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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16. Act 2 ~ What She Left Behind

The weeks following the battle on the Everfree verge was a storm of secret meetings and grim decisions. Rainbow Dash and Applejack, along with the Royal Guard Commander and Master-at-Arms of the Equestrian Regulars, had been all for putting out a wanted poster and making an announcement of Sombra’s return but Celestia and Luna both put the kibosh on the idea immediately. Sombra was both a deadly sorcerer, an accomplished cerebramancer, and a skilled shapeshifter; he wouldn’t be recognized anywhere he went even with a wanted poster plastered over every city wall. Fluttershy was likely benefiting from the same obfuscating magics as Sombra was as well. Making the announcement would just start a panic and announcing his ability to shapeshift would just have the whole populace jumping at shadows.

No, starting a panic would just create the kind of chaos that Sombra thrived on exploiting. All traces of his passage would vanish like footprints on a trampled path and they would never find either the dark king or Fluttershy. There was no sign of the pair in the Forest or around it. Not one of the searchers believed that Sombra and Fluttershy perished in the dangerous woods. Not only did nopony think Sombra was vulnerable enough to fall to some forest beast, but the Princesses were certain that if anything happened to Fluttershy the Elements would certainly react.

Life, of course, went on in Ponyville in spite of the tumult and upset that followed the fight and flashing lights. Nopony but those few present at the time knew that Celestia had been soundly beaten; through trickery and guile perhaps but beaten nonetheless. Luna took the fore after her sister’s defeat at Sombra’s treacherous hooves, mobilizing her much more adaptable and stealth-capable Lunar Guard to begin sweeping the Everfree and its surrounding townships. At first, Twilight and her remaining friends had expected to hear of success within the week. Then the week passed. Then a month.

 

~One Month Later~

 

A knock resounded through the foyer of the Castle of Friendship, rapid and panicked. It was early in the morning and Twilight snapped awake instantly. For a moment she had the absurd thought that it had all been a dream. That Fluttershy was knocking on the door and this time she could do things right. Her logical mind quashed that insane notion seconds later and was reinforced by the sound of Rainbow Dash’s voice hollering something from the entrance hall. Twilight wiped the sleep from her eyes and blearily cantered out of her room and down the hall to where a very agitated Rainbow Dash was waiting.

“Dash, what’s wrong?” Twilight asked, her brain foggy but she felt herself wake up a little at the panic on Rainbow’s face.

“It’s Scootaloo! She’s gone!” Rainbow yelled, causing Twilight to flinch.

Holding up a hoof, Twilight tried to focus through the rude awakening she’d just had. “Okay, okay just hold on. You mean she ran off again? She just got out of the hospital, didn’t she have an orderly assigned to stay with her at the orphanage for the next week?”

“She didn’t run off, Twilight, she was transferred!” Rainbow hissed. “Transferred to some other orphanage in Manehattan! In the middle of the night, apparently!”

Twilight blinked in confusion as her coffee deprived mind slowly assimilated that information. “T-thats not right… that’s- I mean, it’s technically legal but it’s a really gray area.”

“Exactly,” Rainbow said darkly. “When I asked about it I was told that the paperwork was all in order and that the transfer was happening that day to facilitate a smoother adoption process.”

“Scootaloo got adopted?!” Twilight felt a small rush of joy for a moment before the realisation set in on what that meant. “But that’s a months-long process normally! It takes weeks to ensure the prospective parents are properly vetted and financially situated! Then there’s reams of paperwork to fill out and-”

Rainbow tapped her hoof on Twilight’s nose, interrupting her train of thought. “Yeah, maybe for normal folk, but apparently these ‘parents’ are some flavor of super-rich. Rules don’t apply to rich ponies Twi’, you came from a noble house you should know that. These ponies basically just paid to have all that crap taken care of.”

“So who adopted her?” Twilight gestured for Rainbow to follow her into the kitchen where she grabbed the percolator and started brewing herself some coffee.

Rainbow just shook her head, ears flicking in frustration. “I don’t know. It’s a closed adoption so not even her birth parents would be legally allowed know, much less me.”

An uncomfortable silence settled over the kitchen, disturbed only by the sounds of the coffee percolating. Eventually, Twilight poured herself a cup and took a sip, her eyes pensive.

“Scootaloo will definitely contact you,” Twilight said finally. “You know that right? She wouldn’t just… ‘leave you hanging’.”

A grim smile crawled onto Rainbow’s muzzle. “I hope so. If not then I’m going to find her even if I have to turn the Canterhorn upside down and shake it.”

