Twilight Sparkle stamped a forehoof. “You come out from under that bed, Fluttershy!”
“Won’t!” sobbed the distraught vampegasus.
“Never!” wailed Fluttershy. “I’m a bad pony! I’m going to stay here forever, go away and leave me alone!”
Gilda wrung her claws. “But you’re not, you’re so not, you are kind and gentle and loving and nice…”
“Oh, that’s very helpful, Miss Griffin Thrall!” cried Fluttershy. “You go away too! You’re my slave and have no business saying such things—you HAVE to say them, it doesn’t count! Go sit in your basket and be quiet, or I’ll Stare at you!”
Gilda gave a squawk of dismay, and fled down the stairs, as Twilight and Trixie scrambled out of her way. They heard her dive into the huge pet-basket Fluttershy had given her, and they heard her start to cry.
Twilight stared helplessly at Trixie. “Did Fluttershy just say, you’re my slave?”
Trixie lifted an eyebrow. “Had we but known! Trixie likes the imperious way she says it. Perhaps we can teach her to give wing spankings?”
“Noooo!” wailed Fluttershy. “And she is too my slave, and it’s all my fault! I’m sorry!” The pink tail sticking out from under the bed was distinctly scraggly, evidence of Fluttershy’s inability to maintain her pony appearance when overstressed.
“So are you going to come out from under the bed, now?” asked Twilight, her ears back.
Trixie rolled her eyes. “Come on, Mistress. Maybe we can get an explanation out of the griffin?”
They trotted downstairs, and approached the basket and heap of blankets that covered Gilda. Trixie prodded it. “Gilda! Talk to us. What has Fluttershy been doing to you?”
A teary raptorial eye peeked out from under the blankets. “Uh… feeding me?” came the harsh, scratchy voice.
“Besides that!” demanded Trixie. “Has she been scening with you, or making you do things? She says you are her slave.”
“What’s scening?” replied Gilda.
“Well, that at least is a relief,” said Twilight, twitching. “The way she was talking, I’m not even sure what to believe. Gilda! Does Fluttershy continue to attack you? I mean, is she sucking your blood, or hurting you, or making you attack others?”
Gilda poked her head out, and her expression was horrified. “What? No, never! She would never! She’s the sweetest, gentlest…”
Twilight gave her a hard look. “Gilda, she attacked you once. She turned you into a vampire. Now we’ve got to clean up the mess thanks to what she did. Don’t play innocent.”
Gilda blinked. “Okay, let me get this straight. So I’m a vampire griffin. I knew I felt really weird. You’re saying it started when she kicked my ass for pouncing on that guard? And I was just trying to knock him aside, honest!”
“She bit you,” accused Twilight. “We have to assume malicious intent. She had to know what she was, and she had to know what she was doing when she turned you.”
Gilda was shaking her head. “But… hold on. You’re saying Fluttershy bit me, which yeah, I noticed and that’s when this all started. But you’re saying she turned me into a vampire on purpose?”
“She had to know!”
“Wait, wait,” argued Gilda, glancing fretfully up the stairs to where Fluttershy still hid. “What if she didn’t, huh? What if she didn’t mean it?”
“I didn’t! I’m sorry!” wailed Fluttershy from upstairs, under the bed.
Twilight’s eyes flashed, as she turned and yelled up the stairs, “Well you WOULD say that, if you were building a vampire army! Wouldn’t you?”
“Hold it!” protested Gilda. “I was there, okay? She thought I was attacking that pegasus guard. She was kicking my ass. Haven’t you ever kicked somebody’s ass?”
That stopped the lavender unicorn. “What do you mean?”
Gilda pressed on, determinedly. “Have you been in a fight? I mean seriously, losing your crap and beating somebody up? I have to ask because you ponies are so gentle and peaceful compared to us that maybe you never, even once, kicked somebody’s ass. Have you?”
Twilight looked shaken. “Sort of.” She licked her lips. Two occasions came to mind. On one, she’d gone after Rainbow Dash and Trixie had stopped her. On the other… she’d gone for Chaos, and didn’t care if Princess Celestia had been in the way. And Fluttershy, herself, had stopped it. It seemed not the wisest course of action to explain to the besotted griffin that she’d impaled Fluttershy through the heart and only her undead nature had saved her.
“Maybe I have,” said Twilight warily. “What of it?”
Gilda licked her beak. “The thing is, I think she didn’t mean to do this.”
“I didn’t!” wailed Fluttershy, miserably.
“Shush, sweetie!” called Gilda, her voice imploring. “Let me handle this!” She turned back to Twilight. “We were in a real knock-down drag-out, Twilight Sparkle. I swear I didn’t want to hurt her any more than I meant to hurt that guard, but she didn’t know that, and she beat the living crap out of me. I remember her biting me, but it was all part of… you know, wrestling and punching and kicking and clawing…”
“Good times,” quipped Trixie, wryly.
Gilda lifted a feathery eyebrow. “Huh? Wait a minute, you know about griffin sex? To make a joke like that you’d have to know about griffin sex.”
Trixie smirked. “Not exactly. Trixie just has… unusual tastes.”
Gilda gawked at her. “Really? You shouldn’t play with griffins, though, it’s too rough for most ponies. Not really fair on the griffin. There’s no way to get that intense without it being really dangerous to the cute little ponies.”
“Oh, Trixie doesn’t know about that,” murmured Trixie. “Can those claws wield a whip?”
Gilda stared, wide-eyed. “Okay. Scared now. Of a pony.”
“I’m sorry!” sobbed Fluttershy.
