• Published 8th Feb 2021
  • 458 Views, 30 Comments

Healing Shadows (2e) - AzuraKeres



On her scavenge for volt shrooms in the bayou, Meadowbrook comes across a shadow that will alter her future for the good and worst. Follow her tale of love, hope, and despair as tries to build a future with a stallion trapped in the past.

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03: Heal and Murder

Dusk painted the bayou when Meadowbrook returned to Hayseed Swamp. The populace outdoors had thinned since the afternoon. The villagers were now resigned in their homes having dinner and preparing for a good night’s sleep.

A nice setup for Meadowbrook’s sake.

However, there were some village residents that were still outside, some either looking up towards the moonlit sky or chattered with each other.

The strange glob of darkness she found earlier had been rumbling up a storm in her bag. If not for the lack of activity at this time, then the glob would’ve attracted unwanted attention. And the last thing she wanted to do was cause hysteria amongst the village because of an unknown specimen lurking in their swamp.

As Meadowbrook moved, she eluded the eyes of residents by traveling within the shadows of night. She went unnoticed like a changeling in disguise.

As much as she wanted to join her folk in their jolly talks, the creature in her bag was her top priority.

When she finally arrived at the front of her house, she rushed inside and quietly shut the door behind her and let out a sigh of relief. Sneaking about was not a forte of hers, but her many adventures with her friends in the past had taught her the bare basics.

Her bag then rumbled and banged again on her side. Meadowbrook clutched her bag to hold it steady.

“Easy now,” Meadowbrook said, struggling to keep her bag still. “I don’t mean you any harm. I promise.”

As if her word gave some sort of magical command, the creature had settled down.

After feeling assured that the creature’s compliance, Meadowbrook lit her chimney with a pile of twigs and sticks. With warm flame and light to soothe her, she sat before a work table against a wall.

She took out the jar containing the black creature from her bag. When she laid the jar on the table, the creature thrusted its body against a wall of the jar, nearly tipping it over before Meadowbrook caught it.

“Goodness,” Meadowbrook sighed. “You shouldn’t do that. What if you get cut by broken glass?”

Anxious for the creature to repeat its tumble again, Meadowbrook collected books from her bookcase to prop around the jar. No more rolling and tipping for it anymore.

Happy with her railing, Meadowbrook proceeded to her closet. After sifting through its contents, she pulled out a wide fish tank Fluttershy had given to her. It was meant to be a gift to Meadowbrook after sharing her fondness of reptiles.

However, that hope was long forgotten once she established her apothecary shop. With her business booming and a student to teach, caring for a pet now might not be in her best favor.

She carried the tank atop the work table. It was half her length, making her wish she had another pony around to help her lift it.

She took a breath afterwards and then noted the creature had remained idle. Whether it recognized it was hopeless to push the stacked books away or became curious about the fish tank, she couldn’t tell.

But now came the tricky part.

Meadowbrook sheathed her hoof in rubber boots before cautiously opening the jar. She quickly slid her hoof over the now open lid before the creature could jump out.

Meadowbrook quivered at the strange vibration the creature rang upon her hoof. She couldn’t determine whether it was trying to bite her or melt her boot, but she wanted this feeling to end as soon as possible.

Meadowbrook motioned her hooves to slide the fish tank open. She slid her rubber hoof off the lid for the creature to fall inside, dropping on a bedding of pines.

After shutting the lid to the fish tank, Meadowbrook neared her face to its glass walls to meet the creature.

“I hope this place is cozy for you,” Meadowbrook said. “Why not get a feel of it?”

But instead the creature pounced toward her face, causing her to flinch and fall on her back. She rushed her hooves over her body to find her assailant, but discovered it was nowhere on her person. She looked above her table and found the creature splattered onto the glass wall, sliding down like a wet stain.

