A freshly risen moon peers over the Everfree's sea of trees, its light breaking through a growing crack in the canopy to create slow shadows swaying to and fro over a river flowing towards a distant lake. In its center atop a fallen tree stands Midnight, glowing nocturnal butterflies on the receiving end of her ire – her current target only barely evading the snap of her jaws. She pauses, rebalancing on the slick log before hopping after it once more, the fluttering insect again floating out of her reach just in time.
Her entire body twitches at the sudden greeting, a choked hiss escaping as her grip fails, gravity taking over to drag her into the water below. Giggling greets her once she resurfaces, a lanky vampony mare sporting a dark green coat along with a coal grey mane and tail streaked with silver smiling down from her former place on the log, "Sorry about that; it's not like you to get so surprised."
Midnight grunts, treading water long enough to shoot a glare at the intruder before swimming towards the riverbank, "What do you want, Moon Shadow?"
"I was curious, you know? About whether you were alright," said mare replies, following along the log after Midnight. "And other things. It sounded like you and Dawn were right in the middle of what happened, and while I can kinda understand your parents not dragging Dawn around everywhere with them, you not being there was just weird."
Reaching the shore, Midnight rises from the river, Moon Shadow raising a wing against a brief shower of horizontal rain as Midnight dries herself, "So… yeah. Are you okay? You don't seem very hurt for somepony who was captured by them."
Midnight shrugs, "I was hurt. I got better. Not sure what else my parents have been telling everypony."
Moon Shadow rolls her eyes, "Alright, well, that's good. So as far as the whole 'got attacked, discovered, revealed us and a bunch of our secrets, led an alicorn into the forest, and now we all have to be super careful when we go to feed' part? Oh, and I guess the changelings are our enemies now too for some reason."
"Sounds about right," Midnight says, giving her mane one last, vigorous shake.
Moon Shadow rubs her temples, "Bloody… look, I didn't spend the last two nights wandering around looking for you so you could tell me you did in fact do all those stupid things in as few words as possible. So, tell me what else is really going on, or-"
Midnight narrows her eyes – a butterfly meanwhile alighting on the fluff tipping an ear, "Or?"
Moon Shadow fidgets, "Or… I'll go get the zebra to make some weird potion out of, like, goat hair, and then dump it on you. Or something. I don't know."
"She'd probably use it on you instead after what you did last time," Midnight retorts, raising an eyebrow. "And Dusk's already been looking for a way to get back at you for that too."
"Yeah, I kinda figured," Moon Shadow admits, exhaling sharply. "But seriously, you can't expect me to believe that there's nothing else going on here; that you went ahead and did all that, and then they just let you go later."
Midnight's eyes flicker, her legs trembling like a newborn foal's while a low growl escapes from between her teeth.
Moon Shadow's ears lower, "B-But uh, if your parents told you not to talk about it, I don't want to force anything either."
"They're being… idiots… anyway," Midnight manages, each word leaving her mouth like a nail yanked from a piece of wood. "And now they're… going around making everything worse."
Moon Shadow rubs the back of her head, glancing away, "Wellllll, we've already been discovered, so… you know… how could they possibly make anything any worse?"
Midnight sits, panting, two more butterflies alighting on her mane, "The Equestrians didn't… didn't know what they were doing. Back then. And as half-hearted as it… as it…"
She grunts, shaking her head, "as it sounds, they're sorry for what happened. And they don't want to have to fight with us now. And my parents… are going to make us all get into a fight with them anyway. And we'll lose."
Moon Shadow's mouth hangs open for a moment, her brow knitting, "So they said they were sorry, and you believed them. Okay."
Her attention jumps to Midnight's cutie mark, "Did they… I mean, did they do something to you?"
Midnight lets out a choked laugh, then a gasp, her forelegs steadying, "The opposite. The townsponies never attacked me at all. I was attacked by an undead pony who was going to kill the pony I went to help Dawn feed on. Then-"
"Wait, stop, hold on," Moon Shadow interrupts, holding up her hooves. "Two things. One – undead; what? Two – why? It's not really our problem if one of them dies."
Midnight taps the muddy ground, averting her gaze, "W-Well, I… they called it undead, then I helped hunt him down later and broke his spine and a bunch of other bones, and he just stood right back up. So… yeah. I believe that. And… I didn't expect to get beat up the first time. That pony is mine; I'm not going to let some random weirdo walk in and kill her for some blood. You know what I mean."
Moon Shadow groans, "Yeah, I do. Anyway, then?"
"Then…" Midnight shivers, her jaw clenching, "then they found me, and put me in their hospital. Then they found Dawn and brought her over to me, no questions asked. Then, I… well, Luna offered, so I fed from her, and then-"
Moon Shadow again raises a hoof, "Hold on. Who's Luna?"
Midnight shrugs, "One of their alicorns. A bit bigger, blue."
"You fed from-" Moon Shadow gapes at Midnight, her eyes nearly bugging out of her head, "and she let you?"
Midnight nods, "And then some magical whatever happened, and suddenly I was healed and my butt had a moon on it. Then later Luna shot the undead guy with the actual moon somehow, the next day an even bigger white alicorn came by and we all talked some more, we left with Luna that night, my parents told her to go bite herself under the sun. And that's what happened."
Moon Shadow stares blankly at Midnight, twice her mouth opening only for no words to leave. Standing, she paces in a small circle, eventually coming to a halt and letting out a long sigh, "That's not at all close to what your parents told us."
Another faint tremor ripples through Midnight's body, "My parents hardly let me talk to them afterwards. They just assumed I was controlled somehow and ordered me to stay in the forest, among other things."
Moon Shadow shoots a look at Midnight's flank, "Are you sure you aren't being influenced, though? She changed your cutie mark."
"I am NOT being influenced, or controlled, or whatever else you want to call it," Midnight growls, eyes flashing. "I have felt… stronger, since then. But that's it."
"Then why did you lead Luna towards us?" Moon Shadow asks flatly. "Why did you even talk to them about us? If you hadn't said anything, we could've all just left and gone to live by another town and they wouldn't have ever known there were more of us."
Midnight paws at the muddy soil, "Because I – we – I was discovered, alright. They found me, I couldn't escape, and they had a pretty good idea what I was even before I woke up. Also, I had to come from somewhere, so there couldn't not be more of us. We can't run from this, now that they know to look for us, and my parents and anypony who agrees with them are idiots if they think we can just keep on hiding like nothing happened, the townsponies will forget about us, and then everything will go back to normal."
She looks up, meeting Moon Shadow's eyes, "Hoping for that relies on them accepting that we're here just as much as trying to cooperate with them does, except instead of talking to them it's 'be more careful and hope nothing else goes wrong forever'. It's stupid."
Moon Shadow holds Midnight's gaze for a moment, then glances away, "You're going to go back into their town then, I assume?"
Midnight nods, "I can't yet, but soon. It's my fault that all of this is happening. I'm not going to sit around hoping everything works itself out."
Moon Shadow examines the sky through the crevice in the canopy carved by the river, eventually closing her eyes and exhaling slowly before returning her attention to Midnight, "Can I come with?"