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?


9. Taking Enthusiastic Walks

The cool night air carried the hints of early autumn in its welcome chill as Sombra walked the border of the Everfree. He briefly considered using the time to retrieve more of his belongings but quickly decided against it. The Everfree was bad enough in the daytime and he little cared to test his fortunes during the night while he had barely the magical strength of a subaverage unicorn, Instead he took a moment to do something he had not done in centuries; enjoy himself. His hours spent recounting his past to the mouse had awakened a whimsy in him that he had thought was quashed long ago. For so long he had cast his gaze towards the future glory of his Empire and to his next conquests. Now, though, he had no Empire to lead, no army with which to conquer, and, in truth, no desire for either at the moment.

Sombra considered that last notion as he edged away from the Everfree and towards the outskirts of Ponyville. Once he had worn the Crystal Crown out of necessity but, looking back on it, there was little he enjoyed about rulership. It was all minutiae and details and, while he had enjoyed the challenge of it, there had been no ‘glory’ in it. It had been a burden he despised at times; leading the ungrateful, whinging populace had been a chore wherein he dragged them by the scruff of their necks to prosperity as they doggedly tried to crawl back to the dark ages.

Let us say I ‘retire’ my kingship, Sombra mused idly as he passed some of the more run down houses on the edge of the village, the question becomes: what do I do with myself? I can hardly exist in a world that calls me a war criminal. My pride will not permit me to live in hiding either. I refuse to fade into obscurity after being given a bloody muzzle by the Two Sisters. Sombra let his thoughts carry him down a small farm road and off a small outshoot towards a dingy neighborhood.

Glancing around, Sombra wrinkled his muzzle in distaste. It reminded him far too much of where he had grown up. Still it was almost comforting that, even in the saccharine principality of Equestria, there were still slums. He was about to leave when he felt a pair of eyes set on him from near the edge of one of the more worn-looking houses. Carefully, he extended his perceptions through his horn and cast them towards the shadowed corner of the house while pretending to walk away. The gaze was not idle, it was watching him. He could sense the mind though it was clouded with emotion; fear chiefest of all. Had he been discovered?

Best to face them now rather than permit them to scurry off, Sombra thought in annoyance. At least the nearest houses seem vacant enough from their poor state of repair.

Expending a small surge of his precious magic for a teleportation spell, Sombra vanished and reappeared next to the shadow where his watcher had secreted themselves. A startled yelp of fear answered him and a small figure attempted to dart away. Sombra seized their tail in his telekinetic grasp while wrapping his telekinesis around their muzzle to silence them before turning them about to face him.

The terrified face of a fuchsia-maned filly with an orange coat stared back at Sombra. Her eyes were wide and fixed on him, and he could feel her entire body shaking in his grip. Letting out an annoyed sigh, Sombra briefly weighed the pros and cons of letting the filly go as is versus wiping her memories. On the one hoof she was just a filly and was, therefore, unlikely to be a threat. On the other hoof he had no idea who her parents were. If they had any kind of influence then his life would be made that much more difficult.

Erring on the side of caution it is, then, Sombra decided as he carefully set the filly down.

“My apologies, little one,” Sombra said as he released her. “I’m afraid my nerves aren’t what they used to be. Are you alright?”

After a moment the filly stopped shaking and nodded her head. “U-uhm, yeah, I”m cool.”

“Good. Now, may I ask what you are doing out here in the middle of the night? Surely your parents couldn’t approve of you being out so late and alone.” Sombra noticed her flinch slightly at the word ‘parents’ before she shook her head.

“I’m just, y’know, hanging out,” she said, waving a hoof nervously. “What about you, huh? You’re out here too!” She pointed her hoof accusingly at him and Sombra couldn’t help but chuckle at her attitude.

“You are a child,” Sombra retorted, amused. “I am not and therefore I have a certain amount of autonomy that you lack by dint of your age.”

