Princess Twilight smiles, inclining her head slightly, "It's good to see you, Princess Luna. This isn't an interrogation though, this is… uh… a survey."
Her smile fades as she shoots a nervous glance at Midnight, the vampony watching Luna warily, "Also, the correct pronoun is 'I', not 'we'."
"Ou-My apologies, Princess Twilight," Princess Luna corrects herself with a hint of embarrassment. "W-I should have chosen my words more carefully."
"And there's no need to call me 'princess'," Twilight replies, her smile returning. "We're friends; you don't have to be so formal."
Luna nods, adopting a small smile of her own, "We accept your proposal, Twilight Sparkle, but only if you extend the same favor to us as well."
Twilight facehoofs with an exaggerated groan of frustration at the fresh pronoun errors, shaking her head in mock disappointment.
A purple blush spreads across Luna's face, "And by 'us' we meant 'me'. 'I', we mean 'I'. I mean… "
Twilight lowers her hoof, chuckling, "Don't worry about it, Luna. As much as I hate to admit it, we do have more important issues than correct grammar at the moment."
Luna stomps carefully on the tile floor, mindful not to make the crown liable for any further damage, "Tarts! One day I will get used to speaking like this."
"Er, 'tarts'?" Twilight asks uncertainly.
Luna pauses at the unexpected question, then grins widely, pride at being able to instruct Twilight on any aspect of modern Equestria sending a tingling thrill across her skin, "Indeed! Our sister informed us that it is the common term for 'Tartaurus', which has occasionally led to some unfortunate situations when confused with the pastry. She has thus far refused to elaborate on what those situations were, however."
"Your hair is amazing~," Midnight murmurs, catching the distracted pair of alicorns by surprise as she stares, mesmerized, at Luna's ethereal mane.
"Right. So." Twilight shuffles her wings uneasily, "Luna, this is Midnight, who I'm sure Princess Celestia has told you about, and her little sister Dawn, who was found earlier today by the Cutie Mark Crusaders."
Luna turns, focusing on the reason for her arrival in Ponyville for the first time, "We thank you for the compliment, Midnight."
Her attention, however, is quickly drawn from the vampony and back to the alicorn fidgeting in her peripheral vision. Striding across the room, she lowers her head to Twilight's level, their eyes only inches apart. Twilight pulls back slightly at the sudden invasion of her personal space, but otherwise remains still as Luna searches for something within her eyeballs.
Raising her head slightly, a blue spark arcs between the tips of their horns. Twilight's irises briefly tint the color of the night sky and she jerks back, her papers and quill falling to the floor as she stumbles clumsily into a sitting position.
"What… what was that?" Twilight manages, raising a hoof to the side of her head as a weight is lifted from her mind, glancing around the room and then up at Luna.
Rather than answer, Luna stares crossly at Midnight, "I may not know anything about your people, but in Equestrian society at least, it is considered both highly rude and highly criminal to cast Domination magic on others."
Midnight points at Twilight, "She started it."
Twilight glares indignantly at her accuser, "I did not! I was just trying to get you to tell me the name of your species!"
"I did tell you, and then you called me a liar!"
"That's because you did lie! And that doesn't give you the right to mind control me regardless!"
"Alright, alright, calm down children… " Luna says placatingly. "What seems to be the problem?"
She snickers as both Midnight and Twilight direct their glares towards her.
Midnight opens her mouth to respond, however Twilight manages to speak first, "I was trying to find out what her species is called, but she keeps saying she's a vampony. Except she can't be a vampony because according to Celestia, vamponies are undead abominations spawned of dark magic and Midnight is very definitely alive."
Luna raises an eyebrow, clearly unimpressed by the argument, "So what you are saying is that there are both living vamponies and undead vamponies?"
Twilight frowns, "Well, I suppose, but-"
"Then I am afraid we do not see the issue," Luna interjects, nodding towards Midnight. "It is not up to us to decide what they can and cannot call themselves."
Midnight sticks her tongue out at Twilight, the latter grumbling discontentedly.
