Luna grumbles irritably, her slumber faltering for the fourth time in as many hours as vague feelings of worry and doubt worm their way into her thoughts. Discontent eats away at her surroundings, her petal bedding's gentle touch blending with the plushness of the couch beneath her physical body while the normally calming scent of ink and books takes the opportunity to invade her more aromatic surroundings as well. A few tosses and turns later, she grudgingly allows her eyes to open, what remains of the carefully crafted meadow filled with faintly luminescent flowers making up her personal dream realm melting away to reveal the familiar bleeding together of the dreamscape's blues, purples, and whites.
Spreading her wings, she flaps them gently, her own will doing more to propel her forward than the motions of her body. Stray currents of subconscious thought press against her, lightly pushing her mane and tail to and fro like a warm breeze, Luna's mind wandering with the sensation to pleasant memories made during the recent summer months. A sudden chill brings her back to the present however, shivering and looking around just in time for a gale to slam into her face. Tumbling head over hooves from the force of the blow, Luna quickly rights herself, narrowing her eyes at the still-distant source of the disturbance.
The dreamscape of the Everfree resists her glare, the shadowy smoke suffusing the place giving an energetic swirl as if amused by her anger. Letting out an annoyed grunt, she summons forth a pillow from the ether, setting herself down on the floating cushion to observe the chaos of the forest.
Luna stares at the Everfree dreamscape patiently, her eyes locked onto a single point near the border. Without warning, a form takes shape from the haze, the faint outline of a tree appearing for a few moments before collapsing back into incoherent murk.
And then… now!
Her eyes dart to another point up and to the left, her gaze arriving just in time to see… nothing. However, after a few seconds another form takes shape at the edge of her peripheral vision, dissipating the instant she looks at it. Luna's pillow lengthens just enough for her to faceplant into it, letting out a muffled, frustrated groan.
"You know," an amused voice says from behind her, "while I am glad to see you taking a break from your nightly self-torment sessions, sleep works best if you let your mind rest along with your body."
Luna lifts her head, raising an eyebrow as she rotates her pillow with a thought, "And yet, you seem to be wide awake as well."
"In my defense, it is rather difficult to find peaceful sleep when one's restless mindmate decides to turn the lights back on," Selena replies wryly. "So. What's bothering you?"
"…I am not so certain that I made the correct decision to meet with the vamponies so quickly," Luna answers after a moment, glancing down at her pillow. "I know why it can't wait, generally where I need to go, what I need to say and to who, but how exactly should I go about saying it? I may well only get one chance at this, and if I am not able to make them understand how things will be changing in a way they will accept, then there will inevitably be conflicts, and I do not know how much good any of us will be able to do if that history begins to repeat itself. Neither demanding the vamponies wholly submit to us and our rules after what happened nor forcing the townsponies to accept being fed upon by unknown, predatory ponies from the Everfree will end well for anypony, and yet there may end up being no better options available to us.
"I'm sure everything will turn out alright," Selena says, offering a reassuring smile. "Midnight and Dawn seem to trust you, and to understand the necessity of change now that their kind has been revealed."
Luna nibbles the inside of her mouth, "Midnight's reaction is part of what has me so worried. When she realized what had happened a thousand years ago, she was frightened of what I intended to do to her – it was only through giving her my blood that I was able to so quickly allay those fears, and I can hardly do the same for each and every vampony who lives nearby. Not to mention we don't even know what it would do to them; it may have healed Midnight's wounds, but it also altered her cutie mark, which is always an indication of something far more subtle and serious. And we haven't even told Midnight, or Celestia for that matter, specifically what we intend to say needs to change. Celestia I know completely trusts us – well, me, at least – but Midnight… Midnight I am not so sure. This certainly has a much greater impact on her than it does my sister, and if even she ends up refusing to abide by our proposal, then it seems likely that none of the other vamponies will either."
"Well then, the solution is obvious," Selena states matter-of-factly.
A couple seconds of silence pass, Luna watching Selena expectantly before filling the void of words with a question, "That solution being?"