Her lungs were rough for a brief moment before she could collect herself and get back on her hooves. “Come now, dear,” Meadowbrook sighed. “You can’t keep makin’ a fuss like this. What if you worsen the burns on you?”

She gave it a stern look, peeved that it spooked her. Strangely, it was back motionless. She raised her brow at its sudden compliance. A petty part of her mind thought it was regaling at successfully intimidating her. But, maybe it’s something else.

Meadowbrook cautiously neared her face to the tank again. She stared into the still creature’s being, seeing a neverending blackness within. However, she did find tiny bubbles circulating mysteriously within it.

What is it doin’? Meadowbrook thought.

She wondered if the creature was prepping for another escape attempt. But the idea left her when it could’ve done so a long time ago within the jar.

“Are you trying to tell me somethin’?” She asked.

Maybe this was its form of communication. Or maybe it’s a body reaction toward something in its environment? Or within itself?

Meadowbrook went to her pantry to collect an assortment of fruits and vegetables. The closest Meadowbrook could link this creature to were slimes. And if her knowledge of them was correct, slimes were omnivorous.

She dropped her bundle of food next to the tank. She picked three strawberries from her person and dropped them inside the tank before hastily shutting the lid of the tank closed.

“Here you go,” Meadowbrook said. “These are strawberries. They should be good for you, right?”

Despite the strawberries laying helpless before the creature, it did not move.

“It’s okay,” Meadowbrook assured the creature. “All I want is to fix your wound. And you won’t get any better without a healthy diet.”

A strange silence rang between the two for a small moment. She could not tell whether it was contemplating her words or still plotting another escape.

But then it moved, dragging itself over the pines. Its body climbed atop a strawberry and sprawled over it like a glaze topping. Meadowbrook perked her ears up to the sound of sizzling resounding underneath the creature. It sounded like a fresh carbonated drink that refused to settle.

She saw the creature’s body gradually descend back on the pines , leaving the strawberry blackened before it withered to dust. Her eyes gaped astonished at the creature. It was like the creature sapped the life out of the strawberry.

She feared to imagine what would have happened to her if she did not have her rubber boot on.

The creature continued to feast on the other strawberries, decaying them to bits. Black sprinkles of their remains decorated parts of the pines the creature walked upon.

“Where did you come from?” Meadowbrook wondered aloud.

Wherever it sprung from, Meadowbrook could make one conclusion in her head. This thing was definitely too dangerous to leave to its own devices. She could only hope that this was the only creature lurking in the bayou.

An invasive species of these decaying slimes would mean bad news for the villagers. She may need to call in Starswirl or Princess Twilight in that case.

She yawned. All this anxiety in her mind was taking the wind out of her. And that was no good for her.

Meadowbrook made her way into her bedroom, dropping her saddlebag aside. She tossed her body in bedy and shrouded herself in her bedsheets.

Meadowbrook has a lot more work on her hoof in the morning. To ensure the safety of the bayou, she had to be sure none of this creature’s brethren were crawling around.

Her eyes lazily wandered to the saddlebag she unceremoniously dropped.

“I didn’t even get enough bolt shrooms for tomorrow,” She berated herself.

Away from her bed, Meadowbrook saw the creature had finished the strawberries. Feeling it was content, Meadowbrook shut her eyes and let the darkness take hold of her.

◇◇◇

“Look at me!” Pye boasted. “Aren’t I making this look easy?”

Meadowbrook watched her student stir a stick inside a pot, which was full of mashed white herbs. She laid a hoof on Pye’s to slow her round motion.

“Easy now,” Meadowbrook advised. “You don’t want the mixture to get too soft.”

Meadowbrook had received a small patch of whitetail willow in a package. It was sent from her close friend, Zecora, who hoped to meet Pye someday.

Their friendship came as a surprise to the pair; established by the call of the cutie map. After their brief venture into the savannah, they had spent months exchanging letters and material to combine their studies.

