By Charcoal Quill
It was a quiet day, at least by Ponyville standards. No grand events were scheduled, nothing was in major need of repairs, no papers had to be completed, and – most importantly – absolutely nothing was crawling out of the woodwork. For the first time in what seemed like a very long while indeed, nothing whatsoever was expected of me, and I, Twilight Sparkle, was going to make the most of it.
“Hold down the fort, Spike,” I told my number-one assistant as I headed for the door. “For once, it’s a quiet day, and you know what that means?”
“No, what?” Spike said. He paused for a moment, then grimaced. “Uh, it’s not too quiet, is it?”
I slowed to a halt, frowning. “No, I don’t think so,” I replied, albeit hesitantly. “Why do you bring this up?”
“Well,” Spike said, “you know how it is! Ponyville can hardly go a week without something big happening. If it’s quiet, that just means it’s about to get really bad.”
“…Yes, that does tend to happen distressingly often, doesn’t it?” I mused. “Just a few days ago was the fiasco with Pinkie Pie and the pipe organ, and the week before that, Lyra and I went on that wild goose chase for a nuckelavee, and before that, Rainbow Dash and Rarity got into that big hoof-fight.” I frowned thoughtfully. “I still don’t know where that giant vat of custard came from…”
Spike sighed dreamily. “I remember that…” After a moment, he blinked. “Oh! Uh, right. But anyway, that’s the point that I’m trying to make. How long ago was the pipe organ incident?”
I froze. “…Seven days.”
Spike nodded. “Exactly! So going out today is just asking for trouble.”
Cautiously, I eyed the library door. It suddenly seemed much more sinister. “You know what, Spike?” I asked, a note of trepidation coloring my voice. “You might be right…”
Then it hit me – I was being foalish. Nay, not merely foalish – I was being superstitious. If I let myself stay indoors on such a beautiful day just because Spike was feeling a little skittish, how could I live with myself? I might as well throw all science, logic, and modern thought to the wind right now! I thought.
Of course, there was no reason not to exercise caution…
I nodded to myself, my course of action clear. “You might be right, Spike,” I repeated, heading once more for the door. “But I think I’ll be fine. After all, I’ve got a sure-fire way to ensure a quiet and relaxing time!”
“Oh?” said Spike curiously. “What’s that?”
As I trotted out the door, I called out over my shoulder. “Fluttershy! She’s the gentlest pony I know. If I’m just going to see her, then what could possibly go wrong?”
It was, as usual, a lovely day in Ponyville. The sun was shining brightly, the cloud-to-open-sky ratio was aesthetically pleasing, the occasional bird twittered a jaunty tune as it flew along, and townsfolk cantered through the streets with broad smiles on their faces. The whole thing was rather picturesque – in fact, the phrase “charmingly rustic” sprung readily to mind, though where I’d heard the phrase before escaped me at that moment. Truly, if any day would be a harbinger of disaster, this was not the day.
As I stepped out into the streets, I found myself torn between going straight to Fluttershy’s or taking a more scenic route. After a moment of thought, I decided on the latter. A walk through the marketplace sounded like just the thing to buoy the spirits a little before visiting a friend.
As luck would have it, the market was exactly where I found Fluttershy. Seeing her familiar, pale-rose mane in the crowd, I trotted towards her.
Fluttershy smiled as I approached. “Hello, Twilight.”
“Hi, Fluttershy,” I said. “How are you?”
“Oh, fine.” Fluttershy turned her attention back to the produce stand in front of her, then selected a cabbage and paid the merchant. Satisfied with her purchase, she turned to me once more. “Is there anything in particular you wanted from me? I-I mean, if there is, I’d be happy to help …”
I chuckled. “Well, if there’s an opening in your schedule, then I’d like to spend some time with you. Nothing exciting, really, just quiet relaxation. Maybe we could grab a bite to eat.”
Fluttershy blinked. “O-oh! Um, o-okay. I just need to finish with my groceries first,” she said, gesturing to her saddlebags. “I m-mean, if that’s fine.”
“Of course,” I replied. “I’ll just tag along, if you don’t mind.”
“No, go ahead!” Fluttershy smiled warmly at me. “I’m glad for the company.”
As Fluttershy trotted along to the next stand, I fell into place beside her. She still seemed a little reserved, but I knew the perfect topic to break the metaphorical ice. “So, any new arrivals at the cottage?” I asked.
At once, Fluttershy became a lot more animated. “Oh, yes! Why, just yesterday I met the cutest grass snake, and before that…”
From there, Fluttershy chattered freely. insomuch as Fluttershy ever “chatters”, and I was more than happy to join in. We jumped topics fairly often – one minute, Fluttershy was telling me about one of Angel’s latest exploits, and the next, we were laughing over Spike’s newest misadventures. Afterword, I brought up some theories on dragon growth spurts, and it went on from there. True, it was mostly small talk, but that was beside the point.
Soon – sooner than it had seemed, in fact – Fluttershy’s bags were bulging. After casting a critical eye at her shopping list, she turned to me. “Well, that’s everything I need. What do you want to do now, Twilight?”
As if on cue, a gurgle answered Fluttershy. I looked down at my stomach, then back to her. “Lunch sound good?”
Fluttershy nodded. “Some food does sound nice…” She looked around for a moment until her eyes finally rested on a nearby restaurant, a Neightalian place with several tables outside. She pointed a hoof towards it. “Does that look okay to you?”
“It’s perfect! Let’s get some outdoor seating, though.” As I walked towards the building, I tilted my head slightly upwards, smiling as the light fell on my face. “I’ve been cooped up in the library for the past few days, and it feels so good to get some sun.”
“I-I can imagine…”
I paused. Did I imagine it, or was there was something odd about the way Fluttershy had said that? Almost wistful…
As we sat down on opposite sides of the table, I smiled at the pegasus in front of me. “Well, Fluttershy,” I said, “this has been quite nice, so far. We should get together more often.”
“Oh, yes, Twilight. That would be lovely.” Fluttershy smiled back, any trace of melancholy gone (if, indeed, there ever was any). She lifted her menu, obscuring her face.
I did the same. For a minute or two, we both sat in silence as we pored over our menus.
Suddenly, my eyes widened. “Ah! Fancy Pants.”
Fluttershy lowered her menu. “What?”
“That’s where I heard the phrase ‘charmingly rustic’ – from Rarity’s friend, Fancy Pants.” I chuckled apologetically. “Sorry for the non sequitur – it’s just that that question’s kind of been bothering me for a while.”
“Oh.” Fluttershy nodded. “That’s nothing to apologize for. I mean, h-hypothetically speaking, I can think of plenty worse things…”
“Really?” I said. “Like what?”
At that moment, a waiter glided over to us in that curious way that the more experienced serving-ponies are so adept at. “Have you reached a decision, madams?”
I laid my menu down. “Yes, I have. I’d like the fettuccini in garlic Alfredo sauce, please.”
“A-and an artichoke salad for me, please,” Fluttershy added quietly.
The waiter nodded. “Of course. And would either of you like anything to drink?”
I frowned thoughtfully. “…Sure, why not? A glass of milk, please. What about you, Fluttershy?”
“Oh, n-no thank you.” Fluttershy averted her gaze. “I didn’t see anything I’d like to drink…”
The waiter raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure, madam? I could have the wine list brought out for you, if you’d prefer.”
Fluttershy shook her head fervently. “No, that’s quite alright. I don’t drink…” She paused, then mumbled, “…wine.”
“As you wish.” At that, the waiter drifted away.
Once more, silence filled the space, but this time neither of us were forthcoming with a topic. Quietly, I arranged and straightened the silverware in front of me, but that only killed a few seconds. With nothing else to do, I contented myself with carefully studying Fluttershy’s expression, trying to guess at her thoughts.
After a moment, I frowned. Was she looking a little paler than usual? Were those bags under her eyes?
“Twilight? Is s-something wrong?”
I blinked. “Oh. Sorry, Fluttershy.” Before continuing, I cleared my throat. “It’s just… well, are you feeling alright? You seem a little…” I paused. “Tired? Ill, perhaps?”
“Oh…” Fluttershy blushed. “It’s nothing. I’m just... a little sensitive to sunlight, that’s all.” She looked away. “I-it’s not normally so bad, but it’s getting close to summer, so I’m starting to feel a little out of sorts.” She squinted a little. “The sun kind of hurts my eyes…”
My eyes widened. “Why didn’t you just say so? If I had known before, we could have taken a table indoors!”
“I didn’t want to be a bother,” Fluttershy mumbled.
“Nonsense.” I smiled. “It’s no bother to make you more comfortable.”
The corners of Fluttershy’s mouth twitched upwards. Her response carried the barest hint of wryness. “I could say the same thing to you, you know…”
I rolled my eyes. “Okay, you have me there, but I think easing your discomfort takes top priority.”
“If you say so…”
“Tell you what – I bet Rarity’s just looking for an excuse to make a hat…” I winked. “Once we’re done with lunch, why don’t we see if we can get you one with an extra-wide brim?”
Fluttershy’s smile widened. “That sounds nice.”
The waiter drifted over again. “Your food, madams.” He set our plates down, then slipped away.
I breathed in the sharp aroma of garlic that wafted from my plate. “Ooh, I can’t wait to dig in! It smells so good.” I scooped up a forkful of pasta, then chewed it slowly. It was exquisite.
“Mmmmmm…” I swallowed, then licked my lips. “Delicious! How’s your salad, Fluttershy?”
She didn’t answer. I looked up to see her leaning as far away as possible, staring at my plate as if its contents were alive and wriggling.
“Um, Fluttershy…?” I frowned. “Is something wrong?”
“I wasn’t expecting quite that much garlic,” Fluttershy said breathlessly. “It’s a little... well... overpowering.”
