Because of how long the story excerpt is, I'm gonna do the link drops and ramblings first:
Survivor Shy Gallery (All artwork including non-canon pieces): [link]
Survivor Shy on Fimfiction (Organised story plus illustrations): [link]
My Tumblr (Safe For Work, contains anything I draw and a few things I reblog): [link]
I've been sat on this finished picture for a few days now, waiting for the best time to sit down and write half of the new chapter. Because I've dropped one of the planned illustrations from the next chapter for being too time-consuming and depicting a scene that wasn't even worth drawing, I've had to spend some time reshuffling how I tell the chapter, and I've had to divide the chapter across two scenes for my deviantArt watchers (which reminds me, I have a part for "Inside My Head"
that is missing from dA but is available on FimFiction, I'll fix that in about 30 mins). So I'm sorry it has taken me so long to get the piece out and pretty delaying the new chapter release by a week in lost time.
Now the picture itself, I'm very proud of it. I used a MASSIVE canvas (5k x 6k pixels) to start the sketch for this, and spent extra time building on the sketch and working on details. I took inspiration from
's art and referenced a few pictures to learn to draw her brow, and I also borrowed his "jaggy-and-straight-lines" approach to drawing manes such as Fluttershy's. My muscle memory still likes drawing curves, so in the end I settled on a happy medium between the two. I dabbled some more in adding more fuzziness to her appearance, from the tip of her ear, to her brow, to the end of her jawline, right down to chest fluff, and I reckon those scattered and minor details make her head match the level of attention her mane did, without diving into extremely realistic styles that I'm not ready to study yet.
The lineart was done with the same tool I used to sketch; the Pen tool. The Lineart tool may be the cleanest way to do inking, and the results of using the Lineart tool can be perfect every time if one uses the other tools to adjust curves and thicknesses, but I have begun to feel like I spend more time fixing my lines with said tools than actually drawing them. Drawing something completely free-hand with as low a stability setting as possible (I use stability 4 in case you want to know) and only using the eraser to tidy my lines feels more satisfying. Especially since I can see how my drawing ability improves as I work on an image.
I'm a little ashamed to admit I spent almost no time colouring and shading her eyes. I just drew them how I wanted to, reached a point where I felt they were perfect, and did nothing more. I couldn't find any similar eye styles other artists use to borrow styles from for extra detail. I hardly think the eyes are bad or poor, they work perfectly how they are, but my inner-critic would rather I pushed myself with trying new details like I did everywhere else. That all being said, those lashes took some time for me feel happy with.
Probably the most fun, yet time-consuming part, was shading this picture. There were two sources of light to consider: The cool, soft lighting from the cloudy sky, and the bright, warm light from Fluttershy's Element of Kindness. I've read a few tutorials on multiple light sources, but this is the first I ever really applied the knowledge, and I have to say that I'm impressed with how it turned out and how much depth this picture appears to have because of it.
Anyway, with nothing more to say, I shall leave you to read the first half of the upcoming chapter! deviantArt viewers get the perk of reading content from upcoming chapters before they come out on FimFiction! However, FimFiction readers get the whole story in a much more organised manner - rather than a gallery with everything out of order.
The morning sky cracked open above my head. An endless void split the seam wide open, engulfing the deep, dawn-tinted blues and purples of the atmosphere with an endless collage of grey. My head refused to turn to look, my eyes ignored the destruction raining down from the heavens. I commanded my wings to dive. I didn’t change direction. I was no longer in control of my own body.
The world swiftly collapsed and fell to the void, and I watched it through eyes that I couldn’t move anymore. It’s surrounding me!
The expanse of grey was filling my view. I need to get out of here!
I tried again to take control of my wings, to force me into a dive – or stop flapping entirely. I couldn’t move - I was trapped inside my own body! I tried to scream as the grey swallowed me whole, but the scream never went further than being a thought.
I felt my restraints break free, and I was torn from the vision and dumped on the floor in a heap. I scrambled upright and whirled around, darting my horrified gaze from side to side. I was trapped inside the grey! Inside the void!
"Fluttershy!" a voiced bellowed.
I shrieked at the sound, springing upward in a flurry of frightened wing-beats and loose feathers. I twirled around in the air, searching for the owner of the voice.