Selena rolls her eyes, "If you are so worried about what Midnight will think, then ask her. If you are worried about how the other vamponies will react, then ask her about that too. And if she thinks your plan won't work, then ask her why and what she thinks a better solution would be."
"Oh, right," Luna says, rubbing her temples. "This is why Celestia usually takes charge of politics and diplomacy – it sounds so obvious now that you say it."
Selena bobs her head and floats over to Luna's right, staring at the dreamscape of the Everfree Forest, "So, have you seen anything interesting out there?"
"No," Luna grumbles, turning her pillow towards the forest's murky depths as well, "and at times I am almost certain that it is mocking me."
"The forest does seem to love its secrets… " Selena murmurs, staring pensively out into the undulating black fog.
Luna sighs after a few minutes, giving Selena a flat look, "Do you intend to tell me what's on your mind, or shall I start guessing? Because clearly I am not the only one being bothered by something."
Selena looks away from the forest of smoke, sending Luna a quick glance before dropping her gaze to her hooves, "Celestia."
Luna pulls her front hooves towards her chest, letting her left side push into the pillow as she repositions herself, "Ah."
"What if she doesn't like that I live in your head? What if she wants me to leave your mind?" Selena asks nervously, "What if she just plain doesn't like me? What if she freaks out like she did with the changelings and starts demanding that you choose-"
"Then I will not," Luna interrupts. "You are both important to me."
A smile flickers weakly across Selena's lips, "That… isn't really an answer."
Luna pauses, giving Selena a pointed look, "If anypony tries to force me to choose, then they will have made my choice all the easier."
Selena winces at the implication, her ears drooping, "Sorry."
Luna pushes her pillow away, the imaginary fabric holding it together unwinding into nothingness as she embraces Selena, "But that isn't going to happen; you two are my favorite ponies in the world and you are going to get along fine – there will be no choosing."
"I'm sure you're right," Selena replies, returning Luna's hug before pulling back. "I'm just really nervous about meeting her. I haven't met anypony as myself in a really long time, and it's Celestia of all ponies… "
"And it will be fine," Luna reiterates confidently. "And, who knows, depending on how well it goes, perhaps you could even ask her about your idea to have a partial eclipse soon."
Selena giggles, "Let's not put the cart before the pony. Besides, you're the one who controls the moon, not me."
A tingle of magic runs over Luna's body before she can reply, the pair glancing up to find the full moon suddenly shining down upon them as if summoned by their words.
"It's time?" Selena queries.
"It is," Luna says with a nod, the dreamscape dissolving into a wash of colors as she takes her leave of the realm of sleep.
Luna continues lying on her couch after she re-enters the waking world, allowing herself to bask in her physical form's relaxation for a little while longer before forcing herself into motion. Several wonderful, full body stretches later, she levitates the forgotten fourth waffle still resting on her plate to hover next to her, making her way up to Twilight's top-most balcony. Arriving through its trapdoor, she spares a glance for the telescope clamped to the northeast section of the railing encircling the platform, instead taking a seat facing the western horizon while she consumes her now long cold waffle and watches the dimming sunset mark the passing of the day's final moments.
However, a split second before the sun vanishes entirely, Luna's ears twitch at the sound of an inaudible voice and she smirks mischievously, a light blue glow pulsing over her horn to push her sister's celestial object into hiding an instant too soon. Immediately the sun edges back into the sky, hanging there for a long moment before once more descending out of sight. Snickering, Luna walks over to stand beside Twilight's telescope, the air thrumming with focused magical power as she pulls her moon up from behind the eastern horizon and sets it on its course across the night sky.
"That was so cool!" a colt's voice calls out from the street below, Pipsqueak waving up at her from between two older ponies. "Hello, Princess Luna!"
The stallion beside Pipsqueak precedes his own hesitant wave with a quick bow, his nearly colorless white coat and pale yellow mane and tail contrasted by the bright green of his eyes and a cutie mark of a train conductor's hat. Meanwhile the mare standing on Pipsqueak's other side dips her head as well, her cutie mark of a pair of railroads forming an 'X' blending in with the rest of her entirely brown body.