"In any case, there are far more important questions that need to be answered right now," Luna continues, addressing Midnight. "For example, where do you and your sister live? You certainly do not reside in Ponyville."
Midnight tilts her head from side to side, considering both Luna and her question for several seconds, "…We live in the Everfree, though we usually stay at least a few miles in."
"Twilight, there is a friend of yours who makes her home within the Everfree as well, correct?" Luna queries. "Would she not have encountered them?"
Twilight shrugs, "You'd have to ask her. I don't know how far into the forest she goes, but it's the Everfree; it's more than possible they never crossed paths."
"If you're talking about the striped one-" Midnight begins.
"Her name is Zecora," Twilight interrupts.
Midnight rolls her eyes, "Yeah, that sounds right. Anyway, she's known about us pretty much since she moved in." Midnight laughs, "You should've heard her screaming when she stumbled on us eating the first time. You wouldn't think somepony with such a low voice could make such a high pitched sound."
"Wait what?!" Twilight exclaims, "If she knew about you, why didn't she tell anypony?"
"Well, she ran off," Midnight says with an amused snort, "but after we caught her, my parents offered her a deal – as long as she didn't tell anypony about our existence, she stayed off the menu."
"You eat other ponies?" Luna asks sharply, Twilight shuddering at the thought.
Midnight's eyes widen, "What? No! We're not cannibals! If we were, we would've eaten her there and been done with it. I just meant we wouldn't sneak into her tree-hut-thing and feed off of her. We only eat snakes, bears, cockatrices, manticores, the odd chimera or cragadile… took down a hydra once."
She licks her lips, "That was a good night."
Luna's nose wrinkles ever so slightly, "So, from the sound of it, you only eat meat?"
Midnight nods, "Yup. I tried a few leaves once, didn't really see the appeal."
"You mean besides not killing other living things?" Twilight mutters to herself loudly enough for everypony else in the room to hear.
Midnight shoots her another glare, "Well excuuuuse me, princess."
"Would I be correct in assuming that there are more vamponies around?" Luna cuts in before a new argument can escalate. "Unless you want us to believe that only a few of you were able to take down a hydra."
"There… are," Midnight answers hesitantly. "Dawn wasn't involved, but the rest of my family plus the other clans from around here all came together for that hunt."
"Nearby Ponyville then, how many vamponies are there?" Luna asks.
"Thirty… ish? I think? Once in a while another will wander through, but for the most part we all stick to our own territory." Midnight smiles smugly, "We have the territory closest to town though. Everypony else's is around ours."
"Perhaps it would be a good idea to be writing this information down?" Luna suggests pointedly to Twilight.
Twilight lets out an irritated grunt, nonetheless levitating her quill and scattered stack of papers to form a thin, purple-glowing wall between herself and the other ponies in the room while she fills out multiple hovering pages.
Luna sends a reproving glance at the floating barrier before returning her gaze to the subject of her questions, "You also mentioned feeding, that is, you all drink pony blood?"
"Yep," Midnight confirms.
Luna's eyebrows knit together, her eyes lingering on Midnight's pair of protruding fangs, "Why?"
"Well, if we don't, we age through our entire lifespan over the course of a couple months," Midnight replies, shrugging nonchalantly. "Or at least that's what my parents say happens. I've never actually done that, obviously, but I did put off feeding for an extra night once, and it was… not fun. Felt like there was a dull, throbbing ache coming from everywhere and constantly getting worse."
"I see," Luna states carefully, her tone neutral. "And if you do drink pony blood regularly, then it prevents this rapid aging and you live for a normal lifespan?"
"I'm pretty sure we live for longer, but that would depend on what you mean by a 'normal lifespan'," Midnight answers.
"Unicorns, pegasi, and earth ponies who die of natural causes generally live between 100 and 150 years," Twilight recites monotonously from behind her floating pages. "Unicorns are usually closer to 150 while earth ponies tend towards 100, with pegasi in the middle but closer to earth ponies than unicorns – though occasionally an earth pony can live to be multiple centuries old. Insufficient recent and reliable data exists for thestrals and crystal ponies."
