• Published 3rd Sep 2021
  • 393 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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The Attack

There were four entities in the vicinity. No; three—one just ran off toward the castle. Two of those remaining were small. Good. But the third was large, and it was not her.

The shadow loomed closer. Ah, it thought. This will be satisfying, so long as I am swift. And it drew closer still.

“What the hay? Why’s it so dark all of a sudden?”

Sombra materialized with a malevolent grin. “I’m afraid that would be me, Applejack.”

“Father, Father!”

The earth pony pounced toward Fio and Corey, but they had caught Sombra’s attention too, and before she could get there, a tendril of shadow encircled them. The foals flickered and vanished, and Applejack landed upon empty space.

Wheeling around, she demanded “What’d you do with them, ya scoundrel?”

“I removed them to somewhere safe,” answered Sombra as his horn glowed purple. A door materialized in the kitchen entryway, and its lock clicked emphatically.

Applejack hunched and circled, readying herself for a fight. “I knew you were lyin’ all along,” she growled. “You had so many chances to prove me wrong, an’ here you are, provin’ me right.”

Sombra let her circle, following only with his eyes. “And how could you expect me to do otherwise when you never gave me the benefit of the doubt? All the others believed me! I could hardly have chosen to do right when you were so eager for me to do wrong!”

“You lie!” Applejack twisted lightning fast and bucked at his ribs.

But he was no longer there. A puff of black smoke slithered into the ever-deepening shadows in the corner of the room. Applejack stalked in that direction, unsure what she could do against formless shadow but determined to try anything.

Out of the darkness sprang disembodied jaws and gleaming white fangs sank into Applejack’s shoulder. She didn’t waste a second turning her head and biting the shadowy fiend right back. There was a hiss, and the jaws dissolved back into darkness that once again retreated to the corners.

A purple-glowing knife whipped out of a drawer and hurtled through the air. Applejack deflected it with a mighty kick, but four more swiftly followed. One nicked her right haunch, and another grazed her back.

It hurt, but did not sting. “After all we’ve told you about friendship, is this what ya really want? Hatred and fightin’ all the time?” Applejack kept her eyes roving the steadily darkening room, watchful for the next assault. “We coulda been your allies! We were willin’! Even I was willin’, only it was you who wasn’t!”

Many sharp, gleaming spines materialized all around, angling in toward the pony in the center. Then they shot inward at unpredictable intervals, while the shadows grew and grew so all Applejack could do was buck and flail blindly as the onslaught battered her without mercy.

And while she fought, panting and sweating and aching, the darkness rumbled with searing malignance. “Why. Won’t. You. BLEED?!”

Applejack had no answer as she flinched and dodged and kicked.

The spines suddenly vanished. She opened her eyes just in time to see a glowing cast-iron skillet swing into her face.

“OOF!” The impact sent Applejack sailing across the room until she hit the wall and crumpled to the floor. But she was up again. Her right eye was dark, throwing off her depth perception, but nevertheless she reared up to buck as the pan came in for another swing.

It flicked to the side, dodging the trajectory of her hooves, and came down hard on her spine instead. Again she was on the floor heaving in agony. She groaned as the panhandle jabbed into her ribs. Finally it crashed again into her right temple, and it all went black.


Sombra listened, satisfied, to the distant thud of the unconscious pony’s body onto the floor of the cellar. Then he slammed shut the doors, locked them, and disintegrated the key into dust.

He froze. There were voices descending at the other side of the cottage. Sombra swept himself into shadow and crept around along the walls.

“...a really weird vibe. I’m gonna go grab Twilight to have a look. Be right back!”

Silence again. Then, her voice. “Corey? Fio?”

The shadow closed in behind her.


Pinkie Pie produced a set of saddlebags and began stuffing them with provisions. “Sombra’s gone, Twilight! Gone! I don’t know what’s about to happen but my Pinkie Sense tells me you’re gonna need this book!” She held up the book she’d gotten from Sombra’s room, then stuffed it into the saddlebags.

A window shattered. “TWILIGHT!” Rainbow Dash flew down, but didn’t bother to land. “There’s something weird at Fluttershy’s cottage. I think it’s dangerous, and I left her alone. We have to go now!”

But before they could move, Discord spoke. “Sombra has just stolen Fluttershy.” His voice was even and unreadable. “He has the foals, too.”

“Are they alright?” asked Rarity.

Discord listened a moment longer, then nodded. “She says she thinks they’re safe for the moment, but he’s holding them in some kind of strange energy and she can’t tell where they are. I can’t tell either, for that matter!”

