• Published 5th Jul 2015
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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?

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Certainty

“I won’t stop this time.”

Fluttershy marched through the streets of Ponyville with steely eyes and her head held up high, on her way to the Everfree Forest for the eighth time that week. Yesterday, she'd been obstructed by the incident with the Lamia, but now was definitely the time. No matter what he intended to do to her or show her—or the world—Fluttershy knew the truth. And Fluttershy would appeal to that truth, regardless of whatever wrongs Nocturne had committed.

He’s good, and there’s no denying it anymore. He may show a cold and cruel side of himself just to be alone, and he may even be willing to hurt ponies to do it. But now that he’s saved a squirrel and saved the Cutie Mark Crusaders, there’s no hiding it anymore. He’s not evil. He’s just had a bad life.

Now, Fluttershy was going to make the attempt to befriend Nocturne, one last time.

The border to the Everfree Forest lie in the distance, and Fluttershy closed in on it. Remember, she thought to herself, stay positive, be friendly, and don’t be afraid. Nocturne may still be a little scary, and he’ll definitely try hard to look like it. But it won't work this time. This time, I’ll be brave.

The two ponies running out of the woods, however, were not.

Both mares stopped as soon as they reached the border to town, right in front of Fluttershy. The milky-white Earth mare with three small candies as her cutie mark panted and shook as she sat down, her legs giving way underneath her. The neon blue Unicorn with a harp displayed on her flank gave stuttering breaths and looked like she was about to cry.

“Lyra! Bon-Bon!” Fluttershy gasped. “Are you all right? What happened?” Lyra continued to shiver and stifle her sobs, so Bon-Bon answered for her.

“Well,” she began, “we were looking for this flower for Lyra’s bedroom, and we could only find them in the Everfree Forest, so . . . we went in . . . but we must've gotten . . . too close to . . . to . . . .”

“THE PHANTOM!!” Lyra suddenly wailed. “We saw him! He was horrible! He had these big ugly wings, and these glowing red eyes, and he chased us out of the woods! I think he was gonna . . . h-he could’ve . . .” she couldn't go on, and finally collapsed into tears from the shock and horror of their encounter. Bon-Bon helped Lyra back into town, looking close to sobbing herself.

Fluttershy followed them with her gaze, shock etched into her features. He’s doing it again. After everything that’s happened . . . showing me his good side, saving lives, hiding his pain . . . so soon after what happened yesterday with the Lamia . . . he’s doing it again . . . .

Fluttershy almost felt helplessly disheartened, and a strong temptation arose in her to turn around and walk back home. But something stopped her. It was strong, much stronger than the urge to leave, and almost even made her press on a few more unconscious steps. She had seen Bon-Bon and Lyra walking back into town; they were shaken and badly frightened, but they had not been harmed. Not a hair of their manes out of place, not a smudge on their coats, not a single cut or bruise: they came out terrified, but unscathed.

No, Nocturne. You can’t fool me. You’re scary, but you’re not evil.

Fluttershy turned back to her path toward the forest, but stopped in surprise at the unexpected appearance of Twilight Sparkle. Fluttershy shook off the surprise quickly, though; she knew Twilight might come back to try and convince her once again to stay away from Nocturne. Because of this, Fluttershy expected a stern, serious expression on her face.

What she got was a look of concern. Wide, worried eyes so shaky with desperation, she seemed to beg Fluttershy not to go, using her eyes alone.


Fluttershy once again found herself in the Golden Oaks library. The feeling of déjà vu was already gripping, but unlike before, her five friends—Twilight Sparkle, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, Rainbow Dash and Applejack—all surrounded her, wearing varying looks of worry. Fluttershy had seen it all before, but never quite as strong as it was now. Somehow, this seemed to be the final straw.

Or rather, judging from these concerned faces, a last-ditch effort.

“Court is now in session!” Spike quipped with a grin from the other side of the room.

“Spike!” Twilight replied with a frown. “This isn't a court-martial. It's just a discussion among friends.”

“Geez!” Spike snapped, shrugging, “I was just trying to lighten the mood, that's all. Tough room . . . .”

Despite what she saw on her friends' faces, Fluttershy still felt her nerves scratch at her like needles. “Ummm,” she struggled to speak, “you're not still mad at me about Nocturne, are you?”

“Why, of course not, darling!” Rarity was the first to answer. “We were never angry with you. We were merely concerned for your welfare! And considering what that brute has done in the past week alone, we thought you were in danger!”

“It had nothin' to do with you, sugarcube,” Applejack spoke next, calmly. “We all still think he ain’t to be trusted. But you got your heart set on this, and we all agree that nothin's gonna change your mind now.”

“We just wanted you to let us know for sure,” Twilight added, “is this what you really want? Are you absolutely certain you can be friends with him?”

Fluttershy looked out among the faces of her friends. Twilight’s look of concern matched her look from earlier that day. Rarity’s was not dissimilar, either. Pinkie looked almost blank-faced, as though she were silently debating what to think of this whole situation. Applejack’s face was stonier, yet still held a tenderness that clearly showed through. Rainbow Dash looked the least serene; her current sour expression could perhaps be owed to the discussion of the pony who’d beaten her to a pulp earlier in the week.

Fluttershy glanced from one face to the next without blinking, and nodded.

