Before Rainbow could fly again, she had to preen her feathers for half an hour.
Even that didn’t really render her flightworthy, but determination counted for a lot. Rainbow’s determination had truly been epic, all night long…
She’d given up on the zebra dick after a session with an amused Zecora and an unsuccessful attempt to go back to Dursaa, and then had passed the rest of the night smooching Zecora. The zebra mare had been slightly aloof despite her previous intimacies, but Fluttershy was cuddling Dursaa to sleep, and Zecora didn’t object to staying up with Rainbow Dash. Her emotions may have been a touch reserved, but for all that, her touch hadn’t been nearly so reserved, and she seemed to enjoy the change of pace.
Rainbow was grateful for that, because it was easier than explaining the real reason she’d launched herself into a frenzy of sleepless pegasus horny.
She still had to return to the vampire-hunting farm ponies, and vouch that she’d watched Fluttershy all night, uneventfully.
Well… some-eventfully. Very fully indeed. But not the sort of events that were worrying everypony.
Zecora had other plans for the morning.
“Are you sure, Zecora?” asked Fluttershy, fretfully. “We can accompany you there, it’s not too much trouble.”
Zecora shook her head. “The day I fear the Everfree… attack that mare, for it’s not me! By secret paths we’ll trot and fly, and once we’re home, be safe as pie.”
“Pinkie Pie?” quipped Rainbow Dash, and Dursaa flinched while Zecora glowered.
“Within my hut, I’ll take great care to barricade both foul and fair,” she said. “With arcane herbs I’ll weave my spell. Invade us then? Like pony hell!”
“But that’s not the point!” protested Fluttershy, for Zecora was beginning to prance and toss her mane, clearly readying herself for a great effort. “I understand you think you can make your hut safe against Hollyhock…”
“Don’t say that name! What if he came?” retorted Zecora, angrily.
“Then I would stare at him,” said Fluttershy, “and I’d make him go quietly to the Apples and very soon nopony would have to be frightened of him anymore, ever. Hollyhock hollyhock hollyhock! I dare you! Face me!”
“Easy now, Fluttershy,” said Dash. “Wow. You really hate him, huh?”
The gentle vampony pouted. “I knew Fern Gully. I thought I knew Hollyhock. He’s ever so much worse than I could have imagined, and I am responsible for that.” She turned to face Zecora. “And that’s why I don’t like you going alone to your hut, with Dursaa and little Dursaa! Why aren’t you accepting our help?”
Zecora sighed. “Ah, dear beloved Fluttershy… through forest paths we three can try to make our way: unheard, unseen, scarce to disturb the leafy scene.”
“But…” said Fluttershy.
Zecora narrowed her eyes. “I know the path we’ll use by heart. In truth, already we should start: our camouflage in the dim dawn is all we’ll need to travel on.”
“Uhh…” began Rainbow Dash suspiciously, and trailed off at a glance from Zecora… and a smirk.
“We’re born to do this journey,” said Zecora proudly, “but… not if we’re trailed by a brightly-colored parade of pegasus pony butt!”
Dash’s jaw dropped. She stared for a second, then exploded “Oh COME ON!”
Zecora, smirking, stuck out her tongue at the prismatic, petulant pegasus.
“You can’t say that!” wailed Rainbow. “It didn’t even fucking… you can’t rhyme but with butt! And you used way too many words or something… Zecoraaa!”
“Shush, delicious candy-tail,” chided Zecora, much amused. “We’ll stay safe, while you prevail.”
“I think it means she likes you,” said Fluttershy, frowning. “The words not perfectly rhyming, I mean. But she didn’t answer my question!”
“I do,” said Zecora hastily. “And I did. We will take my private path. I can ward off dangers, and I can spot a vampire before it attacks, I think. This one is but an earth pony turned to evil, and he does not know the forest as I do. Little Dursaa can fly, but he will be riding on Dursaa’s back and making himself small. Nothing will see us. Go quickly on your own journey. With my magical wards, nothing whatever will enter my hut.”
“There,” said Fluttershy. “You see? It’s hardly a surprise after last night, and the things you two were doing to each other. You must be an honorary zebra now, Rainbow, to hear all that. And I suppose it’s true, besides. Zecora does know the Everfree Forest like nopony else, and it’s true she is hard to spot among the foliage.”
Rainbow marvelled at Zecora’s words. “Wooow. Cool, I’m like part of the family? That sounds bad ASS. Seriously?”
Zecora nodded, solemnly, her face impassive but her eyes warm and affectionate.
“If I, like, rolled in the mud to camouflage myself,” said Dash, “can I…”
Zecora gasped. “Please do not! Those lovely wings should not be heavy, mud-caked things when you and Fluttershy proceed to answer Apple ponies’ need. Go at once! The both of you have fearsome, daunting things to do.”
