• 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 Chase

No matter how fast Discord flew, the far end of his steadily-shortening shadow behind him was always faster. Dusk returned to sunset. Time was moving backward. Somewhere ahead, supposedly, was Rainbow Dash, and ahead of her, his own stolen family. Discord resented the distance he had to cross in chasing them. He resented that Sombra had managed to devise a thieving spell that his magic couldn’t quickly crack, preventing him from teleporting in to save the day. So mile after mile flowed beneath him, each one more hateful than the last. Unable to do anything for his family but fly and fly, Discord decided his helplessness was the fault of the vast distance he had to cross.

He punished the cruel land. Drops of hungry acid fell from his hands as he flew, and a trail of poisoned earth and ravished vegetation smoldered in his wake. Later, once his mate and children were safe within his grasp, he would come back and fold into oblivion the callous landscape that had kept him from his loved ones.

“Discord! What are you doing?” Twilight was panting hard from the effort of catching up to him.

“I’m rescuing my family,” he growled.

“No, I mean—do you realize you’re burning up the ground?”

Yes, and?”

Twilight winced. “I don’t think you should be doing that. It’s not going to help matters.”

"LIKE I CARE?”

“Discord, stop it! What would Fluttershy say if she knew you were hurting innocent plants and animals?”

He blinked, and his hands snapped shut. “You’re right. Fluttershy wouldn’t want this. I’m just so afraid...”

“I know. You can still hear her, can’t you? Are they still alright?”

Discord’s attention turned inward. He managed a vacant nod as a reply to Twilight, but his mind remained in conversation with Fluttershy.

Dash said she’d keep up with you, but it’s been hours, projected Discord to Fluttershy. What if she can’t maintain that speed? We haven’t heard from her. She could have passed out somewhere and we’d have no idea where she is or where you end up!

It’ll be alright, Discord. If anyone can do it, it’s Rainbow Dash. And even if she does lose the trail, you could still sense his magic when you were near it, right? So you’ll find us eventually either way.

Eventually isn’t soon enough! He’s proven twice now what his dark magic can do to your mind, and I don’t want you to have to suffer that again!

But this time you’re here in my mind and you can protect me from it”—that’s what Discord needed to hear. It was not what Fluttershy thought to him.

I’m trying to resist, I’m trying! He’s doing it again right now. I can feel his magic burrowing down under my skin, and oh, how I want to believe him! But it’s just a lie, I know it’s just a lie…

Discord didn’t notice the tightening of his fists. He didn’t notice the tree that exploded beneath him as he passed, and he didn’t notice Twilight’s shouts. And what is he saying this time?

He says he’s done being evil! He says now that he has me and our sons, all he wants is to settle down with us and lead a life of peace with his family. You should just see the way he’s smiling at Fio and Corey! The affection looks so genuine and he’s got them completely charmed. But it’s a lie—I know it’s a lie because you’re my mate, Discord. Our family belongs with you, not him, and he knows it. He wants us to forget so he’s drowning us in his dark magic. I won’t forget, but the foals, Discord—the foals!

More trees exploded beneath Discord. He was blind to them, blind to the hot orange light erupting from the ground behind him, and deaf to Twilight shouting again as she peeled off to contain the forest fire. He kept on flying.

As soon as I get there, I’ll wring his neck!

Please do, Fluttershy’s thought-voice lowered to a snarl, and make it painful. Make him feel remorse at last! Then I can finally be yours and yours alone for all eternity.

But… we don’t have all eternity!

Sure we do! He’s put so much dark magic in me—what fun it will be to become what he always wanted me to become, just to destroy him in the process! Can you even picture a crueler punishment for his atrocities?

Discord shivered as he flew. It’s perfect. And what shall we do with our eternity together once he’s out of the way?

Fluttershy failed to answer. He could still feel her, and he could tell she was agitated, but he couldn’t hear what was going on. Surely Sombra was tormenting her! Magic began to gather in Discord’s hands, boiling black and purple gobs of it, ready to attack anything and everything if it would get him to his Fluttershy.

A flashing violet laser pounded into Discord’s side and sent him tumbling wildly through the air. The attacker screeched “DISCORD, STOP THIS!”

How dare she? Discord steadied his course and snapped around like the crack of a whip. “So you would keep me from her too, eh?”

The temperature plummeted as hideous magic spilled from Discord’s hands and gathered like a stormcloud around him. Hate-filled eyes haloed in purple flames seared straight through the puny alicorn and her pathetic magic shield. And she had the audacity to look surprised that her crime was about to be punished.

