“Forgive me, darlings,” said Rarity, “but would it be all right if I freshened up a bit?”

Once things had quieted down, several ponies had accompanied Rarity back to the Carousel Boutique, lured by the promise of a soothing and truly fabulous breakfast, delicious coffee and the complete lack of corpses or monsters.

One thing Rarity hadn’t mentioned was that she intended to conversationally examine the topic of ‘monsters’, on behalf of her absent friend, Fluttershy. Of course, thought Rarity, with recent events she might well find herself discussing Pinkie Pie. She greatly feared such a topic would be beyond her, and most certainly she’d need to look herself if she were to tackle it.

“Let me help!” said Sweetie Belle. “I can get breakfast started, I promise I can! I’ve been making breakfast for Scootaloo and she loves it!”

“Erm…” said Rarity. “Perhaps you can place the table settings? I confess I had my heart set on making my best omelets, and it is touchy work to cook them perfectly. I’ll need to pay close attention, which means I must cook them from beginning to end, undistracted.”

Derpy perked up. “Ooh! I can help put out plates and forks and things!” Excitedly, she took to the air, blowing a picture off the wall.

“Yay!” cheered Sweetie Belle. “We’ll both do it! Come on, Derpy!”

They galloped and flew into the kitchen, as Rarity grimaced. A crashing noise added a twitch to the grimace, and the normally-elegant fashion pony peered around huntedly, her ears laid back in alarm and tension.

The remaining two ponies… or guests, at any rate… regarded her with sympathy.

“They seem to mean well,” said Hina. “How fragile is your kitchen?”

Big Macintosh glanced at her. He’d come along, a bit hesitantly, but not wanting to let the upset Kirin out of his sight. Rarity had observed this, but said nothing critical, indeed had been most welcoming. Neither Big Macintosh nor Rarity mentioned one particular fact: Big Macintosh had not been under the roof of Carousel Boutique since he’d dumped her, so many adventures ago. Now he stood, as always seeming to take up the whole room, next to the table upon which she’d found his break-up note. Her decorations were as always fresh and different, but the table was the same.

Hina frowned worriedly. Rarity seemed terribly overstressed…

Rarity glanced up, wide-eyed, one lash still askew, as Big Macintosh approached her. Firmly, he hugged her, and she gulped.

“You go git yourself perty. Ah mean, by your standards perty. ‘Cos you are, anyhoof, Rarity,” said Big Macintosh. “Don’t you worry. I’ll keep an eye on your two helpers, and we won’t start without you.”

Rarity’s lip quivered—and then, she reared and hugged him right back. “Thank you. Thank you, Big Macintosh. I’ll be just a moment, I must fix my mane.”

“Eyup,” replied Big Macintosh, as if he’d never left.

Rarity winced, pouted, gave him another hug and a kiss on the cheek, repeated “Thank you!” and scampered off to her primary fabulousness room, the secondary one being really better suited to less severe fashion emergencies. Her horn was already lighting with a vengeance before she’d shut the door, curlers flying in all directions.

“Should we wait?” asked Hina. “What if the filly and pegasus are too hungry?”

Big Macintosh chuckled, and there was fondness and also a wry amusement to it. “Eenope. If it was jes’ me, she might take an hour. But guests? And she’s promised to cook for ‘em? Ah might even start countin’ down from… uhh, thirty, no more’n that.”

Hina’s eyes widened. “We should count? Is that what Rarity likes?”

“No no!” protested Big Macintosh. “Don’t you count. You’ll offend her. All I’m sayin’ is, ain’t no big delay. An’ don’t remark on it, neither. Act like nothin’ happened and she got up outta bed lookin’ like that. It’s gosh dern amazin’, always was, but she don’t want it remarked upon or nothin’.”

Hina’s eyes narrowed thoughtfully. “Do you know this mare?”

“Eyup,” said Big Macintosh, and then he trotted forward hastily. Derpy and Sweetie had emerged from the kitchen, with plates and forks and glasses, and Big Macintosh’s eyes widened as he saw the stacks of delicate glassware wobbling…

He wasn’t in time to catch the toppling glasses balanced on Derpy’s wing, but he wasn’t the only guest. While he thudded onto the floor reaching out to the falling breakables, Hina’s strange horn abruptly seethed with energy, and every last bit of crockery and cutlery began to hover, unharmed.

In a silent flurry of motion, Rarity emerged from her emergency coiffure reboot, radiant. She burst forth so exquisitely made up and styled that her appearance seemed to demand spotlights and a red carpet, and she froze as she saw Big Macintosh, sprawled on the ground under Derpy, and Hina levitating glassware.

Rarity’s horn lit. “Allow ME,” she said with stern graciousness, and took the plates and glasses from Hina. “We do not ask our esteemed guests to bus their own table settings, darling.”

As Big Macintosh got to his hooves, blushing, Rarity’s hostess smile grew warmer, and she winked one glamorous eye at him, and whispered, “Thank you three times… you gentlepony, you!”

Having set the table, she swished elegantly into the kitchen, quietly singing some of her soprano parts from the Ponytones. Big Macintosh briefly considered singing with her, but chose to sit and wait politely. It wasn’t wise to distract Rarity when she was in the throes of creation, and breakfast qualified: as she’d explained in the old days, everything qualified, even (as he’d learned) pony-pegging.

But on this morning, there was nothing nearly so unsettling going on. Rarity sang to herself, and Big Macintosh fancied he detected an extra harmoniousness to her song, as if she’d found a closure for an old niggling grief she’d nearly forgotten she had.

He glanced at Derpy Hooves, who’d ended up Rarity’s special somepony, and saw Derpy gazing adoringly at the glimpse of purple tail visible in the doorway. He pondered this, nodding to himself. His old ex had found love, sure enough. Who’d have thought it would be somepony like Derpy, and not a fancy Canterlot horse? Maybe there’d been things about himself, too, that she’d valued all along. He’d been a foolish pony, seeing wicked intent where it hadn’t existed. And there they were, able to become friends again after all that bad feeling. Big Macintosh nodded to himself again. That was good.

He glanced over, and was startled to see the Kirin, Hina-rin, gazing at him much as Derpy gazed at Rarity.

“You are so benevolent,” purred Hina, batting her eyelashes, that rivalled Rarity’s for lash-osity. “I feel it in you.”

“Uh… eyup?”

“What’s a nevolut?” asked Derpy, blinking at Hina and abandoning her study of Rarity’s tail.

Hina smiled. “He’s like you: a good pony! This horse has such a good heart.”