“Not you!” called Gilda. She turned to Twilight. “But do you hear what I’m saying? You’re acting like when you get in a fight, you think out what weapons you’re going to bring to bear, calculate it and choose your attacks. But even if you’ve seen a lot of combat, it’s just not that easy, it takes practice to keep a cool head. I was lucky I remembered not to gouge and claw, she got the jump on me. It was a tough fight, Twilight, but it was real amateur hour, get me? I don’t think she had any idea what she was doing. Seriously. It was brutal, but you sort of go blank, and you do dumb things. She didn’t know what the fuck she was doing, and I was just trying to get away, and that’s why I lost. If I was out for pony lunch, I’m pretty sure she’d left some openings where I coulda taken her apart. She didn’t know she was biting me. She flipped out.”
Twilight studied the griffin curled uncomfortably in a basket slightly too small for her predatory bulk. “Hmmmm…”
“Seriously!” implored Gilda. “You’ve got to be nicer to Fluttershy, I’m begging ya. I was there. I’m sure she didn’t intend to bite me, and I didn’t know she was a vampire pony. Though I kinda noticed how badass she was when she kicked my ass in! Wow! But I’m telling you, it wasn’t expert fighting. She thought I was hurting that pegasus guy, and she just lost it, which I totally don’t blame her for.”
“Hmmmmm,” said Twilight Sparkle, thinking hard.
“You know what I mean!” said Gilda, earnestly. She cast about for further arguments. “It was like that kid, Dash’s kid, the green one. Doing stupid things in combat, not having a clue. You know, the kid that jumped me and tried to chew off my l…”
Her eyes widened.
Twilight blanched. “What did you say?”
A crackling, tearing noise approached through the air, and then with a whoosh, Rainbow Dash blasted through the same doorway she’d smashed out minutes previously, and slammed into the ground, bouncing off the wall, springing to her hooves.
“Gilda!” she begged. “You gotta come… NOW!”
“What is it, Dash?”
“Spy is flipping out! And maybe only you can control her!”
Gilda’s eyes widened more. “Oh, fuck, seriously?”
“Now!” begged Dash, and heedless of her danger, seized Gilda’s clawed foreleg gingerly with her teeth and began trying to gently drag her old griffin friend and lover out of the basket and out the door.
Gilda couldn’t resist Rainbow Dash’s desperation. As Twilight and Trixie trotted frantic circles around the pair, the big griffin got to her paws and claws, called up the stairs “Stay safe, be good!” to Fluttershy, and followed Dash into the air, headed for Sweet Apple Acres.
Twilight and Trixie were already galloping as fast as they could, to the same destination.
They arrived, panting and frothing, to a scene of total chaos.
Granny Smith was passed out on the ground, Apple Bloom trying to rouse her. Applejack looked gutted, staring bleakly at a coil of rope on the ground as if measuring it for a noose. A small group of farm ponies looked on in dismay, and a scattering of flower pony neighbors rushed to and fro, too hysterical to flee in any one direction, whinnying shrilly in terror.
And all around them darted a tiny green raging filly, baring gleaming fangs and crying “Rar!” and “Yeah! Run away, I’m better than you!”
Dash was shaking Gilda. “Don’t just stand there! Get her attention, dammit!”
Gilda trembled. Her eyes were panicky, following the green streak as it zipped blindly around. She licked her beak, and cleared her throat.
“Hey…” she said.
Northern Spy stopped as if she’d hit an invisible wall. Slowly, she turned.
“Hey,” said Gilda. “It’s me.”
Spy’s face was transfixed with delight and adoration. “EEEE!” she squealed, and then she’d darted from where she stood and leapt to wrap Gilda’s feathery neck in a mad, clinging hug. “Eeeee! It is you! These ponies suck! We’re awesome! They stink!”
Over by the cluster of farm ponies, Hollyhock glowered. “Yup,” he said, tight-lipped. “It’s true. Kid’s taken.”
Snowy Hocks said, “Thing is, can the kid, you know, fight back? Like, be a vampony but kill her vampire boss and be free?” His old voice trembled with urgency.
Hollyhock’s jaw was tight. “Can’t go back. You can’t ever go back. Kid took one look, and boom. You can’t even see the vampire master or you’ve had it.” He was sweating.
Snowy frowned, like he was trying to work out the secret.
It was nothing compared to the expression of horror on Applejack’s face. She was gazing at Rainbow Dash, who also looked distraught. She glanced at Granny, but Apple Bloom wasn’t having any luck with Granny. She glanced at the rope, a look of misery on her face. She looked back at Rainbow Dash, her lip quivered, and she began to silently weep, and Applejack slowly collapsed until she lay in the farmyard dirt, her nose by the coil of rope she’d brought to hoist apple barrels in the barn.
Rainbow Dash, her own lip quivering, turned to face Gilda.
“Um…” she said.
“What?” said Gilda, squirming as she was relentlessly nuzzled by a small green filly.
“T… take ca… t…” began Dash, and started to shake.
“Oh no,” said Gilda. “Uh-uh, Dash. Do not say what I think you’re saying, just stop…”
Dash screwed her eyes shut, grimacing, the tears starting. “Gilda…”
“I’m serious, dude, you’d better not be…”
“GILDA!” yelled Dash.
In the ensuing silence, four words dropped like bricks.
“Take care of her…”
Rainbow Dash crumpled. The farm ponies moaned. Apple Bloom looked up with an expression of utter dismay.
Gilda licked her beak, Spy still nuzzling her feathers in a trance, and then the vampire griffin spoke.
Eyes widened all over the farmyard. Even Granny Smith stirred and looked up.
Gilda extended a claw, gripped, pulled harder and harder until Northern Spy, blinking cutely, was pried loose from embracing Gilda’s neck and placed on the solid ground of Sweet Apple Acres. She gazed up at Gilda, worshipfully, awaiting instruction.
Gilda retreated a step. Spy quivered, about to fling herself into a renewed embrace. Gilda took a deep breath.
“BACK OFF!” she squawked, and flung herself straight up, thrashing into the air as if chased by demons, and with those parting words Gilda flew back to Fluttershy’s cottage as fast as she possibly could.
