• 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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Not This Again

“Woah,” chimed the foals in unison before they ran off to explore the pocket dimension’s crystal formations. They wouldn’t get lost, Fluttershy knew, because this whole dimension was just a single, cave-like room filled with clear crystals, and no exit at all. That was why it made a good prison. In the center of the room was the largest crystal, glowing with an intense light that paralyzed the darkness it contained.

Fluttershy walked toward that dark prisoner, sat herself where she could see his anguished face, and contemplated.

Discord stood beside her and rested a hand on her shoulder. “It’s gotten much dimmer,” he remarked.

Without looking away, Fluttershy nodded. “He must have been doing some soul-searching. But it looks like he still has a long way to go to release himself from the glow of his hatred.”

That imprisoning glow suddenly dimmed significantly, only seconds before a toddler-screech erupted from behind Fluttershy and Discord. Eight little hooves broke into a gallop that echoed across the entire bounds of the pocket dimension.

Fio and Corey skidded to a halt mere inches from ramming their snouts into the crystal, then reared up to place their front hooves on it for a better look.

“That’s him!” declared Corey. “Father!”

“Father!” Fio echoed. “Corey, look! Red eyes! Like you! Same group!”

“Fio, black mane! Like you!” The pair echoed “same group” a few more times, and then Corey broke the chant by talking to the figure in the crystal. “Hi, Father! Get better soon!”

“Come out soon!” agreed Fio.

Discord corralled the twins back from the crystal and sat them beside Fluttershy, where all four of them would be in the paralyzed shadow pony’s field of view. The light radiating from the crystal started oscillating, brighter, dimmer, brighter again. Fluttershy’s frown deepened.

“What’s happening to him?” Fio asked.

Fluttershy wrenched her eyes from the sight to address her foals. “He’s still sick, and now he’s having a battle with his sickness. Remember, Daddy said he needed quiet to get better? I think we should leave him alone again so he can have his quiet back. Discord?”

Discord had been walking in a circle around the imprisoned pony while the crystal shifted to a steady, brighter glow. He returned at Fluttershy’s call, wearing a distant expression. “Alright kids, say goodbye to Father for now. We’ll see him again soon.”

As the foals complied and squeaked their farewells, Fluttershy mouthed “soon?” at Discord. He closed his eyes and nodded slowly. Then he snapped them all back home.

The squeaking redoubled as soon as the foals recognized the familiar surroundings.

“Tell us more about Father!”

“Yes, yes! How did he get sick?”

“When will he be better?”

Discord conjured his thinking tree in the middle of the backyard and slithered up to disappear in its boughs, so Fluttershy was left to tackle the hard questions by herself.

“We don’t know when he’ll get better. It depends on how strong he is. Fiorello, Coreopsis, listen very carefully to Mommy. Your father has a special kind of sickness. He was born with it, and he didn’t take care of himself, so the sickness took over his whole body. It’s called dark magic, and it’s very bad. Because he made you two, you both were born with the sickness too.”

Fio and Corey exchanged horrified looks, but didn’t say anything.

“You don’t feel it right now, but one day your dark magic will get stronger and you’ll have to fight it. You have to be very strong, or the sickness will get worse and you’ll have to go in rooms all alone like your father to get better. You won’t like that, and Mommy and Daddy won’t like that, so you have to fight hard.”

Both of the colts were sniffling now, scared to tears but trying to be strong. Fluttershy enfolded them in a hug.

“Shh, my darlings, I know you can do it. Daddy and I will be right here to help you fight. You’ll be alright. We’ll all be alright.”

Later, after the moon was raised and the foals were finally asleep in their beds, Discord lead Fluttershy into the living room. She sat on the sofa and watched him prepare a pot of tea. He did it slowly, the pony way, using no magic at all. Something wasn’t quite sitting right in the pit of Fluttershy’s stomach.

Finally, he sat down with her and poured them each a cup of the tea. Fluttershy took a sip. It had a velvety mustiness to it, a flavor so unassuming but so powerful it seemed to muffle every distracting sensation. Pu’er. Discord was taking a slow, savoring sip from his own cup and was obviously in no hurry to start talking.