“Ahem!” rumbled Big Macintosh, blushing awkwardly. “Ain’t always been so, you jes’ settle yourself. Don’t you be makin’ stuff up now! Ah does my best. Most of th’ time.”

Hina batted her eyelashes again. “Oh, come now. Surely your heart cannot fail? Are you not goodness itself?”

Sweetie piped up, “Big Macintosh is a famous stud-pony! He even helped Princess Luna get with foal! All the mares like him!”

Big Macintosh blushed even worse, as Hina studied him. “Aw, ‘cmon… shucks!”

“That must be the truth,” encouraged Hina. “I helped him breed a young mare. He is bountiful!”

“Sweetie Belle!” called Rarity, from the kitchen. “That is not a breakfast conversation!”

Sweetie had flinched, and her little ears were back. “Sorry, Rarity!” She turned to Hina. “We shouldn’t talk about rumpypumpy over breakfast, Rarity doesn’t like it.”

“All things in their proper time!” chided Rarity, still just a swishing visible tail and a gleam of blue light through the doorway as she cooked and created omelets and alfalfa croissants. “And in the proper context!”

“Sorry!” said Sweetie.

Rarity poked her head out of the kitchen for a moment. “Don’t fret, Sweetie darling. For all you know, our guests may delight in such conversations at other times: I may say that it would please me for such a lovely Kirin and fine gentlepony to find joys together. But I would also suggest that MY breakfast table would not be an appropriate spot for such joys, when I’m taking pains to instead bring them culinary joys in the peace and quiet of a proper Ponyville morning!”

“Mom?” said Sweetie uncertainly.

“Yes, Sweetie Belle?”

“The omelets…”

Rarity turned, shrieked, and could be heard cursing under her breath and dumping a burning omelet into the sink, to start afresh.

Big Macintosh carefully didn’t laugh, but his eyes did. Rarity would be fine: she’d fix the problem and present them with ostentatiously perfect breakfasts, which would be delicious. He’d missed that. It seemed easier to accept Rarity’s generosity when he’d long since walked away from any notion of repaying or balancing it. That had always seemed impossible, and they’d been forever out of balance.

He studied Derpy Hooves and wondered if, rather than being too crude and dumb and simple, he’d actually been not simple enough.

Even as he thought it, Rarity emerged from the kitchen levitating a small constellation of omelets: they cooked quickly, and had to be served just as quickly lest they lose their magical tenderness. Sweetie seemed unimpressed, but Derpy Hooves wore nearly as awed an expression as Big Macintosh himself. It had been so long since Rarity had cooked him breakfast. Now she cooked it for him and his… new sweetheart? Pleasant responsibility? There was no question that soothing the Kirin had become his problem, though if it meant breakfasts like this, it was a nice problem to have.

“What an omelet!” exclaimed Hina, tasting hers. “It’s miraculous!”

“Thank you, darling,” said Rarity, well pleased. “I can but try to soothe rattled ponies to the best of my ability. After this morning, we all could use a respite.”

Sweetie, polishing off her omelet, blinked. “What’s the matter with this morning? Other than you running off with curlers in your mane. I thought that was weird!”

“Ah,” said Rarity. “Er… how much do you know, Sweetie Belle?”

Everypony could see the thoughts ticking over behind those so-innocent eyes. Rarity hastily continued. “Do you know Fern Gully, on the Apple farm, Sweetie Belle?”

“Yeah!” said Sweetie. “How come? What did he do?” Her eyes widened. “Did you run out to have sex with him? Or, like, whip him or something? Wow! It must have been amazing if you couldn’t even wait to take out your…”

“Sweetie Belle!” exclaimed Rarity. “No, I did not! I’d better just tell you. Fern Gully was killed.”

Sweetie’s jaw dropped. “How?”

“There was a vampire. Not Fluttershy! An evil vampire, Sweetie Belle. It’s dead now. Ah… perhaps I should say it’s destroyed, for it was dead already. It… it was Hollyhock, I’m afraid.”

Two voices clashed, protesting in unison.

“Are you kidding me?” wailed Sweetie Belle. “Oh, no! I have to go see Apple Bloom right away, is she all right? She LIVES there!”

The other voice was the Kirin, Hina-rin. “There was just one vampire! We all saw it, too! How can you speak of an evil vampire? They are all evil!”

“Please, calm yourselves!” begged Rarity. “Everything is nice and quiet. We can talk about these things. And Sweetie, Apple Bloom attacked the vampire herself! Applejack had to remind her that her place was to lead. I’ll have you know that Apple Bloom personally rescued me from the vampire’s clutches, don’t worry about her, dear. I am more worried about smoothing over some lingering worries left to us…”

“Do you have a KAZOO?” demanded Pinkie Pie, sticking her head out of the kitchen.

Rarity shrieked. “Pinkie! How did you get there? What do you mean?”

“I mean a baritone kazoo!” said Pinkie. “It’s important! And I came out of the teakettle, of course. Duh!”

“Why a baritone…” began Rarity, and gulped. “Why ME?”

Pinkie gave her a big smile. “Well, logically of course you’d have a comb, and also tissue paper for your dressmaking, which is kind of like a kazoo so it’s not that much of a stretch for you, Rarity, to have kazoo capability! Even an extra specially large and sonorous one!”

“WHY a baritone kazoo?!” demanded Rarity, trembling. Pinkie would not stop smiling that smile.

“Why a baritone kazoo?” said Pinkie. “For authority, of course! There has to be the right fanfare when you’re talking about the destruction of a character we’ve been with for nearly eight books! Get with the program! And that classic downward-trombone motif loses its mojo if it can’t reach a low n…”

She gasped. “Oh my gosh. TROMBONE! Gottagobye!”

Her head yanked back through the kitchen door and vanished. When Rarity, in a clatter of hooves, made it to the kitchen, there was nopony there and the teakettle was knocked over on its side, balancing precariously on the edge of the counter.

“Damn that pony!” she grumbled, returning to her breakfast table. “It’s not the first time she’s… Sweetie Belle! What’s the matter, what’s frightened you?”

Sweetie, who’d been on the opposite side of the table from Rarity and closer to the kitchen door, gulped. “Mom? It wasn’t her, I mean not all of her. It was just Pinkie’s head, talking. And her neck, it kind of stretched back in there…”

Sweetie’s eyes widened in terror, looking over Rarity’s shoulder. Slowly, Rarity’s head turned.

“I’ll talk to YOU later, little filly!” said Pinkie, or at least as much of her she needed in order to poke her head out from Rarity’s kitchen again. “Me, Rock, and the Green Streak are going to be expanding the Pinkie Force!”

