Fluttershy quailed. “Wh-what are you?”
You know what I am, little pony. The voice echoed in her mind.
The sphere of shadow before her vibrated. Two violet eyes appeared, glaring at her. You know very well, I’m sure.
“I…everything’s so strange here.”
Of course it is, you little idiot. Strangeness is all this world knows.
Fluttershy looked around. The ground was flat and gray, with little substance. The sky was white. The air felt strangely empty. She saw things on the horizon, but they were too far to distinguish from here. “Wh-where am I?”
The world within.
Fluttershy blinked. “I…”
She heard a sigh. You lost the powers you once bore. You were too closely bound to them, so you followed after. This is where magic goes when it’s not remembered, little pony. Your magic is gone.
Fluttershy shuddered. “It’s…awful.”
It is your own fault. The sphere pulsed. You sent me here. Now you join me. Your powers are nothing here.
“I, um…” Fluttershy looked at the sphere. “I didn’t send…are you Nightmare Moon?”
She tried to recover her courage. She tried to speak clearly. But the question came out as a squeak.
Nightmare Moon was a name, given to what I became. I am fear, little fool. I am darkness you don’t want to illuminate.
“Um, that’s a yes.”
The eyes narrowed. Well, I was all that. Then I came here.
Fluttershy cleared her throat. She tried to remember. Remember the lessons she’d learned.
She stood up straight. “My Element.”
It has left you.
“I…” Fluttershy looked at her feet. She felt like she should cry, but the tears wouldn’t come. Perhaps a trait of this world. Perhaps she had cried enough already. “I failed them. I…I ran. I let them die. There were so many…so many monsters.”
They are not dead.
Fluttershy looked up, eyes widening.
They are here. Each of you abandoned your Elements. Truly. Legitimately. Through every fault of your own. Now, you are closer than ever. You’re one with their home. The home they claim when they have no bearer to cling to.
Fluttershy looked around. Things were beginning to rise out of the ground. The air was becoming fuller.
This is a world of truest magic. Welcome. You will never leave.
Was she truly trapped forever?
She had given up. Their friendship had weakened, and she…
She glared. “My friends are here.”
They are as lost as you. You gave up on them. When the last Element fails, all is lost. Loyalties divided. Insincerity required to maintain stability. Despair wearing at the smiles. Apathy wearing at altruism. Grudges tearing into the spark. Your cowardice meant the end of Kindness, the final blow. A surprise to all, I’m sure.
“We are not lost.”
Don’t be a fool. There is no way out.
“I’m going to find my friends.”
A jungle had grown around Fluttershy. The world had gone dark.
You will never find them.
“They must be so scared,” Fluttershy said to herself. She didn’t even fully hear the Nightmare’s warning. “They’ve been alone for so long. And now they really have nopony.”
This world is great and terrible, and some of your ‘friends’ will not want to be found.
Fluttershy stepped toward the sphere. The world had no light left, but she could still see those shining violet eyes. “You’re going to help me.”
Fluttershy reached forward, and rested a hoof on the sphere. To her surprise, it was solid. “And I’ll help you.”
You are a foal. There is no way out.
Fluttershy gave a weak smile. “The Elements, little one.”
Do NOT patronize—
“They’ll help me.”
The voice was silent a moment. The Elements are gone. You had only Kindness, and it has abandoned you.
Fluttershy looked around at the black. “I won’t give up on them. I’ll…I’ll sacrifice what I must. I’ll admit what I did. I…”
She forced a smile. “I won’t lose hope.”
She turned her wide smile on the violet eyes. “Come on, little shadow. You’re lost, like me. But I’ve got all the Elements I need.”
You still haven’t Magic! You’re no unicorn.
The eyes waited.
“Maybe Magic isn’t about spells…or weather. Or farming.” She started trotting away. “Maybe Magic means something more.”
Foal. What is Magic, then?
“Friendship?” Fluttershy didn’t pause in her stride. “That spark everypony’s, um, always mentioning?”
She heard only silence behind her.
Then, she felt movement to her side. The two eyes floated there, keeping pace. Then let us test this friendship of yours. If it means a chance at…well, let us test that spark.
I really like Fluttershy in this story from the mists beyond reality; she’s the perfect blend of timid and determned, and her arguments in the face of the Nightmare feel right. The Nightmare itself is interesting, separated as it is from conventional thoughts; it clearly relishes that its captors are now trapped with it, but at the same time sees in them the potential for escape. A dangerous combination, indeed.