By Pen Stroke
- Preread and Edited By -
Batty Gloom, Ninestempest, El Oso, Cloudhammer, Wraithguard, RBDash47, Deagle Dued
Fluttershy took a step back from the edge of the platform and flattened her ears against the blare of the train's whistle. The rumbling, puffing beast that was the steam engine rolled past her, already venting the steam that had powered it down the tracks. The train cars behind it rattled, groaning as they slowed. Eventually, the whole train settled into the station like a great, ill-tempered serpent settling in for a nap.
The doors to the train cars opened and ponies began to disembark. Fluttershy shifted on her hooves, trying to stay out of the way of the tired travelers walking past her. She then smiled and waved a hoof in the air to get the attention of one particular mare.
“Fluttershy!” Rarity called back before trotting over and giving her friend a tight hug. “You didn’t have to come meet me at the station.”
“Oh, I know,” Fluttershy answered. She then turned to one side, revealing the cat carrier she was wearing. “But little Opal here just had to see you the moment you got off the train.”
Rarity smiled and leaned in to look through the bars of the cat carrier. “Well, how sweet of my little Opal to want to… Fluttershy, she’s asleep.”
Fluttershy blinked once and then craned her neck around her shoulder to look into the cat carrier. Still, instead of being mad, Fluttershy smiled and whispered quietly, “Well, it is a long walk here from my cottage, and it’s so nice this afternoon. It’s just a perfect for a—”
“A ‘cat’ nap,” Rarity said with a whisper of a sly smile on her lips. It was a pun that caused the two mares to share a short laugh. They then turned and began to head to the station’s baggage claim.
“How was the trip?” Fluttershy asked.
“It was simply divine,” Rarity answered with a small melody in her voice. “Yes, I’ll admit when I first saw the Camel homeland it was a bit… underwhelming. It looked like a whole lot of sand and little else from the train, but then I got to Dromedar. Such a beautiful city, like a shining gemstone in the middle of all that horribly dry desert.”
“And were you able to get the Camelian Cotton you were looking for?”
Fluttershy saw Rarity smile, and, with a flick of her horn, Rarity opened her saddlebags and withdrew a spool of white fabric. It glinted in the sun, as if it contained the slightest hint of gold in each thread, and was white as a cloud. Rarity unrolled a small portion of the spool and proceeded to rub the loose end against her cheek.
“That and then some, Fluttershy. Princess Celestia sent a letter of introduction to the Sultan of Dromedar and a royal entourage met me at the station. The Sultan had me stay as a personal guest, and he had his own personal tailor help me find the finest Camelian Cotton the city had to offer.” Rarity let a content sigh escape her lips as she continued to rub the fine fabric against her cheek. “It’s like woven buttermilk against the skin.”
Fluttershy reached out a hoof and gingerly touched the fabric. An amazed smile spread onto her lips. “Oh my, that is nice.”
“And I didn’t just get fabric either,” Rarity said as the pair rounded a corner and reached the train station’s baggage claim. There, the station workers were setting out the luggage from the train. Most ponies just had one to two suitcases, but, off to one side, a stack of matching purple suitcases and shipping crates was steadily growing larger and larger. Each piece was emblazoned with a three gemstone cutie mark.
“You see, Fluttershy,” Rarity continued as the pair approached the stack of her luggage. “The royal tailor helped me get such a bargain on this fabric that I had bits left over. Enough, in fact, to get souvenirs and outfits for you and all our friends.”
“Oh, Rarity, you didn’t need to do that.”
“Of course I did. What kind of friend would I be if I went on this business vacation and didn’t bring back something for my friends? Now, where was it…. Oh, there it is.” Rarity smiled as Fluttershy watched her take a piece of her luggage in her magic and removed it from the pile. The pile itself teetered, and, with panicked yelps, the station workers quickly fled as the top of the pile collapsed.
Rarity, however, took little notice of the tumbling luggage. She was, instead, focused on the piece of luggage she was holding in her magic. With a single distinct “zip” of a zipper, Fluttershy watched her open the suitcase and pull out different pieces of fabric and jewelry.
“You should have really seen it for yourself, Fluttershy. The outfits the camels wore were simply inspiring. It was especially interesting to see these dancers the Sultan hired as entertainment for one of his dinners. Those mares… do you call a lady camel a mare?” Rarity paused to muse, but she shrugged her head and continued to assemble the outfit in midair. “Anyway, those dancers had on the loveliest outfits. A little… skimpy, mind you. They showed off a bit of midriff, but then again I do suppose they were called ‘belly dancers’ for a reason.”
“Still, I decided to get each of us one of those outfits, along with a few others,” Rarity said as she finished taking out all the pieces she needed. With just a twist of her magic the outfit took shape in the air, showing off a pony sized outfit that featured several bracelets along with light, breezy, and somewhat revealing fabric. “So, what do you think? The pink just goes perfectly with your mane, doesn’t it?”
“Oh… oh, it’s…” Fluttershy blushed and hid her left eye behind her long, sweeping mane. Yes, she realized ponies usually walked around without clothes, but that didn’t change the fact she found the belly dancer’s outfit risqué. It showed off the stomach and obviously hugged the hips. She couldn’t even try to picture herself in something like that without turning as red as a rose.
“You don’t like it?”
“No, no,” Fluttershy hastily corrected. “I do like it. It’s very… nice… and pink.”
Rarity’s eyebrow twitched at the comment, but she put on a smile and began putting the outfit back into the suitcase. “Well, I do suppose it isn’t exactly casual wear, but I have some other outfits you simply must try on once I’ve had a chance to unpack.
“And I didn’t just get clothes either,” Rarity said, as if it was a fact to be proud of. “I found this one vendor selling the most beautiful antiques. He had something that just made me think of you.” At that, she reached into the suitcase where the belly dancer’s outfit was now stored and removed a single, long-necked bottle with a spherical base. The glass that comprised the bottle was a solid blue color that reminded Fluttershy of glistening water beneath a sunny sky. Into the glass numerous butterflies had been etched, all of them spiraling upward towards the bottle’s mouth.
Fluttershy tilted her head to one side, watching as the sun glinted in the butterfly etchings. “It’s beautiful.”
“Good, because it’s yours,” Rarity said happily. With a flare of her magic, she took Opal’s cat carrier off of Fluttershy’s back and held the bottle out to Fluttershy’s wing, which wrapped around it delicately. “Now, you will have to excuse me, Fluttershy. I need to try and convince some of these gentlecolts to help me carry my luggage home.”
Fluttershy nodded and watched Rarity turn towards a group of stallions who were lingering near the baggage claim. Rarity had already put on a bright, pleasant smile, and, with the most inviting voice she could muster, she called out, “Oh boys, would any of you mind helping a lady with her luggage?”
Fluttershy set her new bottle down on her dining table, stepped back, and smiled. It was a welcome splash of vivid blue against the table, considering most of her cottage featured earthy colors and tones. She stepped forward once more to nudge it to the right, but then she just stepped back and admired the butterfly etchings. Some of the small creatures that called the cottage home also began to inspect the new addition to their environment. A few birds landed on the table, and a squirrel poked up from one of the adjacent chairs.
Angel Bunny also jumped up onto the table, but, unlike the other animals, went right up to the bottle. He crossed his forepaws and looked it up and down as his nose twitched.
“Isn’t it nice, Angel?” Fluttershy asked. “Rarity got it for me on her trip.”
Angel eyed the bottle for a bit longer, then stomped his foot on the table five times before pointing out the window.
“What is it?” Fluttershy asked. She moved over beside Angel, leaned in, and looked to where he was pointing. Fluttershy’s eyes then lit up when her eyes fell on the numerous bright flowers that were growing in her garden. “Angel, that’s a wonderful idea. It would make a great flower vase.”
