• Published 8th Feb 2021
  • 460 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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06: Trust and Compliance

Sombra was hesitant to poke his head out of the house. After his gruesome experiences of being scourged by the sunlight, his pride took into consideration his hesitance. The darkness was the essence of his being and light threatened to evaporate his existence and turn him to nothingness again.

Even after surviving his tactless push from the old stallion into the sunlight, he couldn’t wholly believe his immunity. Meadowbrook was gentle to walk him into the light. Despite their adverse relationship, even she shared his concern.

“Don’t push yourself now,” Meadowbrook urged him. She kept close to his side—much to his annoyance—to offer herself as a railing. As much as Sombra wanted to push this mare away, he couldn’t risk losing his balance before all the mud-ponies that would behold his presence. He would have to settle pouring his weight onto the mare.

But he could not stifle his frustration. His frail body and need for another’s aid vexed him. It was because he was weak that he couldn’t fight back against those who rejected him. Those who found him grating because of how different he was.

Sombra needed the power to rival against his adversaries. He needed to prove there was worth to his existence. And that she was not a fool to believe in him.

“I am not a simpleton, mare,” Sombra spat at Meadowbrook. “Just focus on your role as my escort. Even a poor mare like yourself should manage a simple task.”

“I don’t care what you say to me,” Meadowbrook snapped. “But you better pick your words more wisely when we see the others. Everyone at Hayseed is going to be shocked when they find out you’re here. The least you could do is not plant anymore fear than what will already be there.”

“They should fear me. My name as the tyrant king was meant to strike terror into the hearts of ponies. No one will think twice to disrespect me once aware of my majesty.”

Meadowbrook frowned at the lordly stallion, earning a humph from him. What else could this mare possibly expect from this millenia old dark sorcerer?

“Not everypony is like that, Sombra,” Meadowbrook argued. “If you could show at least an ounce of kindness , you’d would see that.”

The begrudging pair made their way across the bridge of Hayseed Swamp, immediately amassing talk amongst the residents. Folks sitting before the water curved their gaze at Sombra with a bewildered look. Foals skipping and playing catch with a ball stopped and gaped aghast at him.

Sombra could hear them voice their worry about his lanky body and the young ones marveling at his crippling form. He couldn’t help but chuckle at their concern. The fools had no idea of the tyrant that was walking through the steps of their home. Perhaps Sombra might find some delight when they realize his identity.

He had to find some enjoyment in this after all.

“Don’t glare at them,” Meadowbrook warned after catching him giving the foals a nasty look that made them flinch. “You’ll make things more complicated.”

“Don’t lecture me, mare,” Sombra countered. “I shall express myself, however, I”—Sombra grunted when Meadowbrook kicked his forehoof. The pain was so acute that he limped onto Meadowbrook, prompting the injured tyrant to glare at him— “Stop doing that!”

Meadowbrook dragged Sombra toward a round platform connected between two bridges. Sombra found residents—ponies, griffons, and donkeys—assembled around the center.

Meadowbrook anxiously led Sombra into the crowd as the throng began to take notice of Sombra. Their initial mutters loudened along with their befuddled looks. Sombra knew it would get worse. It was inevitable.

Sombra readied his soul and body for their look of disgust and fear. Everyone he came to know would eventually adorn their face with it. Once they know his name, they would show it. For what they imagined him to be.

When Meadowbrook guided Sombra near the center they became the sole attention of the mass. Their attention immediately shifted when the elder joined the pair. Elder Moab entered the center from the opposite of Meadowbrook and Sombra with a pair of burly stallions at his side. Each of the burly stallions wore a drenched bandana and smelled of lake water.

Sombra couldn’t help but chuckle to himself. Was this all that the old stallion had to offer him? A pair of backwater fishers? These were the best warriors he could summon to defy Sombra? Perhaps he should have expected this from a rural town of commoners.

Moab creased his forehead at Meadowbrook and Sombra. “Can the fella not move on his own?”

Sombra attempted to distance himself from Meadowbrook and assume a royal posture to squash Moab’s doubt. He refused to be mocked by an insignificant creature. However, Meadowbrook reeled him back in and gave the elder a small smile.

