A brown stallion with a tan mane and tail ran through a forest, his hoofs making thumping sounds against the wet, sodden ground. The creatures of the forest around him, although usually quiet and docile, seemed to guffaw and howl at him as he fled. Behind him, a crowd had formed, carrying pitchforks and torches. He sighed, wondering if they could have been more original. His attention returned to running, as one of them spotted him. "There! Get him! Kill the monster!"
He sighed. He'd lived amongst these ponies for many years now, and even though he knew quite a few of them well... they could never seem to accept him for who he was, rather than what he was. He had gotten out of their line of sight, and ducked into a thick bush, waiting with bated breath as his pursuers passed by his hiding place, shouting directions. "Don't let him escape! We'll search the entire forest if we have to!"
He waited until he no longer heard his pursuers. Since his hearing was naturally better than theirs, he knew he was well out of earshot. He charged in a different direction than he had been going, heading toward the one place he knew he would be safe. A place his ancestors had tread, a place that was a safe haven for all who passed through there. His breath came in ragged gasps as he reached the end of the forest and saw his next challenge - a mountain pass. He lept from stone to stone, pushing himself to get as far ahead of his pursuers as possible before they figured out where he'd gone. He trekked up a winding trail, through a tunnel, and to the pair of tall, white gates protecting the capital city of his homeland, Canterlot, the work of many years of peace and the careful rule of the Alicorn Sisters, Celestia and Luna. He trotted toward the palace. If there was anywhere his people knew was safe, it was in the heavily defended walls of the palace, where the Alicorns would watch over them, as had been promised long ago. Or at least, that was what had been told him by his parents. As he reached the gates of the palace, he allowed himself a short break to regain his breath. He had pushed himself to get here without being followed, and he figured he could get away with resting. As he turned to enter the gates, a guard called to him. "Halt, what business do you have with the Princess?"
"I wish a private audience with my beloved ruler." He replied, calmly. At least the ponies here in Canterlot didn't want him dead, so he could live in some semblance of normalcy.
The guard eyed him suspiciously, although ponies requesting audiences were standard. There was something about this one that made him nervous. A nagging, subconcious feeling that this pony was dangerous. The guard, to the great relief of the stallion, ignored his gut and ushered him into the palace, to the waiting room for ponies who wish to have audiences with the Princess, as they awaited the period of time she had available when she was not holding court. He was relieved to find that it was relatively empty, save for a couple concerned-looking ponies.
As time passed, he watched as ponies left and entered the waiting room, some going to their audience and coming out pleased, some giving up and leaving, some only just arriving. He couldn't help but shake a feeling of dread that plagued the back of his mind. As he was certain that the princess wouldn't get to see him before her duty of lowering the sun, he heard hoofsteps coming towards him. The princess, the fair and just Celestia, was walking out to get the pony next in line for an audience. With a start, he realized he was next.
"I'm glad we could get that sorted out." The princess said, smiling kindly at an old farm mare.
"Ah'm glad as well." The old mare managed to say, "That puts me right at ease, yer majesty."
Seeing off the farmmare, Celestia looked up, locking eyes with the stallion, who was completely caught off guard. He quickly bowed, breaking eye contact. "You're next, right?"
"Yes, your majesty, thank you for getting to me so quickly..." The stallion muttered, standing up. He followed her into her private audience chambers, his mind swirling all at once. The promise his ancestors had recieved all those years ago came with the price of their loyalty to the throne and their discression, but had promised their safety in all cases except where they were hazards or directly responsible for the hazard to themselves. Now, he'd never harmed anypony, and it certainly wasn't his fault he was discovered as what he was... but he still wasn't sure how she'd take his plea to fulfill her promise to his ancestors for his case.
"Is everything alright?" Celestia asked, wondering what was on his mind that would leave him so wrapped up. "I hope I can help you."
"Let me say, Princess, I have nothing but the highest of hopes." The stallion said, "I am currently in quite a bit of trouble, and I was hoping you could help me get out of it."
Celestia seemed interested. That was good news. "What kind of trouble?"
The stallion decided not to get into the cold hard truth right away. "Let's say, figuratively, that you promised a pony's ancestors that you would watch over their bloodline, and that you would protect them from any harm that was unneccessarily cast upon them." He hoped he hadn't been too obvious.
Celestia frowned, thinking, before answering. "Please, continue."
"And let's say that, for example, I was one of that bloodline." The stallion said, "Would you be bound by your promise, even after several ages had passed between your word and current events?"
Celestia's eyes seemed to darken, but she urged him to continue, assuring him that she would, in fact, keep her word as long as the figurative bloodline continued to exist.
"And now let's say, that none of this is figurative." The stallion concluded, "And that, due to my being a part of this bloodline, I am in mortal danger." He flinched, expecting the princess' wrath. "Would you be so kind as to uphold the word you gave my ancestors, who seemingly didn't exist?"