Angel smiled smugly and gave a proud, knowing nod. At the same time, Fluttershy turned away and moved towards a drawer, from which she fetched a pair of clippers. “Okay, I’ll go cut some flowers. Could you be my little helper and get the cork out? Be careful, it's stuck in there really tight.”
After glancing up at the top of the bottle, Angel saw the small, light brown piece of cork-wood that had been stuck in its mouth. He then made a small squeak of a laugh and gave Fluttershy a thumbs up. Fluttershy’s smile only widened, and she gave Angel a small nod before slipping out the door and heading towards her garden.
This left Angel alone with the bottle.
With a confident smirk adorning his lips, Angel tilted the bottle to one side and put his free paw on the cork. The cork was a little too large for his paw, but he got a grip on it all the same. He then pulled, expecting the cork to pop out without protest. The cork, however, refused to budge.
Arching an eyebrow in confusion, Angel widened his stance and tried to pull the cork out a second time. He pulled with all his strength. He even took the neck of the bottle under his free foreleg, like he was putting it in a headlock. Angel even tried biting down on the cork and tugging on it with his teeth. Still, the cork refused to budge.
Frowning and flattening his ears again his head, Angel scampered away and returned with a corkscrew. He smiled triumphantly and held the tool up, as if showing the cork he had found the perfect tool. He placed the sharp tip of the spiral in place and began to twist it. He twisted it a good dozen times, expecting the corkscrew to drill down into the soft cork-wood. It was, after all, what a corkscrew was designed to do.
The metal spiral, however, made no progress against the supposedly soft, wooden stopper. It didn’t even make a dent. Frustration growing, Angel began to push down on the corkscrew, trying to force it into the cork-wood. He pushed and turned at the same time, but, in the end, all he succeeded in doing was bending the corkscrew to the point where it was unusable.
Angel’s efforts to uncork the bottle only grew violent after that. He gnawed on the cork with his teeth, he had birds peck at the bottle opening, and he had an odd octopus Fluttershy was taking care of try and pry it off with his suction cups. He even tried burning the cork out with a blowtorch. Still, the small piece of wood remained resilient.
His frustration at its peak, Angel took the bottle in his paw, leaned back, and hurled the whole thing at the wall. His aim, however, was off. Instead of striking the wall the bottle smashed against the nearby window. It shattered the pane of glass, filling the air with the sound of destruction before bouncing into the cottage backyard.
Soon after, Fluttershy trotted into view of the window with a small selection of flowers tucked under her wing. Her face was originally one of concern, but then she saw the bottle lying amongst the shattered glass. After that, she looked up and saw Angel staring back at her from the far side of the now broken window, guilt written all over his face.
“Oh, Angel Bunny.”
With a final sweep of the broom, Fluttershy was sure she had cleaned up all the broken glass. It had proven a challenge, since many of the smaller shards had fallen into the grass outside. She, however, would not run the risk of any of her furry friends getting cuts or glass slivers in their paws. She just wouldn’t have been able to forgive herself.
And as the moon rose, Fluttershy took a seat at her dinner table. Angel Bunny had been sent to bed without dessert, and the rest of her animal friends were beginning to settle in for the night. She was truly the only one still awake at her little cottage, but, even though the glass was picked up, there was still much to do. She had to figure out a way to cover her currently broken window, so the cold night air wouldn’t get in. She also had to figure out who she was going to get to fix the window.
Thankfully, the glass bottle had survived the ordeal, and, minus some dirt in its engravings, it was no worse for wear. It was sitting back on the dining room table, just where Fluttershy had left it before Angel Bunny’s efforts to try and uncork it.
“I really am glad you didn’t break,” Fluttershy said as she reached for with a hoof and nudged the gift. “I don’t know what I would have told Rarity. I’m sure she wouldn’t have been too mad, but I still would have felt bad.” Mindlessly, Fluttershy began to rub her hoof across the surface, trying to remove some of the lingering dirt. “She took the time and energy to pick you out, buy you, and bring you all the way back from—”
The bottle shifted under Fluttershy’s hoof and a small, panicked “eep” escaped her throat. In fear that it was about to fall over, she reached out and placed both hooves on the bottle to make sure it was steady. Still, in Fluttershy’s grasp, the bottle jumped again. Like it was possessed with the spirit of the rabbit, the bottle began to jump and bounce around, trying to free itself from Fluttershy’s grip.
And, eventually, the bottle succeeded. With a single, firm bounce it flew free of Fluttershy’s grip and began to plummet to the floor. Fluttershy was sure it was about to break. She flattened her ears, covered her eyes, and braced herself for the unmistakable sound of glass shattering. She could already see the disappointment on Rarity’s face when she told her the bottle was broken.
Yet the sound of breaking glass never came.
When Fluttershy dared to look, she saw the bottle was floating half a foot above her floor, as if it was suspended in magic. Its cork had popped out, as if it had never been stuck in the first place. There was also a black smoke spilling from the bottle’s mouth. The smoke itself billowed, turned, and circled the bottle in unnatural ways, acting instead like coiling snakes.
The smoke then began to condense. At first it looked like a shadow had gotten up, left its owner, and was walking around on its own. It leapt away from the bottle and began to move around the room. Other details then began to come into focus. It took the shape of a tall, slender, all-black house cat with bewitching golden eyes. The cat had gold bands around its forelegs and golden eyeshadow that made its already prominent eyes stand out even more.
It had only taken the smoke a minute to change into the feline which Fluttershy now stared at. The cat was padding around the room, as if inspecting it. The cat then leaped up onto the back of the couch and looked out the window into Luna’s cool night.
As the cat continued to look out the window with its bright glowing eyes, Fluttershy was hiding behind one of her dining room chairs. She was peeking over the back of the chair, her pupils small dots. She was whispering quietly, trying to reassure herself. “It’s okay Fluttershy. You’re just dreaming. It’s perfectly okay that a cat just appeared out of smoke which came out of a bottle. Yes, it’s perfectly fine.”
“You know, you keep talking to yourself, some ponies may say you’ve gone crazy.”
Fluttershy jumped and spun her head around to see the cat, which had been on the back of her couch, was now laying across the window sill directly behind her. She dared not breathe, fearing just what this innocent looking cat was. The cat, however, just smiled, lifted a paw, and twiddled its toes at her. “Hello, master.”
The sudden shock of hearing the cat talk sent Fluttershy and her chair off balance. She crashed to the floor, an event that caused the cat to wince. The cat then stood up from the window sill, jumped to the table, and moved to the edge to look down at Fluttershy. “Wonderful, I got a jumpy one. So, shall I assume that you have no clue what’s going on and just explain, or would you like to stumble through a number of awkward questions?”
“W-what are you?” Fluttershy stuttered as she pulled herself up off the floor.
“I guess that answers that,” the cat mused in her smooth, sultry voice. She jumped from the table. Yet, instead of hitting the ground, she began to fly through the air. The lower half of her body turned to smoke, a waving tail that followed her wherever she went. The cat, however, acted as if nothing was wrong. She put her paws behind her head and reclined in mid air as she spoke. “I’m Fahima, I’m a genie, and you—” She flew over to Fluttershy, reached out a forepaw, and tapped her on the nose. “—are my master now.”
“You’re a what?” Fluttershy asked. Her eyes drifted to the trail of black smoke that had replaced Fahima’s lower body. She couldn’t help but stare at it as it swayed and waved like Celestia’s mane.
“A genie,” Fahima answered as she began to backstroke around the cottage.