~ o ~

Across town, in the dim dawn light, Rarity threaded the needle at her work desk, carefully tying the delicate knot and preparing to correct the hem on her latest design. It wasn’t her best work, if she was being honest. Certainly a step beyond the bland offerings that this season had seen in her opinion but the fact that she knew she could do better irked her. It was the work of a few moments to make the correction and then her glittering magic whisked it off to settle onto a ponnequin. She couldn’t quite put her hoof on it but there was something lacking in her works lately. Her muse was mum on the matter but she felt it nonetheless. Her instincts screamed that she was missing some spark, something vital.

But she knew what it was already didn’t she? It was the same reason she was up at the wee hours working on a dress she had no passion for: she wasn’t working to create. Rarity was working to forget. She was throwing herself into her craft in order to find an escape from the guilt that was gnawing at her gut. A choice made in haste had led to terrible consequences and while she knew it was hardly her fault alone it was the fact that she had be party to it at all, and what that reflected of her character, that Rarity had an issue with. She had disappointed herself as well as one of her best friends. A friend she had respected maybe more than any other pony.

“Fluttershy…” Rarity muttered. The name set off a cascade of feelings that Rarity had gone to a great deal of trouble to bury and, like an avalanche, they rolled over her, engulfing her in their crushing weight. Tears rolled down her cheeks and, a moment later, small wracking sobs shook her feminine frame. “Fluttershy, I’m so sorry… I’m so, so sorry.”

I know.

A cold shiver ran down Rarity’s spine. Had she just heard something? A voice, a terribly familiar voice. Closing her eyes, Rarity tried to convince herself she had imagined the sound. It didn’t work. “F-Fluttershy?” She spoke again, this time with purpose in her voice.

Here. Come over here.

The voice had a very definite direction. It was coming from her room and Rarity immediately tore into a gallop, knocking her latest creation from its perch as she ran. Bursting into her room. Her room was turned away from the sun to ensure the morning rays didn’t ruin her beauty sleep and, since she hadn’t lit any of the magelights nor opened the curtains, so it was nearly pitch black. Rarity glanced about after lighting one of the smaller lamps on her nightstand but saw nothing out of the ordinary.

“Am I really losing my mind after all this?” Rarity said with a small, nervous laugh.

Tap tap… tap… tap tap

A noise sounded from Rarity’s vanity, lighting the slightly larger magelight built into the top of the mirror, she realised that there was one thing out of the ordinary; a letter in a thick, old-style envelope sealed with black wax. As she picked it up in her magic, curious at the weight and archaic look of the thing, a glint of something bright caught Rarity’s eye in the mirror. A pale yellow form moving in the mellow darkness reflected by the glass. Snapping around, her breath caught in her throat as Rarity saw… nothing. Her room was as is as empty as it was when she opened the door. Turning the letter over, Rarity read her own name, penned in mouthwriting she knew as well as her own. Carefully unsealing the envelope, Rarity set the black wax, embossed with a spiked crown naturally, aside and drew out the letter:

 

 

Dear Rarity

I know that I hurt everypony when I left the way I did. Especially, I know that I hurt you. For that I wanted to tell you that I’m sorry. I still love each and every one of you so very much, so don’t ever doubt that. You are all so important to me. You’re my best friends. The truth is that I’m hurt too, though. What happened at Twilight’s castle shook me. I never imagined any of my friends would choose death over life no matter the scenario because, to me, that was what made us different from the ones we fought. It left me confused and in pain and feeling like my entire world was crumbling. The ponies I was closest too had chosen to take a life and I couldn’t handle that. I still believe that it was wrong but I also want you to know that I’m sorry for how I reacted. I should have tried harder to convince you, or gone to Celestia., or something that would have kept us together. I know that I had as much of a part in driving a wedge between us as anypony else.

I’m still working to overcome the impulses that the dark magic in me causes sometimes. It isn’t easy but I’m getting better at it and my love is teaching me how to control myself and my magic in a safe place. That’s the last reason I’m sending this letter. until I can trust myself to not act rashly when I see you all, I want you to stop looking for me. I need time to heal and time to make myself safe again.

But I still love and miss all of you.

I miss our spa dates especially, Rarity.

Love & Kisses

Fluttershy

P.S. By the way, please let Dashie know that she’s safe and happy. You’ll understand when you see what’s enclosed.