Celestia's face betrayed nothing of the emotion she felt, although the stallion thought he could see compassion in her eyes. "Your ancestors, although some were as bad as their reputation, were misjudged and labeled as monsters for being different." Her voice, almost motherly in tone, calmed him. "But I saw through the labels, and I saw ponies who were looking for a place to call home. I decided I would give the rejects a home, under a set of very strict conditions." She paused, "The first being the confidentiality of the agreement between themselves and me. I see you have kept that part of the bargain." She paused, "The second was, they were not to harm any other ponies, and from what you say, it seems you have kept that part of the agreement." She nodded, seeming to get happier with each section he passed. "The third, they were not to use their unique magic to influence ponies, except where such influence would be beneficial to the recipient in the long run." She sucked in a breath, "There is no proof you have disobeyed this section of the agreement, nor any proof that you have fulfilled it." She shrugged, "All will be clear with time."
The stallion looked up at his princess, shocked. She was going through the sections of the agreement he had heard from his parents, and seemed to be on the verge of helping him.
"The fourth section, that your ancestors would uphold the law of the day to their absolute limits," She said, "I have not heard of any outstanding warrants for your arrest, and there is not to my knowledge even a record to your name." She sighed, "I suppose that brings us to the fifth section of the agreement, which is my word to your ancestors. I told them that, should they or their descendants come to any potential harm through no direct responsibility of their own, they would be relocated and given a new life to live, where nopony could harm them."
The stallion stood taller, excited that she would help him, but nervous that he'd be starting all over. His breath caught in his throat, though, as the princess said something else.
"However, I must be certain you are who you say you are. What proof do you have?"
The stallion sighed. He lifted his top lip, revealing... two sharp, pointed teeth, perfect for tearing at flesh. He admitted it, his race hadn't techhnically existed for thousands of years and had slipped into mythology. It wasn't bad, he thought. After all, they could live normal lives without worrying about being discovered as anything but a pony. Vampires were real, but nobody would believe a crazed pony rambling about them, even if they did happen to see something. However, a well-known, collected, and influential pony... the stallion sighed. His luck did seem to run out at the worst times, and his short stay in Manehattan seemed to give him the worst of it.
"I see." Celestia said, after inspecting his fangs. "I will make arrangements, please, rest here at the palace until we're ready."
The stallion looked up at her, his eyes shining with excitement. For the first time in months he was actually looking forward to what his life would be like. He followed the guards she called in, who led him through the labyrinthine hallways to the door of a new room. He pushed the door open, gently, before shutting it with care and stalking over to the bed. It was rather mildly decorated, but respectable. The bedsheets were a fresh white, like a layer of snow had amassed over the matress. Two fluffy pillows resembled clouds on the head of the bed. The stallion climbed onto the bed, before sliding into the sheets and dozing off.
The stallion felt himself moving. He glanced around at his environment. A wooden box, with a satin bench he had been laying on. He figured this must be a carriage. But why was he here? His answers were to be found moments later, when the carriage stopped and none other than Princess Celestia dragged him out. He looked with horror at the crowd that had gathered... ponies he recognized. He was back in Manehattan, and he could almost feel the hatred of these ponies washing over him. He glanced up at the princess, but her distant gaze betrayed nothing.
"Ponies of Manehattan!" The princess called, finally, "This fugitive was caught sneaking around the grounds of the castle!"
The stallion gasped. Fugitive?
"The news of your plight reached me, and the description of the stallion that troubled you matches!" The princess continued. He felt her magic tighten around him as she pulled him around in front of her, a few paces off. "For crimes against nature, I have henceforth decided..."
The stallion felt struck. She had pretended to be helping him, all along. She betrayed him, and his ancestors.
"That he shall be executed." The princess' level voice seemed full of malice and hatred, as she lowered her horn, a golden light shining from it as she pointed the business end directly at him. A beam of golden light erupted from her.
The stallion could only feel a short pulse of fear, which quickly turned to intense agony as the beam cut through him, sending a wave of confusion, pain and fear through his entire being. After what felt like minutes, everything around him began going dark, and he finally allowed himself to be lost in the nothingness.
A groan eminated from a large, white bed centered in a grandly decorated room. In it, a brown stallion with a tan mane lay under the pure sheets, slowly regaining conciousness. "Where am I?" He asked, looking around. Noticing the regal appearance of the room, he shook his head. "I'm back at the castle. Was all that... just a dream?" He flipped the bedsheets back, suppressing a gasp. A patch of his coat was blackened, a sickening reminder of what had happened. "Guess it can't be that easy," he muttered, "Guess I should go see what in tartarus is going on here."
The stallion rose from his bed, moving slowly toward the door, which opened on it's own as it was enveloped by a golden light. The stallion stopped, surprised and somewhat fearful, as the princess let herself into the room he'd woken in. Seeing his reaction to her entry, she waited for him to start the conversation.
"What was that?" The stallion asked her, his eyes shifting from side to side, taking in every detail.
"What was what?" The princess asked him, cocking her head slightly.
"You... you executed me." The stallion said, "But i'm here... how is this possible?"
