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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13. The Trial

The air around Sombra was hot and cloying. He could feel his body straining to continue its labored existence but he could also feel it failing by inches. If he was fortunate he supposed he might live to see the next sunrise but he very much doubted it. The difficulty of every breath and the hard, painful beating of his heart suggested that he had, perhaps, until day’s end. Perhaps he would see the sunset? That would not be so terrible of a last sight.

Shivering, Sombra lifted himself from the sweat-soaked sheets of his bed and lowered himself to the wood floor. His body was unresponsive, as if he had attached dozens of leaden weights to every limb. His legs gave out almost immediately and he crashed to the ground.  At this rate he might make it all the way outside by the time the sun set.

Well, that or he would expire somewhere in the living room.

Sombra chuckled darkly, a harsh grating sound that originated somewhere in his tortured chest. At least the struggle to see the sun one last time would give him something to do with his last hours. As he imagined the encroaching sunset he was surprised to find himself… nostalgic. Almost regretful, in fact. Sunsets were beautiful, of course, he had always liked them, but there was nothing quite like watching the sun set over the snowy fields of the Crystal Empire. The rime-frosted plains of his homeland that reflected the fading light across everything, spreading color and beauty over pure white expanses.

Yes, there was nothing quite like a sunset in the Empire. It was too bad he was so far from that place. He would have liked to see it just one last time.

 

++

 

“...then he lifted the geas. He told me that he wanted to make sure I didn’t suffer any side-effects from it when he died,” Fluttershy finished. “He didn’t ask for help, or for me to try and save him. King Sombra accepted that he was going to die and acted accordingly, like a King should.”

Fluttershy had resisted the urge to hurry through the story, as much as her desire to return to Sombra’s side needled at her she knew that her friends needed to hear every word. She had related the story of Sombra’s past as accurately as possible because, more than anything, it lent him a sense of equinity; something that she knew her friends desperately needed to see if she was going to convince them to save Sombra’s life. If they only saw a monstrous tyrant then her goal was a failure before she even started. If he was a pony though… somepony who had dreams, and goals, and a past… That would change the entire matter at hoof. Fluttershy knew she was fighting an uphill battle. There was no reason for her friends to want to save Sombra and the only reason they were listening was because it was one of their own who was advocating the idea. As it was, the five of them, plus Spike who was noting down her recitation in shorthand next to Twilight’s throne, were silent. When Fluttershy had confessed to Sombra’s actions concerning Scootaloo she had expected Rainbow Dash to say something. Instead the cyan pegasus just looked… thoughtful. It was an odd look for the normally brash and headstrong mare. Pinkie had, of course, cried near the end of her story about Sombra’s past just as she had. The idea of losing so many of one’s friends so brutally and so swiftly hadn’t left even one of former Bearers unmoved. Even Twilight and Applejack looked pained at the idea that somepony had suffered such a terrible loss.

Rainbow Dash, surprisingly, was the first one to raise her hoof. “So Sombra said that the squirt’s life wasn’t in any real danger, right? I… was he sure about that?”

“Yes, he was very sure,” Fluttershy answered with a small smile. “He seemed to take a liking to Scootaloo and… I know it seems strange considering that what he did put her in the hospital, but I think that it was his way of helping.”

Applejack scoffed harshly. “Seems like a kinda weird definition if’n ya ask me.”

“Nah, not really,” Rainbow answered before Fluttershy could respond, surprisingly the yellow mare. “You don’t know what the squirt's crappy parents did to her. She was never going to be able to fly, AJ! Never. It’s only happened a few times in the past few decades but it happens, alright? I’m not proud of it. I love Cloudsdale but Ponies are Ponies, sometimes they’re crap parents. When a colt or filly ends up like Scootaloo, starved and crap? That’s it. Game over. Clipped for life. Sombra changed that, even if he did it in kind of a bucked up way. I’m not dumb enough to cry about it. It’s not like there was another option anyway! Scoots was either going to live grounded for her whole life or she was going to risk her life to get the sky back. I know which one I’d choose. So considering what I’ve heard so far I’m throwing my vote in to save his life. Maybe we try him for crimes or whatever afterward but I owe him that much.”