“Yeah, uh, I have no idea what like… half of those words meant,” the filly said, her muzzle scrunched up in confusion before turning away while still shooting a look over her withers at Sombra. “Look mister, I’m just gonna go, okay? Sorry I startled you or whatever.”

“Where are you going to go?” Sombra asked, his voice chillingly even.

The filly tensed up. “B-back to my parents of course.”

“That would be a difficult thing for an orphan, my dear,” Sombra answered darkly. The filly’s eyes went wide with shock and she began to move away. Her progress was halted by a single glare from Sombra, his eyes flashing with colors of magic that the filly didn’t recognise.

“But… H-how did you know?” she asked in a quiet voice, her eyes teary.

Sombra smirked. “You just told me, but I suspected from how you reacted when I mentioned your parents, although your poor attempt at lying reinforced my suspicion.”

The filly scowled and scuffed her hoof on the dirt patch under her. “Ponyfeathers,” she muttered. “I guess you’re gonna take me back to the Orphanage, huh?”

Sombra considered the notion. Orphans were the least dangerous witnesses. Nopony listened to them and more often than not they tended to slip between the cracks of bureaucracy. Lost children in an uncaring world.

“Perhaps,” Sombra answered, “or perhaps not. First tell me your name.”

The filly eyes took on a glint of hope. “S-Scootaloo, my name is Scootaloo.”

“Tell me, Scootaloo, why are you an orphan?” Sombra asked. The filly flinched at the question, her ears sinking down eyes clenched shut.

“I… I don’t really know,” Scootaloo said, her voice cracking a little. “I came home from school one day and they were gone. They took all of their stuff and just… left.”

“I see,” Sombra said dispassionately. “What did you do?”

Scootaloo shrugged. “I scrounged what I could for a few weeks. I did okay I guess. But eventually some ponies from city hall came to find out why my parents hadn’t been seen and why the utility bill wasn’t being paid. Once they realised my parents had left they took me to city hall. My Mom and Dad hadn’t told anyone where they were going, though. Or even that they were leaving. I… I overheard the mayor talking later about debts to some ponies from Manehattan.”

“Perhaps they left you so you would not be caught up in their mistakes, then,” Sombra ventured. Scootaloo laughed, a quiet and brittle noise.

“That would be a first,” Scootaloo said bitterly. “Mom and Dad never gave a flying feather what I did. They just sat around and drank. I don’t even know how they paid any of the bills. I cooked for myself, cleaned up after myself… I barely even noticed they were gone after a while.”

Sombra narrowed crooked an eyebrow at that before taking a more critical examination. There were no signs of scarring or any of the damage to movement that would imply that the filly was ever beaten. It seemed her parent’s disinterest in their offspring was so complete they couldn’t even be bothered to hurt her. It must have been some small miracle of pony biology that drove them to care for her through her foalhood.

“My father and mother passed away when I was very young,” Sombra found himself saying. It felt odd telling another pony that but, then again, it hardly mattered. “I was orphaned when I was around your age I suspect.”

“Oh… uhm, sorry,” Scootaloo answered, shifting around a bit uncomfortably. “That sucks, I guess. At least my parents are still alive.”

Sombra chuckled dryly. “On the contrary it is, perhaps, less awful that I was orphaned in such a manner. At least my own parents had a good reason for leaving I and my siblings alone in the world. Yours were simply terrible at being parents entirely.”

“Well that’s nice to know,” Scootaloo answered, scrunching her muzzle and glaring off to the side.

Silence fell between the two of them and Sombra found himself considering what to do with the filly. Scootaloo ended up being a bit of surprise to him, reminding him of his own beginnings. A part of him of also genuinely impressed with her fortitude and attitude. She didn’t curse the world for its unfair treatment of her, attempt to play the victim, or cast blame. She simply took the world as it came to her and focused on surviving. Admirable qualities, all.