"Ah, that," Celestia said, "I can see how it might be a bit confusing. Think about it this way. I could have given you a new identity and sent you on your way, but the folks of Manehattan would have kept searching. They may have discovered your life wherever I move you."
"... So you gave me a mock execution to get them to stop searching," the stallion didn't necessarily agree with the method, but he had to admit it worked. "Just one thing, though. You don't know where you'll be moving me yet?"
Celestia nodded politely, "I have some idea, but i have yet to decide entirely."
"Well, then, what about my new identity? It might be good to get used to my new name before I move." The stallion looked at the princess expectantly.
"Actually, that's what I was here for." She handed him a small stack of papers, which on inspection included a passport, identification, and a single sheet of information about his new alias.
"Wow, these are actually quite detailed..." the stallion looked them over, before glancing back up to the Princess. "Thank you for helping me. Even though it didn't seem like you were at the time."
"Of course," the princess responded, "I couldn't be a reliable ruler if I wasn't a reliable pony. I'll always keep my word."
The stallion nodded, “If you'll excuse me, your highness, I believe I need to get used to my new identity.”
“Of course, take all the time you need.” Celestia answered, “I have a carriage waiting for you to take you to Ponyville. We'll see how you settle in there, before I decide whether to keep you there or move you elsewhere.”
The stallion nodded, before turning his attention to the papers. His new name was Zephyr. He was born to an artist by the name of Color Splash, who wasn't exactly famous in circles of high social standing. He never knew his father, as his mother and him had been abandoned when he was conceived, although his mother had told him some basic stories about him.
Color Splash had been told by his father that he was an off-duty Royal Guard, but after his disappearance she had asked around and found that no records of him existed. Zephyr had attended basic art classes in the past, but at the persistence of his teachers had ceased lessons, as he wasn't “suited for the arts”. He chuckled at this; He really wasn't too good at painting, and he could almost remember a time when somepony had said something like this to him...
His alias had taken up a life of wandering after exiting art school, and had done several odd jobs to keep himself afloat. Art instructor was listed, earning another small chuckle.
Something was bothering him. This information in the papers... names and places had changed around, and some details... but most of it was true. This brought up more questions; How did she know his past? Do they keep detailed reports on every vampire in Equestria? How would such an operation work?
Zephyr changed papers, looking through his passport instead of his new history. The first stamp he noticed was from Manehattan, causing him to reminisce on old times. His old friends and colleagues, whom he could never see again. Shaking himself free of these thoughts, he looked at the rest of the stamps. Apparently, he'd never been further east of Manehattan, but he'd visited almost every city between there and Appleoosa in the west.
Convinced he could put on a decent masquerade, he stored the papers in his saddlebag and cantered into a nearby washroom. Running a brush through his blackened coat, he was glad to see the soot would just wipe off. The last thing he needed was to stand out more than necessary. He returned to the room the princess was kind enough to let him use, and hoisted his saddlebag onto his back with his teeth. Then he trotted out of the castle, towards the waiting chariot, which would convey him to a new home.
Entering the gardens, he looked around at the beautiful flowers and statues before deciding to be on his way. He couldn't name all of them, but there were a few he recognized. Tulips, Roses, Daffodils, and Sunflowers lined the flowerbeds, but the only statue he could recognize was one whose name was passed down through generations of vampires: Discord. His ancestors had clashed with this ancient being of chaos before, and it had been quite the tale. He trotted out of the garden and to the waiting chariot.
“Zephyr?” A guard by the chariot called, obviously making sure he was the pony they were waiting for.
He nodded. Zephyr realized it would take awhile to get fully used to his new name, but at least it sounded cool; It almost sounded vampiric in origin.
The guard, a unicorn, opened the door of the carriage using his magic, allowing the brown and tan earth pony to leap in. He sat across from another guard, in armor which was a dark blue, but it was different from the dusky blue of the night guard's armor.
“Hello sunshine.” The strange guard spoke, “Before we go any further, I want to make it clear that you didn't see me. I don't technically exist. If you come looking for me, you won't find me.”
Zephyr nodded warily, “So, to what do I owe the pleasure?”
“Well, I'd say it's because of your colorful background. But, then again, it's mostly crimson, isn't it?” The stallion guard joked dryly, “A little vampire humor, please excuse me.”
Zephyr tensed. Whoever this guard was, he knew more about Zephyr than he'd have liked. But if he's here, he must be on the Princess' payroll. The fact that they had clandestine guards answered a couple of his questions about being watched.
“Relax. I'm not here to harm you.” The guard said, “I'm here to get you settled in your new home.” He shrugged, “At least, those are my orders.”
Zephyr sighed, “Well, for my sake, I hope it works out. I don't think I like this secrecy.”
“Don't worry, kid.” The guard spoke, “Let's just focus on what we need to do.”
“Kid?” Zephyr spoke, losing some patience. His ears twitched irritably.
“I realize you're probably a lot older than you look.” The guard answered, “But, to me, you look like a kid, so I'm going to call you kid. Not a lot you can do about it.” He grinned, “At least, not without causing some... incidents. And nopony wants that.”