Midnight blinks in surprise, "Oh. Then yeah, we live for a lot longer. Or we can at least, it's… well it's a bit complicated."
She looks at the ceiling, eyes flicking back and forth as she draws a mental image for herself, "Okay, imagine there's this jug. When we feed, blood goes in the jug and as long as the jug isn't empty, we don't really age. Whenever it does get empty though, even if only for a second, it starts to crack and fall apart and we start aging rapidly. Our physical 'age', and how long we can go between feeding, is based on how damaged the jug happens to be."
"Fascinating," Twilight murmurs, a small hole appearing in her paper wall through which she stares at Midnight intently. "So the age you appear to be is completely unrelated to your actual age and technically, assuming a perfect feeding schedule, vamponies are ageless?"
"Mostly, and I don't know," Midnight answers hesitantly. "Maybe? Nopony's ever perfect though, so what really ends up happening is that damage from the jug being empty for seconds or minutes accumulates over the years until it becomes too damaged and we die. And unlike in a lot of those books, we don't magically 'un-age' after feeding either. Any damage caused by not feeding is permanent."
"'those books'?," Twilight asks, a hint of surprise in her voice. "You can read?"
"Yes, I can read," Midnight replies exasperatedly.
"Sorry," Twilight apologizes, "I didn't mean to imply that you were stupid. It's just, well, you live in the Everfree Forest. Where exactly do you get books from?"
Midnight doesn't respond, her gaze sliding off to the right.
Twilight sighs, "You take them from Golden Oaks, don't you?"
"I might," Midnight hedges.
"…Three recently. Currently I only have one, though."
Twilight raises an eyebrow, "What happened to the two?"
Midnight stifles a chuckle, "A dragon ate them."
"Ate them? As in…?"
"Swallowed them whole."
Twilight sits back on her haunches, "Huh."
"So I'm guessing you're a Daring Do fan too, based on some of the books that've gone missing," Twilight comments after a short mental eulogy for the stories that had been digested.
"Meh," Midnight mutters noncommittally. "They're alright. Eternal City and Ruby Chalice were really good, but I've been having a hard time getting through Shadow Veil – which wasn't eaten, by the way. Her portrayal of vamponies is just so… so… inaccurate. There are all these scenes that are supposed to be serious or ominous and I just end up laughing instead. Like in Chapter 7-"
"Aht!" Twilight interrupts, raising a hoof, "No spoilers. You somehow managed to get to the book I ordered before either me or Rainbow Dash, and everywhere I've looked for another copy is sold out for at least another month."
Luna clears her throat, "While I am happy that you two have overcome your initial enmity and found some common ground, perhaps we should return to more relevant questions."
"Speaking of which, why are you answering our questions?" Twilight asks. "I was expecting you to be a lot more secretive, seeing as your species' entire existence has been kept, well, a secret, until now."
"You found me at the scene of an attack and brought me to a hospital, you found my sister and brought her back to me," Midnight says, looking tenderly at her sleeping sibling, "you're taking the whole 'blood-sucking carnivore' thing really well, and at this point there's no way for us to keep hiding anymore… "
She looks back up, first meeting Twilight's eyes, then Luna's, "You could have done a lot of things, and you chose to help us. I trust you."
Luna smiles, "We are glad that you trust us, and we will do our best to be worthy of that trust."
"How have you managed to stay hidden for so long anyway?" Twilight queries. "You're not exactly inconspicuous, especially since Thestrals all but vanished from most of Equestria for the last thousand years, and I can't imagine everypony just 'never noticed' you guys flying around breaking into ponies' homes to suck their blood."
"Well, we can use shadowmagic," Midnight demonstrates, raising her unbroken foreleg. She focuses, and after a moment the leg fades into the dim light of the room, "Plus there's really-"
"Hold on, hold on," Twilight interrupts, scribbling madly. More than a minute ticks by, the scratching of quill on paper the only sound filling the otherwise silent room.
