• 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?

  • ...

The True Mystery of Nocturne

“Rainbow Dash, what were you thinking?! You know perfectly well that it was foolish to go galloping into the Everfree Forest without a plan! Especially with that . . . thing in there! It was reckless and dangerous, and you and Fluttershy could have been badly hurt, or worse!!”

Much of Twilight's words had amounted to that effect ever since the group had reunited in front of the Everfree Forest. The six ponies had since relocated to Fluttershy's house, with Twilight's lambasting and deprecating remaining strong with every step until they had gone indoors. According to the annoyed twitch in Rainbow Dash's eye, it only seemed to get worse from there.

“Geez, Twilight, calm down,” Dash defended herself irritably. “We went in without getting hurt, we got back Fluttershy's stuff, and we got away safely! I trusted Fluttershy enough to be able to handle herself, especially when I was there to back her up!”

“But that there's the trouble, Rainbow,” Applejack countered, her face stern, “Fluttershy ain't you, and y'all should know that. Just 'cause you could handle whatever that was in them woods, don't necessarily mean Fluttershy could. Ya oughta know she can get downright yella-bellied at times.” She then turned toward Fluttershy and muttered guiltily, “Uhh . . . no offense, there, sugarcube.”

Fluttershy took no offense; she was back to being curled up on her pillow in a corner of the room, shaky and sweating after her and Dash's encounter with the Phantom Pony. This time though, she wasn't crying. She couldn't after what she had seen the Phantom do. As frightened as she was, she was also deeply mystified, and somewhat amazed. Her friends didn't seem to have seen it, and Rainbow Dash hadn't brought it up if she had, but Fluttershy knew, eventually, that she would have to address it.

“I'm afraid she's right, darling,” Rarity added as she sat next to Fluttershy, once again trying to comfort her. “There's absolutely no denying that something terrible is living in those woods. The stories they tell about this pony are absolutely dreadful! And as it turns out, they're all true!”

“Calm down, Rarity,” Twilight soothed, shaking her head, “I don't know if they're all true. Some stories about this Phantom Pony defy all logic. Besides, my point still stands that this is not necessarily a case of something supernatural. What we saw may have been scary, but it was a normal pony.”

Dash eyed her with deadpan skepticism. “'Normal'? By whose standards? Or didn't you see his eyes glow red like some kind of freak?”

Twilight merely sighed in annoyance and continued, “Look, the point is, Fluttershy had been through way too much trauma to go in there again. She shouldn't have been forced to go, alone or otherwise.”

Dash merely grumbled back, “Well, I mean, it's not like there was any other way to get her stuff back. Besides, how was I supposed to know the Phantom Pony actually existed . . . . ?”

“Come on, Rainbow Dash,” Applejack said with soft reproach, “at least say somethin' to ease Fluttershy's mind. She's hurtin' right now.”

Rainbow Dash gave a defeated sigh and walked slowly up to her still-shaken friend. “Look, Fluttershy,” she began, and Fluttershy looked up from her pillow, “I guess I shouldn't have made you go out there. I really didn't think there was anything to worry about, but I guess I was wrong. So . . . no hard feelings?”

“You saw it too, didn't you?”

Fluttershy's response seemed to take everypony by surprise. Dash looked back at her with a confused look that, soon enough, the others shared.

“Didn't you see?” Fluttershy repeated. “When that tree fell? And the squirrel was right under it? He wouldn't have moved out of the way in time. He . . . .” Fluttershy slowed down a bit, still unable to believe it herself, “. . . he saved him.”

The others all continued to stare in confusion. Applejack was the first to ask for clarification, “What in tarnation are ya talkin' about, Fluttershy?”

“I know it sounds strange,” Fluttershy admitted with a nod, “but when that tree fell over, this hoof came out and stopped it long enough for the squirrel to get away. I know it was him. Nocturne, the Phantom Pony. It couldn't have been anypony else.”

There was a protracted silence as everypony processed Fluttershy's words. This time, confusion was displayed in the form of glances thrown back and forth amongst them. The silence was broken when Pinkie Pie loudly cheered, “YAY!! Squirrel hero!”

“Oh, Fluttershy, what are you saying?” Rarity asked. “You've been a part of a traumatic experience, after all. Isn't it even a tiny possibility that you're not thinking straight?”

“She has a point, you know,” Dash added. “I mean, I was there with you, and even I hardly remember what I saw. I do know I did a real number on that old tree, so you have me to thank for that!”

Twilight looked back at Dash, mimicking the latter's skeptical look from earlier. “You mean 'to blame' for that, right? If Fluttershy is right, that tree almost squashed a squirrel.” At this, Dash could only grin sheepishly and shrug.

“But . . .” Fluttershy mumbled, still insistent, “. . . I saw it . . . .”

Twilight continued, “It doesn't matter. What's important is that you got your saddlebag back, and nopony was too badly hurt. All's well that ends well, right?”

Fluttershy shrugged and nodded, but she wasn't really paying attention. She was still focused on Nocturne's surprising act. He had no reason to save the life of a fellow creature. The only thing he'd wanted at the time (at least, from Fluttershy's perspective) was to have his trespassers ejected from his territory. He could just as easily have left and vanished back into the woods as soon as she and Rainbow Dash had escaped and reached the edge. But he chose to stay and help an animal in need. He chose to save a life that he may have felt he was entirely entitled to let die.

The scene replayed over and over again in Fluttershy's mind, and there was still no denying who it was and what he did. It made her think about what this so-called “Phantom Pony” was really like, and why he presented himself as some kind of a vicious specter. If he was capable of such a selfless act, then why make himself out to be a villain? Why scare away intruders and save a life in the same stroke? The more Fluttershy thought about it, the more she considered that, maybe, this Nocturne wasn't really what the scary stories say he was. Maybe that act of kindness wasn't just a spur-of-the-moment thing? Maybe it was a conscious act that reflected an inner nature nopony ever saw? Maybe Nocturne was only pretending to be scary to keep ponies away from him?

Maybe Twilight was right, Fluttershy thought, taking her friend's earlier words into account. Maybe we're judging him too quickly, like we did with Zecora. Maybe there's something about him that we don't see.

Maybe Nocturne's not such a bad pony after all . . . .

“So, Fluttershy, about my training session today . . .”

“Let it go, Dash,” Applejack moaned, rolling her eyes.

That night, after all of Fluttershy's animals had been tucked away for the night, Fluttershy herself prepared for bed. Off and on all day, she had been thinking about her second encounter with the Phantom Pony (Nocturne, she had reminded herself, his name is Nocturne. He's not some nameless monster. He's a pony with his own name.), and she had come to a single conclusion. Nopony would save an innocent animal from suffering a cruel end and still be considered evil. Princess Luna had once been considered evil, and had found redemption from her own demons. Queen Chrysalis (at least from Fluttershy's perspective) was only trying to help her own. Even Discord, with some finesse, could change. To Fluttershy, there really wasn't such a thing as “evil”. Ponies who were considered bad only did bad things; it didn't make them bad ponies, only misguided or misunderstood. As Fluttershy climbed into bed and covered up, she concluded that some ponies who did bad things had no conscious intention of being bad, that some ponies didn't know what it meant to do right by others.

And with no experience in being good, that meant that they had had nopony do the same for them.

At least, that was Fluttershy's way of seeing it. And as she took one more glance out the window at the border to the Everfree Forest in the distance, she was sure of what this meant for her, and for Nocturne, in the future. She laid her head down on her pillow, assuring herself of the future actions she would take based on her conclusions.

“Nocturne is a good pony. He just doesn't know kindness. Maybe if I show him, he won't be so mean anymore . . .”