Fluttershy was both impressed and grateful. She had been worried that Rainbow would be one of the hardest ones to convince considering how protective she was of Scootaloo. She had also never really considered how Rainbow might view the loss of flight, though. Of course, to Fluttershy, that wasn’t such a burden; she spent most of her time on the ground anyway. Sometimes she forgot how integral flight was to the Pegasi because of that. Giving a Pegasus back the sky would probably mean the world to Rainbow Dash even if it hadn’t been somepony she had a personal stake in.

It had taken four hours to reach the point they were at though and every minute was one that Fluttershy begrudged. She understood the necessity but her heart was still with Sombra back in her cottage. His life was probably measured in hours by this point, he certainly didn’t look particularly hopeful when she left.

Oh Celestia.

She left him.

Fluttershy’s heart hitched in place for a moment as she realised what she had done in her haste to reach her friends. She hadn’t thought about it because she had hoped she would be right back with help but… but she hadn’t come back had she? She had just sped away and left him there on the bed, dying and alone.

“Fluttershy, darling?” Rarity said softly, “are you alright?”

Her friend’s voice snapped Fluttershy out of her guilt-ridden reverie, and she shook her head. “No, Rarity, no, I’m not alright at all, but we need to finish this so I can get back to him.”

“To… Sombra, yes?” Rarity clarified, uneasily. Fluttershy nodded a little annoyed. “I see, my apologies for this next question then darling but… given the circumstances I’m sure you can see it’s validity. I have to ask: are you and the King, ahem, together?”

Fluttershy felt the eyes of all of her friends turn to fix on her and for once she didn’t feel an ounce of shame or embarrassment. “Yes, we are.” Each of their mouths dropped to the floor with the notable exception of Rainbow Dash.

“Oh, yeah,” Rainbow said with a nervous laugh. “I did kinda walk in on you and Coal... uh, Sombra- wow that’s weird to say -getting your smooch on, huh? Awkward.”

“A-are you serious, Fluttershy?” Twilight asked in shock. “You k-k-kissed him? Knowing who he is and… and what he did?! That had to be some kind of mind magic!”

“Not necessarily,” Applejack replied, rolling her eyes. Fluttershy was a little surprised that Applejack was coming to her defense. She knew how much the farmer hated being lied to. “Ah know it might be some weird hoodoo or whatever, but ah’m bettin’ somethin’ else.”

“Well don’t leave us in suspense, darling,” Rarity responded.

Applejack shrugged. “Ya ever consider that Fluttershy might just have crap taste in stallions?”

Fluttershy flushed crimson and stared at the ground. “He’s not that bad.”

“He enslaved an Empire and you, Flutters,” Rainbow pointed out. “He kinda is that bad.”

“Wow,” Pinkie spoke up for the first time since the story ended. “Who knew Fluttershy would have a thing for badcolts.”

The blush became even fiercer. “Can we please get back to the topic at hoof now?”

Twilight coughed loudly into her hoof before tapping it hard on the table to restore order. “Fluttershy is right, we’re getting sidetracked. I admit, I feel bad for Sombra, or at least for the stallion he used to be. I never thought about what the Wendigo Crisis would have been like up north. None of that excuses his actions, however.”

“Can’t we just turn him to stone like we did to Discord?” Pinkie asked hopefully. Twilight shook her head, though.

“I’m afraid not,” Twilight answered. “Discord is a Spirit, not a mortal. He was turned to stone because that’s all the Elements were capable of doing to him. You can’t kill chaos, after all. You can’t banish it either. The closest we’ve ever come to using the power of the Elements on somepony like Sombra was when we used them on Tirek and Nightmare Moon. It stripped them of all of their dark magic and, from what Fluttershy told us of Sombra’s state and nature, using the Elements on him would probably do the same thing which would kill him outright.”

“Oh,” Pinkie’s hair, which had become hopefully poofy, returned to its flattened state.