Finishing with a flourish, Twilight looks up from her notes, "Alright, go on."
"As I was going to say," Midnight continues, "there's also just not that many of us to find in the first place. I've lived in the Everfree Forest my whole life, and besides my family, I've only ever met ponies from around here plus a few wanderers who passed through. My parents say there's actually a couple hundred of us around the Everfree, but it's a big place and there never seemed to be any point in running around trying to find them all."
Twilight frowns, "That doesn't make any sense. The Everfree is teeming with creatures you can hunt, plus there are several thousand ponies living in the various towns along the border of the forest to fulfill your… other needs. And even if in reality you aren't ageless, you're still apparently very long-lived by comparison. There should be a lot more of you than just a couple hundred."
"I don't know," Midnight replies, shrugging. "My parents have only ever said that we were almost wiped out about a thousand years ago. Other than that, I have no idea."
"It would seem that Sombra's abominations inflicted a great deal of suffering on your people as well," Luna says, sadness tingeing her words. "Even more than they caused the ponies of Equestria, by the sound of it."
Twilight's frown deepens at this, "That makes even less sense."
"What do you mean?" Luna asks, looking to Twilight curiously.
"It's something that's been bothering me ever since Princess Celestia told me what really happened," Twilight explains. "The vamponies were under Sombra's control, and when he was defeated they went berserk. But she also said that some escaped and continued to hide, killing and turning ponies."
Luna raises an eyebrow, "And? We do not see the issue."
"If the undead vamponies went berserk, they wouldn't have had the presence of mind to flee, much less hide and plan well enough to take almost a year to finish off," Twilight clarifies. "That's kind of the opposite of what it means to go berserk."
Luna sighs, "We can assure you, Twilight Sparkle, some did escape. While my sister and I had to govern Equestria and did not participate directly in this phase, the Guard alone hunted down and ended nearly two thousand vampony spawn. Many cities and towns also formed their own militias to deal with the threat."
She smiles wryly, "My sister tells me it was quite an achievement convincing them to disarm afterwards."
"Two thousand?!" Twilight exclaims, "There's no way there were that many!"
Luna's eyes narrow and she stands a little taller, "As I said, Twilight Sparkle, we can assure-"
"So two thousand ponies died the following year from vampony attacks?" Twilight inquires sharply.
Luna hesitates, her mouth hanging open for a split second, "Well… not directly, to our knowledge, but-"
"Then how did the Guard hunt down and end two thousand undead vamponies, if that many ponies couldn't have been turned first?" Twilight demands, stamping a hoof, "The exact number may not be perfectly accurate and Sombra's vamponies may have been able to bolster their numbers somewhat by going after the living vamponies, but assuming that Sombra even knew they existed, and that he told the undead vamponies about them, and that once the undead ones went berserk they had enough intelligence left to flee as well as make long term strategic plans, AND that they would have been able to find any of the living vamponies given their apparent proficiency with shadowmagic, according to Celestia, the Guard had trouble dealing with just a few dozen of the undead ones."
Twilight takes a deep breath, continuing more quietly, "To reach two thousand in a year, over five ponies would have to be turned every single day on average. If that's what actually happened, the Guard would have been annihilated."
A heavy silence fills the room. Luna gulps audibly, then speaks softly, "What are you suggesting?"
"Celestia said that after the initial attack, the entire nation was in a panic," Twilight states slowly. "Assuming the rest of Equestrian history is correct, this would have been the first attack on Equestria in centuries. Ponies who had known only peace their entire lives would have woken up to find blood in the streets and corpses walking. They were terrified, neighbors were turning on neighbors, friends on friends… "
"You said that the Guard hunted down the ones that escaped, but are you sure… " her voice wavers, "are you sure they were hunting the undead vamponies? Or did they just look for them in the shadows, and start attacking the first thing they found?"
Luna flinches as if Twilight had struck her, "No! No, we would have known! There may be some similarities between them, but we… but… "
"But after what happened, did anypony bother to look?" Twilight asks gently, "Did you?"