Sweetie just shook her head, in mute dismay.

“I’ll wait until after breakfast,” said Pinkie placatingly. “It’s important. Toodles!”

Her head zipped back into the kitchen, and the teakettle could be heard falling onto the floor.

“What is this creature?” cried Hina, distraught. “She reeks of chaos! And merry madness!”

Rarity sighed. “She’s one of the lingering worries I spoke of, Hina. That was Pinkie Pie. I fear Pinkie has gone demented on us again, and I don’t know where it will lead. I think we have two equally alarming concerns, judging from what I’ve heard from Fluttershy.”

“What’s that?” said Big Macintosh.

Rarity’s ear twitched. She set her jaw. “Firstly, I’ve heard she isn’t getting along well with Fluttershy and her zebra harem any longer, even to the point that she’s hostile to little Dursaa, the zebragasus foal. And that is alarming, for he is adorableness itself on tiny striped wings, and Pinkie normally responds well to cute things and foals. I am very worried she is letting jealousy get on top of her. Even in normal circumstances, Pinkie has curious powers, and the times when she turns giddy and fey are times when her power burgeons.”

Ponies stared wide-eyed.

“What’s th’ other concern?” said Big Macintosh.

Rarity gulped. “I’d better just say it. Pinkie sired Rock Candy, and also little Dursaa, to hear Fluttershy tell it. That means she bit Fluttershy’s wing, causing her to ovulate, as pegasi do. Fluttershy says, and we’ve always assumed, that she did it gently enough to not catch vampirism… but I fear we need to ask some questions about that. Such as: if Pinkie Pie can transform herself so grotesquely, and she’s a vampony, might she also conceal fangs using the same reality-defying powers?”

The appalled silence deepened.

“Oh, fuck,” moaned Big Macintosh.

“What?” said Derpy Hooves, looking terribly unhappy. “What are you talking about? Say that again, it’s confusing and sounds bad.”

Rarity trotted over, and hugged Derpy. “Poor dear! I will protect you, I swear it. For now, I must ask you not to talk to her, okay? Until we know everything’s all right.”

“I’d like a hug, too,” said Hina. Her mane seemed to fizz with stray energy, and scales kept flickering down her back. “And an explanation, please? How do you know all these things?”

“Mac dear?” suggested Rarity, not leaving Derpy.

Big Macintosh walked over and extended a hoof, and the Kirin gratefully snuggled up to him, the turmoil of her magic defenses seeming to settle down at his touch.

“So that’s the concern,” said Rarity, “at least as I see it. I think the latter isn’t likely, honestly. When Pinkie is mad like this, she seems to conceal nothing, yet it makes no sense. I can’t picture her hiding fangs. I’m more worried she is pursuing Fluttershy. Fluttershy is innocent. Or at least we’ve known her to be. Hina, what do you mean when you say the evil isn’t gone, after we destroyed Hollyhock? Is Fluttershy the evil you refer to? How can she possibly be, if she’s terrified of everything including herself? Or is she terrified of herself for a reason… and if so, does she have the freedom to be good and kind that we’ve assumed she had? Or is her dark side too difficult to repress?”

At that, Hina stirred. “What side do you mean?”

“When ponies lose their way and begin to fret and think too much…”

“There is no dark side!” protested the Kirin. “There is only light and dark! If only I can be equal to all this…”

“Oh, no you don’t,” said Rarity crisply. “Not here in Ponyville. I can see we have to have a conversation now, just as I’d expected. My dear Kirin, if there were no dark side my sales would be half what they are! No, let me amend that. If there were no dark side, I would not have to restrict some of my product lines as I do. Can you understand these things? There are, shall we say, shades of gray in our happy village.”

“Gray is DIRTY white,” said Hina stubbornly.

“Oh, sweet Celestia!” said Rarity, in frustration. “That’s it. I’m not going to let you out of this room until you’ve learned a few things. We should have spoken with you by now, and I blame myself for not recognizing the need: I could tell you were naive, but I didn’t think it would matter as much as it does. Let us talk monsters, Hina-rin. What is your favorite monster?”

“How can there be such a thing?” said Hina, wide-eyed, still snuggling against Big Macintosh.

Derpy glanced at Sweetie. Sweetie glanced at Derpy. Both glanced at Big Macintosh’s crotch. Both smirked.

“You’ll find out!” said Sweetie, helpfully.

“Sweetie Belle! Derpy!” complained Rarity. “Behave! That is not what I meant and you know it. All right then, who is your favorite monster? Dare I say it, myself? You’ve scoffed down my omelet with every evidence of satisfaction, so perhaps I’m your favorite monster this morning.”

“But YOU are not a monster!” protested Hina.

Rarity froze her with an unexpectedly authoritative gaze. “Tell that to the ashes of Hollyhock. I think, as I gave his balls an extra twist, he’d have rated me highly for monstrosity. I hoped so.”

“But he was a vampire, slaughtering the innocent!”

“Then why couldn’t you approach me?” countered Rarity. “Did that not happen… darling?”

Hina hesitated. She stared wonderingly at Rarity. “Do… you wish me to hurt you?”

“HEY!” squeaked Sweetie, and everypony winced. “Don’t you dare! Mom, don’t let her do anything to you!”

Rarity didn’t flinch, however. She gazed coolly at Hina, with a little half-smile. “Not in a bad way,” she suggested.

Hina blinked. “…a bad way?” she said.

“Read my aura, darling, if that’s what you do,” challenged Rarity. “Go on! Right now, while I’m in this mood.”

Big Macintosh’s ears quirked, and he drew Hina a little closer. Rarity was staring at her so oddly, filled with confidence… but why?

Hina gulped.

“What are you doing?” she said, plainitively. “I can’t tell what you are now. You feel so grounded. But there is darkness within your intentions. How does it not taint your soul?”

“You make it sound bad,” purred Rarity playfully. “All I’m doing is imagining how fiercely you could use a lovely whip. With that breathtakingly powerful Kirin magic. Upon me.”

“Rarity!” cried Derpy. “I thought you didn’t have to do dumb hurty stuff anymore!”

“Sh, Derpy love,” said Rarity hastily. “I’m making an argument. Hina! How do I seem to you now?”

The Kirin frowned miserably. “But what have you done? You’re a tangled skein of sin. Such streaks of darkness. Yet there’s this deep powerful underlying goodness…”

“That’s why I dare to do this,” explained Rarity. “Much of that is nurtured by Derpy. Also, Sweetie coming more honestly into my life did me a world of good. I think there was a time when you’d have blotted out my existence without a second glance.”

