Oneshot unfinished ficcy below the cut:
The Everfree Demon
Nopony liked to venture far into the Everfree Forest. The last time Fluttershy had gone this far in the vast, unnatural tangle, she had been with her five friends. On their quest for the Elements of Harmony.
Fluttershy went even deeper into the dark, foreboding labyrinth. “Clara?” she tried to shout, but it came out as a murmur. “Come back to me? It’s dangerous in here. Chick, chick, chick?”
Something off the path made the branches shake. Something too big to be a chicken. Thankfully, it was too small to be a big, mean, fire breathing full-grown Dragon. But that left too many possibilities in Fluttershy’s terrified mind.
Monsters dwelt in this forest. Wild animals ate each other. Trees grew by themselves. Anything could happen in Everfree.
And Clara was lost in here.
“…chick, chick, chick?” she squeaked, sounding more like a chick, herself, than a chicken.
A storm was brewing. Something with luminous yellow eyes was watching her from the darkness.
The chicken tracks lead to a hollow tree.
“I know you’re scared, Clara,” Fluttershy managed. “We can go back home together. I can keep you safe and then… You can keep me brave? If that’s okay?”
That was when the branch snapped. Fluttershy’s last sight before pain knocked her out was Clara’s concerned, avian face.
Cold rain. Sharp, angry pain in her left hind-leg. A weight across her body. Clara buckawing in alarm. A shadow over her with glowing yellow eyes.
A low rumble above her said, “Stille, wenig eine. Ich helfe.”
Strange shapes moved closer. Not hooves. Not paws. The same midnight blue as Nightmare Moon..
Fluttershy tried to run, and the pain exploded through her body.
“Fluttershy?” Applejack stepped cautiously into her cottage. Nobody home but the multitude of animals under the gentle Pegasus’ care. Angel the antisocial bunny was there, and clearly anxious. “Ah don’t s'pose y'all know where she’s at?”
The rabbit shook his head.
“Where in tarnation did she get to?”
Angel pointed towards the henhouse. Where one hen had gone missing. Almost on a straight line to the Everfree forest.
Applejack was just about to run off and fetch her other friends when Zecora burst from the bushes.
“Urgent news of a most terrible fright,” said the Zebra shamaness. “Fluttershy has been taken by the crawler of the night!”
“The Nightcrawler?” Twighlight scoured her books for anything resembling a clue. “I’ve never heard of them. It isn’t even in the Mega Monster Manual.”
“There is nothing like him under the sun. As far as I know, there is only one.” Zecora wove a strange tale of glimpses in the darkness, and only the vaguest hints of what he did. “He turns my heart to jelly from stone. Such a creature, I dare not face alone.”
Together, five ponies and a zebra followed the chicken and hoof prints to the broken tree. Strange, parallel gauges in the ground moved away from the wreckage, but no prints.
“I have seen him walk with unnatural grace,” said Zecora, “but when he does, he leaves no trace.”
“These here marks look like a travois,” said Applejack. “Ponies used t’ use ‘em before we invented carts. I learned how t’ make one when Ah was in Filly Scouts.”
“Then this Nightcrawler must’ve dragged both Fluttershy and Clara away. But… Why?” Twighlight decided not to mention what she knew about predators and their eating habits. Her friends were already worried enough.
The world slowly came back to Fluttershy. Something was pecking at her left forehoof. She was lying on something soft and oddly scented. And her left hind leg was aching in a threatening way.
Someone was humming.
It sounded like an ancient tune. Sad and slow, like a 'hello’ that knew that a 'goodbye’ would be too soon in coming.
That someone was stirring something in a cauldron over a fire. Something that smelled delicious.
It was too dark to see anything properly.
“That’s a very nice song,” Fluttershy ventured. “If you don’t mind me saying so.”
The stranger at the fireside froze. “You are awake,” he said. “Too soon. I’ve never treated a Pegasus before. You are very light for a pony.” Something moved under his cloak. “Better to underestimate and have you wake than over-estimate… and fail at saving a life.” He sighed, hanging a ladle up over the fireplace. “Are you in much pain?”