Her gaze held captive by burning malice, Twilight understood nothing about what was happening except that she was about to die.

WAIT, DISCORD! Fluttershy screamed into his mind. IT’S THE DARK MAGIC! DON’T GIVE IN! THE DARK MAGIC, DISCORD!

He froze. ...What?

The dark magic in me traveled across our thought connection. I can feel it wreaking havoc on your mind! Whatever you were about to do, don’t do it!

B-but you were just… I thought you were saying you wanted the dark magic…

NO, Discord, that was the magic talking! It’s not what I want for us. Not what we want for us. He tried to take the eternal ecosystem necklace, but I didn’t let him. It reminded me of what we are, you and I. It’s our love that binds us together, not hatred for everycreature else like the dark magic would have us believe. We can’t let hate win, Discord!

Hate? Love? Yes, I remember… Then, as if waking up, Discord looked around. In front of him flew Twilight, horn powered, with disbelief, terror, and betrayal all mingling in her eyes.

“What am I doing?” All the magic he had been about to unleash dissolved harmlessly into the wind.

“Discord?” Twilight croaked.

“I was—I… Sweet chaos, not my friend!” Discord dove forward and snatched Twilight into a tight hug. “Not my friend...”

Stunned, Twilight went limp. Now she really couldn’t understand what was going on.

Discord let her go. “I’m sorry. It’s the dark magic, it’s—”

The communicator around Discord’s neck crackled. Then Rainbow Dash’s distorted voice spewed out of it. “Alright guys, I think they’ve stopped. I still don’t see them, but there’s an awful lot of that weird energy here and it’s not moving any more.”

Discord grabbed Twilight again, closed his eyes to lock onto Rainbow Dash’s position, and snapped.

They stood in a meadow surrounded by dense forest. Except for Discord, Twilight, and Rainbow Dash, it was empty.

We’re not traveling anymore, Fluttershy confirmed. He’s leading us into a mansion in the middle of the woods. If you’re here, I don’t see or hear you, and neither does he.

“It feels like lightning and water and ice all at the same time!” Rainbow Dash shivered. “I was freezing my tail off the whole way here, and now it’s even worse.”

“She says they’re in a mansion, and she didn’t see us outside,” Discord informed his companions.

Twilight walked slowly out into the grass. The others followed. “If there’s a mansion here, it’s more than just invisible. Wait a second. Look!” She shuffled a hoof in the grass, drawing attention to a weird blurriness there that could not have been a mere trick of the fading sunlight. “There’s something going on here. And does the air feel oddly… thick to anypony else?”

Rainbow Dash nodded. “Like wading through water.”

While the ponies were occupied with their little nature walk, Discord was trying out spells. He started working through every magical trick he could imagine to either get himself to Fluttershy, get her to him, or destroy whatever force was keeping them apart. More and more sparks flew sizzling from his snaps, but nothing changed.

Fluttershy narrated Sombra’s actions to Discord through the thought connection. She described her refusal to eat or drink at the dinner Sombra summoned. I tried to tell the foals not to eat either, but I felt the dark magic squeeze and force my mouth shut. He won’t let me keep Fio and Corey from eating.

The contours of Discord’s form grew increasingly jagged and angry as he struggled vainly against the strange force.

Twilight’s horn was glowing with the softness of a diagnostic spell while Rainbow Dash watched and fidgeted. “I can’t make heads or tails of the magical signature. It doesn’t make any sense.”

“Maybe whatever this is isn’t magic at all,” Rainbow Dash suggested. “I mean, I’m a pegasus, I can’t normally interact with magic like you can, but even I can feel something here!”

The idea got Twilight pacing. “Pegasi have a special capacity to detect physical forces, though. It helps you control the weather. But I’ve never heard of a physical force that could do something like this.” She inspected the blurry grass again. “And what kind of physical force is accessible to Sombra’s dark magic, but not pony magic or chaos magic?” Drooping from exhaustion and defeat, Twilight slumped into a sit and shrugged off her saddlebags.

“Hey,” said Rainbow Dash, pointing at one side of the saddlebags that had fallen open. “Isn’t that the book Pinkie insisted you’d need?”

Twilight brightened and snatched up the book. “This is the astronomy book I lent to Sombra! I thought he just wanted to learn something new in his boredom, but maybe he found some kind of spell in here?” She began flipping through it, and a paper fell out.

Notes. “Matter and anti-matter,” it read. Twilight remembered this page. She had thought nothing of it before. “Out of their unresolved conflict spiraled all the universe.

