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?


17. Be Kind

~Shortly After the Battle on the Everfree Verge~


A dark, musty basement suddenly filled with viridian and lambent purple energy followed quickly by a powerful snap of air displacing as the teleportation ritual finished its work. Along with a large amount of extra containers and luggage, two ponies stood side-by-side; the larger one, a stallion whose coat was a deep ashen black matched by a charcoal mane glanced around his surroundings, his curved and almost bladed horn flashing as he scanned the area quickly to ensure no hostile entities had followed them through the teleportation. His eyes flickered with vestiges of dark power as he pulled the energy back into himself. He was miserly with his magic for good reason as his very lifeforce depended on it. The pony beside him couldn’t have been more different; gentle of form, spirit, and demeanor, the butter-yellow Pegasus mare who was standing comfortably in the stallion’s shadow seemed badly at odds with her companion. Her pink mane fell in a silk river over glittering blue eyes set above a delicate muzzle that was twitching in an effort to fend off the dust. An effort that was, ultimately, in vain.

“Ah… ah… AHH!.... ha’snoof,”

The stallion gave a deep, basso chuckle. “My dear Fluttershy, only you could make a sneeze sound so genteel and graceful.”

Fluttershy rubbed her nose softly with one wing, trying to brush away the dust that she had kicked up with her sneeze. “That’s mean, my king, you teleported us into a dusty old basement, what did you expect would happen?”

“You’re a Pegasus, my dear, simply bend the dust away from you with an air current,” Sombra remarked with a shrug as he began moving out of the magic circle that the two of them had ended up in after their escape from the Everfree safehouse.

“You know very well I can’t do that,” Fluttershy said, a delicate moue forming on her face, warming King Sombra’s dark heart as he watched his caretaker pout. It was terribly adorable after all. “I probably use less Pegasus magic than anypony else, ever.”

“We will have to change that, otherwise your dark magic will overcome you without even trying,” Sombra responded distractedly as he began examining the walls, Every so often he would tap one of the stones at random as if expecting something. As far as Fluttershy could tell they were in an octagonal chamber with neither doors nor windows. She trusted Sombra though, and didn’t worry. At the worst, he could just teleport them out again or blow a hole in the wall.

“I thought you had cleared away the dark magic in me,” Fluttershy asked concernedly.

Sombra continued to tap away at the stones. “No, unfortunately I do not possess that kind of magic. Nor, I believe, does that magic actually exist. Once your meridians absorb enough dark magic you begin channeling it naturally. That is the primary reason it is so easy to gain power quickly through dark magic and also one of the reasons most practitioners do not survive long. They succumb to the madness and paranoia that channelling dark magic entails after becoming drunk on power. If we do not work on strengthening your native magic then you run the risk of letting the dark magic overcome your inner well completely.”

“You make it sound like a disease,” Fluttershy said as she moved out of the middle of the room to her king’s side as he continued to tap at the wall.

“Hm, not quite a disease, my dear. Rather it is more that dark magic is alive after a fashion in a way that pure magic is not,” Sombra clarified as he moved to the next wall. “Pure magic is just that, pure; no more or less than energy at its most absolute. Dark magic is contaminated by mortality. It contains traces of emotional wavelengths that take root in practitioners. That is why many sorcerers find their worst traits amplified, you see. Whatever emotion most strongly resonates with them becomes exacerbated to an extreme degree.”

“Why is it only bad emotions though?” Fluttershy asked softly, “why can’t it amplify something like love or joy?”

“Theoretically it could,” Sombra answered with a shrug. “But think about it; the kind of pony who would pursue dark magic purposefully is the kind which has no patience for the slower, safer methods of mastering the magical arts. They want power quickly and that is usually not for beneficent ends; they want power because they fear their own weakness, or they want power to dominate others, or they want power for vengeance. They share one thing though: a want of power. It is a sad truth of mortals that those who would seek a quick path to power rarely have good intentions.”

