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?


18. Cloudy Skies

Pencil Pusher was a portly roan stallion who hated his job as much as he needed it. He wasn’t what you would call competent: being thoroughly corrupt and practicing embezzlement as if it were a classical art, he was more of a reliable nuisance than anything. He knew the famiglias only kept him around because they knew they could pay him off to ignore damn near anything. If they bumped him then Stalliongrad would just get another administration executive, maybe one with more morals and a few bodyguards for good measure from the ‘glorious’ capital. So he did his job to the worst of his ability from where he squatted behind a grubby desk in an equally grubby office. It was technically an administrative office but since the governmental administration of Stalliongrad as a whole was more or less a poor joke, it was less than impressive. Still, that didn’t help the shy, brown-eye’d, gray pegasus mare sitting across from the mean-tempered functionary.

“And who did you say you were again?”

“U-uhm, my name is Cloudy Skies,” she said softly. “I’m not really welcome in Cloudsdale anymore, but my family owned a plot of land outside Stalliongrad a long time ago. My papers are all in order.” Her bluish-purple mane was tied back in a functional braid that rested over her shoulders and everything about her screamed pushover. Pusher was pretty sure a fat payday had just trotted into his office. Lucky him.

The greasy stallion took another look at the ancient papers. “This is in the middle the forest,” he said after a minute of glaring at the page like it had shorted him on change, “I guess so long as you’re not stepping on the hooves of anypony important you can have it. This is some old claims paperwork though, I know for damn sure it’s not in line with current policy.”

“O-oh, I’m not surprised,” Cloudy Skies said gently, drawing the stallion’s attention. “My family is a very old line. I hope you understand that, given my circumstances, I was just hoping for an out of the way place where I won’t be bothered.”

The gleam of bits to be made lit up in Pusher’s eye. “Really? Well, I’m sure we could come to an agreement. The filing fee is a hundred bits but if you want it put through quick and discreet there are a few surcharges.”

Cloud Skies fixed her gaze directly on the rotund stallion, meeting his eyes. For a moment he swore there was a flash of green but any suspicion was washed away a second later. It was like he was drowning; he couldn’t breath, he could barely think straight. He was surrounded by somepony screaming and all he could see and feel were a pair of terrible blue eyes on him. Boring into him. Shaming him. Hundreds of memories flashed through his mind too. Bad memories. Memories of ponies he’d cheated and hurt. Family, friends, and enemies alike. The guilt crashed down on him.

And then it was gone.

There was nothing around him but his grubby office. Nopony screaming. No eyes. Just the timid gray mare with brown eyes. Brown, right? They weren’t blue? Pencil Pusher felt a warmth spreading beneath him. He’d pissed himself. His whole body was drenched in cold sweat and his hooves were shaking so badly the papers had fallen to his desk.

Cloudy Skies set a large suitcase on the desk between them then smiled and a chill ran up Pencil’s spine. “Oh, I’m sure we can work it out. I can pay you a thousand bits now, including the hundred bit fee, and come back later with-”

“One thousand is fine,” Pencil Pusher answered woodenly. His throat felt like he had a vise clamp around him. “I-I’ll make sure the papers get processed right away Miss Skies. No problems, no need to come back. It’ll all be in order by the end of the week.”

The gray mare favored him with a beatific smile that soothed away some of the terror that was gripping him. “Thank you, uhm, if it’s not too much trouble you can mail the completed forms to this address here.” Cloudy scribbled down an address and passed it to Pencil Pusher. It was a post office box on the city rim. As far as he knew no pony even worked there anymore.

Not that he was going to argue. He’d trot it down there himself so long as it meant making sure she never came back into his office.

“S-sure, no problem, Miss Skies,” Pencil couldn’t get rid of the rock in his gut. Everything felt turned upside down. One part of his brain was saying to milk her for more money but a larger part was screaming in gibbering, inchoate terror while trying to violently smother the greedy part before she noticed. “A-anything else I can do for you?”

“Oh no, I’m fine thank you,” Cloudy said softly, smiling again. It warmed Pencil’s heart as much as it unnerved him. “I’ll, uhm, come by if anything comes up.”