Zephyr sighed. He knew all too well what this stallion was saying was true – he couldn't really do anything; He wasn't going to fight this guard, that's for sure. Just imagining what the princess would do to him if he did made him shiver. He'd just have to deal with it.
“Now, we can't exactly drive you directly into the center of town. It'd just draw attention. Nah, we're going to drop you about ten miles or so from town. You'll walk the rest of the way, ensuring your identity is kept secret and that any connections to higher society are kept well under wraps. You understand that if you're identified, the princess can't have any provable connections with you, right?”
Zephyr nodded, looking glum.
“Good. Well, we're almost there. Get ready.” The guard stated, as the carriage rolled to a slow stop. “Alright, you should get into town by dusk, if you trot.”
Zephyr leaped out of the carriage, and began trotting down the road toward town. He stopped and looked over his shoulder, watching the carriage turn and head east. After it faded from sight, he galloped in the direction of town, in an attempt to make up lost time.
He made it to town as the sun was setting, bathing everything in a crimson light. He slowed his pace into a comfortable canter as he trekked down the street. The buildings had some interesting designs to them; There was a carousel, a gingerbread house... and a tree that made up the library. Suddenly, he heard a long, drawn out gasp from his left. Instinctively turning in that direction, a pink pony floated in the air, looking down at him with her dainty, rounded muzzle wide open.
Zephyr watched in awe as this mare remained floating in the air before him. After she finished with her gigantic gasp, she landed perfectly on all four hooves.
“Hi, I'm Pinkie Pie! You're new to town, right? I know everypony in town and I don't know you so you must be new to town and thinking about how you're new to town made me think that maybe you didn't know anypony, and that made me sad, so I’m throwing you a welcome to Ponyville party!” She finally breathed in, before gasping again. “Oh my gosh, I almost forgot the welcome wagon! I'll be right back!” She zoomed off in a seemingly random direction.
Zephyr sighed, the last thing he wanted was attention. He figured he could slip in under the radar and not have to deal with introducing himself to more than a hooffull of ponies. That way his identity would remain somewhat secret...
The crazy mare returned, this time hauling some ridiculous looking wagon behind her. She started to dance and sing.
“Welcome welcome welcome
A fine welcome to you
Welcome welcome welcome
I say how do you do?
Welcome welcome welcome
I say hip hip hurray
Welcome welcome welcome
to Ponyville today!”
Zephyr watched in amusement as she finished her routine. A small ding from the wagon preceded a miniature oven popping open, revealing a well made cake. A loud pop sent confetti flying everywhere.
“Well, what do you know? I actually got it right this time!” The mare said, before giggling.
Zephyr started walking away, thinking she was done.
“Wait, aren't you going to come to the party?” She asked him, looking at him with big puppy dog eyes.
“Sure, why not.” He responded. He actually was thinking about not going, but he couldn't tell her that. Not with those eyes.
“YAY! This is gonna be the best Welcome party EVER!” She squealed, dashing off again.
“Crazy mare.” Zephyr muttered to himself, before wandering off down the street. Ahead of him, he saw a lavender unicorn walking towards him. Further down the street, a magenta earth pony trotted along, minding her own business. He kept walking, hoping against hope he wouldn't be stopped.
“Hey there.” The lavender unicorn said, attempting to catch his attention.
“Oh, hi.” Zephyr responded.
“I'm Twilight Sparkle. I saw Pinkie give you the welcome treatment. I take it you're new to town?” Twilight asked him, and he couldn't help but chuckle when he heard her last name.
“Yeah. I'm Zephyr.”
“That's an unusual name...” Twilight mused, obliviously ignoring his chuckle. She must have thought he was thinking about that Pinkie.
“I like it though.” He said simply, looking at her like she'd hurt him. He inwardly smiled at the mental acrobatics she went through to backpedal.
“No, I mean... er... it's a great name, really, it's just... not a common name...” Twilight said, looking flustered.
“I understand what you mean, it really isn't something you hear everyday...” Zephyr responded, nodding.
Twilight let out a sigh of relief. “So I'm betting Pinkie's going to throw a party. You're going, right?”
“Actually... probably not.” Zephyr confided, “I'm not really into the social scene...”
She gasped, speaking somewhat loudly, “What do you mean you're not going to the party!?” She quickly covered her mouth with her hoof, looking around to see if Pinkie had heard her. Convinced she'd gone unheard, she removed her hoof from her mouth. “But Pinkie's going through all of this trouble to throw you a nice party, and you're not even going to show up?”
“Uh...” He hadn't really thought about it until now, but that did seem like a kind of crummy thing to do. But he couldn't really show himself in that kind of public setting, right? I mean, how far from covert could you get?
Twilight sighed, “I can't make you go, but I hope you decide to. It'd make Pinkie really happy.” Her piece said, she trotted off, leaving him feeling like quite the schmuck.
