Pony Predators of Equestria

by Pentarctagon

Chapter 11 Darkness Contained

Luna pats around Midnight's forehead a few more times, finally lowering her hoof when all she feels is smooth skin, "I am not sure what has occurred, but to change a cutie mark is no small matter. Do you have any thoughts on the subject, Twilight?"

She looks away from the healed vampony when a purple glow answers her question rather than words, a translucent beam shooting from the horn of the other alicorn in the room, "Twilight."

Twilight continues to magically scan Midnight, for several seconds giving no indication she had heard other than a twitch of her ears.


"While we certainly agree that a thorough examination should be done, we believe it should be done later. By a medical. Professional," Luna states pointedly, rapping a hoof on the room's tile floor when Twilight's only response is to start taking notes in the margins of her survey.

Twilight's ears twitch again at the sharp sound, this time followed by a blink. Not taking her eyes from the subject of her interest, she smiles and nods, "That sounds like a good idea, Luna; I'll get right on it."

A light giggle echoes in Luna's ears, She really is quite the 'egghead' as they would say today, is she not? Perhaps even more so in the real world than in her dreams.

Luna suppresses the urge to chuckle at the truth of her friend's words, a smile tugging at the sides of her mouth nonetheless.

We should come back and visit once this situation is dealt with. Our sister is much more of a diplomat and philosopher than a researcher, and it would be refreshing to be able to talk with somepony who might truly understand the complexities of our theories of mind and magic.

The voice gives a mental nudge, Maybe even teach her a bit of Dream magic along the way, hm?

Luna fights to keep from snorting, instead turning it into a forceful exhalation, For all our sakes, I think not. I can only imagine what would happen if she were to try to enforce her degree of order and categorization onto the Dreamscape. Besides, there is still much work to be done with the thestral reintegration, and I don't even want to think about the headache adding vamponies into the mix will cause.

A deep sigh emanates from the companion in her mind, Honestly, Lulu, we go crazy with anger and jealousy, return after a thousand years in exile to ponies that, with a bit of coaxing, are actually happy to have us around and what do you do? Bury yourself in work.

A hint of bitterness creeps into the mind mare's voice, Of course, waking up screaming from your own personally inflicted nightmare half the time hardly helps ponies feel at ease around us. The guards might not say anything, but they're getting nervous and it's only a matter of time until rumors start to spread that perhaps Nightmare Moon isn't quite as gone as they've been led to believe – if they haven't already.

Luna's small smile fades into a frown at her other’s words, then a grimace, ENOUGH! As I have told you before, it is penance for the suffering that I caused – that we caused – as Nightmare Moon.

The voice sighs, And as I have said before, tormenting yourself out of guilt is not penance, Luna. You need-

With an irritated flick of her ear, Luna blocks out the rest of the disembodied words, instead refocusing on the ponies in front of her to find Midnight again staring at the stars flowing within her mane. Twilight meanwhile forges ahead with her examination completely unaware of her surroundings – now scanning Midnight's cutie mark while Dawn's eyes roam between the trio curiously.

Midnight blinks.

"Don't move," Twilight immediately reprimands without looking away from her scan. "I need you to keep 110 percent still for this."

Luna slowly releases the breath she had been holding throughout her silent argument and with some effort forces a smile back onto her face, "That is quite enough, Twilight Sparkle."

Her horn glows to life with a directed thought, encasing Twilight's in a deep blue aura to disrupt her analysis.

"Hey!" Twilight shakes her head at the unfamiliar sensation, turning to Luna in frustration when her attempt to remove the blocking spell merely causes the tip of her horn to spark.

"Twilight," Luna admonishes as she releases her hold on both their magic, "while I can certainly appreciate your enthusiasm for discovery, I need to ask Midnight a very important question regarding the previous night."


"It is also required that she be able to move her mouth to answer said question," Luna interrupts, raising an eyebrow.

"…I suppose," Twilight acquiesces reluctantly, her ears drooping momentarily before perking up again. "I can keep studying her afterwards though, right?"

Luna shrugs, "I am not the one you should be asking that."

"In any case," she continues, turning back to catch the vampony stretching, "my question for you, Midnight, is: What happened last night? According to my sister, who spoke with Twilight, who spoke with the husband of the mare whose home you were in, who was half asleep when he walked into the bedroom and emotionally distraught afterwards, there was another male vampony in the room with you. I assume that he is the pony who injured you, but we would like to hear your account of what happened first hoof."

"The other pony last night wasn't a vampony," Dawn pipes up instead while her sister completes her stretch. "But he was really weird."

"I was just there to help Dawn feed," Midnight replies once her stretch ends, "but yeah, he wasn't a vampony – or at least, not a vampony like us. He did have huge fangs though – even larger than mine – and he was about to take a bite out of the neck of the pony I had just helped Dawn feed from when I attacked him."

"Wait," Twilight says, holding up a hoof to point at Midnight, "you attacked him?"

Midnight nods, "Well, yeah, she wasn't going to wake up and there wasn't anypony else around, so I wasn't about to sit back and watch her get murdered. Besides, she tastes pretty good."

"We thank you for your intervention, Midnight," Luna states, focusing on said vampony as if she were the only other pony in the room, "but is there anything else you can tell us about him?"

