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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12. Consequence & Judgment

As soon as Sombra began to stir he could tell something was terribly wrong. Never before had the dark king felt as sick as he did in that moment. It was like somepony had taken a trowel and hollowed him out. He felt fevered, which was impossible. As impossible as the tears he had shed two days ago in Sugarcube corner. Sombra could feel weakness threading through his body like poison; gripping his lungs and heart turning every beat and breath painful. Shivering, he curled in on himself, seeking some warmth. He found it in the small, soft frame of the mare who had, apparently, chosen to sleep beside him.

To say Sombra was shocked would be doing a disservice to the magnitude of the feeling. Fluttershy’s soft wings were at rest over her barrel with her back was pressed against him a decidedly pleasant manner while her silken mane was splayed fetchingly across the pillow the two of them had shared and down over her face. Her breath was steady and even, unlike Sombra’s, but for a moment the surprise was so complete that Sombra forgot his own ailing body.

But only a moment.

Pain wracked through Sombra’s frame a breath later, crawling up his body to his horn and leaving behind a cold, electric sickness. A muted grunt of agony escaped his throat, stirring the sleeping pegasus who was resting between his forelegs.

“My king?” Fluttershy’s soft, sleepy voice brought a soothing balm, but it was only mental. There was something very wrong with his body and Fluttershy took notice immediately. “My king?! What’s wrong?”

Sombra could see the worry in her eyes as she extricated herself from him and almost toppled onto the floor before turning around to get a better look at him. He was sure he looked awful. His fur felt sweat-stained and matted, his throat was parched, and his horn throbbed in time with his laboring heart.

Sombra groaned. “I suspect something must have gone terribly wrong with my revival. I have not been regaining my magic as I should have. What little strength I possessed I, apparently, spent in healing the filly.”

“Oh... oh no,” Fluttershy leaned in, pressing her forehead to his for a moment before pulling away, a strained look on her face. “You’re fevered, badly, but I’m not even sure what kind of illness could affect a pony like you, your Majesty. What do I do?”

Sombra let out a strained breath. He did not want to admit weakness in front of Fluttershy but he knew he had to. His own reluctance irked him, since there was nothing she could do to harm him. It was simply pride and… something more. It was her, specifically, if he was being honest with himself. Sombra didn’t want Fluttershy to see him as weak.

What a foolish notion, there’s no point in not admitting my suspicions that this stage, Sombra admonished himself before opening his mouth. “I suspect, little mouse, that almost any illness could affect me now.”

“W-what?” Fluttershy cocked her head in confusion. “You’re almost as old as the Princesses, your Majesty. What-”

“That is because,” Sombra interrupted, annoyed at the words he was about to say, “I was, as they currently are, immortal. I have reason to believe that has changed. When I was revived by my ritual I was brought back fully in body but not so in spirit. No longer am I the Eternal Tyrant of the Empire. Now I am simply Erebos Sombra, a mortal unicorn. What is worse, I am a unicorn with practically no magic and now, I suspect, I am also dying.”

Fluttershy stared at him, a stricken look on her face. “But… why? H-how could you be dying? You’re just sick!” She moved forward, carefully as though he were a fragile piece of dishware, and buried her face in his fur at the base of his neck, wrapping her forelegs around one of his large hooves and gripping tight. To Sombra’s surprise Fluttershy started to shake and he felt hot tears run into his fur.

“The whole of my body relies on the dark magic I wielded,” Sombra explained softly as Fluttershy sobbed into his mane. “Without it my body has nothing to fuel itself. It is devouring me, slowly, in an attempt to replace it’s lost source of energy. The consumption was slow enough originally but, with such an expenditure as last evening, I believe I exhausted my final stores.”

Fluttershy drew away from Sombra with a horrified expression. “Y-you only helped Scootaloo because I-”

A massive hoof came up to gently press against Fluttershy’s lips. Sombra was surprised to find that he was capable of such a tender touch. The things one learns around mares, Sombra mused dryly. “I simply hastened the inevitable, mouse. This was my fate no matter the catalyst. I would have persisted another week, perhaps two if I spent little magic, but no longer than that. You are not at fault, especially as it was my own choice. Do not presume to claim responsibility for the actions of a King.”

“I- I just… how can you be sure?” Fluttershy was on the verge of tears again, and Sombra felt his heart ache in response. Another unfamiliar feeling that simply confirmed the truth.

“Because I can feel again, little mouse,” Sombra answered softly.

That set Fluttershy back on her hooves. “What?”

