• 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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The Monster He Truly Is

After strolling through town for a good few minutes, Fluttershy began to realize she needed to get out more. Staying indoors for two days had made her feel cramped and depressed, especially with her interactions with Nocturne weighing so heavily on her mind and heart. Now that she was outside, she could see a brightly-shining sun, and could breathe in wonderful fresh air. She had felt her mood perking up soon after leaving, and it had finally erased all her ill feelings after only a few minutes. It felt so much better than sitting at home worrying all day.

She still couldn't help but think about Nocturne, though. Fluttershy had gone back to the edge of the forest earlier in the day to see if her basket was still there, and was thrilled to see that it was gone. She was sure he’d taken it, and she wondered if he’d enjoyed it. I certainly hope he did, she thought, feeling some worry for him almost as she would for a young foal. I just hope he's doing all right. All I want is for him to be happy.

WOOSH!

From out of nowhere, somepony had raced right past Fluttershy, sending her spinning out of control for a few seconds. Fluttershy slowed to a stop, and stood dizzily, trying to regain balance. Once her bearings were restored, Fluttershy looked up to see Twilight Sparkle and Spike running up to her. “Pinkie, wait up!” Spike yelled.

“Twilight! Spike!” Fluttershy called out to them as they approached. “What’s going on? Are you all right?”

The pair stopped in front of Fluttershy, panting with exhaustion. “Oh . . . hi, there . . . Fluttershy . . . .” Twilight greeted her through labored breaths. “Didn’t think . . . we’d see you today . . . .”

A second later, the pink blur that had disoriented Fluttershy moments ago returned. “Oopsie!” Pinkie Pie squeaked. “Sorry 'bout that, Fluttershy!”

“Oh, it’s all right, Pinkie,” Fluttershy assured. “Um, I’m awfully sorry if I interrupted anything. Were you trying to get somewhere?”

“Awww, it’s no big deal!” Pinkie Pie replied with a grin. “You see, Twilight and Spike were having lunch at that cafe we were just at, and then I came by, and I said ‘HIIIIIIIIII, TWILIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGHT!!’ Hey, that was copied and pasted, too! That’s just lazy! Well, anyway, I said Twilight and Spike were just the pony and dragon I wanted to see, and Twilight asked why, and I said that I heard Rainbow Dash say—”

“PINKIE PIE!” Twilight screeched over her. “Not now!!”

Pinkie Pie stopped and looked at Twilight strangely. “Nuh-uh!” she replied. “That’s not what I heard Dashie say—” She froze for a second and glanced down at her knees; they were knocking together as she stood. The shaking slipped all the way up her front legs and into her shoulders, neck, and head, and as she looked up, it stopped at her ears, making them flap around in circles. With another look behind her, she saw the shaking in her back legs shimmy up to her flanks and her bottom, until it stopped at her tail, which twisted around into a tight curl by itself, bounced back to normal, and repeated in the other direction.

“Ooooh! Pinkie-Senses tingling!” she concluded. “But this is kinda new! I've never felt this combo before! It must have to do with Dashie!” She then promptly facehoofed. “D'oh! That's right! We need to get to Everfree!”

Fluttershy easily remembered Pinkie Pie's uncanny precognitive abilities; they still baffled her and most everypony who knew about them, but she knew better than to question them. They were almost always right. “Umm, what’s going on with Rainbow Dash?” she asked, making it as plain as she could that she was not yet up to speed.

“Oh my gosh, that’s right!” Twilight gasped. “We have to move fast! Fluttershy, you have to come with us! Rainbow Dash went to confront Nocturne! And Pinkie's sense has always been right, so this has to mean she’s in trouble!” Twilight obviously still remembered her own (painful) experiences with Pinkie’s prognostication skills.

“Trouble?” Fluttershy replied, confused. “With Nocturne? Oh, no, Twilight, don't say that. I know Nocturne is scary, but he’s harmless. He wouldn't hurt a fly. I'm sure of it.”

“That’s not the point, Fluttershy!” Twilight snapped. “You heard Pinkie! Rainbow Dash is in peril! And if she went after that Phantom, who knows how he’ll retaliate! We have to help her!”

“Twilight, I really do think you're wrong,” Fluttershy argued (to the best of her ability). “I mean, she could be running away from some monster in the woods. Nocturne may not even be a part of it at all. You know that Pinkie’s Pinkie-sense doesn’t give specifics.”

“I'm not taking that chance! We don't have time for this 'he's just misunderstood' song and dance! We’re saving Dash from the Phantom Pony, and that’s final!”