Derpy screamed. Sweetie squealed. Hina flinched, looking around frantically.

“Wait, stop!” cried Rarity. She rushed over and hugged Derpy. “It’s okay! She won’t, I promise she won’t. Steady, Sweetie Belle! Check me again, Hina! There, there, Derpy, we won’t think of such things…”

Hina blinked. “Where’d it GO? Where’d the darkness go?”

Rarity turned to face her. “Oh, those moods don’t last long around these adorable miscreants! Between Derpy and Sweetie, not to forget Big Macintosh, it’s surprising I can even enter dom-space or sub-space at all. Doesn’t fit with my lifestyle anymore, even if I do reminisce with Trixie at times. I fear I really dug deep when I went after Hollyhock, but I’m sure nopony could blame me for that.”

“Dug? Deep? What?” said Hina, totally confused.

“Evil, darling,” purred Rarity. “That little taste of evil that delights in torment and suffering. It’s good to be able to switch, mind you. Hollyhock clearly had no trace of that, if he was a domme he’d clearly have been a rogue practitioner, which is surely why I was so very merciless.” She winced, and hugged Derpy again. “Part of it, let’s just say.”

“Why are you teaching me you can turn evil?” said Hina. “Please never do that again!”

“I’ll tell you why,” said Rarity. “Have you ever met an evil monster that can turn good?”

“That’s impossible.”

“Nonsense,” said Rarity. “You have. Just this morning you have. We simply must make you recognize the fact, so that you’ll be safe around her.” Rarity blinked, wrinkling her lovely brow. “Them, rather. I suppose we’re more worried Pinkie’s going insane, but in many ways she’d qualify just as much. At least, none of us dare to cross her. I wasn’t thinking of her.”

“What monster?” begged Hina. She was trembling.

“Fluttershy, that’s who,” said Rarity. “Our peaceful, non-evil vampony. I warn you, if you harass her you’ll have me to contend with. I suppose you could smite me like a squished bug, but by Celestia I’d leave some welts and scars on you first. You are NOT to harm Fluttershy in the least.”

Hina had got stuck on an earlier word. “I saw no vampony here! None but Hollyhock! What are you saying?”

“That’s the enchanted mane and tail extensions!” retorted Rarity. “That’s why she didn’t look like one! And for the rest of it, it’s no wonder you didn’t spot her, as that mare hasn’t got an evil bone in her body! Vampire, she is, and completely peaceful and kind nonetheless. She’s spoken of having dark impulses. And what of it? The point I’m making is that we must smash your rigid categories of thought!”

“You would smash my thoughts?” wailed Hina, horrified.

“If they endanger my dearest friends, I would!” declared Rarity, raising her chin proudly. “It looks like we took care of our evil vampire ourselves! And if you’re hanging around to target our good and kind vampire pony, if that’s what you’re sensing when you say there’s still evil here, then you will taste my lash!”

“Your eyelash?” said Hina, completely boggled.

Sweetie gasped. “No! Mom! If you try to do that she’ll… Derpy!”

“Yes, Sweetie?” cried Derpy, alarmed by all the contentiousness.

“Mom’s starting a fight with the Kirin and the Kirin’s gonna squish her or zap her or something!”

Rarity paled. “Oh, now, Sweetie, it was just rhetorical… hey! Stop it!”

But it was too late. All she could see was a pair of virtuous rumps: both Derpy Hooves and Sweetie Belle had interposed themselves between herself and Hina, and were advancing on Kirin and Big Macintosh alike.

“Don’t you hurt my Mom,” snarled Sweetie Belle, “I’m warning you!”

“Oh my gosh!” added Derpy. “Nuh-uh! You’ll have to squish me first!” She blinked, and her eyes swapped targets. “Um, please don’t? That would be really mean!” She glowered. “How come you’re mean? Stop it!”

Rarity gave a little shriek. “Darlings! Don’t protect me, I was just making my point!”

“She’s gonna feel the point on the end of my horn!” vowed Sweetie. “Derpy! On three we charge! Mom’s too kinky and the Kirin’s gonna hurt her!”

“Nooo!” wailed Derpy. She stamped a hoof, flapping aggressively.

Hina could only gape in horror. “Good ponies! Don’t do this!”

“Big Macintosh!” cried Rarity, in desperation.


“Get her OUT of here!”

Big Macintosh had seen many things in Ponyville, but he’d never seen so adorable an onslaught. Faced with the advance of Sweetie Belle and Derpy Hooves, the one so given to filly unicorn crazy that there was no reasoning with her and the other famously slow on the uptake, he had no choice. So, he swept little Hina up into his mighty forehooves, and rushed awkwardly out the door even as two of the cutest and most innocent ponies in Ponyville charged, in a last ditch defense of their notoriously kinky beloved.

Behind him, he heard pony cries of triumph.

“Yay!” “We won!”

“Sweetie Belle, for heaven’s sake!” yelled Rarity. “You’ve ruined breakfast!”

“No, they ate that before we chased them away…”

Big Macintosh tripped, and tumbled onto the clean grass, sending Hina flying in a tangle of gangly limbs. He looked back, to see Derpy kicking the door closed, and hear a thump that was probably her interposing her solid pegasus body and blocking the door.

He sighed.

“That was a dern good omelet,” he said, wistfully. From inside the Carousel Boutique, he heard at least one shrieking unicorn, and the smash of a flung plate.

“Come on, Miss Hina,” he said. “Best give ‘em some space…”

“But why?” wailed Hina. “Why do they turn from good to evil and back again? Why do they attack me, foolish things? Why do they fling plates and smash their finest table settings in fits of madness?”

She flung herself onto Big Macintosh’s bed, and pounded the pillow with fluffy little flailings of her curious, cloven hooves, as if she sought to vent her feelings but feared a mouse might hide beneath. “Why?!?”

Big Macintosh blinked. “Uh… them weren’t the finest table settings.” He’d hoped bringing her back to his place would settle her down, but it hadn’t worked as well as he’d hoped.

“What?” she said.

“That plate breakin’? Don’t you worry, Miss Hina. I know that sound.”

Hina gulped. She tried to compose herself, and spoke with more decorum, as Kirin preferred to do. “They smash their table settings that frequently?”

“Naw. Them’s the breakin’ plates, from the sound of it.”

“But I just said that!”