A notion struck Sombra’s mind like a lightning bolt. I’ve been seeking purpose all this time, but… perhaps I’ve been too close-minded. The first Orders I created in my Empire were out of necessity but I cannot deny a certain sense of pride I felt in creating those well-oiled machines. To reforge them right beneath the Princesses muzzles? Very well, let us see how this plays out then.

“So, uh, can I go?” Scootaloo asked, shifting in place under Sombra’s gaze.

The sorcerer’s attention narrowed in on the small Pegasus. “Why didn’t you fly away?”

“W-what?” Scootaloo started at the sudden question. “You just surprised me was all! I-”

“When a Pegasus is surprised their first instinct is usually to take to the skies,” Sombra cut her off. “They’re like birds, they seek the escape of flight by instinct with very few exceptions.” Thoughts of the mouse chased through Sombra’s mind and he suppressed a chuckle. “You, however, tried to flee on hoof. Why?”

For the first time in the coversation Scootaloo couldn’t hold back her tears. Her eyes smashed shut and she looked down as the heat behind her eyelids built up. “B-because I can’t fly. My wings are stupid… they’re too small. They barely get me up off the ground. I’m twelve already and I’ve never flown, okay? Is that what you want to hear?!”

Instead of answering Sombra allowed some his power to flow into his eyes as he cast a finely tuned detection spell. Scootaloo stared as his eyes took on an unearthly, corpse-light glow. The world around Sombra shifted into washed out shades of muted grays and greens except for the runty Pegasus in front of him. She appeared as a complex network of flowing lines of ruddy energy. Immediately Sombra saw the problem; the lines were thin, fragile, and failed to extended into her extremities properly. Not only was Scootaloo unable to fly, Sombra mused, she was probably unable to Pegasus magic at all. Cloudwalking was almost certainly the limit of her capabilities.

“Your meridians are stunted,” Sombra said evenly as the eerie glow faded from his eyes. “Since meridians are what permit magic to flow through your body it is hardly odd that you can’t fly. In fact, I doubt you could even shape a cloud. Aside from cloudwalking you are more like a particularly fragile, sickly Earth Pony.”

Scootaloo’s face fell more and more as Sombra spoke and tears started to fall from her eyes. “W-well, fuck you too!” She finally screamed. “I know I’m a useless runt, okay! I don’t need you to tell me that. So what if I’ll never fly? I’ll figure something out and you… you can go sit on your own horn and spin ya dumb screwhead!”

Only after she finished her rant did Scootaloo realise what she had done, but rather than try and run or apologise she just stood her ground, tiny legs shaking, and glared at the towering, dark stallion. After a moment, Sombra’s face split into a predatory grin.

“Excellent,” Sombra chuckled, “most excellent. I’m glad I had you pegged right. You’ve got a fire in your heart that I admire, filly. Your parents left you malnourished and weak, stunting your growth and stealing the sky, your birthright, from you. The world has left your broken, homeless, orphaned, and abandoned and yet you continue to defy it.”

“S-so? What do you care?” Scootaloo asked, still not backing down.

Sombra smirked. “I want to offer you a deal, Scootaloo. How would you like me to fix you? I could repair the damage that neglect and hard years have dealt to you. Your meridians would recover, your body would be stronger, and you would, finally, be able to fly.”

There was a soft thump as Scootaloo’s legs finally gave out from under her. Her eyes were wide with disbelief as she stared at the ground and the dark hooves that belonged to the stallion in front of her. After a moment she stood back up and looked him straight in the eye. Sombra liked the look she wore. It was the look of somepony who had been beaten, trampled, and spat on by life but was never broken. They were eyes that had the determination to win or die trying.

“Okay,” Scootaloo answered. “What do I have to do?”

“You’re not going to ask what the catch is?” Sombra asked with a sly grin.


Sombra chuckled again. “Good girl.”

After doing a quick scan to ensure that they were still alone, Sombra suddenly shed his disguise. Scootaloo gasped as the stallion in front of her suddenly seemed to melt into shadow and reform into a cyclopean specimen of power. Sombra’s horn shifted back to its more comfortable curved, blade-like, shape and, lowering his head down, Sombra lifted his right forehoof to it and made a shallow cut just above his fetlock before holding it out to Scootaloo.

