Panting, running down the path as fast as my legs can carry me. I don't dare look back, I can hear it. I can hear the beast chasing me. I can feel it's warm breath. An errant root. I fall, and it is upon me.
I wake up in a cold sweat. My clothes are drenched, I'm breathing hard. Five years. Five years of restlessness and nightmares. Five years since it happened, and I still haven't gotten used to it. Lesser men would have taken to the drink, but I know I cannot afford to do so. I still have purpose.
Climbing out of bed at the inn, I get changed, pick up my violin, pay the innkeeper, and set out once again. My name is Lark Wolfe, a violinist. I'm a wandering minstrel, a bard of unmatched talent. I used to play in the courts of nobles! And now? I go from city to city, playing for a pittance. I can never stay in one place for long, else I am driven away by mob of angry townsfolk. Torches and pitchforks, simple farmers. Not to mention the church.
My family has always been a musical one, and I have been playing violin since I was only eleven. They said I had a natural talent, but of course we all do. My sister's was the lyre, and my mother's, the lute. My father didn't play an instrument, he made them. Finely crafted, all of them. For my 17th birthday, he gave me his violin, given to him by Antonio Stradivari himself. He could never play it, so he decided that such an expert violinist as myself should have a masterly crafted violin, made by his teacher. I set out and traveled all over Europe. I several times played in the court of a french duke, and once, in the court of a Transylvanian duchess. Scarlet was her name. Never has there been such a beauty in the history of mankind. Shame she was a vicious hell spawn.
Your assumption is correct, I played in the court of a vampire, although I did not know it at the time. She was rather pleasant though. Unfortunately, her 'pets' were not. Upon realizing that I was in a den of evil, I fled, intent on reaching the priory to inform them of the travesty. Her hounds saw to it that I failed. She thought it a shame to let my talent go to waste, so she decided not to have me killed. Simply horribly disfigured so that I might never go to another town without bearing the shame of their stares, and never being able to play in a theater again. Her plan went awry, as I had stolen her silverware. Rather than being maimed, I slew the wolf by making it choke on a dinner fork, causing it to turn to ash, but not before it's tooth scraped my arm, drawing a thin line of blood. In that moment, my fate was sealed. I still remember that night, and have dreampt of it every night since, save for 3 a month, when I have a much different nightmare.
"Mr. Wolfe?" I am startled from my idle thoughts my the cart driver.
"Ah yes, sorry Mr...?"
"Berkley." The stocky man with dark burgundy clothes replies.
"Ah, my apologies Mr. Berkley, I am quite tired, and am not thinking clearly."
"We have arrived." He states.
"But, the castle is still at the top of the hill...."
"Yes, but this is where I stop. The path is not large enough for my comfort, and, personally, that place is evil. Why you would wish to go there is beyond me." He said with a drunken slur. Alas, very few individuals refined enough for my taste, yet not in a stupor every waking moment of their lives.
"My reasons are my own. Here's your fare." I throw him a single gold coin. I would normally carry silver ones, but that has become a problem for me.
"You're a mite generous sir. Thank ya kindly. If ye don't mind, the wife and childrun are waiting for me." Bah, his wife is Mead, and his children are Ale and Wine.
I begin trudging up the muddy path to the castle, knowing full well what resides within. The sight of the castle looming on the hillside sent shivers down my spine, the same shivers I felt when I entered the other castle all those years ago. Just as I ignored the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach all those years ago, I do so again, because this time, I have no choice. This is my last chance. I knock thrice on the large door, which only opens a crack to not let in any natural light. There is no porter, which unnerves me greatly. I gaze at the moon.
"Tomorrow night." I will have to stay in this wretched place for three days and nights, at the mercy of what lies within.
"It is not oft that I have visitors, especially at the bewitching hour." A figure on a throne speaks. She looks to be but a child, but I know far better.
"I do not like games, nor do I fancy pleasantries. I have a request, will you hear it, or shall I be on my way?" I said sternly. I do not like dealing with the unnatural, as that is how I first gained my condition. If she would not hear me, then I would simply leave and hide in the forest for the next three days. I did not want to spend any more time in the company of the undead than necessary.
"Very well, state your name and your request." She speaks. I catch another glimpse, blond hair, a red dress, and a bonnet.
"Lady Flandre, I am Lark Wolfe, a musician of the Wolfe family. I have come here because you have something I seek."
"And that is?" She asks quizzically.
"Knowledge. I have been cursed, and I seek the witch responsible."
"Mr. Wolfe, your name is quite ironic isn't it, given your 'condition'? I have the knowledge you desire, but what of payment?" She asks.
"As what I seek is the sound of your voice, I shall provide recompense with a sound of my own." I say, bringing forth my violin case.
"You seek my favour, and you would pay with naught but a song?" She seemed annoyed.
"It is all that I have." She seemed to think for a moment, before a wicked grin appeared on her face, showing her vampirc features more clearly.
"Very well Mr.Wolfe, Play for me. If I find it to my fancy, then I shall grant you what you seek. If, however, I am not amused, you will never set foot outside the castle. Would you still buy my favor for a song?" She said with a devilish smile, I say nothing. Drawing my bow, giving a bow and cracking my knuckles, I close my eyes and begin to play a song. (Ctrl click the link to have it open in another window, have it play while you read)
I begin slowly, drawing my bow across the strings. My fingers expertly dance across the strings. I am sweating profusely as I reach the crescendo, the hall echoing with the sound and my heart is races as I end the performance, not due to it's complexity, but for fear of her rejection of it. It nearly leaps out of my chest when I hear the accursed Flandre clap.
"In three centuries, I have never heard music such as that. It is quite.... quaint. Should you ever rid yourself of your curse, you are welcome to be one of my thralls, playing music for all eternity." She says with a voice that chills the air, her thirst hanging in the air.
"While generous, I fear I must decline your offer. Immortality is not something I seek."
"Yes, it is quite boring. Alas, I fear nothing can quench my thirst for entertainment for more than an instant. Come forth, and I will find out what you wish to know." She says with a sigh, obviously disappointed.