“Oh,” said Rainbow, blinking. “Right, we should get going.” She shook herself. “She’s right, Fluttershy, we need to join the hunt. Look at her, I think she’s gonna be okay. Oh my gosh! You are so bad-ass, Zecora! I wish I could watch you sneaking through the Everfree Forest.”
Zecora smirked. “Watch all you like, cerulean wing. You’ll look, but still not see a thing.”
Dash grinned and hoof-pumped. “Yeah! I’m convinced, Fluttershy. Let’s go. Zecora will keep both the Dursaas safe. Both the little one and the big one!”
At this, big Dursaa winced, just a tiny amount, and Zecora caught it. She frowned, and thought fast.
“It’s not just to our Fluttershy that Dursaa’s sworn an oath! We’ll go to my defended hut, and he’ll protect us both!”
“Oh, really?” said Rainbow, startled. Zecora nodded, solemnly. Dursaa blushed. “Okay, then,” said Dash.
“Go ahead,” said Fluttershy, frowning. “It’s still against my better judgement, but you have a good point.” She shot a glance at Rainbow Dash, whose bleary-eyed expression just underscored the fact that she refused to let Fluttershy out of her sight. Clearly, there would be no sneaking through the Everfree with two brightly-colored pegasi tagging along.
Zecora’s smile slowly widened. She gathered Dursaa and little Dursaa with a glance. They trotted over to the edge of the forest, where shadows met underbrush, and then with mocking ease the three zebras were simply gone, vanishing into the flicker of moving foliage.
“Wow!” breathed Dash.
“I’m still not that sure I trust them to do it,” complained Fluttershy.
“Yeah, but… can you see them? She was right! They’re just gone!”
“That’s what I’m afraid of,” retorted Fluttershy.
Dash blinked. “Is it true that if you call a vampire, it can appear?”
“Of course not,” said Fluttershy. “Zecora was being silly. Do you see Hollyhock around here?”
“Yeah,” continued Dash, “but if I call out Fluttershy, does that mean you feel it? And come sneaking up to meet me?”
“Noo!” objected Fluttershy. “Of course I don’t come sneaking up to hurt you!”
“I didn’t say hurt me, I said meet me since you’re a nice vampire. And hey, you didn’t deny you can feel it. Can you feel this? Fluttershy fluttershy fluttershy…”
“No, I can’t!” protested Fluttershy. “Or not much! Oh, pooh. Are you done teasing me?”
“You can! You just admitted it. Do you have, like, other awesome vampy powers I should know about?”
Fluttershy sulked. “What’s so awesome? And for your information, I sort of do. I can tell he’s in Ponyville, or I think I can. I feel… something. It’s not quite like when Gilda was here. I mean, I can feel the sense of a thrall, but there’s something else. Maybe it’s because he fed.” She shuddered. “I hate him, Rainbow. Poor Fern Gully. I can’t bear it. Why do I have to exist as a curse this way?”
She’d shut her eyes in a grimace of pain. Before she opened them, she felt a kiss.
“Hey,” said Rainbow Dash. “It wasn’t your fault. Let’s go kick his ass. He’s not like you at all, Fluttershy.”
Fluttershy stuck out her lower lip, and it squished against the cute little fangs. “Okay. Yes. He’s dangerous.”
“Not for long!” vowed Dash bravely.
Fluttershy hesitated, looking around her, and said, “I should never have let Zecora go off into the forest like that.”
Dash snorted. “Really? All three of them were amazing, Fluttershy. I didn’t expect it of big Dursaa. Actually there were many things I didn’t expect from big Dursaa,” she added appreciatively. “But Zecora wasn’t kidding. All three zebras just melted into the forest, without even a r…”
“What?” squeaked Fluttershy.
“Shh,” urged Rainbow frantically. “Over there!”
Shy’s reaction was to cower, but Dash was already stalking toward the bushes, pressing low to the ground, a wild light in her eyes. Even as Fluttershy reclaimed her courage and flew up into the air, ready to swoop, Dash wiggled her butt, her tail thrashing with a dry fluffy sound, and…
“HAH!” she yelled, pouncing into the bushes.
The squeal didn’t sound much like a crazed male farm-horse vampony. Fluttershy dove upon the scene, but Dash was already struggling in a riot of churning foliage, shoving forth into the light… a cream colored earth pony mare, wearing a pair of black-framed sunglasses, and a large brown false mustache.
“BON Bon?” squeaked Fluttershy, dumbfounded.
“Gahh! I don’t recognize that name! Sacrebleu! Je suis le pony de quelqu’un d’autre! Tenir compte de la moustache!”
