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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21. Daughter

The carriage rumbled along the broken northern road away from Manehattan. The further one got from Canterlot the more the disrepair became obvious. Of course, the nearer one was to any major city; Fillydelphia, Baltimare, Vanhoover, the better the roads became… except in the north. Stalliongrad was curiously immune to the invasive kindness and pervasive good intentions of the rest of Equestria as a whole. It was as if all the darkness of an entire country had managed to congregate into a single, virulent demesne.

Fluttershy couldn’t help but consider that fact as they moved away from the shining metropolitan center of the nation. Manehattan was a beautiful city, for all its faults, and Rarity had often remarked on its virtues. After being in Stalliongrad, Fluttershy couldn’t find herself disagreeing with her pale friend. She very much doubted that any city had its underbelly quite so close to its surface as the great northern, smoke-belching city she was returning to. Still, in a way it almost more… honest. Stalliongrad didn’t hide what it was from the world behind a veneer of gems and glitter and insouciant civility. Fluttershy felt a slight smile cross her muzzle as she found her thoughts drifting back to Sombra. He was very much like the city, she supposed.

Scootaloo shifted in her sleep, her new sunset feathers fluttering in the cool night air. The young filly’s slumber drew Fluttershy’s mind back to the why she was still awake. Hours, or perhaps minutes, ago she had awoken from the strangest dream. It wasn’t a dream of course. She had traversed some great distance in a place she had never walked before.

The dream realm.

The domain of Gods and Demons.

Sombra had called her a natural dreamwalker but something about that had rung untrue. Or at least… mistaken. Fluttershy had never entered that place before…

Well, no… that wasn’t quite true was it? She had been there once not so long ago. When the darkness had overtaken her and she had seen terrible, unspeakable visions. Nightmare vistas that her mind had mercifully blitzed from her memory. Then he had come for her. Sombra had pulled her out of that maelstrom of chaos and darkness in a whirlwind of burning silver and obsidian.

Fluttershy did remember one thing, though. One… thing. She recalled its whispering voice, like a hissing cockroach. She remembered how it looked just like her except… it didn’t. Not really, did it? It made Fluttershy think that it looked her but just beneath flesh there was something else. She had hoped that after Sombra had taken her away that she would be free to find some kind of peace but her sleep had been awful these past weeks. She hadn’t told him. He hadn’t seen it and she didn’t want him to know. He fussed over her enough and he was busy keep them safe. Besides, in a strange way… Fluttershy wanted to handle this herself.

She had never entered the dream realm consciously before, though.

Lucidly.

Not until that evening after collecting Scootaloo. Fluttershy had fallen asleep with Scootaloo curled up next to her and moments later had begun to dream. She couldn’t remember the dream in any particulars but she knew what it felt like when she left it. It was like being seized by the rib cage and pulled. Not painful but inescapable. Dragged from her normal, peaceful slumber and dragged through a wet, viscous membrane and spat out in a place of swirling, twisting, riotous colour. For a moment she had been gripped by absolute terror and in that moment the first thing she thought of was him.

Sombra.

She could feel his gaze on her, even then. As if he was looking across a vast distance unerringly at her. With the thought of his name an image of him echoed in her mind and suddenly she was vaulted across an illimitable distance to land not-so-gracefully on a swirling shore of light. Sombra had told her a little about the dream realm; how it was a mercurial place full of danger, how it responded to desire and emotion the way the material world responded to physical stimulus. In the carriage, Fluttershy felt a faint blush creep onto her cheeks. There was something just a little romantic about the idea that her need for him was so powerful that the dream realm itself had catapulted her straight to him. It was silly and she knew there was nothing naturally benign about the place she had been in, but it was still kind of… sweet.

The small bundle of feathers and fur curled up in the seat beside Fluttershy shuffled slightly, drawing a faint smile from the demure pegasus. Scootaloo was probably dreaming too, but much nicer dreams, Fluttershy hoped.

Fluttershy contented herself with a few moments of watching Scootaloo sleep; her small chest rising and falling in a steady rhythm, those beautiful sunset feathers that Sombra had bestowed on her curling around her still-frail body. In that moment Fluttershy felt as if a massive weight had dropped into her heart, plunging it into her stomach.

This was her daughter.

Her daughter.

She was a mother and Scootaloo; little, accident-prone Scootaloo, was her daughter.