“Oh,” I replied. “I didn’t know you hate garlic…”
Fluttershy blushed. “‘Hate’ is a little strong of a word. It just sort of…” She hesitated. “…repels me.”
“‘Repels’?” I frowned. “That’s an odd word choice.”
“T-trust me, it fits,” Fluttershy said.
I shrugged. “If you say so,” I replied, scooting my plate further away from her. “Just be careful – between this and the sunlight, ponies might start to think you’re a vampire or something!” I chuckled quietly at my jest.
Fluttershy nodded. “Exactly.”
I blinked. “What?”
“Exactly…” Fluttershy repeated hesitantly. “A vampire. I u-understand if it slipped your mind…”
I stared at her. “If what slipped my mind?”
“What? I thought everypony knew by now…” Fluttershy gulped. “I thought you knew. You didn’t know? Nopony ever mentioned it?”
“Mentioned what?” I exclaimed. “Fluttershy, just tell me what you’re trying to say!”
Fluttershy hid her face behind her mane. “Well, Twilight, I’m…” She paused. “I’m a vampire.”
“What was that?”
“I’m a vampire.”
“A little louder, please?”
“I’m a vampire.”
“Huh?” I stared at her, uncomprehending.
(Of course, I knew what the words themselves meant – “I”, indicating the timid, butter-yellow pegasus who now sat in front of me, wearing an expression of mild worry, and “vampire”, meaning the undead, bloodsucking fiend in pony form. It’s just that when faced with making a connection between the two images, by brain simply threw its arms into the air and said, “Screw this, I’m outta here,” leaving the rest of me to sit there in numb bewilderment.)
Maybe it was a joke, I thought somewhat hopefully. Looking for something to reinforce that theory, I stared into Fluttershy’s eyes.
I could find nothing in them besides unwavering sincerity. With a sharp intake of breath, I realized that Fluttershy meant every word she’d said.
It took me a moment to remember how to breathe again. When I finally did, I also found my voice. “…Mother of Celestia, you’re serious.”
Silently, Fluttershy nodded.
“But… But how can you be serious?” I exclaimed. “That doesn’t make any sense!”
“It’s true,” Fluttershy insisted.
“How can it be?” I said. “I mean, look!” I glanced meaningfully at the restaurant’s window, where both of our reflections sat. “That’s your reflection! Vampires don’t have those or a shadow, but you have both!”
“Actually, the reflection thing is a myth,” Fluttershy mumbled. “S-same for the shadow.”
“Well, vampires drink blood – they don’t eat salad!” I pointed at the plate in front of her.
“W-well, I like the flavor, but I don’t have to eat…” Fluttershy said. “All I really need is blood. That’s why sometimes, when money’s tight, I spend all my grocery money on food for my animals…”
I blinked. “You do that?”
“…Okay,” I said, “but that’s beside the point! Vampires have to sleep on their native soil, don’t they?”
“Have we ever left Equestria?”
“Well…” I paused. “…no.* But if you’re a vampire, how can you even walk around during the day?” I pointed at the sky. “You should be on fire right now!”
“That’s another myth,” Fluttershy replied. “But the sun is uncomfortable, and it does take a lot out of me.” She squinted at the sky, grimacing. “Sometimes, I sleep through the entire night.”
“You mean like everypony else?” I said flatly.
Fluttershy nodded. “Well, yes, but I don’t mind, really. I like to see my animal friends and everypony during the day, but it makes me so weak and tired…” She hesitated. “…and, of course, I can’t turn into a bat while the sun’s out, either.”
I felt my jaw drop. “You can turn into a bat?”
“Not while the sun’s out,” Fluttershy repeated, the slightest edge of reproach in her voice.
“But how can–” I began, gesticulating wildly.
“Twilight,” Fluttershy said sharply.
I turned my full attention towards Fluttershy, a whole string of further inquiries on my lips, but as I really looked at her, the words caught in my throat. Instantly, I froze, staring at the mare in front of me in a sort of dull, detached horror.
Fluttershy had changed.
The pegasus’s features looked sharper, more pronounced. The lines of her face seemed more angular, and her wings, while still feathered, had taken on a decidedly more batlike silhouette. Fluttershy’s eyes, normally two sea-green pools of gentle warmth, had sunken a little deeper into her sockets and were alight with a cold, dim glow. Most disturbingly, as her lips curled back, the sun’s light gleamed off of her long, pointed canines…
Ponies shouldn’t even have canines, a small part of me protested. But then again, this wasn’t quite a pony, was it? The alteration was subtle, but profound – the being in front of me was cold, and fierce, and hungry, holding an unearthly, unnatural beauty in its predatoriness. No true pony could look like that.
After a moment, the face changed before my eyes, leaving me with simply Fluttershy. She sat there a moment in silence, hanging her head.
“I really, really don’t like doing that,” she eventually mumbled, staring forlornly at her salad. “Most other ponies always find it so unsettling…”
“Really?” I said weakly. Though it was gone, I could still see Fluttershy’s other face staring back at me from across the table. “Fancy that.”
After another long pause, I spoke up again. “So, um… w-what happened? I mean, how did…” I waved a hoof vaguely. “…well, you know.”
“I’d rather not talk about it, if that’s okay,” Fluttershy said.
I nodded slightly. “Okay.”
“…Blood, huh?” I said.
I swallowed. “Other ponies?”
Fluttershy sank a little deeper into her seat. “…Yes.”
Fluttershy looked up quickly. “But this doesn’t change anything, does it?” she blurted out. “I’m still the same pony you’ve always known! P-please don’t be scared or angry…”
I attempted a grin, hoping that it didn’t look too insincere. “No, it’s fine! It’s nothing to worry about. Nothing at all!” I stifled a hysterical giggle. Come on, Twilight, hold it together. “I mean, you’re only a vampire. What’s the problem?!”
Fluttershy sighed in relief. “I’m glad you see it that way. S-so, um, what now?”
“Nothing’s changed!” I replied. “First, we’re going to finish our meals – can’t let this yummy, yummy food go to waste, can we?!” I frantically slurped down a garlicky mouthful of pasta. “Then after that, we’re going to see Rarity, so you can get that hat…”
…and I can get some answers, I added silently.
*It was only until much later that I learned that Rarity owned a suitcase filled entirely with dirt from Fluttershy’s garden, presumably for just such an occasion. At least, I think that’s why. Come to think of it, I hadn’t asked.
Rarity was all smiles when I walked into the Carousel Boutique, Fluttershy in tow. “Why, hello, Twilight…” she purred. “…and Fluttershy! What brings you two here today?”
“Fluttershy needs something to keep the sun away,” I said quickly. “Think you can whip something up?”
“Oh, but of course!” Rarity replied. “Why, I was just thinking to myself that wide-brimmed hats were about to make a comeback…” She turned a nearby rack of fabric, levitated a few bolts of cloth, and trotted towards the next room. “Fluttershy, come with me. Your presence will be integral to the creative process!”
For the next hour and a half, Rarity chatted gaily with Fluttershy while I sat in the other room, doing my best not to have a nervous breakdown while mindless panic and frantic inquisitiveness vied for dominance within my brain. Finally, the pair (of mares, not emotions) returned to the room, one of which was sporting a new hat.
“…and I must say, its band matches your eyes so well!” Rarity said, addressing Fluttershy. The fashionista turned her attention to me. “Oh, I’m sorry, Twilight. You weren’t bored, were you?”
“No,” I replied somewhat unsteadily. “I had a lot to think about.”
Rarity nodded. “Ah. Well, what do you think?” She gestured grandly to the hat that sat atop Fluttershy’s head.
True to expectation, the hat had a very wide brim, a fact only accentuated by the low, flat crown. Though the rest of the hat was a sooty black, a thin, turquoise band at the base of the crown added a splash of color. Though I wasn’t sure why, something about the whole thing seemed somewhat… unsettling to me.
“It… suits her,” I finally said.
Fluttershy smiled. “Thanks, Twilight,” she murmured.
“It does suit her, doesn’t it?” Rarity smiled. “I was partially inspired by the hats that Veneightian plague doctors used to wear…”
Ah, I thought. So that’s it.
“…It’s a little macabre, I suppose,” Rarity continued, “but Fluttershy pulls off the look so well, doesn’t she?”
“Yes…” I paused, trying not to remember those eyes, those fangs… The sooner I could wrap things up, the better. “She definitely pulls it off. So, how much will it cost me?”
Fluttershy’s eyes widened. “O-oh, no, Twilight! You don’t have to pay for it. I can–”
Rarity held up a hoof. “Now, darlings, it’s fine. I’m more than willing to cover the cost of the materials.”
I blinked. “Oh. That’s awfully…”
“Generous?” Rarity suggested, smiling. “Don’t mention it.”
“If… if you insist,” Fluttershy said. She glanced at the clock, and her eyes widened. “Oh no! I, um…” She gulped. “I r-really need to go back home. Twilight, y-you understand, right?”
I nodded, pleased with my luck. “Of course! I need to talk to Rarity about…” I hesitated. “…something anyway.”
“Okay. See you later then?” Fluttershy said, trotting towards the door.
“Sure,” I replied. “Have a good day! See you later!”
“Goodbye, Twilight,” she called back. “I’ll tell Angel you said hi.”
“You do that!” I waited for the door to close completely. When the bell above it finally tinkled, I locked the door, then spun to face the remaining mare in the room. “Rarity! You have to help me!”
Rarity gave me a sly, knowing smile. Something about it worried me. “My, my, Twilight, first you and Fluttershy go to a restaurant together, then you try to buy her a hat? I want details!” she trilled.
I blinked. “What? Details?”
“Of course!” Rarity said. “You two make such a cute couple! I want to hear about everything that happened during your little date.”
“D-date?!” I paled, or possibly blushed. Well, at any rate, I was thoroughly mortified, and I would have bet my bottom bit that my face gave that fact away.
