• 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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In the Interest of Communication

“Applejack, can we please just talk?”

“Now’s not the time, Rarity!”

It was just after the meeting about Sombra, and the two mares were walking through the royal gardens at sunset. The last time they’d done that together was years ago.

“Then when is? You’ve been avoiding it all this time! We both know we can’t go on like this!”

Applejack took Rarity’s hoof, then thought better of it and let go again. “I know, but we’ve got to. Look, maybe—maybe we both just need to take some space. Again.”

“After that didn’t work last time or the time before that?”

“I… Yes.” Applejack hung her head. “I don’t know what else to do.”

Rarity sat beside her and huffed. “Well, if now’s not the time for talking, now’s not the time for taking space either. We’re about to release a known danger to society back into the world. We need to have each other’s backs at a time like this!”

“I know. You’re right. You’re always right. I’m scared, ya know? Scared about Sombra, scared about Fluttershy, scared about… Us.” Applejack sighed. “I just don’t want anything to happen. It’s hard enough as it is.”

Rarity tightened her lips. It always went this way, and she was so tired of waiting! All kinds of responses ran through her mind—the same responses as always—and as always, she spoke none of them. It wouldn’t help either of their suffering. At length, Rarity gave up the train of thought. “Those gardenias smell so lovely.”

“They sure do,” agreed Applejack, still not meeting Rarity’s eyes.

More silence passed, broken only by the buzzing of dragonflies. The sun perched on the line of the horizon.

“Applejack, darling, it’s getting late. Come back to my house for the evening, and you can catch the morning train to Ponyville. We’ll bake some cookies and clear our heads, and I won’t make you talk at all if you don’t want to.”

Finally, Applejack looked up and mustered a smile. “Alright, I’d like that. Thanks.”


Another long day of duties had come to an end, and Twilight sighed with relief upon finally shedding the royal regalia and collapsing in her desk chair.

“Ah! Done with the work, and now time for...” She looked down at the half-empty scroll she’d left waiting on her desk for herself. “More work.”

Friendship Lessons for a Former Slave-Holding Tyrant Infected with Dangerous Levels of Dark Magic

So read the title on that daunting document. After thinking for a moment, Twilight scribbled on an addition: ...Who May or May Not Still Have Terrible Intentions for My Friends.

Then she stared at the scroll some more. “I’m the Princess of Friendship—what do I know? Do I know what I know? How do I know? How do I know what I know is what I need to know?” And she let her head fall onto the desk with a thud.

Twilight suddenly appeared in the royal kitchen in a robe and slippers, her mane a royal mess. The cooks knew exactly why she was there and shuffled out of her path without a word. The frightful sight stalked over to the coffeepot, poured two big mugs of the strongest stuff, and teleported away again.

Twilight suddenly appeared on a table covered in scribbled pages of notes, hand-drawn maps, and tiny figurines, not noticing at all that she had just ruined a very intricate setup. “Spike!” she bellowed.

Spike folded up his screen in defeat and flopped backward in his seat. “What is it this time, Twi?”

She shoved an open scroll in his face. It read Friendship Lessons for a Former Slave-Holding Tyrant… “I don’t know what I know about friendship!”

“But you’re the Princess of Friendship,” protested Spike.

“I know!”

“Then what do you need me for?”

“To… Remind me what I know?”

Spike glared.

“Please, I can’t get my thoughts straight this evening. I need someone to bounce ideas off of!”

He raised an eyebrow.

Pleeeeeease?”

“Fine,” hissed Spike, taking the proffered mug of coffee. He peered past Twilight to address the table. “I guess that’s all for tonight, folks. Same time next week?”

There were some nods and various comments ranging from amused to annoyed, but the gaming group packed up the RPG gear, and Twilight and Spike started toward the library.


Whump!

Pinkie Pie landed out of nowhere on her stump beside the firepit. Cheese Sandwich set down the accordion he was playing as she started to talk.

“Date ideas—think tank?”

“Do you mean we’re having a think tank to come up with date ideas, or the think tank is the date idea?”

“BOTH!”

“Well, count me in! Pie-eating contest!”

“Pie-making contest!”

“Drafting party ideas for ponies who think they don’t like parties!”