“But Twilight, I’ve told you. He’s not a bad pony. And his name is Noctur—”

“DAAAH!” Twilight finally bellowed. “That’s it! Pinkie, grab her!”

“Okey-dokey, Lokey!” Pinkie answered dutifully, and she seized Fluttershy, stowing her under her right front leg as if she were a package, and running with the other three legs as the two ponies continued toward the woods, leaving Spike in the dust.

Spike ran after them, heaving in breath after tired breath. “Hey . . . .” he wheezed, “you guys . . . wait for me!”


“Come on . . . hold still and fight fair, you creep . . . .”

Rainbow Dash had tough words, but they hardly sounded tough. She sounded weak and hoarse, and she actively held back groans of pain, half-succeeding and half-failing. But still, she stood her ground—on her hind legs, no less—waiting for the Phantom to reappear and strike.

“What’s . . . the matter? You . . . gettin’ tired? Don’t tell me you’re . . . wimping out on m—AARRGH!!”

From out of the shadows, the Phantom Pony leaped, striking the backs of her legs and sending her tumbling to the ground. He was as quick as a flash of light, and seemed as intangible as a wisp of smoke. This had been his strategy from the beginning, and it was working. Rainbow Dash wasn’t nearly as good a fighter as she usually was, against an opponent she couldn’t see.

“Ch- . . . cheap . . . shot . . . .” Dash spat defiantly, her aches increasing with the strain on her voice. “You . . . you ain’t bad . . . you ain’t . . . noth—” Her last word escaped her as the Phantom struck again, tackling her and slamming her back against a tree. She felt the rough bark press into her fur from behind, and the force of the blow combined with the mind-numbing pain of being crushed against the tree inhibited her movements. She could barely move her wings fast enough to take flight. She couldn’t even move her limbs hard enough to strike back (not that she could reach—his legs were long and helped him keep his distance). She felt the air in her lungs squeeze out, her chest felt as though it were on fire, and she coughed and sputtered in desperation.

The Phantom’s eyes bore into hers, glowing with the red-hot intensity of a bonfire. It even felt as though it were giving off heat. Dash may have struggled outwardly out of retaliation, but her struggle came from something much worse. She knew she might not get out of the Everfree Forest alive.

The Phantom Pony spoke in a vicious growl that sounded almost like the bonfire that his eyes imitated:

“Who’s the freak now?”


Fluttershy sighed wearily as Pinkie continued carrying her around like a small hay bale, with Twilight and Spike close by. It was only when the group finally arrived at the border to the Everfree Forest that Pinkie set Fluttershy down gently in the grass.

“Okay, everypony,” Twilight said as she scanned the area, “hopefully were not too late. We need to see for sure whether Rainbow Dash got here before us and—”

“Uhh, Twilight?” Spike interrupted. When Twilight turned toward him, he pointed a claw at the border to the woods; a large break in the foliage stood out close by, as if it were a mouth with which the forest screamed that Rainbow Dash was responsible.

“Oooookay . . . .” Twilight replied, sounding sheepish, before she spoke to the whole group as if rallying the troops. “Okay, let's go. Everypony stay together. The Phantom Pony can't defend against all of us.”

“Wait,” Fluttershy spoke up, stopping them, “I'll go. I know Nocturne wouldn't hurt anypony, but if we all go, he'll think we're ganging up on him. And I don't want him to think we're bullies.”

Twilight sighed at Fluttershy's insistent gentility. “But Rainbow Dash is in there, most likely yelling her head off and making a scene! How will the Phantom not want to—?”

“Please, Twilight, call him Nocturne.”

“Ugh, fine!” Twilight grumbled before resuming. “How will ‘Nocturne’ not want to react to that? How could he not defend himself? Do you honestly think he won’t get hostile, especially after what happened with you?”

“Twilight, please,” Fluttershy insisted, “let me go in. I know I can get Nocturne to listen to me. And I can bring Rainbow Dash back safe and sound. I know I can.”

Twilight appeared to consider the options. Fluttershy's track record with Nocturne wasn’t exactly stellar, and they both knew it: hence her reluctance. But even Twilight had to admit that Fluttershy raised an excellent point; if all of them went inside, Nocturne would become even more defensive, and that would almost certainly make things worse. Furthermore, Fluttershy knew that Twilight remembered all the points in her favor; this was the same Pegasus who could stare down a cockatrice, wrestle a bear, and tame the creature she feared the most—a full-grown dragon.