For some time, Meadowbrook planned on taking a trip to the Everfree Forest in the coming months to visit Zecora. Her friend’s many tales of hosting Nightmare Night, and Meadowbrook hoped to take part in it.

Meadowbrook planned on bringing Pye with her, knowing her student liked giving others a good natured scare every now and then.

Pye continued to mix the herbs within the pot while singing a favorite shanty of hers. Before she became Meadowbrook’s student, she lived with her family within the islands in the Far East of Equestria. Next to catching fish and clams to trade with the griffin kingdom, celebrating the days and nights with music was a habit of her islanders.

Meadowbrook noted the light green hues of the mix becoming bleached white.

“Okay Pye,” Meadowbrook said. “That’s good enough.”

“Yes ma’am,” Pye singsong. She let go of the stick and hopped around Meadowbrook. “So, what’s next? Are we going to find something else to mix it with? Ooh, would we have to travel somewhere in Equestria for it? Can I come?”

Meadowbrook grabbed Pye from her back and clutched her close between her hooves. “No Pye,” Meadowbrook said. “Next, we'll need to refrigerate the mixture so that it can thicken.”

“Oh phooey,” Pye sulked. “But I want to go foraging. Something fun always happens when we do that.”

“ I love gettin’ outta the hut as much as you do, Sugar. But, we can’t forget the reason we’re doing this in the first place,” Meadowbrook reminded her. “Now, why don’t bring a container for us to store it in?”

Meadowbrook released Pye from her grip. Her student skipped a small distance and faced her teacher to give a salute. “Yes ma’am!”

Pye skipped off into the back room of the apothecary shop. Meadowbrook couldn’t help but chuckle at her student’s moxie. That young filly was just so expressive with her words, and it was something she took so much delight in.

When Pye first began her apprenticeship, she struggled understanding the basics of herbal making. However, her comprehension slowly accelerated over time and until it ascended to advanced teachings. Pye’s growth from a novice to a veteran astounded Meadowbrook to no end.

Sometimes, Meadowbrook wondered if Celestia had a similar anomaly with Twilight considering the fact that she mentored the young princess.

Putting the thoughts aside, Meadowbrook took in the surroundings her apothecary shop provided. It was the perfect setting to educate Pye. It held all the necessities, and the provided opportunities for Pye to interact with the village folk was a bonus to her growth. At this rate, it won’t be long untilPye transitioned from a student to an inheritor of her shop.

Knock, knock, knock.

Meadowbrook became alerted to a sound resounding from the entrance door.

“That’s strange,” Meadowbrook said. “I could’ve sworn I put up the closed sign for the afternoon.”

Meadowbrook made her way to the door and answered it. Her eyes went wide at the stallion that waited before her. He was a huge and burly stallion that was as tall as Celestia. His light golden beard and blue eyes shimmered under the sunlight.

“Rockhoof,” she said with surprise.

“Aye,” Rockhoof said with a bow. “It’s good to see you, Meadow.”

“Well, I wasn’t expecting you here today.” She stepped back from the entrance and welcomed him inside. “Come in, come in.”

As Rockhoof entered her shop, she began to take in his garment. He wore a slim black blazer over a clear white shirt.

“Don’t you look professional,” Meadowbrook commented.

Rockhoof glanced at his outfit with a frown. “Ah, it’s no choice of mine. My agent had been howling at me like a ravenous timberwolf to look more educated for my book signings.”

“That must be exciting. Meeting your fans all across Equestria.”

After Princess Twilight decreed Rockhoof as a storyteller, a new contemplation came over him. He loved to share his tales to the creatures of Equestria, but he knew he couldn’t continue making live appearances forever. To ensure the longevity of his stories, he tried to record them in a book.

Rockhoof sought his friends for feedback and they were honest of its many flaws. Though Rockhoof was an astounding orator, it did not show well in paper. At least he took it well.