“Strange energy!” Rainbow Dash exclaimed. “That’s gotta be what I felt at the cottage! Let’s go!”

With a snap, Discord teleported the five of them there.

Twilight closed her eyes and took a magical reading. “I can feel it. It’s got to be them.”

Rainbow Dash flew upward and pointed west. “It’s moving! It’s headed that way, and fast! I’ve gotta chase it down before it gets out of sensory range!”

“Take this.” Discord shoved a little rectangle on a strap into her chest. It had small perforations arranged in a circle at one end, a couple buttons at the other, and an antenna on top. “Not as elegant as sharing thoughts,” he explained, holding up another identical device for himself, “but it’ll allow us to communicate. Now go!”

Slinging the communicator over her neck without a word, Rainbow Dash sped away into the dusk.

“What was that?” Twilight was wondering. “Whatever force that was, it’s already fading here. I sure hope Rainbow can keep up, or we might never find them.”

In the distance, they heard the characteristic thundercrack of a sonic rainboom.

Discord levitated. “Fluttershy doesn’t have any details and we don’t know where they’re going to stop, so we’d better follow until Dash tells us where to teleport.”

“Right!” Twilight opened her wings.

“Wait!” Pinkie Pie threw the saddlebags across Twilight’s back. The alicorn threaded her wings through the straps. “Don’t forget that book. I don’t know what for, but you’re gonna need it!”

“Thanks.” And Twilight and Discord were off, leaving the two earth-bound ponies behind.

“Oh my gosh!” Pinkie Pie suddenly squeaked, turning to Rarity. “I left Applejack here with the foals! Do you think Sombra took her too?”

Fear stretched Rarity’s eyes wide. “Or did he… Come, Pinkie, we’d better go inside and look for clues.”

The pair entered the eerily-quiet cottage and called for their friend. There was no answer.

“Hey… This door wasn’t here when I left!” Pinkie Pie jiggled the doorknob, then pulled hard at it. “And it’s locked! I bet Sombra put this here!”

“That leads into the kitchen, doesn’t it?” Rarity tried the lock with her magic, to no avail. “Perhaps he made the door so he could corner Applejack for a fight. She might still be in there!”

When several more futile pulls and pushes at the door were attempted, Pinkie Pie got an idea and lead the way back outside so they could peer into the kitchen through the window. Rarity cast in a beam of light, but all it revealed was a room in disarray and no pony. She also tried the door with her magic from the inside for good measure, but it wouldn’t budge.

“It’s no use!” Rarity exclaimed, choking back tears. “It doesn’t look like she’s in there, anyway. “Knowing Sombra, he’s probably whisked her off to some unreachable place, or worse, and I’ll never see her again!”

“We haven’t looked everywhere yet,” Pinkie Pie noted. “She could still be around the house somewhere. Let’s keep looking.”

“APPLEJACK, WHERE ARE YOU?”

Even the crickets had to pause to appreciate Rarity’s mighty bellow. The whole night seemed to fall still, silent, dead.

“!!!!”

“Did you hear that? It almost sounded like a pony!” Pinkie Pie darted off along the outside wall of the house. “Applejack? Jackie! Olly-olly-oxen-free!”

Rarity pursued. As they approached the rear side of the house, the faint voice answered louder and louder.

“We’re coming, Applejack!” Rarity reached the cellar doors first. “Applejack, darling, can you hear me? Are you down there?”

“Yeah!”

Rarity pulled at the cellar doors. She shook her head, and Pinkie Pie tried. Locked tight.

“You seem to be locked in Fluttershy’s cellar! Pinkie and I can’t get the doors open. Is there any chance you could try to buck them from the inside?”

Somewhere below, Rarity and Pinkie Pie heard grunting, then a sharp cry.

“It’s no good,” Applejack called back, her distant voice now sounding strained. “I can hardly move, and I can’t see nothin’!”

Rarity didn’t notice she was biting the tip of her hoof.

Pinkie Pie turned to her. “Could you teleport in?”

“If only! I know the more gifted magic users among our friends make teleportation look easy, but it’s not! I can barely do it at all, and even then, it's only to places I've been before, and places that aren’t pitch-black, for that matter!”

“Alright. I’ll go see if I can find a key instead, or some other way in,” offered Pinkie Pie. “You stay here and keep her company.”

After she left, Rarity tried again and again at the cellar doors. She even tried bucking them, but the angle was awkward, and her power wasn’t anywhere near as good as Applejack’s. Eventually, panting, crying, Rarity gave up and laid her torso against the angled doors. “Are you okay down there, Applejack?”