“Drink,” Sombra said simply. “My magic will do the rest.”

“That’s it?” Scootaloo asked skeptically. “Just… drink your blood? What are you, a vampony?”

Sombra shook his head and laughed. “No and no,” he answered, “This magic is older than Equestria, but it is magic, I am no vampony, and as for your first question; you must not only drink my blood... but survive it.”

Scootaloo swallowed heavily before glancing at the proffered hoof. Licking her lips she gave a sharp nod. “You’re on, weirdo.”

Leaning in, the frail Pegasus filly pressed her lips to the cut. Sombra, for his part, forced the blood to flow steadily into her mouth. Dutifully, Scootaloo drank until he finally pulled his hoof away. Every culture; Pony, Minotaur, Griffon, Saddle Arabian, and all others, had found a kind of implicit agreement on certain things. One of those was things was blood. Blood was life. Blood was power. This magic was not particularly taxing, nor did it require great amounts of magic from the caster. He had created the ritual in order to strengthen his most devoted servants and to ensure their obedience. The cost was not exacted from the caster but from the recipient. Most subjects died after being exposed to the catalyst spell that infused his blood into their bodies. Perhaps Scootaloo would die as well. Perhaps not.

A black and red arc of lightning leapt from Sombra’s curved horn to strike Scootaloo in the chest, snaking through her small body and digging into her heart. Scootaloo gasped and fell face-first into the dirt, spasming and shaking. Sombra knew that his blood would now feel like fire coursing through her veins. It would tear her apart and rebuild her from the inside out. He had never used this spell on somepony so young before and could not resist admitting to a certain curiosity as to its side-effects. He was confident she would live, though. Sombra had rarely ever been a betting Pony, but he placed fair odds on this little one making it through.

As Scootaloo shook and spasmed Sombra cast another spell to scan the town for a medical institution. Weariness crept up into his body as he did so and Sombra growled at the irritating weakness that had settled on him. Fortunately his scrying had found a suitable location; Ponyville General Hospital.

One last spell and then I will return to the mouse’s cottage, Sombra thought as he gathered up the shivering form of Scootaloo with one leg and pressed her close to his chest. She was feverish and sweating. One more spell.

Silently he teleported himself near the Emergency Room doors in the shadow of an overhang behind a hedge. His scry had shown him an orderly who had stepped out to smoke near the hedge by the exit; a perfect errand colt. The darkness clung to Sombra like a second skin, shrouding the sorcerer from sight as he gently set Scootaloo down on the other side of the hedge from the orderly and stepped back deeper into the shadows to watch. Sure enough Scootaloo eventually cried out again, drawing the orderly’s attention. Alarmed, the scrub-wearing pony went poking around the foliage searching for the source of the noise. Inevitably he found Scootaloo, pale, shaking, and fevered.

“H-hey!” he shouted back towards the ER. “Hey we’ve got a sick filly out here!”

Acting quickly, the orderly tore off the upper part of his scrubs and wrapped Scootaloo in them in an effort to keep her warm before lifting her onto his back and galloping back to the ER, his cigarette forgotten near the hedge. Smirking, Sombra stepped out of the shadows and stomped out the lit end as he cloaked himself in the shape of Coal Axiom once more and turned away from Ponyville and began the return journey to Fluttershy’s cottage. He would be seeing her soon again anyway assuming his plans panned out, which they usually did.




Fluttershy hummed quietly to herself as she finished fitting the master’s new bed with its sheets and blankets. The Ponies who had delivered it had been very nice about making sure it was set up properly. Sombra had been gone for almost two hours ago and for the past hour Fluttershy had been going about the business of making the guest room more fit for a king. Ever since he had shared his story with her she had felt strangely about their roles. Sombra had neither commented nor, really, acknowledged how close he had allowed her to get to him; physically and emotionally. Their dynamic was blurring in her mind and, she suspected, in his. How long had it been since Sombra had a confidante that was not terrified of him or enslaved by him. The geas controlled her actions but her mind was still her own.