Northern Spy’s face fell, and fell, and fell. Her lower lip quivered behind the cute little fangs. She looked around as if not recognizing anypony she saw…
“Eeeeaaaaaaaaaghhhh!” she screamed, and began to run about twice as fast as she had before, a small green lightning bolt of despair and destruction, menacing everything unlucky enough to be in her path.
The farm ponies whinnied in alarm and charged off, beating a frantic retreat to the barn, where they hid and slammed the doors behind them. From inside the barn, the sound could be heard of barrels and heavy objects hastily thrown together to become a barricade. It seemed as if the hysterical Northern Spy might smash down all the buildings in Sweet Apple Acres in her rage and betrayal.
Twilight, lilac-pale, shook Trixie. “Unicorn mage-meld! Right now! Remember?”
“But Trixie doesn’t know a spell to fix vampires…”
“To get help!” cried Twilight, and Trixie’s eyes widened in understanding.
“Yes, Mistress!” she said, and the two unicorns frantically concentrated, a blue and purple aura taking shape and seeming to reach out far into the distance as they cast one very special spell that hadn’t been cast in a long, long time…
With a foop, Princess Celestia appeared in their midst, teleported against her will by the emergency magemeld of Twilight and Trixie.
“Such a BIG bad w…” she moaned, and halted. Her eyes, tightly shut, flew open in a look of total shock.
Princess Celestia crouched, tail up, suddenly-empty alicornhood gaping and slick, her body entirely swathed in a crotchless pink bunny suit with big fluffy ears.
Granny Smith promptly fainted again.
“That went well,” managed Twilight.
Celestia dropped her radiant tail, leapt to a standing position. The bunny suit thrashed around her as her wings tried futilely to flare out to their full grand wingspan. She whirled, looking frantically about. “What the… Twilight Sparkle!”
“Do NOT interrupt very private royal business, Tw…”
“PRINCESS!” yelled Twilight. “Look at Granny Smith, and Rainbow, and Applejack!”
Celestia looked, and saw.
“We need your help right now!” vowed Twilight. “I’m really sorry it was a bad time but Rainbow Dash’s foal is a vampire and she’s running around screaming!”
A doppler-effect scream gave weight to her words, as Northern Spy made a high-speed pass through the farmyard.
“Oh, no,” said Princess Celestia. “How did this happen, Twilight?”
“Gilda,” said Twilight. “Gilda was a vampire. We’re trying to work out whether Fluttershy did it on purpose. And then I guess Northern Spy somehow ended up biting Gilda’s leg, and now we’ve got a dangerous vampony hiding under her bed, and a pissed off vampire griffin, and the kid’s flipping out when the griffin bailed on her and…” She leapt aside, panicked, as Spy made a pass at her, fangs bared. “Aaahhh! Rainbow Dash, catch her!”
“But even before this happened, she was too quick…”
“Do it!” yelled Twilight.
“Awwww, horseapples,” moaned Dash. Hopelessly, she got to her hooves, limbered up her wings, and galloped in the direction of her streaking offspring.
As Dash took to the air and swooped down on the fiercely zig-zagging Spy, Twilight turned to Princess Celestia. “And while she’s doing that, I need you to find us a spell for curing vampires. This has gone too far!”
Princess Celestia gulped, the long floppy bunny ears dangling foolishly to either side of her regal head. “About that, Twilight…”
There was a sickening crunch. “Yaaaaa!” screamed Spy, victoriously. “You’ll never catch me! I’ll beat all of you!” She’d faked Blue Mom out and run her into a tree, swerving at the last instant.
Twilight’s nostrils flared. “Oh, is that so?” she declared. “I caught you before, you little monster, and I can do it again!”
“Monster, huh?” raged Spy, in full tantrum. “You’re the monsters! Go ahead and hate me, I’ll destroy you all! Stinkers! Everything is horrible! I’m going to destroy everything!”
“Like pony hell you are!” snarled Twilight, and her horn flicked on, and wisps of purple magic flashed out in the direction of the green vampire filly.
Spy sneered, her eyes glittering, and just when it looked like Twilight’s magic was about to grab her, she was gone: zipping around, emitting that high-pitched scream, a vision of tiny fangs rushing right up into the faces of onlookers and sending them recoiling, panicked, running for their lives. Rainbow Dash, who’d recovered from her violent crash, gave a little shriek and fled the other direction for a moment, trying to catch her foal but freaked out by the savagery of Spy’s mood and the obvious danger she posed.
“Princess! Help me catch her,” demanded Twilight urgently, “and then we have to lock her up and look up the cure! Okay?”
“Twilight Sparkle!” shouted Princess Celestia, losing her temper.
Twilight stopped spellcasting, and stared at her. Two little screams dopplered by as Spy chased Rainbow Dash right between them. Celestia didn’t blink, even then: just held Twilight in a stern gaze framed by absurd bunny ears.
“If I could cure vampirism, Twilight Sparkle, this would not have happened because I would have returned Fluttershy to life!”
Twilight gazed back, stricken. From across the farmyard, Applejack watched them both.
“You’re saying,” managed Twilight, “there is no hope? We… can’t save her? Ever?”
From the top of a tree, Rainbow Dash sobbed. Spy had nearly chased her right to the top of it. Powered by dark vampiric forces, baby could almost fly, after all. They heard the dreadful screaming cutting through the forest, a swathe of destruction accompanied by crashing timber.
“I am so sorry, Twilight,” said Princess Celestia, and hung her head. “I don’t know how. She died. I would have hoped more of her personality remained in the vampire, were this to happen.”
Granny Smith’s eyes ran with tears. “There’s yer problem,” she muttered, brokenly. “It did!”
The screaming began to approach again. Northern Spy wasn’t done tormenting her betrayers. The sound raced nearer.
Applejack bent her head, and took the end of her rope in her teeth, with an air of finality.
Northern Spy charged towards the group of ponies, screeching.
Applejack’s head flicked to the side violently, and there was an audible CRACK, and then a heavy thump against the ground.