“So it’s the Ponies-”

“People,” Sombra clarified, interrupting Fluttershy. “Not just ponies. Griffons, Minotaur, Buffalo, Deer and many others. There are examples of sorcerers and malcontents in every race.”

“People then,” Fluttershy rectified. “It’s the people who are bad, not the magic?”

Sombra stopped his rhythmic tapping to face Fluttershy with a thoughtful look on his face. “In a sense, that is a fair summation. But do not let that lead you to believe that dark magic is not culpable for their fall in a sense. Plenty of those who have had ill intentions might have been turned to another, brighter path had the poison of dark magic not turned their hearts stony with fear and hatred. True, it is the fault of the sorcerer for falling prey to the trap, but that does not excuse the traps’ existence in the first place. Dark magic is a guardless blade, sharp on both sides; do not mistake it for anything but a weapon.”

Turning back to his curious tapping, Sombra continued to check the wall for several minutes before finally announcing his success. “Ha! Found you,” he proclaimed smugly as he jabbed his hoof into the wall. The stone he struck depressed several inches and a loud grinding noise filled the musty room. A half-meter to the left of Sombra the stone seemed to twist and shift of their own accord until they formed a neat archway leading to a set of stairs going up. Fluttershy followed him up several meters before they reached another archway leading out to another, larger room, that seemed packed with chests and heavy trunks.

“What is this place?” Fluttershy glanced around curiously, though cautiously. She didn’t want to accidentally trip any security spells that might have been cast on the area.

Somba grinned. “This is a hidden supply cache from the Second Shadow War. It was originally part of a forward outpost, a fortress overlooking a mining village that provided my empire with valuable minerals and ore before it was captured by the Diarchy. The village, I understand, they simply occupied, but the fortress was torn down to its very foundations and the name of the edifice scrubbed from history. I am given to understand that the reclaimed stone was used to build a grand public bath.”

“Oh my.”

“Mm, I was not well liked in those days,” Sombra quipped as he moved among the crates and chests. “Fortunately it appears my masking spells hid this final cache from the Sisters’ eyes. Not surprising, actually. In those days they were pressed on all sides and hardly had time for in-depth excavations and since the Nightmare Rebellion came shortly after my banishment I suppose Celestia had a great deal more to worry about that a few hidden reliquaries.”

“Reliquary?” Fluttershy keeps pace alongside the king as he examines each of the containers with a critical eye. “So this is like the place you revived at back in the Everfree?”

“Yes and no,” Sombra answered as he stopped at one particularly large trunk. Leaning down he touched his horn to the lock affixed to the front of it and a snap of power sparked between them. “That place was a reservoir of arcane knowledge and was supposed to contain everything I needed to rebuild my personal power as a sorcerer. This location is a bit different.” Sombra’s telekinetic aura bled into the chest and snapped it open without ceremony. Fluttershy gasped at what she saw inside. “Here is where I left myself the necessary resources to regain my political and social standing.”

Gold, silver, electrum, and precious jewels of all kinds glittered before Fluttershy. There were coins of a dozen different denominations from as many different cultures. Gems representing hundreds of different, wondrous cuts. Everything gleamed like it had just left the hands of the craftsmare responsible for creating them. Many of them were incredibly old, but that was not surprising. What was surprising was the sheer volume. If this single chest contained such riches… “My king, there must a hundred crates, trunks, and chests in this room… are they all-?”

Sombra grinned. “I did tell you this was a mining town didn’t I? For two hundred years prior to its fall into the hooves of the Diarchy the wealth of an empire flowed through this town. And while not every trunk in this basement contains material wealth, they each contain something useful for rebuilding my standing as an aristocrat. Speaking of which; somewhere in here we’ll find the appropriate deeds and paperwork claiming this land as mine.”

“Uhm, won’t that be a little suspicious, your Majesty?” Fluttershy remarked as they turned away from the chest of treasures to begin examining the other containers.