Is it? Her mind whispered back to her. You’re still calling him ‘master’ when he’s not around.

Pausing in her cleaning, Fluttershy’s face scrunched up into an annoyed scowl. It was like a broken record. What if she just… liked calling him that? Was that wrong? Her parents and siblings had lived with a ‘master’ for their entire lives and had no complaints. They were proud of their roles, in fact.

Maybe Sombra was right after all, Fluttershy thought, a wan smile replacing the scowl. Maybe service is just in my nature. I… can’t help but wonder if that’s such a bad thing.

The dainty Pegasus was about to pick up her cleaning again when she heard the back door open and then shut. Quickly she finished tucking in the covers and sheets of the bed before turning about to leave the room. She halted, though, as she caught a glimpse of herself in the vanity that had been set up near the window. Blinking, Fluttershy stared at the Pegasus in the mirror. Her apron had a couple smears of dust on it from helping the delivery Ponies in shifting some of the furniture around the room, her long mane was clipped back to keep it in place as she cleaned. More importantly though… she was smiling. It wasn’t the smile she was used to seeing on her own face, though; her new smile was easy, relaxed, yet excited.

“I wasn’t aware that vanity was among your traits, mouse,” Sombra’s voice startled Fluttershy. She let out a small squeak as she whirled around to face the towering stallion.

Fluttershy made a deep curtsy and bow. “I’m sorry, your Majesty, I just… thought I saw something strange and ended up distracting myself.”

Sombra chuckled as he walked past her into his newly appointed room. “You are permitted to acknowledge your own beauty, mouse. Tis hardly an offense to myself.”

A flush slowly crawled up Fluttershy’s cheeks at Sombra’s words and suddenly her heart was pounding in her chest. He had complimented her voice and her capabilities before but always in regards to how they served him. Never her appearance. At least, not like this.

This is silly, Fluttershy thought silently you don’t need to be so excited that he said you looked nice. But… but he didn’t just say I looked nice. He called me beautiful. He thinks I’m beautiful.

“You… you really think I’m beautiful?” Fluttershy finally asked softly.

Sombra seemed surprised by Fluttershy’s response but after a moment he gave a small nod. “You are,” he answered in his pleasingly quiet rumble. “Beautiful, that is. Very much so, in fact.”

Warmth seemed to fill up Fluttershy’s chest and she could barely keep the smile off of her face. Sombra, on the other hoof, was carefully cleaning off his hooves before moving over to his new bed to examine it. Seemingly satisfied, he lifted himself onto the mattress and let out a groaning sigh of relief.

“Well done, mouse.” Sombra rumbled from his new bed. “I had almost forgotten what a proper bed felt like. This is more than adequate, you have your King’s gratitude.”

Fluttershy bowed again before making to leave, intent on fixing something for dinner. Sombra’s voice stopped her in the doorway though.

“Mouse, do you know a runty orange filly named Scootaloo?” Sombra asked. Fluttershy turned to face him, confused.

“I… I do, your Majesty,” Fluttershy answered. She couldn’t help but feel like an ice cube had been dropped directly into her stomach. “M-may I ask why you wish to know?” Sombra’s next words pulled the proverbial rug from beneath her hooves, though, leaving her rump on the floor.

“How long ago was she orphaned?”

Fluttershy worked her jaw a few times before rediscovering her voice. “W-what?! She’s not! Or… I don’t think- Oh… oh my. Why would you ask something like that? Uhm… your Majesty.”

Either choosing to ignore her little lapse or having not noticed it (Fluttershy suspected the former), Sombra shrugged his broad shoulders. “I came across her on my walk. She was hiding amidst some abandoned houses. Apparently, she had run away from an orphanage. I suppose I was simply surprised to see that, even with your vaunted Princesses, neglect and abuse still take their unpleasant toll.”