Throwing parties for ponies who think they don’t like parties!”

“Helping my marefriend come up with friendship lesson ideas for a villain in need of reforming!”

“Yeah! Heeeey, how did you know about that?”

Cheese Sandwich shrugged. “Boneless 2 told me.”

“Okay for real though, I do need your help.”

“Don’t you always?” He gave Pinkie Pie a wink, she responded with a good-natured punch, and they got to work.


“Okay, okay, what about this? Next time, instead of an Ursa Major, I turn into a dragon? Fire-breathing could open up so many new avenues for entertainment!”

“I’m with you, Discord, but changing up a fan-favorite show is a big deal. You’d have to take that up with Spitfire!” Rainbow Dash gave Discord a friendly bump and turned to open up her locker.

Discord unlocked his own locker, which he’d just conjured for the purpose. “Oh, I suppose. But as a mere honorary Wonderbolt, I’m hardly more than a prop in this enterprise. Spitfire might just brush me off. But you’re an actual member of the team! She’d listen to you!”

“Eh, maybe,” agreed Rainbow Dash, hanging up her uniform. “But ‘The Fall of the Ursa Major’ has become one of our longest-running shows for a reason. The fans can’t get enough of it! I doubt Spitfire’s going to be willing to risk disappointing our audience by shaking things up too much.”

“Well that’s just no fun!” Discord slammed shut his locker and snapped it away. “How was I supposed to know my fabulous idea for a show was going to be so popular? Scratch that—of course I knew. It was my idea, after all! But how was I supposed to know that increasing popularity would mean decreasing creative freedom to that curmudgeon of a boss you have?”

“You’d better believe it, buster,” called Spitfire, smirking as she walked past the locker room.

Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes. It was lucky Spitfire had taken a liking to the unruly draconequus, or his remark could have gotten her in trouble. She suspected her boss actually enjoyed the extra thrill and challenge Discord brought to their shows, since performing them could get a little repetitive over time. “Well,” she announced, shutting her own locker, “I’ll see what I can do, Discord. I might be able to convince her to concede on a few small details. Anyway, you still on for milkshakes?”

“Ha! I wouldn’t miss it,” answered Discord. “At this point, grabbing milkshakes with you after our show is just about the only thing I like about performing it anyway!”

“You don’t mean that!”

“I might!”

Discord and Rainbow Dash kept up their usual banter all the way to the ice cream parlor (which was not a long trip for Equestria’s fastest flier and the Lord of Chaos), and kept on bantering as the server brought out their usual order. A root beer milkshake for Rainbow Dash, and a “Chaos Storm” for Discord, which happened to be whatever combination of flavors the manager most wanted to get rid of that day, plus one random topping swirled in.

Discord took a sip and contorted his face in concentration. “Let’s see… Definitely bubble gum, and I think there’s also cherry—no, cherries jubilee! With little mint chocolate pieces!”

“Gross!” laughed Rainbow Dash, sticking out her tongue.

“Says the pony who likes root beer-flavored ice cream!”

“Hey, you liked it when you had it that one time!”

“Yes, but that was when it was with butterscotch and strawberry!”

A new voice interrupted. “’Sup, Dash? Another successful show, I take it?”

Rainbow Dash’s face instantly soured. “Hey, Open Skies. Yes, we just came from a show.”

“So, what I’m hearing is you’re finally not too busy to give that second date some thought, hmm? What do you say?”

“Fine, I’ll think about it!” Rainbow Dash took a long, pointed sip of her milkshake, maintaining eye contact with the stallion the whole time. She smacked her lips when she was done. “Here’s what I think: you’re a self-absorbed jerk who cares more about being seen with me than actually getting to know me. Yeah, I know I’m cool, but just using me as an accessory is a really cheap way to try to boost your own coolness. I don’t feel like I need to put up with that a second time.”

A blush spread all across Open Skies’s face when everypony in the ice cream parlor turned to look at whom the coolest pegasus in town was scolding. He quickly sputtered an excuse and fled the scene.

Discord finally relaxed his tightly-closed lips and burst out laughing. “Way to go, Dashie! You tell him! I was all ready to intervene with a little chaos magic, but you sure had him good! I’ve never seen a turquoise pony turn so pink!”

