• Published 5th Jul 2015
  • 3,850 Views, 325 Comments

The Phantom Pony of Everfree - LightningSword

Who is the Phantom Pony of Everfree? What is he? And can he be approached with anything but fear?

  • ...

Consulting Zecora

Fluttershy fought constantly with herself the whole way. One part of her wanted to avoid Nocturne’s territory at all costs, while another wanted to “wander in by mistake”, much as she had the very first time. She did not oblige the latter feeling, though; as much as she wanted to see Nocturne again, she was on a mission. Nocturne was not evil, just misjudged. And Fluttershy knew the perfect pony—or rather, zebra—to help her find out why.

Who would know better about a misjudged pony than another misjudged pony? Fluttershy reasoned as she knocked on the door of the unusual little hut in the Everfree Forest. Luckily, Zecora's house was a good distance away from Nocturne's territory, so once Fluttershy had gotten her head together about where she had to be, it was easy to avoid him. And if anypony could have a chance at understanding Nocturne's secret side, it would be her. Fluttershy was ashamed to admit it, but she'd thought of Zecora the same way ponies thought of Nocturne nowadays. So, it stood to reason that Zecora would be the one to understand Nocturne better than anypony.

The door opened, and the zebra pony stood on the other side, smiling as soon as she saw her visitor. “What a surprise to meet my eye,” she said in her heavily-accented voice. “Another visit from Fluttershy!”

“Hello, Zecora,” Fluttershy replied amiably, “I know I’ve been visiting an awful lot lately, but I was wondering—um, that is, if you're not too busy—if I could ask you some questions. I-if you can't, I understand . . . .”

“No, please, come in, my friend,” Zecora replied and bade her enter. “What further help do you wish me to lend?”

Fluttershy entered and tried not to let Zecora's unusual décor put her off too much. “Um, well,” she began uneasily, “I was just thinking . . . well, since we didn't really know a lot about you before we met you—oh, I don't mean that to be mean, or anything—but, I just thought you would know what it's like . . . having ponies judge you before they know you—like I said, I don't want to sound mean—but, there's another pony I know . . . well, kind of . . . and nopony really knows a lot about him. And I just thought, maybe, I could ask what you think about him . . . .”

Zecora smiled and nodded. “Your heart, it longs, your feelings yearn,” she observed, “to solve the mystery of Nocturne.”

Fluttershy simply stared. “Yes, that's right. B-but, how did you know? Could you . . . read my mind?”

Zecora chuckled, “The word about town causes you to frown.”

As if on cue, Fluttershy frowned dejectedly; again, Zecora was right. “I just want to know why they think that way,” she answered. “Why do they think he’s so bad? It couldn’t just be because he scares ponies. What did Nocturne do that was so awful?”

Zecora turned to her shelves and started scrutinizing the scores of strange ingredients on them. “Is Nocturne truly a bad seed?” she asked as she searched. “Unclear: ponies' hearts can be hard to read.” She found a jar containing a strange pink flower and plucked it from the shelf, placing it on the wooden counter. She searched the same shelf, further back, and pulled out a jar of herbs, colored bluish-black, and sat them next to the pink flower.

“Umm, Zecora?” Fluttershy mumbled as she watched her work. “What are those for?”

“Shh,” Zecora replied. “We shall know, in due time, the origins of Nocturne’s crimes.” Dragging over a bowl from a far side, Zecora opened the jar with the pink flower and plucked a petal from out of the jar, placing it into the bowl. Taking the other jar in her teeth, she shook out a dash of the blue-black herbs on top of the pink petal, set the jar down, and began to mash the bowl's contents together with her hoof. All the while, Fluttershy watched her patiently, but with a curious gaze.

I wonder what she’s doing, she pondered. And how will it help? She was about to ask, but she held back; she didn’t want to get shushed again.

Zecora took a bottle of clear liquid and carefully lifted it over the bowl, but before Fluttershy could speak, one drop from the bottle fell on the mishmash in the bowl. As soon as it made contact, the mixture gave off a small explosion of dark-blue smoke.

“This spell will tell us of the past,” Zecora explained. “Read it carefully, for it will not last.”