“Ta get back on topic,” Applejack said, tapping her hoof on the map table, “Ah gotta say ah ain’t a big fan of makin’ decisions like this. To be honest ah’d’ve been just peachy stickin’ ta my farm fer the rest’a my days and never havin’ to decide somepony’s fate, but that ain’t how it worked out. No use cryin’ over bruised apples. Thing is, ah feel fer ya Fluttershy, ah really do, but in mah opinion a snake’ll always be a snake no matter how many times it sheds its scales.” Fluttershy felt her heart chill at Applejacks pronouncement and it only got worse as he continued. “Sombra’s a liar, a bully, and a criminal. Now ah’m all fer fair trials but who’s to say if we save him that he don’t turn on us? Or just run off so he can get back to his ‘Evil King’ schtick? Mah vote is no, Flutters, ah’m right sorry bout that but that’s how ah feel ‘bout the matter.”

Before Fluttershy could voice a protest, Rarity chimed in. “Unfortunately I have to say I agree with Applejack on the matter. As romantic as the notion of a dark king falling in love is I can’t let myself be blinded by the idea of it.” Rarity grimaced and shook her head. “I keep thinking back to when we helped save the Crystal Empire and seeing the looks on all the Crystal Ponies’ faces; as if they were missing something fundamental. Most of all, though, I recall the look of abject horror on their faces when they thought Sombra had won. I had nightmares about that for days afterwards. I would truly prefer it if we had more time to consider the matter but… if we must decide now then I cannot in good conscience risk unleashing somepony capable of that kind of evil on the world again. My vote is also no, I’m afraid.”

Fluttershy could only watch in horror as everything she was hoping for crashed down around her ears. Pinkie’s voice broke through defiantly, though, as she pounded her hooves on the table. She wore a scowl that looked utterly out of place on her normally carefree face.

“Are you ladies crazy?!” Pinkie nearly shrieked. “We’re talking about letting somepony die! That’s forever! No take-backsies! No more parties, no more fun, no more laughs or hugs or smiles or tears! Nothing! When somepony dies that’s the end!” Tears had started to flow openly down Pinkie’s face as she shouted. “I… I can’t believe you girls would just… Even if it’s somepony like Sombra! Everypony deserves a chance to be better!” Nopony said a word as Pinkie slumped back in her thrown and wiped at her eyes. When she spoke again it was in a much quieter voice. “No pony is an island, entire of itself, every pony is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Equestria is the less. As well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of a friend’s were. Or if thine own were. Any pony’s death diminishes me, because I am involved with ponykind. And therefore, never send to ask for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.”

Silence reigned throughout the council chambers as the words sunk in. Everypony looked on in a combination of surprise and sadness at the wilted pink pony who stared pointedly at the floor beneath her. Twilight finally broke through the silence.

“That was Dun, wasn’t it?” Twilight asked softly. “No Pony is an Island, right? I remember reading that in my literature classes back in Academy. I never really understood it until I made friends, I guess. I always thought it was too sentimental, but that was back when I thought I didn’t need anypony else.”

“It’s important,” Pinkie responded gloomily. “It was my Granny Pie’s favorite poem. She used to read it to me before bed. She told me to remember it because it was about Harmony. It was about how we’re all in this world together and that nopony, no matter how bad, deserves to be left out. How every life matters, even ones you don’t know or might never know. Their lives mattered. It’s why I throw parties for anypony who needs one. Even if I don’t know them I… I want them to know that they matter.”

“Then your vote…?” Twilight asked, clearly already knowing the answer.

Pinkie nodded. “Yeah, I want to help him. That’s my vote.”

Twilight let out a heartfelt sigh. “I suppose it was too much to hope that a issue this complicated could get a unanimous vote one way or the other…”

“What now?” Fluttershy asked softly, dreading the answer. The only one who hadn’t spoken her vote aloud was Twilight Sparkle herself.

“Now,” Rarity answered, “the law is clear; since there’s no clear majority between the five of us then the deciding vote falls to the Princess. In end we serve as advisors, darling, not a legislature. We’re here to make sure Twilight is never making decisions in a vacuum, but in the end it must be her who decides.”