I approached the vampire maiden, who standing, only came up to my stomach, but was face to face with me as she hovered in mid air. She grabbed hold my hand, her icy touch making my skin crawl. Using her claw, she pricked my finger, then proceeded to suck on it like a child with a candy. Apparently, she was trying to look cute. Hell fiends are NOT cute, regardless of package. She looked deep in thought for a moment, before she released me, which I was thankful for, pulling my hand back quickly.
"Ah yes, the witch responsible for your bite ancestor..... Moira. She lives in the Misthallow woods in England. She was the enchantress behind my own, although it seems I have taken to my 'curse' far better than you have. I enjoy immortality, even if a bit dull. You would seek to slay her to free yourself?" She asked.
"If she will not remove my curse willingly, then yes." I replied, swallowing nervously.
"I see. She is indeed the one who created the original vampire and werewolf of both our lines, over two thousand years ago. She is not to be trifled with. I take it you are no warrior. Should you confront her, you will not succeed. Even I, gifted in the dark magics as I am could not stand against that hag when I tried to liberate myself. Since then, I have become accustomed to this way of life, and I fear what awaits me after death. You do not stand a chance at defeating her. Your only hope is to sway, and it is a false hope at that. Why not simply eat the heart of the wolf that bit you?"
"The same moment I was bitten was the moment it turned to ash by silverware. It was never an option." I said sullenly. She put her cold hands on either side of my head, looking straight into my eyes with her own blood red ones.
"Then stay here in my castle. I know you better than you know yourself. You wish to not cause harm to anyone, and you would not do so should you remain with me." She offered. Looking in those eyes, I realized that even though she was a creature of evil, she still had a kind heart, even if it had stopped beating. I gently removed her hands from me.
"I regretfully decline. While I would like to finally find a place to rest and cease roaming, I swore on the grave of my sister, whom I slew under the light of the full moon but a month after I turned, that I would cure myself, else her spirit will never find rest."
"I understand. Given your condition, I at least offer you the next three nights in my castle, till this month's phase passes." She said with a smile not sinister, but sad, as if she genuinely felt pity for my plight.
"Very well, I shall play you songs while I am still myself. Also, I expect to wake up in the morning in possession of ALL my blood. I shall be very cross should I wake to find someone has taken a bite."
"You have my word." She giggled. "I'm not about to step into a cage with a feral werewolf, even I could fall." I had no reason not to believe her, after all, we're both creatures of darkness, even if we don't act like it, under a centuries old curse that had passed from bearer to bearer, all from the same damned hag.
"Should you change your mind, return to my hold. I have endless time, and wish for something to fill it."
Panting, running down the path as fast as my legs can carry me. I don't look back, I can smell her. I can almost taste the flesh I so hunger for. An errant twig, she falls. Her last words, 'brother, please,' before I tear into her neck. The warm blood dripping down my lips, meaty chunks swallowed greedily, clothing torn asunder, a look of horror etched onto her face as she falls limp.
I awake on cold stone, the chill further exemplified by my sweat, and the fact that I am wearing naught but torn pants. I am in the castle dungeon, where I voluntarily locked myself for the past three nights. Slowly rising to my feet, an incredibly old looking man walks with unnatural strength and grace for his age, bringing me my belongings.
"You caused quite the disturbance. Townsfolk have become wary of the castle. While they don't dare set foot within till the priory arrive, members of the clergy have set up in the town. I suggest you leave tonight, under the cover of dark, lest they cage you like the beast you are."
"What of Lady Flandre?" I asked.
"She will be none worse for wear. There is a hidden place within the castle, and while one of the.... mortal... servants plays the role of duke to entertain our guests, we will be safe from their eyes." The old man said mortal with disdain.
"Please, give her my thanks for the lodgings these past three nights. I will be on my way as soon as the sun sets."
As I exit the Norway castle, climbing into Mr. Berkley's carriage, I notice a chill breeze coming in from the north, with clouds on the horizon.
"Snow, why is it always snow. Best to make port before the storm, or I'll be stranded here till winter passes, and as kind as she was, I do not wish to spend another night in this town."
"Might want ta be on the lookout sir, might be wolves. They was making an awful racket these past three nights they was." He slurred.
"All the more reason to make haste. I do not wish to be set upon by hounds." It wasn't the wolves I was worried about, after all, given what I am, they see me as a sort of pack leader. No, it was the order of holy knights making their way here to inspect the castle that caused me such fear. They were like the Spanish Inquisition, except that I expected them, and did not wish to be anywhere near when they arrived. Anyone suspected of supernatural activity was punished harshly, and given my curse, they were likely to try and 'purify' me, meaning burn me at the stake and claim the lord would have mercy on me because of my plight. That's not the sort of 'cure' I'm looking for.
"Lost in thought again eh? You seem troubled. You'd have to be to be willing to go up there. I know it's just pish posh, but they say a vampire lives up there. A bonafide member of the undead. Prolly just rumours the nobles stirred up to keep the townsfolk out of their business, scare em away." Berkley said.
"Yes, I'm sure that's it. During my stay I noticed nothing out of the ordinary, but then again, I have trained ears, not eyes. They were delightful." Nothing could be farther from the truth. While they had been rather hospitable, vampires sent chills up my spine. Having enhanced senses, even when not transformed, I could tell from a mile away. There were some benefits of having beast blood, such as better sight, smell, and hearing, as well as warding off cold and being a bit hardier then the average man, but those were a pittance in comparison to the cost. If only I had been an alpha werewolf, able to transform at will, and with complete control over myself when I did, I'd simply hide out in the woods once a month, not be a bother to anyone. Of course, I had no idea of how one becomes as such, and so was trapped.
"If ye weren't in such a hurry, I'd have ya come drinkin wif me, no troubles can survive being drowned by the bottle."
"Fool, that only delay's the inevitable, and I for one am not about to lose my talent wasting away on cheap ale. I can only play while sober, and it's not like I have any coins to spare."