Big Macintosh strove to explain. “Ain’t th’ table settings. Ah promise, they didn’t hurt their nice things. Rarity keeps breakin’ plates handy, cheap ole things. Did back in the day, I reckon she still do. She’ll float ‘em over, buck ‘em into the wall with a big noise, and then she’ll clean ‘em up real nice with a lil’ broom and pan. It soothes her mind. Don’t you worry about that, Rarity’s all right. Ah ‘spect them plates is already swept up and in the trash bin, and nothin’ happened to the nice plates at all.”

Hina’s face had steadily fallen with every word, her lip quivering over that incongruous tuft of Kirin magic-beard, as she tried to follow his explanation. When he finished, her gaze pleaded with him to keep going, to take it back or say he was joking or somehow un-say the horrifying, incomprehensible story.

Big Macintosh blinked puzzledly, and then his own eyes widened, for Hina burst into tears and buried her face in his pillow.

“Aw, honey pie!” he said. “What’s so wrong? Ain’t nothin’ happening for to cry over…”

The next thing he knew, she was clinging to him and babbling, her odd and stilted manner of speech gone.

“I can’t stand it!” she sobbed. “Is this what the old Kirin meant? When they said my compassion wasn’t deep enough? I tried to reason with them and it just made it worse. They are good, I know it, how could they be otherwise? What mystery could they conceal, and why could they not simply tell me?”

Big Macintosh hugged her. She felt so strange, like no pony he’d touched. It seemed like a creature so tiny, relative to his farm-horse bulk, should feel frail… but the embrace only reminded him of how different she was. Her flesh felt like some substance denser than muscle. The scales rippled across her body in response to her emotion, and where they extended her body felt invulnerable, like some arcane metal. The magical aura of a mane washed across him in glowing billows, tingling and throwing no sparks as it contacted him.

“There, there,” he soothed. “Mystery? What’s that, honey?”

She sniffled, wiping her nose with a shimmering fetlock, and then she fixed him with a brave, tearful gaze that took his soul and heart in a firm, possessive grip. Never a horse of many words, Big Macintosh suddenly had none at all. He could only sink into those eyes, those heavy-lashed, brilliantly alive, bold yet compassionate eyes.

“They told me to travel abroad,” she said. “They told me to make love and to make peace. They are Kirin, as I am, but older and wiser, and I must trust their judgement.”

“Uhh… okay,” said Big Macintosh, entranced.

Hina sniffled. “Traveling abroad and making love didn’t seem bad,” she said, and gave him a hurt but forgiving look. “Though you didn’t want to do it, when I offered. You don’t trust my skills? I can make love better than any pony you’ve seen.”

Big Macintosh blinked. “Um… that’s okay,” he said. Privately, he thought of Rarity, and doubted it. Then, he thought of Braeburn, and doubted it twice… but he didn’t say anything. It seemed a desecration to imagine Hina carrying on like Braeburn, all the more since she was doing just that. Why couldn’t she be more romantic, rather than behaving like a wanton slut-pony? “It ain’t prop’ly about skills, miss,” he added.

Hina snuggled against him, and sighed. “It’s all right, really. I just wish I understood. Ponyville daunts me.”

He allowed her to nestle against his massive body, stroking her until the scales went away. “What’s that mean?”

Those eyes caught him again. “How can it resist goodness? Why protect evil? And you won’t fuck me.”

Big Macintosh gulped. “Well, now, miss…”

Her curious hoof touched his lips, silenced him. “It’s all right,” she said. “I am here to serve ponies, and living things that are good. Being gay, or finding distaste for me, is not evil.” She sighed, pouting. “It may make me sad: I crave your massive horse cock. But it’s not evil.”

“Now see here, miss!” said Big Macintosh.

“Don’t argue,” said Hina. “I will love you anyhow. It is distaste, then? You liked the earth pony mare. I only wish my body attracted you.”

“Will ya listen?”

“Yes, of course,” she said, serenely.

Big Macintosh heaved a deep breath, squishing little Hina to the side on the bed. “Ooooh…” she crooned. “At least I have this? May I clop? While you breathe so deep.”

“Dang it!”

“I’m sorry,” said the seemingly deranged little Kirin. “I interrupted. Forgive me?”

Big Macintosh’s ears were laid back, and he felt a stirring in his groin, for Hina had wriggled in pleasure against him, just to feel him breathe. Hastily, he gathered his thoughts while he could. “It ain’t that, Miss Hina. Don’t you see Ah would want ta make sweet love? Don’t carry on like, like… a pleasure horse! You mean so well and you’re so perty, an’ can’t I jes look after you for a spell?”

Hina’s eyes widened. “That’s why they gave me to you?”

“What? Ain’t nopony gave nothin’ nowheres! If you mean Apple Bloom, well she’s used to bein’ Boss and it ain’t the first time she’s sent farm ponies off to serve a mare. Hell, she had all the stallions wreck Fluttershy’s lil’ tail, there’s nothin’ surprising about her telling me to stand at stud for you.”

“They gave you to me?” blinked Hina. “Such an ample gift!”

“Dang it,” cursed Big Macintosh, and then he gave her a gaze that, in its own way, was just as devastating as the luminous Kirin eyes he sank into.

“Ah’m thinkin’ maybe I love you,” said Big Macintosh. “Please be kind?”

Hina’s jaw dropped, and her mouth hung open… until Big Macintosh sealed it with a kiss, shuddering with passion he’d not felt since his first love.

His head spun, as that glowing mane swirled around his face so trustingly. It wasn’t a reflection on Braeburn, or on the other ponies Big Macintosh loved. He wasn’t sure what it was at first. It felt like those early days with Rarity, wonderful and terrible Rarity, the discovery of her and the strange, awe-inspiring sense of liberty that had filled his life.

As he felt Hina’s lips against his, tenderly exploring his kiss, it all came back to him. The sense of scrutiny, the intelligence and judgement, so poised to reject him and dash his hopes: and yet she did not. Acceptance… more than that, a growing eagerness, drinking him in as if his oafish clumsiness was just what she needed, just what she’d yearned for. And when Rarity had broken from that first kiss in Fillydelphia, she’d gazed upon him exultantly as if he was everything she could have wanted.

And she’d taken him, taken his love and his heart and then, later, taken every inch of him in screaming ecstacy. He didn’t have to doubt, or guess, or be confident in himself: she seemed to know without asking, seemed to share a mysterious wisdom that told him he couldn’t put a hoof wrong, and he followed in Rarity’s wake ever after, guided by her love, basking in her confidence until that one bridge too far, that last night when she’d taken everything he thought he was and left him more lost than he’d ever imagined.

And when Hina broke from his kiss, he sank deep into her eyes, and it was the same, the same: the little smile, the unbreaking, confident gaze, the quiet, soul-shaking joy emanating from her. It would be awe, if she didn’t seem so utterly in control.