“Uh, s-sure,” Pencil had never done a hard day’s work in his life, but for the first time since he got this crappy job he was gonna make sure absolutely nothing went wrong even if he had to strangle the file clerk downstairs. “W-welcome to Stalliongrad Miss Skies.”

She smiled again before leaving. As soon as she was out the door, Pencil Pusher pulled out a bottle of Stalliongrad’s finest backroom vodka, uncorked it, and took a long swig. He was drenched in sweat, his empty stomach was screaming about the icy booze that had just been dropped into it without warning, and he was sitting in his own piss. Somehow, Pencil still felt like he came out ahead. Pretty she might’ve been but Pencil hoped he never saw that weird mare ever again.


~ o ~


“So, how did it go?” Sombra asked without looking up from the crate he was cataloguing.

Fluttershy had just strolled in through the hatch, shedding the disguise as ‘Cloudy Skies’ as she did so, her gray fur returning to her normal buttercream yellow. Sombra had taught her the spell over the course of a few days; by unicorn standards it was positively basic but no one expected a Pegasus to be able to cast spells. In theory it was really clever, though; using a Pegasi’s natural control over water and air to create a static filter of refracting colors let her make potent cosmetic changes to her appearance. Rarity would be so jealous. “Oh, uhm, I think it went okay. I don’t like what my Stare did to the poor stallion I was talking to, though, your Majesty. I think he pee’d on himself.”

Sombra chuckled. “He must have done some bad things in his life to react that badly. I did tell you, my dear, that your Stare will have changed, evolved really, with your immersion into dark magic. Good work, though. I was hoping it would be a simple matter to have the documents filed and processed but I was prepared to act accordingly if it hadn’t.”

“I thought I wasn’t supposed to use dark magic, your Majesty,” Fluttershy responded as she strolled over and leaned against Sombra’s comforting frame.

“You didn’t,” Sombra answered. “You used your own innate power. It has been changed and influenced by the dark magic in your body but it’s still your natural magic. You need to use it more often and regularly to keep your meridians flowing with your native magical power.”

Fluttershy shivered at the thought. She didn’t want to keep hurting ponies and that was all her Stare seemed to do anymore. She’d only used it a few times since they had come to Stalliongrad now; once to get the post station near them running again, once to get through making a legitimate account with First Bank of Stalliongrad a deposit a large amount of Sombra’s more legal tender under her assumed name, and once to make sure she had proper identification could be filed for her. Fluttershy had never thought she would be thankful for the blatant system of bribery and corruption that was so prevalent throughout the city, but then she also never thought she would ever be considered a fugitive hiding from agents of the Crown. None of the others she had used her Stare on had reacted as poorly as the clerk had though.

“Is it getting stronger?” Fluttershy asked meekly. “Is that why it… hurt him?”

Sombra gave a distract shake of his head, sending his ashen mane tumbling rakishly. “No, it isn’t. From what I gather you have the ability to speak to a primal part of the mind. It’s similar to how you communicate with animals so easily, actually. Everypony has a primal side to them and you can bring it to the fore. I suspect your immersion in dark magic has heightened the emotional responses by selecting and highlighting moments of guilt and shame. The worse a pony is the worse the effect, although I imagine a properly hardened criminal wouldn’t suffer as much.”

Fluttershy nodded. “So… it only hurts bad ponies?”

The king gave a small shrug. “As a general rule, I suppose. Although I wouldn’t put it past somepony with a powerful guilt complex to suffer from it equally. Either way it’s noponies fault but their own, really. Quite a selective power you developed, my dear.”

Shaking her head, Fluttershy resisted the urge to sigh. She didn’t like what her Stare had become but there was no helping it. At least if she knew how it worked and how to control it she could keep from hurting anypony accidentally. It was good to know the worst effect would only affect bad ponies though. She didn’t want to hurt anypony but if it had to happen she would rather it be like this. The thought made Fluttershy queasy even as it crossed her mind; once upon a time she wouldn’t have even considered hurting somepony, but now she was… well, not okay with it but she was far more comfortable with the idea than she ever expected to be.

“What do we do next, your Majesty?” Fluttershy asked, she didn’t want to think about her Stare anymore. There wasn’t anything she could do about it and it didn’t do to dwell, as her mother always said.