“What?” cried Fluttershy, trotting in place with dismay. “What are you saying?”
Before she could spout any more Fancy, Rainbow Dash seized the false mustache in her teeth and yanked it off. The glasses went next, and then there was no denying it: Bon Bon stood there, pouting and covered in leaves and twigs.
“Bon Bon, what the heck are you doing in the bushes?” demanded Rainbow Dash. “It’s dangerous! Don’t you know what’s running around loose out here?”
Bon Bon stared back at her, shocked. “Me, not know? The impudence! Of course I do! I almost caught it, I’ll have you know. I bet you didn’t know Ponyville was being stalked by…”
“A vampire!” insisted Rainbow Dash, and Bon Bon instantly fell silent. She blinked, blinked again, looked around… seemed completely at a loss, her eyes very wide.
“Oh yeah,” said Dash impressively. She blinked too, and added, “Not Fluttershy, I mean. I’m talking a new vampire, a really bad one. We’re pretty sure it’s Hollyhock, from the Apple farm. He killed Fern Gully.”
Bon Bon seemed stricken. “But,” she managed, “there can’t be something that bad happening. The Princess isn’t here. In Canterlot, I mean. She’s on vacation, she says the Kirin can look after things. That it would be okay and not to worry. B—because Ponyville’s so… quiet?”
“Really?” said Dash. “Then it’s time for us ponies to save the day. It’s what Princess Celestia would want us to do. It’s the awesome thing to do! And so what about the Kirin? She’s been freaking out the whole time. We got this. Me and Fluttershy are going to go and join the Apples, and we’re gonna fly patrols for them.”
Bon Bon’s eyes were wide. “You’re kidding. Are you joking? What in Equestria gives you the idea that you’re qualified to handle a major vampire incursion?”
“Sheer unmitigated awesomeness,” said Rainbow confidently. “Also we’ve got some secret help right here.” She indicated Fluttershy, who stared in horror and shook her head frantically.
Bon Bon gave Dash an exasperated look, forgetting her cover story in her irritation. “What do you mean, ‘secret’, Rainbow Dash?”
“Uh, yeah,” said Dash, noticing Fluttershy’s dismay. “I guess I mean stuff I shouldn’t even be telling you. I realise it’s shocking but there are serious things that happen here, and ponies who have to take care of danger and adventure and extreme awesomeness. Not like you, I mean. We’re here to keep you safe so you can be… uhh, like you are, in safety. If you don’t mind me saying, all this is waaay beyond your pay grade, so why don’t you go home and hide under your bed until it’s safe?”
At this, Bon Bon actually snarled. “Rainbow Dash, you have no idea who you’re talking to! My pay grade? Seriously? Don’t you know who I am?”
“A bitchy candy maker who’s more trouble than she’s worth?” suggested Rainbow Dash.
Bon Bon twitched, remembering. “Ah. Right. That.”
“Wow, you look surprised,” said Dash. “I’m sorry if I was harsh, but you should go home now.” She hesitated, as Bon Bon looked stricken, and Rainbow added, “It’s that much of a shock? Really? But Bon Bon, who do you think you are, if it’s not that? I always thought you just liked it.”
Bon Bon gulped. “Ah… nothing! Nothing to see here!” Rapidly, she gathered up her fake mustache and sunglasses. “Thank you so much for your advice, I’ll just be going now!”
“Who’s there?” called another voice, and across the grass trotted Rarity, closely followed by Derpy Hooves. Rarity was a sight: her lashes were on, but one was slightly crooked, and her mane was still in curlers. “I thought I heard a scream!”
“Nothing!” yelled Bon Bon, brushing dirt off her things.
“And I’m certain I heard somepony from Prance!” continued Rarity. “What in Equestria is going on?”
“Nothing! I have to go now!” said Bon Bon.
“It was Bon Bon! Playing in the bushes! But she needs to go home and be safe, and so should you!” said Dash.
“Good morning, Rainbow. Good morning, Fluttershy,” said Rarity. “Forgive my appearance, please? And I’m not sure I understand, I’ve not had my coffee and I am both cranky and slow without it, I fear. Why would Bon Bon talk like she was from Prance?”
“Yeah,” said Dash. “Why did you talk all fancy, Bon Bon?”
Bon Bon was turning to go, but she turned back for a parting shot.
“The BEST chocolate is from Prance!” she snorted, and off she went… in serious haste.
Dash ignored her. “Rarity, there’s a problem. We have another vampire in Ponyville. It’s Hollyhock, from the farm… and he killed Fern Gully!”
Rarity gave a little shriek. “You can’t be serious! How could that happen?”
“It’s my fault, of course,” grumbled Fluttershy. “Remember my special night? He bit my wing too hard. I should have known better!”