"No coins to spare? You were awfully generous before." Berkley added. He caught on quick for a drunk.
"That's because I was paying for both trips, and I wanted to make sure you'd come back to get me." I smiled. He was upset that I wasn't going to be giving him any more of my money. Maybe if I knew he wasn't going to drink it away, but then again, you'd have to be crazy to go that near the castle while not in a stupor.
"Storm's blowing in, last boat to England. Won't be able to make the return trip till winter passes." The first mate proclaimed.
"Aye." Hearing me, he turned to look, quickly grabbing the sack of coins I threw to him.
"Two." I heard from behind me.
"I can't very well let you go alone. It's been terribly dull, and I truly should get out more. Just look, my skin is so pale." She smirked, which told me to play along.
"Oh, two love birds eh?" The sailor said.
"You assumptions bring you shame. She is a noble, and I am but her servant. She wished to go to England, and I went ahead to prepare the way, now, get back to work you peasant! I will not have my lady delayed any longer." I said in a practiced tone. "Come my lady, do not let this cur bother you any further."
Later, in our cabin, I asked what she intended.
"Not that I have any qualms regarding the matter, but, why are you here?"
"Well, let's just say that the room hidden in the basement is not so hidden anymore. They're all dead, and my estate burned to the ground. You can see the smoke from port. I didn't have anywhere else to go, and now I'm being hunted, just as you are. Figured I might as well make a new start in England, Norway is far too cold for my liking."
"I thought... you... weren't bothered by cold." I wasn't about to throw the term vampire around, who knows who might be listening, and I didn't want Flandre to kill the whole crew.
"Just because I do not feel the chill of winter does not mean I do not enjoy the warmth of fire, or the company of a man." She said with a smile.
"Ah ah, we'll have none of that. While you are far older than you look, I cannot do such a thing. You are but a child after all and being so forward is unbecoming of a noble such as yourself."
"Fine." She said with a childish pout.
"What is the real reason behind this venture, if you don't mind?"
"Well, a fortnight ago a rather strapping violinist came to my estate and played a wonderful song that reminded me of days long gone. I remember the warmth of the sun. You seek to rid yourself of a burden, and you will not succeed on your own. I have naught left to lose, other than an eternity of boredom, so I'll assist you. It has been far too long since I have seen the daytime sky, I have forgotten what colour it was."
"Blue. The sky is blue, except in the evening or in the morn when it is yellow, orange, and red, but never green."
"You said you slew your sister, what of the rest of your family?" Flandre whispered, so as not to be overheard by the rest of the ship.
"Dead. They attempted to shelter me, and succeeded. My name or face is not known, but my family was killed for indulging in supernatural phenomenon." I replied in an equally hushed tone. To the two of us, with unparalleled senses, we could hear just fine. To anyone watching, it would look like we were moving our mouths with no sound coming out.
"I too lost my family, killed by the very vampire who turned me, about 300 years ago. Of course, as soon as I found that I had exceptional powers far exceeding his, I killed him in retribution." She sneered.
"I do not seek vengeance, I simply want to be rid of this affliction. I see it every night you know." I paused, seeing the questioning look on her face begging for explanation.
"The night I was bitten, and on the three I turn, the night I killed her. Her last words, she begged me not to do it, and I ripped out her throat. I woke up the next morning, covered in blood, looking at a pile of bones. I swore that I would end this nightmare. I know that she can never rest as long as that monster still prowls."
"Is it really that she can never rest, or is it that you cannot?"
"I can never forgive myself. I know it was something outside my control, I had just turned and didn't know how to restrain myself, I still do not. Still, how can I let go of that fact that because of me, my entire family is dead?" I asked with a sigh.
"You can't. I have lived for three centuries, and such matters are never simply dismissed."
"If I truly can't be cured, I'm I am doomed to suffer this curse for the rest of my days, then I will at least try to find a way to take charge of it. It is possible, for the hounds of Scarlet were tame. If I cannot rid myself of my curse, I will control it, so I may cause no more suffering."
"It is a shame. If these were different times, perhaps in a different place, and under different circumstances, we may have courted each other. Fate has a strange way of bringing people together with misfortune. Let us hope we succeed. I may be young, but if are indeed able to slay that witch, then perhaps you will wait for me?"
"Let us pray for success."
And so, a vampire and a werewolf, foul creatures of darkness who had been forsaken by the world, prayed to the very one who saw them as unclean, under the light of the moon illuminating the falling snowflakes, on a caravel atop the magically calm sea.
"Hey, you two head below deck. Wouldn't wantcha ta catch cold. England's still a week away with this lax wind we've been having, you won't miss a thing." Flandre looked upset at having been disturbed, glaring at the swab who interrupted us. Just as she did, a strong wind came from the aft of the ship, doubling it's speed. The deckhands scurried about, trying to take advantage of the new gusts.
"What are you two doing up so late anyways?" The captain asked.
"When one hunts, do they not follow the seasons? We are up at night because night is the season of that which we hunt." She explained with an innocent smile.
"Demon hunters, little girl like you and a scrawny guy like him? Bah. I'll believe it when I see it." He scoffed.
"Care to make a wager then?" Flandre smirked. "200 gold denaries says I can beat every one of your crew members in an arm wrestle."
"What are you doing?" I asked.
"Making back my fortune." She whispered.
"You're on little girl. Easiest money I'll ever make." The captain boomed.
"Aw come on! She's just a wee lass! Are ya even tryin?" A scotsman bellowed.
"She's got the strength of twenty men! She's like a rock!" A man defended his masculinity as he sweat and strained to move Flandre's arm, which wouldn't budge.
"I think that's enough of this." She said casually as she slammed his arm to the table. One by one, the crew of our little ship became humiliated. Even the captain, although she put on a show feigning weakness to show his crew that he was their superior, she did eventually beat him. He counted out the coins which she put in her purse, the entire crew becoming distraught.
"I don't know whether you've got the god's might or the devil's luck, but you beat us fair and square lassie. They save having a lady on a ship is bad luck, but ever since you stepped aboard, we've had nuthin but smooth sailin." The first mate decreed. They didn't stand a chance.