Big Macintosh gulped.

“Hina,” he said, “will you marr…”

Her dainty cloven hoof sealed his lips. He couldn’t tell whether the little halfsmile was happy or sad… but love poured out of her compassionate gaze, and his words drained away unspoken.

“Don’t say it,” she breathed, so calmly. “You mustn’t think of me hearing words like that. Oh, Big Macintosh… don’t make me reply.”

He couldn’t look away, and she didn’t. Tears glistened in her eyes, as she drank him in, adoring, appreciating.

“What mus’ I do?” said Big Macintosh.

She leaned closer.

“Show me,” she whispered, and melted forward into another kiss.

Somehow, she seemed to know. She didn’t dive for his dick, or anything so crass. Something about his protestations of love had explained things to her, and Hina made no further offers of sexually servicing him.

They’d have been superfluous. She was already in his bed, pressing eagerly against him, wriggling in pleasure just to touch him. She made love with her eyes, trusting that genitals would catch up promptly.

As her tongue traced the inside of Big Macintosh’s lips where they met hers, her faith was rewarded.

Big Macintosh groaned, one hind leg kicking as his cock swelled forth. His hoof explored her slim body, and wherever he touched, the troutlike scales retreated. Her mane quieted to a warm luminous glow, the glittery sparkle ebbing away in his presence.

With an air of calm certainty, Hina wriggled about, repositioning herself, tucking her body into Big Macintosh’s fretful embrace. Rather than cling to him, she sought to be clung to: oriented herself to be a little spoon to his enormous ladle, scooted back until she’d snuggled up with her rump against his belly, his forelegs embracing her with foalish tightness as if she were a beloved toy.

Flicking her curious, half-bare tail, she arranged her legs and closed them gently upon his burgeoning erection.

Big Macintosh grunted in surprise and looked down, only to see Hina gazing lovingly up at him with that little halfsmile… that became a two-thirds smile at least, or better, as her legs were tenderly pried apart by stallion bulk.

“Uhmmmmm…” crooned Hina.

Big Macintosh gulped. “Miss? I, uh, I, uh… not sure what you’re gettin’ at here…”

“Love me,” purred Hina. “Once you are stiff. I will help.”

His ears were back again, as he tried to keep up with her plans. “Uhhh… ya keep squirmin’ like that an’ I can’t answer for th’ consequences…”

She lifted her head, and squeezed his cock between her thighs speculatively. “Mmmm. Yes.”

“Beggin’ your pardon?”

Rather than answer, Hina wriggled forward, Big Macintosh staring wide-eyed all the while.

“Uhhhmmmm!” she moaned. She’d got in front of him by scooching nearly off the bed, positioning herself with insouciant grace.

Big Macintosh looked down toward his crotch, his heart pounding and cock throbbing. He was on the verge of flaring out aggressively, and boggled at the sight of Hina’s trim hips barely obscuring the end of his cock, that strange bare-shanked tail not obscuring a thing. She pressed back against him, and he gasped. It seemed an outlandish suggestion, to enter her. She had to wink, there was no chance he’d push that thing into her if she wasn’t winkingly aroused, her vulva seemed solid and unyielding and there had to be a signal telling him this wasn’t purely a stupid idea…

Hina moaned, squirming hotly. Big Macintosh realized she was trying to push down onto him, and the wetness he felt wasn’t his own pre-come ooze. The Kirin’s taut body wasn’t winking her pussy at him, but he felt something like an indentation, a nook, and it was not only hot and squirming, it was seriously wet and slippery. She was lubricating more than he’d ever seen or felt. Of course, she was the one who’d scooted forward and now tried to press back onto a massive earth pony cock, so it was a mighty appropriate reaction… if she meant to be penetrated.

Right then, right there.

…and apparently didn’t want to issue slutty demands for it, because he’d said he loved her.

And she’d said, “Show me.”

Big Macintosh clasped the trembling Kirin to his chest, and she gasped and melted against him, and he could feel her Kirin vagina melting away against him even if it didn’t wink, and at last he knew just what to do.

His mighty hips tilted in a tender but irresistible push, and Big Macintosh’s bulky cock-head squeezed into Hina-rin’s pussy and came to rest wedged tightly inside her, where it began to flare with real authority.

“Ahhh!” cried Hina. Big Macintosh’s ears were sideways with anxiety and alertness, but it wasn’t a squall of pain he’d heard. For one, it was a formidably juicy squelch, but also Hina’s voice was radiant, joyous.

“Rrrf!” he grunted in reply, his eyes crossing. Damn flares! It was already too late to pull out… and the Kirin was tight, fearsomely tight! Surely he had to be doing her an injury…

Hina turned, her face rapt with delight. “Oh, don’t stop!”

“Ah’ll hurt you!” protested Big Macintosh.

The smile on her face wasn’t anywhere near half a smile. It was more like a smile and a half. “Put your hoof on my belly… and push, glorious horse, push. Tell me what you feel.”

Eyes wide, Big Macintosh did as he was told. His hoof stole down to caress Hina’s lovely little abdomen, and as her trim bottom wriggled playfully, he gave a cautious push.

His heart leapt into his throat as he felt a massive bulge, from his flare, shift inside his lover. It slid right up under his hoof, and though the Kirin-pussy was crushing his cock in a death-grip, still everything was slippery and sensuous inside her, and he saw no reaction of pain on her face.

Or not exactly… Hina bit her lip, her eyes unfocusing for a moment, reeling with pleasure even as the horse cock seemed to slide deeper than it ought.

Big Macintosh tugged, gently, and the bulge receded to her pelvis, beyond which it could not tug. He felt himself throbbing in her vise-like grip. He gazed down at her pretty face in a kind of terror and wonder.

Hina smiled up at him.

“The flesh of Kirin is not easily harmed,” she told him. “Especially not with love. My glorious farm stallion! Do not fear. Sate yourself upon my body and come inside me! In this way we may show love.”

Big Macintosh stared. “Are ya serious, Miss Hina? You’re a lil’ thing. How deep do you even want it?”

She bared her teeth in a very Rarity-like exultant grimace. “All the way!”

“Oh HELL naw!” declared Big Macintosh, ears back and appalled.

This broke the spell of her flowery exhortations. Hina blinked. “Huh? I’m not making that up. Do you think I’m making it up? Do you not know about sex with Kirin females?”

“Um, it’s tight an’ pinchy but slippery as all get-out?”

Hina wrinkled her brow. “Oh! I’ll try to relax. Poor thing! It will keep you stiff, though.”