He trotted across the street, noticing the magenta earth pony had stopped and was watching them speak. He gave her a soft nod, before noticing her eyes widen and her diving to the ground. In slight panic, he thought about his actions just before... when he was hit by the force of a freight train. He heard his spine pop in the collision, and he wound up muzzle-to-muzzle with another mare, this one a light blue pegasus with a rainbow-colored mane.
“Did I hear you're skipping a Pinkie Party?” She asked.
“You gotta go! Please!?” She looked upset, “You don't know what Pinkie gets like when ponies don't show up to her parties. You don't want to know!” Her eyes were wild. “You have to be there!”
“I don't have to do anything.” He argued, irritated that she'd effectively pinned him under her.
“Normally, that'd be true, but not this time. You're going to that party, whether I have to drag you by the tail or not.” She wasn't really the kindest thing, was she? Although he couldn't help but think about her trying to drag him by the tail. She'd have quite the tug-of-war going. Being of a vampiric nature like he was, he was naturally stronger than normal ponies, making anything trying to drag him have to work harder to succeed. But making her drag him would only serve to draw more attention and being able to resist her would cause ponies to ask questions. Questions he didn't want them asking.
“Alright, alright. I'll go. Geez.” He muttered, looking up at her. She seemed satisfied, as she hopped off of him. Suddenly she stopped, looking back at him guiltily. “Oh, hey, I didn't hurt you crashing into you like that, did I?”
He remembered his spine popping, “Nah, not really. Just misaligned my spine.” He answered dryly, “Just gotta pop it back in place...” Twisting around, he heard a sickening crunching sound as his spinal vertebrae rubbed together, followed by a slight pop.
The pegasus looked at him, disgusted by the sounds. “Okay, well bye!” She flew off very quickly.
He returned to walking towards the hut the Princess had acquired for him through what amounted to a long chain of friends. He briefly wondered how many of them were covert operatives, before shrugging and deciding he didn't really care right now.
A few hours later, his amazing nap was interrupted by a knock at his door. Opening it revealed the smiling face of Pinkie.
“Oh, hello! I didn't know you lived here! Anyway, the party's almost set up and it'll be at five, i'm just passing invitations around. Ooh, right, and it'll be at Sugarcube Corner, the large gingerbread house down the street!”
“That sounds... great. I'll be there.” Zephyr said, before closing the door. He sighed. His emotions conflicted within himself. First there was his survival instincts telling him that being exposed to that many ponies would be hazardous. Then there was his guilt telling him he should go, if only to make Pinkie happy.
He debated with himself until it was almost time for the party to start. He was deadlocked, but he decided that it wouldn't be right to just not show up. After all, she went through all of that just to try to make him happy. He'd only be there for a little bit, so it's not like anything would go wrong, right?
Trotting for the gingerbread house, he noticed it was full of ponies, and that music was blasting. He could hear each note clearly from here – vampiric hearing at work. Trotting in, he noticed that crazy blue pegasus looking wildly around, but she seemed to calm down when he entered.
“Hiya!” Pinkie popped up in front of him, surprising him and shaking him to his core.
“Great party, right?”
Seeming bored, she hopped off to see who else she could talk to.
Zephyr sighed, he was impressed that she'd managed to set up such a large rave in such a short amount of time. He wandered over to the confections, grabbing a couple cupcakes. Although they wouldn't nourish him, he still enjoyed their sweet taste.
“Hey, there you are.” A voice spoke from his right. He turned to see the same pink pony that had watched him on the street. He quickly took note of her rounded muzzle, as well as her sweet and gentle voice.
“I'm Cheerilee.” She said, cocking her head to one side, as if expecting something. Zephyr cringed inwardly, he should have introduced himself first.
“That's a unique name, your parents must have been artists...” Cheerilee mused.
“Yeah, my mother was.” Zephyr shrugged.
“Did you decide to follow in her hoofprints and paint?” Cheerilee asked, actually interested.
“Nah, I'm not any good.” Zephyr replied, “My instructors actually told me to quit.”
“Oh, that's horrible.” Cheerilee seemed shocked, “Let me introduce you to some other ponies.” She changed the subject pretty quickly, obviously she didn't want to talk about art anymore. Zephyr didn't mind.
“I dunno...” Zephyr said, looking apprehensive. He really didn't want to spend a lot of time meeting everypony here. While it was true that the more ponies he knew, his life here would be easier; it also meant that he'd have to be able to keep up his facade in front of everypony, which would be needlessly complicated.
“Oh, how bad could it be?” Cheerilee asked, pushing him out into the crowd.
Zephyr shivered – he knew this feeling, though. It was a slight chill of fear that sparked in his mind and resounded down his spine. It was the natural feeling a vampire gets when they were in proximity with other vampires. Somepony here was a vampire, and he had no idea who, or whether they were friendly or not. The worst news was, they knew who he was; He was an easy target for an unknown threat.
Cheerilee dragged Zephyr around, introducing him to various members of the community. Their names and faces flew by as the duo hopped from group to group. A couple ponies seemed rather interesting. It was a shame he'd only be able to interact with them sparingly.