Rarity did a doubletake… and rushed over immediately, to hug Fluttershy. “Oh, poor dear! How terrible for you! Rainbow, you say he killed a pony? Are you sure?”
“I saw the body,” said Dash grimly. “We have a rogue vamp on our hooves.”
Though she was still hugging Fluttershy, Rarity spotted the quivering lip of her marefriend Derpy. She released Fluttershy, trotted over and hugged Derpy as well, and as she did, she turned to speak with Rainbow. “What are we doing about it, Rainbow Dash?”
“We’re going to catch him,” said Fluttershy. “And bring him to the Apples. And then he won’t be hurting anypony else, ever again.”
“They’ve got a big bonfire,” said Dash. “I need to stick my hoof in it when I get back.” She winced. “Don’t ask.”
Rarity considered this. “Oh, dear. I don’t suppose I need to. Who did you say it was, Rainbow?”
“Hollyhock,” repeated Rainbow. “He probably went for Fern Gully ‘cos Fern Gully’s kinda trusting… well, was. We need to hunt him down before he hurts anypony else. Apple Bloom was jumping around giving orders, it was amazing. Applejack’s there too. All the farm ponies are waiting for us to join them at the bonfire.”
Rarity lifted her head. “And join them we shall! Sweet Apple Acres, was it?”
“We could wait while you go fix your mane,” suggested Rainbow Dash.
“No time, darling. Derpy! Fluttershy! We’ll cut through the woods, I think I know the place.”
“Well, I know that,” said Dash, “I just thought you’d need us to wait because your mane is really incredibly horrible…”
“Thank you for that, Rainbow,” said Rarity, steely-eyed. “This way.”
“Yeah, that’s where we were going as well,” said Rainbow. “Wow! This is great! Get your magic ready, Rarity, we’ll all fight him!”
Derpy’s lip still quivered. “There’s… there’s a bad vampire, not like Fluttershy but bad? And he’s killing ponies?”
Dash shot her fellow pegasus a glance. “He killed one pony. Okay, Derpy? Just one. And we’re gonna stop him, he is not going to kill again.”
Derpy glanced at Rarity. “Are you gonna stop him too? Is this what all the mean stuff you used to do is for?”
“I beg your pardon, Derpy?” blinked Rarity.
The adorable wall-eyed pegasus knit her brow in concentration. “All that meanie business. Are you gonna be a bigger meanie than the bad vampire? And make him stop?”
Rarity’s eyes widened, and she gazed at her beloved in astonishment. Such an explanation had never occurred to her, as whips and punishment devices to her meant carnal pleasure of a particularly intense variety. Yet, she couldn’t deny how much sense it made. This, she could do… this, she was born to do. Slowly, Rarity bared her teeth in a dreadful grin. “YES. Never fear, my love. Mistress Rarity is in her fucking element. And punishment is on the menu!”
Derpy’s face lit in a grin that widened and widened. Behind her, Rainbow Dash, delighted, hoof-pumped with a “Yeah!”.
“Let’s go!” cried Derpy, thrilled, and the little group of ponies set off upon their short journey.
They were close to the Apple bonfire. The smoke rose above the treeline, in one of the small clearings that dotted the woods. Subdued voices from the Apple encampment could be heard through the trees.
Derpy Hooves pranced excitedly. “We’re almost there!”
“Yes, Derpy dear,” called Rarity. “Now, stay together. I know you’re excited, but please desist from your incessant running ahead!”
In a little arch of trees, silhouetted against the darkness and the backlighting of the roaring bonfire, Derpy stopped, and turned.
“What’s a cessint?” she asked, looking puzzledly into Rarity’s eyes.
A shadow moved behind her. Rarity’s pupils shrank to pinpricks, even as they reflected Derpy’s helpless gaze.
The massive, muddy, fanged form erupted out of the bushes, as Derpy’s head whipped back around, too late.
The scream rang out across the forest, one scream from two pony throats. Derpy’s shock mingled with Rarity’s horror… and then, the scream was gone as suddenly as it had arrived.
Gone in a cerulean blur, as Rainbow Dash blasted across the clearing to tackle Derpy even as the fanged horror came down upon her. Rainbow bore Derpy up into the air, panting with her exertion, clutching her tightly in frantic pegasus forelegs.
“Gotcha!” she cried.
Derpy looked back, and shrieked.
Rarity had been scant inches behind Rainbow, for all that she was merely a ground-bound unicorn. She’d charged in desperate haste, and then saw Dash bear her beloved away to safety.
And Rarity screeched to a halt, losing her footing and plunking down on her lovely posterior, directly beneath the raging, prey-deprived Hollyhock as he descended, fangs bared.
“RARITY!” shrieked Rainbow and Derpy.