That was the answer that Fluttershy had been dreading. With a cold heart she turned to face Twilight who was sitting in her throne silently, forehooves pressed together in front her muzzle as she deliberated over the question. The moments that passed felt like hours, but Fluttershy couldn’t bring herself to speak up. Impatience wouldn’t help her here. All she could do was wait. Finally, though, after what felt like an eternity, Twilight lowered her hooves and meet the eyes of her friends.

“I’ve decided.”

 

++

 

The sun was beginning to dip low in the sky as Sombra shouldered open the door to the cottage and leaned against the frame. His breath came in ragged gulps as pain shivered through his body almost constantly. It was a miserable existence but, he mused dryly, one that he would not have to endure for long.

“Thank the spirits for small mercies, I suppose,” Sombra said in a raspy voice.

Letting go of the strength that had kept him moving inch by inch through the house to the door, Sombra collapsed to the ground. With some effort he propped himself up until he was half-laying-half-leaning on the door frame most of the way out of the house. He stared out at the rolling hills surrounding the little cottage and found himself wearing a weary smile; It was a charming place, as places go, with a winding road coiling over the hills, the smell of wildflowers and grass filling the air. There was a light breeze blowing as the sun moved in its inexorable passage across the sky. Sombra had to admit that the view was worth it. It wasn’t the desolate beauty of the frozen north but it was nice enough as last sights went. Although there was one more sight he wished he could have before expiring. Images of a warm smile and kind, blue eyes filled Sombra’s mind. Her soft, buttercream coat, the musical lilt of her voice. Sombra felt an emptiness in his heart.

You have earned this loneliness, Erebos, Sombra thought silently. This was your fate from the beginning. Do not lament it now that your bill has come due.

Sombra let out a sigh as he felt his heart shudder in his chest, laboring to beat with every moment. He was close now. There was very little time left to him. Perhaps that was for the best. Fluttershy did not need an aged tyrant ruining her life. Assuming he had not already done so.

No, if she is smart she will bury my body somewhere in the forest, or just leave it for the timberwolves, and forget I ever darkened her doorstep. It was hardly a fitting burial for a king but… he wasn’t truly a king anymore was he?

A gentle nudge on his side drew Sombra’s attention. It was a small, white rabbit. For some reason Sombra imagined the rabbits gaze held much greater intelligence than it ought to.

“Come to witness the death of royalty, little one?” Sombra muttered through a cracked throat. “At least something will bear witness… even if it is merely the local wildlife.”

The rabbit watched for several moments before seemingly coming to a decisions and hopping up onto Sombra’s left forehoof and settled down to sit and watch the day pass alongside him. He hated to admit it but the company, sparse though it was, gave Sombra a touch of comfort.

“Even the animals know my time is near,” Sombra mused, “how trite.”

Taking a deep breath of the clean, country air, Sombra tried to find some measure of peace within himself. To his surprise he found some in the scent of her home that wafted out of the partially open door. In the scent of her garden filling his nostrils. All of it gave him a fleeting sense of… home.

“Perhaps passing here is… not so terrible after all,” Sombra said quietly. Pain washed over him again but it was duller this time. Lethargy crawled through his body, tempting him to sleep. He refused. He knew he would not awaken if so. He still had a sunset to watch, after all.

 

++

 

Fluttershy’s breath came in short, hitching waves as she tried to process Twilight's decision.

“W-what?”

Twilight shook her head sadly. “I’m sorry Fluttershy, I said ‘no’. I’ve heard your story and your arguments and I just can’t bring myself to risk restoring Sombra. I can’t know what state he’ll be in if I do. What if he comes back close to full strength? Or even half? I don’t know if I’m stronger than him and even if I am he has centuries of practice over me. That’s not even considering his crimes. I’m sorry, really, and if the situation was different maybe we could talk about reforming him over time but it’s not.” Standing from her throne she solemnly lifted her hoof and brought it down with a booming thud on the map table. “As a sovereign Princess of Equestria I hereby sentence Erebos Sombra to death for crimes against equinity. May the Maker have mercy on his dark soul and may he find harmony in another life.”