“But I’ve never heard of a genie before. What is a genie? Is it a cat that comes in a bottle?”
Fahima laughed a little and began to circle Fluttershy’s birdhouses. She looked in through the holes, peeking in on the sleeping birds inside. “Well, in this case, yes, but I am so much more than a cat in a bottle. As a genie, I’m a creature of magic and am bound to grant three wishes to whomever summons me from my bottle.”
“Wishes? What kind of wishes?”
Fahima chuckled through a purr and floated over to the mirror in Fluttershy’s living room. She touched the surface with a paw and it rippled like a calm surface of a pond. “Any kind of wish,” she mused gently. “From the trivial to the phenomenal, from the simple to the complex, it is all within my power. I can grant the kind of wishes you would make when blowing out the candles on a birthday cake. I can also grant the kind of wishes you whisper on a falling star when you’re all alone at night. I can even grant the deepest, darkest, desires of your frail little heart.
“So, what do you want, master?” Fahima asked as she lay across the top of the mirror. Her tail touched the surface and her whiskers vibrated. To Fluttershy, it sounded like Fahima’s whiskers had been plucked, like harp strings, but soon her attention was drawn away from the sound and back to the mirror. Fluttershy couldn’t help but approach the mirror and watch as the image it reflected twisted and warped.
“Perhaps you want wealth? Well, I can give you enough that you could retire in luxury. How does a private mansion on a secluded island paradise sound?” The reflection in the mirror shifted, and Fluttershy saw herself in a floral print dress with a wide brimmed sun-hat. She was on a beautiful beach. The ocean water glistened like it was made of sapphires, and the sand was pristine and white. All of her friends were there. Rarity was sunbathing. Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Twilight, and Pinkie Pie were playing volleyball. Angel Bunny had constructed an impressive sand castle, and was ruling over his sand kingdom with an iron paw. In the distance, among tropical trees, was a large, stately mansion that was yellow and pink, just like her mane and coat.
“Or,” Fahima continued, touching the mirror once more. “Perhaps you’d like to meet the pony of your dreams. That tall, dark, mysterious stallion that will sweep you off your hooves.” The reflection in the mirror rippled. Fluttershy saw herself wearing a flowing white wedding dress. She was in Canterlot Castle, in the same room where Princess Cadance and Shining Armor had gotten married. Princess Celestia was at the end, presiding over the ceremony, and her friends were her maids of honor. And there was a stallion, her groom. That part of the mirror’s image was blurry, so she couldn’t see who it was. Still, that didn’t stop Fluttershy’s heart from racing.
“Or,” Fahima interrupted once more, “perhaps you have grander aspirations than that.” The reflection changed again and this time, when it settled, Fluttershy was forced to tilt her head up to look at herself. Her reflection was no longer that of the lithe pegasus body. Instead she stood tall and regal. Flowering vines adorned her mane, her wings were large and graceful, and a long, spiraling horn stood prominently from her forehead. “Equestria could always use a new alicorn princess.”
“Oh… oh no, I couldn’t,” Fluttershy said as she turned away from the mirror. “Princess Celestia and Princess Luna do such a good job, and I’ve never been good at making speeches, or leading, or—”
The corners of Fahima’s lips curled into the smile as she floated down from the mirror, its reflection shifting back to it normal. “That’s the beauty of wishes, they have such potential. Nothing is as it seems. Everything can change. All it takes is two little words, ‘I wish,’ and the entire world would bow down to you, its new empress.”
Fahima yawned, floated over to Fluttershy’s couch and stretched out across the soft cushions. “Still, don’t think I’m rushing you. As soon as you’ve made your last wish, I go back in my bottle. So do feel free to take all the time you need.”
The next day, Fluttershy was sitting in a chair on the patio of a Ponyville corner cafe. She was staring down at her half-eaten salad, a lunch she had ordered out of routine. She just wasn’t hungry. In truth, she wanted to take a nap more than she wanted to eat. A restless night had taken its toll.
And the cause of her woes was the thing most ponies would be happy to have: her three wishes from Fahima. Yes, she was happy to have the near-limitless wishes. Her dreams had buzzed with all the things she could possibly wish for, but all those dreams had quickly turned to nightmares. If she used the wishes for herself and her friends found out, then they’d be jealous they didn’t get any wishes. On the other hoof, if she did use her wishes for her friends, who would she give the wishes to? It was Twilight’s gala ticket problem all over again. There just wasn’t a simple way for six friends to share three wishes evenly.
Fluttershy also couldn’t help but worry about Fahima, the genie cat that currently was lounging around her cottage. She didn’t want to make her go back into her bottle. It sounded like she had been in there a long time. Fluttershy would rather not spend her wishes if it meant Fahima got to stay outside. Maybe that was something she could ask for. She could use her third wish so that Fahima didn’t have to be a genie anymore.
But what if Fahima liked being a genie? Fluttershy didn’t want to take that away from her if it was a life she enjoyed. That, however, lead back to what she was going to do with the wishes. She didn’t want to be rich; she didn’t need that much money. A coltfriend would be nice, but what if she didn’t like the stallion back? She’d have to break his heart, and she didn’t want to do that to anypony.
And she didn’t even want to think about being an alicorn. That was just, just—
“There you are Fluttershy!”
Fluttershy jumped, snapped from her thoughts by the familiar voice. She stumbled out of her seat, tripped over her hooves, and ended up tumbling to the ground with her legs in the air. Her fall was followed by a small, suppressed snort of laughter. Fluttershy looked up and saw a familiar face staring down at her.
“Whoa, have a nice trip?” Rainbow Dash joked. She held out a hoof and helped Fluttershy get back to her hooves.
“No, I mean yes, I mean...” Fluttershy glanced to her side, hide one of her hides behind her mane, and did everything in her power to not meet Rainbow’s gaze. “Idon’thaveagenieorwishes.”
“Uh… okay, good luck with… whatever you just said,” Rainbow Dash commented before she smiled and began to hover in the air in front of Fluttershy. “Still, we’d better get going.”
Rainbow Dash furrowed her eyebrows, crossed her hooves, and looked down at Fluttershy. “Oh come on, don’t tell me you forgot! We’re all going to the swimming hole on Applejack’s farm today.”
“Well, everypony except Rarity,” Rainbow Dash admitted with a slightly annoyed tone. “She’s not coming because she’s still going through all the junk she bought on her trip.” Rainbow then smiled and motioned with a hoof for Fluttershy to follow her. “Now come on, we better hurry. I don’t want Twilight or Pinkie Pie to have the first run on Applejack’s new rope swing.”
Rainbow Dash charged down the hill, her hooves kicking up gravel with every step. She kept her wings tucked, letting her momentum carry her as she reached the edge of the river. She leaped and spread her hooves out to grab hold of a long rope that hung from the branch of a sturdy apple tree that stretched out over the water.
Like Daring Doo swinging over a chasm, Rainbow Dash rode the rope high into the air. Then, with a shout of glee, she let go, tucked her body into a ball, and splashed down in the deep swimming hole. The swimming hole was formed by a bend in the river that went along the edge of the Apple family’s property. It had been a place where generations of Apples and their friends had found refreshing summer fun and the addition of the new rope swing only made the swimming hole that much better.
Twilight and Pinkie Pie shielded themselves from Rainbow Dash’s splash, smiling and giggling as Rainbow came splashing to the surface. Her mane was matted across her face, but that didn’t stop her cheering and slapping the water with a hoof. “Now that was a splash!”
“It was a super amazing splash, Rainbow Dash!” Pinkie Pie cheered. “It was big and tall and it soaked me and Twilight, easily a nine out of ten.”
