• Published 5th Jul 2015
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Dinner at Ravenloft - Meep the Changeling

Vinyl's father invites her and her friends to the family for a weekend visit. Unfortunately for Vinyl, there is something she neglected to tell her friends about her family...

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The Arrival

Lyra Heartstrings - 10th of Solar Dusk ‘03 EoH - Evening

I’d never been to Hollow Shades before, but I have heard a lot about it. Mostly in history classes. Apparently way back in pre-Discord times the ponies who owned the land were ousted by the family who currently owns it, and there was a ton of conflicts with early Equestria. Even a few battles.

Then one day, poof, alliance, and a few years later, bam, integrated into Equestria as a province. So, you know, that’s pretty weird. You don't see many places in early Equestrian history who were willing to fight just, well, stop.

According to some very reliable sources of mine, it was because Celestia hit their leader with the Elements to force a peace treaty. Though that theory has never been proven, so I figured hey, might as well check while I’m there. Maybe somepony knew what went down all those years ago. It was their homeland after all.

Also, I kinda wanted to meet one of my best friend’s folks! Everypony had met mine already, even Meep as her buggy self. Of course, I was also here for the food. As I said to Bon-bon, when some count goes, ‘hey, dinner at my place,’ you don’t say no!

Most of the time, I wanted nothing to do with snooty nobles. But, well, this was a rich guy in a cool place, which was allegedly haunted, who based off his letter seemed pretty fun! More rich uncle with epic house, less ‘let them eat cake’ jerkbag.

I do admit, I had kinda thought that the one black stallion the guy sent was going to pull all of us in his cart the three thousand or so miles to Vi’s dad’s place. Instead, we were driven to the train station, and the cart loaded on the train. Duh, I guess. Less cool though.

The awesome part was we got a private car! The entire thing had this awesome thick red shag carpeting, drapes made from black and cold cloth, dark wood paneling… It would have looked like a villain's lair if it weren't for the ton of silver candlesticks, and the nice white sofas, and awesome hoof carved bookcases. It looked like somepony had told Rarity ‘Decorate it subtly, using darker colors.’

Based on the train car I had expected us to pull into an epic train station with gold inlaid black marble floors, and be carted down a cool pathway with arching tree ceilings to a big manor house laid down on a cliffside. Or some other cool thing you can do with all the bits ever. You know, eccentric rich guy stuff.

Instead, the train stopped with a screech of iron on iron and within a few minutes we were hustled off onto the deck of a drab, stucco and wood shingle train station. The entire station was covered in fog so thick you couldn't see more than a few dozen feet. Two big iron lanterns hung on the wall, and were lit because the thick, hugely overgrown forest was so thick and tall it was blocking out the last of the sunlight four hours before sundown.

The wooden platform creaked underhoof like it was made of the joints of a thousand grandmothers. Absolutely nopony else aside from the six of us and the same black stallion from before could be seen anywhere. The train took off the second he unloaded the cart and our bags, vanishing into the fog down the tracks, sound and all in a few brief moments.


“If you are all inclined, the cart is ready to take you to the castle.” What’s-his-name announced out of nowhere.

Everypony just sort of nervously shuffled their hooves for a few minutes until Vinyl sighed and hopped up into the cart. “Come on, let’s just get this over with.”

One by one we climbed in, taking a seat wherever the luggage wasn't occupying. The black stallion hitched himself up to the cart a few seconds later. Prompting me to realize I hadn’t got his name. It seemed a bit mean to have him pull us who knows how far without even knowing his name.

“Er, excuse me, but what’s your name? I didn't catch it.” I asked.

“I didn’t give it Ma’am.” He replied simply.

The earth pony began walking forward way easier than she should have given the weight he was pulling. The cart creaked and bounced as he pulled it over the dusty cobblestone road. He must have been pretty buff under that shaggy black fur.

“Well, can I have it?” I asked curiously.

“Raven Field.” He answered, not even bothering to turn around.

I turned to give Vi a look of irritation. My eyes doing the best to demand she explain this.

Vi sighed, and pointed off into the distance. “It’s Hollow Shades, and he’s a servant. His family has probably been working as Waggoners, for like, generations. There's a whole culture. You don’t really speak to the people you’re transporting. That’s rude. You’re interrupting their privacy.”

“The Baroness is quite correct, Ms. Heartstrings.” Raven said again in the same flat tone.

“That’s kinda stupid… You can talk if you want.” I offered.

He remained silent. Pulling our cart down the long, wide road. Trees looming in the fog on all sides.

We lapsed into silence for a while. The entire trip had shifted from Vi moping around while we had fun to the set of an actually creepy horror movie. There were even signs made from a single plank of wood nailed to a tree and pointed on one side to label the other roads which occasionally split off from the one we were on. Despite this, there were absolutely no signs of life.