"Fluttershy," it said, this time much softer, with very familiar warmth following it. "I saw what happened, it's okay - you're back in the trance." The gentle heat embraced me, pushing the recent horror from my mind. I lowered myself down onto my hooves again.
"Do... Do you remember, Fluttershy?” the voice asked, “That we're in your mind, trying to jog your memory?"
The thoughts clicked as I remembered the voice, and remembered that what I had saw was just a memory. But what happened at the end of it? What happened to the sky and the rest of Equestria? Why couldn’t I do anything to save myself? If it was only a memory, why did it feel like I was living through it the first time? Up until the end of it, everything felt natural – not pre-determined - could the memory spell really be that surreal?
“It must be quite an experience, to not only remember, but experience your memories as if they were being made for the first time." The mare's voice remarked.
I snapped out of my thoughts and glanced around in surprise, "H-how did you know...?" I stopped, remembering an important part of the memory spell. "I forgot you could read my thoughts."
The voice gave short burst of sweet laughter. "Oh no, Fluttershy! I didn't need to hear your thoughts to know that! All memory spells leave subjects a little puzzled at first."
I frowned into the nothingness. "What happened? Why did it seem like the world was falling in on me after I flew over the Everfree Forest?"
"You reached a point in your memory that still seems to be shrouded," she reasoned. "With nothing to support the visions you were having, they simply fell apart around you. I didn't expect something like that to happen so violently, though, I thought you would be eased out of the hallucination gradually when your thoughts couldn't carry you any further. It may have been made worse when you panicked, because you started to act in a way that clashed with how you really acted at the time the memory was made."
My gaze drifted down onto the featureless, grey floor I was stood on. My mane drooped in front of my eyes, framing my clean and unharmed forelegs. A memory collapsing should really be the least of my concerns. "So if that ever happens again, I should stay calm?" I asked.
"Preferably," the voice said. "Although, you may not have a choice sometimes; you can't control where your memories end and pick up again, after all."
"Okay..." I murmured. The comforting feeling had dispersed, and my legs started to shiver and uneasiness swirled around my stomach. I felt a little relieved to be that way, being so calm in a blurry world that seemed so tight yet so open at the same time wasn’t normal. And hearing a mare’s voice but not seeing anypony reminded me of ghost stories I never wanted to hear. So why was I so calm in spite of it?It must be the mare doing it. Her voice was doing something to make me calm, make me cooperate. Doesn’t she trust me to cooperate without it? Would she be offended if I asked her to stop? I hope she won’t be upset. She’s probably hearing my thoughts right now, so she already knows what I’m thinking about. I should ask anyway, to be polite.
I blew a few strands of my mane away from my face and lifted my head up. "Excuse me," I spoke out loud. "Are you using some sort of magic to keep me calm? If you are, I would be very grateful if you stopped.” I stopped to gulp down a heavy ball of dread, and there was no reply from the mare. “Be honest with me, how do I know you?" Nothing but grey and morphing blotches of colour met my eyes, and my ears could hear nothing. I spoke up, trying to get an answer. "I'm telling you everything I can remember, and whether I want to or not, I'm sharing my deepest, most personal thoughts with you, too. So could you tell me who it is who is listening, please?"
I stared upward, as if speaking to the stars. For a few moments, I heard nothing but my heartbeat pounding in my chest. Oh no, she’s upset…
I shrank down and curled myself into ball. I offended her.
A deep, sad sigh echoed through the plane of colours around me, followed by the mare's voice. "I'm sorry, Fluttershy. I really am. I shall stop manipulating your emotions from now on. I was afraid that you would become too frightened to listen to me while under the spell. I shouldn’t be doing it, either, for the same reason that I cannot tell you who I am. Outside information and interference in the spell can cloud your memory and influence your ability to remember the truth correctly." Thank you for not being mad.
I lowered my head down to think, and started to awkwardly dig little holes into the surface I was lying on. I watched the dents in the surface appear with each pass of my hoof, and quickly vanish as if it were sand being washed by a wave. I glanced up and spoke again. "So why can’t you end the memory spell and wake me up? Can I see you and then start this again?" I asked.