"Greetings, Pipsqueak," Luna replies, the enhanced volume of the Royal Canterlot Voice vibrating the wood beneath her hooves. "How are you this fine night?"
"Well, it's my bedtime, so that isn't so great," Pipsqueak answers. "I want to stay up all night like you do, Princess!"
"Your dedication to our night is admirable, young one," Luna says, a suppressed giggle hidden beneath her false solemnity, "however you should indeed rest – you would not wish to then sleep away the day while your friends are awake to play, would you?"
Pipsqueak pokes at the ground, "I guess not… oh! Will you be coming back to Ponyville for the Nightmare Night festival this year? The candy and games and everything are great, but it's just not the same without you!"
"Unfortunately we have already committed to making an appearance in Las Pegasus, and then at the base of Mount Olympony later that same night," Luna replies, letting out an exaggerated sigh of regret. She pauses for a few seconds, watching the hope drain from Pipsqueak's face, "But, I have no such obligations for the year after."
"Really?" Pipsqueak gives a quick rear of excitement, "Yes! Thank you, Princess! It'll be the best Nightmare Night ever! I'll make sure of it!"
"Of that, I have no doubt," Luna states, smiling warmly down at him.
Pipsqueak's mother nudges him forward, "Come on, Pip, let's go. I'm sure the Princess has some very important work to do, and like she said, you need your rest."
"Alright… " Pipsqueak says sadly, taking a few steps before waving to Luna again, "Goodnight, Princess Luna!"
Luna returns the wave, "Pleasant dreams, Pipsqueak."
Though as she turns towards the trapdoor, one last string of words from the young stallion manages to reach her ears.
"See? I told you that Luna is best princess!"
Spreading her wings, Luna lands lightly at the base of the ladder leading to the balcony, a smile stuck on her face and a spring in her step as she heads further into Twilight's home.
Luna pauses at the top of the stairs overlooking the library, Lunar Trail dropping from his hook while Shadow Strike and Night Glider equip the last of their armor. The first step of her descent draws forth a creak from the wood, all three of her guards saluting the moment they realize its source.
"At ease," Luna says automatically, the thestrals relaxing at her words.
Shadow Strike steps forward, "Your Highness, by your leave, Night Glider and I are ready to begin patrolling the town."
"Of course," Luna replies, dismissing them with a wave of her hoof.
The pair offer a brisk bow before heading to the front door, both stashing a pair of apples under each wing from a refilled fruit bowl sitting by the doorway.
Lunar Trail meanwhile rapidly dons his armor, slipping his hind legs into a pair of obsidian blue greaves and tightening a pair of woven, pitch black belts at the top and bottom of each until they are snug with his legs. The greaves for his forelegs follow suit, both of these also bearing a silver engraving of Princess Luna's cutie mark. The same woven material as the belts links each of the foreleg greaves to a sharpened steel hoofshoe, the shoes slightly smaller than his hoof though with just enough give to allow his foot to be pushed inside and held tightly by the metal. A curved, claw-like blade parallel to his leg clicks into place on either side of each shoe once his full weight presses onto their soles – the weapons nearly invisible against his armor. Then with one final, smooth motion he swings the last piece of his armor over his body and lets it fall into place across his barrel, a helmet connected by scale plates running up the back of his neck dropping neatly onto his head.
"You are ready?" Luna asks, walking past him.
Using his tail, Lunar Trail slips a trio of of sheaths into hidden slots between his armor and his back, the first two a pair of daggers and the third a shortsword, "Yes, Princess!"
"Good," Luna replies, waiting until Lunar Trail takes his place in front of her before she enters the tunnel leading to Twilight's basement. "Let us wake Midnight and Dawn, and then be on our way."