Rarity’s look of horror lasted only a fraction of a second. Her jaw tensed, and her eyes narrowed.
Hollyhock, glorying in the dominance of his position, raised his head in a snarl of triumph. Fangs flashed. His head went down in a deadly lunge.
His head went back up again, as Rarity came off the ground and nailed him in the jaw with a withering, savage hoof-punch.
Hollyhock roared. He smashed at Rarity with a forehoof, and she squealed in pain, bleeding from her nose. He went for another bite.
Rarity whirled, and kicked him in the head with both rear hooves, leaving a hideous dent and shattering his jaw.
Hollyhock howled like a beast, reaching for his jaw with a forehoof, to the sound of thundering hooves approaching. His eyes flashed a horrible red.
Rarity lay where she’d landed. So fierce was her attack that she’d ended up sprawled on the ground, clutching at her bloodied nose and wincing.
Her eyes opened, to see Hollyhock looming above her, jaw ruined… and both fangs still intact.
Slowly, hatefully, he descended upon his off-balance, helpless victim…
A small, pale-yellow form tackled him, physically knocking him over Rarity and out of her way.
Apple Bloom shrieked a battle-cry of wordless rage, pummeling Hollyhock’s head with her little hooves. So enraged was she, that she’d led the charge: not through any authority, but through sheer fury. But she was far from alone.
Seeing the vampire’s fangs flashing, seeing his neck bend to attack the raging Boss Mare, Oakback tackled Hollyhock, seizing him around the barrel, yanking him back before his fangs could connect.
As he did, Applejack tackled the other combatant, dragging Apple Bloom away from Hollyhock’s snapping fangs. “You got to lead!” she cried.
A green streak zipped into the scene. A blue streak flashed out of the air and pinned it to the ground. “No!” yelled Rainbow Dash, shaking. “Big ponies now!”
Oakback was a big pony, one of the biggest, and he’d seized Hollyhock from behind. He wrestled with Hollyhock, dodging the thrashing head, ears laid back at the unearthly howls of rage. Behind him in turn, Big Macintosh loomed. Distantly, through the trees on the far side of the bonfire, Snowy Hocks could be seen, charging to the rescue.
“Don’t look at his eyes!” yelled Apple Bloom, as Big Macintosh joined Oakback in his efforts to drag Hollyhock to the fire. “Don’t you look! Keep clear of them fangs! Drag him that way!”
Three ponies wrestled, two of them frantically trying to avoid the flashing fangs of the third. Two mares pinned down two fillies, one filly still barking orders, the other struggling to join the fight. One old pony galloped out of the distance with desperate haste, unable to reach the group. Hollyhock fought like a demon, thrashing around with Oakback and Big Macintosh clinging fiercely to him, frantically dodging his fangs.
One white unicorn pony, face bloodied and teeth bared in a hideous grin, lunged forward to stab the raging vampire in the balls with her horn.
The glowing red eyes went very wide. The unearthly howl shifted sharply up in pitch. He looked down at his tormentor in shock.
He caught only the briefest glimpse of vindictive sapphire in Rarity’s slitted eyes… before she’d squeezed them shut, and that horn had lit. And she scrabbled forward blindly, her teeth gleaming in the growing light of the fire, her magic dragging him by his nuts and twisting them.
Hollyhock had only a few seconds to realize that it wasn’t true. Rarity was not dragging him by his balls. She was helping others to drag him. And he wasn’t scrabbling away from that torturous plight. He was being pulled. By…
Big Macintosh broke away, rolling clear.
Oakback plunged into the bonfire, clinging tightly to Hollyhock.
Both screamed, but Hollyhock’s scream tore leaves off the trees. He writhed, suddenly aflame. Oakback hastily rolled away, crying out “Aaaah sweet Celestia AAAH! Fuck! Aaah!”
“Stay back, Fluttershy!” yelled Dash. She’d released Northern Spy, upon seeing that Hollyhock had gone into the fire. She swooped hectically at him, scorching her feathers, kicking wildly to prevent him from getting away. A small undaunted green streak ricocheted off the struggling vampire stallion, and spiraled into a bush trailing sparks. She’d managed to knock him back by sheer impact speed, gaining the ponies another precious second.
Rarity pranced at the edge of the fire, raging. “You DARE? You DARE threaten my love? Burn, monster! How do you like that? How do you like Rarity now? SUFFER!” Her teeth were bared in a grimace of sheer hate. Her horn flared to life again and the rearing vampire, still screaming, clutched at his testicles and again fell thrashing into the bonfire. Rarity’s horn shone brighter as she twisted, and the venomous blue light reflected in her savage eyes, combining with the reflection of the flames.