A lump of cold dread began to form in her throat. How could she have done this so brazenly? She was responsible for a life now. Not just the small, mostly-self-sufficient animal life like back in her cottage but a real, living, breathing pony. A young filly now relied on her to provide everything she would need to grow up healthy, from food and education, to discipline and order. Fluttershy bit her lip as panic set in. She didn’t want to start hyperventilating, that would certainly wake up Scootaloo and then they would both be losing their minds which wouldn’t help anypony at all.

Fluttershy tasted the rich, coppery tang of blood on her tongue and she realized she had bitten straight through her lip. It stung but it was a bracing pain. It snapped her back to reality. Fluttershy swallowed the lump in her throat and let out a shuddering breath. She could deal with this when she was back home. Right now she needed sleep. Or something like it.

Stretching a wing over Scootaloo, Fluttershy sidled a little closer to the sleeping filly and curled up beside her and let the steady rocking of the carriage lull her to a peaceful-

-....sleep?

Darkness surrounded her.

Scootaloo was nowhere to be found nor was the carriage. Fluttershy glanced all around her but everywhere she look was just an expanse of matte black nothingness.

It was a dream. It had to be. Not that that really helped at all of course. Dreams, to most ponies, meant they were fine. To Fluttershy it meant that she was potentially in very serious danger. Sometimes she wished Sombra had just kept some of his lectures about the nature of the dream realm to himself. Intellectually, Fluttershy knew it wouldn’t have made it any less dangerous but there was a saying about ignorance and bliss which Fluttershy hadn’t really felt like she appreciated fully until now.

fOuNd YoU sWeEtLiNg… the familiar voice hissed from all around Fluttershy.

Fluttershy’s eyes snapped open and she stifled a gasp. Cold sweat broke out over her entire body. Only the sensation of Scootaloo shifting around in her sleep broke Fluttershy out of the paralysis of terror that gripped her.

That voice.

It was so painfully familiar.

Eyes of pitch and teeth like needles. A voice like a thousand hissing cockroaches.

Clenching her eyes shut, Fluttershy tried to block out the memory. “Leave me alone…” she whispered softly, “Please… just leave me alone.”

yOu’Re NeVeR aLoNe SwEeTlInG, the voice in her mind chittered. yOu’Ll NeVeR bE aLoNe EvEr AgAiN.

Tears leaked down Fluttershy’s face and matted her fur, Every time it spoke it felt like broken glass scraping on a chalkboard in her ears. She tried to move but leaden weight seemed to cling to her legs. Fluttershy could feel her eyelids drooping down as the overwhelming need to sleep crept up her throat and into her brain. She was so, so tired. A part of her mind scrabbled frantically the fading vestiges of consciousness, but it was all in vain as darkness closed in around Fluttershy’s mind like a cloying shadow.

She was so tired.

If she could just rest her eyes a bit she would be okay.

If she could just sleep.

SlEeP.

DrEaM.

Fluttershy dreamt.

She dreamt of demons and angels as she drifted through seas of frozen fire and towering edifices of brass to cyclopean gilded halls choking with incense and cacophonic music. Twisting labyrinths of spun sugar watched by prismatic ravens that led to vast marshes filled with sunken ziggurat and whispering, mournful cries. Things she couldn’t fix her perceptions on clearly cavorted around her as she grew weaker and weaker, all while a distant voice sang to her of quiet, endless slumber. How long Fluttershy slept she didn’t know, but time meant very little. It didn’t really matter though, did it? All that was important was that she slept and slept and-... and-

Please, a small, frightened voice shook the wet, clinging mass of darkness she was buried under. Please, please wake up. She wanted to sleep but… Fluttershy knew that voice. Please… wake up...

In the deep, wracking darkness beyond the wall of sleep, Fluttershy shifted. Her wings tried to stretch open but she there was something keeping them bound.

What’s wrong? Why won’t you wake up!?

That voice. Fluttershy knew that voice. Scootaloo. Rainbow Dash’s biggest fan. Why was she in her cottage trying to wake her up?

Fluttershy furrowed her brow. No, that wasn’t right. She wasn’t in her cottage she in a carriage going home to Sombra. She was…

Please… I know maybe it… it’s too soon to call you this but… please m-mom, please wake up!

She was a mother.

Two eyes snapped open in the darkness shining with emerald light. The spirit that was woven the dark cocoon around her barely had time to register surprise before a pulse of pure prismatic energy erupted from the captive who had, moments ago, been neatly bound and dying, her strength slowly being leached into the parasitic daemon that had held her captive.