“A nine out of ten!?” Rainbow Dash shouted. She paddled over to where Pinkie Pie was standing in the shallows and shook out her wings once they were free of the water. “What do you mean nine?”
“Well, a nine is still a great score, Dash. You rocketed down that hill and you swung so high on that rope I was sure you’d go all the way around,” Pinkie Pie said as she swung her hooves through the air. “You let go at the perfect time. Oh, and I loved the ‘For Equestria’ shout you did!” She then let her forehooves sink back into the water. “But your splash just wasn’t as big as I thought it was going to be. It just didn’t have the ‘omph’ like a real cannonball splash.”
“Oh yeah, and what does a ‘real’ cannonball splash look like?”
Pinkie Pie’s mouth formed into a wide grin and she pointed a hoof to the hill. “You’re about to see from the cannonball queen! Go Applejack, Go!”
And Applejack was going. She was charging down the hill like a runaway locomotive. She galloped with all the thunderous force her hooves could produce, and she waited until the last moment to leap out at the rope. It swung out, carrying her high above the pond before she finally released her grip.
She hung in the air for just a moment, smiling down at her friends before tucking her body into a tight ball. She then dropped and hit the water like a true cannonball. The splash she sent up tickled the leaves of the tree that supported the rope, and the pony-sized wave she produced soaked Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, and Twilight thoroughly. Still, all of the mares laughed and cheered Applejack once she resurfaced, wearing a grin as wide as her face would allow.
“Now that was a splash!” Pinkie Pie proclaimed. “Ten out of ten, Applejack.”
“Pfff, it wasn’t that great,” Rainbow Dash said as she crossed her forehooves, though she made no effort to hide her own smile. “I bet even Fluttershy can do better.”
“Well, why don’t we just see for ourselves?” Applejack turned, looked up the hill, and waved her hoof above her head. “Come on, Fluttershy, it’s yer turn!”
Rainbow cupped her hooves to her mouth and shouted, “Yeah, go Fluttershy! Show Applejack how it’s done!”
“I-I don’t know,” Fluttershy quietly shouted back at her friends as she took an anxious step back from the long hill that lead down to the rope swing.
“Come on Fluttershy, it’s fun! It’s like bouncing on a big blue ball fun. It’s like digging into a super duper sundae with chocolate sauce, sprinkles, and nuts. It’s like swinging on a rope and jumping into a really deep, cool pool of water on a hot day. No, wait...” Pinkie Pie paused a moment, and then smiled and threw her hooves above her head. “That’s exactly what it is!”
“O-oh, okay. H-here I come.” Fluttershy sucked in a deep breath and began to slowly trot down the hill.
“Come on, you got to go faster than that. Put your hooves into it!” Rainbow Dash shouted.
Fluttershy sped up her pace, trying to manage a run. The edge of the water was looming, as was the rope. She began to think about what she needed to do. She needed to jump, grab the rope, swing up, let go, dive into the water. She needed to jump, grab, swing, let go, dive. Jump, grab, swing, let go, dive. Jump, grab, swing, let go, dive.
“Sugarcube, watch where yer going!”
Fluttershy opened her eyes, not even realizing she had closed them. She was just a few steps from the edge of the water. She panicked, and her mind clicked to the five steps she had been reciting to herself. She jumped towards the rope. She grabbed it. Her speed let her swing up into the air. Then, all she had to do was—
Fluttershy looked doing, seeing how far she would have to dive. She saw the water looming below and it might as well have been molten lava. Her hooves locked around the rope and a panicked yelp escaped her throat before she began to swing back towards the bank.
“Shoot, Sugarcube, you got to let go!” Applejack shouted before quickly turning her head. “Twilight, she’s going ta—”
“Don’t worry, I got her,” Twilight assured her friends as her horn began to glow. With her magic, she caught Fluttershy and kept her from crashing into the tree that held the rope swing above the bank. She then lowered Fluttershy down slowly, letting the rope hang straight down. Even then, Fluttershy clung to it for dear life.
“You can let go now,” Rainbow Dash said with annoyed tone in her voice.
Fluttershy cracked open her eye, finally taking notice she had stopped swinging. Still, even though the water was but a few feet away, she spread her wings and used them to slow her descent. She caused no splash. She hardly formed any ripple. She just sank into the water like she was sinking into a warm bath at home, and, when she was in up to her neck, she looked over to her friends. She put on a weak smile and asked, “How was that?”
“Rainbow!” Twilight scolded.
“Hey, it did!” Rainbow Dash snapped back at Twilight. “I’ve seen better splashes from a raindrop.”
“I’m… I’m sorry,” Fluttershy said quietly as she sank into the water, so only her eyes were above the surface.
“No, Fluttershy, you have nothing to apologize for,” Twilight corrected while shooting a glare at Rainbow out of the corner of her eye. “You got scared and that isn’t your fault.”
“Oh come on, Twilight, don’t baby her. I mean, we’ve seen her shout down a dragon. A dragon, Twilight! Jumping from a rope swing into the water should be easy. Applejack, back me up here.”
“Whoa, now, I ain’t goin’ ta take sides,” she said as she raised her hooves. Still, a frown formed on her lips as she looked back at Fluttershy. “But, Sugarcube, if you weren’t sure, y’all shouldn’t have gone for it. If Twilight hadn’t slowed ya down, you could have swung back into the tree. The last thing I want ta see is you gettin’ hurt.”
“But all of you were egging her on!” Twilight said. “What else was she supposed to do?” She then pointed an accusing hoof at Rainbow. “You would have teased her all week if she didn’t do it.”
Rainbow Dash flared her wings and slapped the water. “I would not!”
“Really?” Twilight asked as she looked at Rainbow incredulously. “Isn’t that exactly what you did when she wouldn't eat that hot curry from the new restaurant in town?”
“I… well… that was different.”
Fluttershy sank deeper into the water, submerging herself entirely. It was rare, but she and her friends did fight. It was only natural. The six of them couldn’t get along perfectly all the time, not when they were all so different. She still didn’t like it though, and she especially hated it when her friends argued because of something she had done or didn’t do.
Oh Fluttershy, look what you’ve done, she thought to herself. She looked up through the water to her friends, who were still in the heat of their disagreement. It’s all your fault, just because you wouldn’t let go of the rope swing. I just… I just…
Fluttershy shut her eyes and hugged her hooves around her chest. This wasn’t the first time she had disappointed Rainbow Dash, her oldest friend. They knew each other from flight school, and, truthfully, Rainbow Dash seemed to think she had so much potential. That she could be more than the timid little mare she was. And Fluttershy, she liked to believe it was true, but it was so hard sometimes. She just…
The thoughts in Fluttershy’s head turned into words in her mouth. She spoke into the water, and then let the bubbles carry her nearly silent words to the surface. “I wish I could be as brave as Rainbow Dash thinks I should be.”
It was then Fluttershy felt somepony move up beside her. She opened her eyes and saw it was Rainbow Dash. She surfaced slowly, unsure of what awaited her. Still, Rainbow was looking back at her with a guilt-ridden frown on her face and was scratching the back of her neck anxiously. “Listen, Fluttershy, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to… you know. I was just…”
Fluttershy smiled, finding a simple joy in the fact that her friends had already worked through their argument. “It’s okay. I know I could be a little braver, but that’s why I have you as my friends. You help me be brave when it matters the most. Right?”
“That’s the spirit!” Pinkie Pie cheered before she dove under the water. She came up moments later behind Fluttershy, a bright grin on her face. “With us behind you, you could scare off a hundred dragons, plus a small manticore.”
“And we don’t just help you, Fluttershy,” Twilight added. “We’re all able to do more because we know you’ll be there to help us if we need you.”