“Contractors,” Sombra answered thoughtfully. “Discreet ones, of which I’m sure there is no shortage of in this city. They must be capable and willing to construct a large, defensible structure in a short amount of time with a minimum of interaction with either of us and a reputation for keeping their mouths shut.”

“Uhm, that sounds like a tall order, your Majesty.” Fluttershy ruffled her wings nervously. It sounded downright impossible to her ears, actually but she felt like saying so might have been a bit impolitic.

Shaking his head, Sombra laughed dryly. “Not at all, my dear. In order to have a stable infrastructure the criminals who run this city require exactly what I described en masse. How else could they keep their holdings secret from the crown, or from each other for that matter? I do not know how much has changed since I was imprisoned but I suspect honor among thieves has not yet become more than a poor jest.”

The more Sombra spoke on the matter the more Fluttershy realised he had a fairly good point. There was no way that the famiglias and syndicates of Stalliongrad did much, if any, of their construction work above board. The problem then became; how did they go about contacting the ponies responsible for the work? Fluttershy very much doubted they listed themselves in the public advertisements. Not that there were many of those in Stalliongrad in general. It was something that stood out to Fluttershy as she walked through the city as an incongruity that made everything seems strangely out of sync: there weren’t any billboards or advertisements. Everything felt cold and closed off, it was as if the city was telling her she wasn’t welcome, and that not even the false smiles and forced cheer of the service industry could penetrate the dim glower of Stalliongrad’s walls. No, this was a city where you had to know somebody or be somebody to get anything done. As far as Fluttershy knew, they fulfilled neither criteria.

“You’re going to use more mind magic aren’t you, your Majesty?” Fluttershy said softly. It wasn’t really a question, and the way Sombra stiffened at the words was all the answer she needed. Before he could open his mouth she reached a hoof up and brought it gently to his chin, guiding his face around to look at her. She met his eyes, not with her Stare, but with all the emotion she felt for him poured out without words. “Your magic is the only thing keeping you alive, your Majesty. I-I’m not blind. I know that every time you cast a spell it takes hours, maybe days, off of your life. I want to try to make this work between us but that means you have to value your life at least as much as mine, okay?”

Sombra opened his mouth to respond but no words came out. Instead, he reached out and pulled Fluttershy in close and buried his face in her mane as she squeaked in embarrassment. “What would you have me do, mouse? We face a city that feeds on innocence and destroys kindness. We have risked much already with the few things you’ve done. I… I do not wish to see you drawn into this world. I have enough magic to last for some time, if I am frugal.”

It felt nice, having him so close to her. Fluttershy wasn’t ashamed to admit she enjoyed the sensation of it. Not just the physical part, although that was nice too, but the vulnerability he showed every time he got close to her. It was something he showed rarely, but it came out most when he was worried about her. Right now he was worried about both of them, she knew, but this was a problem Fluttershy already knew the answer to. Even if she didn’t like it.

“You can rely on me a little more, you know,” Fluttershy said softly. “I’m still supposed to be taking care of you, your Majesty. I just… don’t know this kind of thing very well.”

Sombra pulled away from her and looked down with sad eyes. “I have no desire to see you lose yourself to this filth-ridden city, my dear.”

“I won’t,” Fluttershy answered with a beatific smile. “I told you before that I won’t let anything stop me from being kind. It’s who I am. You couldn’t change me and… and this city is nothing compared to you. My King, right?”

A thin smile showed on Sombra’s features. “I can’t exactly deny that without undermining myself. Well done, my dear. Very well, let us see what you can do.”

Fluttershy continued to smile. “As you say, my King.”


~ o ~


Cloudy Skies trotted into a large, well appointed building with all the confidence of one who was supposed to be there. She was finding herself drawing more and more on the lessons she’d learned under Photo Finish’s tutelage for being a model. A skillset she had not imagined she would ever use again. The pale, Germane mare had been a ruthless teacher but she had a flawless teaching technique and Cloudy Skies drew every eye to her as she sauntered imperiously through the front hall to the main desk where a small, young Stalliongrad mare stood looking incredibly nervous.