Rainbow Dash merely grumbled and took another sip of her milkshake.

“So, I take it your forays into the wonderful world of romance have left you rather underwhelmed lately?”

“Ugh. ‘Underwhelmed’ is an understatement. I don’t even want to go into it right now. How are you and Fluttershy doing? She seemed to be taking the news about Sombra pretty hard.”

Now Discord’s expression darkened too. He leaned back against the counter. “Wellll, she hasn’t fainted again, but she’s been awfully distracted. The foals picked up on it, which meant we had to fill them in on what was going on, and that meant they got excited, and that’s only gotten Fluttershy even more worried. Sombra’s going to be imprisoned, and alone, and weak. I don’t understand why she can’t trust The Lord of Chaos to protect her from that.”

“Yeesh, sorry I asked,” muttered Rainbow Dash, taking a thoughtful sip of root beer milkshake.

“Me too.”

Then Rainbow Dash set down her drink and touched a hoof to Discord’s arm. “You know, Fluttershy can trust you completely and still be scared. That’s just how emotions go. Not that I would know anything about fear, of course! But she’s Fluttershy; she’s always scared. Everypony can see that you two have a great bond. Like good Wonderbolts, you trust each other, and you communicate. Just keep on doing that, and you’ll get through all this.”

“Heh,” Discord smirked. “Fine advice coming from a mare who’s perpetually single.”

“I’m only single because I’ve seen enough first dates to know what is and what’s not going to work for me in a relationship. I haven’t found anypony yet who’s met all my needs as well as you and Fluttershy meet each others’. I suppose knowing you two has given me high standards,” she laughed.

“You sure don’t seem to be suffering much from being single.”

“Nope!”

“All the better for you, then.” It was silent for a moment, and then Discord twitched strongly enough to splash the contents of his cup all over himself.

Rainbow Dash raised an eyebrow. She didn’t know what the twitching was all about, but she’d seen it often enough to know Discord was about to look really nervous and uncomfortable, then make an excuse to go home.

“Oh, well, I seem to be all out of milkshake! Guess it’s time I head back home! It’s been fun, Dash! Thanks for the advice. Ta-ta!”

“See ya!”

Discord’s snap teleported him away and produced a large pile of money on the counter to pay for their milkshakes. Rainbow Dash snorted at his antics and took a closer look at the excessive amount of bits. About half of them seemed to be foil-covered chocolates, so she unwrapped one, popped it in her mouth, and flew off before some annoyed shopkeeper could come demand that she sort the pile for them.


The foals were finally asleep. Their constant chatter and excitement about their father wearied Fluttershy exceedingly, and it was only late in the evenings now that they’d finally be quiet and she could relax. She wanted nothing more that moment than to cuddle up and whisper sweet words with her mate to get her mind off the horrible stallion who’d once tried to usurp that position.

Their bed was a water bed tonight, and Fluttershy crawled under the covers with a giggle of delight. She smiled at Discord. But he wasn’t getting in. He was just standing at the bedside, looking hesitant. It was a tense moment of stillness before Discord finally looked at her.

“Can we go to the sanctuary? I… want to talk to you about something.”

Well, so much for a relaxing, affectionate evening. “Okay,” assented Fluttershy with reluctance.

Discord snapped his fingers.

The sanctuary was one of Discord’s many pocket dimensions. It was a place of surprising calm and beauty—given the nature of its creator—and since time spent here didn’t necessarily equate to time spent in the real world, it was where Discord and Fluttershy often went to escape from responsibilities for a while. Or to have difficult conversations. Fluttershy suspected the latter on this occasion.

She simply sat down and watched as Discord paced back and forth in a forest of tree-sized mushrooms. The atmosphere was a hazy gold, and the dim stars overhead swam slowly around each other like lazy fireflies. As usual, everything here was perfectly calm except for Discord himself. He finally approached Fluttershy, took her hooves in his hands, and searched her eyes deeply.

“Fluttershy, will you marry me?”

She blinked once and closed her mouth when she realized it was hanging open. “Um, sure Discord. I didn’t think you wanted a ceremony, though.”

His only reply was to turn away and resume his pacing, muttering “No, no, that’s not quite what I meant.”

“Then… what is?” Fluttershy was totally at a loss to understand him.