 

 

Tears trickled down Rarity’s muzzles as she put the letter away. A large part of her didn’t want to show it to anyone else, even though she knew she should. Sombra was teaching her dark magic but, at the same time, she remembered the look of madness on her friend’s face in the Council chambers after the verdict had been passed. That look of such manifold rage that twisted Fluttershy’s normally beatific features into something so horrible had been seared into Rarity’s mind. If there was even a chance that Sombra could help her then… maybe it was time she swallowed her pride and accepted that Fluttershy knew what she was doing. Certainly for all of Fluttershy’s demure kindness and shy mannerisms Rarity knew that her friend was at least as capable as any one of them in a pinch. Using magic to swiftly wipe the tears from her eyes, Rarity’s gaze fell on the post script. Her brow furrowed in concern and, curious, she shook the heavy envelope and, sure enough, something was inside. Turning it upside, she shook the envelope and snatched up what it contained in her magic before bringing it up to the light to examine it.

Rarity’s eyes widened in shock at what she realised she was holding.

 

~ o ~

 

Twilight and Rainbow Dash were finishing up an early breakfast when a soft, proper knocking came from the front door to the castle quickly followed by the sound of it opening.

“Twilight? Is Rainbow Dash here?” Rarity’s voice called out into the halls.

Rainbow gave her lavender friend a quizzical look before shouting back. “Yeah! We’re in the kitchen, what’s up Rares?”

The tapping sound of Rarity’s light-hoofed canter approached them moments before the white unicorn entered wearing a pair of hoof-made white blue saddlebags that matched her eyes. She looked a little worn around the edges but as beautiful as ever. She also looked… wary.

“Good morning, girls,” Rarity remarked in a voice that was a little weary. “Rainbow, I don’t suppose you happen to know where Scootaloo is at the moment? The orphanage hasn’t opened it’s public doors quite yet.”

The speedster’s eyes went wide with concern at the young pegasus’ name. “No, I don’t Rares, That’s why I’m here. She’s gone missing! How did you-”

Rarity held up a hoof before turning and rummaging through her saddlebags and pulling out a thick envelope. “I received this via… some kind of magic this morning. It’s from Fluttershy, I would know her mouthwriting anywhere and-” Rarity took out the letter and laid it down on the table “-it has quite a bit to say. But at the end are simply the words “She’s safe and happy.” along with this.

Rarity drew out the last item and set it on the table next to the letter. It was an orange covert, naturally shed by the look of it, with a black tip the color of dark ash.

 

~Two Months Later~

 

The broken throne of Kindness loomed in the quiet Council Chambers of Princess Twilight’s castle. The five former bearers and one drake sat around the map that had gone curiously dark since their sixth member had abandoned her post in protest of a damning verdict given by the castle’s owner. At the time it had happened Twilight had thought it was a good decision. She felt that it was the best decision she could make given the circumstances and the timeframe. Sombra was a war criminal; although his transgressions had occurred prior to any international statute it hardly diminished the cruelty of his actions. An entire people enslaved. An imperial war machine driven to expand and conquer without mercy by a ruthless tyrant. In the months following Fluttershy’s exodus at the side of Sombra, Twilight had delved into the secret histories of the insular Crystal Empire. Cadence and her brother had been forthcoming and sympathetic, as well as interested, in the contents of the once-forgotten manuscripts. The more Twilight read of the Shadow King the more she found herself both impressed and terrified of Sombra. When he deployed his armies there was no quarter given nor asked. No offer of surrender was ever made or accepted. It would begin with a messenger delivering a notice of annexation, not even a declaration of war, simply an edict marking the territory as a new part of the Empire. Then his armies would march in the next day armed to the teeth, brutally putting down any resistance. If the tribe or House controlling the land could muster an army there would usually be a small fight but it was always in vain. Sombra’s soldiers marched at the side of shadowy abominations created through dark sorcery; siege engines of black magic with only the command of their King for a mind.

It baffled Twilight to no end. This was the stallion she had chosen to forsake all vows and oaths for? That she chose to forsake her friends for? At first it had been infuriating, then maddening, then… thought provoking.

“Twilight,” Applejack started, tapping her hoof absent-mindedly on the dark map. “Ah understand why ya’ll wanna meet every so often but frankly we ain’t seen hide nor hair of Sombra or Fluttershy for darn near a season. It’s the dead’a winter now and the odds of hearin’ anything before spring is pretty much zilch barin’ a miracle.”

The rest of the group grimaced at Applejacks bald-faced summation but nopony disputed it; she wasn’t wrong after all. Ponies traveled infrequently in the winter and news traveled just as slowly. Twilight just shook her head, though.

“I didn’t bring you all here for an update,” she said, her voice had a curious, thoughtful quality to it. “I gathered the Council to ask everypony here a question. One I’ve already asked Cadence and my brother who couldn’t give me an answer.”

“Oh?” Rarity piped up, her interest piqued. “Ask away then, darling. I’m not sure what you’re expecting to get from us though that even your brother and a Princess couldn’t answer.”