Northern Spy lay stunned on the ground of Sweet Apple Acres, lassoed by the foreleg. So fierce was her velocity that her little pony pastern bone, just over the hoof, was broken.
Applejack gripped the other end of the rope, her head held high and proud.
“N’rthern Spy!” she demanded.
Shaking her head, Spy twisted and sprang to three hooves, holding the other one in the air, her eyes glowing with an uncanny light. She just stared at Applejack, hissing, fangs bared.
Applejack didn’t flinch. “C’me here.”
Spy bridled, unwilling to obey, yet unable to pull away or break that gaze.
“C’me HERE!” demanded Applejack.
As all the ponies watched and held their breath, Northern Spy slowly, reluctantly approached her Orange Mom.
Applejack’s eyes burned with authority. Her teeth were bared around the tight-held rope, even as it hung slack. She spoke, through the rope, and Spy kept inching closer as if in a trance.
“Ah d’nt know ‘zactly what’s goin’ on h’re. You d’nt know eith’r, from th’ looks of it. I kin see y’r hurt an’ upset, and pow’fl angry too. B’t there’s s’mething you better g’t straight, whatever you are.”
The vampiric eyes seemed to be on fire, ruby infernos of fury and pain.
“What?” snarled Northern Spy, and inched one hobbling step closer.
Applejack, in one motion, dropped the rope and drew her troubled foal into a tight, fierce embrace.
“You’re my baby,” she said. “Still. An’ we love you.”
For a terrible moment, Northern Spy was tense as a wire in her mother’s forelegs, staring at nothing, the vampire eyes burning holes in the universe. Then…
Every pony relaxed, as one. Even Northern Spy, though for her it was more like a sort of shattering from within.
Applejack cuddled her tighter, urgently, as Spy howled and hiccuped like a very, very tiny foal. “Git down here, Rainbow!”
Dash swooped down, charged over at a gallop, wrapped herself around her baby from the other side. “Ahh! She’s so cold, Applejack!”
“Course she is y’ fool horse!” snorted Applejack, tearfully. “She’s dead, dammit!”
This provoked a fresh burst of wailing from Spy, and Applejack hastily switched her position, trying to wrap more of herself around her foal. She looked up, to see the two unicorns flanking Princess Celestia, all of them crowding the little knot of cold comfort.
“Applejack,” vowed Princess Celestia, “I swear to you, we will try and find a cure for this. None has ever been known. Something is lost upon the death of a pony, something vital that cannot be captured or restored. And yet, we will combine to seek an answer, something to help the sad plight of your little one.”
“We’re gonna do it,” insisted Twilight. “I’m not gonna rest until we have the answer. I’m not gonna SLEEP.”
Applejack wiped a tear. “Thankee, Twi. Thanks, Princess. Appreciate it. Spy appreciates it too.”
“We won’t give up,” promised Twilight.
“Twi?” said Applejack, plainitively.
Applejack gave her a look. “Please rest, an’ sleep. Ah want you sharp, for this.”
Twilight blinked, and nodded. “Okay. You got it! We’re going to fix this.”
“On that happy day,” added Princess Celestia, “we will also be able to save Gilda the Griffin, and dear Fluttershy.”
“Oh,” said Twilight, with a twitch. “Right. Sure! The more the merrier. We’ll save everypony! And every griffin?”
Princess Celestia tsked. “Twilight Sparkle! We are serious.”
Rainbow sobbed… or was it a sob? Princess Celestia blinked at her. “Yes, Rainbow Dash?”
One blue hoof reached out… and tweaked one of the long, floppy bunny ears of Princess Celestia’s absurd costume. “Very serious,” said Dash, with another half-laugh, half-sob.
Celestia’s eyes widened, and she blushed scarlet. “Oh, dear. Oh, my ponies! This was not planned. I was summoned from a very private meeting. What can I say, except that I am so terribly sorry for my disgraceful and inappropriate attire…”
Applejack snorted, her half-laugh just like Rainbow Dash’s. “Ah ain’t!”
“What?” blinked Princess Celestia.
Applejack wiped another tear. “Get that off, pronto! It looks real fluffy. We’ll wrap li’l Spy in it, maybe she’ll feel more warm. All right?”
Celestia gave not a word of argument. She simply began stripping off her absurd costume, and passed it over to the grieving family.
As Applejack, snuggling Spy all the while, began to wrap her in fluffy bunny suit, Northern Spy let out a sudden shriek. They’d bumped her foreleg, and it had bent sideways. Eyes wide, cute little fangs forgotten, she held up her damaged hoof plainitively, trembling in pain.
Applejack made a face. “Eyup. Not surprised that broke, the way you were zippin’ around. Glad I missed your neck,” she said. Meanwhile, Rainbow Dash gently coaxed the hoof back to its rightful position again.
Spy’s face twisted. “It hurts!”
“Course it does. It’s busted.”
“Will it get better?”
Applejack hesitated. “That’s a good question. I ain’t sure you heal the regular way, anymore.”
Spy’s face fell, and scrunched up in precursor to another crying fit, but Applejack gave her a little kiss.
“Shush, now. We’ve seen Fluttershy do things to fix her hurts, of which there have been some doozies, let me tell you. Maybe she can teach you how to fix your leg up.” She snorted. “Can’t be too complicated if Fluttershy worked it out for herself. Don’t you fret! We will carry you in to bed, tonight. You’re our little baby, Northern Spy, all over again.”
“Uh-huh,” said Spy softly. She hesitated, and then said, “Mom?”
“Will I get better?”
That got dead silence from Applejack, and Rainbow Dash, and all the other ponies present. Northern Spy looked back and forth, miserably. Her lip quivered, under the little fangs.
“I’mma tell you all of the truth, child,” said Applejack. “Be good and listen to all of it, not just parts of it.”
Spy nodded, and listened as her mother spoke.