Too shocked to mind propriety, Fluttershy trotted up to Sombra’s bedside. “What do you mean? Was she alright? What happened… uhm, I mean if you don’t mind, your Majesty.”

Sombra gave her a grim smile. “The runt was clearly malnourished and had been for some time. Her wings are stunted along with, I suspect, most of her Pegasus magic. Before tonight she might have even fallen through a cloud.”

“T-thats horrible!” Fluttershy cried out, “that’s awful and terrible and… and... “ Fluttershy’s mind finally registered what Sombra had said. “And… your Majesty? What did you mean: ‘before tonight’?”

“The filly is strong, she will be just fine, mouse.”

Fluttershy’s response was stolen by the sound of somepony pounding furiously on her door. For a moment the demure Pegasus was torn between ignoring whomever had come to call in favor of continuing the conversation but the frantic nature of the pounding decided it for her. Bowing herself out of Sombra’s room, Fluttershy trotted to the door and opened it to reveal a terrified-looking Rainbow Dash.

‘Fluttershy! You’ve gotta come with me!” Rainbow nearly shouted despite being inches away. “Scootaloo is in the hospital!”

The bottom felt like it dropped out of Fluttershy’s stomach at Rainbow’s words. No, Sombra, what have you done?

“O-oh no, what happened? Is she okay?” Fluttershy asked, stepping outside of her home and shut the door behind her.

“I dunno…” Rainbow said in a choked voice. Fluttershy had never seen her stalwart friend so close to tears. “I… I’m one of her emergency contacts. The hospital sent a courier up to my house, like, twenty minutes ago I think? I went down as fast as I could. All they said was that it was… it was something in her blood. They called in Twilight a few minutes ago because they’re stumped. I… I just needed to come to you because I can’t do anything there and… and…”

Finally, Rainbow broke down. The normally brave and belligerent mare buried her face in Fluttershy’s chest and started sobbing. It was a hard, wracking noise; it sounded like nothing but pain. Fluttershy pulled Rainbow close, holding her tightly as Rainbow hugged her friend back.

Sombra said that Scootaloo would be fine and, as much as I hate to admit it, I still trust him… he’s never broken his word before, after all. Fluttershy thought silently as she held her grief-stricken friend. This is going too far, though. I’m going to talk to him after everything is cleared up with Scootaloo, not matter what this stupid spell does to me. Poor Rainbow Dash… how could Sombra have done something so awful?

The answer, of course, was obvious. In the end he was still Sombra. Fluttershy had almost begun to fool herself into thinking she was making progress… and maybe she was. Only a little, though. He had only been with her for two days though it felt much longer. It felt like she was caught in turbulence when she was dealing with Sombra’s seemingly random personality. In one moment he was genial, introspective, intelligent, and almost… kind. In the next moment he made it known in no uncertain terms why he was feared as the Crystal Tyrant and King of Shadows.

After a few minutes, Rainbow stepped away from Fluttershy, wiping her eyes. “S-sorry about that, Flutters. Can, uh, can you maybe not tell anypony about that, yeah?”

“Of course,” Fluttershy answered, smiling beatifically. “We should go to the hospital. If you’re Scootaloo’s emergency contact you need to be there to sign off if they need to do something, okay?”

Rainbow sniffled a little but nodded. “Y-yeah, sorry. I just needed to talk to somepony and… and you were the only one I could think of so… Yeah, let’s go. Thanks for coming with me.” Fluttershy just nodded as they took flight and started heading back towards Ponyville proper. A few moments later Rainbow spoke up again. “Hey Flutters, I didn’t think about it before but… why was I called? I mean, why weren’t Scootaloo’s parents there?”

Oh no… I guess I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know, Fluttershy grimaced. I can’t keep this a secret though. Rainbow deserves to know at least as much as I do.

“W-well, I recently heard something about Scootaloo you see…”

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