"He had a red mane, coat, and eyes," Midnight elaborates, unfazed by Luna's attention. "He was red, basically. The really weird part though was his teeth; like I said, his fangs were even larger than mine – they went past his chin – but the rest of his teeth were flat like yours. He didn't have any wings either. And… there was just something really, really wrong about him. I don’t know how else to describe it, but even being in the same room with him made my hair stand on end."

No… the other voice in Luna's head murmurs, that – there's no way.

There shouldn't be, Luna replies, a cold pit forming in her stomach, and yet…

"I see." Luna swallows, her throat tightening, "And his cutie mark?"

"It was… " Midnight hesitates, recalling the oddity, "Well it was there, but it was really faded. I couldn't tell what it was supposed to be."

Luna loudly sucks in a breath through her nose, eyes widening and nostrils flaring.

"Luna?" Twilight queries, the sudden noise drawing her attention away from Midnight.

"A cutie mark is a representation of the one thing that most makes a pony special, and as such is intimately linked to one's identity, to one's sense of self," Luna explains tensely. "However, anypony controlled by Sombra's corruption would cease to exist as an independent 'self'. There is no longer anything that makes them special – they are just one more slave to his magic, thus we theorized their cutie mark would slowly fade and perhaps even vanish entirely given enough time. We never saw such fading one thousand years ago since the initial attack occurred far too swiftly for it to have been noticeable, and after that, well… "

She sighs, "After that, we simply assumed that we had been wrong about cutie mark fading rather than searching for another explanation. But if this pony's cutie mark was truly faded, and if the rest of Midnight's description is accurate, then there can be no doubt as to what he is."

"Nopony has died or gone permanently missing in Ponyville since I arrived though," Twilight points out. "If he's existed long enough for his cutie mark to have almost entirely disappeared, what's he been doing all this time?"

Luna straightens, "I cannot say, but if nopony has gone missing, then perhaps this attack was in fact the first and there is still time to catch him before he is able to turn anypony."

She clears her throat, "GUARDS!"

Twilight, along with the vamponies and most of the furniture, jump at the sudden use of the restrained Royal Canterlot Voice, "Luna, there's a-"

The doorknob rattles, then turns, the door slamming open with a loud bang followed by Applebloom, Sweetie Belle, Scootaloo, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, Applejack, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, Spike, and three Lunar Guards trying to simultaneously pile into the room.

"-sound… proofing… spell… " she finishes lamely amid groans from the mass of ponies stuck partially through the doorway.

Whatever happened to Midnight must have disrupted the spell. Or maybe Luna shouting just rattled the door. I should really make a hardier version that doesn't break so easily, but only after performing a comprehensive examination of Midnight. And writing a paper on my discoveries. And submitting it for review and publishing in the Equestrian Journal of Magic! And… I'll just have Spike put it on my Todo List.

With a grunt, Applejack manages to extricate herself from the pony pile, picking up her Stetson from where it had fallen to the floor and returning it to its rightful place on her head, "Hey Twi, Ah think it's about time you filled the rest of us in on what exactly's been goin' on around here."

The rest of her friends voice their agreement as they stand.



"Quite right."

"As long as it wouldn't be too much of a bother."

Twilight hesitates, glancing at Luna to find her already quietly discussing with her guards off to the side.

What do I tell them? Luna hasn't made public what really led her to become Nightmare Moon and Princess Celestia went to great lengths to hide what happened… would they be mad at me for revealing it? How would my friends react? The rest of Ponyville would definitely panic if this got out. And if they panic then word will spread to nearby towns and they'll panic which will spread to the towns nearby those towns and eventually all of Equestria will be panicking and then civilization will crumble and Celestia and Luna will be angry with me and it will be all my fault because I-

Spike snaps a claw in front of her glazed over eyes, "Twilight! Stop doing that slippery slope thing you told me not to let you do."

Twilight clears her head with a few shakes and smiles weakly at her worried friends, "Thanks, Spike. It's just… really… complicated."

"Oh… alright then," Fluttershy murmurs demurely, turning as if to leave.

Applejack rolls her eyes, blocking Fluttershy's retreat with a raised foreleg, "You ain't gettin' off that easy, sugarcube. If anythin', that's all the more reason for us ta know about it."

Rainbow Dash flaps her wings to hover a few feet off the ground, "What I want to know is: Are there or are there not any vamponies? At first I figured everypony was just freaking out because of the attack, but the Crusaders have been saying they found one."

Twilight opens her mouth to respond, then looks around in surprise, "Uhh… yeah, yeah there are. Dawn? Midnight?"

At her words, Dawn fades into view, quickly lowering her head and taking a few nervous steps away from the shocked group of larger ponies staring at her. The faces of her fellow fillies brighten at her appearance though, Scootaloo, Applebloom, and Sweetie Bell running over to their recently made friend.

"See? Ah told y'all we found a vampony!" Applebloom declares proudly.

Applejack eyes the fourth filly warily, lingering on her Crusader cape, "Ah suppose you did."

Scootaloo’s wings flutter in excitement, her whole body very nearly vibrating in place, "You stayed invisible a lot longer than last time!"

"Well yeah," Dawn replies uneasily, shifting slightly to try and hide behind her friends, "there's no sun in here."

Sweetie Belle spins around, pointing an accusatory hoof at her elders, "Stop staring at her like that, you're scaring her!"