“Nocturne's just a lonely pony who needs a friend. He's not evil. In fact, yesterday, he proved he was a hero. If I can just talk to him one more time, I can show everypony that he's not a bad pony. One more time is all I need.”

Everypony else nodded, and Rainbow Dash approached Fluttershy slowly, extending a hoof to touch the latter’s shoulder.

“Just promise us one thing,” she said, the concern in her voice made the most obvious by her clear attempt to hide it. “If you feel like you can't do this anymore, don't be afraid to walk away. We know this is important to you and all, but you’re important to us too, and we don't want you to get hurt the same way I did.”

“Or the same way that Lamia did,” Spike interrupted, shuddering.

“Look, the point is,” Dash continued, “whatever you decide to do, we won’t stop you, and we won’t be mad at you. We're your friends, and we'll be there, whether you can change Nocturne or not.”

“Change?” Pinkie suddenly asked, confused. “Is he still just a little foal?” She then smiled, seeming to have found clarity. “Hee-hee! Maybe that's why he's so cranky! Maybe he just needs a new diaper!”

After Spike finished laughing (he must have thought Pinkie was joking), Fluttershy replied earnestly, “I'm not trying to change Nocturne. I don't need to. He's a good pony. He has been all along.”

Twilight sighed as she spoke one last time, “One more thing, Fluttershy. Give it an extra few days to think it over. We know you just need one more moment with him, but one more week or so won't hurt, right?”

Fluttershy looked back at Twilight and nodded, “Okay. One more week won't hurt, I guess. I need to think of what I'm going to say to him when I meet him again.”

“Do you want us to come with you?” Twilight asked.

“That’s okay. I need to do this alone. Nocturne gets scared easily and—” Fluttershy glanced very quickly at Rainbow Dash and continued, “Umm . . . well, I’m the only one who really knows him. So I’m the only one who can comfort him right now.”

“All right, then. Now girls, remember. No matter what happens, we stand by Fluttershy. If she needs us, we'll be there. And in the event that she actually succeeds in befriending the Pha-uh, Nocturne, however likely or unlikely it may be, then, well . . . .” Twilight had trouble finishing, until she glanced at Fluttershy's fragile expression. “ We . . . we, uh . . . we'll do what we can for him, too, I guess.” Twilight caught Rarity's shudder and Dash's scowl before finalizing their meeting. “Okay, everypony agree?”

“You betcha.”

“All right . . .”

“Absolutely!”

“Okey-dokey, Lokey!”

Fluttershy looked around at all of her friends and their assuring smiles, from the begrudging Rainbow Dash to the effervescent Pinkie Pie, from the strong-willed Applejack to the poignant Rarity. And Twilight’s encouraging smile was the best sight of all.

I am so lucky to have them, she thought. They might disagree with me, but here they are. There for me, no matter what. With friends like mine, I must be the luckiest pony in Equestria.

And I’m sure Nocturne will feel the same way.


The last time she found herself out here, it was broad daylight, she had friends with her, and she’d watched one of those friends charge bravely into confrontation alone.

This time, Twilight was alone. It was the dead of night, and the darkness outside made the border to the Everfree Forest that much more menacing. She was here against her own sound advice, but she needed the peace of mind. She needed assurance that only one thing could give her.

She had to come here before Fluttershy and talk to the Phantom—Nocturne—first.

“Ummm . . . N-Nocturne?” Twilight called out into the deep woods. “I need to talk to you. I-I won't keep you, I just wanted to—” she then gasped when she saw them, Nocturne's fiery red eyes, the only things visible in the shadows beyond the border. Scared at first, Twilight took a deep breath and continued.

“Look, I didn't come here to harass or provoke you. I don't want to start anything, and I don’t want any trouble. I just needed to say one thing. Let me say it without interruption, and I promise, I'll leave you alone forever.”

The eyes blinked once, then stared back steadily, unmoving, for quite some time. This seemed to be the indication that Nocturne had given her permission to speak her mind.

“Okay,” Twilight pressed on, “I just wanted to ask you . . . please don’t hurt Fluttershy. I'm not begging or bribing. I'm not ordering or threatening. I'm just asking, one pony to another. Please, don't hurt Fluttershy. We wouldn't know what to do if anything happened to her, and we just want to make sure she's all right. That's all I ask. I know I haven’t earned a favor from you, but if you're as decent as Fluttershy says you are, then please . . . at least do that much.”

The eyes narrowed, and their glow intensified, but their owner spoke not a word. Twilight wasn't entirely sure what that meant, but it seemed likely that Nocturne wasn't about to honor such a request. In fact, it seemed as though he were incensed just at the notion of Twilight asking for anything at all.

“Please, at least think about it,” Twilight concluded as she turned to leave. “If not for me, or for yourself, then at least for Fluttershy. She's done a lot for you. She doesn't deserve any more misery.” And with that, she slowly trotted away, hoping desperately that, if nothing else, that would reach him. If it didn't, she might just have to follow Fluttershy into the woods, just to make sure she was okay.

I hope I don't have to, though, she thought, sighing into a night breeze. I still don't really believe Nocturne’s anything but trouble. Frankly, I don’t know what to believe anymore. But he’s caused Fluttershy enough trouble already. She sees something in him nopony else can see, and it’s done things to her none of us were prepared for. And after all this, he’s still trying to convince us that he’s a monster.

I just hope he isn't enough of a monster to hurt Fluttershy any further.