“What’s on your mind, my love?”

He finally set down the cup, but he was silent for a few seconds more, mulling on his words. “He looked the same on the outside, right? But while we were there, I thought I would check up on the inside too. I had a hunch.”

Sombra, of course. Fluttershy knew this was going to be about him, and she dreaded hearing it. But it was clearly important. “And?”

“I was right.” Discord took another unhurried sip of tea. “He’s been in there for five years, and he’s been letting go of his anger and hatred, but not fast enough. He’s dying, Fluttershy. The paralyzing light, the dark magic, the long struggle against the very fabric of his existence—it’s killing him. He can only hold on another year. Maybe two. There’s no way he can conquer his darkness by then.”

Fluttershy set her cup on the table before her trembling hooves spilled tea everywhere. Then she breathed, processing. “I s-see. What can we do?”

Discord didn’t answer.

“Do we let him… d-die?”

He dragged his eyes up to meet hers. Fluttershy already knew the answer, and so did he.

They were all too happy. They didn’t understand. Why couldn’t they all be solemn and stony-faced? It would make saying the words so much easier.

“I’m so excited!” Pinkie Pie was saying. “It’s not every day one of us calls an extra conference. It’s not even every other day!”

“Do you think it’s another ‘special announcement’?” she heard Rainbow Dash respond, casting a meaningful glance between her and Discord. Fluttershy felt her face grow hot, and she didn’t dare look at Discord.

“Well, I think it’s a fine thing, whatever the reason. One can never see one’s friends again too soon,” declared Rarity. For some reason, she looked directly at Applejack when she said that. Applejack smiled faintly back, like she knew the reason.

Twilight finally entered the council room and took her seat. “Alright, everypony, sorry for the wait. Fluttershy, why don’t you take it away?”

And then all the eyes were on her, and they were all smiling. Oh, Celestia, why do they have to be smiling?

We have to release Sombra.” Too loud. Her voice was too loud. She was worried she would be too quiet and would have to say it again, so she said it too loud. Too late to back off. “He’s dying.”

And then there was a clamor, and she was lying down, and it was so stuffy, and Discord was holding her, and he was talking, and everycreature was talking…

Fluttershy woke up in a plush bed. Applejack saw her stirring, set down her quill, and lifted a spoonful of soup to Fluttershy’s lips.

“Welcome back, Fluttershy. You’ve been out for an hour or so, but Discord an’ them are gettin’ everything handled. Just relax.”

Fluttershy obediently sipped up the soup and didn’t try to understand. She felt afraid about something, and she didn’t want to remember what.

Until she did. “Oh my. Applejack, are they discussing it? What are we going to do with him?”

“Why don’t you finish this soup, and we’ll walk back over to the counsel together an’ see what they’ve got decided?”

They did exactly that, and the chatter they heard bubbling through the walls as they approached instantly ceased when they walked into the room. Discord was cradling Fluttershy in his arms in an instant.

“Hey Fluttershy! How’re you feeling?” Twilight offered a sympathetic smile.

“I don’t really know what happened to me. I don’t want to know. Just, tell me whatever you decide to do with him. Tell me what to do if there’s anything, and I’ll do it. I don’t want to think about any of this.”

The other ponies all shared a concerned look, and then Rarity stepped tentatively forward.

“It’s like you said, darling, we’ve got to release him. We’ll keep him locked up and under close watch at all times, and we’ll give him friendship lessons.”

“We’ve reformed bad guys before!” noted Pinkie Pie.

“Yeah!” Rainbow Dash flew out of her seat. “We’ll all take turns teaching him. You won’t have to see him much!”

“Or at all, if you’re not comfortable,” Twilight amended. “The foals don’t have to see him either. We’ll take care of everything, Fluttershy. We’ll all get through this together. I don’t really know what’s going to happen, but we have to try.”

It wasn’t like she could say no, as much as she may have wanted to. Fluttershy focused on the sensation of Discord stroking her mane, and closed her eyes. “Okay.”