The wood of the tree vanishes after only a few steps, densely packed dirt taking its place. Several seconds later, the path steepens and curves to the left, thick roots wrapping the tunnel to form rough, bumpy steps as they continue their descent – whitish-blue crystal lamps periodically flickering to life inside tiny alcoves likewise formed from the roots. A full minute after leaving the library, the pair finally reach the basement, stepping into a perfectly circular room lined with still more roots and lit by more of the same glowing crystals. Five new tunnels branch out from it, all of them placed precisely 60 degrees apart from each other.
A weak breeze pushes at their backs as Lunar Trail glances down each of the tunnels, impenetrable darkness consuming the one closest to their left, "So… which way do you think they went, Princess Luna?"
Luna points at the darkened tunnel, "We are fairly certain they went that way."
"Err… I'm not doubting you, Princess, but what makes you so sure?" Lunar Trail asks, examining the royally chosen tunnel more closely. Luna's hoof drops to point at the floor – a several inactive lamp crystals piled just inside the tunnel entrance.
"Ah," Lunar Trail replies, trotting into the darkened tunnel after a nod of confirmation from Luna. Blue light illuminates his way forward, Luna's magic floating the first of the crystals past him into an empty lamp hanging from the ceiling.
The roots and compacted dirt quickly give way to a square passage built from stone bricks as they follow the path of crystal-less lamps, the two of them soon reaching the third – and final – room attached to the tunnel. A diverse collection of scorched, melted, shattered, and otherwise irreparably damaged odds and ends rests within, each meticulously labeled, categorized, and placed on a multitude of shelves of assorted heights, widths, and depths lining its walls.
Lunar Trail quickly focuses on the pair of vamponies curled up in the far left corner despite the experimental detritus however, Dawn's back pressed to the wall while Midnight's faces them. He takes a step in their direction, but Luna's magical aura surrounds him before he can taken another and she shakes her head, instead levitating a partially burnt wooden rod from one of the shelves. Rotating it so the unburnt end is facing Midnight, she prods the sleeping vampony's shoulder.
Instantly Midnight's head whips around, the entire length of her fangs on full display as she sinks her teeth into the rod. A murderous growl rumbles in her throat, the light from Luna's magic glinting off a clear liquid dripping from her fangs as she drives her teeth further into the creaking wood.
"Luna's light… " Lunar Trail murmurs, staring wide-eyed at the display before him. Images of his leg or neck similarly clamped between her jaws flash through his mind, though the cold touch of fear is quickly tainted by a much warmer and entirely different, yet not unrelated, sensation spreading across his body.
Midnight's ears prick at the sound of his words, the muscles of her jaw slowly unclenching once the noise filters through the adrenal haze filling her still waking mind. Blinking, she glances first at Lunar Trail and Luna, then at the piece of wood held between her teeth before reversing course and attempting to open her mouth.
The wood refuses to let go however, leaving her teeth lodged firmly in the rod and her mouth held mostly shut, "Mm."
Frowning, she shifts to a sitting position, this time using her forehooves to yank the rod downwards while jerking her head in the opposite direction. After a split second of resistance her mouth pops open, the tooth just behind her upper right fang successfully escaping from the rod's woody grip while the other side of her mouth is less fortunate – a bleeding gap now where the left tooth used to be. She makes quick work of freeing her lower jaw, her tongue flicking into the fresh hole in her teeth once the piece of wood falls to the floor.
"Midnight? Are you alright?" Luna ventures, a still stunned Lunar Trail staring at the tooth lodged in the rod.
Midnight swallows, scrunching her muzzle at the bitter taste of her own blood spreading through her mouth, "Hm? Yeah, I'm fine."
"You're, uh… you're sure?" Lunar Trail manages to ask. "I mean, you just yanked out your own tooth."
Midnight shrugs, "It had started feeling kind of loose while I was eating earlier, so it was probably going to fall out on its own soon anyway."
Luna and Lunar trade confused looks, Midnight glancing between them with equal confusion, "What?"
"Nothing," Luna replies uncertainly, "it's just that you are so calm about this, as if losing a tooth is a completely normal thing to occur, yet you do not seem to be missing any other teeth."
"Well… yeah," Midnight says, "they grow back."