The something pecking at her hoof was Clara. She was in a cage.
“Um. My leg aches. It shouldn’t be too much trouble. I’ll just head home and take Clara here with me. If that’s okay.”
“Not yet, little pony. You broke that leg. Very badly. You should not go walking. It will not set.”
Fluttershy moved the blanket over her body. Her leg was bandaged from hoof to flank, and tied up to sticks that made it almost impossible to move.
“Please not to move, Fräulein,” he said urgently. “You have hurt very bad, you must not move it. I have done what I can, but… What I can do is not much.” The shadow of his form moved in odd ways as he paced. “I had hoped you would rest until dawn. At least then, I could move you, perhaps.”
“You’re accent sounds a little… unusual,” said Fluttershy, awkwardly moving the blanket back over herself. “Where are you from, mr…?”
“I am from too far away,” he said. “You have never heard of a town called Whinnyzeldorf, let alone Heirelcart.”
She tried again. “My name’s Fluttershy. Um. Thank you for helping me with Clara. And my leg.”
“Please don’t be afraid?” he asked.
“Why would I be afraid? You’ve been nice.”
“My name is Nightcrawler. And… I am a monster.”
“You haven’t been mean. I mean, apart from putting Clara in a cage… But I’m sure you had your reasons…”
“She would have run away from me. And since you went to so much trouble to find her… I thought it best she not run away. You see… I frighten ponies. And animals. Sometimes, even other monsters. If it helps… I don’t want to be frightening.”
“Let me see? Please?”
Nightcrawler stepped into the light. His hooves did not make a sound because he didn’t have hooves. They were sort of… paws. With long, jointed fingers.
His head, once free of his hood, looked very much like an ordinary pony’s. His large eyes glowed yellow, without a pupil. His ears were pointier than most. His mane, like his coat, was dark blue.
And then there was the tail. It crept out from under his coat like a snake. It was thin and covered in fur, though it had a spaded tip like a Dragon’s. It helped him hang up the cloak as if he had done so all his life.
His nervous grin revealed fangs set so oddly in a pony’s mouth.
The biggest shock was–
“You have a cutie mark?”
It was a crescent moon, and a puff of magenta smoke with a single star to one side.
“I was raised by ponies in Heirelcart. Perhaps… this happened to help me fit in.” He shrugged. “You would like some soup, ja? I make it to help you heal.”
“Soup sounds wonderful,” said Fluttershy. “And it smells wonderful, too.”
He could walk on two hind legs with an ease and grace unnatural to most living things she’d seen. Nightcrawler poured two bowls and placed them in front of her, on a little table, then fetched some spoons and a small bowl of seed for Clara.
Fluttershy tried to manipulate her spoon.
“Ah-ah-ah… Allow me.” His three-fingered paw quickly took her spoon and helped feed her whilst his tail fed him. “No strain on that poor leg, now.”
“Don’t eat it Fluttershy!”
“It could be poison!”
“Spirits of Earth, Wood and Dawn, Crawler of the Night, I command you, begone!”
Fluttershy turned. Her friends had burst in. Twighlight, Pinkie, Rarity, Applejack and Rainbow, even Zecora the Zebra were ready to fight. “No, really, you don’t need to–”
“It’s all right,” said Nightcrawler. “I’m used to this.” He backed away, on all fours this time. “Do what you feel you must, Ponies. I ask that you be careful with your friend. Her leg is wounded.”
“Ha! Yeah, and I bet you 'vounded’ it!” Pinkie challenged.
“…no he didn’t,” said Fluttershy. “He’s been nice.” But it was too late. Everypony was charging in and not listening.
Nightcrawler didn’t even try to defend himself.
When six sets of hooves start to fly, the odds of one attacker hitting another greatly increase. The whole thing devolved into a giant cloud of dust, hooves, teeth and, peculiarly, the smell of sulfur.
“Clara? If you’d be so kind?”