Rarity awkwardly lowers her gaze to watch her fidgeting hooves, Rainbow Dash inspecting a corner of the ceiling while Applejack decides to examine the hospital bed, their uncomfortable apologies jumbling together. Pinkie Pie on the other hoof continues to look at Dawn as though nothing had been said, her head tilted and expression unreadable.

"Um… Twilight… ?" Fluttershy asks, uneasily eying a point on the ceiling a few feet in front of her, "Y-You mentioned two names, right?"

"Hold i~t!" Pinkie Pie yells, stealing the center of attention as she pounces over to grab Twilight. Locking narrowed eyes with her, Pinkie leans in until they are nose to nose, "Are you telling me that there's not one, but two new ponies in Ponyville?"

"Well… " Twilight answers calmly, barely surprised by the party pony's intensity, "technically they aren't new ponies; they've probably been here even longer than you have, Pinkie."

Pinkie Pie stares at her for another moment, gasping in horror once she fully grasps the situation, "This is awful!"

Dropping Twilight like a rock, she dashes over and grabs Dawn, "Quick! What do vamponies do for parties? What do you eat? What do you drink? Wait that's a silly question you're a vampony you drink blood of course. I don't know where I'd get enough on such short notice though so would punch work? It could be cherry punch or strawberry punch or - oh! Do vamponies like cupcakes?"

Pinkie giggles, "What am I saying, of course you like cupcakes everypony likes cupcakes. Maybe I could use blood instead of frosting for them though – ooor I could mix the blood into the frosting. That would be a lot more efficient than having blood drinks so I think I could pull it off. I'll call them 'High Blood Sugar Cupcakes'! Now I just need to find a couple donors…"

Having facehoofed halfway through Pinkie's barrage of words, Twilight raises her head to see Dawn desperately trying to squirm free of the crazy pink pony holding her. However, before she can react, a menacing growl ripples through the room. Luna's guards immediately whirl with practiced precision to face the source of the threatening sound while forming a protective half-circle – blades attached to each side of their armored hoofshoes flipping down and locking into place with a series of very audible clicks – only to halt at a sharp word from their princess.

Twilight hastily engulfs Pinkie with her purple magic, levitating her away from Dawn and depositing her near the door, "Sorry about that."

She glances towards the source of the growl, "Midnight, if you could please stop being invisible as well?"

After a short pause, Midnight reappears hanging crouched on the ceiling between her sister and Twilight's friends, eyes locked on the pink pony now sheepishly staring up at her. Relaxing ever so slightly at her appearance, the trio of guards return to their discussion with Luna, occasionally peeking warily or pointing with metal claws at the upside-down vampony.

"Everypony, this is Midnight and Dawn," Twilight says, pointing at each in turn. "Midnight and Dawn, this is Applejack, Rarity, Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, Spike, Scootaloo, Sweetie Belle, and Applebloom."

Ignoring the rather muted responses from the other ponies in the room, Pinkie Pie hops over right next to the hanging vampony, the top of her mane periodically flattening against the ceiling, "Hello! Sorry about earlier, I was just so excited to throw a party for two ponies I've never even met before! Not that parties for ponies that I do know aren't exciting too, because they are, but it's just so much fun to learn about new ponies and where they're from and what they like and you're an entirely new species which doubles the fun. Or maybe even triples the fun, I don't know, which is what makes it so great!"

A second, softer growl rumbles in Midnight's throat, head bobbing almost imperceptibly as she tracks each bounce of the pony invading her personal space.

Rainbow shoots over at this, inserting herself between Midnight and Pinkie, "Hey! I know Pinkie can be a bit hyper and weird, but you better not hurt her or any of my other friends, ya got that?"

Midnight tenses at the fresh intrusion, eyes flicking over the pony in front of her, "Rainbow Dash, right?"

Twilight watches the trio carefully, magical current tingling along the spiral of her horn as she once more prepares to intervene.

"Mhm," Rainbow replies shortly, continuing to hover protectively in front of Pinkie who bounces worriedly behind her.

Midnight's unlit eyes meet Rainbow's, "Twilight mentioned earlier that you like Daring Do."

Annoyance bleeds into Rainbow Dash's determined expression, "Like? Anypony can like Daring Do, but I'm her number one fan! There's a reason she put me on the cover of The Ring of Destiny."

Behind her, five ponies and a dragon simultaneously roll their eyes – Applejack groaning audibly.

The ends of Midnight's mouth curl up in a small, knowing smile, "She also said that you hadn't read the latest book yet, since it had gone missing."

"Yeah," Rainbow grumbles, "some jerk stole it."

"Actually, I borrowed it," Midnight corrects her.

Rainbow Dash's eyes narrow, "Wait. You took it?"

"No, I borrowed it," Midnight repeats, her smile widening into a grin. "I also read it."

She pauses to let her words sink in, her growing grin parting her lips to reveal the tips of her teeth, "Would you like to know how it ends?"

Rainbow Dash's flaps become momentarily uneven as she hovers away from the vampony, "You wouldn't… "

Raising an eyebrow, Midnight slowly draws in a lungful of air – Rainbow wavering for an instant before dashing from the room as fast as her wings can take her.