"Ya might want to get an extra blanket tonight, the lass is colder than the sea we're sailing on." The buffoons didn't say a thing, but the captain suspected.
"What did ya say you were doin again?"
"She is a hunter of the damned, I am but a simple musician in her company." I deadpanned. He was on to us.
"And why might you be doin that?"
"A cursed wolf slew my family, and a dracule hers. We seek the hag responsible for bringing these abominations to the world." I explained, not liking where it was going.
"Neither of you happened to get bit did ya?" He said, raising his eyebrow. His crew was starting to get worried.
"No. We were fortunate. Seeing our plight, we begged for the strength to right this wrong, and it was mercifully given."
"I see." He didn't buy it, but didn't want to make a scene just yet.
"Anyway, why with the somber mood? What say you to some music?" I offered, desperately trying to change the subject. The crew seemed pleased with the idea, so I drew my violin. Several sea shanties later, with myself and Flandre being the only ones not drunk, we slipped out of the hall and onto the deck.
"Alright, let's kill them."
"Whoa, wait, what? Hold on a moment!" I argued.
"They know what we are. Soon as we reach port, we're dead. You forget, they dock during the day, I won't be able to help."
"Then who sails the ship?" I asked, trying to find any excuse not to slaughter the entire crew.
"This thing is headed straight for port, I just cast a little spell for wind and the thing will sail itself." I looked at her sternly. Sailing wasn't that simple.
"And what of the day? You shall be powerless to move the ship then, and I know nothing of sailing."
"Then I'll simply commandeer the ship, and have them sail it for me. I can be very persuasive." She was talking about murdering a hundred men like it was nothing. Men with wives and children! She was about to do exactly what I was sought to prevent. The death of innocents.
"I can't let you do that!"
"That is unfortunate, because you don't have a choice. You lack the power to stop me without your lycan form. I am far more clever than you as well, you will not win." She smiled evilly. "I am a vampire after all. What did you expect? A week long trip without feeding? You truly are a fool."
"I never asked you to come along." I replied sternly.
"Yet you were quick to accept when I did." Then, I remembered who I was dealing with. She had no intention of helping me. She would likely kill me before the witch to keep her immortality. The only reason she accompanied me was that she had lost her estate, and was looking to start anew in England. Feigning innocence, and I fell for it. I forgot what she really was, and had now doomed over 100 men.
"I do not have the power to stop you, but I will have no part in this, damned hell spawn."
"Fool, flattery will get you nowhere." She said as she skipped back to the hall. She looked quite happy for one who was about to commit mass murder. I stood on the bow of the ship under the light of the waning moon, and played a song trying to drown out the blood curdling screams I heard coming from below deck. A single tear betrayed my eyes and rolled down my cheek.
A week passed, and miraculously, the ship arrived at port on time, manned only by myself and Flandre. Another miracle is that I did not throw myself into the ocean from the stench of death and decay coming from below deck. It would have been unbearable, even for one without senses such as mine. I did not wish to even think of the state the bowels of the vessel were in, confining myself to the captain's quarters for the duration of the trip.
"We are finally here. After what has occurred here, I think the ship should be burned and sunk." I said upon arriving at dusk.
"Yes, we must not leave any trace of our presence, but how to do it?" She inquired, stroking her chin. If I wasn't there when she slaughtered a hundred innocents, I would have forgotten what she was with the way she was trying to act cute.
"Our? I don't recall making such a mess. There is wine and rum in the hold. I assume you know magic for making fire?"
"Naturally." She replied, snapping her fingers, setting the cabin alight. We departed the vessel shortly after, letting it burn and sink into the harbor. We were in a carriage and out of town before the inhabitants were alert to the presence of the burning ship.
"Blackwater. Never thought I'd return."" I remarked upon entering a small town a little ways inland.
"You know this town?" Flandre asked.
"I was born here. I grew up here. Every Saturday, the traveling musicians would gather in town square, playing their music long into the night. The preacher wasn't too happy, as it meant most of his congregation was asleep in church the next morn."
"Since five years ago, when the knights came and took them away, the shop was turned to a hunter's shack. Apparently, the tools used for making instruments are also quite efficient for making archer's gear. If he hadn't been burned to ash, my father would be rolling in his grave at the sight." I said as I began to weep.
"If you lived here in England, how did you slay your sister your first full moon?" She asked.
"She had wanted to see the world, travel with me, but I believed her to yet be too young. I went to Transylvania, and she followed in my footsteps, a day behind as to remain hidden from me. I was bitten the first night of the full moon, and so, with no time to seek the cure, my curse was fully set the very next night, the same night she came to town. I wished not to return to my family after what I had done, but I had no choice. They deserved to know, and that knowledge cost them their lives." I no longer attempted to hold back my tears. This place had far too many memories. I had changed my appearance, my usually short hair brown hair grown quite a bit longer, and my normal stubble replaced by a clean shaven face. I would not be recognized.
"What is it like, when you transform?" I did not wish to answer this question, but one does not simply deny a vampire of their thirst for knowledge, lest they decide to sate a different thirst.
"I suppose it is how a moth feels near a flame. When the moon is high, if I can abstain from looking at it, and prevent it's pale light from coming upon me, then I shall remain as I am. Yet, at the same time, it is an uncontrollable urge. I simply MUST look at it and bathe in it's dim glow. Once I do, unbearable pain. As though all my bones are breaking, over and over. Finally, relief as the transformation is complete. I feel.... good."
"And what of the hunt?" She asked with a smile pertaining to blood lust. For lack of a better term, I believe she 'got off' on hearing stories of blood and gore.
"It is the same. I know what I am doing the entire time, and am in control, yet, compelled to do things I would normally wish not to. I still feel anger, pain, sorrow, but, it is different somehow. When I saw my sister come to town, I was drawn to her right away. I hunted her down. She tripped. Looking up at me as I stood over her, she begged me not to do it. I looked right into her crying eyes, and ripped her throat out with my teeth. Her death was slow and painful, and I enjoyed every second of it." I felt sick. My stomach evacuated it's contents into my mouth, only to be forced back down.
