttershy, Rainbow winked. “Nice catch Flutters, Rarity is gonna flip her horn when she sees this, anyway I’m on the clock, so… laters!”

Rainbow Dash vanished in a prismatic blur, leaving a faintly blushing Fluttershy standing beside a smug-looking Sombra.

“What did you do to my friend?” Fluttershy asked. A pang of discomfort in her head made her add, “your Majesty,” to the end.

“Nothing dangerous, I assure you,” Sombra answered with a small grin. “I simply ‘suggested’ that she see me in a favorable light, nothing more. No need to risk a bad first impression, after all.”

Fluttershy wasn’t going to let go that easily, and she eyed him suspiciously. “You didn’t… geas her?”

Sombra laughed. “No, my dear. Maintaining a geas is not light work. Besides it would be unnecessary. No, I simply took advantage of your friend’s natural inclinations. Her brazenness and attitude told me she was the type to go on her gut and discard any extra thought as superfluous. If I had waited until she made her own mind up then I would have had to waste a great deal of time convincing her otherwise. Her type will take their first inclination and gallop with it come high tides or Tartarus. So before she made up her mind I gave her a nudge in the other direction. Started the ball rolling, so to speak. Her own nature gave it all the momentum that was needed after that.”

His explanation seemed sound, not that Fluttershy was an expert on a field like mind magic. Still… “I don’t like the idea of you doing things to my friend’s minds, your Majesty.”

Sombra scowled, and as he did so Fluttershy gasped at the flood of pain that suddenly filled her mind, setting off fireworks behind her eyes. As they faded she found herself still standing, Sombra’s magic keeping her in place.

“I have given you far more leeway than any servant I have ever owned, mouse,” Sombra growled. “But do not, even for a moment, imagine that you are my equal. What you approve of is neither my concern nor my responsibility. I shall act as is needed to ensure my recovery is as smooth as possible, is that clear?”

Fluttershy’s mouth was dry, her stomach clenched in pain, and her heart felt like she had just finished going two rounds with a dragon, but she nodded silently. That wasn’t what he had been looking for, however, as another spike of pain jabbed into her mind.

“I said: is that clear?”

This time his voice was low and deadly.

“Crystal clear, your Majesty.”

 
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