“I’m cold.” Cole complained, her voice making everypony jump.

A heartbeat passed and Meep cleared her throat. “Don’t worry, I gotcha.”

Meep stood up, stepped over to Cole and shifted. The lash of green flames lit up the countryside for a fair distance. For a split second, I swore I saw a dozen different creatures lurking in the fog just out of view.

Cole picked up Meep, who was now a fluffy yellow and black quilt, and snuggled into her. “Thanks dear.”

Bon-bon gave me a jealous look. “I’m cold too.”

I smiled at her, trying to forget what I thought I had seen in the fog. “I’m good Bonnie, but I’m not that good.”

<Yes… be totally jelly of my shifty powers!> Meep giggled telepathically.

“How the buck can you even hear like that?” Vinyl asked.

Finally! Someone actually asked that!

<I have no idea. If I were a Scout I could see like this too.> she answered.

“Driver,” Octavia asked, “Will the trip be much longer?”

“Only a few more minutes, Ms. Melody.” Raven answered.

It figured Octavia would be used to dealing with servants. Her folks were loaded after all.

I pulled Bon-bon close to me to share warmth and cast a simple comfort spell. After a few minutes the cold air felt kinda toasty and Bonnie gratefully flopped her head onto my shoulder.

Noticing everypony else doing something to provide warms to their lover Vi peaked at Octavia over her glasses. “Are you cold?”

“No. Are you?” she asked in return.

“Nope… We could snuggle anyways.” VI proposed.

“It’s weird in front of other people…” Octavia mentioned with a light blush as she nodded towards Raven.

Then silence kicked up again. Just the creak of the cart, the faint rustling of wind, the clip-clop of Raven’s hooves and the occasional impatient sigh of Vinyl. I couldn’t shake the image of those things I might have seen in the fog. Fear slowly covered me, layer by layer, like somepony was basting a turkey with fear juices.

The scenery finally changed, the trees on either side thinned out until we were in a massive clearing. The center was dominated by what looked like an old meteorite crater, a big bowl like dip in the ground a few miles across. It was so big the village of Hollow Shades was built in it.

The crater was filled with a large lake which looked almost black in the super dim light. The village itself was built on the sides of the rim in layers kinda like a wedding cake only hollow in the middle. I guess that was the hollow in Hollow Shades.

The Shades part was probably thanks to the seriously massive trees! Just one of those trees could become half of the buildings in Ponyville. Along with the mountains which surrounded the village they were seriously making it look like it was just about night, and it was only like, six thirty tops!

It would be awesome if the trees didn’t seem to loom over you, like giants ready to eat ponies like popcorn.

“What kind of trees are these anyways?” Cole asked curiously.

“Giant Sequoia Redwoods.” Vi answered as she looked over to the faint orange glow of the sun to west.

What was she looking for? I didn’t see anything. Just the seriously freaking huge trees.

A wolf’s mournful howl suddenly split the air.

“You didn’t say your dad ruled a bunch of werewolves.” Bon-bon joked nervously. Probably hoping joking about spooky stories would make this feel less spooky.

“Werewolf?” Octavia squeaked, ears perking and eyes dilating nervously.

“There.” Raven exclaimed suddenly.

“Huh?” I asked looking up.

Raven pointed off to our right. “There wolf.” Then he pointed off to the left and up. “There castle.”

“Why are you talking like that?” I asked, too baffled to look where he had pointed.

“I thought you wanted to. Suit yourself, I’m easygoing.” He said in a chipper tone before falling back into silence again.

Then I looked up and to the left. “Woah…”

There is one castle that every single last pony can describe off the top of their heads. Even if they have never seen it. No, it’s not the soaring golden towers of Canterlot.

It’s the massive, square shaped, gothic castle that seems to be made of nothing but towers shaped like needles jutting up into the sky, big angles, buttressing, stained glass windows, and big stone bridges to connect outer towers to it, all of which is perched on the side of a cliff or mountain so it looms over you as you approach.

Better known as ‘Totally-not-filled-with-evil-and/or-the-undead Keep’. Yep, that one. It was only missing getting struck by lightning as we looked at it.

Everypony’s ears drooped as the castle loomed overhead. Octavia gave Vinyl a nervous look, which we all shortly joined her in doing.

“What? I didn’t build it like that!” Vi protested. “It’s way less creepy in the day, okay?”

<What am I missing?> Meep asked in confusion.

“Vi’s dad lives in the old B-movie evil castle. Literally.” Cole said softly.

<Really? That sounds awesome!> there was a blaze of light as Meep changed back to her real self, materializing draped over Cole’s back. Her ears instantly drooped. “Uhh… wow… That’s… yeah that’s exactly what you said.”

Vinyl rubbed her head with both hooves. “Look, they shot the first evil vampire story here back in like, the silent movie days… I know it looks like the cliche evil castle. It’s… only kinda like that.”