It’s name was Sh’herek. Centuries ago it had been worshipped as a minor goddess of vengeance. Ponies and Griffons, mainly, had often called its name to bring down pestilence and dark fortune on those who had wronged them. The last few Solar Inquisitions had not been kind to its few actual priests though, and the last century had seen its name forgotten by all but a few Sorcerers who generally had better things to do than call on a mostly defunct spirit with an, admittedly, poor attitude. It had eventually retreated to the Everfree Forest, one of the few remaining bastions of darkness and mystery. A place where even the Purged and Forgotten could find enough sustenance to preserve themselves. When the little pony had suddenly erupted with dark power Sh’herek had seen a golden opportunity to reclaim much of its lost magic. Too bad the Shadow King had, apparently, seen the same opportunity. Even in its hayday Sh’herek had never possessed the strength to challenge such a powerful practitioner of the dark arts, so it had retreated. Still, it followed the little pony on the periphery, hungrily watching its dreams and waiting for a time when the fallen King was no longer watching over her.

Then she had left the shadow of the old city and Sh’herek saw its opportunity when the little pony expended herself to lash out at the three dull ponies that had carried the little newly mended bird from her quaint home near the dark forest. The pony was tired, so she had slept, and in her sleep Sh’herek had found her vulnerable. Everything was perfect.

So how. How had this happened?!

Sh’herek stared down hatefully at the shining pony that glared up at it in return. One moment she had been wrapped and bound in its web, drained almost to death and in the next the pony had torn through the steel-like strands as if they were cobwebs and held so much magical might caged in her tiny, insignificant frame that she shone like a trapped star.

ImPoSsIbLe! It hissed poisonously. YoU wErE tO WeAk To EvEn MoVe!

Fluttershy turned as she stared up at the daemon that had trapped and nearly killed her. It was wearing her skin like a wicked mockery but now all of the subtle wrongness of its body stood out almost painfully: protrusions under the thing’s false fur where its unnatural skeleton sat poorly beneath the disguise, those horrid, needle teeth and its pitch-filled eyes. As Fluttershy took it all in, she didn’t feel the same supernatural terror that had filled her in front of her cottage; instead rage boiled in her chest. Not at what the thing had done to her but what it had almost done to Scootaloo. Finally, the little orphan filly had a mother who would love and care for her instead of neglect her and treat her like a burden. The thought of Scoots suddenly having her new mother die out of nowhere right beside her made her want to retch.

Or murder something.

Maybe both.

Fluttershy admitted that she was mostly playing things by ear at this stage.

“The first time you tried to kill me, my King protected me,” Fluttershy spoke in a deadly, hushed tone. “He knocked you away like a leaf and warned you to stay away. Now you’re back and you’re trying to do it again. Since my King isn’t here to reprimand you, I think I’ll have to.” Another thundering cascade of energy ripped out of Fluttershy like the heartbeat of Faust. “And, uhm, I’m afraid I might enjoy that more than I probably should.”

Fluttershy had never been a particularly strong flier. Between her general lack of practice and distinctly un-pegasus-like preference for keeping her hooves on the ground, her wings saw use only when she had to get somewhere quickly or needed to reach one of the higher nests. In the realm of dreams, though, even an Earth Pony could soar through the heavens.

A sound like a god’s whip being cracked broke the silence as Fluttershy left the ground with a sweep of her wings that now seemed wider and stronger than they ought to have. Sh’herek had barely blinked before the little pony slammed into her like a shooting star complete with a burning corona of light suffusing her whole body. Sh’herek was hurled through the void like a rag doll, a feeling that was annoyingly familiar. This was not the Shadow King attacking it though, nor was it as weak as it had been then. Sh’herek had drunk deeply of the little pony’s immense well of power and had strength to spare.

Spreading its rotting, bony wings with a snap, Sh’herek caught itself and tapped into the magic she had stolen, flooding itself with power. Balefire limned its body as bits of skin fell away, revealing more of Sh’herek’s twisted form. Its lower half tore away completely revealing a long, spine-like tail ending in a wicked barb dripping viscous brown fluid, the flesh around its mouth ripped and tore as it freed its lower jaw from the confines of its disguise.

I wIlL cLaIm AlL oF yOuR pOwEr! Sh’herek roared. It rocketed back towards Fluttershy with a sweep of its rotten wings as scythe-like blades of flesh and bone tore free from one of its hooves.

As the organic blade slashed towards Fluttershy a spark of inspiration struck. A memory of Rainbow Dash during winter wrap up some years back laughing as she hovered over Applejack dropping snowflakes on the farm-mare from out of reach, using her native pegasus magic to gather moisture from the air around her wings and make a localized flurry, Applejack had spent half the day covered in snow until she got a hold of a rope and lassoed Rainbow down. The ensuing snowball fight had been a thing of Ponyville legend.