“Yes, I didn’t expect either of you, of all ponies, to make such a bold move,” Rarity continued, “and at first glance you two do make an odd couple, and this will definitely change the dynamic between the six of us, but the heart wants what the heart wants, does it not?” She sighed dreamily. “Oh, I hope it works out between the two of you… I can’t wait to design the wedding dresses!”
A quick glance at a nearby mirror confirmed that I’d turned beet-red. Ah, blush it is. “W-w-wedding dresses?!” I stammered. “That… that wasn’t a… Rarity, why would you even think that?”
“You mean you two weren’t…? Oh.” Rarity’s face fell. “I guess I should have asked Fluttershy about that before jumping to conclusions.”
I facehoofed. “In what way does me and Fluttershy getting romantically involved constitute as a logical conclusion to jump to?”
Rarity’s face reddened slightly. “I might have read a few too many romance novels lately…”
“What kind of romance novels have you been reading?”
“Never mind that,” Rarity said quickly. “Well, if that wasn’t a case of post-date jitters you had, then what do you need my help for?”
“Oh! Right!” Thankful for a less disturbing topic – and, considering what it was, that’s saying quite something – I pointed back at the door. “Rarity, did you know that Fluttershy’s a vampire?!”
Rarity didn’t bat an eye. “Of course, darling. Everypony knows that.”
My train of thought abruptly jumped its rails. “Bwuh?”
“Wait…” Now Rarity blinked. “Do you mean to say that you didn’t know? I’m sure it would’ve come up in conversation at least once…”
“Well, it didn’t!”
“But you couldn’t tell by yourself, either?” she asked. “It wasn’t obvious?”
“What do you mean by that?” I snapped.
Rarity gave me a level look. “Think, darling. Every time we and the other girls have had a group hug, didn’t you notice something unusual?”
As I thought about it, memories of certain sensations crossed my mind. The tight embrace of five bodies around mine – four were warm, but…
“…One pony always felt cold,” I said slowly.
Rarity nodded. “And the Stare, too – not any pegasus can do that. What did you think it was, weaponized Kindness?”
“I don’t know, okay?” I said. “I stopped trying to figure out that sort of thing after the whole Pinkie Sense incident.”
“Well, from what I hear, the whole ‘compelling gaze’ thing is fairly standard for vampires,” Rarity continued. “And of course you remember the Gala.”
My brow furrowed. “What about the Gala?”
“You remember how the animals in the garden were avoiding Fluttershy, don’t you?” Rarity said. “Though vampires tend to get along decently with predators, most other animals instinctively fear them. All the animals in the Ponyville area either knew Fluttershy before she was turned or eventually got used to her, but the animals at the Gala didn’t have either luxury, and a cutie mark can only help so much.”
“But… but that would mean that Fluttershy had to have already been a vampire back then, too!” I swallowed. “Rarity, how long has Fluttershy been a vampire? When did this happen, and how the hay did I not notice?”
Rarity gave me an apologetic smile. “Well, of course you didn’t notice…” she said. “You were still in Canterlot! Fluttershy was turned three years before you first came to Ponyville.”
My eyes widened. “Are… are you telling me… that the entire time I’ve known her… Fluttershy’s been a vampire? The entire time?”
Rarity rolled her eyes. “Yes, that was the point I was trying to get across.”
“Oh! Is it?!” I exclaimed. “Well, that’s a relief! I mean, I figured that one out right off the bat, if you’ll pardon the pun! Pretty impressive, considering it’s only taken a few years for me to learn that Fluttershy’s a vampire in the first place!”
Rarity held up a hoof. “Twilight, calm down.”
“Calm?! Who isn’t being calm?!” I replied, voice rising. “Why shouldn’t I be calm?! I mean, all I learned is that one of my closest friends is, and has been ever since I first met her, an undead, blood-drinking horror!”
“Twilight,” Rarity said.
“You know, if it’s taken me this long to realize Fluttershy’s a vampire, who’s to say that I don’t know any other vampires, either?!” I continued. “They could be anywhere! What about Angel? Is Fluttershy’s bunny one of them too?”
“And Spike!” I shouted. “His teeth are pretty sharp, come to think of it! Maybe I’ve been living with a vampire all along, and I just haven’t noticed!”
“Twilight!” Rarity snapped. “Calm down. You’re starting to become hysterical!”
It took me a moment to realize I was hyperventilating. All at once, a wave of embarrassment washed over me. I did my best to slow my breathing.
“...I’m being a bit foalish, aren’t I,” I said quietly. “Thanks, Rarity.”
Rarity chuckled. “It’s what I’m here for.”
“It’s just…” I hesitated. “This is a lot to wrap my head around. I’m not sure what to think.”
Rarity patted me reassuringly. “I understand, darling. Is there any way I can help?”
“Maybe…” I said slowly. “I… I want to know more. Maybe some more information would help me to understand…”
“Very well,” Rarity said. “I’ll tell you what I can. What do you want to know first?”
I paused. I had so many questions clamoring for my attention, but I eventually decided on:
“What happened to Fluttershy in the first place? How did she become a vampire?”
Rarity’s eyes lit up. “I was hoping you’d ask me that.” She levitated a smallish chest out from behind the boutique’s counter, set it down in front of her, and then closed the drapes. The room’s interior darkened considerably.
I narrowed my eyes. “Rarity, what are you doing?”
“Relax, I’m simply setting the stage, as it were.” In a businesslike manner, she opened the box and pulled out…
I blinked. “That’s… that’s a Fluttershy doll.”
“Yes, Twilight, I know.”
Cautiously, I poked at the plush little simulacrum. It gave a soft squeak. “Why do you have a Fluttershy doll?”
“Hush now,” Rarity replied, levitating more objects out of the box: dolls, costumes, miniature houses. “I’m going to be reenacting a tale of gothic horror and suspense, if you must know right away.”
I raised an eyebrow. “With that?”
Rarity glared at me. “Well, of course it’s not going to work if you’re going to keep your hooves planted firmly in the realm of skepticism. Do try to give me a little credit, will you?”
I rolled my eyes. “Very well. Whenever you’re ready.”
The lights went out.
A dim, warm glow illuminates the middle of the room, like a candle’s glow. It reveals Fluttershy’s cottage in miniature.
Rarity’s voice came to me as a ghostly whisper. “Twilight, have you ever wondered why Fluttershy always locks herself away and turns away visitors on Nightmare Night?”
“Because she’s Fluttershy?” I hazarded.
“An easy assumption to make.” Rarity’s voice carried a trace of amusement. “But it may surprise you to know that there’s more to it than that.”
The door to the cottage swings open. A little yellow doll pokes its head out, instantly recognizable due to her distinctive mane. Fluttershy.
“Believe it or not, Fluttershy actually used to enjoy Nightmare Night. Instead of locking herself away and burying herself under every blanket she could find, she’d stand by the door with candy, eagerly awaiting visitors. Sure, when the wind would blow or the timberwolves would howl, Fluttershy would feel a slight trepidation – after all, it is said that the monsters come out on Nightmare Night! But she’d welcome the slight edge of fear that the holiday brought, since it was expected, festive, and even a little fun.”
A trio of foal-sized, costumed dolls trots towards the cottage, bags in front of them. Fluttershy looks down at them with her button eyes, making a great show of fawning over the foals’ cuteness. Once she fills their bags, they skip happily away.
“Though on any other night, or indeed any other day, Fluttershy was almost cripplingly uncomfortable around other ponies, she made it a point that visitors were always welcome on Nightmare Night.”
The light shifts in color, turning the cold, pale blue of moonlight. The shadows seem to lengthen and deepen. I shiver.
“Then, one year… he showed up.”
A new doll glides towards Fluttershy’s cottage. It is a unicorn stallion, stitched from bone-white cloth. A trio of black bats is embroidered on his flank.
“The stallion was charming, if a little pale. Though awfully shy even during the best of circumstances, Fluttershy felt almost entranced by this charismatic newcomer, and he appeared to be equally intrigued by her. The two talked for a long while… until Fluttershy invited him inside for a warm drink.”
The pale doll trots inside the cottage, and the Fluttershy effigy shuts the door. The lights suddenly disappear.
Just as quickly, the room is illuminated once more. Fluttershy and the stallion now stand in plain sight, facing each other. Lights out.
Lights on. The stallion is closer. Fluttershy moves to step away, but cannot. She seems frozen in place. Lights out.
Lights on. The stallion now stands over Fluttershy, expression inscrutable. She stares back up at him, eyes wide and wet. Lights out.
Lights on. He is close, so close. She dares not breathe. Lights out.
Lights on. He is deathly still.
The lights flare blood-red, filling the room, blindingly bright. I hear a mare’s scream.
I sit there for a moment, waiting for my heart to stop pounding. With a trace of embarrassment, I realize that the scream had come from me.
Soon, the lights fade back in. It’s faintly golden, but somehow chilly, like sunlight through the clouds. The little cottage is once more in view.
“The next day, one of the townsfolk decided to pay Fluttershy a visit – her pet was in need of a checkup. It was that mare who found the bloodless corpse on the living-room floor.”
The door to Fluttershy’s cottage opens. Another doll, with dark cloak and a shovel across its shoulders, pulls the limp form of Fluttershy behind it. The gravedigger drags the lifeless doll over to the chest, then dumps it in and shuts the lid.
“Everypony was shocked and saddened by Fluttershy’s death – she was so young, they said – but hardly anypony actually knew her well enough to show up to her funeral. Her burial was a quiet affair, and only a few ponies lost much sleep over it.”
As the lights dim, a single pegasus flutters over to the chest. The rainbow-maned doll places a single cypress flower on the lid, then the lights fade out completely.
The lights fade in once more, revealing the chest – but now it is open, and empty.