“We don’t know. We’re gonna try real hard, and there’s some mighty clever ponies gonna help you. It might be scary. Sometimes we’re scared, too. But be brave, and don’t forget: whether you get better or not, you’re with us and you’re a part of us, always. I guess you get to watch us showin’ you how true that is. Some dead folk don’t get that luxury. An’ that’s a natural born fact!”
A small and strange figure pushed forward, in red rubber nose, flippers, and tear-streaked greasepaint. Rock Candy hadn’t run away, he’d just hidden from the danger until it was over. He bent over where Applejack cuddled Spy, her face and the broken hoof poking out of a thick mass of fluffy fabric swaddling her, and he said, “We love you, Northern Spy.”
Spy looked back at her fellow superhero, solemnly. “Mama let me be her child, even when I’m dead!”
“Bet yer ass,” said Applejack gruffly, wiping a tear. “Come on, baby. Let’s get you inside.”
Zecora glanced over her shoulder. The road back to Ponyville awaited: the portals in strange lands, the journey.
“Zecora?” said the herb doctor Elder, his voice soft. Startled, she looked back.
He just gazed, patiently, calmly. Zecora was reminded that, while she saw judgment and even hostility in these zebra stallions, while everything she represented was an affront to their world—all the same, they sat in the Elder Circle. The very nature of their circle was to slow down, to not rush to judgement, even of so alarming a thing as a female herb doctor and her wussy stallion… friend?
Zecora’s ears quirked, as she considered the word. Somehow, in judging Dursaa unmasculine along with the Elders, the word ‘friend’ came to mind and completed her thought sentence.
The herb doctor spoke. “We are here. Before you go… do you need more from us? I see that already you return to your world, and your mind rushes back to it. This is not our way. Please do not rush. If we can help you on your path, we shall.”
Zecora blinked. “You are kind.”
He raised his head proudly. “We are the Elders. We are here to help. Even if your world is unthinkably strange.”
“But kind of hot,” added the carpenter Elder.
Heads turned. “What, what?” they exclaimed.
The carpenter Elder gave his fellows a wry smile. “Pegasus mares. This weak stallion has good taste in pussy.”
Dursaa was blushing. The herb doctor Elder frowned at his companion. “You are not satisfied with your mares?”
“I did not say that,” protested the carpenter Elder. “Only that I have travelled. Their story is suggestive.”
“Oh, is it?”
The carpenter Elder gave another wicked smile. “I have heard vampire mare vaginas have clenching and grasping power far beyond that of a mortal mare. It is how they seduce their prey. Weak stallion, is this true?”
Dursaa was blushing worse. He was half again as large and muscular as the old carpenter zebra, but seemed unable to stand up to the fellow, even when being asked over-private questions.
“I do not believe he needs to answer that,” said Zecora coolly, as Dursaa gave her a grateful look.
“Well, it would explain much,” said the carpenter Elder, disappointedly.
“Believe as you will,” said Zecora. “It does not matter to you.”
“Enough prurient gossip!” exclaimed the herb doctor Elder. “They have come from far away, seeking the counsel of Elders about their relationship with this troubled vampire pegasus. In spite of being alien and unthinkable in every way, this is the very essence of the Elder Circle. How can we fail our distant brethren by dissolving into coltish randiness? Is that respectful? Let us be quiet and begin again, and remember that it is zebra hearts we mean to guide. Er, and vampire pegasus hearts, I suppose.”
Zecora nodded. She sat a while in thought. Eventually, she said, “Our pegasus love’s heart suffers the most.”
“Why is this?” asked the herb doctor Elder.
Zecora’s ears were laid back as she contemplated Fluttershy’s actions, her attitudes. “She does not enjoy the pride and comfort of the mares of Ponyville. They live free, but she seeks bondage. She wishes to be hurt, wishes to crawl and be ill-treated.”
A new voice spoke. It was a zebra with the mark of a stonecutter, who bore a disapproving scowl. “And if you continue to deprive her, then she will indeed be an unhappy mare. Have we all gone mad? What sort of talk is this?”
“Their ways are strange,” said the carpenter Elder, placatingly.
“Mares are mares!” retorted the stonecutter Elder. “It seems this vampire pegasus is the essential female. She yearns to serve, to be conquered, to be penetrated and forcibly taken. You do her no service by playing along with the mad ideas of these fools!”
Zecora began to reply, hotly, but the herb doctor Elder caught her eye, and she subsided. She reminded herself that in the Circle, wisdom was not demonstrated by blurting half-formed thoughts or fighting. Instead, she forced herself to wait.
The carpenter Elder was thinking, too. “This vampire pegasus. Does she feel herself to be female? As we understand it? I ask our visitors, our… strange, confused visitors. Is she like you, or does she have better s… er, does she have the desire to act as a zebra mare?”
Zecora bared her teeth, fighting back the urge to reply, “I am still a zebra mare!” Instead, she remained silent.
Another Elder spoke, one with the marks of a tool-maker. “I have seen pegasus ponies. I have seen their stallions. Any pegasus mare who allows a zebra stallion to claim her, must have this desire. She must want to be hurt, to surrender to his lusty rutting. They are so small and fragile! How is that not feminine?”
The carpenter Elder turned to him. “But they fly! She would have the power, at any moment, to simply fly up and mock his authority! How could he chase her down, discipline her, return her to his herd in obedience? How could such a creature ever truly submit to her husband?”
“Then let her fly away,” replied the tool-maker Elder. “Surely, if this mare is no true mare, she will not stick around. It is a meaningless question! To remain under her zebra husband, to endure his savage thrusts and bites and be drenched with his seed, can only mean she is a zebra mare at heart! They would not even be here if it were not so! By the stripes of our ancestors, she submits to a complete milksop, is this not evidence of the deepest, most compliant femininity?”
Zecora was shaken. Her ears were flattened against her head at the ugliness of their talk, but she spoke quietly. “Vampire.”
“She is a vampire,” said Zecora. “No stallion can bite her, lest he become undead himself, forfeiting his soul.”