Another painfully silent minute of pacing passed. Discord eventually turned back to Fluttershy and lowered himself to her eye level. He opened his mouth to speak, but closed it again.

Fluttershy sprouted a frown in impatience. She kept silent, though, for he clearly had something important to say and didn’t know how. And then Discord twisted himself into a pretzel shape, and she wondered what was so terrible that he couldn’t even figure out what to do with himself.

Finally, hanging upside-down from the cap of the nearest giant mushroom, he spat it out:

I’m not the only draconequus!

That certainly wasn’t what Fluttershy would have expected. “Y-you’re not? But, where are all the others?”

Discord dropped ungracefully off the fungus and went right back to pacing. “Where is irrelevant. They’re in our homeland. It doesn’t have a location.”

“Why hasn’t anycreature ever seen any of them?”

“Because they’re all far away! Not ‘far’ in terms of distance, but ‘far’ in terms of...” He stopped in his tracks. “Um. There isn’t really a measurement for it.”

What in Equestria is he talking about? Why bring this up now? “Okay, then… why are you the only one that’s not so far away, in whatever sense?”

Discord plopped into a seated position, still not even facing Fluttershy. “Because I ran away. Someplace they could never get to me.”

He was distraught about something for sure. Even though Fluttershy still couldn’t fathom what brought this on, she sympathized with his show of what seemed to be some long-buried pain, and she moved to comfort him. She sat in front of him and took his paw in her hooves.

“I’m here for you, Discord. Whatever it is, I love you.”

Her words made his shoulders slump, and he sighed and placed his other hand over her hooves. “All the draconequui have chaos magic, but there’s something else too. There’s a magic that’s part of everything—and every non-thing—that even the finest volumes on magic in all of Equestria only barely touch on. They’re called the founding spells. They underpin all of existence, but they have special effects on draconequui, since… we… were the first creatures to exist.”

This was just getting weirder and weirder. All Fluttershy could do was stare at Discord, and he stared right back, refusing to go on until she made some sort of acknowledgment.

“...T-Twilight’s going to want to know about this...”

Discord also took his time responding. “...Well, I’m certain you’ll make me tell her, and I’m not excited about it. But there’s more.” He shook his head. “So much more...”

“Alright, well, I still don’t know why you’re telling me all this now, so go on, I suppose.”

“Yes...” For another long moment, he thought. Then he abruptly stood, backed away from Fluttershy, and sat down again where he was too far away to be touched.

Fluttershy tilted her head in confusion, but Discord’s eyes were wide and pleading, so she stayed where she was and waited.

“Do you remember a few years ago, when I couldn’t control my magic, and I came to you twitching and seizing, but after a few minutes I went right back to normal? And I haven’t ever been away from you for more than a full day in all the time since then? That was because of a founding spell that specifically affects draconequui. Much of the reason I came to your world in the first place was to try to escape it, and… it’s found me anyway.”

A little gasp escaped Fluttershy’s throat, and she couldn’t help getting up to sit closer to Discord again. “Is that the reason you keep saying you’re mortal now?”

“Please, Fluttershy, don’t touch me until I’m finished.”

She sat back down and waited.

“No, the founding spell didn’t turn me mortal.” He hung his head and looked so, so tired. “You did.”

“What? No, that shouldn’t be possible! Unless—you mustn’t take your life when I die, Discord, you mustn’t!”

“I don’t have any choice!” The mushroom trees suddenly fell away, the dim sky grew entirely black, and even the ground was gone. They were now in an empty void, where all was dark except Discord and Fluttershy themselves.

Fluttershy cowered, too afraid to speak.

Discord was so agitated he started pacing again, apparently not noticing what he’d done to the sanctuary. “I’m still technically immortal. I’ll never die for any outside reason, but you will, and when you do, I’ll lose control again. It’s only happened a few times in draconequus history, and it’s never pretty. I’ll go insane. My chaos magic will go berserk. I’ll cause so much death and suffering, and I won’t have the mental presence even to make myself die at that point! And if I don’t kill myself… there isn’t a single other being in the whole MULTIVERSE who could stop me. I’ve checked! If I don’t kill myself at the time of your death, I could be responsible for the destruction of absolutely everything and everyone!”