“If everypony had been shocked by Fluttershy’s death, they were simply appalled by her disappearance – a grave robber in Ponyville? Something like that had never happened before! And whatever would somepony want with the body? Feelings of unease steadily rose, and would have simmered to widespread hysteria by nightfall… had Fluttershy not shown up at dusk, apologizing to the graveyard’s groundskeeper for the mess she’d made when crawling out of her own grave.”
Suddenly Rarity opened the curtains, and the room was bathed once more in the warm light of the sun. “So there you have it,” she said, then turned to her chest and started packing away her dolls.
I blinked. “That’s it?”
Rarity froze. “‘That’s it?’ That’s all you have to say?” She turned to me, her eyes filled with a strange intensity that even now I cannot describe. “Don’t you understand, Twilight? Fluttershy used to love Nightmare Night. Although its ghosts and ghouls scared her, it was still fun – because she thought, she believed, that they weren’t real. But that night, Fluttershy didn’t just find out that she was wrong about the monsters… she became one.”
“But why did you end the story there?” I protested. “There’s got to be more to it than that!”
“Not really,” Rarity said. “You wanted to know how Fluttershy became a vampire, so I told you. What came next wasn’t exactly relevant to the question, was it?”
“Well… I guess not, technically,” I conceded. “But I still want to know! Besides that, the entire story is full of holes!” I exclaimed. “What happened to the first vampire, for instance? If he was so intrigued by Fluttershy, then why did he disappear after turning her?”
“I don’t have all the answers, Twilight,” Rarity replied irritatedly. “I only know what Fluttershy’s told me, and she didn’t know that, either.”
“I see…” I frowned. “Well, if that’s all you know, then why didn’t you just say that Fluttershy was bitten by a vampire on Nightmare Night? We could have wrapped all this up in less than thirty seconds.”
Rarity shook her head sadly. “Twilight, Twilight, Twilight… What’s the point of telling a story like that if you don’t make it into an experience?”
I could tell right then and there that Rarity wasn’t going to be much more help, so I decided to look elsewhere for answers. Really, I thought to myself, I should’ve gone to the one pony who’d give me the blunt, unembellished truth in the first place.
And so that train of thought led me to Sweet Apple Acres, where I found Applejack and Big Macintosh. Both of them were pulling a cart of empty baskets into the orchards, but as I approached, they slowed to a halt.
Applejack tipped her hat to me. “Howdy, Twi.”
“Hi, Applejack,” I replied. “Hello, Big Mac.”
Big Macintosh nodded, his expression neutral. “Eeyup.”
“So, what brings y’all out here today?” Applejack said.
I sighed. “Well, Rarity told me a rather…” I hesitated. “…interesting story earlier, but I wanted some more details. I thought you could help.”
“Sure thing!” Applejack slipped out of her harness, then trotted to the back of her cart. “While Ah can’t guarantee much, Ah’d be happy t’ help fill any gaps Ah can. Now, which story are y’ talking about?”
“Nightmare Night…” I replied. “…and Fluttershy.”
Both members of the Apple family froze. They stood there for a long moment, motionless, but then Applejack turned her head towards her brother. “Big Mac, would y’ mind heading over to th’ south orchard right now?” she said, voice curiously level. “Ah think Ah got this one covered.”
“Eeyup.” At that, Big Macintosh walked away, expression as inscrutable as ever.
Once she was sure her brother was out of earshot, Applejack turned to me. “Sorry about that,” she said flatly. “Big Mac’s just a mite touchy about the subject.”
I frowned. “Is he?”
“Well, it’s best left unmentioned, but somepony just had t’ go and mention it anyway.” Applejack sighed. “Since y’all are suddenly bringing this up out o’ th’ blue, Ah reckon it’s the first y’ ever heard o’ Fluttershy’s condition.”
I rolled my eyes. “That’s one way to put it.”
“Ah see.” Applejack frowned. “Well, Ah can assure y’ that, while Rarity might’ve embellished th’ tale a little, it really did go down like that.” She pulled a basket off the back of her cart, then set it under a nearby apple tree. “Speaking o’ which, did she pull th’ dolls out for that one, too?”
“Yeah,” I said.
Applejack snorted. “Thought so. That gal might have a flair for th’ dramatic, but sometimes Ah wonder if she’s entirely ‘all there’, if y’ know what Ah mean. So, what did she leave out that y’ wanted t’ know about?”
“Well, she did well enough until the part where Fluttershy actually came back from the grave, but she didn’t even say what happened next!” I said. “I mean, I seriously doubt that everypony just accepted her with open arms!”
“We did,” Applejack said.
My eyes widened. “You what?”
“Well, o’ course some ponies weren’t so keen – y’ know, better t’ err on the side o’ caution and all that.” Applejack spun and kicked. The apples dropped into the basket. “But eventually we all figured it wasn’t anything t’ get worked up over.”
“It wasn’t anything to get worked up over?” I repeated.
“Well, why should we?” Applejack said. "Get worked up, Ah mean."
I stared at her. “Do I really need to spell it out for you? Vampires drink blood. Pony blood!”
“O’ course they do.” Applejack lifted the apple-filled bucket onto the cart, then grabbed an empty one. “But think, Twi. About a month and a half ago, what did y’ help t’ organize?”
“A month and a half ago. That was…” My brow furrowed. “…the blood drive. The hospital has to hold at least one every year.”
Applejack nodded. “Right. But when was th’ last time you actually saw somepony who needed a transfusion, or even had an open wound worse than a paper cut?”
Now that I actually thought about it…
“…Never.” My eyes widened. “Are you saying that, this entire time, those blood drives were meant to feed Fluttershy?”
“Not exactly,” Applejack said. “Just like y’ said, the hospital has t’ have a blood drive every year – proper protocol or suchlike – and we always have donors.” She shrugged, then placed her basket under the next tree. “But we get so few ponies who actually need the blood, we built up an awful large surplus, and it kept going bad.”
“So when the hospital found out that Fluttershy had become a vampire, they jumped at the chance to get rid of their excess blood?” I said faintly.
Spin, kick. The apples fell. “Why not?” Applejack said. “They’d already been letting her buy blood for her leeches, lampreys, and vampire bats, and it’s not like that blood was doing anypony else any good. Could y’ think of a better way t’ handle it?”
“I don’t know. It just seems so… so…” I shook my head. “I don’t know what to call it.”
“Well, it makes sense t’ me.” Applejack trotted over to the basket and inspected it. “The hospital has too much blood, and Fluttershy needs it. Ah might not know as many fancy words as you, Twilight, but here’s one that Ah think would fit this situation just fine: pragmatic.”
“Pragmatic?!” I muttered to myself as I trotted back to Ponyville. “Oh, so now it’s pragmatic to have vampires running around all willy-nilly?”
At times of extreme irritation, I sometimes wonder why I bother talking to ponies in the first place, and that question soon wormed its way into my head again. If even the Element of Honesty couldn't give me the answers I wanted, then why bother? Books would surely give me what I was looking for.
“Yes, in a few short hours, I’ll soon know all I need to know about vampires,” I said to myself, trying to distract myself from the visions of pitchforks and corpses, fire and blood, that formed the backdrop to my thoughts. “Why didn’t I do this in the first place?”
Suddenly, I felt my eye twitch. “Stop that,” I told it.
A moment later, I reached the library. Spike opened the door for me. “Hey, Twilight,” he said. “How was–”
“Not now, Spike,” I said as I swept past him.
To his credit, Spike is pretty perceptive when it comes to my moods. One look was all he needed to tell that I was in Uninterrupted Research Mode. At once, he slipped quietly away. A few minutes later, he reappeared with a cup of my favorite tea*, but after that he remained out of sight, leaving me with only my books and my thoughts. I took both upstairs, settling in at my desk.
In regards to the books, I had few non-fictional works – if I ruled out the various horror and romance novels I found on the shelves, then that left only regional folklore for me to rely on. Even those conflicted with each other on many points.
For instance, most of the texts couldn’t agree on how what a vampire actually looked like. Shadow, no shadow, reflection, no reflection, fangs, no fangs, pale skin, ruddy skin**… No matter how much I cross-referenced, when it came to identifying vampires, the books were about as useful as a taffy hammer.***
When it came to vampire behavior, however, the texts agreed more or less unanimously. Vampires, they said, were vicious, horrific monsters, returning from death to prey upon the living. Nocturnal by nature, a vampire would emerge at night to stalk victims, using its will-crushing gaze to make easy prey of its targets. Anypony drained of their blood and forced to drink a vampire’s would come back from the grave themselves, driven by an irresistible thirst for fresh, warm blood. The thirst was so great, the books said, that it twisted the vampire’s instincts and even its mind, usually overriding any preconceived notions of loyalty, friendship, or love. Even those who tried to resist could not do so for very long.
Frowning, I pulled my eyes away from the pages. The way my books described it, Fluttershy shouldn’t be content with only little bags of blood. It might tide a vampire over for a little while, but if she continued to be around other ponies, she’d eventually lose control.
Is that really true? I wondered. It might all be made up… but if it is, then how come all the books agree about it? I gulped. I guess I have to believe them… which means that either Fluttershy is a major self-control guru or a ticking time bomb.
I hoped to Celestia it was the former, but if it wasn’t, I’d need to know more. I hesitated a moment longer, taking a long draught of lukewarm tea, before I forced myself to move on to the next order of business: weaknesses.
There was a little more dispute between the books on how to combat vampires. Most agreed that a wooden stake to the heart would kill a vampire, as would fire or beheading. Similarly, garlic would keep vampires at bay, they could not enter a home without invitation, and sunlight would tire and weaken them.
