• Published 3rd Sep 2021
  • 374 Views, 52 Comments

Kindness and the Fate of Shadow - Raven-Flight



An old threat is back, leading Fluttershy and Discord to confront their plans for the future. They've each been keeping secrets...

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What It's Like

Author's Note:

Ah, at last! If you don’t mind music as you read, put this on at the start of the chapter. The music should end just about at the break so long as you don’t read too quickly.

Why did he have to do that? Why couldn’t he see the danger he’s put himself in? Fluttershy’s hooves carried her back and forth across the bedroom. Now that Discord knows he has competition, he’ll flay him! He’ll flay Sombra and banish his poor, broken body to the other end of the universe! Then I’ll be trapped under his greedy talons for the rest of my life. For all eternity, probably!

There was a footstep, and Fluttershy crouched into an offensive posture.

“Hey, Fluttershy—yo, calm down, it’s just me!”

“Angel? You have a voice? Oh,” Fluttershy scowled, “it was Discord, wasn’t it?”

Angel crossed his arms. “Yeah, he gave me five minutes to tell you anything I want. So first off, quit your pacing. All that stomping around is driving me and the others nuts.”

“Oh, of course! I’m sorry.”

“Good. And now that you’re all done with that, you should go see Discord in the back house. He wants to talk.”

Fluttershy huffed. “So he only gave you a voice to make you deliver his message. Well, I don’t want to talk to him. I’d much rather talk to you, Angel. What else have you got to say?”

“Look, Fluttershy,” said Angel, rolling his eyes. “Go talk to Discord. That’s really all I have to say to you. It’s obvious something’s off between you guys, and I and all the other animals have been worried sick about it. Not that you’d know, since you’ve been so busy wallowing in self-pity to really think much about anycreature else!”

The jab drew a gasp from Fluttershy. “Angel, you know I care about you!”

“Yeah, yeah. You used to care about Discord too, and now look at you! Much as I hate stoking that dummy’s ego, I have to admit that I can’t see that he’s done anything wrong. He’s been an excellent mate to you, and you take him for granted. None of us can understand why.” Angel turned toward the door, but looked back over his shoulder. “I don’t want anything more to do with you until you go make things right.” And he hopped out.

It left Fluttershy blinking. How could Angel possibly defend that greedy, stifling creature, especially when she knew how much he disliked him? How could Angel be mad at her for trying to protect herself? And yet, he had given her an ultimatum. Either bare herself to further manipulation, or lose one of her oldest, dearest friends. Was Angel also under Discord’s spell? Or could he see something that she couldn’t?

She looked up, and her restless hooves had taken her to the door of the back house. Inhale, exhale. “For you, Angel.” And she opened the door and slipped inside.

Supposedly, that door led into a reflected version of the living room, but the Lord of Chaos often redecorated this space, and so it was that Fluttershy found it. Rich, red walls stretched up from wainscoting so dark a brown it was almost black. On those walls hung portraits in heavy ornate frames, portraits of her for which she couldn’t remember sitting, and portraits of Discord and Fio and Corey too. A plush rug of an intricate damask pattern covered the dark wood floor, and heavy velvet curtains hung from the windows. The furniture, too, was velvet, and every piece angled toward an expertly-graven fireplace whose roaring flames were the room’s only source of light. The flickering fire gave every still contour in the room an illusion of life through shadows that leaped and danced. The very air felt dense and heavy, scented strongly of a musky incense, which Fluttershy felt tugging at her consciousness, lulling her toward a trance. Sinister yet lovely, dangerous yet comfortable. Such a chaos of confliction woven inseparably into the beauty of the room.

So faintly Fluttershy thought she was imagining it at first, a strange music blossomed. As it grew subtly more real, so too materialized an image into the space. A giant brass bird cage was coming to existence in the center of the floor, and inside it sat Discord. He was facing away from the door where Fluttershy stood, but she could see a viola singing under his skillfully gliding bow. The music he played was unlike any Fluttershy had ever heard; it was slow and pensive, yet rasping and gasping, its melody based on an exotic scale whose microtonal inflections somehow both unsettled her and resonated along something primal from the depths of her understanding. Finally, after a powerful cry, the music rose, higher and higher, quieter and quieter, until she couldn’t be sure whether the last whispered tones were real or imagined.


In the quiet of the crackling fire, Fluttershy blinked as her enchanted mind slowly drifted back down into her body. The last she had known, she had been standing just inside the door of the room, but sometime while the music had carried her off, the birdcage had opened and she must have wandered inside. Fluttershy now stood beside Discord. He lowered his instrument and let his whole body droop. The viola faded smoothly out of existence again, and Discord watched it go, watched his too-tense hands, watched the indifferent fire.

“That was beautiful.”

Discord sighed. Without looking up: “Have you ever considered what makes something beautiful?”