Fluttershy couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She had been sure, so sure, that she could convince them to help her. To help him. But… but it had all gone so wrong. Applejack had taken her hat off and placed it over her heart, closing her eyes and bowing her head in respect. Rarity had bowed her own head as well, muttering a quiet apology. Pinkie sat in silent disbelief, staring at her friends. Rainbow just scowled and glared.

“How could you?”

Who said that? That voice was filled with vitriol and anger. It sounded so… oh. It was her. Fluttershy ground her teeth together as she stared incredulously at the ponies around her; at Twilight, Rarity, and Applejack most of all.

“How dare you,” Fluttershy hissed, drawing looks of surprise from her friends. “How dare you call yourselves the Council of Harmony and then vote to let somepony die! Even if he is a criminal. Even if he’s a tyrant!”

“Simmer down there, sugarcube,” Applejack said carefully, “it ain’t like we just blew it off, We decided on a course and now we gotta see it out. Ah’m sorry it ain’t what ya’ll wanted but-”

“But nothing!” Fluttershy stood, her wings flaring out threateningly. “You just sentenced the stallion I lo-...” she bit her tongue on that last word. “You sentenced him to death right in front of me. How dare you.”

Twilight reached out to put a hoof on Fluttershy’s shoulder, her face wearing a pained expression. “Fluttershy, I know it’s hard but…”

The normally demure mare slapped Twilight’s hoof away violently and shot a burning glare at the lavender alicorn. “You have no idea what ‘hard’ is, Princess,” Fluttershy spat with a venom that not even she realised she was capable of. “If that’s how this Council is going to run now then… then I don’t think I can be a part of it anymore.”

Five mares and a drake, who had been trying to stay out of the furious exchange for the most part, stared with open mouths at Fluttershy’s proclamation. Twilight worked her jaw for a moment before finding her voice. “F-Fluttershy… you don’t mean that.”

That was the wrong thing to say. Fluttershy clenched her eyes shut and tried to master herself but all she could see was Sombra’s body lying dead on his bed because she had failed to bring him help. Images of him dying alone thinking he had been abandoned flooded her mind. With a scream of primal rage Fluttershy whipped around in her throne and brought her hooves swinging hard against the back of her throne.

The sound of splintering stone filled the council chambers as a massive cracked appeared in the Butterfly symbol embossed on the throne. When she opened her eyes it was with a dire expression of rage that swept over everypony, and drake, present. All six of them recoiled at what they saw in her eyes.

When Fluttershy opened her mouth she spoke in an empty, hollow voice. “I hope you all are satisfied with your decision. I’m going to go bury my King, now.”

With one last violent surge, Fluttershy hopped and kicked off hard against the her throne, shattering the compromised stone seat fully as she accelerated to a speed that left Rainbow Dash thoroughly impressed as Fluttershy tore out of the council chambers, and the castle, for what she suspected was the last time.

++

The sun was beginning to dip low.

It was getting harder and harder to stay awake, which frustrated Sombra. At this rate he was going to expire before he got what he came out here for. That was incredibly irritating given the amount of effort he had expended. How much time did he have left? An hour? Maybe two on the outside. If he could push it out to two he would probably be able to see the sunset. Thank the spirits that Summer was almost faded into Autumn by this point. If the days were still long he would certainly miss out.

It wasn’t as though he would get another chance after all.

Sombra snorted in amusement. It was strange how his impending death seemed to engender less fear or anger and more… annoyance. Perhaps he truly had lived for far too long. Life had almost become burdensome. No, it had certainly become a burden. Especially by the time he was banished. Alone in his castle with nothing but his enslaved guards for company. His armies fighting constantly at the borders.

The arrival of the two sisters at his castle to do battle with him in the flesh had been the lone light of excitement he had experienced in a century. He barely even begrudged them his defeat. Of course, his pride was wounded and he had sworn to kill them gruesomely but, if he were honest, that was mostly on principle. Now that he looked back he wasn’t even sure he had felt any real hatred towards them. Truly, being defeated was almost… relieving. He had hated his kingdom, his subjects, and his crown. He wore it because it was his duty to wear it. He ruled because it was his right.

But he hated it.