”I used an assumed name, of course,” Sombra responded blithely. “I can’t very well show my true face so close to the Empire, even if its borders have shrunk drastically since my time.”

“Are we going to have to hide out here then?” Fluttershy glanced around. It was dusty and old, but that was mostly from lack of care. She was sure she could spruce the place up enough to be livable at least, if a bit spartan.

Sombra grinned. “Oh no, not at all, I’m a king, dearest, I can’t very well be squatting in a centuries-old basement. No, I intend to have a grand manse constructed above this location using the foundations of the old fortress. It’s far enough away from the city that I can play off the eccentric noblepony long enough to keep us hidden. That Celestia made a rather grave mistake when she demolished my little castillo. She may have annihilated the crenellated walls, tower bastions, and sorcery towers, but the true power of this place was set into the foundation stones. The arcane architecture of this place is as strong now as it was when I ruled an Empire that rivaled Equestria in its golden age.”

Something about Sombra’s wild smile sent a thrill up Fluttershy’s spine. Everything about what he said should have made her wary but, instead, it just excited her. There was something intoxicating about his fervor and authority. It wasn’t unlike standing near Celestia; but where the Solar Diarch had an almost matronly peace hanging about her, Sombra could not have been more different. He was wild, primal, and powerful.

Applejack was right about one thing, Fluttershy thought, a grin forming to match her king’. I really do have terrible taste in stallions.

“I guess my only other question is, ‘where are we’, your Majesty?”

Sombra nodded his head, gesturing for her to follow him. “We are almost as far north as it possible to get and still be in Equestria, although you would hardly know it. I studied some modern geographical books, as well as paid close attention to your national paper; remind me to thank whoever thought it was a good idea to meticulously detail where the most divisive areas of your nation are in a journal read all across your country, by the way.” He lead her to a massive circular metal seal that was set into the ceiling. With a twitch of power the covering began to twist in place before seeming to melt. Fluttershy felt a surge of fear for a moment. It looked like they were about to covered in a wave of liquid metal. The the metal reformed into a cast iron staircase that spiraled up. As Sombra took the first steps up, Fluttershy shivered at a sudden blast of wind so cold it was painful. “My dear mouse,” he continued, drawing her up next to him and flourishing his cloak as it would settle over the both of them. “We are on the outskirts of a city that is rife with discontent and crime, one that is Equestrian in name only, paying lip service to the twin goddesses of sun and moon but owing their true allegiance to those oldest of deities: pain and fear.”

They emerged from hidden basement and walked through a thick copse of trees for several minutes until they finally reached a small outcropping that overlooked what must have been a ten-story drop. Below them sprawled a massive, walled city that towered even in the distance. Dull red stones, turned a dirty bronze with age and ill use stood out from the dirty snow that surrounded it. Black smoke poured from great factory stacks that pitted the city like sores. Massive spires, once pristine and fine, twisted up like a shepherd's crook and beneath them the malformed black sheep cowered; filthy slums and poorly maintained habitation blocks made from cold, brutal concrete.

“It went by a different name in my day,” Sombra said softly viewing it much like a vulture would watch a dying traveler.

Fluttershy could only marvel at the city’s diseased magnificence. “Stalliongrad?” she whispered, “that’s almost a thousand miles from Ponyville! We’ve come all the way to Stalliongrad?”

“Yes, mouse, we have,” Sombra answered. “And the Sisters are well aware that they have no power here. We are hiding in a nest of vipers and any attempt to fish us out will result only a bitten hoof and swift, painful death. I hope that we will have a good while before our presence is even suspected here.”

“I don’t want anypony hurt, your Majesty,” Fluttershy said firmly, her eyes lifting to meet Sombra’s directly.

The former king nodded, meeting Fluttershy’s gaze. “I know, my intention was to place us in a stalemate. Even if Celestia and Luna discovered where we fled to, the area is so hostile to their operatives it would still give us the time we need to prepare. I can’t make any promises though, if the Sisters send their agents to this city then it’s upon their own heads.”