The stonecutter Elder turned to her, triumphantly. “And she mourns this, does she not? Your pegasus mare, she is feminine. She yearns for what she cannot have: the rightful domination of the aggressive stallion. I see it in the distaste in your eyes. You don’t like it, but she is the true mare you will never be.”
The carpenter Elder was studying Dursaa, with a disappointed expression. “But the weak stallion has no stomach for this. It is well to seek the happiness of this vampire pegasus mare, but of these two, can we make a stallion out of the milksop? Or, should we consider this strange mare to be the stallion, and the stallion the mare?”
Zecora sensed Dursaa’s anger and dismay. He was getting emotionally trampled and still refused to lash out, for he knew the value of an Elder Circle, and the patient waiting for truths to arrive. Yet it was the Elders who now rushed ahead.
She slammed a hoof in the dirt, and all the Elders stopped.
“We. Begin. Again!” demanded Zecora, through gritted teeth… and she just stared them down, uttering not one other word.
Second after second passed. Slowly, Zecora’s ears unflattened.
The herb doctor Elder cleared his throat. “It is well. Begin anew.” He directed a cranky look at stonecutter, and carpenter. “You insult this strange Elder-mare creature, and you insult the weak stallion. Sir!” he said, to Dursaa. “Do you require apology before we continue?”
Dursaa blinked, startled. “What?”
“You are angry,” said the herb doctor Elder. “He called you a mare. You may demand apology, or call him out for a duel. He has forgotten himself and dishonors our Circle by his vile insults.”
“It is not that,” grumbled Dursaa.
Every Elder jaw dropped. “WHAT did you say?”
Dursaa bore the truculent gaze of a misbehaving colt. “It’s not! It would be nice to be with Fluttershy more like a mare. I am angry because to dominate her would not make her happy. You are wrong, it does not help!”
Of all the wide, astonished eyes that took in his pronouncement, the widest were Zecora’s. She stared at Dursaa and said, “How can you be sure? I fear there is some truth in their sayings, though it saddens me greatly. Why do you say this?”
Dursaa gazed at her. “I know I am right, and they are wrong. They don’t know her as I do. I love her. When she asks, I submit to her and do whatever she bids me to do, without question. I will open doors, I will gallop until my lungs burst from my chest, I will do anything. There is a part of Fluttershy, imperious and bold, that will never defer. I love that part because… through it all, I know she chooses to be mine.”
The Elders stared at him in horror, and he stared back, sticking his lower lip out like a petulant colt.
“You are proud,” muttered the stonecutter Elder.
“I am,” said Dursaa.
“Proud to be chosen by a female. You conquer nothing. You serve at her pleasure,” accused the stonecutter Elder.
“I make sweet love,” said Dursaa, defiantly. “My mare enjoys huge orgasms at my touch.”
“You are the mare,” hissed the stonecutter Elder. “Depart from here! Be gone.”
This time, it was the herb doctor Elder who banged his hoof in the dirt. “No! This is no fitting Elder Circle. We go farther from harmony, not closer to it! Do not insult and bicker! Silence!”
“Maybe it is no insult,” said Dursaa, his ears back. “I know my Fluttershy! I know how to care for her, but she is confused and doesn’t wish it!”
“Sh,” urged Zecora, and he subsided. She glanced rapidly back and forth between the Elders, noting the looks of rage, of perplexity, the sympathy of a few. She took a deep breath.
“Elders,” she said, “we did not go anywhere. Indeed we are as we were, when we arrived. If you were as you are, and none of us have found any common ground, how can we go farther from harmony? We were never near it in the first place.”
The herb doctor Elder hung his head. “Our Circle has brought you no wisdom. We have failed.”
“I did not say that,” said Zecora coolly, and he looked up with a quick and sharp glance into her eyes.
“Hmmm,” he said. “I would like to not fail you, strange though you are. I do not recognize your Elder sigil, but I recognize one much like myself. Do you lead the pony town where you live?”
“No,” said Zecora.
“Then it must have a great leader indeed. Well, Zecora, we stand divided, and we quarrel, yet you say it is not useless. What shall we do?”
Zecora thought. “Help me consider a few matters, and then we will depart.”
“I must make them understand…” began Dursaa.
“Sh!” chided Zecora. “I will speak here. Let me! I know her heart as well as you do.”
The more traditional Elders glowered in disbelief and disgust, as Dursaa considered her words, and nodded, and fell trustingly silent. It seemed a vampire pegasus mate was not the only female he’d defer to.
The herb doctor Elder nodded, too. “I will speak for our Circle.” He glared at his companions. “There will be no consensus here today! All who cannot tolerate the sharing of mere scraps of wisdom, the sad remnants of a failed Circle, they should leave. Now.”
Not an Elder left. They stayed, and they remained silent, watchful, judging.
“Your vampire pegasus, she is offered both of you, but in neither does she find the dominance she seeks—if it is even that she seeks,” said the herb doctor Elder.
“What does she want most?” said the Elder, and Zecora thought, and thought.
At last, she said, “Dursaa is right. Fluttershy is very feminine, but it is not that which drives her to seek harm. She does not wish to suffer it or to cause it, in herself. It is guilt, terrible guilt that drives her desire for punishment.”
The carpenter Elder stirred, but did not open his mouth.
At that point, the herb doctor Elder won Zecora’s lasting approval and respect—even a bit of love. He sat across the circle, controlling the many angry zebra stallions around him, and when he saw his companion’s desire to speak, it wasn’t his own to whom he turned, or even Dursaa. It was to Zecora he turned, and in his gaze was a question. Allow his fellow to speak, or keep the discussion to just the clan leaders?
After a moment, Zecora nodded. She’d liked the carpenter Elder. He’d lived a more varied life, seen foreign lands.
The carpenter Elder gathered both his leader’s, and Zecora’s assent before speaking: even then, his voice was low and cautious.