“His muscles haven’t fully recovered,” Meadowbrook answered. “But he's improving.”

Elder Moab brushed his beard and stared at Sombra’s thin legs. His meticulous eyes annoyed Sombra, feeling as though the old stallion was judging him for having a mare lug him around. Sombra would make sure that the old stallion regretted the thought.

“I see,” Moab said. “Then we should get on with our gathering then.”

“And what exactly are we ‘getting on with’?” Sombra asked, bearing his ruby eyes at the two burly stallions.

He noted the two sharing an odd look. They appeared too relaxed around Sombra, a mistake he wished to make them realize.

To his annoyance, Meadowbrook took notice of his glare and shoved her hoof against his side. Sombra recoiled at the impact and gritted his fangs to quell his yelp. The gall Meadowbrook had to restrain him continued to infuriate the former king. She would suffer the worst of his wrath.

“Can’t you take this more seriously,” Meadowbrook hissed at Sombra. “How everypony will feel about you may decide whether I can continue to heal you.”

Moab invited Meadowbrook and Sombra to the center of the platform. Sombra could now see the dirty faces of ponies, griffons, and donkeys staring at them. Each held a mixture of confusion and curiosity that would no doubt be replaced with dread in the coming moments. An expression he grew used to all his life.

“Thank y’all for coming here on such short notice,” Moab began with an eloquent tone that surprised Sombra. He imagined a more noble pony to carry that fashion. “I know all of you have things to do, but I could not postpone this.”

It’s coming, Sombra thought.

The face of scorn and terror would very soon be painted on their faces. His heart was ready for their daggered stares. He steeled himself with the thickest darkness in his soul that not even the mighty Celestia and Luna could impale.

His body stiffened as he boasted a royal posture. With his thin chest puckered out, he tried to assume as much power in his form as he could manage. He would show that he did not fear them. In fact, it was they who should fear him.

Sombra alerted all his senses to stand his ground. The smell of wet grass and the humid air flowed through his nostrils. The sound of croaking frogs and humming insects in the background reverberating in his ears. The blistering cold of a gentle wind that he powered through to prevent a quiver from his skin.

He felt incredibly uncomfortable. It’s no wonder he was so attuned to the warm touch from Meadowbrook at his side. The mare dared to hold his hoof as if attempting to console his mind.

Sombra had lived a life of war and discrimination. He endured the discourtesy and denial of ponies. His pain served as power to his strength, giving Sombra the might to stand against the superpowers of Equestria. Sombra was not a stallion in desperate need of comfort from a boonies mare.

And yet, Sombra could not summon the strength to swat her hoof away.

“You all must be curious about the new visitor standing by Meadowbrook,” Moab continued. “Well, he is a pony that none of us would have dared nor wanted to foresee.” Moab paused and took a glance at each of his neighbors. Sombra assumed he was gauging their reaction. He judged it as a fruitless endeavor to worry about. There was only one way they would feel about this. “This thin stallion y’all see before you is somepony who brought disaster and despair upon many innocent lives in the past. He...is Sombra.”

Mouths of the crowd dropped to their neck and their eyes bulged widely as if they were given a rude awakening. Sombra could sense the majority wavering across their aura. Perhaps that was to be expected. With his lanky form, even he would doubt his identity.

“This stallion here is the one who locked the Crystal Empire from the world and threatened to conquer our land with an iron hoof. A terrible pony walks amongst our home.”

“Elder Moab,” Meadowbrook interjected. Her voice earned the instant attention of the residents that made pause for a moment. The tuft of anxiety did not escape Sombra’s eyes. “I think we all know of his crimes. But can’t ya see he’s in no shape to cause anyone harm? His body’s as weak as a limp noodle. He needs healing. And as a healer, it is my duty to help all creatures in need. And just maybe, I can also mend the illness of his ways as well.”

“What do you mean to mend him?” a pony amongst the crowd asked. “Did you know he was here?”

“I…yes, I did,” Meadowbrook admitted, sparking voices from the crowd to resound wildly amongst the air. Sombra noted her body stiffening. Perhaps she tried thickening her soul as well. “I found him many days ago in the poorest of health. His body was so sensitive to sunlight and he was as malnourished as an orphaned newborn foal. I couldn’t just toss him aside..”