Other methods listed seemed a little more dubious. Some sources also claimed that vampires could not cross running water, but since Fluttershy’ cottage was right in front of a stream, I took this with a grain of salt. A couple other books mentioned that if you could kill a vampire by placing a slice of lemon in their mouth.
I glanced at the lemon in my tea. It seemed both risky and far-fetched, but I’d try it if I absolutely had to. Note to self – ask Fluttershy about lemons, I thought.
One particular detail, mentioned in many books, caught my eye: apparently, some unicorns could create an anti-vampire weapon called “solar water”. Fresh springwater, enchanted to absorb and store the heat of the midday summer sun, would merely feel uncomfortably hot to a normal pony – but would burn through vampiric flesh like the strongest of magical acids. Several books mentioned solar water, and one even had the instructions for the spell.
“Yes,” I muttered, my eyes poring over the recipe in front of me. “Yes, this is perfect! I’ll just make a batch or two of this, and… and…” I paused, shifting uncomfortably. “And what, exactly?”
A brief stirring of purple, just barely within my peripheral vision, caught my eye. I turned.
Across the room stood my mirror, and within it, of course, was my reflection. Upon seeing it, several thoughts flashed by in the space of a second.
My first reaction upon seeing it was one of relief – I still had a reflection. That was still me, albeit with frazzled mane and shrunken pupils. The vampires hadn’t gotten me yet.
My next thought promptly reminded me that that particular myth was exactly that – a myth. I felt a brief twinge of panic, but quickly stifled it.
Finally, I actually noticed what my reflection looked like. Gingerly, I touched a hoof to my unkempt mane, stared into my bloodshot eyes and pinprick pupils. How did I not notice before? I thought. The last time I looked like this… well, I always tend to screw things up whenever this happens. I took a deep breath. Maybe this vampire thing is bothering me more than I thought…
“Well, no longer, Twilight,” I told myself. I levitated my brush off the dresser and began dragging it through my mane. As I stared at my reflection, I tried to will my pupils into returning to their usual size. Within a hoofful of seconds, I was looking… well, if not completely sane, then at least tolerably so. “I’m not going to get worked up over this. From now on, I’ll approach the situation calmly, rationally, and–”
Suddenly, my left ear twitched.
I frowned. That’s no nervous twitch…
Quickly, I set my brush down and stood up, then trotted up to the nearest window and opened it. I placed the thickest pillow I could find on the opposite side of the room, scooting a bookshelf out of the way to make room, then stood back.
Several seconds later, a multicolored blur shot through the open window and slammed into the pillow. Feathers flew everywhere.
After a moment, Rainbow Dash sat up, blinking. “Oh, hey, Twilight! Thanks for the pillow.”
I shrugged. “No problem.”
“How’d you even know I was gonna come through that window, anyway?” Dash asked. “That’s pretty impressive right there.”
“Well,” I began, “I’ve begun to notice that whenever you crash into my library, my left ear twitches precisely 52.8 seconds beforehand. My current theory is that, when you reach a certain flight speed, you emit a near-ultrasonic noise which I subconsciously pick up on. The ear-twitch is probably an involuntary reaction to the sound.”
Dash stared blankly at me for a long moment. Then she shrugged. “Eh, or maybe Pinkie Pie’s just rubbing off on you.”
I froze. “I certainly hope not! I hate to consider the ramifications if Pinkie’s…” I paused. “…well, Pinkie-ness is contagious…”
Rainbow laughed. “Relax, Twi! I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about.”
“Yeah, whatever,” I muttered. “So, did you simply crash through the window while practicing a new stunt, or was there something you wanted?”
“Mostly the first one, but now that you mention it…” Rainbow said. She tapped her chin thoughtfully. “Has the newest Daring Do book arrived yet? After the ending of the last one, I can hardly wait!”
I sighed. This was by no means the first time she’d asked me. “No, Rainbow. It’s not scheduled to come out for another two weeks! Now is there anything else, or can I get back to my research?”
“Nope, nothing,” Dash replied.
“Good.” I trotted back to my book-covered desk. “As you can see, I’m kind of busy right now.”
Rainbow fluttered over. “No kidding! What are you looking up this time?” She picked up the closest book and buried her nose in it.
After a few seconds, the color drained from Dash’s face. The book fell from her grasp and hit the ground with a dull thud, its pages clearly displaying the recipe for solar water.
Rainbow was still for a moment. Then she whipped her head towards the other books on my desk.
Stake through the heart… Prey upon the living… Beheading… Irresistible thirst… Fire…
“Um… Rainbow?” I said nervously. “I-I know what this looks like…”
Rainbow Dash slowly turned her gaze towards me, eyes filled with the raging infernos of barely-restrained, foaming-at-the-mouth, blood-will-be-spilled-tonight fury. In a voice that shook the earth’s very foundations and sent dragons plummeting from the sky, she roared at me a single accusation.
“THIS IS ABOUT FLUTTERSHY, ISN’T IT?!”
I recoiled with a squeak. “Y-yes, okay,” I admitted, “but–”
Rainbow took a step towards me, shaking with rage. “FLUTTERSHY’S NOT A THEAT TO ANYPONY!”
I took a step back, but ran into the wall. “Sh-she d-d-drinks blood–”
“SHE HAS TO,” Dash snarled, advancing. “YOU SHOULD KNOW THAT!”
“B-but–“ I stammered.
“NO! FLUTTERSHY WOULD NEVER HURT A FLY!” Dash shot forward, her face stopping mere inches from mine. “I’M NOT ABOUT TO LET YOU DO ANYTHING TO HER JUST BECAUSE YOU’RE SUDDENLY ON A VAN HORSING KICK!”
“Wha– V-Van Horsing?” I shook my head vigorously. “No, Rainbow, it’s nothing like that…”
Dash blinked. “It’s not?”
I gulped. “N-no! Honest!”
“…Oh.” Rainbow fluttered back several feet, then sat back on her haunches. “Well, uh… good. So long as we’re clear on that.” She grinned sheepishly. “Sorry, Twilight. I’m just a bit touchy when it comes to Fluttershy. I had to knock a few heads together the last time, you know.”
“The last time?” I repeated, still shaking.
“Yeah.” Rainbow scowled. “Some ponies, when they found out what happened to her, were a little quick to grab the garlic and wooden stakes. I’d already lost Fluttershy once; I wasn’t about to see that happen again.”
A memory suddenly rose up, unbidden.
As the lights dimmed, a single pegasus fluttered over to the chest. The rainbow-maned doll placed a single cypress flower on the lid…
“…You really care about her, don’t you?” I murmured.
Rainbow shrugged, but the motion carried with it an air of acknowledgement. “She’s my oldest friend. My closest friend. I was always there to protect her.” She looked away. “Almost always, anyway.”
“I… I’m sorry, Rainbow.” I stared at my hooves. “I wish that we could simply ignore what Fluttershy really is, but it’s not as simple as that. I don’t want to do anything to her, and I won’t as long as I don’t have to, but the fact is that, to her – or at least to her instincts – we’re all food. It’s only a matter of time until her self-control slips.”
Dash shot a sidelong glare towards me. “And what would you know about that?”
I glanced towards my books. “I’ve done research–”
“I don’t give a flying feather about your research!” Rainbow snapped. “I know Fluttershy. She’s been doing fine for years now! She’d never do anything like that.”
“Well, she wouldn’t want to,” I replied. “But one of these days, I doubt she’ll be able to resist. Fluttershy may be contenting herself with little refrigerated packets, but the urge for warm blood, straight from the pony, will become unbearable.”
“That won’t be a problem,” Dash said quickly.
I shook my head. “I doubt it. Really, I’m surprised she’s held up for this long without fresh blood.”
For a long moment, Dash stared at me, expression unreadable. Then she sighed. “She hasn’t.”
My eyes widened. “You mean…”
Dash nodded, then brushed her mane away from her neck, revealing a small adhesive bandage. She peeled it away, revealing…
I gasped. Two small puncture wounds, recently made, were on Rainbow’s neck. But they’d been made over two puckered scars. It looked like they’d healed and been re-opened innumerable times.
“You… She bit you?” I said quietly.
“You said it yourself, Twi,” Rainbow replied, voice flat. “Fluttershy had an urge for warm blood, straight from the pony.”
I looked away from her neck, feeling slightly ill. “How many times?”
Dash rolled her eyes. “It’s not like I’ve been counting. Maybe once or twice a month, for about…” She paused, looking upward thoughtfully. “Geez, how many years has it been, anyways?”
“Years?” I repeated. “And you let her do this to you?”
Dash snorted. “Actually, I had to talk her into it the first time.”
“You talked her into…” As my voice trailed off, I closed my eyes, but behind my lids was the hungry gaze of Fluttershy’s other face. I shuddered. “Why would you even do that?”
“I saw she wasn’t too happy with her usual stuff,” Rainbow said. “I had to help somehow.”
I sat down – or tried to, anyway. Apparently, I already had sat down. Part of me wondered when that had happened.
“Well, I guess that explains how Fluttershy’s been going for so long without suddenly attacking anypony,” I said. “I’m just sorry that you’ve had to do this for her.”
“Hey, I didn’t have to! I wanted to,” Dash protested. “Besides, it’s not that bad.”
In my mind’s eye, Fluttershy grinned at me, fangs gleaming. My eyes snapped open. “Not that bad?!” I repeated. “How can it be anything other than bad?”
“Well, okay, the first part’s not so great,” Rainbow said. “Even now, it’s a little scary – and painful – when her teeth pierce my skin. But after that…” She paused, eyes glazing over slightly. “When Fluttershy starts sucking, it feels… weird, but in a good way. At first, it feels all tingly and nice, and then I start to feel a little numb and dizzy. But she always stops before it goes any further.” She smiled faintly. “Fluttershy always finishes up with one little lick – getting one last drop, I guess. It kinda tickles…” Her face reddened a little. “Then she gives me a bandage, and we have cookies and juice.”