On the other side of the bonfire, Hina approached, looking traumatized. Behind her, ponies dashed to and fro in terror, or leaped madly. Snowy Hocks, reaching the scene, whinnied hysterically and joined the leaping forms, catching Applejack’s eye.
“Hey… HEY! STOP IT!”
She seized the geriatric old pony, fighting to restrain him. “STOP! You’re gonna jump in the fire! Will ya stop struggling? CALM DOWN! It’s over now, you’re safe!”
A tortured scream rose from the clump of burning, foul-smelling material that had resembled a pony. The blue light from across the bonfire redoubled. Snowy Hocks shook horribly in Applejack’s clutches… and then, the remains of the vampire sagged. The blue light went out, as Rarity panted for breath. And Snowy Hocks, held tightly by Applejack, went very, very still.
Silence fell, as all the ponies stared at the smoking husk that had been vampire Hollyhock.
“You okay there?” said Applejack, to Snowy.
“Mm-hm,” said Snowy Hocks… tight-lipped. He shuddered, then gave an emphatic nod, his eyes squeezed shut. “Mm-HM!”
“All righty then,” said Applejack, releasing him. “You stay safe now!” She turned to check on Northern Spy, and Dash, and Apple Bloom.
A nod was all she got. Ponies began to stir, to look around at each other.
Snowy Hocks stood utterly still. Just his eyes moved, glancing here and there. He trembled. Now and then his ears flicked, though his face was unreadable… except for the briefest, fugitive glimpse of an unearthly, demonic glee, gone almost before it appeared.
“Hina!” cried Applejack. “Over here! Poor Oakback!”
The Kirin shook herself and rushed to his side, cringing to see his pain. Oakback lay quietly, but wept in the agony of his terrible burns. “Worth it…” he croaked, then coughed, and shuddered horribly at the strain on scorched lungs.
Hina didn’t hesitate. She flowed down onto him as if trying to drape his entire body in shimmering Kirin mane. “Breathe this now!” she commanded.
Oakback drew a labored breath. His eyes widened, and he did it again. His body stopped shaking.
“Your service is done,” said Hina. “I cannot truly heal you… let me soothe your pain.”
“You shouldn’t mix business with pleasure!” chirped a familiar, too-giddy voice. Pinkie Pie bounced into the campsite, wrinkling her nose at the smell of burnt vampire.
Dash’s eyes widened. “Pinkie! I think we have it under control. You can quit with the scary now, okay?”
Snowy had tensed absolutely rigid. He said nothing, but studied Pinkie through slitted eyes, holding very still.
“Something’s still so wrong…” breathed Hina, uncertainly.
“You got that right, sister!” asserted Pinkie Pie. “There’s no STREAMERS! Not to mention balloons! What kind of murder party IS this anyway?”
“Easy, Pinkie,” cautioned Applejack.
“Maybe we should try it AGAIN!” chirped Pinkie, brightly.
“Now WAIT a minute!” yelled Rainbow Dash, placing herself between Pinkie and Fluttershy, but Pinkie wasn’t the only interruption that morning.
“DA!” cried a tiny voice. Into the midst of the ponies flew a tiny, zebra-striped pegasus colt. He made a beeline straight for Pinkie Pie, and glommed onto her neck in an eager, fluffy hug.
Everyone saw Pinkie recoil, her mane seeming to shudder and unpoof for a moment. Snowy Hocks’ eyes widened, then narrowed thoughtfully.
In a thunder of hooves, Dursaa and Zecora galloped up. “Dursaa small! Heed our call!”
“Da!” squeaked the colt, and zipped over to hug his Dad, and then Fluttershy, with a squee of delight.
Fluttershy was trembling. Her eyes flicked between the Kirin, the bonfire, and the look in Pinkie’s eyes. She didn’t respond to little Dursaa’s cuddles. Her lip quivered, twisted. Pinkie frowned at her, or possibly the zebras standing around her. Snowy Hocks took that in, too.
Fluttershy gulped. “I’m sorry…” she managed. “I’ve spent so much time being bitter. But my existence is so beautiful right now…”
Hina lifted her head curiously. Pinkie began to smile, but her eyes didn’t. Fluttershy shrieked, gave Rainbow Dash a fierce hug, then flew home as fast as her illusory wings would take her. Little Dursaa zipped after her, followed by the zebras.
Pinkie didn’t even budge, or react. There was something chilling about her refusal to move. The smile said she didn’t even have to hurry. Where she needed to be, she would be, so long as she kept smiling, bouncy and fluffy.
“Fluttershy!” cried Dash. “Aw, horseapples! Anyway, we got the problem vamp.”
Hina’s eyes were very wide. “What do you mean, problem vamp?”