Midnight cups her hooves around her mouth, allowing gravity to pull her into an upright-side-down position, "AHUIZOTL KILLS DARING DO!!!"

A despairing scream echoes down the hallway, "NNOOoooooo-"

The faint slamming of a door abruptly cuts off Rainbow's cry, Midnight's last two hooves disconnecting from the ceiling to let her fall to the floor in a heap of laughter.

Nurse Sweetheart rubs her temples, leaning against the receptionist's desk, "I'm just saying, Holly, what are we supposed to feed her? From the looks of things she'll be here for a couple weeks at least, and it's not like we have dead animals just lying around here that we can stick on a plate."

Holly Dash sighs from behind her exquisitely organized desk, swiping at a stray tendril of pale yellow hair hanging in front of her face with a pink hoof, "I don't know; I'm sure Princess Twilight will be able come up with a plan. Maybe she can get a few chickens from Fluttershy or something."


Her ears perk up, "What's that sound?"

Before Nurse Sweetheart can reply, the double doors leading to the hospital rooms burst open, a cyan blur trailing a rainbow shooting across the lobby and out the exit.


The pair stare at the outer doors in shocked silence, sharing a bewildered look with each other when they close before returning to watching the exit.

"Do you think we should see what's going on?" Holly asks more than a minute of wordlessness later, front hooves tapping restlessly, "I could definitely go for a run after sitting here forever."

Nurse Sweetheart rolls her eyes, "You've been here for barely two hours."

Holly stretches her forehooves forlornly across the desk, her gaze roaming the otherwise ponyless room, "Yeah. Forever."

For a while neither speak, the only sound the tapping of Holly's hooves in time with the ticking of the clock behind her.

"Do you really think Fluttershy would give us some of her chickens though?" Sweetheart asks, breaking the increasingly awkward silence.

Holly giggles, "No, of course not. She names her chickens and everything – she'd probably kick you out for even suggesting it, assuming she doesn't faint from imagining her chickens getting devoured first."

Twilight's magic sputters out, Equestria's newest princess numbly watching Midnight laugh while her fleeing friend's wail echoes in her ears, "Daring… Daring Do… died… ?"

Midnight wipes tears from her eyes, still chuckling, "No, of course not. Daring Do is the main character; she'd never die. She and Ahuizotl actually team up to fight the 'vamponies'."

Twilight freezes, staring blankly at Midnight for a split-second before her horn glows to life once more, rolling up a few unused sheets from her unfinished survey into short paper rods.

"I! Said! No! Spoilers!" she half yells, emphasizing each annoyed word with a whack on the head.

Midnight retreats under the assault, however her surprise is rapidly replaced by frustration, "Hey – what the – stop – that!"

Taking the offensive, she jumps forward, biting into one of the rods and tearing it to shreds.

Rarity taps her chin with a hoof as she observes Twilight roll up more rods to replace the ones being ripped apart by Midnight, "I suppose that does explain all those strange Daring Do-Ahuizotl crack shipping fanfics that came out following the most recent book."

Applejack looks at her, eyebrows raised, "You read Daring Do?"

"I do not normally read such stories," Rarity admits, raising a hoof to her mouth to stifle a giggle at the scene unfolding before her. "I much prefer a good romance or drama. Nevertheless, knowing that the novels actually involve real ponies and monsters piqued my interest. The first few books have been quite good I would say, though I haven't been able to devote much time to reading them, what with writing my own story now."

"Huh. Ah wouldn't've pegged you for a writer neither," Applejack comments, Twilight meanwhile summoning another large stack of paper to weaponize.

"Yes, well, it has been a nice change of pace to try something new," Rarity replies, sighing as Pinkie exuberantly enters the growing maelstrom. "Though I'm having the hardest time coming up with a good title. Currently it's 'Forty-Two Bales of Hay', but I don't know, it just sounds… bad."

Applejack chuckles, the Cutie Mark Crusaders led by Dawn entering the fray as well, mobbing Twilight from behind, "Well Ah'm not really one to be givin' you writin' advise or nothin', but what Ah can say is that as long as you like what you wrote, it's a fine story, regardless of what anypony else may say about it."

Rarity smiles warmly, "Aww, thanks Applejack."

"Don't mention it," Applejack replies, returning the smile. Facing the battling ponies after a moment, she clears her throat loudly, "Twilight!"

Her voice cuts through the melee like a knife through water – all participants pausing to pay attention.

"While Ah hate spoilers as much as the next pony and Ah'm sure what yer doin' now is plenty fun, can you please explain what's been goin' on over the last twenty four hours?"

"Oh. Right. Of course," Twilight concedes, carefully levitating the four fillies off of her and unrolling the few rods she has remaining. "Last night – well technically I suppose it was all started a thousand years ago by Sombra – though obviously they existed prior to that, so-"

"My apologies for interrupting, Twilight," Luna says as she turns from her guards, the trio saluting and quickly cantering from the room, "but time is of the essence and since you apparently haven't already explained to them what has occurred, a simplified overview will have to do for now."

Twilight's ears fold down, a blush of embarrassment heating her face, "Sorry. I got a little distracted."

"So it would seem," Luna deadpans. "Regardless, the situation is that a very dangerous criminal is currently hiding in Ponyville and we require your help to ensure that everypony is safe and unharmed."