“H-hello, Miss… can I help you?” The clerk stuttered. She grew more relaxed as Cloud Skies smiled at her warmly.

“My name is Cloudy Skies, I need some construction work done quickly and with a minimum of fuss,” Cloudy stated, her voice soft but strong. In truth she was just trying her hardest to mimic what she thought Rarity would do in this situation. The memory of her friend sent a pang of sadness and anger through her, but she shrugged it off. “My family once owned a fine mansion outside the city, I’ve inspected the foundations and they are still whole. I need a group who can raise a suitable home for myself and a few others, now.”

Saying so many words all at once without cringing back felt alien, but Cloudy kept a straight face through it all. If she couldn’t do this then their only alternative was his Majesty’s mind magic and she had resolved to never see him suffer like he had back in her cottage ever again. She could still feel the cold sweat on his fur; his weak, labored breathing, and the wracking spasms of his muscles as his body betrayed him. Never again. She would step as far outside her comfort zone as she needed to to make sure it never happened again.

“Oh, uhm, there are a few groups who do that sort of work,” the clerk answered nervously, “but I’m afraid they’re very expensive.”

"Bits aren't a problem," Cloudy responded gently, "I care more about the demeanor and standards of who I'm hiring."

"O-oh," the clerk shuffled some papers around but looked uncertain. "All of our contractors are complete professionals, I'm proud to say."

"Who work for the highest bidder," Cloud pointed out. The clerk cringed and Cloudy felt a sympathetic pang for the young mare, after a moment of awkward silence, Cloudy smiled again, fixing her gaze on the clerk. “May I ask your name?”

The mare stiffened at the sudden shift but nodded after a moment. “It’s… my name is Dusty Shale. I know, it’s not very pretty is it?”

“I think it’s very nice,” Cloudy said, her voice clear and sincere. “If you’d like, I would love to have your company at my home when it’s finished.”

Dusty stared in surprise. “I-I don’t know that you should, Miss. I’m nopony at all, barely worth a name. Inviting me over might cause all manner of rumours.”

The smile on Cloudy’s face didn’t falter. “I can’t stop ponies from gossiping; what I can do is be kind. Besides, you seem like a very nice pony. You shouldn’t put yourself down by calling yourself nopony. Everypony is somepony, at least in my eyes.”

“I think you actually mean that, Miss,” Dusty said with a nervous laugh, “if you don’t mind my saying so.”

Cloudy chuckled lightly. “I think so too.”

Dusty pulled a few sheets out from under the counter she was standing at and looked them over briefly. “Don’t tell anyone where you got these, Miss Skies,” she said as she hoofed them over, “this group was blacklisted for refusing to complete an order for one of the more prominent families. If the family finds out somepony hired them it could mean real trouble for you.”

Holding the papers carefully, Cloudy examined the licensing paperwork critically. Back when she had lived in Ponyville she had done most of the upkeep for her house, with a little help from… from the Apple Family with the larger projects. This group worked on a much larger scale, though. It had a number of black marks on the record too, specifically the latest one which noted down a slew of negative remarks. Cloudy grimaced; if even half of them were true she wasn’t sure she wanted to hire them. On the other hoof there was probably a better than even chance that they were entirely fabricated to destroy the construction group’s reputation along with their chances at getting work from any but the most desperate of ponies. Sliding the papers into her saddlebags, Cloudy smiled radiantly at Dusty, who seemed to blossom under the kind gesture.

“Thank you so much, Dusty, I’ll take the papers back and go over them in detail.” Cloudy pulled the purse out that Sombra had given her and settled the bill. “I’ll see you again, I’m sure, I hope you have a pleasant day.”

“Y-you too, Miss Skies,” Dusty waved as Cloudy trotted away. “I really hope I didn’t just get her in big trouble,” she muttered quietly as the gray mare left. Well, Steelhorn was a good fellow, she knew. He and his company deserved this second chance, and they would definitely keep Cloudy’s project quiet. They were good at that. Assuming she wasn’t doing anything bad with it. Steelhorn’s combined temper and conscience was what got him blacklisted in the first place. Grimacing, Dusty turned to the east and bowed slightly, murmuring her first genuine prayer in years.“Please, Celestia, let this go well.”

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