"Your teeth grow back after they fall out?" Lunar Trail asks. "As in, all on their own?"
Midnight's ears prick, "Do yours not?"
"Uhh… " Lunar Trail shakes his head, "no, no they do not."
Midnight's brow knits, "But… what do you do if a tooth gets chipped, or knocked out?"
"We fix it with a potion or with magic," Luna answers simply.
"Or we just deal with having a tooth missing," Lunar Trail adds.
Midnight blinks, "Huh."
A groaning yawn suddenly emanates from behind Midnight, Dawn only barely opening her eyes, "So is it time to leave, or can I go back to sleep while you guys talk about teeth and stuff?"
"Nope, time to get up," Midnight replies, poking at the belly of her younger sister.
Dawn curls into a ball against her sister's persistent hoof, standing and stretching once it's safe. Spreading her wings, she flaps them a couple times then refolds them to her sides, Midnight following suit and spreading her own wings to their fullest before bringing them back to rest against her barrel.
So are you going to ask her or not? Selena prods.
"Actually, Midnight, there is something I would like to hear your opinion on before we depart," Luna says after a moment's hesitation.
Dawn groans again, collapsing back to the floor.
Midnight casts an annoyed look at her sister, "Um, okay. What?"
"Well… " Luna glances away uncomfortably, "with the existence of your kind now being known, a lot of things are going to be changing. The main… problem, I suppose, being that vamponies are going to have to accept that other ponies have the right to refuse to be fed on – once all the specifics are figured out and agreed upon, you aren't going to be able to continue breaking into ponies' homes at will and drinking their blood. Ponies are going to have to be able to give and take permission, and vamponies are going to need to honor that choice. Another possibility is also that blood could be donated, perhaps at the Ponyville Hospital, and then vamponies could go there to pick up what they need."
"So," Luna continues, "before we go and meet with all of the vamponies around Ponyville, I am curious as to what you think about these ideas as well as what you think the other vamponies will think of them."
Midnight looks at the floor, deep in thought, "Do we have a choice?"
"Not… really, no," Luna answers, wincing. "Still, I would like to force the issue as little as possible."
"Mmm… " Midnight murmurs. "Well, the 'donating' option sounds pretty weird and like it might taste really bad. I guess the 'permission' thing would be okay, as long as there's enough ponies and we're not expected to end up as servants in exchange or something." Her expression darkens, "I'm not going to go around begging for blood just so I can survive, and I'm not going to starve myself if nopony wants to 'give permission' either."
"Rest assured, while I have not worked out the exact details yet, whatever arrangement we come to will not be one of that nature," Luna replies, cracking a small smile. "What of all the other vamponies near Ponyville, though?"
Midnight shrugs, "I can think of a few who might not be too bothered by it themselves, maybe, but I doubt anypony is really going to be happy about it either, and I don't think any of them would go their own way against my parents' decision regardless. As for my parents… I really don't know. They definitely won't like anything that gives anypony else any kind of control over our survival, but I wish I knew why they never told me about what happened. They aren't old enough to have been around back then, but… "
"Yes, that is quite the 800 pound minotaur, isn't it… " Luna sighs, "Nevertheless, we thank you for your insight, Midnight."
Midnight nods, poking at her little sister's sprawled form. "Hey, we're done talking, get up."
Lunar Trail turns to leave as Dawn gets to her hooves, Luna following behind him while the vamponies walk behind her, the four of them making their way to the library and towards the front door. Lunar Trail pushes the door open, holding it while Luna and Midnight walk out to stand with him beneath the stars. Dawn hesitates however, raising her hoof to step outside only to pull it back, the process repeating itself until with a gulp she vanishes into the shadows.
"I'm good," Dawn whispers from beside Midnight, her voice barely audible.
With nopony left within Twilight's home, Midnight takes to the sky, Dawn flying close enough to her sister for Midnight to feel the air displaced by Dawn's wingbeats on her own wings. Luna and Lunar Trail follow in their wake, both of them giving Midnight a more normal berth as they allow her to lead them towards her home.