“I have been with a pegasus mare,” he said. “A little one. She did not respect my dominance. Indeed, she laughed at it… but I entered her and seeded her all the same.” He gulped. “She… permitted this.”
The herb doctor nodded solemnly. It was a painful admission, risky, to speak of sex with the stallion and mare roles muddled in this way. “How did she permit it, sir?”
The carpenter Elder made a face, but it wasn’t all dismay: he was fighting back a smirk. “Oh, all right… by crying out, sink that fat zebra cock into me until I scream!”
Zecora facehoofed. “Don’t tell me. The Cirrus Lounge, just outside the portal in Fillydelphia?”
He paled. “I accompanied a caravan! I swear!” he insisted, his ears laying back.
She glanced around, but none of the other Elders seemed to register his indiscretion, or his anxiety. Zecora quickly decided to make no further mention of portals. “Very well. Why do you bring this up now?”
The carpenter Elder gratefully accepted the change of subject. “I bring it up for this reason. It was a pegasus mare I seeded, and a pegasus mare you speak of. You say yours does not wish to suffer harm, and it is guilt that causes her to seek it.”
“Yes?” said Zecora, lifting an eyebrow.
“Know,” said the carpenter Elder, “that my pegasus did scream. And what she screamed was, oh, but it hurts so good.” He sighed, reminiscently. “So juicy and tight. I ended up jumping into a vat of dye, and fleeing town disguised as a black earth pony. Before I, or she, keeled over from heart failure! Very determined pegasus, hunted me down wherever I went. In the streets, even.”
“Not an uncommon sight in some streets,” suggested Zecora. “Your point?”
The carpenter Elder fixed her with a knowing look. “A mare from foreign lands, with foreign stallionish ways, can still crave the suffering of too much cock, the lusty throb of a passionate penetration. Your pegasus may share the same hot blood, as gentle as you claim her to be.”
Zecora blushed, staring at him. She bit her lip. “Umm. A fair point. Yes, I suppose. To be fair… even I, free as I am of the stallion’s rule, can sometimes maybe um, well, might want to, ah… just to see what it is like…”
Every single zebra stallion ear perked up. Every damned one.
Zecora cursed herself, the Circle, the practice of rigorous honesty, the big black wooden cock she’d made in hopes of finding a suitable mare to brandish it, and above all, the times she’d spent trying it out on her own to see how it would feel. Tears of rage came to her eyes, and she bared her teeth, and then glared defiantly around the circle. To pony hell with it, she thought, and refused to utter one more self-betraying word.
“Me too,” said Dursaa, impossibly, and her revealing and enticing admission was eclipsed by unthinkable taboo.
Her head whipped around to stare at him. “Are you mad, stripe-assed lad?” she exclaimed. “That poor hole won’t take Zebra pole!”
Dursaa kicked at the dirt. “I only said maybe. To see what it was like. Mister Braeburn asked very nicely. I told him no. He said it was good enough for Big Macintosh. Then they kissed and went behind the barn…”
Several zebra stallions looked about to faint. Zecora said, weakly, “…as they will. Oh, Ponyville…”
“I think our Elder Circle is ending,” said the herb doctor Elder, looking a bit pale. “We had better be getting home. But first: your pegasus, your sad pegasus? Maybe between the two of you, she can find what she needs. Both in lovemaking, and to assuage this guilt you speak of.”
“The lovemaking doesn’t please her, unless it is literally tearing her apart,” protested Dursaa.
“And then she is even unhappier!” cried Zecora, distraught.
“Of course it is thus!” said the herb doctor Elder. “It is not being destroyed she truly wishes, but forgiveness!”
Zecora’s jaw dropped.
The carpenter spoke up. “If that is so, you had better find out what crimes she has committed that haunt her yet, and persuade her to confess and be forgiven before she ruins both of you with her pegasus lusts! Very determined, pegasus mares. Exhausting. No wonder you came to us.”
“She would never commit crimes!” argued Dursaa. “What do you think she has done to cause all this guilt?”
“How about being a vampire, for starters?” replied the stonecutter Elder, glaring. “And how about both of you going as far away from here as it is possible to go? And take your vampire pegasus with you!”
The herb doctor Elder stamped the ground, feeling things slipping out of control. “Quiet! I feel we are done. And yes, if this is a gentle submissive feminine little mare, and suddenly she is a blood-sucking vampire with no soul and horrible compulsions from beyond the grave, she might just feel her undead existence itself is very wrong. And yet she cannot relinquish it: nothing can restore a soul once lost. I am sorry for her and glad she is not anywhere near here. She is not? Please tell us your pegasus is nowhere near.”
“She is back home in Ponyville, trying to teach a savage griffin not to eat meat,” said Zecora, rattled.
“Good. She should stay there. Our circle is dismissed!” proclaimed the herb doctor Elder.
“But… what do we do?” pleaded Zecora, jumping to her hooves as zebra after zebra stood up, turning to go. “Which of us should be her mate, to best heal her troubled heart?”
The carpenter Elder blinked. “Why, both of you, of course.”
Zecora and Dursaa stared at each other.
“Pegasus mares,” explained the carpenter Elder. “Wow! It is an unusual little herd, and I think its stallion leaves much to be desired. But as long as both mares like him and the zebra mare is able to be stern with the pegasus and get her past her guilt and acting-out, I am sure it will work for you.”
Zecora and Dursaa continued to gaze into each other’s eyes, minds blown.
The herb doctor Elder cleared his throat, taking a more gentle tone. “I understand the suggestion must seem odd, especially coming from us. And I can see the mare is resistant to her new husband, and the stallion is being cowardly and has never even considered having two mares in his herd, rather than just the one pegasus. But maybe she will put some backbone into him? And he can put, er… yes. Into her. And then she will know, as she says, what it’s like.”
The more traditional Elders were milling about, agitated.
“Do it!” came a cry.
Zecora’s head whipped around, as did Dursaa’s. They looked for the source of the shout, vulnerable, as if they’d been caught smooching.