He was beginning to get a little tired, when they arrived by the rainbow maned pegasus who'd been so insistent on his being at this party.
“Hey, Rainbow, come meet Zephyr!” Cheerilee called, waving the pegasus down.
“I've already seen him!” The pegasus complained, “When he came into town.”
“Yeah, but you didn't introduce yourself, did you?” Cheerilee grinned, “I was watching when you crashed into him, you know.”
Rainbow looked apologetic and embarrassed. “Oh yeah, heh heh...” She turned to Zephyr, “Hi, i'm Rainbow Dash, the fastest flier in Equestria!” Her embarrassment didn't last long, Zephyr noted.
“I'm Zephyr, and I'm new to town.” He replied, in all honesty somewhat lamely. But that tended to happen when you didn't really care and you couldn't brag about your true nature.
“Nice to meet ya!” Dash said, before taking flight to catch up with other partygoers.
Sighing, Zephyr turned to look at Cheerilee, noticing she was talking to a pony he hadn't seen before. The pony she was speaking to had an orange coat, and what appeared to be a cowboy hat on her head. She turned and looked at him, her eyes glinting in the artificial light of Sugarcube Corner. “Howdy, pardner! I'm mighty glad ta meetcha!” Stretching a hoof out, she waited for him to hoof-shake.
Yeah, you wouldn't be if you knew the truth. He thought darkly, before accepting her shake. Big mistake on his part – it felt like she was going to tear his arm off and beat him with it, from how vigorously she was shaking it. Worst of all, that slight thrill of fear still resonated along his spine.
“Now what's yer name?” The pony asked, her shaking done. Zephyr's hoof continued to bob on it's own for a bit before Cheerilee stepped in and held it down.
“Zephyr, and yours?”
“I'm Applejack, I run th' farm just southwest a town!” Her eyes shone as she talked about her farm. “We have the best apples in Equestria, an' we make some darn tootin' good baked treats as well! Our cider is famous, even in Canterlot!”
Genuinely interested for once, Zephyr responded. “I'll have to try some of that, then.”
“Cider Season is starting soon, so just stop on by mah farm in a week or so.” Applejack said, “I'm gonna see who else's around. I'll see ya later, Zephyr!” She proceeded to head into the crowd.
Well, that wasn't too bad. Zephyr mused, maybe I have a chance here after all.
Cheerilee dragged him over to the refreshments, where two ponies he hadn't met yet were talking. One was a gorgeous white unicorn, with a blue colored mane styled impeccably. The other was a yellow pegasus, hiding her eyes under her pink mane which barely reached her snout.
“Fluttershy, darling, you really should be a little more social.” The unicorn said, looking worriedly at the pegasus.
“Oh, but I never know what to say...” Fluttershy responded, her voice almost a whisper, “I'm always worried that they won't like me.”
“Nonsense, darling! They'll like you just fine!” Rarity said, “You're always so sweet and caring, I'm sure there isn't a pony alive who could dislike you!”
“Oh, Rarity, you're just saying that...” Fluttershy stated, seeming to shrink into the floor.
“No, of course not!” Rarity's voice became a little louder with the passion she put behind the words. “I honestly believe you are the kindest mare I've met yet!”
“But...” Fluttershy flinched, as though struck by something. “Gilda didn't like me...”
“She also wasn't a pony, darling.” Rarity cooed back, before noticing the duo standing nearby. “Oh, there's the newcomer!”
Fluttershy just shrank some more, staring at Zephyr through her mane.
“Oh, um... hi?” Zephyr said, looking first at Rarity, then at Fluttershy.
“Hello, darling! I'm Rarity, and this is Fluttershy!” The white unicorn said, “And welcome to Ponyville, our humble abode!”
Zephyr couldn't help but inwardly chuckle at her overdramatic welcome.
“It's a decent town, all right.” Zephyr said, “The townsfolk are decent enough as well.”
“Oh, the townsfolk are absolute dears!” Rarity exclaimed, “They'd give you their right horseshoes if you asked kindly enough!” She gave a dramatic spin, before settling down, “But I'm sure you realized that, when Pinkie threw you this amazing party.”
“Yes, it is amazing. And to think she got this much decoration in such a relatively short time.” Zephyr said, “I'd like to know how she managed to pull it off, myself.”
“Oh, I believe the answer is quite simple, my dear.” Rarity commented, “She's Pinkie. She does all kinds of zany things, and that's the only explanation we have.”
“Hey, are you guys talking about me!?” A pink head popped out from under one of the refreshment tables, before the mare herself emerged.
“How'd she know?” Zephyr asked, confused. Last he'd seen her, she was across the room.
“My nose itched, and my right ear twitched.” Pinkie said, as though that explained everything.
“What...?” Zephyr asked, only becoming more confused.
“She has the strangest ability to tell what's going on around her...” Rarity said, “In short, she's Pinkie.”