Fluttershy paid dutiful attention to the smoke, and saw it changing shapes in the air. A chunk of the smoke separated in the middle, framed by the rest of the cloud, and it began to take a definite form—a crescent moon, with what looked like a musical note hanging inside.

What does that mean? Fluttershy asked herself. Does it have to do with Nocturne? Is that his cutie mark?

The outer cloud then suddenly swallowed the strange symbol, and the entire cloud reshaped into the form of a small foal—a foal with large bat wings and a hat.

Fluttershy gasped, “That's Nocturne!”

“It is, indeed,” Zecora confirmed, “now, continue to read.” They both watched as the smoke-foal hung there in midair, clutching its chest with its hooves; a close look saw that that area of the smoke-foal was red, and flashed on and off like a beacon. It seemed to cause the smoke-foal a great deal of pain—in fact, an even closer look saw small droplets of smoke fall away from the smoke-foal's face. If Fluttershy didn’t know better, she’d swear the smoke-foal was crying.

“A searing pain, deep in his heart,” Zecora theorized. “A difficult thing from which to part.” The beacon stopped flashing for a moment, and the smoke-foal bent its head toward its chest, where the flashing light began. It looked as though it were still crying, and it made Fluttershy's heart ache to watch. After a long stretch of this, the smoke-foal slowly and subtly began to grow. Its legs and head lengthened, and its already-large wings grew larger, sharper and more menacing. The glowing light returned, but remained bright and steady instead of flashing, and instead of its chest, the glow permeated its eyes. The smoke-pony looked up, and at once, it stood on its hind legs, spread its wraithlike wings, and glared at Fluttershy with its vicious red eyes. The smoke cloud collapsed and reformed, taking on the shape of a close-up look at the smoke-pony's face. Its wide-open mouth displayed cruelly hooked fangs, and its eyes sported an even brighter red glow. Fluttershy even thought for a minute that she could hear it roar—could hear Nocturne roar—in a frightful, merciless fury.

Fluttershy turned away, trembling and holding back tears just as the smoke dissipated. Flashbacks of her first encounter with Nocturne sprang back into her mind, along with images of his retaliation against Rainbow Dash. They melded together in her mind, amplified by the fresh imagery of Zecora’s smoke spell, and as a result, her breaths were shaky and her heart slammed against her chest. Soon, she couldn’t help but let a single tear fall.

Zecora approached Fluttershy and placed a hoof on her back. “Are you quite all right, my child?” she asked worriedly. “Those images do seem quite reviled.”

Fluttershy took several deep breaths to calm herself, dried her eyes with the fur on her foreleg, then turned back around. “I'm okay, Zecora,” she assured, “but . . . well, I'm grateful for your help, but . . . is that all it could tell us?”

“The smoke tells all, both sweet and sordid,” Zecora explained, “but it can only tell what is known and recorded.”

Fluttershy’s brow furrowed in confusion. “So, the spell doesn't know any more than anypony else does?”

Zecora nodded, crestfallen. “Sadly, yes, its limits are true. But with this knowledge, what do you intend to do?”

Thinking for a moment, Fluttershy found a bright side almost immediately. It may not have explained much, but Zecora's spell did make one thing perfectly clear—it proved that Nocturne's wicked behavior was indeed a cover for inner turmoil. I was right all along . . . .

“Umm, Zecora?” Fluttershy inquired gently. “You said the spell only tells what ponies already know and have written down, right? Well, um, how does that work, exactly? Whose knowledge does it tell, and what records does it use?”

Zecora supplied the answers, “Nocturne's past, both the gay and the ill, stem from here in Ponyville. All of Nocturne's fear and woe, were shown through ponies here who know.”

“So, somepony here in Ponyville knows what happened to Nocturne?” Fluttershy asked, finally feeling hope at last, until a thought occurred to her. “Wait . . . it isn't just Nocturne who knows, is it?”

“Strangely enough, the spell seems slacking,” Zecora replied, evidently as befuddled by this problem as Fluttershy. “Either that, or Nocturne's knowledge is lacking.”