“Uhh… Nothing!” said Dash hastily. “Nobody here but us pegasuses, right?”
“Something is still wrong!” protested Hina, trembling.
Pinkie twitched, and gave a horrible extra push to her smile. “Nuh-uh! Or not for long!” she chirped, as Snowy Hocks stared tensely at her. “Toodles!” she said, and began to bounce away.
Dash went white. “Gotta go! There’s a friend I need to visit!” she said, and flashed off in the same direction Pinkie had gone… which was also the same direction Fluttershy had gone.
Distantly, her voice could be heard. “Pinkie! Haha, where do you think you’re goin’, funny pony? Visiting Fluttershy, maybe? What a coincidence! Me too!”
“Nope!” came the pink pony’s cheery little voice. “Not this chapter! But eventually!”
“Well, I’ll just go ahead and, uh, and, uh, I’ll say hello for you!”
“How are you at goodbye?” came the cheery, receding voice.
Applejack’s ears were laid back. “She usually ain’t that creepy,” she protested, and then gasped. “Derpy, honey! Are you okay?”
Rarity was still staring into the fire, her teeth bared. Hina hesitantly approached her, only to shy away as her mane exploded in a shower of sparks, even to be near the vengeful unicorn staring at the corpse of her victim.
Then, slowly, Rarity looked up to see Derpy Hooves… crying.
Rarity’s eyes flooded with tears as well, and then she had rushed over to hug Derpy, both ponies sobbing, Rarity wailing in hysterical dismay. “Oh! OH! Does it hurt? Tell me that monster didn’t bite you! Oh, Derpy! I’ll kill him again!”
She clung to Derpy while also trying to look over every inch of her solid gray body. Northern Spy, next to Applejack and still radiant with excitement and adventure, wrinkled her brow in thought. “Hey, if she was a vampire would her FANGS point different directions?”
“Thanks, Spy,” sighed Applejack. “That’s real helpful.”
“He went after Derpy!” wailed Rarity. “She could have died, like Fern Gully!”
“You kicked him in the head, lots!” cried Derpy, hugging her back. “And did something with his boy parts that looked like it hurt! And the fire, that looked like it hurt so bad! It was awful!”
“Hold still, darling!” begged Rarity. “I must check you for bites!”
Derpy blinked. “But Rarity, Rainbow Dash knocked all the breath out of me! All of a sudden I was somewhere else, he never bit me! Ow, my chest still hurts!”
“But he wanted to,” argued Rarity, “so hold still! I must know…”
She trailed off. Hina was waving at both of them, through a glittering fireworks display of mane, her body almost totally covered in trout-like scales.
“Calm yourselves, oh pony friends!” begged the Kirin. “Let me heal your woe. But I cannot approach you! Not until you’re calm!”
“But I saw that monster try to HURT Derpy!” wailed Rarity. Her ears were still laid back in blind fury.
“My mane will burn you if you continue this hating!” commanded Hina, who was visibly shaken. “Calm yourself!”
Rarity’s eyes widened, and then she understood. She gulped, and allowed the Kirin to approach… but for all that, Rarity still trembled, and the Kirin’s mane flared into incandescence just to approach her. Behind her, farm ponies backed off, unsettled. Snowy Hocks had nearly backed out of the clearing entirely, his eyes suspicious slits.
“What are you thinking?” pleaded the Kirin, for Rarity remained frighteningly tense.
The normally elegant unicorn, her mane a disheveled mass of curlers and her lash coming off, grimaced. “Only that I wish I could kill him again! So I could give his balls an extra twist. Before the fire distracted him too much, I mean.”
“Oh, Rarity, Rarity,” sighed Applejack. “Derpy! With me, honey.”
Derpy blinked puzzledly, and then understood as Applejack moved right in, while Hina still stood at bay. The earth pony and pegasus enfolded their trembling unicorn friend, brittle with rage, in a nurturing hug. Rarity stood it for a few seconds, glaring at the remains of the bonfire, and then…
“bwwWWWAAAAHHHAHAHH!” wept Rarity, tears gushing forth, snapping like a twig into total vulnerability within that sheltering double hug.
“Come on in, Miss Hina,” encouraged Applejack.
Hina approached, nervously. Her mane still sparkled but it didn’t seem to be centralized around vengeful unicorns anymore. Rarity bawled, clutching Derpy desperately, finally letting go of the psychotic and sadistic rage that had shielded her from the true feelings she’d suffered when she saw fangs descending upon her own private angel. Hina cautiously hugged the three of them, feeling rather traumatized herself: Rarity had been such a good pony, though gravely flawed. Then, the fear of her great loss had driven her to terrifying savagery. Hina felt it still, alive within the formerly-elegant unicorn: so civilized, yet hideously broken. Or was that even her? Something was so terribly wrong, somewhere.