Fluttershy couldn’t help but blush. She lifted a hoof to move a bit of her mane out of her face. “R-really?”
“Yeah, really,” Rainbow Dash said before jumping out of the water. “Still, I guess that means I’m going to have show all of you how it’s done. Now that I’ve had a practice run, I bet I can make a splash twice as big as yours, Applejack.”
“I’ll believe it when I see it, Sugarcube,” Applejack replied. She and Rainbow Dash began heading for the top of the hill. Pinkie Pie went to join them, but Fluttershy remained in the shallows of the pool with Twilight. Still, as she sat and waited to watch and judge her friends’ splashes, she couldn’t help but turn her head. For a moment, she thought she heard the sound of a harp string being plucked… but maybe it was just her imagination.
With a stretch of her wings and her legs, Fluttershy cracked open her front door and stepped outside. The weight of what to do with her wishes still weighed on her mind, but she had, at least, been able to get to sleep the night before. Now, it was once more morning in Ponyville. The sun was distancing itself from the eastern horizon, and she was going about her normal routine as always. She had tended to her animals and taken a shower. Now, she was going to have breakfast while reading the morning—
Fluttershy looked down to welcome mat, where her newspaper was supposed to be, but found it was missing. Yes, this wouldn’t be the first time the pony who delivered her paper had missed her welcome mat and thrown her paper into a bush. Still, Fluttershy checked all the usual places, but still couldn’t locate her morning newspaper.
Immediately, her mind leaped to her papercolt. “I hope Headline didn’t get sick,” she said as she slipped back into her house. She focused her words on Angel Bunny, who had followed after her to get the sports section. “He caught that cold about this time last year when he rode his bike in the rain, and the poor dear was sick for a week. Maybe I should stop by his house while I’m in town and see how he is—”
“Why do you talk to the rabbit?”
Fluttershy and Angel turned and saw Fahima sitting in the doorway to the kitchen. She was smiling like she had just cornered a mouse, and her tail was slowly swaying back and forth behind her.
“Why wouldn’t I talk to Angel?” Fluttershy asked.
“I don’t know, maybe because he can’t actually talk back.”
“Oh, Angel doesn’t need to talk. I can understand him perfectly, can’t I Angel?”
Angel smiled, crossed his forelegs, and nodded once, firmly, in Fahima’s direction. The genie, however, just rolled her eyes and strode across the room. She approached Angel, circling him like the predator she was. “You know, you could use one of your wishes to give him the ability to speak. You could even pick the kind of voice.
“How about it rabbit?” Fahima asked, her voice shifting to a deep, rumbling, masculine voice. “How’d you like to talk like this?”
A shiver crawled up Angel’s spine, and he couldn’t hop away from Fahima fast enough. He bounded up onto Fluttershy’s back and poked his head out from behind her mane while Fahima couldn’t help but chuckle in the male voice. “Yeah, you’re right, you couldn’t handle this voice.”
“Now, Fahima, you need to get along with Angel and all the other animals while you’re here.”
“Of course, Master,” Fahima said, her voice returning to its normal, smooth tone as she bowed. “Your wish is my command.”
Fluttershy smiled and gently removed Angel from her back and set him down on the floor. “Now, I’m going to just skip into Ponyville and pick up a copy of the newspaper. Do you two need anything while I’m out? Fahima, would you like me to get you some catnip or a cat toy?”
Fahima’s smirk grew to a grin, and her whiskers once more rang like plucked harp strings. She then stood up, and, just behind where she was sitting, now stood a bag of catnip as big as Angel.
The sight of the bag made Fluttershy blush a little and rub the back of her neck as she began to turn. “Well, I guess I’ll just go get the paper then.”
“Have a safe trip, Master,” Fahima said as she watched Fluttershy head for the door. “And if you should think of a wish, feel free just to say it out loud. I’ll hear it, no matter where you are.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.” With that, Fluttershy slipped out the door and pushed it closed behind her. This left Fahima and Angel sitting in the living room. Angel moved first. He turned to face the genie, and used his paws to point to his eyes before pointing back at Fahima while glaring accusingly.
“Oh, you’re keeping an eye on me, how sweet.” Fahima chuckled, closing her eyes as her whiskered vibrated again. “Perhaps I should return the favor.” She reopened her eyes, but this time dozens of other eyes opened all across her body. They shared the same golden color, and they were all looking smugly at Angel.
“Then again, I can have eyes to spare.”
Fahima broke into laughter as Angel turned tail and sprinted from the room as fast as his fuzzy paws would allow. She waited just a moment after Angel had left, to make sure he wouldn’t return, before she let all of the extra eyes that had appeared on her body close. Another twang of her whiskers, the closed eyes vanished, and she once more looked like a normal house cat.
Then, with a single great leap, Fahima jumped onto the back of Fluttershy’s couch. She looked out the window and watched Fluttershy walk down the road to Ponyville.
“Do enjoy your trip to town, Master,” Fahima said as her body began to become transparent. “I’m sure you’ll find more kindred spirits than you have before.” With that Fahima vanished, though her purred chuckle hung in the air.
The day itself was like any other. The warm sun was in the sky and there was a gentle wind on the breeze. Birds were chirping, bees were buzzing, and brooks were babbling, but Ponyville itself looked like it was bracing for a second coming of Discord. Windows had been shut and sealed with boards. Ponies sneaked peeks out between blinds as Fluttershy passed. All of Ponyville just seemed to be holding its breath.
“Where is everypony?” Fluttershy asked as she made her way through town. She paused by a normally busy bistro and looked over its many empty and overturned chairs. Half eaten meals had been left to the pigeons, who cooed and greedily pecked at the abandoned food. She looked in through dark store windows and passed by deserted parks. There was simply nopony to be found.
Fluttershy froze in place, turned her head and focused her ears forward. She extended her wings, ready to take flight, and that’s when she felt it. It was weak at first, but the sensation was growing quickly. The ground was shaking, and Fluttershy feared the cows were stampeding again. It was drawing closer, the thundering of hooves. She saw the mass of panicking creatures round a corner and charge down the street towards her.
It, however, was not a stampede of cows.
A panicked “eep” escaped Fluttershy’s throat, and she jumped into the air as dozens of ponies raced past where she had been standing. They were all screaming at the top of their lungs. Shouts of “Monster!” and “Run!” filled the air like sirens. The ponies galloped past, rounded a corner down the street, and continued to flee without giving Fluttershy a passing glance.
“W-what is everypony—” Fluttershy began to ask, only to feel the tiniest tickle of something touching her flank. That touch made every muscle in Fluttershy’s body lock up, and she fell to the ground like a stone. She trembled, covered her eyes, and waited to be devoured by whatever monster everypony else had been fleeing from.
She felt the ticklish touch once more, this time on her nose, and winced ever so slightly. This made the touch go away for a moment, but it returned just as quickly. For the longest time after that Fluttershy didn’t dare open her eyes, but the monster just continued to touch her nose. It did not bite her nor scratch her. It just touched her nose.
Finally, when her heart had calmed, Fluttershy dared to peak. She moved her left hoof from her face and cracked open an eye to see the beast that threatened her. Yet, instead of sharp claws and jagged teeth, she saw bright and beautiful colors.
It was a butterfly. The thing touching her nose was a beautiful monarch butterfly, one of the biggest Fluttershy had ever seen. Her eyes widened in joy, she very gingerly stood up, and her smile only grew larger as she continued to appreciate its beauty from such a close angle.
“What are you doing out here?” Fluttershy asked sweetly. “You aren’t what everypony are running from, are you?”