"No, it can't be done." she replied.
"But why not? I mean… Why can't you?"
The mare’s voice sounded remorseful. "Fluttershy... I was the last thing you saw before I put you under this spell, and you forgot who I was minutes later. This spell... It hides your recent memories in order to allow you to uncover your lost ones faster - without any risk of memories being interpreted wrong through what you did remember. In order to help you cure your amnesia this fast, the spell had to make it worse, first."
This didn’t sound very good. I started drawing circles and figure-eights into the floor. "So you're saying that..."
"...If we end this session and start another one," The voice followed, "Your mind will deteriorate, and the amnesia will get worse. If you don't even come close to curing your memory loss before coming back from under this spell, it may not just be the last three months you cannot remember when we start the spell again. You could even forget much older memories, such as when you were a filly." There was sorrow in her voice, but I couldn’t help but wonder if it was real. "You have to trust that I'm telling the truth, little one. If we uncover what you've already forgotten, or at least as much of it as possible, the rest shall come back on its own, and I'll know what I need to know."
I was quiet for a minute, letting myself think things over. It made sense, but there was still a prodding feeling in the back of my head. What my memories held was valuable to the voice. But I wasn’t even allowed to be told why, because it carried the risk of affecting how I remember things The spell was holding my entire mind to ransom, too. I shivered at the idea. Did I even agree to this? Or was I forced into this, like I was being forced to continue now?
I let out a sigh of my own, I knew I had a choice, but there was only one option that I felt brave enough to go through with. It was also the only option I had if I didn't want to risk forgetting more of my life. "I need to uncover my memories. How long can you maintain the spell?"
The voice's tone shifted to one that would fit a warm smile, but this time, there was no unnatural warmth dripping from her words. "Thank you for doing this, Fluttershy, I can maintain the spell for as long as necessary. When you’re ready, let your mind free and latch onto the first thing it finds. It doesn’t matter if the memory doesn’t pick up where you last left off, everything will come to you eventually. If sitting still doesn't help you relax, walking might help."
My ears perked up at the words 'free' and 'walking', and I stood up, staring into the distance. I concentrated on the word 'free'; what was its significance? Where had I heard it from that made it matter?
The endless plane of malleable ideas and possibilities twisted into a sparse and grassy plain. In the distance ahead of me, I could see hills and cliffs with off-white faces, and splashes of oranges, pinks, and green from forests that seemed to not know if they were in autumn or spring. This isn’t Equestria. The air smells different. What is that smell? Charcoal?
It was a smell like charcoal, barely noticeable among the sweet scent of rainwater and plant life. I gazed at the unkempt and wild beauty of the landscape, and suddenly, the name came to me.The Free Lands
A gentle breeze pushed my mane aside, and when it passed, my mane fell back in place, inexplicably short again. I ran my hoof through my mane, and recoiled slightly when it bumped into my headband. I took a deep breath. I needed to stay calm to make this work.
My saddlebags floated down over my flanks and settled in place, their contents filling them in not long after. My canteen sloshed around in one of the bags, the strap hanging out from being packed away in a hurry; and short shimmers of glowing strips twirled around my foreleg and formed into bandages, covering a nearly-healed cut. Finally, a weight wrapped itself around my neck with a click, and gently fell downwards and rested on my chest. I glanced down to see my Element of Harmony around my neck, the Element of Kindness. When did I get this? If I had mine, then that meant my friends must’ve had theirs, but why am I not in Equestria? Where are my friends?
I lifted the butterfly-shaped stone up, to make sure I wasn’t imagining it, and flinched when it flickered brightly and reflected thin beams of light in an impossibly specific direction. More memories came to me; I was being led by my necklace. But to where? And where from?
I turned myself around, allowing the memory to complete itself. I was leaving behind dark and bare mountains that seemed to be permanently stained a reddish-brown shade. There were creatures living beyond those mountains that sent icy chills down my spine to think of. Good thing I was leaving that place and not going to it.But what about my friends?
Falling, chilly rain caught up to me, taking the last feelings of comfort and optimism I felt with it, molding me into the tired husk that I was.