"And after, once my hunger was sated, realizing had transpired, I felt miserable. I howled at the moon in anguish over what I had done. Every night since I was bitten, I dream of being run down by that beast, save three. The night's of the full moon, once I have changed, I eventually slumber in wolf form, waking in the morn as a human once again. Those nights, I do not dream of being chased. On those nights, I am the hunter, not the prey. I still see her face, eyes wide in horror, tears streaming down her face as she begs me not to kill her, but I am an animal, and I slaughter her, devouring her till there is naught but bones." I had stopped crying, I simply stare at the town that was once so familiar having turned so cold, as I try to prevent myself from choking on my own heart. I wonder, if I were to eat my own heart, would I be cured?
"The worst part is that it was me. If I had been possessed by some demon or fell spirit, acting against my will, it would have been different. I did this, me. I gave in to instinct. Knowing that there are those who can control this curse makes it far worse, as I know that it can be done, yet I cannot do it."
"Do you wish to hear of life as a vampire?" Flandre asks me, which I am grateful for as it breaks the silence.
"No. I have no desire to know the innermost workings of one who murdered one hundred innocent men in cold blood. I heard their screams, the gurgling as their throats were torn asunder. If my mind was not already occupied in my slumber, I would have nightmares about it."
"It's strangely ironic. After traveling here, all the way from being bitten in Transylvania, the other side of Europe, the very witch responsible for my bite ancestor lives in the woods outside my birthplace. It is as though fate is laughing at me." I mused, sitting in a cabin formerly owned by the town eccentric, who constantly went on about demons and such until he was taken away for heresy. Having lived here previously had it's benefit, knowing the lay of the land.
"Fate laughs at us all." Flandre replied.
"No, when fate looks at you, it cries." I said sternly.
"Still upset regarding that matter on the boat?" She asked, spinning her pointer finger around in circles.
"You are childish and naive. You know nothing of subtlety! You could have lied and said you were a noble headed to England for negotiations, but you simply had to boast and incite that contest. We are not here to make money, we are here to deal with a witch!" I was angry. Very much so, and was almost to the point of yelling.
"Ah yes, but because of that, we have this, which will make the task far easier. One does not simply slay a witch without armament." She said, taking out a bag of coins, the very same as she got from the captain before she butchered him and his entire crew.
"So, is that all a man's life is worth to you? Two gold coins each? Because of you, one hundred hearth's will be dark this winter. One hundred families will feel the chill of the cold, and the pain of hunger, not just this season, but every one hereafter. You recall how the vampire who slew your family ruined your life? You are no better than him. With the pain and misery you have caused, you deserve death."
"HOW DARE YOU!" She began to ream. "I come on this venture to assist YOU, and you speak with nothing but scorn for my method. Fool! You should be humble and accept my aid without qualm!"
"I am not a fool as you claim. I know full well that the reason you followed me was not to aid in my success, but to ensure my failure. You ENJOY being an evil, vindictive, manipulating hellspawn. It is inconceivable that you would give up your immortality because a simple song I played reminded you of times long gone. Those songs were ones of misery, not of joy and fond memory. We are parting company HERE. Leave me be fell creature, I do not wish to be in your company any longer."
"Then you will die here. I will enjoy feasting on your blood." She smiled, showing her fangs, her features becoming distorted and her wings sprouting from her back. The sight was unnerving, and I could feel her malice. I was about to turn and run, but I remembered my preparation.
"What was it you said previously? That locked in a cage with a feral werewolf, even you could fall? You do not know what tonight is, as you did not have wolves at your call at the estate, and so you have not kept track. I however, always know. It has been exactly 28 days since I first appeared at your castle. This old cabin in the woods belonged to a very superstitious man, rightly so as the witch Moira lives nearby, although I did not know it previously. You did not notice while you slept, but during the day, I hung several holy objects around the house which I found in the chest at the foot of your bed, one at every entrance, as well as in the rafters. I can leave, you cannot."
I banged the back of my fist on the window I stood by, causing the shutters to open. Behind me hung a Star of David from above the window sill, and behind that, the full moon, in all it's glory. I caught a glimpse of it in the corner of my eye, and I felt it's pale light on my skin as I began to change. The vampire in my company was severely weakened by the divine relics scattered about, while I was not affected at all. The pain was unbearable, the snapping and shifting of bones. My hair began to grow, and I could feel the tail sprouting from my back.
"Remind me once again who the fool is?" I asked as my speech turned into a deep, throaty growl, tears escaping my eyes from the pain of my shifting form.
"Why didn't you simply kill me with a stake through the heart, instead planning all this?" Flandre asked, looking a little bit afraid. She knew what was about to happen, and wasn't confident anymore as she knew I had out played her in my preparations.
"Because, you look just like my sister. I do not have it in me to kill you. The wolf does." The deep growl turned into a howl as the transformation completed. Trapped in a room with a very angry werewolf, unable to use her magic or escape because the house she was contained in was adorned with crosses and the like, Flandre was scared beyond any measure. I could smell her fear, and it was wonderful. She stood there with quaking eyes, helpless as the divine power within the house sealed away her evil. She knew what was about to happen, and given what she had done, she knew what awaited her in the afterlife. Placing one paw on each of her cheeks, I let out a terrible roar as I turned her head around and around, twisting it till the flesh and sinew tore, ripping it off. Her blood did not spurt out, as her heart did not beat. Instead, it simply poured out slowly. I dragged the body and head outside so when the sun came out, it would turn her to ash. I did not eat her, as frankly, she smelled of decay.
'Now, I will need new clothes. Luckily I am always prepared and have spares in my trunk. Time to go for a run.'
I began to run through the woods outside, and it was glorious. The cool night air, the light of the moon, the scent of the woods. I was happy. I felt so good. That damned vampire was dead, and now all that's left is the witch, but not tonight. No. I will wait for the morn. I may yet convince her to free me of my curse. If not, then I will try to slay her, and pray that I can win. I hope my prayers are heard. If anything, my purging this world of Flandre could be seen as a sacrifice to the divine.