The butterfly only opened and closed its wings in silence, and, with a giggle, Fluttershy assumed what the insect meant. “Of course it isn’t you. You're too cute to scare anypony.” She raised her hoof, gently coaxing the butterfly to take flight. It danced and fluttered gently on the wind, and Fluttershy watched it with a content smile until it had disappeared from sight.
“Whoa, Fluttershy, that was amazing!”
“Rainbow Dash?” Fluttershy said, looking around. The streets around her were still deserted; there was nopony to be seen. Yet, she knew what she had heard. “Is that you?”
Fluttershy turned her head upward to a nearby tree and saw not only Rainbow Dash but also Twilight and Applejack. They were all up in the tree, clinging to the branches, and they had never looked so relieved to see her. “What are you doing up there?” she asked.
“We were hiding from that thing you just chased off,” Twilight answered. “It’s been terrorizing the town all morning.”
Fluttershy couldn’t have hidden her confusion if she tried. Her head tilted to one side, and she looked back over her shoulder to where she had last seen from the butterfly. “You… you were hiding from the butterfly?” She then turned back to her friends. “But… but that sweet little butterfly couldn’t have hurt you if it tried.”
“Nuh-uh,” Applejack protested with a firm shake of her head. She hugged herself tighter to the tree. “That thing was a monster. It had them bug eyes and that long, spindly thing on its face. I bet it was for sucking blood.”
“There are some varieties of butterfly from across the ocean that are supposed to lead wayward ponies to their death,” Twilight added. “I bet it was trying to chase somepony off a cliff or something.”
“But…” Fluttershy tried to begin, but her brain just couldn’t find the words. This made as much sense as some of the things Discord had done to Equestria. There was no reason for her friends to be scared of a butterfly. There was no reason for anypony to be scared of a single butterfly, especially a beautiful one like that. Why butterflies had saved her life once. It was an integral part of her cutie mark story.
“Oh no, it’s coming back!”
Rainbow Dash’s shout snapped Fluttershy from her thoughts. She looked to the tree to see her friends clinging to it for dear life, as if it was the only thing keeping them alive. They were trembling, and, she wasn’t sure, but it looked like Twilight may have been crying. What had happened to her friends? Had they gotten into some poison joke? Did they see the butterfly as something other than what it was?
“Girls, I promise, it isn’t going to hurt you,” she said as she turned to look in the direction Rainbow Dash had pointed. She, however, didn’t see the monarch butterfly or any insect for that matter. Instead she saw a pair of winged figures quickly approaching Ponyville, one leaving a pastel rainbow in her wake while the other left a trailing sea of stars.
“We are so glad we found you,” Princess Celestia said as she and her sister, Luna, landed in front of Fluttershy. “We are in dire need of your assistance, my little ponies.”
“W-what’s happening princess?” Twilight asked, though she dare not get down from the safe haven of the tree’s branches. “Are there monsters in Canterlot too?”
“The changelings have infiltrated Canterlot,” Celestia said, a bit of unnerving fear in her voice. “They crept in during the dead of night and copied everypony. There are duplicates running around everywhere, and the changelings’ skills have increased since their last invasion. They are now able to mimic us flawlessly, and a pair have even taken on my and Luna’s appearance.
“My little ponies, with Shining Armor and Princess Cadance gone to their own kingdom, we need you to help us face this threat. We need your bravery, your courage, your—”
Celestia stopped, her grand speech ended by a tap on her shoulder. She looked to Luna, whose face was contorted into a silent scream. Her mouth was hanging wide open, her pupils had narrowed to the size of dots, and she had a single hoof extended in front of her. She was pointing, and both Celestia and Fluttershy turned to see she was pointing at a nearby shop window.
“Wh-what?” Fluttershy asked as Luna’s panicked expression began to make her worry. “What is it?”
“It’s the changelings!” Celestia replied, her own voice beginning to tremble with terror as her wings extended. “They have followed us! There is no escaping them!”
“Hurry, you’ll be safe up here!” Twilight shouted.
Celestia and Luna didn’t waste the invitation for a moment. They galloped past Fluttershy, and, with a single flap of their wings, they soared up into the branches of the tree. Celestia clung to the trunk, wrapping her hooves around its girth. Luna, on the other hoof, chose to cling to Twilight, seeking comfort as if she was a teddy bear.
Fluttershy, however, did not flee with the princesses. She instead stared at the shop window, at the changeling that had supposedly taken on her appearance. It was, however, no changeling. It was her reflection. It was her semi-transparent reflection in the window of an antique shop.
And the confusion flooding Fluttershy’s mind only increased, carrying any sensible thoughts away. It just didn’t make any sense. Her friends were scared of butterflies. The princesses were scared of their own reflections. It just… it just didn’t make any sense. She wanted to believe they were maybe playing a prank on her, but, when she looked back, she saw real fear in the eyes of her friends and the princesses. They were honestly, truly scared… scared of butterflies.
And it just didn’t make sense.
“Forgive me for prying, master, but it seems you aren’t enjoying your first wish.”
Drawn by the familiar voice, Fluttershy turned. Sitting at the base of the tree, beneath all of her friends and the princesses, was Fahima. The genie was wearing a sly, toothy grin and her tail was waving back and forth like a slow, lazy metronome.
“Wish? I didn’t make a wish,” Fluttershy argued. “Fahima, what is going on?”
“Well, I could tell you, but what fun would that be?” Fahima mused. She glanced up at the ponies above her. She raised a paw, and, with a sadistic grin, she shook her paw once. Her claws extended with that simple motion. They were sharp and glinted in the sunlight. It was a sight that made all the ponies in the tree gasp and climb higher, putting more distance between them and the ground.
“Personally, I’d say this is a vast improvement to their temperament. Scared ponies are the best ponies.”
“Fahima, did you do this?” Fluttershy asked. She stepped forward, approaching the feline like mother might approach a child she is disappointed in.
“Not on my own,” Fahima answered as she turned her back to Fluttershy. It only took her a few quick leaps to get up into the tree, where she continued to scare and harass the princesses, Twilight, Rainbow, and Applejack with her claws. “No, I can only pull of this kind of magic when it’s my master’s wish.”
“But I didn’t make a wish!” Fluttershy shouted, though a shout for her was hardly a raised voice compared to another pony. She had also tried to stomp her hoof, but had stopped when she realized she would have crushed some innocent flowers that grew near the base of the tree.
“Of course you did. This wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t.”
Tired of Fahima’s evasiveness, Fluttershy moved right to the base of the tree and, with a voice she usually reserved for scolding bad pets, said, “Fahima, I wish you would tell me what is going on.”
Fahima, who had been playfully waving her claws near Rainbow Dash’s panicked face, grunted in irritation. She retracted her claws and, in a single graceful motion, leaped down from the tree. “I suppose I must explain then, though I would like to go on the record saying that this is a waste of a wish.”
“There is no need for the scolding tone, master. I’m bound by my bottle to grant your wish,” Fahima answered as she padded over to the antique shop window where Celestia and Luna had seen their reflections. As she had done to Fluttershy’s mirror the first day, she placed a paw on the surface and caused it to swirl with images. The first was of Fluttershy floating under water at the swimming hole on Applejack’s farm.
“This is where you made your first wish. You said—” Fahima’s voice shifted, becoming an exact echo Fluttershy’s. “—I wish I could be as brave as Rainbow Dash thinks I should be.
“But the funny thing is bravery is so subjective,” Fahima said as she regained her normal voice and took her paw off the window. “Somepony may think she’s brave running into an active volcano or shouting down a dragon. Others would say she’s just stupid.