“The toll which dark magic exacts on its wielder is a lack of control,” Sombra explained as another agonizing shiver ran through his body. “It makes one’s emotions wild and unreliable. Mood swings, black and white disposition, paranoia, and more. Before I became king I created an artifact that could channel emotions freely, turn them into power, and amplify them. I took the greatest weakness of dark magic and created yet more power from it. The artifact, however, also had the unforeseen effect of turning my heart cold to all emotion. Like a crystal, I became impenetrable. I saw this as a benefit, of course, but in truth it was simply a price in another form. Ah, it also happened to turn me immortal.”

“You… you accidentally turned yourself immortal?” Fluttershy asked in disbelief.

Sombra chuckled dryly. “Is that so hard to believe? Ask your precious Princesses  someday whether they planned their own ascension to immortality or not and you’ll find that accidental godhood is more of the rule than the exception.”

The laugh that came in response was small and cracked as Fluttershy leaned in, wrapping her forelegs are Sombra’s neck and holding him tight. It was strange, she felt much stronger than before. I must truly be at my last if I am so weak, Sombra thought darkly. That means… ah, yes, one last thing to do.

“M-... Fluttershy, will you look at me?” Sombra said softly. He felt Fluttershy stiffen in surprise, but she pulled away from him and met his gaze. “Thank you, my dear. Now, hold still.”

Reaching deep within the dry well of his magic, Sombra scraped up the last vestige of his power and cast it outward. A spark, barely more than a dying ember, flicked from his horn and struck Fluttershy in the forehead. Before Fluttershy could respond, Sombra spoke, his voice booming with dark portent.

“I, Erebos Sombra, Lord of Shadows, do release you from your geas and from all responsibilities therein. By my will, my name, and my horn, it is done.” A thunderclap rolled out from Fluttershy’s small form and out through the room, rattling the windows in their frames and setting nearly knocking Sombra from where he lay in the bed. “There, you are free now,” Sombra said softly. “A geas does not end with the death of the one who cast it, you see. Eventually the geas’d would be driven mad by the arcane mnemonic that impels them to protect that which has already died. I would not consign you to that fate, my dear.”

Fluttershy was utterly silent, her eyes wide and her mouth open. Tears wavered unmoving in her eyes and for a moment Sombra would have sworn she had somehow stopped in time. Coughing lightly into his hoof he continued a bit awkwardly. “I would ask, as a favor now since I have no hold over you, that you allow me to expire in comfort. Though I would imagine I hardly deser-”

His words were lost as Fluttershy bolted out of the room in a storm of hooffalls followed by the sound of the door slamming open, then closed, and a quick dust-off as she took flight.. Sombra felt a small pang of sorrow cut into his now-vulnerable heart at her swift exit. “Well,” he mused darkly, “I suppose I deserved nothing less all things considered. Dying alone was, in point of fact, probably my fate all along.”

Another agonizing shudder ran through Sombra’s body as he relaxed back into the bed. It was still warm, not just from his fevered flesh but from her. Running a hoof over the part of the bed she had been laying in not long ago, Sombra could feel the warmth there. The kindness she had showed him was not something he deserved. Commanded, yes, but never deserved. Knowing he was alone, likely for the last time, Sombra forgave himself a last, small indiscretion as he pressed his face to the warm bedsheets.

 

++

 

Fluttershy’s wings burned as she pumped them, drawing the wind around her to flow beneath them using her native pegasus magic that she had nearly forgotten she had. Every stroke of her wings brought the Castle of Friendship closer and closer, but in spite of that it still felt like she wasn’t going nearly fast enough.

‘I’m dying.’

Sombra’s words echoed inside her head deafeningly. He had lifted the geas, Fluttershy could feel it, and yet she had never felt so driven to help him. There was no more latent pressure on her mind, bending her to serve him. There was no ringing in her ears pounding away at her will that was forcing her to give him anything at all. There was just a gut-wrenching terror that Sombra was about to die and that there was nothing that she could do about. She couldn’t. Fluttershy couldn’t. But there was somepony who might be able to help him. The most brilliant arcane mind in a hundred generations was now the Shadow King’s only hope. That begged the question, however, of how exactly Fluttershy was going to convince Twilight Sparkle, Princess of Friendship, to save the life of one of the most notorious tyrants in history?