A faint smile tinged with pain found its way onto Fluttershy face as she whipped her wings up. Magic arched across her feathers, leaving behind crystals of ice so cold they were black, as her wings caught the attack against the sheathe of curved, barbed ice that now coated her wings like talons. A flash of surprise crossed the daemon’s face as Fluttershy flexed her wings, sending it staggering away.

Sh’herek rocketed back into the sky followed quickly by Fluttershy trailing a cold wake of biting wind. Bony spurs met black-ice as they slashed at each other, twisting gracefully around one another with wings moving like blades. Sh’herek snapped its tail around as their wings met again and again to strike and Fluttershy’s neck. Before the barb could reach her the once-shy pegasus twisted in place, dragging moisture and cold air from the pure energy that made up the dream realm and formed a dense shell of ice to catch the blow. The barb scraped off the shield that disintegrated just as one of Fluttershy’s wings carved through the space to land a glancing cut across Sh’herek’s chest.

The daemon seemed to falter for a moment and Fluttershy flared her wings to follow through with the attack. Sh’herek’s tortured face contorted into a grin as more of the false fur of its disguise tore away to reveal a writhing nest of dark energy nestled in a cage of overgrown ribs. The cage ripped open with a sound of brittle wood snapping to release a torrent of dark magic at point blank range, slamming into Fluttershy. Arching its back to reposition, Sh’herek turned over to drive Fluttershy from the sky with the stream of pure putrescent energy and into the ground. Its ribs snapped shut, stopping the hemorrhaging power and rocketed down, snapping out a wing and, with a thought, sharpening the edge of the bone to a fine blade. At speed nearing a sonic rainboom Sh’herek crashed into the ground, driving the blade down to where Fluttershy had landed. For a brief moment the daemon felt a surge of triumph and began to draw back its wing.

The wing didn’t move.

As the dust cleared, a shining light poured out from the morass of fouled energy Sh’herek had created. Fluttershy stood firm with the blade of bone gripped in her mouth with blood flowing from her cut lips as the black, skintight shell of ice she had congealed around herself began to fall away revealing the furious mare beneath. A snort of air came from Fluttershy’s nostrils reminding Sh’herek vaguely of a bull. Where the misty air touched, ice grew like vines, ensnaring and freezing the blade of her wing in place.

Snapping out her wings, Fluttershy tore back into the air. Desperately, Sh’herek tried to wrench its wing from the Fluttershy‘s mouth as the mare dragged the daemon-thing along roughly, when that didn’t work Sh’herek swung its barbed tail around, stabbing repeatedly into Fluttershy’s back, but the black shell that had absorbed Sh’herek’s trap-spell spoiled every thrust easily, with every crack the daemon’s tail made being quickly filled in from the mare’s seemingly limitless supply of energy. After another moment the small mare’s speed became too great to gain any leverage with the drag stealing the strength from its attacks.

Fluttershy concentrated, biting down hard on the almost metallic bone as she dragged her tormentor across the illimitable space of the dream realm. Here she wasn’t the shy, weak, creature she was in the waking world.

Here she was strong.

Here she felt the power that Sombra had always insisted she had within her. That fragment of light from some ancient artifact, he had called it. Fluttershy hadn’t had any idea what he was talking about then but now, here, in this place that was so divorced from the physical plane she could feel it. Just a little, Fluttershy thought as she bit down harder feeling the her attackers bone blade crack under the pressure, I can feel… whatever it is that my King thought was there. I can finally… feel it.

Even in the dream realm she could feel her wings burning as she climbed higher and faster. The angry shrieking of the daemon she was dragging was lost to the roar of the false winds around her. Her limit was close, the light in her was sputtering even as it burned ever brighter. At the peak of her rise, Fluttershy pulled a corkscrew and turned down into a full dive. Ice streaked behind her in a nearly solid trail of bitter cold. The ground approached with startling speed and at the very last moment Fluttershy flared her wings out wide, transferring the full weight of her momentum into her unfortunate passenger who struck the ground with the force of a divine hammer with an impact that echoed through the empty space around them for miles.

The crater was nearly two meters deep as Fluttershy walked calmly to the edge and stared down at the mostly-frozen wreckage lying at the bottom. There was very little that remained in one piece; fragments of bone and rime-frosted fur lay strewn around the crater. At the center, though, was her one-time tormentor. Fluttershy cantered carefully downward until she was standing beside the broken daemon. She could tell it was still alive, insofar as it ever was alive in the first place anyway. It was writhing in obvious pain but for the first time she could remember Fluttershy felt nothing but dull, smoldering anger.