“And bravery is a matter of comparison as well. How brave other ponies think you are depends on how brave they are.” Fahima lifted a paw and pointed to the tree. “Your friend Rainbow Dash there, she thought you needed to be as brave or braver than her in your daily life. Your wish was to be as brave as she felt you needed to be.“
“But I’m not any braver. I’m the same as I’ve always been,” Fluttershy said. She looked back at her body, if only to be sure she was, in fact, the same.
“She, however, is a coward now. She’s hiding in a tree from butterflies, something you face without fear. Right now, master, you are braver than she is. You’re meeting and exceeding her expectation… just as you wished.”
“B-bu that… I would never…” Fluttershy stepped back anxiously, looking up at her friends. “I wouldn’t want… but… but why is everypony like this?”
Fahima shrugged. “I was already lowering the bar, saw no harm in pushing it all the way down.”
“W-what do you mean? What did you do?”
Fahima smiled, a big toothy grin that seemed to stretch her face while it showed off her fangs. “Nothing much. I just made every pony, every sentient creature in the world, a scared, spineless, coward. All across the world ponies are fleeing, zebras are screaming, griffins are cowering, minotaurs are sucking their thumbs, and dragons are hiding in their caves.
“All because of you.”
“No, I didn’t mean… I wouldn’t… I couldn’t…”
“But you did,” Fahima said coolly. She strode closer to Fluttershy, beginning to circle her. “Across the world, creatures are suffering because of you. You took away the courage soldiers need to stand their ground, and thus monsters are free to run wild. You took away the bravery of firefighters and police officers. There is no one courageous enough to put out fires. There is no one courageous enough to stop criminals. Doctors are not performing life saving surgeries because they are to scared they may make a mistake.”
“No… no no no no no no no.” Fluttershy tried to back away Fahima, tried to escape, but Fahima continued to circle her. Like a shark in bloody water, she drew in closer and closer. She brushed against Fluttershy’s side, purring sweetly but still speaking her cutting words.
“Just how many ponies have died this morning alone?” Fahima asked casually, as if she was asking how the weather had been. “The number must be truly staggering. Dozens… maybe even hundreds.”
“Stop it, please,” Fluttershy begged. She sank to the ground, covering her hooves with her ears as tears started to stream down her face. “I don’t want to hear anymore.”
“But there’s no escaping it, master. There is blood on your hooves, and it runs as deep as the ocean itself. It stains your fur, your skin, your bone, and your soul. Even in death there is no escape.” Fahima paused in front of Fluttershy. “Truthfully, the only way out I can see is if you wished you were never born.
“Now isn’t that an idea?” Fahima mused. “No more guilt, no more fear. Just two little words and all those ponies you just killed would be alive again. Just two. Little. Words.”
Fluttershy looked up at Fahima through tears, her heart shattered at the thought she had done such harm. She was right to be scared of her wishes. She had made one wish unintentionally and had hurt the whole world. The kind thing to do would be to wish herself away. Then everyone could go back to her normal lives. They wouldn’t have to see her again.
“I… I wish…”
“L-leave h-her a-alone!”
Fahima’s grin turned into a sour frown as both she and Fluttershy looked back over to the tree. There, on the ground at the tree’s base, was Rainbow Dash. Her legs were trembling, and she looked like she was about to throw up. That, however, didn’t change the fact that she was out of the tree and that she was glaring Fahima down.
“Watch yourself, pegasus,” Fahima growled. She raised a paw and, with a flick of her wrist, extended her claws. “Wouldn’t want to get scratched, now would we?”
Rainbow Dash lifted a hoof and leaned back. She seemed moments away from fleeing back into the tree, but, after she shaking her head firmly, she put her hoof back down. “N-no! I won’t run away!
“Fluttershy,” Rainbow continued as she tried to steady the tremor in her voice. “I… I think I finally understand what you go through. Being scared isn’t a choice. It’s something you can’t control.” Rainbow Dash raised a hoof and forced herself to take a single step forward as she flared her wings. “But Fluttershy, you have always pushed through your fears when we needed you the most. You saved us from a manticore. You even saved us from a dragon. Fluttershy, don’t wish yourself away!”
“Touching,” Fahima mused before she looked back at Fluttershy. “But don't forget how many lives you ruined just this morning. The world would be better off without you.”
“No it wouldn’t!” Rainbow shouted. “Fluttershy, this isn’t your fault! If anything, it’s that weird cat that did all this. All you wished for was to be braver. She’s the one that—”
With a single jump, Fahima was in front of Rainbow Dash. She reared back a forepaw and, with steely eyes, hissed, “Learn your place you sniveling coward.” She swung her claw, raking it across the side of Rainbow’s face and leaving three deep scratches.
Rainbow stumbled back from the pain, falling against the trunk of the tree. The scratches began to weep blood, but Fahima wasn’t done yet. She approached Rainbow again, but as she did she grew larger. In the span of few seconds she transformed into a muscular, savage panther, with claws long enough to rend a pony’s head from their shoulders. She stood as tall as Princess Luna and her eyes glinted as she stood over Rainbow Dash.
“Now get back in that tree before I give you a real reason to bleed.”
Trembling from head to hoof, Rainbow Dash struggled to find her words. Her eyes, which reflected the terror that Fahima was instilling her, were focused on the genie’s glinting claws. She spread her wings. She prepared herself to scramble back into the tree, but, before she did, she glanced over at Fluttershy.
“N-no!” Rainbow Dash forced out. She stomped a hoof and turned to face Fahima straight on. “I won’t let Fluttershy wish herself away, not when all this is your fault!”
Fahima raised her enlarged claw, a murderous glint in her eye. “Well, can’t say I didn’t warn you.”
“No one, and I mean no one, hurts my friends!”
Before Fahima knew what had happened, a blur of yellow had appeared in front of her. A moment later, a pair of hooves smashed into her face. The force from the blow sent her arcing back. She hit the street, tumbled across it, and fell into a heap in the gutter on the far side.
Back near the tree, Fluttershy landed in front of Rainbow Dash. Gone was the normally quiet pegasus that Ponyville knew so well. She had fallen away to reveal a Fluttershy few had seen. It was a courageous Fluttershy, who stood tall and firm and seemed to fear nothing. It was the Fluttershy that had shouted down a dragon; the Fluttershy would not stand to see her friends hurt.
“You’re lucky,” Fahima growled as she slowly got up. She lifted a paw and rubbed her jaw. “If you weren’t my master, I’d reward such bravery very harshly.”
“Bravery…” Fluttershy echoed, her confidence faltering a moment as she glanced away. She then smiled and turned back to Fahima. “That’s right, I am brave. Sure, I may not be able to jump from a rope swing like Rainbow Dash, but I’m brave when it's important. I’m brave when it matters.
“And I wish… I wish everypony and everything was back to normal, like I had never made that first wish!”
Fahima’s eyes narrowed and the scowl on her face faded into fearful shock. “No… No, I’m too close! Your final wish was to not be born! That was supposed to be your final wish! I… I won’t grant this! I will not undo what I have done!”
At those words a crack of thunder filled the air. From high above, something dropped like a meteor. It crashed into the street, leaving a deep crater and kicking a cloud of dust into the air. Yet, just as quickly as the dust had been thrown up, it was cast back by a surge of air.
Floating above the crater that had formed in the street, spinning slowly with an unworldly glow, was a blue bottle. Fahima looked at the bottle just as Rainbow Dash had looked at her, in pure terror. She spun on her paws and tried to jump away, but something caught her mid air.
The bottle turned slowly, pointing its opening at Fahima. Then, the depths of the bottle started to pull. Like a violent whirlpool at sea, it began to suck and pull in everything around. Air, leaves, dirt, branches, and stones: everything that wasn’t pinned down started getting pulled towards the bottle’s opening.