Luna raises her head to stare at the ceiling for a long moment, her eyes distant, "I… no. We didn't. As we said before, the Guard was doing the hunting, and standard procedure was to destroy the bodies of both guards and vamponies alike with magical fire. Not even bones remained to examine afterwards, so that there would be absolutely nothing left from which Sombra's spells could be recreated."
The two alicorns face the injured vampony, pained expressions on their faces. Midnight stares back at them blankly, "So… wait. What you're saying is… you… you killed us all off… you… "
Her eyes widen as the statement sinks in, her breathing rapidly degenerating into ragged pants, And I just told them about our home, our feeding, our magic… I told them everything. Oh shit. Oooh shit shit shit.
Luna raises a hoof to take a step forward, then halts, her eyes shifting back and forth as if having an internal debate. Coming to a decision, she walks over to the vampony's bedside, looking down at her stoically. Midnight looks up at the Alicorn of the Night, doing her best to suppress the shivers running through her body.
Luna extends a leg, "You trusted us, now I am going to trust you. Here."
Midnight glances at the offered leg, then back at Luna, "I don't… what?"
Despite the situation, Luna manages a small smile, "You said you drink blood, correct?"
A bolt of lightning couldn't have caused a more dramatic response, Twilight's jaw dropping along with her papers and quill as her mind locks up, unable to maintain the necessary processing power even for a basic levitation spell. Midnight's eyes become as large as saucers, her gaze drifting down until it settles on Luna's leg. Luna simply smiles, waiting.
Midnight licks her lips and, following a moment's hesitation, leans forward, ignoring the pain in her abdomen as her eyes glow a faint crimson. After a brief examination, she closes her mouth around the offered leg, fangs sinking into Luna's flesh with ease.
She grunts in surprise as soon as blood touches her tongue, her taste buds registering twin flavors – the first a soft spiciness which calls forth images of the full moon nestled between the winking stars; the second a calming sweetness dimming the moon and blotting out the stars to bring near total darkness. The two currents dance across her tongue, their strength waxing and waning with the other in perfect harmony.
After half a minute of eternity, Midnight withdraws her fangs, lapping up a rivulet of blood that had escaped, then healing the wound.
She licks her lips and swallows one last time, "You taste delicious."
Luna blushes, pulling her leg off the bed to hang limply below her.
Twilight eyes Luna's leg nervously, "Are you alright, Luna?"
Luna's horn glows, moonlight encasing her leg and part of her torso for a moment. After it fades, she lifts her leg, flexing it experimentally, "It was just a little venom, Twilight Sparkle, we are fine."
Midnight shifts uncomfortably, "I feel odd… "
Suddenly she stiffens, slowly levitating as first her eyes, then the rest of her body are consumed by an expanding sphere of darkness that seems to drain the light from the rest of room. Dawn wakes and jumps out of bed with a yelp, scrambling away from her sister with a mixture of fear and awe on her face. Luna also steps back, watching the sphere tensely while staying just outside its surface.
Within the total blackness, a dim light flashes, then grows, consuming the darkness entirely to shine like a miniature moon for a split second before vanishing, leaving only a fading translucent haze behind.
Midnight falls from the haze to land on her bed, casts and bandages gone, eyes wide as she glances around the room before lowering her gaze to examine her formerly broken leg. She bounces experimentally, stretches, then vanishes – reappearing on the ceiling seconds later. Releasing her hold on the ceiling, she twists like a cat, landing lithely on her hooves, "I feel awesome!"
She fully spreads her wings, flapping experimentally a few times to send a weak breeze across the room.
Twilight merely stares, speechless once again.
Dawn's eyes latch onto her big sister's flank, "Your cutie mark… "
Midnight twists her head around, blinking in surprise at the new addition – a full moon now illuminating the blue mist of her original cutie mark.
Luna raises a hoof to feel Midnight's forehead. Finding nothing, she lets out a relieved sigh, "For a moment, w-I thought I'd created another alicorn."