“And you enjoy it?” I breathed.
“Well, yeah.” Dash rolled her eyes. “Fluttershy’s cookies might not be quite as tasty as Pinkie’s, but they’re still pretty dang good.”
I put a hoof to my face. “No, not that. Beforehoof.”
“Oh! Oh…” Rainbow grimaced. “Yeah, I guess it’s…” She hesitated. “…sort of a rush, y’know? Not like flying, but… nice.”
I tried my best not to give Rainbow a weird look. Honestly, I really did.
“Hey, don’t look at me like that,” Dash said reproachfully.
I grimaced. Ponyfeathers. “Sorry, Rainbow. I guess I still don’t really understand…”
Dash turned and fluttered towards the window. “Yeah, well, I’m done talking about it. Find somepony else to be freaky and judgmental around, but stay away from Fluttershy until you’ve got everything worked out.” She paused, standing on the windowsill. “I’d hate to have to choose between any of my friends, but if you make me pick between you and her…” She paused for a long moment, then grimaced. “Look, just… don’t, okay?” With that, she leaped out the window.
As Dash flew away, I closed the window, then turned away. I sat back down at my desk, feeling curiously numb.
Rainbow wouldn’t really… I couldn’t even think it. …would she?
…Yes, I decided, shivering. Yes, she would.
*Camellia sinensis with oil of bergamot and a slice of lemon, if you must know.
**Although, thanks to a pony’s natural coating of fur, this point is moot anyway.
***I have been assured by Pinkie Pie that there are, in fact, a myriad of situations in which a taffy hammer is the ideal tool to have on hoof, but even she had to admit that identification of the undead was not one of them.
Slowly, I opened my eyes and sat up. The moonlight played across my desk, spilling over piles of books. Around me were shadowy silhouettes which I knew to be furniture, mundane by day but made unfamiliar by the darkness.
“I must’ve fallen asleep,” I said aloud.
I sighed. Even after several more hours of research, and apparently taking a nap in the middle of it, I was still no closer to figuring out how to deal with Fluttershy.
“Hush now, quiet now…”
I jolted – the voice had come from nowhere. I looked around the room, but deep shadows obscured my sight. “W-who’s there?” I asked.
The phantom voice continued to sing in a lilting whisper. “…It’s time to lay your sleepy head…”
“F-F-Fluttershy, i-is that you?” I stammered.
Across the room, two glowing turquoise eyes opened, staring at me from the darkness. “Hush now, quiet now…”
“W-why are you–” I began.
“It’s time to go to bed…”
The creak of hinges. A rectangle of light, opening wider and wider. Blinding. Shield eyes with hoof.
Stare at hoof. Cloth. Stitching. Dull horror.
“What did I tell you, huh? She wasn’t a threat!”
Shadow falls. Massive hoof reaches down.
“But did you listen? No.”
Lifted into light. Try to pull away. No use.
“So you wanted to play Van Horsing, huh?” Rainbow Dash’s face, impossibly huge. Twisted, contorted with rage. “Well, you know what happens now. I might not know as many fancy words as you, Twilight, but here’s one I think would fit…”
So hot. Too hot. Burning. Fire.
I sat up with a jolt. It took me a moment to realize that I was not, in fact, one of Rarity’s dolls, nor on fire, nor having the blood drained out of me. I was simply seated in my study, exactly where I was before.
The moonlight played across my desk, spilling over piles of books. Around me were shadowy silhouettes which I knew to be furniture, mundane by day but made unfamiliar by the darkness.
“I must’ve fallen asleep,” I said aloud.
I sighed. Even after several more hours of research, and apparently taking a nap in the middle of it, I was still no closer to figuring out how to deal with Fluttershy.
Immediately, warning bells went off in my head. My eyes widened. “Gah!”
After a long moment of breathless waiting, I sighed in relief. Apparently, I wasn’t about to relive that nightmare after all.
But that still leaves the matter of Fluttershy, I thought. I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.
For that matter, I wondered, what am I looking for, anyway? Though I was searching for answers, I didn’t even know what questions I was asking. And for my troubles, all I was receiving were thinly-veiled threats, nightmares, and now a migraine…
Rainbow’s words from earlier came to mind. “Find somepony else to be freaky and judgmental around, but stay away from Fluttershy until you’ve got everything worked out.”
I frowned. Freaky and judgmental? I’m not really being either of those things… am I?
I needed ice cream. Either that or a drink. After a moment of deliberation, I decided on the former – Celestia knows that it would’ve a bad idea for me to consider my dilemma under the influence of alcohol. Still, drinking away my problems sounded appropriate, for some indiscernible reason.
I shrugged. Split the difference, then. I opened the library door, stepped into the moonlight, and pointed myself towards my destination. I’d probably run into Pinkie Pie, but heck, why not? I’d already talked to everypony else, for what little good it had done. Chances are I’d run into her even if I tried to avoid her, so best not to put it off.
As I plodded into Sugarcube Corner, a tiny bell jingled cheerily above the door. I shot it a glare. Had it always been there? If not, then it figured that it would be there today, just to mock me.
I looked around the room. As usual, brightly-colored confectionary filled the area, but due to the lateness of the hour, the room was mostly pony-free. In fact, the only other pony I could see was a dusty-red pegasus who sat in the corner of the room, picking at a half-eaten tart. She wore a battered slouch hat and a sullen frown. With a note of bitter amusement, I realized that her expression probably mirrored mine.
“Welcome to Sugarcube Corner! How may I help – Le gasp!”
Oh. And Pinkie Pie. Pinkie was there too.
I turned to see the pony in question standing behind the counter, staring at me with wide blue eyes. “Twilight! You’re down in the dumps, aren’t you?”
I grunted. “How perceptive of you.”
Suddenly, a little, flickering flame appeared directly in front of my face. I focused on it for a moment, then looked past the lighter and the outstretched hoof that held it. Pinkie was staring at me, her expression a mix of pity, understanding, and mild schadenfreude. “Rough day?” she asked.
I blinked. “What?”
“This is the perfect opportunity to try out my new ‘sympathetic bartender’ shtick!” Pinkie cheerfully replied. “Got my lighter, my rag, and my empathy face, though I think that last one might have a little too much schadenfreude in it…” She flicked the lighter again. “Rough day? C’mon, Twi, be a lonely drunk!”
“Stop flicking at me.” I pushed her arm out of the way.
Pinkie pouted. “Work with me here. How else am I supposed to do my bartender thing?”
“You could get me a freaking drink,” I suggested, sliding onto one of the stools by the counter.
“Okie Dokie Lokie!” Pinkie grinned at me. “Pick your poison! Cider? Whiskey? Rum? Or…” She winked. “You seem like the vodka type to me!”
“Strawberry milkshake,” I flatly replied.
“With vodka in it?” Pinkie added hopefully.
Flavor notwithstanding, I was sorely tempted, but eventually decided against it. I shook my head.
“Oh. That’s good, I guess…” Pinkie said. “I don’t have any booze anyway.”
“You don’t?” My brow furrowed. “Then what’s with the whole bartender thing?”
“It’s fun!” Pinkie plunked my milkshake onto the counter in front of me, then started mopping the counter with her rag. “Besides, everypony knows that nopony lends a sympathetic ear like the friendly barkeep!”
I slid a few bits over the counter. “Sympathetic ear?” I repeated. “Does that mean you want me to talk about what’s bothering me?”
Pinkie smiled. “Duh! What are friends for?” She scooped up the bits.
“Good question,” I replied, staring into my milkshake. I took a long drink, then hesitantly spoke up. “Pinkie, do you think I’m… freaky and judgmental?”
“What? No, of course not! Unless…” Pinkie paused, tapping her chin. “…Well, actually, I suppose you can be a little judgmental at times, and you do get kinda freaky whenever you go super-OCD, but other than that, no! Why do you ask?”
I grimaced. “I sort of had an argument with Rainbow Dash earlier today.”
“Really? About what?” Pinkie asked.
“Well, nopony bothered to tell me that there’s a vampire in town, biting ponies!”
Pinkie giggled. “Well, that’s what vampires do, silly! What else would you have expected?”
I sighed. “Yes, but nopony said that there was a vampire in the first place.”
“Huh?” Pinkie tilted her head to the side. “How could you not know? I mean, you’re you!”
“I may be pretty smart, Pinkie, but I’m not omniscient!”
“But…” Pinkie’s brow furrowed. “How could you not know you’re a vampire?”
I blinked. “What? I’m not the vampire!”
Pinkie’s jaw dropped. “You’re not a vampire?!”
“Of course I’m not!” I exclaimed. “Why did you think I was talking about me?”
Pinkie snorted. “C’mon, it’s obvious! ‘Twilight Sparkle’? If that name doesn’t scream ‘vampire’, I don’t know what does!” She peered at me critically. “Are you sure?”
“You heard me! Are you sure you’re not a vamp?”
“I’m positive,” I growled.
“O Positive?” Pinkie asked.
I glared at her.
“Okay, geez. Tough room…” Pinkie frowned thoughtfully. “You know, if you’re really not a vampire, then I’m gonna have to find a new birthday present for you…”
“A new…?” I paused. “…You know what? Never mind.”
“Okie Dokie Lokie,” Pinkie replied. “So who were you talking about?”
I held a hoof at about head height. “She’s about this tall, has a pink mane, lives in a cottage near the Everfree Forest,” I said flatly. “She likes animals. Perhaps you know her.”
The bell above the door jingled again. I ignored it.