Admittedly, she could be a real beast herself when she wanted to be.

“All right, go ahead,” Twilight sighed, relenting. “Just yell if you need us, and we'll come for you, okay?”

“Be careful, Fluttershy,” Spike insisted. “I don't wanna see you get hurt in there.”

“Good luck, soldier!” Pinkie Pie cried out, saluting. “Today, we celebrate our Independence Day!!”

Fluttershy nodded, gave each of her friends a hug one by one, and stepped through the hole in the green and into the shadows. Everfree was just as dark and scary as ever, but this time, she wasn't afraid. She couldn't possibly be afraid. If Pinkie Pie’s senses were correct, Rainbow Dash was in danger, and Fluttershy could never show fear while her friend could be in trouble. Whether it was really Nocturne or not, however, was still unclear, but she didn't think it was likely. She was absolutely certain that Nocturne was harmless.

“RAINBOW DASH!!”

She saw her, and that familiar horror began to shoot through her body. Rainbow Dash was being pinned high up against a tree, flailing and coughing and struggling to fight back. Her body was covered in bruises, her left eye was blackened, her lip was bleeding, and one of her wings appeared to move stiffly, as if it were sprained or broken. Standing on his hind legs and pressing Dash against the tree by her chest with one forehoof, was Nocturne, teeth bared and scarlet eyes aglow.

Try as she might, Dash couldn't reach Nocturne with her shorter limbs. Even flapping her wings proved hopeless; the tree trunk behind her crushed her wings against her back, making them hardly usable even without the sprain. “Wh-what are . . . what are you doing here . . . Fluttershy?” Dash strained, her voice sounding agonized in spite of her tough talk. “I-I got . . . got him on the ropes . . . .”

Nocturne, put her down!” Fluttershy bellowed, seizing all the courage in the world. “I mean it! You put my friend down right this minute!!

Nocturne glanced at Fluttershy, and his fiery eyes narrowed when they found her. The tension stretched to unbearable levels, and Fluttershy felt the need to scream at him again. But soon, Nocturne looked back at Rainbow Dash, moved his face closer to hers, and growled, “Remember this.” And with a swift sweep of his pinning hoof, the stallion tossed her aside, flinging her to the ground a foot or two away from Fluttershy.

Despite the rough landing, Dash made to stand up immediately. “You . . . you done already?” she wheezed, forcing herself up onto her shaky legs. “I was . . . just getting warmed up . . . ow . . . .”

Fluttershy was struck dumb. After being so sure that Nocturne was incapable of harming other ponies, this sight crushed her—she could feel the pain pierce her deeper than the horror. “Nocturne . . . .” she whispered, incapable of anything else for a few seconds. Then the sight of her battered friend made her seized fury return with a vengeance. “Nocturne, how could you?!” she screamed at him.

Shut up!!” the Phantom screeched back, easily matching her ferocity with his own. At this, Fluttershy squeaked nervously and did as told. “You were both warned!” he continued. “She got what she deserved!” He stepped backwards and into the deeper woods as he continued growling his warnings. “I see you again, I won’t hold back. For both of you . . . .” He slowly closed his eyes as he moved backwards, and it was as if those flaring red lights were the only thing remaining of him in the darkness. When they vanished, so had he.

Fluttershy fought hard to shake off her overwhelming relief, then turned to her friend. “Oh, Rainbow Dash!” she cried, rushing to her side. “Are you okay? I'm sorry this happened! I’m so sorry! Please forgive me!”

Dash still wavered a bit, and she stumbled every few seconds on her injured legs. She continued to stare angrily into the darkness where Nocturne once was, muttering angrily to herself, “Yeah . . . you . . . you better run . . . .”


After some effort, strain, and a lot of limping, Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash emerged from the woods, the latter leaning on the former. On the way out, Fluttershy tried as hard as she could to sort out her conflicted mind, but it was no use. Nocturne scared her into tears and sent her running, but saved the life of a squirrel the same day. He took the gift basket she made for him yesterday, but brutalized her friend today. Just who was this Phantom Pony, and why did he do these things? Just why was he the way he was?

And why did Rainbow Dash try to confront him?

“Fluttershy! Rainbow Dash!” Twilight called to them as they came through the woods. “Thank goodness you made it out! Oh, my gosh, Dash, what happened to you? What did he do to you?! Do you need help?”