However, to overcome his failing in writing everything out himself, he looked to the aid of a ghostwriter to record his tales. He spent weeks with this pony, sharing all of his life stories to be written for creatures in the far future.

Many anthologies of his adventures became popular through Equestria. There was no place in Equestria where a copy of his books wouldn’t be found, even beyond the land’s borders.

“At times, yes,” Rockhoof admitted. “But nothing is more nice than coming back here. It’s the only place that reminds me of the old world I was born in. I’m glad to see this town hasn’t changed much.”

“Ms. Meadow,” Pye shouted. She came rushing with a container on her head. “I got it!”

When she laid the container on a table next to the pot, she immediately caught sight of Rockhoof. A big smile came on her face before she galloped to Rockhoof and pounced on him for a hug.

“Hi Rocky!” She cheered.

“Good day, Little Pye,” Rockhoof responded and hugged her back. “What’s got you in a rush, by any chance?”

Pye backed away and nodded toward the pot of mixed herbs. “I’m making dye for a friend of mine. He’s going to color his tail to catch fishes in the Firefly Rank.”

“Using his tail as a lure, eh?” Rockhoof said while stroking his beard. “ I wouldn’t mind seeing if his endeavor’s successful.”

“Does that mean you’re joining us?” Pye excitedly asked, now pressed in again in Rockhoof’s personal space.

“I hope so.” He made a brief glance at Meadowbrook, who had stored the mixture in the container. “It would mean the world to me.”

◇◇◇

Sombra stared into the waning light of the sun. Dawn had broken and the night was soon to come.

A shame he could not traverse the darkness that was his companion. Not with this accursed tank to trap him in place. Instead his jailer subjected him in this shallow tank hidden behind a dark blue cloth. However, that did nothing to impair his vision. A perk perhaps for donning this form.

Regardless, Sombra had been stuck inside of the tank for a week now. Each day he would be a subject of Meadowbrook’s testing, always providing him with random sustenance and altering his environment in little ways to see how he would react. All so she could unravel the secrets that rightfully belonged to him.

The gall of that mare.

Sombra swore to himself that he would make her regret her actions after he regained his body. And the time may not be long.

Whenever the mare left him alone in his tank, Sombra had been experimenting with his body. A strange sensation had aroused in him days ago.

He honed in on this sensation until it mysteriously sprouted a limb from his form. Capable of retracting and growing it back, it pricked Sombra with intense pain. However, he persevered to experiment with this development.

But the time for experimenting was going to end now.

Sombra prepped his mind for what was to come. He harnessed the sensation within his unknown form and expounded it with all his strength. He recoiled from the pain, but he was determined to push his ability to its limit.

Two limbs shot out his form, striking the tank hard enough to tip over the ledge of the work table. Glass shattered and littered the floor as before he hit the ground himself. He seethed in pain as glass shards pierced his new skin.

But he kept honing on his sensation. He needed his vengeance. He needed to get out of here. He needed to reestablish his empire.

He needed to get her back.

You’re so weird, Sombra. A mare’s voice chuckled in Sombra’s head. But then again...I’ve always liked that about you.

“Radiant,” Sombra gurgled.

His body formed. A neck sprouted out from what he assumed was the front end of his body. His grown neck was immediately followed by a head that spat out black liquid, which gushed out of him like blood.

His body became numb and his newfound ears rang loudly. He could barely keep in touch with his surroundings. But even so, he limped and crawled his forming body through the house.

All he needed to do was reach the door.

“Radiant,” he repeated. His skinny hooves snapped and rattled, but they reformed again and again.

As he neared the door, his vision became clouded more with darkness. His mind grew empty and started to swirl, unable to retain a clear.

“Hope...”

Sombra reached for the door with a hoof. However, his vision became distorted and it seemed the door was fleeting away from him. Though he wanted to give chase, he could see the darkness consuming his sight.

His last reach ended with a pitiful fall on the floor. And there, Sombra fell unconscious, a prey to his darkness once again.