“Miss Hina, why ain’t this hurtin’ you? And how can you be beggin’ me to… you got to be puttin’ me on. Din’t you see how big I was?”

She pouted. “Of course I did. Delightful. Please push that much deeper? Pleeeeease?”

“Only if you explain!” said Big Macintosh.

“Fine!” said Hina, petulant and disposing of all traces of her flowery manner. “We’re a self-created species. You know we don’t reproduce like ponies do. What do you think is in there, a womb?”

Big Macintosh’s eyes were getting wider and wider. “What else, ma’am?”

“We don’t only punish,” explained Hina. “Kirin also reward the truly good. You saw that our flesh is more supple and tough than that of a pony…”

“Ah saw a big ol’ bulge. This ‘un,” said Big Macintosh, and slid it forward to where his hoof could find it again.

“UNHHH! Oh, do that again, more, more!”

“Not until you explain,” said Big Macintosh stubbornly. “It ain’t a pussy I’m in? Not that I’m too fussy, but y’know what I mean. You’re saying my flare don’t hurt you?”

“It could be twice the size,” boasted the Kirin. “We’re created, I told you! Kirin vagina serves solely this purpose. Ours are the most glorious pussies in the world.”

“Modest, too,” snorted Big Macintosh, reminded again of Rarity. “If they’re so fancy how come y’don’t wink like a pony?”

“Wink?” said Hina puzzledly. “Oh! That!”

“Oh, that, she says!” replied Big Macintosh. “Ah was tryin’ to feel for that, ma’am! Braeburn’s taught me plenty of things about winkin’ and clitorises. You’re missin’ out. You kin rub on them, lick ‘em, all manner o’ stuff. Ah would like to do that for you, if I may.”

Hina quirked her ears. “Sounds affectionate. Clitoris, you say? Winking?”

“Seems like you ain’t got one,” suggested Big Macintosh, “or leastways it cain’t wink. Ah could go lookin’ for it if I weren’t wedged in ya like a greased cork in a bottle… mind you, what with all this talk I’m a-flaggin’…”

“No, you don’t understand,” said Hina earnestly. “There’s a reason Kirin pussies are the most wonderful ones in the world. Ordinary ponies have those clitoris things, in a sort of spot that pokes out. Other creatures have them too, in roughly the same place or in different places for different reasons. Such as griffins, they have something like that up at the end which encourages them to seek deep penetration, a breeding thing since they aren’t self-created species…”

“But you don’t seem to have one!” protested Big Macintosh.

Hina shook her head. “No, it’s just a Kirin secret. We don’t want to cause jealousy, so we prefer to describe it as our great skills. But really it’s because what would be a clitoris for a pony, for us is the entire inside surface of th…”

She trailed off, and gulped. Big Macintosh’s ears were bolt erect and perked forward in full attention.

“Please don’t tell anyone?” said Hina. “We don’t want our unicorn mares to be jealous of us. We try to teach them pleasures of their own, to make up for it.”

Big Macintosh’s ear flicked. “Ain’t tellin’ Braeburn. On account of I can’t answer for th’ consequences. Dang!”

Hina’s own ears were folded back, in dismay. “I shouldn’t have told you. It’s too much differentness for an earth pony to handle. Oh, woe!”

“That ain’t the kinda woe I had in mind,” said Big Macintosh.

“Huh?” said the Kirin.

Big Macintosh tensed his pelvis, causing his softening erection to surge, and slid it up into Hina for half of its length.

Her eyes bugged out. “WHOAAA!” she squeaked, and stared at nothing with a look of great astonishment.

Big Macintosh’s hoof massaged her belly, partly distended by horse-cock. He chuckled. “Ah kin listen. And you ain’t givin’ us Ponyville folk near enough credit. Now, when you say whoa, do you mean whoa? Or do you mean giddy-up?”

Hina panted. “MORE!” she gasped.

“Close enough,” said Big Macintosh, and got busy.

It was delightful, though it never stopped being pinchy. Hina was far too excited to control herself. He scooted her down toward his crotch, and then did it again when he found her vagina getting deeper once she warmed up. He held her close and tight, though not nearly as tight as she held his dick, and his hips swung affectionately and tirelessly as he worked himself up from his half-stiff state to near-climax.

It really was amazing. He couldn’t fit all of himself into her, because her body simply wasn’t that large, but he was able to feel his flare sliding back and forth while stroking her belly and abdomen, and even early on it managed to slide way up into her ribcage without harming her in the least.

Or, even, the opposite. Big Macintosh wondered whether the Kirin were stealing ideas from griffins, though he knew she’d never tell him. He couldn’t help but notice that whenever he slid extra deep, and ran out of room inside her, Hina jolted and clenched on him and reacted like a pegasus mare with Braeburn doing some intense clit work on her. She had an awful lot of energy, Hina did, but it was all being expended on relentless orgasm, and he’d taken her at her word and was driving her real hard.

Hina shrieked and thrashed in ecstacy as Big Macintosh gave her another few super-deep thrusts. He’d got past his medial ring, though the way she clamped down it was tough to deal with the compression. Kirin flesh really was something special, but so was the hydraulic pressure of a wildly aroused farm horse. Something had to give.

Big Macintosh gave.

“HNNH! UNH! NGGH! Guh! hhh!”

His Kirin lover squealed as pony-come gushed vigorously into her. She tensed, writhing, her ears laying back hard…

Pony-come squirted violently out from between Big Macintosh’s erect cock, and the edges of Hina’s tight-strained vagina.

Big Macintosh grunted in surprise to feel the spray against the inside of his leg. He felt Hina shaking, heard a whimper… realised he was still crammed into her as deeply as he could go… remembered.

Kirin were pleasure horses… or pleasure Kirin, not even pony in nature. Hina didn’t have a womb to flood. There was no extra space in there to accomodate cupfuls of stallion seed. He was already stuffing her more full of cock than any reasonable creature her size should accomodate.

He tugged, withdrew, and as he did he felt Hina go bonelessly limp in his forelegs, her heart pounding.

He peeked at her face, and she stared and smiled at nothing, her tongue lolling out. “Agggg…” she informed him.

“Seconds?” he asked, and the dumbfounded look on her pretty face made his heart sing.

He sagged as well, snuggling her close, and he laughed for sheer joy of life.

“What’cha thinkin’, Miss Hina?”