Does it matter? The thought flickered through Fluttershy’s mind. Does it matter how I convince her? Fluttershy never thought she would ask herself that before. Of course it should matter how she convinced her friends to help… right? But if she was being fully honest with herself… No, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that I save him. It’s stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid. He’s wicked and spiteful and…

Sombra’s last action stuck out in her mind. He had lifted the geas. There hadn’t been any reason to, really. Once he… passed away then whatever happened to the world around him shouldn’t have mattered but he still did it.

‘I would not consign you to that fate, my dear.’

He cared about her. Sombra cared. There was no other explanation for it. It wasn’t just a matter of him desiring her or something crass like that. Sombra had nothing to gain from freeing her but he still did it.

“I did it,” Fluttershy whispered to herself breathlessly as she powered towards the castle in the distance. “I really did it.” She had made the black-hearted king care at least enough about one pony, herself, to spend a final moment of his time ensuring she was safe. “And now it won’t mean a thing if I can’t save him!”

Fluttershy clenched her eyes shut, willing away the tears that threatened to spill over. Crying wasn’t going to solve anything. What was it she had said to Sombra? Some ponies have a responsibility? Well this was her responsibility. He was her responsibility. She was going to make sure he got through this no matter what. Wheeling about in the air, Fluttershy came to a hard landing in front of the castle steps and without waiting to knock or observe any of the normal proprieties she barged into the main foyer.

“Twilight!” Fluttershy shouted into the empty hall, “Twilight, please I need your help!”

A snap of displaced air and a flash of lavender light heralded Twilight’s appearance into the hall, her eyes wide with alarm. “Fluttershy?! What is it? What’s wrong?!”

“King Sombra is dying and I need your help!”

Twilight stared blankly forward at Fluttershy for a moment before summoning a quill out of a pocket dimension. Carefully , she stuck it in her left ear, then her right ear in turn, working it around vigorously before giving her head a firm shake and turning back to Fluttershy. “Sorry about that, I think I had something crazy stuck in my ear. What did you just say?”

“Sombra. Is. Dying.” Fluttershy enunciated, anger seeping into her panicked voice. “You have to help him!”

“You’re going to have to help me out here Fluttershy,” Twilight said in a strained voice. “I’m not really following how you would even know Som-...” the Alicorn’s voice trailed off as her mind caught up and connected the dots. “Coal. Sombra is Coal isn’t he?”

Fluttershy gave a small nod. “He revived a few days ago and caught me outside my cottage. He cast a spell on me so I couldn’t tell anyone about him. He said he needed a place to rest long enough to recover and then he would leave.” That was a bit of a fib but Fluttershy didn’t need to start another argument with her friend. She needed to get back to Sombra. For all she knew he was already… “But he never got any stronger. When he healed Scootaloo he ended up accidentally spending the rest of his magic. Now he’s dying, so please, we can’t waste anymore time!”

“What spell did he cast?” Twilight asked, “Or describe it, either way.”

“Twilight we don’t-!” Fluttershy was cut off by an upraised hoof, Twilight eyes were narrowed and angry. Letting out a sigh, Fluttershy nodded. “He called it a geas.”

Her friend gasped in horror. “A geas?! Are you bucking kidding me?! That’s three different kinds of illegal! Literally! The 113rd Edict of Canterlot banned Cerebramancy as a discipline due to its constant misuse. The Law of Free Mind forbids the use of any form of mind-altering magic on an unwilling pony, even if it was biological in nature! And Bright Eye vs. Trottingham established that, even if consent was given, once the mind is altered then consent could not be rescinded and is therefore impossible to fully consent to!”

Fluttershy withstood the verbal onslaught stoically as Twilight stamped her hoof at each point. When her friend was finally out of breath Fluttershy responded. “I’m not going to try and defend his actions Twilight. I know exactly how horrible being under a geas is, after all. None of that matters right now though. Sombra is dying and I’m asking you to save him.”

“And I’m saying ‘no’,” Twilight answered heatedly. “I refuse to save the life of a horrible tyrant that enslaved an entire Empire for hundreds of years. I refuse to lift one hoof to help the stallion that tried to kill all of my friends, my brother, and his wife, in the midst of trying to re-enslave that same Empire, I might add. You can’t ask me to do that Fluttershy, it isn’t fair!”

“I know that, but I’m asking you to anyway,” Fluttershy said softly, trying to fight back the tears that were threatening to spill forth. She hated fighting. She hated fighting anypony. But Fluttershy especially hated fighting with her friends. “Please, save Sombra’s life.”

“No, Fluttershy,” Twilight repeated. “Besides, you’re under a geas, you said so yourself. Who knows what else he did to your mind! Let me disjoin the spell first, alright?”