Twilight fluffed out her wings anxiously for a moment before nodding. “Does anyone here actually know anything about Sombra? Not the King-” she quickly clarified as the voices of her friends raised in protest, “-I mean Sombra the pony. As an individual. There are lots of stories and historical documents recording what he did but… there’s nothing- and I mean nothing -about why he did anything or even what he was like. Not even a self-aggrandizing autobiography and even Blueblood has one of those! This was a stallion with access to an Empire’s worth of scribes, parchment, and ink and I haven’t been able to find a single sentence on the pony himself.”

The silence was deafening for a short while before, of all ponies, Pinkie piped up and said “He’s very sad.”

Everypony turned to face her in surprise. “Why would you say that, Pinkie?” Twilight asked.

Pinkie Pie shrugged. “I remember when he came to the Corner with Fluttershy. It was only once but… when I found out he was from the Crystal Empire I served him some crystalberry scones. I was hoping he could tell me if I’d gotten the recipe right but when he bit into it, I dunno, something happened. He got tears in his eyes and I got really afraid that I had messed up super badly but he told me that… that I had made them perfectly. He said that the scones had just reminded him of better times, before… before he came to power. I think that, uhm, I think he really hates who he became.”

“Then why the hay did he do it?!” Applejack practically shouted, slamming a hoof on the table. “Why would he do horrible things like that if he didn’t have to?!”

“Maybe he did, didja ever think of that?” Rainbow Dash shot back, stunning everypony.

Rarity  tapped her hoof awkward only the table. “Uhm, Rainbow, darling, would you like to, perhaps, qualify that statement a bit?”

“Sure I would,” Rainbow face was crossed in a scowl as she glared around at everypony but Pinkie. “I might not like Sombra but right now, according to Fluttershy, he’s taking care of Scootaloo. He risked a lot, and almost died, making sure Scootaloo would have the chance to fly. Sure, he’s got a bad rep, but I’ve seen the choices he makes for myself and I gotta say I can’t see that guy doing crap like the books say he did without a really good reason. So here’s the thing; when I think about what it would take to make me do some of that stuff you know what my answer is?” Everypony was staring at Rainbow in rapt attention, Twilight looked like she wanted to say something but was keeping her mouth shut. “My answer is: if one of you were in trouble. Or Scoots, Or Sweetie, or Applebloom. That’s what it would take. I dunno about you guys but if it meant keeping all of you safe then I’m not ashamed to say I’d so some pretty bucked up crap.”

“So you think he only did because he felt like he had to?” Twilight clarified, looking a little unsure. Rainbow just shrugged.

“Yeah, basically, or something like that anyway,” she answered, “I mean if it were me I’d do it but I sure as tartarus wouldn’t write it down for posterity. I wouldn’t be proud of it. Seems like the same sort of thing. Maybe I’m wrong, I dunno, but the Sombra in the stories sure doesn’t match up with the Sombra I’ve seen since he got his marbles back.”

“Ah ain’t gonna pretend ah wouldn’t do some dark things to keep mah family safe either, Rainbow,” Applejack joined in, “but the reason don’t matter none if whatcha did was wrong in the end. If ya’ll felt it was worth it well more power to ya but that don’t getcha outta being punished.”

Rainbow scowled but didn’t argue. After a moment she let out a breath and nodded. “Yeah, I guess that’s fair. I’d still do whatever I thought I needed to though.”

“I wouldn’t expect anything else from you, darling,” Rarity said, a little sadly. “I think that goes for all of us though does it not? We would all do things we wouldn’t necessarily be proud of depending on the reasons. Especially for family.”

Twilight nodded. “I would give my left hoof to know what made Sombra do the things he did, or at least to know the truth. Stories aren’t always right after all. I really messed up when I made that decision, didn’t I?”

“Yeah,” Rainbow answered dryly, prompting a gentle swat to the back of her polychromatic head by Applejack.

“Don’tcha go makin’ her feel worse, flygirl, it was a rough state for us all,” the farmmare remarked.

“I hope they’re doing better now though,” Pinkie said with a small smile. “I just want them to be happy. I want to see my friend again too but… I want her to be smiling more than anything.”

“I’m certain we’ll see her again, my dear,” Rarity answered, putting her hoof over Pinkie’s. “Fluttershy just needs time, like the letter said.”

“But we’re not going to stop looking, even if we don’t have good odds of finding them,” Twilight said sternly. “I know what Fluttershy asked but I still don’t trust Sombra. I can’t, not yet.”

A round of agreeing nods answered the lavender Princess. On that, at least, they all agreed.

 
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