“My King ignored you because you weren’t a threat to him,” Fluttershy said softly to the gurgling, frostbitten mass in front of her. “He only struck you because you threatened me. But I want… I need you to understand something. I am not my King. Whether or not you’re a threat to me, you’re a threat to my daughter.”

Glancing down at her hoof, Fluttershy felt a flash of inspiration, and lifted it. Black ice congealed around it until her hoof was shod in an ornate armored boot not unlike her King’s regalia. Flourishes of more lightly colored ice flared into wings on the edges of the boot, and hard, black ice formed the bitter sole.

“I will not abide anything,” Fluttershy said imperiously, “that threatens my daughter.”

The hoof came crashing down on the brittle, cracked skull. A long, drawn out sigh seemed to flow from the broken daemon. The air around Fluttershy began to shimmer and a bone-deep weariness settled into her body. Just before to returned to the realm of normal, mortal dreams, Fluttershy grimaced and glared down at the shattered daemon.

“Never… again…” she muttered before keeling over.

Fluttershy felt as though she was falling. The air around her was thick and warm and a part of her thought she should spread her wings. That was something you did when you were falling right? It didn’t seem immediately necessary, though.

So she fell.

Then her world rocked back and forth. Something was shaking.

Somepony was shaking-

“Mom?” The voice was small and frightened. Instinctively Fluttershy moved to wrap a wing around the small form beside her. “A-are you awake?”

Fluttershy cracked a single eye open. Scootaloo was staring up at her from where she was curled in Fluttershy’s wings. The yellow pegasus smiled wearily; she felt as though she had just run back to back marathons. Every inch of her body ached with the strain of the war she had just waged in the dream realm. Still, she was a mother now and exhaustion was no excuse. Slowly she lifted her head to meet Scootaloo’s relieved gaze.

“A-are you alright, M-miss?” Scootaloo asked haltingly.

“You know,” Fluttershy responded with a warm smile. “I like it when you call me ‘mom’, actually. If that’s alright with you.”

A fragile smile formed on Scootaloo’s face. “Y-yeah! I’m… I’m fine with that. Uhm, are you okay, though? I couldn’t wake you up. I was starting to get really worried.”

“It was nothing, just a bad dream,” said Fluttershy.

Scootaloo looked like she wanted to ask more questions but decided against it and curled back up next to Fluttershy.

“When we get home, which is near Stalliongrad by the way, you’ll be meeting your new father.” Fluttershy continued softly, and she felt Scootaloo stiffen beside her. Fluttershy chuckled at her response. “He’s a very kind stallion, don’t worry. Even if he has a strange way of showing it I guarantee that he only wants the best for you.”

“W-will I be able to visit my friends in Ponyville?” Scootaloo asked hesitantly, and Fluttershy grimaced.

“I’m not sure, I’m sorry. It’s quite far away you see,” Fluttershy answered. “And there are other reasons that I promise I’ll explain when we get home and we can all three of us sit down and talk, okay?”

Scootaloo ruffled her feathers and frowned but nodded. “Okay, but I’ll fly away if I don’t like it. Got it?”

“Got it,” Fluttershy answered with a warm smile. “But I promise it won’t come to that.”

Satisfied, Scootaloo curled in closer to her new mother and Fluttershy wrapped a pale, grey wing around her. This felt right, it felt good. She hoped that Sombra would feel the same way about the young filly in time. Despite his carefree attitude toward Scootaloo, Fluttershy suspected he would be a very good father figure for her and that he cared more about her than he let on. She only hoped that her former friends wouldn’t come looking for Scootaloo, that she hadn’t just drawn down additional scrutiny on their already tenuous situation. Either way, Fluttershy silently vowed to protect her daughter with everything she had.

Glancing over her own wings, Fluttershy stretched out one of her primaries and focused… nothing happened. Furrowing her brow, she glared at the feather, silently demanding what she wanted from it. For a brief moment Fluttershy felt that same pull within her that she felt every time she used her Stare. It was followed quickly by a splitting headache and a wave of exhaustion causing Fluttershy to flinch, snapping her eyes shut and biting back a cry of pain. Letting out a slow breath to ease away the pain of her aching skull, she opened her eyes.

Her primary was covered with the faintest coating of black rime.

Fluttershy smiled wearily as she lowered her head down rest beside her daughter. She would protect Scootaloo.

   
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