Fahima too was being drawn towards the bottle. She reached out and clung to the sidewalk with her claws, but even then she was dragged closer. She left deep scratches in the ground and made every effort she could to pull herself away. Yet inch by inch she was drawn closer.
Her tail was the first to touch the bottle, and, from there, the rest of Fahima began to get sucked into the darkness. Her legs were next, and they were followed by the rest of her body. The last part of Fahima that remained outside the bottle was her head. She cursed, she screamed, and shouted, but, before her head too disappeared, Fahima’s whiskers vibrated.
After that, after the sound of plucked harp strings had cascaded across Ponyville and the world, Fahima’s head was sucked inside the bottle. The bottle itself then dropped to the ground. It landed upright and, after a few moments, its cork dropped out of the sky and sealed it up as it had once been.
Fluttershy didn’t dare to breathe for a moment. She wondered if her last wish had truly been granted. She didn’t notice any visible change to the world. Everything seemed to be just as it was a few moments before, but then she heard a groan.
“Ow, that hurt.”
Fluttershy turned and saw Rainbow Dash climbing to her hooves. She beat her wings once to stretch them and then touch a fetlock to her cheek. “That cat really got me,” Rainbow said as she saw how much she was bleeding. She touched her scratches again, wincing from the pain. “Seriously, this stings.”
“What, can’t handle a little cat scratch, Sugarcube?” Applejack asked. She jumped down from the tree, followed by Twilight, Celestia, and Luna.
“Here, let me take a look,” Twilight said. She used some magic to push Rainbow’s hoof aside, and she leaned in close to inspect the scratches. “They don’t look deep enough to need stitches, but you did get scratched good.”
“Tell me about it. That was one mean cat… thing. I mean, did you see that thing, it turned into a panther right in front of—”
Fluttershy had popped up in the middle of her friends, waving her forehooves above her head. A few minutes before, such a small scare would have sent the five mares scrambling back up the tree. Now, however, they all smiled and chuckled.
“Don’t worry, Fluttershy, we’re back to normal,” Twilight assured her.
Fluttershy breathed a sigh of relief and touch a hoof to her chest. “Oh good, I would have felt bad if I had actually scared you.”
A small chuckle escape Celestia’s throat, and she took a step towards Fluttershy. “Do not worry. Your wish was well worded. The genie was unable to think of a way to subvert your meaning before the magic of her bottle forced her to grant the wish.”
“The what now?” Applejack asked.
“The genie,” Luna answered. The moon princess had strode to the crater in the street and had removed the bottle from its depths. She walked back over to the group, holding the butterfly decorated glass high for everypony to see. “The cat you saw was a genie, a creature granted magic to change the world by Discord himself.”
“Discord!” Applejack, Fluttershy, Twilight, and Rainbow Dash all said in unison.
“Yes,” Celestia confirmed with a nod. “Genies are mischief makers. They have a love of chaos that is rivaled only by Discord himself. They hide behind the guise of being loyal servants. They offer those who summon them from their vessels three almost limitless wishes.
“But as you’ve all seen, genies find sick pleasure in twisting their master’s wishes beyond their intended meaning.”
Fluttershy flattened her ears and looked down at her hooves. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean—”
“Hey, it’s not your fault,” Rainbow Dash said firmly. “Like the princess said, that cat twisted your wish. You didn’t wish for any of this to happen, so it isn’t your fault.” She then put on a smile and playfully slugged Fluttershy in the shoulder. “Besides, that was pretty sweet how you bucked that cat in the face.”
Applejack stepped up beside Fluttershy and threw a hoof over her shoulder. “Y’all got that right. Why, I couldn’t have bucked that thing better myself.”
“Really? You mean it?”
“We do, Sugarcube,” Applejack said with a sincere smile. “Now, after all this running around being scared of our own shadows, I think the lot of us could use a party. How about we go find Pinkie Pie?”
“Now that is an idea I can get behind!” Rainbow Dash cheered before she jumped into the air. “I’ll go by Sugarcube Corner. I’ll see if Pinkie Pie is there, pick up a cake, and meet you girls back at Fluttershy’s place.”
“Just skip the stunts once you got that cake!” Applejack shouted to Rainbow Dash as she began to fly away. “None of us want to be eating a mess of crumbs and frosting like last time!” She then chuckled under her breath and waved a hoof at Fluttershy and Twilight. “Come on y’all. I think I saw Rarity hiding in a barrel a couple blocks away before that dang butterfly chased me in ta that tree.”
Twilight and Fluttershy nodded, and they began to follow behind Applejack. Twilight, however paused and looked back at the princesses. “Do you want two want to come? It may not be a big Canterlot party, but it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
“No thank you, Twilight,” Celestia answered as she and Luna spread her wings. “We need to ensure this bottle, and the genie within, get properly secured in Canterlot. We then have a lot of work ahead of us.”
“What kind of work?” Twilight asked.
“We have not seen genies in the world since my sister and I defeated Discord,” Luna explained. “If this bottle has found its way back into the hooves of sentient creatures, then there is a chance others genie vessels are out in the world as well. You have seen the chaos brought by a single one of these creatures. She endeavored to trick Fluttershy into wishing herself out of existence. That act alone could have freed Discord, for, without Fluttershy’s kindness, the Elements of Harmony would not have been able to imprison him a second time.”
Twilight’s eyes narrowed at the prospect the world Luna described. They had only just been able to defeat Discord. If Fluttershy or any of her friends hadn’t been born, they may not have even defeated Nightmare Moon, let alone Discord. It was bone chilling thought, which made Twilight turn once more to her mentor.
“Is there any way to find the genies?”
“No,” Celestia said with a heavy sigh. “The vessels that seal them give off no magic of their own and can be anything. A bottle, an oil lamp, a book… any item that can be closed and opened can serve as a container, and, like this bottle, they can show up anywhere.”
The rustle of garbage mixed with the chatter of voices drifting from the distant street. Mice and rats scampered up and down the alley, nibbling at the traces of food the ponies of Manehattan left behind. Usually, their meals were left undisturbed. This one evening, however, the dumpster in the alley had been invaded by a much larger scavenger.
“Come on, there’s got to be something good in here. There’s always something good in here.”
Poking her head out to try and get a breath of fresh air, Trixie coughed and waved a hoof in front of her nose. Bits of old food and gunk clung to her mane and coat. Her thin waistline spoke to the fact she had not been eating well. Her hat and cape were gone as well, sold to a pawn shop for bits that had already been spent.
Lighting her horn, Trixie took another trash bag up in her magic and ripped it open, allowing its contents to spill inside the dumpster. She had to scrunch up her nose as a fresh mixture of smell washed over her. She heaved as if to vomit, but there was nothing in her stomach. She could only cough, wheeze, and then cover her nose before she began to dig through the freshly strewn garbage.
“Oh, there’s nothing in here Trixie can use,” she cursed to herself. Her eyes locked on the largest thing she had found in the dumpster, a watermelon rind, and she kicked at it with her forehoof. The heavy rind smashed against the side of the dumpster, causing a few more bags, which hadn’t been tied shut, to spill open all over Trixie’s hooves. Once more, she heaved in an attempt to vomit.
But then Trixie spotted something from the corner of her eye, a little jewelry box. She smiled and quickly lifted the little wooden box from the filth. It was trimmed with gold and had fine carvings on its sides. “Now this is much better,” she said as she inspected the box more closely. “Trixie bets you’ll get Trixie enough bits at the pawn shop to buy a hayburger, fries, and a shake!
“All I got to do is rub some of this dirt off.”
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My Little Pony, Friendship is Magic © Hasbro
I do not own the intellectual properties this fan-fiction is based on.