Zephyr pondered this. It sounded like one of the skills of a Vampire Family, but Pinkie hadn't caused a reaction earlier. He could still feel the pulsing sensation in his spine, however. How strange, he hadn't ever heard of a non-vampire acquiring a trait from a Family.
He pondered over what he knew about Families. They were descendants of important or well known Vampires in history. Each Family had their own unique trait, associated with that historical figure. His ancestor, a general in the chaotic fighting after the banishment of Nightmare Moon, had been a master of disguise. How ironic, then, that he couldn't keep hidden.
His mind was snapped back as a pony sneezed, and he observed Pinkie's right ear shake before she ducked back under the table with an “Excuse me!”
“Is everything alright, dear?” Rarity asked, concern edging her voice. Zephyr realized he must have quite the expression on his face.
“Yes, everything's fine.” He replied, looking sheepish. “I was just trying to figure out how she did that.” He pointed with a hoof toward where Pinkie had popped out.
Rarity chuckled, “You remind me of Twilight when she found out about Pinkie Sense. Although, you're not quite as obsessed.”
“Is that a good thing?” Zephyr asked, cautiously.
“Yes, yes, of course.” Rarity said, “Well, I should be getting back to my boutique, it was a pleasure to meet you, Zephyr.”
“It was a pleasure to meet you, as well.” Zephyr gave a slight bow, smiling as she giggled while she left.
Fluttershy attempted to slip by Zephyr, apparently trying to get away now that her friend wasn't between them.
“Hey, wait.” Zephyr called, stepping into her path. “We haven't talked yet, and I was looking forward to meeting everypony.” Or rather, identifying the other vampire before they can take a chunk outta me.
“Oh, um...” She muttered, looking around helplessly. “I really should go feed my animal friends... if that's alright...”
Zephyr tilted his head, looking at her closely. “I think they'll be fine for a bit. Besides, I'd really like to get to know you a bit. You look like a nice mare.”
“I... is that so?” She stammered, pawing at the ground in embarrassment.
She's actually pretty cute when she's embarrassed. Zephyr nodded, “Yeah, I think so.”
“Well, do... do you like animals?” Fluttershy asked, quietly. She looked at him through her pink bangs with sparkling blue eyes.
Actually, that's pretty cute, too. “Yeah, they're alright. Can't say I've really paid much attention to them before, though.” Zephyr responded, “I've always been pretty busy.”
“Oh, that's too bad...” She looked away.
“You really care for animals, huh?” Zephyr asked, stepping aside. “I'm sorry if I caused any trouble.”
“Oh, no, not at all.” Fluttershy said, stepping by him. “The animals might be a little cranky, but it's nothing I haven't handled before.”
“I see. Well, good luck!” Zephyr wished, watching her go.
“You really took to her, huh?” Cheerilee asked, causing Zephyr to jump. She chuckled.
“Oh, I forgot you were here.” Zephyr said, calming himself down. He glanced over at the door, but Fluttershy had already left. He thought for a second. There was something bothering him, something that wasn't quite right.
No, it wasn't even that everything wasn't quite right... everything was perfect, and that's what bothered him. He'd been too wrapped up in his conversation with Fluttershy to notice if his spine had stopped reacting after Rarity left; And now, it wasn't reacting at all.
Zephyr stepped out of Sugarcube Corner as his stomach gave a rumbling complaint. He winced, looking around to make sure nopony heard. That would be the last thing I need, he thought, let's let them see me eating cupcakes and snacks, and then hear my stomach growl. Totally normal, I'm sure.
Trotting away, he headed for his cabin. Reaching his door, he lifted his hoof and set it on the handle, which extended from the wooden obstruction and turned sharply left, turning into a lever easily manipulated with hooves and able to leverage the latch on the door. Entering his new home, he grabbed his saddlebags in his teeth; They weren't very unique, all things considered, being a plain brown in color and made of the most durable faux leather he could find. He checked them to make sure he had the key to his home, and tossed them onto his back. He then reopened the door, making sure to use his teeth to twist the locking mechanism into the locked position. Galloping toward the outskirts of town, Zephyr headed for the nearby forest. Ponies called the forest haunted or creepy, and because of this tended to stay away from it, making it a suitable location to find some fresh, warm blood.
He warily studied the street, watching for any sign of another pony wandering around. The party had stretched later into the night than he'd thought, and now most ponies would be in bed. Only the few who stuck around to help clean up would be heading home by now. He'd only stayed because he felt guilty about leaving before doing anything to help – after all, she'd gone out of her way to give him such a warm welcome. It was only polite for him to help out, even if it was just a little.
He reached the dark and foreboding forest, looking around once again to make sure that nopony was around. Satisfied that his trip wouldn't be discovered, he stepped into the dense foliage; The feel of the branches and leaves brushing and tugging through his coat and mane was unique, no brush he'd found was able to effectively emulate it.
After he'd wandered into the forest, he allowed his senses to reach into the growth, searching for something of suitable size to be made into a meal. Although Vampires only technically required small amounts of blood, drinking large amounts made it possible to go for longer periods between feedings. He wouldn't be able to sneak back into the forest every night, so he needed to find something larger than most to feed on.