“That’s not good enough.”

Sombra blinked, caught off guard by the insistence in Fluttershy’s voice. She was still staring up at him, her eyes narrowed slightly as she scolded him. Sombra could almost feel her normally gentle blue eyes boring into him.  He felt a small grin trace it’s way up his lips. There it was again; that iron will. That strength that he had felt when he first laid the geas on her.

“What do you expect me to do then, my dear?” Sombra answered blithely. “Should I stop them as they step off of the train and politely suggest that perhaps they should engage in the pursuit of information in a less lethal environment?”

“No, I want you to protect them if they come here,” Fluttershy said evenly stepping forward and jabbing a hoof into Sombra’s chest. “I want you to make sure they get back to their family’s safely. I want you to keep them safe from this horrible city because it’s our fault they’re here.”

“They’re here to find us,” Sombra retorted angrily. “To find me! If Celestia is fool enough to send her agents unprotected to this crime-ridden wasteland then upon her head be it! It is not my responsibility to keep the life of an enemy intact as they kick the nest of vipers.”

Fluttershy’s scowled deepened and she moved forward again until she was nearly pressed against Sombra, her eyes boring up and into him. “It wasn’t my responsibility to save you either, your Majesty! You were set on being an enemy to my friends and I from the beginning but I kept you safe anyway. Even when I didn’t have to I still kept you safe because I knew that what you needed wasn’t punishment, but help. You’re a selfish, mean-spirited, and violent stallion, your Majesty, but I know that you’re capable of kindness too! So, if you want this to work, if you…” a blush spread over Fluttershy’s cheeks, stealing her words for a moment. “If you want us to work, then you’re going to have you’re going to have to learn to be nice. I know that I’m going to have to okay with you doing some… bad things here and there. But you’re going to have to learn to show mercy even to ponies that want to hurt you. I’m not asking you to change who you are, just how you act a little… I know it’s risky but… please?”

A stunned Sombra stared down at the gentle mare that had suddenly become a fireball in front of him. Fluttershy’s pleading eyes were fixed solely on him and there was a desperation in them. Begging Sombra not to prove her wrong about him. What she was asking of him was ridiculous. It was patently ridiculous. There was absolutely no logic to it at all. What Fluttershy was asking him to do would risk putting them directly in the sights of the Diarchy. The entire purpose to choosing to stay in this location after securing the wealth in the reliquary was use the city as a deterrent and Fluttershy wanted him to protect them from it. That was akin to asking a king to protect an invader from the arrows that were loosed at them as they scaled his walls.

How utterly ridiculous.

But then again, Sombra knew what he was getting into, didn’t he? What else could he have expected from the mare that had constantly and consistently protected him from discovery even when it would have been in her best interest to step aside? She was asking him not just to protect them but… to protect her. Or rather, to protect her spirit.

After several seconds he let out a sigh.

“Very well,” Sombra answered grudgingly.

Fluttershy’s scowl turned into a radiant smile. The warmth in it gripped Sombra by the heart. Never in his long, long life had he ever imagined that a mare with such a beautiful soul would ever look at him that way. If he had to make some sacrifices to his own plan so that she would keep doing that then… maybe that was a worthwhile cost.

“I can only do so much though,” Sombra said evenly. “I cannot protect them from their own bullheaded mistakes if they persist.”

He felt Fluttershy nod as she leaned against him, going slack after their little argument. “I know, all I ask is that you do your best to keep them safe. I don’t want anypony hurt because of us.” Sombra wrapped a hoof around her and pulled her tight against him and Fluttershy let out a satisfied sigh as she nestled into his warm, solid frame. “Thank you, your Majesty. Thank you so much for being kind.”

Sombra chuckled at the irony. For the first time in centuries he had let someone order him around. It was an unusual feeling. Fluttershy had asked him to show kindness and… he had agreed. Sombra snorted with amusement, “As you say, mouse.”

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