To Twilight’s shock, Fluttershy laughed. It was a weak chuckle more than anything else, really, but it was surprising nonetheless. Fluttershy started to open her mouth to tell Twilight that there was no point but she realised her friend wouldn’t believe her, instead she just nodded. “Go ahead and try.”

Twilight had been expecting a little more resistance but decided not to question a good thing. Closing her eyes she called up the most powerful, most subtle dispelling magic she knew: Starswirl’s Unwraveling. Any magic on Fluttershy would be unthreaded instantaneously. It took several moments to cast correctly which made it a poor spell to try and use on the fly but Twilight had time so she ensured she cast every facet of the spell perfectly. Once it was fully formed Twilight unleashed the spell. A matrix of power surrounded Fluttershy and tendrils of blue light swept through her. Fluttershy couldn’t help but giggle at the sensation. It was ticklish, like feathers sweeping all over her body. Moments later the spell completed itself and faded, leaving a Twilight staring in surprise for a third time.

“It didn’t find anything, right?” Fluttershy asked, although she knew the answer. She had the feeling that if there had been a spell to strip away from her she would have felt it. Twilight just nodded silently. “That’s because, when Sombra realised he was dying, the first thing he did was lift the geas from my mind so I wouldn’t suffer any side-effects related to his death. I knew you wouldn’t believe me if I told you that though, so… will you help me now?”

Clenching her eyes, Twilight let out a slow, even breath. Opening them again, Twilight gave Fluttershy a tired look. “I don’t want to, Fluttershy,” she answered, and Fluttershy’s hopes began to crack but they held on desperately at Twilight’s next words. “But… I asked Celestia to make the Council’s authority legally binding for a reason; because my judgment isn’t perfect. I won’t make this an outright no, but Sombra is a threat to national security. You can’t deny that. If I’m going to consider this then I want all of our friends to have a say in it.”

Fluttershy grimaced. That wasn’t what she wanted, Sombra might not even have that amount of time. As much as she hated to admit it, though, Twilight did make a good point. Their friends had the right to know what was going on but Fluttershy had hoped she could put it off for at least a little while.

“What if it’s too late by the time we decide?” Fluttershy threw her last card on the table, but Twilight just shook her head.

“I’m sorry, Fluttershy,” Twilight said, sounding truly contrite. “The fact of the matter is that this too important for me to decide on my own. Neither I nor Equestria can afford a rash decision and… I have to consider that now. I’m a Princess after all, it’s my responsibility.”

Fluttershy had no argument against that. Hadn’t she said nearly those same words to Sombra not long ago? Twilight had more than just herself and her friends to consider now, so Fluttershy nodded. “Okay, I understand Twilight, call the others.”

The tension in the room lessened significantly as Twilight gave a relieved smile. “Thank you, Fluttershy. I promise that I’ll listen to you fairly about King Sombra, alright? Even if my instincts say otherwise.” Twilight’s horn lit up and she summoned four pieces of parchment to her side. She penned a quick note on one before magically copying the words over to the other three and then casting another quick spell to send the messages to their recipients. “There, I don’t like doing that if I don’t have to; a lot of ponies take umbrage to notes that magically track them down but, as you said, we might not have much time.”

“It took almost half an hour before the other four members of the Council arrived, Pinkie appearing first, to noponies surprise, followed quickly by Rainbow Dash and Rarity. Applejack, who had the greatest distance to travel, arrived last. They congregated in the map room where Twilight had already taken her seat, Fluttershy had followed suit as well and was waiting on her throne albeit with a nervous impatience and looking more determined than any of her friends could remember seeing her. As the other four entered the chambers any questions they had felt quashed by the tense atmosphere. The look on Twilight’s face was the main feature; less the erudite librarian and more the imperious ruler than they had ever seen her. She looked as though a great weight was bearing her down but that she was trying to lift it all the same. Without a word, Pinkie, Rarity, Applejack, and Rainbow Dash took their seats around the map.

Applejack was the first to break the silence. “So, ah don’t suppose ya’ll wanna tell us why we’re gatherin’ up so early? Ah had ta pass half mah mornin’ chores to Big Mac on account’a ‘Council business’.”

“Indeed,” Rarity chimed in, “I had several orders planned out today.”

“Me too!” Pinkie said cheerily, “but I finished them all before I left! Had to wake up Mister Cake to start the deliveries though, he wasn’t too happy about that. He’s kind of a grumpy-pants in the morning.”