Hina-rin didn’t reply at first. The first two times Big Macintosh had asked her, she’d nuzzled him and teased that she was thinking about more sex. She’d been genuinely shocked by how long he’d screwed her, even when he’d admitted he’d learned things from Braeburn about lasting longer. She’d been left unable to move for minutes on end, which didn’t stop Big Macintosh from stroking and petting her quivering body. Her thoughts had been fixed on his sexual virtuosity, and so, foalishly, he asked her again and again, delighting in the praise and the knowledge of how deeply he’d pleased her.

This time, Hina didn’t answer.

“What’cha thinkin’?” repeated Big Macintosh.

“I am thinking about how I can fight an evil that would take five Kirin to defeat,” said Hina solemnly.

Big Macintosh blinked. “What, five?”

“I think so,” said Hina. “I feel it out there. Yet now I am resolute.” She snuggled back against him, still quivery and weak. “Now I must prevail.”

“How come?”

“To save all of the ponies,” she said. “To save you. Though I think it is five times worse than before.”

“Save me? Well, shucks,” said Big Macintosh. “Specially me? Silly ol’ me?”

“Yes, glorious you,” said Hina. Tenderly, she nuzzled under his chin. “Beloved.”

“Aw,” said Big Macintosh, blushing. He thought. “Still feelin’ evilness, huh? You reckon it’s really five times worse’n ol’ Hollyhock turning to the bad?”

“I am so frightened,” admitted Hina. “How can I face this much evil all alone?”

Big Macintosh hugged her closer. “Us farm ponies will handle it. Honest, we will. You’ll see.”

Hina frowned, unconvinced.

Snowy Hocks trudged on.

More than one farm pony had fled Ponyville entirely. Sweet Apple Acres would run short-hooved. Silver had already set out for Appleloosa. Knothole was likely to be the next, obediently staying with the Apple family but looking over his shoulder all the time, cowering and startling at nothing. Snowy Hocks guessed that Knothole would be the next to flee vampire terror.

Snowy wasn’t going to be there to see it. Yes, he was exactly the vampire terror they were fleeing… but he proposed to flee Ponyville, himself.

It wasn’t a spontaneous decision. When Hollyhock had died, Snowy knew his original plan would hold up. It was sheer luck that he’d weathered that period: he’d have laid down his unlife to protect Hollyhock, would have exposed himself in desperate attempts to protect his sire, but when that asshole burned up Snowy had been set free, and the plan snapped back into focus with perfect clarity.

He was no Hollyhock. Not for him, the preying upon stray ponies where he could be seen and captured. He had to make a more secure place to prey from, well out of town. Little did the hapless ponies know that they’d be safer staying in Ponyville!

It didn’t matter. Only the plan mattered… and the most serious threat to the plan wasn’t Hollyhock. That was a calculated risk Snowy had known he would run from the beginning. He’d known he would become untrustworthy to himself once he was a thrall, and he’d set things up so that Hollyhock overstepped himself, and he’d distracted himself as hard as he could, keeping far away, lying to himself that Hollyhock was wise and smart and could take care of himself, and he’d believed his own lies just enough to be far away when the dumb bastard got dragged onto a bonfire.

No, the serious threat was Pinkie Pie. There were other threats: Rainbow Dash was fast and nimble, the Apple clan were dogged and determined, Fluttershy could end up having mysterious vampiric senses and track him down somehow… but Pinkie Pie was something else again. She could turn into things, could be anywhere, she was known to fly into rages: worse, there were times when her fits of madness coincided with spooky, uncanny powers. She could skip to the end of a problem, and she could also get it horribly wrong.

She had another state: when her mane hung lank and straight, she became sour and critical, and seemed to have no spooky powers at all. She’d come through town that way once, with Fluttershy, warning ponies about Gilda the Griffin, and nopony believed her. She’d then gone off, found some kind of crime scene, and returned to Ponyville completely fluffily insane and raving, and the ponies fled for their very lives even though her information was no different than before. There were two Pinkie Pies, and he needed her to be the straight-maned, depressed one.

Snowy glowered at a passing bush, on the forest path he trod. He hadn’t waited. He was already heading into the Everfree, acting on his plan to ‘flee’ Ponyville.

If he had anything to say about it, he’d have Pinkie Pie depressed. There had to be some way to get through to her, somepony to kill. He’d kill Fluttershy in an undead heartbeat, except that he wasn’t sure he could kill her without first feeding on a mortal pony or three, and secondly the way Fluttershy and Pinkie were getting along, killing Fluttershy might cheer Pinkie up.

What a romance for the ages, thought Snowy. What a joke. Fluttershy should have just made Pinkie a thrall if she wanted a compliant lover, and Pinkie Pie’s role was even more laughable. Fall in love with a vampire? Might as well fall in love with a waterfall, and fling yourself to death off it. In the long run, it made little difference, except for some temporary stains on the jagged rocks below.

Danger and death, thought Snowy Hocks, and he snuck off the forest path. That was a habit he had to break. He was still acting as a pony, still clinging to things like the safety of forest paths. He didn’t need any of that. All the rules had changed and he had to keep up, or perish.

Going through the Everfree forest seemed dangerous, but what would beasts and monsters even do to him? Kill him again? That was mortal-pony thinking. Anything that attacked him would become a thrall, to command or simply devour. Let them try! The important thing was that he stayed clear of the ponies. He couldn’t risk getting discovered by the Apples, or worse, Pinkie Pie. She’d gone into that creepy silly mode and stayed there, and that was bad. That had to stop if he was going to take over the town. Pinkie in that mood was too unpredictable, very likely his worst threat. Far worse than the Kirin, who seemed confused and demoralized. Killing a few spare ponies would probably screw her up even worse. Snowy crept through the forest, near a path to orient himself but staying out of sight.

Not far from the path, Snowy Hocks spotted Zecora’s hut. He tensed. She’d have wards, if he was any judge of character. He crept closer. He was no fool, and didn’t dare get too close.

In the window, he saw the little flying zebra foal, and he remembered. Pinkie Pie had reacted. Something about the kid shook her up. He’d find out what that was, if he could get hold of the kid. Either as a hostage… or something else. It seemed like Pinkie didn’t like him? That was out of character. Snowy frowned. If he guessed right, he might be able to get inside her head in a very special way. And he didn’t have to get inside anything, to bag the foal. Not if you were a vampire, you didn’t.

You didn’t have to go into the house, if you were patient enough. Patient like the dead. No problem there. You didn’t have to go near the house, all you had to do was catch the eye of the one you wanted to get out. And stare at them just right. They’d do the work for you, and nopony would suspect a thing.

Really, it was a win/win. Either he’d have a pawn that might defuse his worst enemy, or he’d have a snack.

Could work, thought Snowy, and settled in to wait.