Pinkie’s eyes widened. “Oh, you mean Fluttershy? Everypony knows she’s a vamp!” She grinned. “I remember thinking about her when I first heard your name, because you said something like, ‘Hello, my name is Twilight Sparkle’ and I thought something like, ‘Oh my gosh, another vampire! I bet Fluttershy would love to meet her; they could totally be vampire buddies! And then–”
“I think I get the idea,” I said quickly. “But you’re missing the point! Today was the first I’ve even heard of this…”
“Oh,” Pinkie said. “So that’s why you got in a fight with Dashie? Because she didn’t tell you?”
“I... Well, not exactly.” I frowned. “I’m more worried about the fact that Fluttershy’s a vampire in the first place, yet nopony seems to care.”
Pinkie blinked. “Why would we?”
I grimaced. “Everypony seems to ask that while completely overlooking the fact that Fluttershy drinks blood.”
“Well, yeah,” Pinkie said. “About once every two weeks, she goes down to the hospital and–”
“But she bites Rainbow Dash!” I interrupted.
“And Dashie enjoys it!”
I shuddered. “That only makes it weirder.”
“But nopony gets hurt,” Pinkie said. “So what’s bothering you?”
I slumped down, resting my chin on the counter. “I’m not even sure I know. It’s just…” I paused, trying to collect my thoughts. After a long moment, the words just came pouring out. “Well, I guess I thought I knew Fluttershy, but it turns out there’s this whole other side of her, and suddenly it’s like she’s this completely different pony, if she could still be called a pony at all…” I took a deep breath. “…and yet, at the same time, she isn’t any different at all. So I don’t know what to think.”
Pinkie nodded sagely. “So what you really want to know is…”
“…What is Fluttershy?” I finished.
“Well, that’s easy!” Pinkie giggled. “Think, Twilight. What kind of pony is Fluttershy?”
I frowned. “Um, a vampire?”
Pinkie grinned. “No, silly! Not all vampires are ponies, but that’s not the point anyway! What kind of pony is she?”
“A pegasus,” I answered.
Pinkie nodded. “Yes, she is, but that’s not what I meant, either. What’s Fluttershy’s cutie mark?”
“Three butterflies,” I said promptly. “But what does that–”
“So her special talent is…?”
“Befriending animals. But–”
“Which animal is her best friend?”
Pinkie was starting to fire off her questions more and more rapidly. I had to pause a moment to think. “Well, I suppose I’d have to say Angel,” I replied. “But I’m not exactly sure I’d call him a pet. He seems too…” I paused. “…forceful for that description. Sometimes, I wonder how Fluttershy puts up with him…”
“Well, what’s that necklace thingy she wears?”
I blinked. “You mean the Element of Kindness?”
“Bingo!” Pinkie winked. “You’re good at this, Twilight! Anyway, remember when Fluttershy took those assertiveness lessons?”
I shuddered. “Yes, in fact I do.”
“And what did she do then?”
“She was rude. She hurt ponies’ feelings, and occasionally the ponies themselves.”
Pinkie nodded. “Yes, but was anypony ever seriously hurt?”
I thought about it for a moment. “…No, I don’t think she even left a bruise on anypony…”
“And when Discord used his mumbo-jumbo on Fluttershy, how did she act then?” Pinkie asked.
“She was downright cruel,” I said.
“Did she do anything really bad?”
“Well…” said Pinkie. “…like draining dozens of ponies dry like juice boxes and turning them into her own personal horde of bloodthirsty minions.”
“Uh, n-no,” I stammered. “Well, not that I noticed, anyway.”
“Could she have?” Pinkie asked.
“I guess so. But she didn’t.” I paused for a moment, frowning. “…Huh…”
Pinkie giggled. “Ooh, thoughts? Shaa-aare!”
“Well…” I began. “…even under Discord’s influence, when Fluttershy was at her very cruelest, the thought of killing ponies – or even biting ponies – never crossed her mind!” My brow furrowed. “I guess that even when she’s corrupted by dark magic, Fluttershy’s more petty than anything.”
“So that’s what Fluttershy is?” Pinkie said. “Petty, cruel, and rude?”
Finally, reflex kicked in. “What?” I stared at her, aghast. “Of course not! Pinkie, how could you say that? Those were extenuating circumstances! Fluttershy is the sweetest, gentlest, and downright kindest pony I know.”
Pinkie grinned triumphantly. “There! There’s your answer. Now that wasn’t too hard, was it?”
“Er…” I blinked. “Huh? What just happened?”
“You stopped thinking!” Pinkie reached over and lightly tapped my forehead. “You were so caught up with your thoughts that you forgot your feels! Next time, if your brain can’t find an answer, look here.” She touched her hoof to my chest.
I looked down at it, then back up to her face. “Thanks, Pinkie. I think I understand now.” I nodded to myself, smiling. “I might not have known exactly what Fluttershy is until earlier today, but that’s not nearly as important as who she is, and I’ve known that all along.”
“Exactly!” Pinkie beamed.
“I suppose I should probably write that down,” I chuckled. “This would make an excellent letter for the Princess.” After a moment, I frowned. “Hold on a minute. Pinkie Pie, when did you get so…” I paused. “…well, wise?”
Pinkie giggled. “Twilight, do you know how many mares and stallions come in here after fights with their special somepony?”
I paled. “Look, Fluttershy and I aren’t–”
“The method still applies,” Pinkie said, waving a hoof dismissively. “All anypony really needs to hear is the whole ‘follow your heart’ routine.” She shrugged. “Besides, the whole point of the sympathetic bartender is to listen to problems and dispense invaluable advice!”
“I thought it was to serve drinks,” I said flatly.
Pinkie nodded. “That too!”
“I see.” As I turned away, my milkshake caught my eye. “Oh, I’d almost forgotten about this.” I took a sip. “Well, it’s been nice talking to you, Pinkie, but I shouldn’t take up much more of your time. You probably have more customers to worry about.”
Pinkie glanced around. “Nope.”
“Oh?” I slid off my stool and turned to face the room. Nopony else was in the room. “That’s odd. I thought there was at least one other pony in here…”
“There was!” Pinkie replied. “There was this one mare, but she left in the middle of our conversation. I especially remember her because I’d never seen her before, so that means she must be new, so that means I can throw a party for her!”
“A new pony?” I frowned thoughtfully. “Interesting. Do you know anything about her?”
“Not really,” Pinkie said. “But I remember her cutie mark, so maybe that could help…”
I shrugged. “Sure.”
Pinkie produced a paper and pencil, then speedily scribbled a sketch. Once she was through, she handed her drawing to me.
As I stared at the drawing, I paled. “Pinkie…” I whispered. “Do you know what this means?”
“Nope,” Pinkie said. “Is it a guessing game?”
“A guessing game?!” I repeated, voice rising. “No, this is nothing of the sort! And… and she heard us talking about Fluttershy…” I gulped. “I have to go!”
“Twilight, wait!” Pinkie called out.
“There’s no time!” I ran to the door and threw it open, then galloped away, leaving behind the sketch of a wooden stake impaling a clove of garlic.
As I thundered down the path to Fluttershy’s cottage, I berated myself. Stupid, stupid! How could I be so remarkably dense?
That’s easy for me to say, I thought back. How was I supposed to know that there just happened to be a vampire hunter in town?
I should have known better! I should’ve known that not everypony is as accepting as…
I skidded to a halt. …Hold on. Am I actually arguing with myself?
After a moment, I shook my head irritatedly, then started galloping again. There were more important things happening. Or they would happen, at any rate, if I didn't stop them in time. I certainly hoped they hadn’t happened yet.
I found myself thinking of a small pile of dust on the floor of an empty cottage. As I ran, I tried to push the image out of my mind, but it kept rising up…
By the time I reached the cottage, I was already hyperventilating again. When I saw the dark shape crossing the bridge, my heart skipped a beat. Quickly, I drew in a breath and fired off a teleportation spell.
In a flash of light, I appeared right in front of the pegasus. She flinched, wings flared. “Bloody sunfire! What in th’ blazes do you think you’re doing?” she hissed in a Hosstralian accent.
“What do I think I’m doing?!” I exclaimed. “What are you doing?”
“I think you’ve already got a rather good idea of what I’m gonna do,” the mare replied. She gestured her head to the various objects she carried: a kukri, sheathed just within comfortable reaching distance of her mouth; vials of solar water on a bandolier draped across her back; a wooden stake strapped to the hoof of her hind leg. She lifted the leg in question. “One swift buck ought to be enough.”
I paled. “W-what? No!” Snarling, I took a step forward and lowered my horn. “You can’t do this!”
The vampire hunter shook her head regretfully. “Ya know as well as I do what she is and what she’s doin’. Ya said it yourself, miss, to that cheery pink pal o’ yours: that vamp’s been bitin’ ponies.” She fluttered around me and continued down the path. “Somepony’s gotta stop the thing before it’s too late.”
In another burst of magic, I popped back in front of her. “The thing?! For your information, that ‘thing’ is my friend, and she hasn’t hurt anypony!”
“She was your friend?” As the pegasus landed softly, she stared at me pityingly. “In that case, my apologies, but what’s in there ain’t the pony you used to know. If she’s been turned, then it won’t be long ‘til the obituaries start to get mighty interestin’…” She adjusted her hat. “…unless I go in there and stop it before it starts.”
“She is, and always has been, the pony I knew!” I snarled. “She became a vampire years ago!”
“Is that the truth?” The mare snorted. “Then I have to wonder where she’s been hidin’ all the bodies, if ya think she’s gone that long without killin’.”
My hoof lashed out, striking her face with a meaty thud. “You take that back,” I hissed.
The vampire hunter spat out a mouthful of blood. “A fighter, eh?” She grinned. “I like that. Ya’ve got some real fire there, mate.” Her eyes narrowed. “But I’m afraid I have to do this. Stand aside, Miss, it’s for your own good.”
I lowered my head again, channeling energy into my horn, and it alit with an arcane glow. “If you want to hurt any of my friends, you’ll have to go through me first.”