“Your passion as a healer is not an excuse for bringing danger to our home,” Moab countered. “You placed too much faith in a pony undeserving of your kindness. He could have taken advantage of you in the long run. And if he succeeded before anyone else found out, your secrecy would spell a great disaster for our swamp.”

“I only wanted to make sure he was in stable health before he faced his crimes,” Meadowbrook tried to argue, but the quiver in her voice exposed her lack of confidence.

Sombra felt the conflict festering within her—she could no longer look the crowd in the eyes.

But Sombra did. The shock in their eyes came as a surprise to the former tyrant. To witness the betrayal of their favored healer who contributed to their community must have etched a stain in their trust in her. All because of her foolish kindness.

“I have written a letter for Princess Twilight,” Moab announced to the crowd. “Once she’s received it, she will no doubt come here to resolve the matter of our visitor. It may take some time, however. I’ve received word that the Princess has left Equestria for a worldwide meeting with many creatures across the lands.”

The crowd talked and shouted amongst each other in panic. Their anxiety washed his skin so viciously that he felt like a changeling gorging upon a bountiful pile of love. It’s a shame he could not harness his magic to convert this newfound fuel to power.

However, there was a more pressing matter at hoof that boggled Sombra.

“Did you say you would send a letter to Princess Twilight?” Sombra asked the elder. “Do you not mean Princess Celestia and Luna? They are the sole rulers of Equestria, are they not?”

“It’d figures you wouldn’t know,” Moab bleated. “Princess Celestia and Luna retired from the throne some time ago. The crown has been passed on to Princess Twilight.”

Never had Sombra blinked his eyes so rapidly. The words from the old stallion came so strangely upon Sombra that he had to believe that he was dreaming.

That had to be it, right?

All of these had to be ridiculous facets that designed this poorly drawn dream.

“What?” was all Sombra could utter.

“I didn’t know Princess Twilight would be out,” Meadowbrook said, letting go of Sombra’s hoof. “How long will she be gone?”

“That I do not know,” Moab admitted. “But until then, we must all be vigilant of our visitor. We as a community must work together to ensure he won’t hurt any soul residing in this swamp .” Moab took Meadowbrook aback when he gave a serious glance at her. “Meadow, I don’t want you keeping him coddled in that house of yours all day. I want him out in the light where everyone can see him. And I definitely don’t want you living all alone with him.”

“Elder Moab, I promise you I can take care of myself. I won’t let him try anything nasty.” Meadowbrook insisted.

“I’d like to believe that, Meadow. But I can’t. Not when I found him pinning you to the floor earlier today.”

Meadowbrook became pale at the many gasps echoing around her. The redness swelling on her cheeks brought a small joy in Sombra. It was about time this mare learned some humility.

“That was just an accident!” Meadowbrook shouted. “You caught me at a bad moment and I panicked, so I made some missteps.”

No, it definitely wasn’t a misstep, Sombra thought. I pinned you to the ground with the intention of exacting my dominance. Your desperation to protect that pathetic pride of yours entertains me, mare.

“A misstep that never would've happened if you hadn't hidden him away from us,” Moab countered. “Meadow, I am your elder and your chief. To ensure the safety of our brothers and sisters, you must listen to me.”

The serious glare coming from the old stallion’s chestnut eyes quaked Meadowbrook’s resolve. For somepony mentioned to be legendary, she was certain she’d break under the pressure. Even if it was from somepony she regarded with respect, Sombra found it unbecoming of her.

“But I…” Meadowbrook began but halted when she finally looked at her neighbors. The mixture of disapproval and shock on their faces deflated whatever power she had left in her. She drooped her head toward the ground and resigned with approval of Moab’s order, “Yes, Elder Moab.”

“Thank you, Meadow,” Moab said and then faced Sombra. He would find that Sombra was not somepony he could so easily frighten. “These folks mean a lot to me. I have lived with them since my foalhood and watched younglings grow into fine creatures. I won’t tolerate you harming even a single hair on any of these villagers, you hear?”