It was several long non-moments before Fluttershy could choke down her tears. “B-but, WHY? Why does this all hinge around me? Why do you have to go insane?”

A desperate look glinted in Discord’s eyes as he seized Fluttershy by her shoulders. “It’s the founding spell! You’re not just the love of my life, Fluttershy, you’re my soulmate! The founding spells decreed it! No draconequus can bear to be separated from their soulmate once they’ve found them. It always results in madness and loss of control, and with my power…!”

Fluttershy shook her head vigorously, but the tears kept flowing. “Soulmate? What do you mean? What does this all mean?”

With a defeated sigh, Discord stepped back from Fluttershy and snapped the peaceful background of the sanctuary back into existence again. “It means I’m bound to you by a magic deeper than anything even I can control. It’s normally not a problem for draconequui, since we’re immortal. I ran away from my kind because I didn’t want to find my soulmate. I didn’t want to be tied down to anycreature else. But I didn’t know at the time that it was possible, however rare, for a mortal of a different species to be the soulmate of a draconequus. When I first started to realize the soulmate magic had been sprung on me, I went back to my kind for the first time in millennia and studied their records. It’s happened to only a handful of others, but always, when the mortal dies, the draconequus bound to them either kills themselves or goes insane.”

The tears had stopped, and Fluttershy was shaking now, but she was beginning to get ahold of herself again. “Okay, so… an ancient magic has ordained that I would be the eventual mate of the most powerful being in the multiverse, and if that most powerful being doesn’t kill himself when I die, he’ll spiral out of control and destroy all of existence. Anything else?”

Discord stared into her eyes with not the faintest hint of his usual jocularity. “Yes.”

Fluttershy took a deep breath. “Great. Let’s hear it, I guess.”

“As immortals, the draconequui have a penchant for filling their infinite time with gathering knowledge and especially exploring new dimensions. With such curiosity and habits of roaming, draconequui sometimes find it difficult to be always near enough to their soulmates to prevent their powers from going out of control. To confront this difficulty, the draconequus king developed a special binding ceremony that would establish a kind of quantum link between two individuals. It would allow them to be near each other in enough of a sense to keep the soulmate magic satisfied, no matter how many dimensions apart they traveled.”

He paused, but Fluttershy withheld a reaction.

So he went right on with the lecture. “The binding ceremony also has the side effect of establishing a thought connection between the soulmates. A special dream-quest immediately following the binding ceremony gives the couple the space they need in each others’ heads to learn how to control this thought connection, so they can consciously choose which thoughts to send to each other, and even deny each other permission to enter their heads for privacy’s sake. Thus, after both the binding ceremony and the dream-quest, the linked pair can feel each others’ presence and even talk as if face-to-face, however far apart they may be.”

Now Fluttershy’s blood went cold. “That sounds very invas—interesting. And you’re telling me all this because…?” She was pretty sure she already knew the answer.

Discord stalled by looking around and changing up the scenery. He exchanged the mushroom forest for a grassy meadow and the misty atmosphere for a sunny sky. Their surroundings went from moody and dark to cheerful and bright in an instant with nothing more than an absent thought from Discord.

Those are some powerful thoughts to be poking around in another creature’s mind, worried Fluttershy.

“I’m telling you this because I’m worried about Sombra. We’re releasing him in two more days. He’s not that dangerous, but he neverthelessis a danger. You’ve been awfully anxious about his return, and I want to be there for you as much and as fully as I can until things get better.” A many-petaled daisy sprang up at Discord’s feet. He picked it and began slowly plucking off its petals and casting them into the breeze. “Rainbow Dash reminded me how important trust and communication are in a relationship. Like the Wonderbolts, she said. Well, as far as trust goes, I don’t want to keep secrets from you, and for communication—surely, connecting our thoughts could only make our communication even better? Though it would also help in case anything ever goes wrong and we should be separated again!”

At that point, Discord looked down at the flower he’d picked. There was a single petal left on it. He hesitated, then plucked it off too and sent it away. “Well, the flower tells me you love me, so here goes.” Discord knelt before Fluttershy and held up a bouquet of vibrant, fully-petaled flowers. “Will you come to the draconequus homeland and perform the soulmate rituals with me?”