“Consummate!” “Do it!” came the goading, angry calls.
“Er,” said the herb doctor Elder, and the carpenter Elder interposed his body, shielding the two strangers from his unruly companions.
“To what do you refer?” demanded Zecora, scornfully. Even while she defied the crowd of angry zebra stallions, her hind legs trembled. Dursaa noticed this, and frowned. This was not some kinky thrill. She was afraid, and rightly so.
The crowd of zebra Elders milled about in chaos, moderates blocking the aggressive posturing of traditional zebra stallions. Then, at the back, one reared, the stonecutter.
“If they’re a stallion and his herd, they must fuck! Prove it! Take her! This is our land! Our ways must be respected! This is a sick mockery of decent behavior!”
The toolmaker chimed in. “There must be penetration and dominance, or they shall have no leave to depart!”
Zecora and Dursaa stared at each other in horror. The notion of him mounting upon her and shoving it in was already outrageous, and to do it on command from a crowd of angry stallions was unthinkable. Yet there was no consensus granting them freedom to go, and none seemed forthcoming, either. It was all the herb doctor and carpenter could to do keep their angrier Elders in check, and permission to leave would not be agreed upon.
Zebra society was just not made to cope with these moments.
Realizing that, both Dursaa’s and Zecora’s eyes widened, the inspiration striking them simultaneously.
“Very well!” cried Zecora, turning to face the mob. “There will be!”
Sudden silence… slavering.
“Are you ready, Dursaa?” said Zecora, slyly.
He nodded. “I am. Go ahead!”
Zecora’s eyes widened. “Oh! Curse it, I left it at home.”
Murmurs of discontent started in the crowd of Elder stallions. “What, wench?” came an angry voice, sensing a put-on.
Zecora batted her eyelashes in his direction, her legs starting to shake in real terror.
“My big, black, wooden cock, of course!” she cried, defiantly. “Oh, Dursaa! I am sorry.”
“It’s all right, Zecora,” he said. “We will just borrow one from…”
“YOUR MOM!” yelled Zecora and Dursaa at the crowd, and they whirled, and they ran like hell.
Behind them, bellows of rage were mingled with raucous, explosive laughter. They were too bent upon fleeing for their lives, and could not see friendly Elders, cracking up but still tackling their raging brethren, making sure the crazy strangers could escape and return to their perverted, bizarre Ponyville lives.
And so, Zecora and Dursaa departed the Elder Circle, not much wiser… but perhaps, just enough.
Onward they trotted. Dursaa staggered, weary but buoyant. The portal was not more than half an hour’s gallop away, and they would be safe beyond it: even if they’d been pursued, traditional zebras would not enter a portal. They’d gotten away, unquestionably.
He glanced over at his companion, and he had to smile, tired as he was.
Zecora was still on a high. Her hooves pranced, her gait bounced, her bangles jangled. She was absolutely beautiful in her sheer glee and delight… not as beautiful as Fluttershy, of course, but radiant. And she smiled back at him, still delighted with their prank.
“Your MOM!” she giggled, her eyes dancing.
Dursaa nodded. “Come on. Quickly, not much longer…”
“I know,” she said. “Hey! We don’t rhyme? So informal?”
Dursaa chuckled, exhaustedly. “We are a herd, remember? Come along—darling husband of mine.”
Zecora cackled with glee, and gave him a kiss, causing him to blush happily. “Hah!” she said. “And what if I did, hmm? What if I made you my mare?”
“Do you wish to?” he asked.
She blinked. “No. Why? Do you wish it?”
He tossed his head. “Better you than Braeburn! Your cock looked more manageable!”
Zecora cackled again, prancing circles around him… and then stopped, facing him.
“Ack!” grunted the big, tired zebra. “Keep moving!”
“You are so different from them. How did I not see it? It is beyond comprehending!”
Dursaa panted. “That’s what she said,” he joked.
“Do you understand,” said Zecora, “that a gay mare is not simply a fake stallion? I have no great need to become a stallion and mount Fluttershy. If anything, I wish to share tenderness with her in whatever way I can, hoping to teach her more about love.”
“Please do,” said Dursaa tiredly. “I have tried but she will not listen.”
“You may do the pegasus penetrating,” said Zecora. “You seem to enjoy it. I do not picture myself engaged in such acts, and I am not sure I want to see them.”
Dursaa gave her a wry look. “You have not tried it.”
“Certainly not! Whatever they may think, I remain a zebra mare.”
Dursaa rolled his eyes. “I am being generous! I believe Fluttershy wishes you to learn, and again: you have not tried it. Perhaps you should! Our darling melts in bliss at these times. This tenderness you speak of? You can be very, very close to it.”
Zecora gazed at him for a moment. She batted her eyelashes. “I think I am very, very close to tenderness even now. How much of your rude stallion’s ways, Dursaa, were put on for the pleasure of Fluttershy? I am not sure I can feign such maleness, even at her behest.”
Dursaa considered this, stolidly. “Some of it. And some is just natural talent.”
That got another cackle out of Zecora. She pranced, and kissed him on the muzzle. “You are cute! Rude stallion maleness, with a wooden cock up the bottom, that’s you! Perfect for our mad home, Ponyville.”
“They use magic bits, remember?” said Dursaa. “I will burn the wooden one. I fear splinters!”
“Oh,” blinked Zecora. “That’s right. Do those work on zebras?”
“I believe Fluttershy will insist on finding out,” said Dursaa. “Now, please, please, keep moving! I also fear pursuit by the angry zebra Elders.”
With an amused look into his eyes, Zecora turned and began trotting once more toward their destination of the first portal, and Dursaa gratefully ran alongside. Beyond it lay safety, and more traveling… and then, a whole new era of determined zebra team healing and pleasuring of their troubled, adored vampire pegasus.
Zecora started trotting all bouncy again, then reared and hugged Dursaa as he cantered along.
“…and their MOM!” giggled Zecora, triumphant.