The fire crackled. Fluttershy sat down, arranging her hooves as neatly as she could beneath her. “It has to do with pleasing the senses, but… It’s more than that. Beauty involves the mind too, somehow.”

Still, he would not face her, but Discord’s eye twisted up to meet hers before flicking away again. “What do you find beautiful, Fluttershy?”

Wings shuffled. Shadows flickered. Time was still. “A field of wildflowers in spring, especially after a rainstorm, when everything sparkles. Or sunset, when one color blends into the next until all is black, and a million stars blink in the sky and the bats call overhead. Or waterfalls. Shady forest groves. Fio and Corey playing together, full of innocence and opportunity.”

“Do you know what all these beautiful things have in common?” Discord didn’t turn to see Fluttershy shake her head. “Unforeseen possibility coming to life. The unexpected. The uncontrollable. That which has a power and depth that you can witness, but not fathom or direct.”

“Chaos.”

Discord shifted, met her eyes, finally. “Yes, but not only that. It’s chaos and harmony in balance. That which is beautiful is something that has enough order to intersect with your ability to contemplate it, but not so much order that you can contain the whole of it within your mind. It must still surprise and delight you, tickle your imagination.” A heavy sigh. “So what, then, could possibly be beautiful to the Lord of Chaos?”

Fluttershy had no answer.

Discord looked away again. “For a long time, only two things were beautiful to me, for only two things were unpredictable to me: perfect chaos, and the reactions of mortals to the same. Nothing else could hold my interest. Then one day, there came a pony I couldn’t control. I wouldn’t admit it, but I was intoxicated by her ability to defy me.”

Understanding had welled up as tears in wide, teal eyes when the draconequus turned back to face them.

“I still am. You’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever known, Fluttershy. You don’t have to do the soulmate rituals if you don’t want to. I could never force you to, anyway. And if you’ve decided that your happiness lies with another, I’d rather see you happy than mine.”

He had scarcely finished talking before an impact jolted him. Discord looked down and wept to see Fluttershy latched around his middle.

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” she croaked into his fur. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I don’t know how I could have forgotten! It’s just—you have so much power, and—hic—and I was scared to give you more, to commit. And...”

Her words were smothered as Discord pulled her in closer. “I never meant to frighten you,” he murmured, through tears of his own.

The fire crackled and purred as they held each other, and the minutes stretched long.

“You always—sniff—you always put my needs and my safety above your own. And you confront all the challenges of raising twins with a smile on your face, infecting me with that smile too. You have a joy for life and a fearlessness toward it that I’ve always admired. And you make even the smallest things beautiful every moment I’m with you. I love you—there’s so many reasons I love you—I don’t know how I could possibly have forgotten!”

Discord pulled back, holding Fluttershy’s shoulders. His tear-stained face was grave. “I know how.” A mirror appeared, and Discord traced a thumb down her neck.

Fluttershy gasped. “Oh no!” Her hooves went to her neck, exploring the pulsing black vein with horror. “How could I have let this happen? It was him all along, wasn’t it? He did this to me—to us—and I fell for it! Oh, Discord, I—”

“I know. You did fall for it. It wasn’t entirely your fault, but… Well, it’s a very attractive lie, isn’t it?”

“What is?”

“Darkness. Badness. I know. You weren’t tempted by that stallion, right? You were tempted by the freedom he seemed to be offering.”

“Freedom...” Fluttershy’s eyes widened. “You’re right! I’ve always been so afraid of other creatures’ expectations of me, and when I let myself stop caring, breaking those expectations felt really good! It felt like I could do whatever I wanted. Like I had power over what I feared. He made me think I feared you, and it gave me a feeling of power tochoose to get close to him instead.” Then she blanched and fell silent.

“‘Get close to him? Close...how?” Discord tried to ignore the spike in his heart rate.

“Soap,” Fluttershy croaked.

“Huh?”

“Please. I need soap.”

A bar of soap appeared as requested. Fluttershy took it and shoved it in her mouth.

“No!” Discord exclaimed, lunging forward to take back the soap. “Ponies can’t eat soap! You’ll be ill!”

Fluttershy’s eyes were glistening and Discord immediately regretted his shouting. “I’m sorry, my dear. You really can’t eat the soap, but won’t you tell me what’s wrong?” He stretched forth his arms to offer another hug.

The hug was not accepted. Fluttershy pushed his arms aside and hung her head. “I, um, I...kissed him,” she mumbled.

Discord blinked, fighting back his adrenaline. “Surely you mean—you must mean… he kissed you… Right?”

“Yes. Yes, he kissed me, but...” She sighed. “He couldn’t have if I hadn’t chosen to go to him in the middle of the night.”

Hands fretting, subconsciously levitating, Discord looked like he was about to burst. “B-but that couldn’t have been your fault! He was controlling you. Surely you could never have gone if he hadn’t—you know, p-planted the thought?”