I wanted to sleep (or was it wake up?) and escape this awful nightmare. After almost two weeks of endless travelling and coming across abandoned towns, split up with meetings from not-so friendly creatures and narrow escapes from them, I was beyond exhausted. The whole time, I tried and tried to find hope, convincing myself that rescue was just over the next hill, or that my friends were waiting for me, but now I knew I had nothing.
They were gone - everypony was gone.
Now I wandered hundreds of miles outside of Equestria, stopping often as I faded between dream and reality. I had only one real goal now: To reunite the Elements of Harmony, and try to bring myself some peace in knowing that I brought my friends back together one last time.
A Dragon roared across the mountains behind me. Normally, I would be startled by the sound, sometimes scared. But now the sound was only worrying enough to bring me out of my sleepless dreams. My eyes slid back into focus and stared off ahead, following the occasional beam of light flickering from my Element, its pattern erratic and desperate. The beam always shone in one direction, toward a place I somehow knew I needed to go. I didn't feel ready to move just yet. Instead, I brought my focus closer to where I was, and slowly examined the rolling hills and tall wild grass around me.
The Free Lands: A place that Dragons now claimed as part of their own territory. I had heard of this place a few times before in my life. Old stories about the Three Pony Tribes often mentioned how their old home became this place – after the Windigos moved on. It was also a setting Rainbow Dash chose for an adventure story she wanted to write. Nopony really knew the truth about the Free Lands, however, because of who had claimed it over the centuries.
I gazed at the natural, unmarked landscape. Maybe they only use the airspace above it.
I pondered, because I can’t see any burnt trees or claw marks here.
Even the disaster that had swept through Equestria, and possibly beyond, had taken no effect here. But without any ponies here in the first place, not since the three Pony Tribes evacuated the land and founded Equestria thousands of years ago, there was nothing for that horrible spell to change. The Free Lands had been abandoned, leaving whatever cities and history to crumble away and meld with the ground and be overrun by the plant life or seized by the Dragons. Equestria surely faced the same fate, now; I didn't want to believe it, but it lingered in my mind all the time, and plagued my nightmares when I’d allow myself to sleep.
Still, this place was remarkably beautiful and peaceful. The rain carried a gentle and steady rhythm, helping to hide the sounds of nocturnal wildlife that I was lucky to notice. The Free Lands had grown to live up to its namesake. Damp, rich soil dirtied my hooves. Shades of green rose and dipped with the gentle hills. The cloud cover, while bleak and grey, had cracks all over it, allowing the dawn to peek through and turn some of the thinner clouds into beacons of golden light. The Free Lands had grown and built itself from the remains of a dead era, it was how nature worked - I of all ponies understood that. But... This couldn't the future for Equestria. This couldn't be the end of ponies. There had to still be hope.
I had been spared from that massive spell for a reason. I hadn't been taken away like the others. My Element seemed to be guiding me - pushing me to something it felt was important. I looked back down at my Element, watching the stone shine and send a string of light into the distance. It was a strange power that I had never seen the Elements do, but it wasn’t the only thing I had learnt about them recently. I was sure that the Element of Kindness had spoken to me, too. Whispers had tickled my ears during confusing visions, telling me to follow its directions. I wasn't sure if it was the truth, or if my mind had finally snapped, but ever since I left the mountains with my Element around my neck, I had been following the path it led me on.If It turns out to be a lie,
I thought, Then I’ll go back to Equestria and search for the other Elements.
I heard another Dragon roar in the distance, and I struggled onto my hooves. I wasn't sure if I could hear my joints creaking, or if I imagined it through lack of sleep. I stretched, and grunted at the aching caused by being cold and still for so long.
Even with everypony gone, I couldn't pass on a chance to have a hope again. I didn't want to imagine life without my friends, or think about what would happen next if I did bring the Elements back together. All I wanted to believe in was that I had a chance to make things right again, make everything okay.And everything will be okay.
I unfurled my wings carefully, and shakily took off a few feet above the ground. I wanted to make up for lost time before I was too tired to keep moving. But with each sluggish wing beat, and how worn out I was already feeling, I doubted I would get much further than the tree line of a forest I could see in the dim light. If I could get under the trees, I’d be safe from being spotted by a Dragon flying overhead, and out of the rain.