As I run, I come across a wolf pack, and they begin to run next to me. They aren't chasing me as pray, but running with me as pack members. Even though I am a werewolf, I remember where I am going, so I may find my way back to the cabin in the morning. I wonder, tonight, will I dream of sister, or will I dream of Flandre? I would very much like to have my dream of slaughter replaced by my slaying of that detestable wretch.
"Brother, please......" I awake with a start. I yet again dreampt of my sister. In the five years I have been a werewolf, I have only killed two, the second being last night. I was very luckily able to hide or bind myself during the full moons, and so I did not cause any more harm. I may have eaten several wild deer or moose during my changes over the years, but none with mind. I had hoped that in killing Flandre, my dreams would be relieved.
"If the curse is not the cause of my nightmare, then, is it my guilt? Is it that I cannot forgive myself, and that is why I forever dream of her? Is it that I fight my curse, and so each night that I do not transform, I see it over and over, as if the spirits are telling me to accept it? I do not have answers, only questions." I ponder to myself as I look around. I am surrounded by sleeping wolves, who are not at all disturbed by my presence. Several of them rub against my leg, seeing me as one of them, while others simply look with curiosity. I give them a bow and thank them for watching over me that night before I head back to the cabin.
When I arrive, I spot two large piles of ash outside. The sun indeed did it's job in disposing of the vampire's corpse, the stench of death no longer permeating the air, instead replaced by the smell of smoke, as though there had been a campfire. I enter the room, spotting the small amount of blood on the floor, I open the windows so it too is destroyed, the thick red liquid turning to wisps of black smoke. Removing my tattered and torn clothes, I put on their replacements. Opening my violin case and applying the correct care products to ensure it's continued longevity, I then place it back in it's protective case and being my forest walk to find Moira.
As I walk, I spot another cabin, much like the one I lodged in. This one however, has a foreboding about it. The very earth on which it stands is seething with evil. It makes me feel as though the shadows would spring up and tear me limb from limb were I not their kin. The way I felt at Scarlet's castle, followed by Flandre's, it does not compare in the slightest. This place is cursed. I find that various stenches hang in the air. Blood, citrus, aloe, countless other herbs.
'A witches brew. I dare not think of the concoction that is steeping within.'
I slowly approach the door, a lump building in my throat, my heart threatening to leap from my chest. I bring my hand up to it and notice that it's shaking. I ever so softly rap my knuckles on the dilapidated wood, which swings open immediately as I do, revealing a very old woman with a black tunic and hood.
"Eh, what do you want?" She said quickly, showing her annoyance. I take a moment to note her features. She looks like she'd turn to dust with the slightest touch, her crooked nose, her beady black eyes, her pallor skin. She looks like a thing possessed, probably because she is.
"Well, out with it boy!" She begins to lose her temper.
"Are you, Moira?" I ask nervously.
"Yeah, what do you want with me?" She's getting defensive.
"I... I need your help." I stutter. "Long ago, a man became a lycan by your art. Through the ages, the beast blood was passed down by bite, arriving at me. I want you to remove the curse so I can live freely." The old hag smiled wickedly. Whenever a witch smiles, it is never a good thing.
"Ah, a young wolf pup I see. Well, of course I can elp ya. It'll cost ya though." She said with a cough. At this point, a fool would say, 'I'll give anything!' Of course, I am not a fool.
"What is the price?" I ask nervously.
"Your soul." She replies.
"My soul?" I ask in disbelief.
"A long time ago, a man came to me. A cannibal. He hungered for the flesh of other men, and asked for the power to feast as his heart desired. In exchange for his soul, I granted him his request. In order to break it, I would need another. The demon within hungers. It keeps me young, but it is starved. So, what do you say? Eternity in hell for freedom on earth, do we have a deal?"
"If only I had not slain the vampire Flandre, I'd have her give you hers. She's doomed to hell anyways. It is my soul I seek to save. What is the point of being free of my curse only to be damned? I decline."
"Very well, then live forever with the guilt of having slain your loved ones!" She says with a cackle as she turnes around and begins to close the door.
'That bitch! She knows exactly who I am, and is taunting me with it! I knew it would come to this. Her strength is her magic. I should be able to overpower her, especially with this.' Once she is turned around, I pull a wooden crucifix from my pack, with the end sharpened to a point.
"Moira." I say calmly. The hag turns to look at me, only to be met by a sharpened cross, which now protrudes from her chest.
"What?" She asks, her beady eyes opening in surprise.
"You honestly thought that I'd walk away after this, simply live with myself? I swore that I'd be cured. I have already slain a vampire who looked just like my sister from all those years ago, why would I have any trepidation in slaying you as well? I will not exist in this world as a lycan any longer!" Blood shot from the wound, splattering on my garb. She coughed up more onto my face. I backed away with a satisfied smile. She looked down at her wound with horror, grasping the spike in her chest and pulling it out. She smiled as she coughed up more blood.
"Fool. Your curse is no mere hex, it was bought with Loupin's very soul. It was my master's magic, not my own. With my death, you will not be free, you have instead lost your only cure." She cackled even as the life slowly drained from her body, more blood spurting out of her wound each second.
"Then I will settle for vengeance." I said with a scowl.
"If you refuse to exist in this world as a lycan, then I will send you to another! I know not where, it may even be hell itself! You will rue the day you tried to spite a witch!" She muttered something under her breath, the words hanging in the air and sounding foul. I found myself surrounded by a strange red glow as the world began to turn dark. As she died, she did so with a smile on her face.
'Fine, I grow weary of this world. I may die, but I no longer care. Wherever I go, Lord, I beg of you that it is pleasant, you know all too well my suffering. May the act of slaying this evil be penance for my sins.' I prayed. I wasn't an overly religious man, after all, being cursed tends to wane the faith greatly, but I still had my moments. Then again, if you weren't a believer, you'd be burned for heresy, so even if you were more relaxed about it, you had to put on a bit of a show. This wasn't a show. I was being sincere.