“Not really. I’m in...a lotta pain, and I… can’t even see down here to assess… the damage.” It sounded like Applejack, whom Rarity knew had not been moving, was panting too. Her marefriend had such a high pain tolerance, and if she were in this much distress…

“What happened? We know Sombra took the twins and Fluttershy, and the others are going after them now, but… What did he do to you?”

“We fought, but… he had his magic, and I can’t… I can’t buck a shadow. It was all… teeth, and smoke, and knives.”

“KNIVES?”

“They didn’t do much damage. What got me was… the skillet. I remember it hit me four… four times ‘fore I went out… But it feels like… he maybe kept beatin’ me after that...” Then there was some rustling and a faint groan, like Applejack was trying to move.

Rarity couldn’t take it. She could feel the agony in Applejack’s voice, and she just couldn’t take it. Twilight, Discord, Fluttershy, or anypony else who could possibly help wouldn’t be back for hours, if not days! How could she sit around here helpless, listening to her marefriend suffering, maybe even dying? How could she take it? She couldn’t. She couldn’t! She had to get to Applejack, to be at her side, comforting her, treating her wounds, taking all that pain and smothering into oblivion with her love! She couldn’t wait another instant, nothing else in her whole life ever mattered except right now, and she had to get in—

“Eep! OOF!” A falling sensation accompanied by a rapid series of tumbling impacts had knocked the air out of Rarity’s lungs, and she sprawled limp and empty on what felt like stone. It had been dark before, but suddenly, it was very black.

“Rarity?”

Applejack. Applejack!

She lit her horn to chase away the blackness. Rarity was in the cellar. She closed the distance between herself and the battered orange heap in a heartbeat.

“It’s going to be alright, I’m here now, you’re safe!” Rarity gently lifted Applejack’s bruised head, winced at the swollen-shut eye, and laid it upon her lap.

Applejack’s voice reduced to a hoarse whisper, but her one open eye gleamed with relief. “How the hay’d you get through that locked door?”

Rarity looked back the way she had come. She could see the angled cellar doors, still shut tight above the stone stairs down which she’d fallen. She cast a small field of magic to push on the handles. Still locked. “I have no idea, darling. I really have no idea… But nevermind. We’ve got to find a way to get you out of here!”

Somewhere over their heads, there was a great crash and the clinking of shattered glass on a floor. A moment later, “Applejack! Can you hear me?”

“Pinkie!” Rarity shouted. “We’re right below you, darling. There’s a wooden staircase up to what looks like a trapdoor near where your voice is coming through! Do you think you can open it?”

A grunt. “Nope! I don’t think it’s locked, but I can’t get it to budge. How’d you get down there, Rarity? Why don’t you just go out the way you went in?”

"I, er, well… I don’t quite know how I got in, Pinkie. Don’t ask me to explain, because I can’t. The exterior cellar doors are still locked.” Though she hated leaving Applejack’s side, Rarity made her way up the rickety wooden steps. She pushed as hard as she could on the trapdoor above her head without risking her balance. Then, coordinating their efforts, she and Pinkie tried together. It was enough to make the heavy wood panel creak, as if the seal of disuse and many years of grime that had glued the door down had finally been broken. Rarity heard Pinkie Pie mutter something.

Then Pinkie Pie shouted “One more effort!” and they tried again.

At last, the door was shoved aside. Rarity was so relieved she didn’t even shriek when a dozen rats, rabbits, and raccoons scattered from the opening. They’d needed all the help they could get, however small the paws. All together, the ponies and other creatures were able to haul Applejack up the stairs and into a corner of the kitchen that had been swept clear of debris and broken glass. Applejack managed to hang onto her consciousness for the duration of the effort, though Rarity could hear in her heavy breathing and suppressed groans how much of a struggle it was.

They lit some lanterns in the kitchen, and once Applejack took stock of her injuries, she instructed the others on how to treat her. The rodents scampered through their holes in the walls to retrieve small supplies from Fluttershy’s stashes while the raccoons climbed in and out through the broken kitchen window to get bigger items. Soon enough, Applejack was wrapped almost head to hoof and sleeping deeply. There somehow wasn’t a scratch on her, but there were enough bruises that she was about as much purple as orange, and Applejack had expressed a belief that at least one leg and one rib was broken. Rarity and Pinkie Pie sat side by side in the torn-up room, watching Applejack breathe and worrying to themselves whether the others had been able to save Fluttershy, Fio, and Corey.