"Well, you can certainly count on my assistance in this matter," Rarity says with a toss of her mane.

"M~hm!" Pinkie agrees enthusiastically.

Applejack pushes her Stetson up, "Count me in."

"I'll help. And… um… " Fluttershy glances towards to door, "I'm sure you can count on Rainbow Dash too! You know, wherever she is… "

Apprehension flits across Luna's face, "I must warn you, this pony is nothing like any of the enemies you have faced previously. He will not try to tempt you as I did, nor play with your minds like Discord, nor manipulate you like the Changeling Queen. Mare or stallion, filly or colt, he will try to kill you – without hesitation."

Fluttershy gulps fearfully, her friends exchanging nervous glances.

Luna pauses for a few seconds, allowing her words to sink in before continuing, "The criminal in question is an earth pony with a red mane and coat along with a faded cutie mark. If you catch even the slightest glimpse of him, do not try to attack or reason with him, just come and alert either Twilight or I. Your job is simply to wake up every pony in town and have them report to the town square so we can make sure nopony is missing."

Applejack frowns, "Hold on, he has a faded cutie mark?"

Luna nods, "Yes. I understand how strange that must sound, and I promise everything will be explained later, but for now we must hurry – lives are in danger every moment we continue to delay."

"Alright girls, let's go wake everypony in town!" Scootaloo declares. "Cutie Mark Crusaders Disaster Alerters is a go!"

Each letting out a 'yay', the four fillies run towards the door only to find it blocked by their older sisters.

"Oh no you don't," Applejack says from her place between them and the door. "Wakin' up the town is our job. You three – err, four, are goin' straight to the town square and waitin' for this ta be over, not runnin' around Ponyville while there's a murderer on the loose."

"But-" Applebloom tries to protest.

"Besides, as… interesting… of a cutie mark as I'm sure that would be, Ponyville already has an alarm siren for that sort of thing," Rarity points out.

"Had an alarm siren," Sweetie Belle reminds her. "It was never replaced after Spike stole it."

Spike laughs awkwardly, rubbing the back of his neck.

"Girls," Twilight says, drawing the fillies' attention, "I know you really want your cutie marks, but right now we all have a job to do and your job is to stay safe. Besides," she adds knowingly, "you'll be the first ones in the town square, so it'll be up to you to keep everypony calm until Luna or I get there. Who knows, maybe you'll get your cutie marks in disaster management."

Applebloom shares a glance with the other Crusaders, "Ah never thought a' that."

Rarity and Applejack step aside to let the fillies pass, however Midnight doesn't budge, her eyes locked on her little sister.

"Follow them straight there," she says after making sure she has Dawn's full attention. "No sidetracking and no adventures, got it?"

"Y-yeah, got it," Dawn replies, Midnight's seriousness eating into her brief burst of enthusiasm.

Satisfied, Midnight steps aside as well. With all obstacles now removed, the Crusaders run past their sisters and down the hall, any hesitation promptly lost amid a cry of "Cutie Mark Crusaders Disaster Management Team YAY!"

Those remaining watch the doorway the Crusaders had left through, a pregnant pause following as each imagines a different potential outcome of putting the group of fillies in charge of managing something they normally create. The moment passes quickly however, any possible mischief the Crusaders could get up to dismissed as the older ponies plus Spike follow them out of the room and towards the exit.

"Excuse me," Twilight says, stopping at the receptionist's desk. Nurse Sweetheart and Holly Dash stop talking to look at her, a blush of embarrassment creeping onto the receptionist's face. "Can you both find anypony else that's still in the building and bring them to the town square? It's an emergency and we need everypony there."

"Of course, Princess," Sweetheart replies, looking over at Holly. "I'll get Redheart, and you can tell Tenderheart and Rhyme?"

Holly nods and stands only to trip over her chair and fall to the floor with a crash, once again upsetting her carefully organized desk. Jumping to her hooves in an instant, she dashes off, her face a deep crimson. The nurse ponies alerted, Twilight follows the rest of the group out of the building.

Applejack stops just outside the doors, "Do y'all hear that?"

As everypony listens, the sound of faint sobbing makes its way to down to them, their heads swiveling simultaneously to stare at nearby dark grey cloud releasing an occasional drop of water.

Twilight walks below the cloud, "Rainbow?"

"Go away," the cloud containing the sobbing pegasus responds.

Undeterred, she encompasses the cloud in her magic, dragging both it and Rainbow Dash to ground level, "Come on, Rainbow, Ponyville is in danger and we need your help."

Rainbow Dash avoids her gaze, eyes red and wet from crying, "B-but Twilight…"

Twilight sighs, "Daring Do isn't dead, Midnight made that up. Besides, how could she have written a book that she died in?"

Rainbow Dash swallows and rubs the remaining tears from her eyes, "O-oh… t-that makes sense, I guess. So, uh, why is Ponyville in danger?"

"Turns out there's some kinda murderer skulkin' around town, so we need ta round everypony up and send 'em off to the town square to make sure everypony's still alright," Applejack explains.

Rainbow Dash sniffles and salutes, "Well you can count on me. What's the plan, egghead?"

"We will take the southwestern part of Ponyville," Luna states, laying claim to the most densely populated area.