He allowed his senses to expand into the forest, his ears searching for the telltale snapping of branches under a heavy step, his nose itching to smell spilled blood, his eyes filtering the light out of the darkness, granting him near-perfect night vision. It only took awhile for him to pick up potential prey; A sharp crack alerted him to a larger creature to his three-o-clock. Turning and being careful not to make a sound, he crept through the foliage until he could get a closer look.
In a clearing stood a manticore, it's catlike eyes darting around in search of it's own prey. Being downwind of the beast, Zephyr knew it was oblivious to his existence – perfect. He silently stashed his saddlebags into a nearby bush – It wouldn't do to have them tear and lose the key to his home, and have to sleep on the street tonight. Satisfied that it was safe, he stalked forward as silently as he could, inching his way toward the edge of the clearing. He knew that once he broke cover, he'd have to catch the beast by surprise if he didn't want a major fight.
He slowly, carefully reached the edge of the foliage, and darted forward without hesitation, allowing his vampiric instincts to take over. His legs beat against the ground as he raced at the manticore, which had turned in shock at the sound behind it. Unfortunately for the manticore, Zephyr took advantage of it's moment of shock to lunge, mouth open and fangs revealed, straight for it's neck. He felt his fangs pierce skin; He felt and tasted the warm, sticky fluids fill his mouth and coat his muzzle, running all the way down his left shoulder. His fangs held their death-grip on the beast, as it struggled to get away; He felt it's claws slash at his flesh, and it's tail batter him, but he still held. The manticore struggled fiercely before collapsing from the loss of blood, it's life ebbing away like the blood which poured from it's wound.
Zephyr drank as much of the manticore's blood as he could get, even going so far as to lick his shoulder clean of the clinging fluid. Content, he returned to where he stashed his bags, donning them once again before he trotted through the forest, his senses alert for something else – water. He'd need to clean his blood-soaked muzzle before he went back into town.
It only took a little while for him to find what he was looking for, his ears being the first to pick up on the flow of a nearby river. They faithfully led him to the edge of the stream, and he dipped his face in. He scrubbed at his muzzle with a hoof while it was underwater, watching as the red streams turned into strands while the water displaced the blood. Finally satisfied that he was done in the forest, he headed for the entrance.
He trotted for a few moments, enjoying the scenery as he made his way back to town. His sightseeing tour ended abruptly, however, as a familiar tingling sensation pricked at his spine. He knew what it meant instantly; The vampire who'd been at the party was here, and he was all alone in a deep, dark forest, an easy target.
The forest, which he'd once had the gall to call beautiful, quickly became terrifying. He studied every shadow carefully, watching out for any sign of danger with the diligence only known to the select few who had the experience of being behind enemy lines. Every motion was noteworthy, every sound a warning. His adrenaline soaked mind worked feverishly trying to determine where the potential threat could be.
“I don't know if you mean harm to the ponies of this town... but you will not harm them.”
A voice whispered through the trees, no less threatening for the lack of noise. Even worse, he couldn't recognize the voice from what he'd heard at the party: It was just barely a whisper, teasing at his ears in the wind. Zephyr's ears twisted around trying to locate the owner of the voice, but to no avail.
“If you harm them, I will hunt you down and I will gut you.”
Zephyr could feel himself sweating, continuing toward the exit of the forest. Staying here seemed even more hazardous than before. He unconsciously picked up his pace, moving faster in an attempt to get away from the intimidating whisper.
“It will not be pleasant, to say the least. I have hope we can be friends.”
Zephyr snorted in amusement at that prospect: being friends with a disembodied voice which was threatening him with disembowelment. Any normal pony would have thought the whispers insane; however the politics of vampires were so unorthodox that occurrences like this were actually commonplace. As some vampires have said; “diplomacy is the art of speaking softly, while baring sharp fangs.”.
After much too long for his tastes, Zephyr managed to exit the dark, foreboding forest and picked his way down a dirt path, heading for his new home. He wandered the empty streets, enjoying the quiet of the night, and only speeding up his pace when he overheard some... interesting... sounds through a way too thin wall.
Banishing that memory to the deepest, darkest recesses of his mind, he proceeded towards his house, intent on getting in; He figured he deserved some at least decent sleep before having to face tomorrow.
Reaching his door, finally, he used his hoof to press down on the handle. Only realizing after the door refused to open that he'd locked it, and feeling quite silly, he fished his key out of his saddlebags and unlocked the door, holding the key in his teeth and craning his neck to turn the lock. Satisfied at the clicking noise the lock made as it disengaged, he pulled the key out of the keyhole and leveraged the door handle again, pushing the door open and stepping through into his new home.
Zephyr made sure to shut and lock the door again, setting his key on the fireplace's mantle before retreating to his room. Folding back the blankets, he climbed into the new bed, yawning widely, his fangs becoming visible as his jaw opened as much as possible. He eventually felt himself drifting into a state of blissful unconsciousness, and succumbed to sleep.