That’s still true, mused Twilight, even if theorists failed to predict that there was a certain chaos spirit watching it all happen.

Perfected balance can only result in self-annihilation.” It was a strange conclusion to draw from the chapter on the origin of the universe. Could Sombra have used this idea to conceal himself, Fluttershy, and the twins, somehow? Perhaps, but the link between concealment and annihilation seemed a little risky to Twilight. She flipped forward deeper into the book. More notes occasionally fell out, none of them any more informative than the first.

Meanwhile, Discord had dropped to all fours and prowled around the darkening meadow. His face was set in a snarling grimace, and every few steps, he paused to flick out a claw and tear threads from the fabric of reality, searching for any kind of seam or weakness by which Sombra might be exposed.

He tucked them into bed and kissed their foreheads, Fluttershy related, her thought-voice trembling. Their little manes are starting to billow like smoke. Do you know what Corey said? He said ‘I feel icky. I’m sick like Father, aren’t I Mommy?’ The dark magic is swallowing them up too, Discord! He’ll make Corey and Fio into shadow minions!

Discord slashed a deep scar into the earth.

Twilight got to the end of the book and slammed it down. But she picked it back up again immediately and flipped through a second time, faster, scanning chapter headings. “The First Explosion,” “Universal Constants,” “The Speed of Light,” “Expanding Space,” “Dark Magic”…

Dark Magic? Twilight read that again. Dark Matter, not Dark Magic. She was losing focus.

Then she froze. “Wait.”

“What, what?” Rainbow Dash tried to peer at the book over Twilight’s shoulder, but the alicorn started flipping rapidly back and forth, reading and rereading two chapters entitled “Dark Matter” and “Dark Energy.”

“That’s it!”

The exclamation got even Discord’s attention. Twilight beckoned him and Rainbow Dash to follow her back to the forest edge where the grass wasn’t blurry. “Dark matter and dark energy,” she explained, “are physical forces that have been completely inscrutable to ponykind. We’ve known for a long time that they exist, but not how to see them, touch them, or study them. I think Somba’s dark magic must have given him some ability to use dark energy and dark matter. That’s why we can’t get to him or Fluttershy and the foals! Maybe only those who have enough dark magic in them can exist in the dark plane!”

“So I’ll have to go dark to get to them,” Discord concluded, looking resolute.

Twilight flew up to seize Discord’s arm. “I don’t think that’s a good idea. When we were flying and you turned on me, you said something about dark magic.” Rainbow Dash began to exclaim in surprise but Twilight went on. “If you pump yourself with dark magic now, there’s no telling what you’ll do. Let me try something first.”

Daggers flew from Discord’s glare—fortunately just metaphorical ones. “I won’t let you stand in my way. I have to get to her!”

“I’m your friend!” Twilight took his shoulders and shook him. “I’m helping you get to her. I think I might be able to turn Sombra’s dark matter mansion into regular matter.”

Discord managed a stiff nod, and Twilight returned to the ground. “Stand back. This might take a minute and I don’t know how smoothly the conversion will go.” Magic gathered on her horn, glowing brighter and brighter. Twilight broke out in a sweat and viscous bubbles of darkness occasionally burst through her violet aura. Except for her face tensing into a grimace and her front hooves digging into the topsoil, nothing was happening. Not to the supposed mansion, anyway. Discord’s vision was fading to a dim red, and he couldn’t keep his fists from clenching and unclenching. Twilight was wielding dark magic and it burned against his mind.

Discord, Discord tell me you’re still there! Fluttershy’s thought-voice pleaded.

I’m here.

He lead me away from Fio and Corey, and now he wants to put me to bed! I told him this is all wrong, I’m supposed to be with you and not him, but he says you brainwashed me. He says I’ll remember what I’m supposed to be once we’re in bed together. I can’t stop my hooves from following him! I’m so scared!

On the meadow, a large shadow began to stand out in the murky dusk light. It had the outline of a mansion that wasn’t quite there yet. Blood trickled down Twilight’s chin from where her teeth had sliced into her lip. Particle by particle, a form was building itself upon the shadow, dissolving itself in reverse.

Discord was still locked onto Fluttershy’s voice. He tracked her mind as it moved through what was beginning to be a solid structure.

Scared, she was saying, and… excited. I’m losing myself again! Tell me you’ll be here soon! I can’t stop myself!

Twilight’s head thrashed, flinging her last drops of magic and strength into the mansion as she collapsed into the grass. Her ears barely registered the snap as Discord vanished from her side.