Twilight nods, placing Luna on a mental map of the town, "Alright, in that case… Rarity, you take the immediate area around here. Pinkie, you take the western part of town around Golden Oaks. Applejack, you should go get your family. Rainbow, you take the southeastern area; I'll take the eastern; and Fluttershy, you help Rarity here in the north. Oh and Spike, you're with me."

"So… I should sit here then?" Midnight asks just before they disperse.

"Oh! Right. Uhh…" Twilight glances questioningly at Luna.

"We think it would be best for you to join my guards and search for the murderer from the sky," Luna suggests. "After all, you are the only pony here to have seen him first hoof. Also we doubt that you would be particularly successful in convincing anypony to leave their home – quite the opposite, in fact."

Midnight gives a short nod and disappears into the sky, everyone else quickly heading to their assigned destination as well.

As the Crusaders make their way towards the town square, a voice booms behind them in the distance.


Glancing over her shoulder in the direction of Luna's voice, Applebloom changes course, instead running up to one of the houses lining the street to bang on the front door with her forehooves, "HEY WAKE UP! THERE'S AN EMERGENCY!"

"What are you doing?" Dawn shouts back at her wayward friend, stopping along with Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo a couple houses away, "We're supposed to be going straight there!"

"Well, we're passing by these houses anyway, so really we're still goin' straight there – we just won't get there quite as fast as we possibly could," Applebloom reasons, dropping her hooves from the door. "Plus it'd be downright irresponsible of us to not wake them up when we're runnin' right by already. Ah mean what kind a' managers would we be if we just let everypony else do all the work?"

"That makes sense," Sweetie Belle concurs, Scootaloo bobbing her head in agreement.

Catching movement in her peripheral vision, Scootaloo looks down an alley between a pair of houses just in time to see a hoof vanish behind one of them.

"Hey!" she calls after the hoof, "Everypony needs to head to the town square, it's an emergency!"

Scootaloo trots over to the gap between the houses, Sweetie Belle and Dawn following her while Applebloom hops off the porch of the house she had been assaulting to join them.

"Didja see somepony down there?" Applebloom asks, scanning the empty alleyway in search of whoever her friend had been yelling at.

"Yeah," Scootaloo confirms, pointing to the corner the hoof had vanished behind, "he walked away though."

Applebloom steps into the alley, "Well? What're we waitin' for? Twilight said to get everypony to the town square and there's a pony here who needs to be told that."

Scootaloo joins her, the pair looking back at Sweetie Belle and Dawn once halfway to the corner.

Applebloom raises an eyebrow, "Are you two comin', or are ya just gonna stand there?"

"We're supposed to be going straight to the town square," Dawn reiterates, though less certainly.

Applebloom rolls her eyes, "Fine, it's a slight detour, but it's not like we're runnin' across town or anything."

"But what if it's the pony who attacked Dawn's sister?" Sweetie Belle asks, an edge of fear in her voice. "I mean, think about it. A few fillies walk into a dark alley at night following a mysterious figure only to turn a corner to find the monster standing right there waiting for them; it's the opening to practically every horror story ever!"

Scootaloo takes a turn rolling her eyes, "Yeah, but this is real life, not a story. What are the chances we'd actually run into him? He might not even be in town anymore for all we know."

Sweetie Belle and Dawn share a nervous look, however they nevertheless enter the alley after their friends. Reaching an intersection with a second alley running behind the houses, the four turn left – and come face to face with a red pony grinning maliciously at them, his razor sharp fangs glistening clearly in the moonlight. The fillies freeze, time seeming to stop with them until he licks his lips and takes a step forward, the movement setting their world in motion once more.

"I TOLD YOU!" Sweetie Belle screeches, the Crusaders backpedaling frantically across the intersection away from the monster – only to hit a solid wall. A quick inspection reveals the dead end for what it is, but before the Crusaders can correct their mistake, the fanged pony crosses the intersection as well, cornering them. A droplet of saliva travels down his left fang, combining with a black fluid gathering at its tip to fall to the ground. Stopping to sniff the air, the monster licks his lips once more, seeming to savor the scent of their fear.

Applebloom smooshes herself into the obstructing wall as if hoping she would somehow be able to phase through it, "Uh-oh."

The others bunch around her when the monster starts walking forward again, sliding along the wall and into a corner in an effort to keep as much distance as possible between them.

"Girls," Scootaloo says, looking over to meet each of her friends' eyes, "I have a crazy idea."

"Awesome! Because I have no ideas at all!" Sweetie Belle yells, panic rising in her cracking voice.

Scootaloo lets out a scared laugh, "OK, on the count of three, shout 'yay' as loud as you possibly can."

Applebloom gawks at her incredulously, "That's your-"




All four Crusaders simultaneously clench their eyes shut and take a deep breath.

The monstrous pony lunges.


A powerful wave of sound crashes into the charging monster, the force of it lifting him off his hooves and throwing him clear across the intersection to glance off the alley wall before landing in a crumpled heap. After a tense moment, the Crusaders carefully crack open their eyes to observe their surroundings, caution transforming into awe as they examine the shallow quarter-circle crater they're now standing in.

"Whoa…" Applebloom murmurs, slowly walking a few steps away from their corner as she takes in the destruction.

Sweetie Belle presses a hoof to one of the damaged walls, fresh cracks emanating from the corner they had backed into leading up to a shattered window, "I can't believe that actually worked."