I opened my arms wide in acceptance of what would happen to me. I could not be cured by wolfsbane, as the curse had already been settled. I could not be cured by eating the heart of the wolf that bit me, as it was ash. I could not be cured by slaying the witch that was responsible, as the magic came from her demon master and not the witch itself. Fine. I will be a werewolf. I only hope whatever world I arrive in will be more tolerant of my circumstance and not hunt me like an animal, and that I can learn to control it.
"Mother, father, sister, I'm sorry. I've failed you. I brought about your doom, and could do nothing to end my curse. At least the one responsible is now paying for their crimes. In place of salvation, justice. Forgive me." Then, I black out.
"Did you feel that Luna?" A tall white horse with a horn and wings asked a smaller dark blue one, both their chromatic manes blowing in a nonexistent breeze.
"I did indeed, though I know not what it was." The smaller one asked.
"It seems to have passed, but for the moment, I felt darkness looming."
"Yes, it was a magic most foul. I do hope it does not interrupt the Nightmare Night festivities."
I awake with a start. I did not dream, as I was not sleeping, rather, knocked unconscious by the spell. Looking at my surroundings, I find that I am in a forest very similar to what I was in previously, although lacking the demonic evil which permeated the other.
'Well, at least I am not in hell.' I think. Glancing around the forest I am in, it is quite dark, despite the sun being up. The trees boughs cover the entire sky, allowing very little light, and above that, I can tell that there are extremely thick clouds covering nearly the entire sky, as though it were perpetually in preparation of a rainstorm.
"In my benefit, if I were to stay here, the moonlight would not reach me. Perhaps the thick of this forest is a blessing in disguise? While I would be compelled to find it, I would most likely fail given the circumstance. I shall wait the phase, then try to find town the following morn." I was oddly satisfied at having slain Moira and Flandre. It was inconceivable to me how others could not feel their presences from afar, but then again, neither could I until the fateful night I was bitten.
I travel for a bit, passing by countless trees and bushes. They all look the same, and if not for my lycan sense of direction, I would have gotten lost quite easily. Doesn't help that I was lost to begin with, but at least I was not lost in regards to where I had been originally. I could also hear sounds in the nearby thickets, and catch a glimpse of something or other darting between them. I was being watched by the woodland animals, but I am used to that treatment. After all, what animal in their right mind would sit next to a wolf, save for another?
The sun is setting. It is the second night of the full moon. Tonight, then the next. If I could survive here in these woods for two nights, then I would be safe to find town the next, if civilization even existed in this place.
"Well, this place may be a little creepy, but it has it's charms."
"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" I yelled as I ran through the woods as fast as my legs could carry me. I happened upon a strange beast with the head of a chicken and the body of a serpent. It had looked straight at a deer, at which point, the deer turned to stone. It then turned to me and began it's pursuit with razor sharp claws.
'I was mistaken, I HAVE been sent to hell.' I thought as I ran. I did not dare look back, partly fear of the creature pursuing me, and partly as I did not wish to spend my life as a statue. Brambles and thickets lashed out against my legs as I bounded through the woods, doing my best not to fall as I would break my precious instrument and then be eaten alive by the monster chasing me.
'For once in my life, I need the blasted moon, and I cannot find it due to tree and cloud cover! I can feel it there, but I cannot touch it's light!' I thought as I ran. I didn't look back, but I could hear the beast closing in. This would be the end. Then, it seems fortune had not forsaken me entirely, as I heard in the woods a great howl, which I promptly returned.
"Aaaaaaayeeeeeeeeeeoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo." I stopped in my tracks and called to the heavens. By the sound, I could tell that the beast chasing me had stopped as well, probably curious as to why I had given up fleeing. Then I heard it, a scuffle of leaves, the sound of paws. Wolves. They had come to my aid. Or not.
To my surprise, these were not wolves, but some form of wooden construct that had taken that form. I was expecting assistance against the fiend behind me, but wound up in the middle of a pack of not-wolves. The chicken-headed beast behind me fled the scene at their greater numbers, who then encircled me, growling and barking.
"Excuse me? Who do you think you are? Do you have an inkling of understanding at just who you are barking at?" I said sternly. I'd come across wolves before, and while most were pleasant, sometimes I'd have to assert myself as the pack leader. These apparitions looked at me strangely, then continued their barking and growling. They began circling around me, getting ready to go in for the kill.
'Blast, seems they aren't actually wolves. I was hoping that would work. What's that noise?' I turned to hear a number of clanging pots and the voice of a very elderly woman say, 'The timber wolves are howlin!' in an accent I did not recognize. Then I realized. Wolves made out of tree branches. Timber wolves. A pun? How quaint. At the sound of the clanging, the wolves shy'd away, running back into the forest.
Making my way to where I heard the voice coming from, I noticed a very large apple orchard, with a barn in the distance.
"So, there is civilization here. Good." I was about to make my way towards it when I noticed that the thick tree boughs had ended, and with them, the cloud cover. I couldn't just go to the farm. Even if I could abstain from gazing at the moon, I would certainly be caught in it's light, and I had no desire to massacre my saviour's family. I gently laid my precious violin case against a tree, next to my travel bag, covering the pile with my shirt and tunic. I would have removed my trousers to prevent them from being damaged as well, but that was pointless as they had already been ruined by the thorns of the thicket.
'Why am I always ruining my pants? I only have two more pairs." I said to myself as I looked at the full moon from the treeline. The familiar pain of snapping bone and popping joints filled my body, prompting me to wail in pain. Slowly, my wailing turned to a howl as I felt relief.
'Feels so good. Now, to get something to eat. I'm starved, and would rather not snack on townsfolk.' Running back into the woods, leaving my valuables hidden at the treeline, I make a note of where I'm going so I can return there in the morning. Being in wolf form is strange. It's liberating. The problem is, it's liberation from oneself, one's inhibitions. As a person who always keeps myself under control, always performing with civility and according to conduct, my inhibitions are my closest friend and ally.