“Really, now? Well, I hate to do this, but that’s life for ya.” The vampire hunter drew her kukri with her teeth. “No hard feelings, mate.”
“Excuse me, b-but are you two fighting? You’re starting to upset the animals, and… Oh my.”
Both the vampire hunter and I looked over to see Fluttershy standing in the doorway of her cottage, eyes wide. She held a half-emptied blood bag in her mouth, but as her jaw slackened, the bag fell to the ground with a dull squelch.
The kukri fell out of the vampire hunter’s mouth. As she stared at my friend, the color drained from her face. “Fluttershy?”
Fluttershy swallowed. “G-Garlic?”
For a long moment, no one moved. Eventually, I spoke up. “Er… so wh–”
Suddenly, Fluttershy rushed forwards. She threw her arms around the vampire hunter in a tight embrace. “Oh my goodness! Garlic Flank Stake, is it really you?”
The other pegasus nodded. “Yeah, Fluttershy. It’s me.” She smiled awkwardly.
I blinked. “You… You two know each other?”
“Of course! We went to flight camp together!” Fluttershy beamed. “Of course, we haven’t seen each other in ages.”
Garlic chuckled nervously, staring at the fallen blood bag. “Y-yeah, we haven’t, have we? Gee, Flutters, it’s been a while. Ya’ve changed since I saw you last…”
“I suppose I did, didn’t I?” Fluttershy said. “I’ve made more friends, contracted vampirism…” She tapped her chin thoughtfully. “…Oh, yes! And I still didn’t have my cutie mark when we last saw each other, did I?”
Garlic blinked. “No, I guess not.”
Fluttershy smiled, then turned to display her mark. “See? I take care of animals now! What about you?”
“M-me?” Garlic’s eyes widened. “Well, I… er…” She glanced at her own cutie mark. “I’m a garlic farmer! Yeah, that’s it.”
“What?” I stepped forward. “That’s not true! She’s a – Oof!”
Garlic had elbowed me in the side. She shot a pleading glance towards me. “Yes, I am a garlic farmer, and certainly don’t do anythin’ dangerous or reckless with that garlic after I’m done growin’ it! Nope, just growin’.”
“You grow garlic? Oh… W-well, I guess that’s…" Fluttershy shuddered. "...nice.” She frowned, staring at Garlic’s flank. “Wait a minute. So if you’re a farmer… what’s that wooden stake for?”
A bead of sweat trickled down Garlic’s brow. “…Building a really little fence?”
Fluttershy stared at her.
“Y’know, to keep the rabbits away,” Garlic said.
“Oh. I suppose that makes sense…” Fluttershy nodded understandingly. “Anyway, Garlic, you kind of surprised me – I wasn’t expecting to see anypony out this late!”
“Sorry,” Garlic said.
Fluttershy shook her head. “Oh, it’s quite alright! I’m always glad to see an old friend drop by…” Her brow furrowed. “…in the middle of the night… arguing with one of my other friends… while armed to the teeth with anti-vampire weaponry.” She frowned thoughtfully. “Huh.”
Garlic remained silent.
After a long, thoughtful moment, Fluttershy spoke up. “Garlic, why are you here in the middle of the night arguing with one of my other friends while armed to the teeth with anti-vampire weaponry?”
“Oh! Yes. Um.” Garlic blinked. “Well, Flutters… ya see…” She glanced at me beseechingly.
“Right! Garlic here was just, er, on her way to… uh…” I paused, my mind racing furiously. “…a comic book convention!”
Garlic nodded fervently. “Exactly! And I’m wearin’ all this ‘cause I’m, uh, coz-dressing.”
“Cosplaying,” I corrected.
“Yes, that.” Garlic paused. “A-and, well, Twilight was comin’ with me, and we were just passing by when she suggested we come see ya.”
“That’s exactly what happened,” I said. “But as we were crossing that bridge there…” I gestured to it with a hoof. “…well, Garlic insulted my OTP, and one thing led to another.”
Fluttershy tilted her head quizzically. “OTP?”
“One True Pairing,” I clarified.
Garlic nodded. “That gal takes her… uh… freightin’–”
“Shipping,” I interrupted.
“–shippin’ mighty seriously,” Garlic finished.
Fluttershy stared at us for a long moment. I did my best to smile reassuringly.
Fluttershy nodded slowly. “I see… Well, I’m glad I came out here in time. I’d hate for somepony to have done anything foalish.”
“Quite true.” I shot Garlic a meaningful look. “Why, it’d be quite a shame if anypony did something they’d regret later…”
Garlic coughed apologetically. “Well, no worries. We’re all good mates here, ain’t we?”
“Yes. Yes, we are.” I turned and started to trot away. “Now, Garlic, we’d better get to that convention. I’m sure that Fluttershy needs her rest.”
Garlic retrieved her kukri, then slid it back into its sheath. “If ya say so. G’night, Fluttershy…” She hurried to catch up.
“Bye, girls.” As we walked away, Fluttershy waved to us. “Have a safe trip…”
Garlic and I kept walking, putting more distance between us and the cottage. Once we were a safe distance away, she turned to me. “Celestia’s beard! Ya never said Fluttershy was the vampire!”
“You left Sugarcube Corner before I brought it up!” I exclaimed. “Besides, I wasn’t even talking to you!”
“Well, excuse me, princess,” Garlic grumbled, “but one has to keep one’s ears open in my line of work. Ya never know where you’ll find a lead.” She snorted. “Guess I should’ve kept my ears open a bit longer. If I’d known ya were talkin’ about Fluttershy, I wouldn’t have bothered.”
“Not that I’m not thankful, but why not?” I asked. “You didn’t seem to care who the vampire was before you found out it was her!”
Garlic shrugged. “I’ve been around long enough to know that nothin’ can change some ponies. Fluttershy might be bitin’ now, but ponies live through that if the vamp stops drinkin’ in time.”
“How come you’re so quick to believe that Fluttershy would be careful enough to do that?” I said. “Before, you didn’t seem to think that any vampire could be.”
“I didn’t,” Garlic replied. “But if anypony can, it’s her. That gal wouldn’t hurt a fly.” She chuckled. “Heck, judgin’ by her cutie mark, she’d befriend the fly. Of course, I would like to know how she manages…”
“Blood bank,” I said. “And the occasional sip from a willing donor.”
Garlic nodded. “Clever girl. I’ll have to remember that.”
“So you’re letting her go, just like that?” I said.
Garlic stared at me. “Well… yeah, I guess.”
I eyed the vampire hunter suspiciously. It could be a bluff, I thought. She might be planning to circle back later.
Apparently, Garlic could tell what I was thinking, because she raised a hoof defensively. “Look, mate, I’m not in this whole vamp-huntin’ business outta some kind of hatred of ‘em or anythin’! I just want to protect ponies.” She glanced back towards the cottage. “And I can see that Flutters ain’t gonna be a threat. So let’s just leave it be, alright?”
I glared at her for a moment longer before answering. “Very well… but if anything happens to Fluttershy, and I learn that you’re even indirectly responsible, then I won’t be too pleased with you.” I narrowed my eyes. “Am I clear?”
“As crystal,” Garlic said hurriedly. “Ya won’t get any trouble from me. Just don’t tell Fluttershy what I really do, will ya? I’d hate for her to find out.”
I sighed. “Fine… but do you have any other business in Ponyville?”
“Nah. I was just passin’ through in the first place – I’d caught word of a rather nasty coven of vamps holed up in the Hucul Valley, ya see,” Garlic replied.
“The Hucul Valley is over six hundred miles away,” I said flatly.
Garlic blinked. “It is? But I traveled over six hundred miles to get here!” After a moment, her eyes narrowed. “Well, that’s the last time I buy a map from gypsy ponies…”
Despite myself, I giggled. “You mean they actually fooled you into believing that a valley in Romaneia could be found anywhere near Ponyville, despite the fact that you’ve actually lived in the Ponyville area before?”
“Yeah, well, don’t rub it in,” Garlic growled. “Besides, I’d only been here twice before! The first time was for flight camp, and that was a long time ago!”
I blinked. “Twice? What about the second time, then?”
Garlic frowned. “Oh, right. A few years ago, I was on my way to Canterlot to pick up a supply of solar water when I passed by Ponyville. I remember I was makin’ my way along the edge of the Everfree when I ran into a vamp. He was a real nasty blighter too, but–”
“White coat?” I interrupted. “Cutie mark was a trio of bats?”
“Yeah,” Garlic said. “But how–”
“Was this on Nightmare Night, by any chance?” I asked.
Garlic’s eyes narrowed. “Yeah… Yeah, it was. How come you seem to know so much about it?”
“That vampire was the one who turned Fluttershy,” I replied. “What happened to him?”
“Pile of dust,” Garlic said proudly. “I keep it in a jar at home.”
I nodded. “Ah. Well, there’s one more mystery solved.” I turned away. “Tell you what – Let’s go back to the library, where I can find a real map for you, and you can be on your way…”
As Garlic Flank Stake trotted out the library door, Spike turned to me. “So who was that?” he asked. “I’ve never seen her before…”
“Oh, just an old friend of Fluttershy’s,” I replied. “But that’s not important right now. Spike, take a letter.”
“Heh. If you say so, Twilight...” Spike positively oozed smugness.
I paused. “Okay, Spike, I’ll bite. What is it?”
“You want me to write a friendship report for the Princess, don’t you?” he said. “You wouldn’t be doing that unless something happened. I was right! It wasn’t a quiet day!”
I chuckled. “Yes, Spike, you’re right. It wasn’t.”
Spike grinned. “I thought so.”
“But honestly, it was all my fault,” I continued. “I’d simply made a big deal over nothing! So what if Fluttershy’s a vampire?”
Spike’s eyes widened. The quill fell out of his claw. “Fluttershy’s a vampire?!”