Fluttershy was bewildered as well. How could Nocturne not know his own past? It seemed too silly to be true, but she didn't want to think that Zecora's spell was anything but helpful. This is getting stranger and stranger by the minute, she thought worriedly.

Despite the ever-deepening mystery, knowing for sure that Nocturne was not evil was all Fluttershy needed. “Thank you so much, Zecora. This helped a lot. How can I repay you?”

“I was glad to assist you, dear,” Zecora replied with a benign smile, “for now, it seems you've lost your fear. Is there anything else you need for your venture to succeed?”

“No, thank you,” Fluttershy said politely. “You've done so much for me. Thanks again!” And with that, Fluttershy turned and swiftly took her leave.

“Yaaaaay!” Fluttershy cheered as soon as she was on the other side of Zecora’s door; her celebration made a few animals rustle in the underbrush. “I knew Nocturne was a good pony. I just knew it! All I need to do is find somepony else who knows, too. Somepony who knew Nocturne before he felt so sad. And if Zecora’s right, somepony in Ponyville knows, so all I have to do is . . . well . . . oh, dear . . . .” She suddenly realized that, not knowing who knew about Nocturne, she might have to visit each pony in town, one by one, to do it. I don’t know if I can do that, she thought, starting to shake where she stood, I . . . I’m just too shy to do that . . . .

“No,” Fluttershy asserted out loud, stamping her hoof. “I have to keep my head and shake off my fear. Whether he knows it or not, Nocturne is my friend, and I never turn my back on my friends. And if I can help warm Nocturne's cold heart, it’ll all be worth it.”

Fluttershy began to skip away from Zecora’s hut and back to the edge of the woods, knowing exactly whom she should visit first.

Zecora sighed contentedly as she heard Fluttershy’s gleeful resolve from inside before she went away. She glanced back at her countertop and saw the remnants of her spell still drifting away. Even now, my spell does fade, she thought. I only hope I was of aid.

Her thoughts were disrupted by the sight of a red glow coming from her window.

Zecora saw the hellish red glow of the eyes and slowly trotted toward the window. She eased a hoof toward it and gently pushed it, hearing a slight squeak until it was fully opened. By the time she’d approached the window, the glow was gone, but once the window was opened, the glow returned, much closer than before. He could have leaned forward and stuck his nose directly in Zecora’s face.

“What did you tell her?”

The whisper was like a winter wind—dark and chilling. His teeth were gritted, and he blinked, making the glow in his eyes flash for a split-second.

Zecora merely smiled. “It’s nice to see you again, too,” she greeted him amiably. “Tell me, old friend, what is new?”

“Spare me,” the Phantom growled. “I know I saw her in there. What did you tell her?”

“I did not tell,” Zecora explained. “It all came from my spell.”

“We had a deal, Zecora!” the Phantom barked back. “You remember what I did for you! All I asked was that you never tell anypony about me. Ever!”

Zecora’s smile faded away, and she sighed, closing her eyes. “Your secrets are not mine to tell. But they’re not mine to keep, as well.”

“What? How dare you go back on your word?!”

“My word remained as strong as ever,” Zecora spoke firmly, “until our connection you did sever. I swear, my friend, as long as you live, your acts against others I cannot forgive. You scare and harm those who intrude . . . .” She trailed off, partially turning away before finishing, “I hope you’re enjoying your solitude.”

There was a long, silent pause in which the burning red eyes narrowed angrily. “I trusted you once,” he said, almost hoarsely. “At least, when I was still able to trust. I can see now I was wrong to. I can’t trust anypony anymore . . . .” He, too, trailed off before abruptly turning and walking away. The glow vanished at that precise moment.

“Nocturne!” Zecora called out the window. “This way of thinking you now take . . . you’re making a very grave mistake.”

“Don’t ever call me your friend,” the voice belonging to the eyes uttered back to her. “Not now, and not ever again.”

For several long minutes, there wasn’t a single sound outside the window. Taking another weary sigh, Zecora closed the window, and a dark sense of finality crept over her.

I want to help him, but I no longer know how, she thought guiltily to herself. I only hope dear Fluttershy can help him now.