Fluttershy was now struggling to speak through her tears, but she fought on anyway. Now was not the time to hide. “You’re right: he planted the thought and he kissed me, but Discord, you can’t take all the blame off of me.” She finally looked up to meet his eyes, afraid of what would surely come but anxious to make the truth clear and to pay for it accordingly. “I enjoyed it.”

Glass shattered, except there were no shards of glass on the ground, and the sound had come from Discord’s chest. He twitched, twitched again. The spasms left him on the floor and warped the formerly-elegant room into a cubist nightmare.

Fear crowded in behind Fluttershy’s eyes. It pinned her ears back, arched her spine, bristled her fur, but she would not let it take over her legs. She would not run. She would stay right here and take it. She deserved it.

Discord writhed and wheezed. He tried several times to snap, but he couldn’t control his fingers. Eventually, shaking with the effort, he pushed himself up into an awkward sit so he could look Fluttershy in the face. “Go to him then.” His voice was a dangerous whisper. “You don’t have to insult the both of us with any more flattery. My feelings don’t matter. You’re free to go.”

Fluttershy fell. Her knees gave out, her eyes were blind for tears, her throat closed. She couldn’t go. She couldn’t, she couldn’t, she couldn’t.

“Well?” hissed Discord.

“Please don’t make me!” she wailed. “I don’t want to go! I don’t want him! I’m scared! I’m sorry! I—” Her sobbing overcame her again.

He looked down at the mess of a pony before him and he felt his tremors stop. Her choking breaths seemed to rattle her all the way out to her wingtips, and her face—what he could see of it from behind her arms—was sickly pale and blotchy. All at once he thought: I can’t stop fighting for her. Not when she needs me like this. So he snapped the room back to the way it had been and lifted up his sagging pony to cradle her in his arms.

Fluttershy turned inward and clung to him, clung like her life depended on it. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry...”

“Shhh.” Discord held her tightly and let her tears soak into his fur.

Eventually, the weeping relented, and speaking was possible again. Fluttershy’s eyes were swollen when she looked up into Discord’s face. “I’m so sorry. I hate myself for enjoying that kiss! I love you, Discord—I don’t ever want to leave you, not again. But I don’t deserve you, and I’ll understand if you want to leave me...”

Discord set her down and looked away. “I can’t leave you. The moment I do, I have to die.”

Fluttershy choked. Somehow her tears were not yet used up, for they were already burning her eyes again.

Then he looked back down at her, his eyes as damp and puffy as hers. His paw was extended toward her too, and Fluttershy tore her gaze from his hurt-reddened eyes to look at his palm. On it was the bar of soap. “It will still be bad,” he explained, “but I made it safe to ingest.”

Once again, Fluttershy shoved the soap in her mouth. She relished its bitterness as if it were the best flavor she’d ever tasted. The soap was all but finished and their tears had finally dried before either of them attempted to speak again.

“Congratulations, Fluttershy,” said Discord, looking anything but congratulatory. “You’ve learned the appeal of being a villain.”

The weight of a stone sunk in Fluttershy’s stomach. “That’s what it’s like? That’s how you felt before you were reformed?”

Discord nodded. “Darkness is a powerful temptation, as you’ve learned.”

“But I don’t want to be a villain,” she cried. “I don’t want to be bad, and I don’t want to want to be bad!”

“I know you don’t,” sighed Discord. “I think it’s the dark magic that gave you a taste for badness. You’d never have developed it otherwise. That’s the only reason you could’ve allowed yourself to do what you did.”

Fluttershy shook her head, feeling her throat close again even though her tear ducts were empty. “Can’t you take the dark magic away? I don’t want a taste for badness!”

Taking her by the shoulders, Discord held Fluttershy still and swept a stray lock of hair behind her ear. “I’m sorry, Fluttershy. I can’t take it from you. Removing that much dark magic from your body all at once would be very dangerous.”

Fluttershy closed her eyes. She couldn’t cry anymore, but she still lost her voice. Eventually, she managed to swallow, and then she coughed a dry chuckle. “I guess that’s one more thing we’ll have in common, then. Now I also know what it’s like to fight the desire to be bad.”

“Don’t worry,” Discord assured, stroking her mane, “You reformed me and I can help reform you. I’ve learned that love is a very powerful weapon against darkness.”

“Right!” Fluttershy leaped to her hooves. “We can fight it together! I love you, Discord. Despite everything he tried to make me believe, I really do love you. Let’s do the soulmate rituals!”

“What? Really?”

“Yes.”

“When?”

She flew up and took his face in her hooves. “As soon as possible. No more excuses. I don’t want to be alone in a room with him ever again! I need you, and I want to be yours, exclusively, forever.”

Both of them realized their eyes had flicked to each others’ lips. Then Fluttershy let go of his face and wrapped her arms around his neck for a hug instead. Discord hugged her back and managed a small, private smile.