Ah, there it is, that’s why he felt so blasé about his encroaching demise. Dying in a small country cottage while watching a sunset was, arguably, many times more favorable than how he imagined his death coming all those years ago; slain by blade or spell in the ruined castle of a hated bloodline surrounded by the gormless pissants he called subjects. Surrounded by idiots and yet utterly alone. Alone since Beryl’s death, anyway.

Beryl.

Sombra hadn’t thought of her in so long. Perhaps his only true friend in those dark days of the Empire. During what the historians now called the Age of Shadows. She had been the only one who would argue with him over anything.

More like everything, Sombra thought, a small smile curving his lips. She hated me.

So unlike Fluttershy and yet… they shared that iron will that Sombra so admired. I wonder if, had I not lost my heart to my creation, I would have come to care for Beryl as I do Fluttershy? That damn arcane machine really did exact a cost upon me. I was a blind fool for thinking otherwise.

“A fool of a King,” Sombra muttered, his voice carried the weight of his exhaustion.

The sound of wings drew Sombra’s attention, his ears flicking to side as he turned his head up. It took more effort than he had expected and his vision swam as he saw something come to a hard landing not far from him. He heard a familiar gasp and the figure galloped towards him, coming to a skidding stop in front of him. Blinking away the blurriness, Sombra was surprised to see Fluttershy crouching in front of him, he face streaked with tears, panic, and… relief?”

“Oh, oh thank goodness,” Fluttershy gasped, she was badly out of breath. “I was so scared I wouldn’t get back before you… oh… oh I’m sorry! I’m so, so sorry!”

Without warning she lunged forward and wrapped her arms around Sombra’s neck, burying her face in his long, leonine mane again as she shook and cried. Sombra, for his part, was simply shocked she had come back. And alone at that. Slowly, he brought an arm around her and pulled her close. "You came back?" he muttered in disbelief.

“I did! I'll always come back! I’m so sorry I left you, my King!” Fluttershy choked out. “I tried to go to my… my friends, “ she hissed that last word in a way that surprised the King, “and ask them to help me save you but… but they said no! They took a vote and… they voted to just, just-”

“Let me die?” Sombra said with a dark chuckle. “Perhaps the fledgling Princess has some backbone in her after all. I certainly would have made the same decision sans the vote I suspect.”

Fluttershy sniffled as she pulled away, looking into Sombra’s eyes. He was shocked at what he saw. “My friends are supposed to be better than you, my King,” she responded with a dry chuckle, “no offense.”

No offense indeed. Sombra couldn’t bring himself to disagree with that notion. More importantly though… “Fluttershy, may I ask what happened to your eyes?”

The yellow mare blinked in confusion. “What do you mean?” Sombra could only nod towards one of the windows of the cottage. Fluttershy got up and peer in, focusing so she could see her reflection.

She gasped in shock. Staring back at her were a pair of blue orbs, slitted and dark. Completely unlike her usual appearance. Dark mist seemed to filter out from them in very small amounts. She was starting to look like… like him.

“Fluttershy, what happened?” Sombra asked, worrying seeping into his heart. He struggled to reclaim some semblance of energy from his dying body but it was difficult. “You are saturated by dark magic.”

“B-but I’m a pegasus!” Fluttershy responded in a high squeak. “How can I have any kind of dark magic?!”

Sombra shook his head. “Unicorns are not the only magic users among ponykind, my dear. All ponies use magic, Unicorns are just obvious about it. Since all ponies are capable of magic that means all ponies are capable of touching dark magic as well. Including you it would seem, though I couldn’t…” he trailed off as a thought occurred to him. It came slowly through the grudging morass of his mind but he seized it viciously. “Fluttershy… what happened between you and your friends?”

Fluttershy’s eyes narrowed. “They’re not my friends. Well… Pinkie and Dash are… they wanted to help. But… but the other three voted to just let you die.” She stamped her hoof on the ground in anger and Sombra’s eyes grew wider as the dark mist began to flow more heavily from her eyes.

They’re not my friends!”

At those words shadow and darkness tore out from Fluttershy in a wave.

 
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