Clara let loose a loud enough buckaw to freeze all of her friends in place. They looked around them in shock as they discovered that they were all fighting each other.
Nightcrawler was nowhere to be seen.
“Nightcrawler didn’t hurt me,” said Fluttershy. “He’s been helping me.” she flipped aside the blanket to reveal her injured leg. “See?”
“Sugarcube… He put Clara in a cage.”
“Only so she wouldn’t run away again. Look. It isn’t even locked very well.”
Indeed, the cage was made of sticks and grass. Something a determined chicken could peck her way out of in enough time.
“But he’s evil,” insisted Rainbow Dash.
“He wasn’t evil to me,” said Fluttershy.
“It’s a pity he evaporated,” said Twighlight. “I’d’ve liked to have studied him…”
Tears stung Fluttershy’s eyes. Her lips trembled.
“There, now, darling. It’s going to be aaaalllll right,” soothed Rarity. “We’ll take you straight to the hospital and you’ll be better before you know it.”
“I’ll take Clara straight home,” offered Twighlight.
“Y'know,” said Pinkie, “for a monster, he had a great sense of interior decorating.”
Nightcrawler watched them leave. He knew he should stay away from Fluttershy. He knew it. No good would ever come of mixing with ponykind.
But he was worried about her.
She was in the care of friends. They would look after her.
But that didn’t stop him being worried.
She hadn’t been afraid of him. Nopony had been like that since… the bad Event. It made him miss good company. It made him lonely.
Nightcrawler, true to his name, followed quietly in the shadows.
He’d just make sure she was okay. Then he would go home.
That was the plan.
Fluttershy woke in a sort of haze. She was facing a sign that said, _Stay still_. The curtains and the clean smell said 'hospital’ louder than the symbols on the furniture.
There were a pair of golden lights in the darkness.
“…not so loud, Fräulein. Someone might hear…”
“Please come closer? I can’t see you.”
He slid out of the shadows like magic incarnate. A part of the night come to visit her. He was darker, in the shadows. Almost invisible.
“I know you misslike the dark, Fluttershy. I thought I could keep you company.”
“That’s so kind of you. The night isn’t nearly so scary when you’re around.”
“Sehr gut. I like the night. It’s beautiful.”
“For anyone who knows how to look, ja.” He pointed out the constellations she could see through the window, weaving tales of the legends he knew. He made her laugh and purred her to sleep. Almost singing her pains away.
“All I know is it happened in the night,” said Nurse Trueheart. “I thought her recovery would take a long time, owing to her depression, but now…”
Twilight looked. Fluttershy was sleeping soundly. Her colour was no longer drained and, on closer, magical inspection, her spirits were higher. “I don’t understand it, either. Maybe that monster in the forest did something to her and it… well… wore off.”
“Maybe,” said Nurse Trueheart. “Her recovery is still going to take some time. Even with magic, broken bones need to be rested so they heal properly.” she consulted Fluttershy’s chart and made a note. “I’d like to monitor her for a few more days before you take her home. And *please* try to keep her animal friends out of here?”
“But… we didn’t bring any of Fluttershy’s animal friends…”
“Well, *something* left blue fur over the bedsheets…”
Twilight examined the fluff ball of evidence. “That didn’t come off anypony or anyone I know…”
“Well. We’ll see tonight. Constant supervision will be necessary.”
Fluttershy watched her window when she wasn’t watching the nurse. Were those stars, fireflies, or two glowing eyes in the shapeless dark?
It took forever for the nurse to doze.
The instant she did, a shadow took shape. “Not much time, liebchen,” Nightcrawler whispered. “Are you sure you want me to come again?”
“I am sure,” Fluttershy breathed. “I mean… If it’s not too dangerous.”
“Schatz… I *am* dangerous. But I am glad to hear you will be better, soon.”
“I nap on the roof. Nopony ever looks up.”
“You have to be careful,” said Fluttershy. “The nurses found some of your fur. Well. A lot of your fur.”
“Ach. Verdammt shedding season…. I must to shake myself off before I come in, ja?”
“Ja. I mean. Yes.”