Scootaloo grins, "Good job putting your lungs into it, Dawn! We couldn't have done it without you!"

The four gather together again, this time in a group hug. Their celebration is short lived however – the fanged pony rising and shaking his head, though staggering slightly off-balance. The moon's light reflects weakly off a thin stream of blood trickling out of each ear from an injury otherwise invisible against his similarly colored coat.

"I think we should run now," Dawn suggests.

Hastily disengaging from their hug, they race towards the intersection, their still dazed attacker stumbling forward as well. However, mere steps away from safety, they skid to a halt, Rainbow Dash landing heavily in the center of the intersection to put herself between them and the nearly recovered red pony.

She looks over her shoulder, "Are you girls okay?"

"We're fine," Sweetie Belle assures her.

Rainbow flares her wings, returning her attention to the pony with a faded cutie mark, "Good. Now get out of here!"

"Already on it!" Scootaloo yells, she and her friends charging past Rainbow Dash and towards the street.

The red pony hisses angrily at the sight of his escaping victims, any unsteadiness now gone as he gallops at the meddling pegasus. Rainbow Dash simply raises an eyebrow, an amused smile playing across her lips. He lunges, but just as his hooves are about to make contact she falls onto her back and kicks up, all four of her hooves connecting with her attacker's barrel to easily propel him over her and into another wall.

"Is that the best you got?" she taunts, jumping to her hooves.

Her opponent stands as well, unfazed.

Closing the distance between them once more, he stops short of another full body assault, instead this time his head shooting forward towards her neck. Despite his change in tactics however, all he gets between his teeth is air, Rainbow nimbly dodging his attacks and each time landing a solid punch on his jaws after they audibly snap shut. Her fifth blow knocks a tooth loose and she smirks at him, confidence swelling until she takes another step back to dodge his next attack – and slips on her own tail.

With a victorious snarl the fanged pony lunges forward once more, Rainbow Dash frantically spreading her wings and taking to the air, only to jerk to a stop a couple feet off the ground. Looking below, she sees the fanged pony digging his hooves into the dirt, her traitorous tail gripped in his mouth. He grins at her, eyes gleaming, and in one swift motion reaches up, grabs her tail with his forehooves, and yanks her towards him. Rainbow yelps at her sudden descent, automatically aiming a kick at his muzzle, but he calmly spits out her tail and tilts his head to the side, allowing the limb to shoot past his jaw – and into reach.

Rainbow Dash cries out in pain as his fangs sink into her leg, her wings momentarily faltering, then beating even faster than before to no avail. The undead vampony groans passionately at her obvious suffering and closes his eyes, the glow of his irises still visible through his eyelids as the blood flowing across his tongue is replaced by another liquid leaving his fangs. Rainbow yells again, redoubling her efforts to escape though the one drinking her blood barely notices, effortlessly maintaining his grip on her leg while he's dragged across the ground by his struggling victim.

His victory does not last long, however. Without warning, Midnight drops from the sky onto the oblivious earth pony, the speed of her descent partially stripping away her invisibility and the impact dispelling it completely – a sharp crack echoing down the alley the moment her forehooves connect with the base of the undead pony's skull, shattering vertebrae and severing his spinal cord. A pair of pops immediately follow as his shoulders dislocate, a series of splintering snaps coming from his barrel a split second later when the momentum from her dive bears his body into the ground.

The grip on her leg vanishing as the vampony's body breaks, Rainbow Dash shoots into the air like a multi-colored spell bolt before bringing herself under control and returning to land on a thatch roof overlooking the alley.

Pushing off from her prey's unmoving form with an unhealthy squelch, Midnight takes to the air as well, landing on the roof opposite the shocked pegasus.

"H-hey!" Rainbow sputters, her wide-eyed stare moving from her attacker's broken form to Midnight, then back to her attacker, "You-you just killed him you-"

She fails to finish her sentence however, the not-dead pony drawing a gurgling breath and staggering to his hooves only to fall down again – his crippled body barely capable of standing, let alone walking.

Rainbow's eyes nearly bulge out of their sockets as she gapes at him, closing her mouth just in time to keep her dinner from spilling down the side of the house and following up with an audible swallow, "-you didn't kill him. Sweet Celestia, how is he still alive!?"

Midnight disregards the exclaimed question, scrutinizing Rainbow after sniffing the air, "Are you alright?"

"Huh?" Rainbow Dash asks, distracted by a fresh attempt to stand by the pony below, "Yeah yeah I'm fine."

"I smell blood," Midnight states calmly, still watching her.

Rainbow gestures at the crippled pony as he falls once again, "Gee, I wonder why."

Midnight smells her hooves, wrinkling her nose, "It's definitely not his; his smells terrible."

Rainbow glances at her injury and shifts slightly, as if keeping it out of sight would somehow hide the scent, "He got me a bit before you… uhh… " the pony stands again, "broke him."

"I can heal it," Midnight offers, spreading her wings. The pony falls once more.

"No!" Rainbow declines loudly, nerves tingling uncomfortably up her leg as she takes a couple steps away, "I mean, uh, no thanks. He only nicked me and I'm barely bleeding so you can stay. Over there."

Midnight hesitates for a moment, then shrugs and folds her wings, settling down to keep an eye on the pony she had landed on.