“That’s better, huh?” soothed Applejack.
“This is not enough,” mumbled Hina.
“Weren’t talkin’ ta YOU,” snapped Applejack. “What do ya mean, not enough? Ain’t we done?”
“Yeah!” said Apple Bloom. “So, Miss Evil Senser, we just burned up the meanest ol’ vampire we ever did see. Everypony, take a deep breath! How’re we doin’, Miss Hina? Evil-wise?”
Hina looked around at the remaining ponies: Big Macintosh standing so solid and trustworthy, the old Snowy Hocks peering tight-lipped from behind him, the shattered unicorn clinging to the slow-witted but earnest gray pegasus. The fierce little Boss Mare, Apple Bloom. The brave farm pony Applejack. Oakback, lying quietly awaiting more effective healing than she could deliver. The ruined bonfire, smoking horribly and emitting the stench of undeath turned death.
It seemed like it ought to be the aftermath of a grievous battle against evil. Surely, the vibrations were the echoes of the terrible evils attempted before her very eyes, and though it’d be uncomfortable, she owed it to them to extend her sensitivities and vouch that they’d turned a corner: that good had, in the end, prevailed.
Hina-rin took a breath, closed her eyes, and concentrated…
She screamed. She collapsed to the ground, trying to shield her head with her hooves, that Kirin mane exploding with energy, her body wrapped in scales.
“Miss Hina!” yelled Apple Bloom, rushing over, shaking her. “Miss Hina! What did ya see? What happened?”
Hina opened her eyes, drenched with tears, and gazed up at Apple Bloom like she was suddenly a very little Kirin after all.
“It’s not gone! The evil is not gone! It’s worse, so much worse!”
“Aw, fuck,” breathed Applejack, and glanced off through the trees, where she’d last seen Rainbow… and Fluttershy… and Pinkie.
Snowy Hocks backed up a step, staring at the Kirin, narrowing his eyes.
Rarity lifted her head. She’d ceased her hysterics abruptly, upon hearing Hina’s news. The rage had left her, but something within her still rose to the occasion. She drew Derpy a little closer, and cleared her throat. “What must we do? We can’t stop now.”
“I don’t know!” wailed Hina. She rose to her little cloven hooves anyhow, and turned this way and that, pitably confused. “It’s everywhere! It’s here…”
“Are you being a spoilsport?” asked Pinkie Pie. Applejack whinnied in alarm, Big Macintosh reared and snorted, Snowy jumped back another step with curious litheness.
She’d congealed out of the guttering campfire smoke, which had turned pink and then suddenly taken pony form.
“What, what?” squeaked Hina. “What are you? You smile so much!”
“I’d better!” replied Pinkie, with a huge grin. “I’m gonna have to, before this is over!”
“Before what is over?” cried Hina, unsure what to attack.
“The murder party, of course!” chirped Pinkie. She walked fearlessly over to the shivering Kirin, and put a companionable foreleg around her. “You really ought to leave it to the experts. Trust me, we’ll get it right before the multiple sex scenes in the last chapter!”
“Get what right, Pinkie Pie?” demanded Applejack.
She flinched, as Pinkie’s gaze slowly turned to take her in. That smile widened and widened…
“I… can’t… say!”
Applejack’s ears were back, and she held her ground, just barely. “Kin ya tell us maybe… by charades, or somethin’?”
The grin went beyond the plausible.
“Ha! Charades! Ha! CHARADES! Ha ha ha ha ha….”
Applejack had just time enough to notice Pinkie’s hocks trembling, sign of some terrible strain, and then the clearing was full of fleeing ponies.
“MADMARE!” screamed Snowy Hocks, as he turned to flee. Big Macintosh seemed frozen in fear. Oakback ignored his pain and staggered off toward town. Derpy clutched Rarity in a panic.
“PINKIE PIE!” screamed Rarity. “Stop that this instant, you’re frightening everypony!”
At that, Pinkie blinked. She pouted at Rarity.
“Aww! Fine! I know where I’m not wanted!” she said.
With that, Pinkie Pie whirled, seizing her own foofy tail in her mouth. She inhaled, or perhaps swallowed, and in a horrible distortion of perspective and physical reality, she began to disappear into her own mouth, her jaw unhinging, her eyes pointing off blindly in two different directions, contracting faster and faster until with a pop, she was gone.
Hina’s dismayed look barely even fit on her face.
“Damn, that’s a thorough way to eat pussy,” managed Applejack, stunned.
“Need a hug, dear Applejack?” offered Rarity, her expression shaken but determined. “You had one for me, and it seems we must return to some sort of fray.”
“Ah think we all could use one,” said Applejack helplessly.