“No, I'm fine,” Dash replied, shaking her head. “That Phantom’s tough, but not tough enough to put down old Rainbow Dash!” She gave a hearty laugh, but it ended in a cough and a moan of pain.

Fluttershy was about to correct Rainbow Dash, but at this point, she couldn’t muster the effort. Name or no name, even she couldn’t describe what she just saw in those woods.

“Rainbow Dash, that was really irresponsible!” Twilight admonished. “You should have at least told us you were coming here beforehand! You should have just stayed away from the Phantom altogether! What was even the point of provoking him?!”

“I couldn't . . . unh . . . I couldn’t let him get away with . . . ergh . . . with what he did to Fluttershy,” Dash replied earnestly, now outwardly fighting the pain that riddled her body. “She didn't have to take that bull from him. It's all . . . ugh . . . his fault.” She slowly lowered her head, and guilt crept into her voice as she added, “And mine . . . .”

Fluttershy heard the sincerity of Dash's words, and couldn’t help but share the guilt. After all the kindness she'd shown Nocturne, even after seeing a different side of him for only a moment, she was convinced that he was a decent pony. But after all of that, she was wrong.

The Phantom Pony of Everfree was every bit the monster they said he was.

“Oh, Rainbow Dash,” Fluttershy murmured, feeling the tears starting to well in her eyes, “I really thought he was a good pony. I . . . I really believed he was harmless . . . I’m . . . I'm so sorry . . . .”

“Nah, don't apologize,” Dash replied, shaking her head again. “This was my own fault. I went in blind, and he had the home field advantage, but . . . ow . . . but I won’t let him get me next time!” She sighed, then moaned in pain again. “I guess I just had something to prove . . . .”

“What could you possibly have to prove, Rainbow Dash?” Twilight asked in a judgmental tone. “This isn’t about you getting back at Nocturne for scaring you, is it?”

“Well, yeah, that’s a part of it, okay?” Rainbow Dash sounded conflicted, her typical “show no emotions” attitude battling hard against the trauma she’d just been dug out of. “But it’s not the whole thing,” she continued. “I wanted to . . . unh . . . I wanted to prove I wasn’t scared of him, but . . . well, I also wanted to prove that I wasn’t a complete jerk, okay? I mean, you only needed to go into those woods once this week, but I . . . .” She cut herself off and looked away for a moment, her eyes on the ground. After a minute, she looked back up at Fluttershy with resolve in her eyes. “I'll never come down on you like that ever again. I promise.”

At first, Fluttershy was confused at what she meant, but in moments, she thought back to Dash’s words from four days ago. She remembered Dash being firm and unyielding on the subject of Fluttershy’s disposition, and how she needed to be more assertive to get what she wanted. Once Fluttershy remembered that it had been after this that the two had encountered the Phantom Pony of Everfree, it all made sense.

Smiling, Fluttershy reached out and hugged her friend (gently, to avoid hurting her more). “You're a great friend, Rainbow,” she soothed. “And it was so brave of you to go through all this just to defend me.”

“But Fluttershy, I failed,” Dash lamented. “I went up against the Phantom, I thought I could win, and I failed again.”

“Shh,” Fluttershy replied serenely. “That doesn’t matter. I’m just glad you’re okay. Let's get you to the hospital so you can rest, okay? A few days of care, and you’ll be fine.” No further argument was made. The two made their way back to town with Twilight, Pinkie Pie and Spike, each taking turns letting Dash lean on her as they walked.

“Fluttershy?” Twilight spoke up as they moved. “Look, uh . . . I know ‘I told you so’ isn’t what you want to hear right now, but—”

“Twilight,” Spike interrupted, “I don’t think now is the best time.” He gestured his head over to Fluttershy, and Twilight glanced at her. The Alicorn was silent for the rest of the walk.

From the moment they left the woods, Fluttershy struggled to hold back her tears. I really am wasting my time with Nocturne, aren’t I? she thought miserably. I guess it’s just impossible to show somepony kindness when they refuse to accept it. And after this, I . . . it really is true.

Nocturne . . . the Phantom Pony . . . really is a monster . . . .

Nopony saw a small tear slip down Fluttershy's cheek.


Nopony saw tears shed by another pair of eyes, either.

Deep in the Everfree Forest, veiled by shadows and far from the eyes of others, another pair of eyes poured out far more tears than Fluttershy. The sobs were pained, miserable, and unashamed, and came from those deep, crimson eyes that hadn’t cried like this in years. Those eyes, under the shadow of a white hat and buried in the soft yellow fluff of a duck plushie . . . .