"Princess Luna!"

Looking down, Luna sees the Crusaders frantically waving at her.

Frowning, she descends to the street, "WHY ARE – sorry, why are you not at the town square?"

An indecipherable stream of words answers her inquiry, all four fillies speaking at once.

Raising a hoof for silence, she points to one of them, "Applebloom, why are you here?"

"We found him!" her chosen Crusader responds immediately.

"Yeah!" Scootaloo adds, "Rainbow Dash held him off so we could escape."

Horror spreads across Luna's face, "Take me to where you found him! NOW!"

The Crusaders flinch at her tone, immediately turning on their hooves and running back the direction they had come, now with Luna flying just behind them.

Sweetie Belle points to the alley they had recently fled from, "Over there!"

Luna lands in front of them just in time for a red pony to stagger out and fall to the ground at the mouth of the alley. She freezes, eyes wide, but only for the barest moment – her horn shining to life to seal the fallen pony inside an iridescent sphere floating a few feet off the ground.

Barely managing to stand on the curved floor of the sphere, the undead pony steadies himself and bucks the barrier with his hind legs. Twin *cracks* sound as his ankles bend at unnatural angles and several small fractures appear on the shield's otherwise smooth surface, the force of his kick propelling him face first into the other side of the shield. Luna's horn flares brighter, the damage to the sphere disappearing in seconds while her prisoner's smushed face glares at her malevolently.

The immediate threat contained, Luna scans the alley worriedly, "RAINBOW DASH!"

"Up here, Princess Luna," Rainbow responds as she gingerly walks towards the street across the roof of one of the houses overlooking the alley, Midnight matching Rainbow's movement on the roof of the house making up the alley's other wall.

A sigh of relief builds in Luna's chest, however before she can release it, a purple flash from a nearby window draws her attention.

"Huh? How did I-"

A piercing scream cuts off the muffled words followed by a series of crashes, the commotion ending with Twilight teleporting into the alley.

"Is everypony okay?" she inquires, surveying the area as she levitates the back of a chair from around her neck and brushes a few splinters of wood from her mane, "I heard screaming."

Rainbow Dash snickers, "Uhh… yeah, we're fine. …Are you alright?"

"Hm?" Twilight's gaze flicks from the captured pony to her amused friend, then back to the sphere, "Yep I'm totally fine, just a small teleportation misunderstanding."

Scootaloo contorts her body, attempting to mimic the pose of the pony inside the barrier, "I don't think you're supposed to be able to bend that way."

"Midnight, is this the pony who attacked you?" Luna asks, ignoring Scootaloo's observation.

"Yes," Midnight confirms.

Twilight inspects the undead pony, her eyes narrowing, "It seems decidedly not berserk though…"

She squints at his flank, the light from Luna's barrier allowing her to just barely make out the faded image of a stepped pyramid with a bamboo tree on either side, "And based on what's left of his cutie mark, it appears he's from the Tenochtitlan Basin? That's odd."

Rainbow stamps her hoof angrily, "I bet Ahuizotl sent him here to get revenge for when we helped Daring Do."

Twilight's eyes widen at her friend's words, the last pieces of the puzzle falling into place, "Midnight, you mentioned earlier that in the most recent Daring Do book vamponies were described very inaccurately, and that she and Ahuizotl teamed up. Was that really what happened?"

Midnight smirks down at Twilight from her perch, "I thought you didn't want any spoilers."

"Just tell me," Twilight demands.

Midnight rolls her eyes, "Yes, yes, that's really what happened."

"And," Twilight continues, "did they team up because one of Ahuizotl's minions became an undead vampony and started turning his other minions into undead vamponies, so in order to save his remaining minions as well as to have any chance of ever taking full control of the Basin he teamed up with his mortal enemy?"

Midnight opens her mouth to answer, but Twilight cuts her off with a raised a hoof, "And! Was the leader of the undead vamponies described to look like," she points at the sphere, "him?"

Midnight stares at her, perplexed, then at the undead pony. Then back at Twilight, then back to the pony, each time her confusion further replaced by shock.

"Daring Do is real?!" she half asks half exclaims once her brain starts working again.

Twilight snorts, "Daring Do is very real. Was my summary accurate?"

Midnight nods mutely, eyes unfocused as she peers off into space.

"Which leaves only one explanation for why this undead vampony seems to have intelligence," Twilight concludes. "Well no, there are at least seven other possible explanations, but this one is the most likely."

She faces the undead vampony once more, "Isn't that right, Sombra?"

A cruel smile twists the captured monster's face as he regards the accusing alicorn, lips parting to release a choking, guttural laugh.

Luna stabs her horn towards the sky at his response, her moon rapidly moving across the heavens to reach its zenith before blazing like a second pure white sun. Darkness reclaims the night sky after only a moment however, all of the moonlight focused entirely into a single thin beam intersecting the barrier she had created. While the magical light from the beam disappears as quickly as it had been summoned, its whiteness does not leave entirely – the intense magical energy having scorched the color from everything beneath and around the now ponyless prison.

Luna's eyes lock onto the one thing remaining inside – a unicorn horn, dark grey at the base transitioning to a bright reddish-orange at the tip. After hovering for a split second, it falls, hitting the bottom of the barrier with a soft yet resounding *clink*.