“Cease your pathetic bravado, peasant,” Sombra said with a neutral gaze. This old stallion did not deserve a reaction from Sombra. Not him nor the burly stallions that glared daggers at him. “Your words mean nothing to a king.”

“You are not a king here,” Moab retorted. “And don’t think you’ll be lounging lavishly at Meadow’s home anymore. Now that you’re with us, you’ll have to work in order to earn your grub here.”

“…you weren’t joking about the labor work, weren’t you?” Sombra had dropped his guard and shown a sweat of dread. How could he not? To not only be lugged around to that mare’s whims but to also provide his services for others. The very thought of it cringed the depth of his soul.

“I don’t want to hear any complainin’ out of you,” Moab said. “Princess Twilight is not here to judge your punishment. So, we’ll have to make do with my own decree for the time being.” Moab turned back towards the crowd. “We’re finished here. Everyone go back to your home and shops.” Moab then pointed at the two burly stallions beside him. “And you two. I want y’all to join Meadow at her place to see if anything suspicious was left by this dark sorcerer. I’ll find someone suitable to help Meadow at her house.”

One of the burly stallions nodded at the elder. “You got it.”

“He looks so bony,” the other burly stallion said. “I bet he’d break like a twig if I poked him.”

“Is that a challenge?” Sombra growled at the burly stallion.

Meadowbrook shoved her hoof at his side again, causing Sombra to limp onto her.

“Will you stop that already?” Meadowbrook warned. “The last thing you want to do is rile everyone up.”

Despite Sombra’s refusal, Meadowbrook grabbed Sombra’s hoof and left with him, with the two burly stallions following behind them. Sombra desperately wanted to lay waste upon them, hearing their petty insults behind his back. Despite his thirst to unleash his unbridled rage, it would seem the rage of Meadowbrook’s pinching hoof did wonders to quell.

“Like it or not, you gotta learn to sheathe those fangs of yours,” Meadowbrook scolded him. “Everyone will be watching you, so you better make the best of your stay here rather than getting on everyone’s bad side.”

“And what would be the point,” Sombra countered. “Their faces showed exactly what I expected out of them. Besides, what exactly do I have to look forward to? It would seem as though my fate has been sealed.”

Sombra mysteriously chuckled, earning a frown from the mare.

“What’s so funny?” Meadowbrook asked.

“To think that the Royal Sisters have finally resigned from their duties in my absence. Either they are foolish to underestimate my return or time has finally taken its toll on them. Regardless, the world has apparently changed without me yet again.”

Meadowbrook gave Sombra a long look. It baffled him that she would care. Here she was standing beside a stallion who struck terror into the hearts of many and all she could offer was a concern for him.

“We’ll never get the time we lost,” Meadowbrook said. “All we can do is make the best of what we have now.”

Despite Meadowbrook’s attempt to cheer him up with her empty words, he could sense bitterness coated in her voice. He knew Meadowbrook did not believe in those words herself.

Comments ( 4 )

“That was just an accident!” Meadowbrook shouted. “You caught me at a bad moment and I panicked, so I made some missteps.”

No, it definitely wasn’t a misstep, Sombra thought. I pinned you to the ground with the intention of exacting my dominance.

Oh, how wrong this sounds, I love it. :rainbowlaugh: I also love how Sombra is going to be put to work despite the fact he's basically on death row. That will motivate him to prove himself! :trollestia:

Meadowbrook dragged Sombra toward a round platform connected between two bridges. Sombra found residents—ponies, griffons, and donkeys—assembled around the center.

Oh hey different creatures it looks like some are moving into different towns nice

Well it looks like Meadowbrook got herself in trouble and now King Sombra is also facing the consequences despite he's still trying to recover he's going to have to work for his meal and not only that everybody is going to keep an eye on him and Meadowbrook felt a shame and everything boy I wonder what's going to happen next guess I'll find out next time

I love that he doesn't mind holding hooves with Meadow! I find it quite interesting just how egotistical Sombra is, and that unlike most stories where the villain would have cracked by now, Sombra is defiant! Maybe even defiant till the very end! At this point, he seriously needs to actually think of his actions and be strategic with what he says and does. Or that ego will be the end of him!

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