“I was dreaming of sleeping,” Rainbow Dash said groggily from where she was slumped on her throne.

“Well, wake up,” Twilight said in a dark voice that snapped everypony to attention. Only Fluttershy kept her expression neutral while the other four looked like Twilight had just confessed to having an affair with Discord.

“Wow, who pissed in your inbox, Twi?” Rainbow said as she blinked the sleep from her eyes.

Twilight’s ears twitched with irritation. “Technically? Fluttershy. But either way we’ve got our first serious decision to make as a Council. I mean ‘Life-and-Death’ serious, girls, and better yet we’re on a time limit.”

There wasn’t even the slightest sign of the absent-minded scientist that Fluttershy was familiar with. This was the ‘Princess’ Twilight that was coming to grips with affairs of state and national security. It was a side of her that very few had seen thus far. Fluttershy admired it but she wasn’t sure if she liked it.

“Ya’ll are gonna have to explain what’s goin’ on then, ah reckon,” Applejack said evenly, her features calm after the initial shock faded. “Ya’ll’re makin’ it sound like we’re fixin’ to execute somepony.”

“That’s a bit hyperbolic, Applejack, darling,” Rarity remarked uneasily.

Finally Fluttershy spoke up. “No, actually it’s not. That’s exactly why we’re here; to decide if somepony lives or dies.”

“W-what?” Pinkie broke in, her hair had gone completely flat and her eyes wide. “B-b-but that’s awful! We can’t just decide that somepony dies! Nopony should be able to decide that!”

“I must say I agree with Pinkie,” Rarity said harshly. “Twilight I’m shocked. How could you even say- or think -such a thing?!”

“Yeah, seriously! That’s bucked up, Twi!” Rainbow had taken to hovering over her seat.

Twilight’s eyes flicked over to Applejack who, thus far, had been the only one who hadn’t voiced an opinion. “What about you, AJ?”

Applejack shrugged. “Ah’m waitin’ to hear who we’re judgin’.” Rarity, Pinkie, and Rainbow stared at the Applejack as if she’d grown a second head. “What? Ah’m a farmer. If you got a rotten apple you get rid of it or risk it spoilin’ the whole lot. It ain’t pretty but it happens.”

None of the girls had a response to that. It was odd, Fluttershy would have once been in exactly the same position as Pinkie but Sombra’s cold, pragmatic demeanor seemed to have rubbed off on her somewhat. She still hated the idea of letting someone die, but the notion of a ruling figure being forced to make a decision for the benefit of those they protect was far more than just a theory to her now.

“Alright, well here are the details,” Twilight said, her voice still disturbingly neutral. “We have a pony who is, at this moment, on the verge of death. Fluttershy asked me to save him but I refused, we talked and I concluded that I couldn’t afford a rash decision in either direction so we called you all here. The pony in question has, in no particular order; enslaved an empire, conducted horrifyingly unethical magical experiments, waged dozens of unprovoked wars for the sake of expansion, has used illegal mind magic on one of our own number, and those are just the sweeping, general crimes I’m aware of. The name of the accused is, you may have guessed, Sombra.”

The four newly minted jurors stared in disbelief, but any remarks were cut off by Fluttershy’s voice. “Uhm, actually Sombra is his last name. His first name is Erebos.”

Twilight blinked confusedly for a moment before the look was replaced with one of wry amusement that Fluttershy thought wouldn’t have looked out of place of Sombra’s face. “Well okay then, let the minutes show a correction and that the full name of the accused is Erebos Sombra.” Turning back to Applejack, Pinkie, Rainbow, and Rarity, Twilight could only grimace. “So what’s the initial vote girls? Former King Sombra is dying and we might, I stress might, have the ability to save him. Do we?”

“Why should we?” Applejack asked harshly.

The Alicorn of Friendship looked to Fluttershy for the answer. Clearing her throat, Fluttershy unconsciously raised herself up, framing herself straighter with her gaze forward and her wings only slightly extended. Without realising it, the demure mare had begun to mimic King Sombra’s regal posture. For herself, Fluttershy just wanted to make sure she was heard and that she didn’t hide away from their eyes. Not this time. Not with Sombra’s life on the line.

“Because he wasn’t always like he is now,” Fluttershy responded, her voice even and strong. It was still quiet but it had taken on a quality of power that she had never thought she possessed. I will make you proud, your Majesty. “You see, almost two thousand years ago there was a terrible storm…”

 
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