“Only kinda?” Octavia echoed in concern.

“Well… it does have a dungeon, and hidden passages, and a sorcerer's sanctum, and random iron blazers for lighting in the really big cavernous rooms, and a bedroom in the highest room of the tallest tower… But dad’s nice! Kinda.” Vi said slumping down in her impromptu seat. “He’s just really eccentric.”

“I notice you didn’t say he wasn’t an evil vampire overlord.” Bon-bon teased.

“I said he was nice. That implies he’s not evil!” Vi protested, glaring at her over her glasses.

Octavia snickered. “I like how you just implied your father is a nice vampire overlord.”

“Er, Baroness…” Raven said hesitantly, “You didn’t-”

“No. I didn’t.” Vi grumbled slumping down again.

Raven snickered. “Only another minute madams!”

My suspicion-o-meter peaked. Every other pony in this wagon might think true vampires are fictional, but I knew better. Everyone is my little group knew better. There were other blood drinkers aside from the rare batpony with recessive genes, who prevented the common pony from digging deeper by providing an easy explanation for the source of the vampire myth. The real ones were out there somewhere...

Cole blinked, then grinned laughed, “Oh my Celestia! Please tell me your dad is a batpony! I could totally see somepony deciding to totally own the whole blood drinking thing like this!”

“No. He’s a unicorn. So’s my mom.” Vi sighed.

I shifted nervously in my seat. That ruled out the safe option…

No, bad Lyra! You’re thinking based on a bunch of spooky nonsense and jumping the gun just like Bon-bon always scolds you for doing! Vi’s dad is not a real vampire, it’s just a spooky evening out tonight and a coincidence with the castle making you think along the lines of a horror story.

The cart lurched as Raven stopped moving, parking us just in front of the castle’s massive black wood and dull gray iron banded doors. Two massive iron lanterns hung on either side of the door and lit the area up that showed the castle to be made from granite covered in white plaster. Which was good, if it had been black like it looked from the road I think I would have spontaneously learned to teleport.

Still a bit spooked from the ride everypony quietly got off the cart and started to stretch their legs. Deciding to be nice, I slowly started levitating everypony’s luggage down after them. I figured a servant or something could do it, but I’m not a dick like that.

The castle doors exploded open! Bright light bathed the entryway, a blur suddenly grabbed me and lifted me up in a crushing embrace! Stars exploded in my eyes!

“Vinyl! My little filly! How delight- Oh! Sorry.” A voice said in my ear as I was quickly set down.

As I gasped for air, I managed to make out a tall white unicorn stallion with a long straight black mane and tail, in a black cloak with blood red trim. He trotted away from me, and lifted Vi up in the same terrifying rib crushing bear hug I assume I just had.

“Vinyl! My little filly! How delightful to have you home again!” He announced. In a Trotsylvanian accent.

Colgate's jaw dropped as she looked at the stallion’s face. So did Meep’s, Bonbon’s and Octavia’s. Oh crap… I’d called it hadn’t I?

“Hey dad… so um… could you hit Lyra with some healing magic?” Vi said in a nervous tone.

“What are you talking about? I barely squeezed her, she’d have to be a mortal to be… Oh.” He paused for a moment, his horn burned red, and I stopped feeling like my everything was bruised.

He turned around and gave me a concerned look, and I spotted fangs in his concerned frown. “I’m terribly sorry! I figured with how much she liked you Vinyl would have turned you all so she doesn't outlive…”

He facehooved, and slowly turned back to Vinyl. “Sweetie… did you tell your friends you're a vampire?”

Everypony in our group was still frozen with shock. Yet somehow, a dramatic gasp came from somewhere in the distance. The hay?

“No…” Vi admitted, ears drooping. Her entire body shook nervously.

“Ha!” He laughed, flashing a way to wide grin.

An instant later he waved a hoof towards the way to bright and cheery castle interior for a vampire to be living in. “Right, you girls, when the shock wears off there is going to be a delightfully awkward conversation that I do not want to miss. So come on in! Let’s have it in the foyer. Oh, yes, right. You’re all perfectly safe, everypony here only feeds on volunteers.

“Come on. It’s going to rain soon. The nights here are cursed to be all spooky, you don’t want to get caught in the spooky rain.” He finished walking inside himself.

Despite the fact she had been lying to us, for like, ever, everypony turned to Vinyl for an answer to what we should do. Habit, I guess.

“Yes it’s actually safe, yes it’s going to rain, no dad didn’t curse the night, it just does that. Also, the rain is literally bone chilling, so yeah.” Vi muttered walking inside slowly.

To my amazement Bon-bon snapped out of it first. “Right. Relocate to not-about-to-be-rained-on place, then grill friend for an explanation.”

That was most definitely a solid plan.