As I run, I come across the stone deer. I made my way back here far faster than I thought. I notice next to the petrified deer are two more. A doe, and a buck. They are looking sorrowfully at their lost family member. They are distracted, so they don't even see me coming. I dive at the pair, beheading the foal with my claws as I sink my teeth into the mother's neck. I rip meaty chunks away and devour them. I savour the taste as their blood runs down my jaw, coating my fur.
After eating my fill, I spot another creature, the very same as the one I fled not 2 hours ago. I shut my eyes, going by instinct, sound and smell. As I charge, it notices me, and clearly seeing itself outmatched, it flees. I chase it, just as it chased me. It is fast, and I pursue it for about a half hour by my estimate until it appears to tire. Just as it slows, it flies up a tree to escape. Not having given up, I simply rip the tree out of the ground by the roots and slam it to the ground, ejecting the creature from it. While it is disoriented, I bash it with the tree in my powerful arms before dropping the massive log, charging up to it and clawing at it, leaving a nasty gash across it's chest. It claws me across my left eye, leaving a trio of scratches on my face but my sight unscathed. I then dig my claws into the gash in it's body, feeling the delicate lung tissues be punctured by my razor sharp talons. I then rip the creature in half, it's blood and gibbets are strewn everywhere, coating my fur. I let out a roar in victory, a roar which shakes the trees themselves.
After I gain control of my bloodlust, I begin my return to the place where I placed my belongings. Coming across a river along they way, I roll in the frigid late October waters, cleaning myself of the blood and gore that cakes my body. I shake myself off, brushing my soft, light grey fur. I dispose of my trousers, as they are shredded from my running and covered in blood. I will not be needing them any longer. Drinking from the river to clean my mouth, I return to a ways away from my stash, gather some sticks and leaves, and lay down to sleep. I spot a shooting star.
'Why not? It couldn't hurt. I wish to be free of my curse.'
'I am sorry, but I cannot do that. I know not your curse nor the method of breaking it.' I hear thoughts in my head, thoughts that are not my own. At first, I believe I am losing my bearings on reality, but stranger things have happened. When one is a werewolf, who has met and slain both a witch and a vampire, they do not question such trivial things.
'Then I wish to be rid of the nightmares that plague me.'
'That, I can do.'
I passed into sleep, where I again dreampt of my sister. This time however, was not of slaughter, but of joy. She had been brought into father's store for her first instrument. She walked around, running her hands over them, something she normally wasn't allowed to do. Finally, she stopped by the lyre. She plucked it's strings, and a smile appeared on her face. She began to play, and we all joined in. She wasn't very good, obviously having just picked it up, but nevertheless, we all had fun. The look of joy on her face was priceless. She did everything with that lyre. She practically slept with it.
'A lyre for Lyra. Fits perfectly.' Father said. She played in the music festival with us. Her beaming face brought joy to the entire town. She had been wanting to take part in the weekly session with the other minstrels for years, and finally could. They were all overjoyed to welcome her, as they too had been looking forward to the time when she could begin to play. That was also the day I first set out as a traveling musician. I told her I'd be back in a few months, and if she practiced hard and got really good, in a few years she could come with me. We all had a good laugh as I said my goodbyes and set out with a caravan.
"Sister." I said as I awoke, not shaking or screaming, but crying tears of joy. Fond memories welled up inside me, begging to be set free. I walked naked through the woods, a common occurrence as my clothes usually got torn off when I transformed, and I had not always been lucky enough to strip before I changed. Finding my stash where I had left it, I quickly donned yesterday's shirt and travel tunic, as well as a new pair of pants. I gathered my belonging and headed to a clearing within the forest I had spotted previously.
'I will not ruin this pair, as I only have two left.' I thought as I walked carefully to avoid thorns and brambles. My mood could not be felled. Having been freed of my nightmares by the mysterious voice in my head, I felt the best I had in years. I knelt and gave thanks to whomever had been with me last night. While I may not be religious, I give thanks when thanks is due, be it to nature, man, a pack of wolves that kept me warm at night, or a strange voice in my head. I found the clearing and sat upon a rock in the center. The sun shone down on this little grove, green grass grew, a quaint little river, and some deer and bunnies frolicked.
"It's almost as if the trees themselves cause the clouds. What magic holds sway over these woods?" I ask to myself as I removed my instrument from it's case, inspected it for damage, followed by giving the bow the same treatment. I brought it into position, resting it at my neck, and began to play a song.
I began plucking the strings to begin, followed by drawing my bow. The animals in the grove stopped what they were doing and began to cautiously approach me. I paid them no mind and closed my eyes as I continued to play. For several minutes, I could hear the cautious approach of animals as they came from their dens and warrens to listen to me play. Being surrounded by nature, playing a song only for myself, I felt peace for the first time in what felt like ages. Opening my eyes at the end of the song, I found a multitude of woodland creatures sitting in a circle around me, listening intently. Squirrels, rabbits, possum, various birds, all taking up positions around me. Strangely, they were all silent, and they did not run in fear. Animals were never silent unless they are afraid, and if they feared me, they would have simply run away. It was as though they wished for me to play again, and were waiting patiently for me to begin.
"Another? Very well, if you insist." I began to play again. The animals began to dance in a circle around me. It was the strangest behaviour I had ever seen in wildlife, which made me once again think of the magic that has taken hold in this land.
'It is almost as if nature itself is dancing. Whatever magic this is, it is neither demonic nor fell in nature or purpose. Is this the work of ancient druids, wiped out in the crusades long ago?'
"Angel, wait! Where are you going?" A yellow pegasus with a pink mane, (oh for goodness sake you know who it is) chased after her pet rabbit who ran into the forest. The forest was a dangerous place, even during the day, and she worried for his safety. While the rabbit would normally never set foot within, he seemed determined to enter today, and ran headlong down the forest path, his worried owner in close pursuit.
"Wait, what is that?" Fluttershy tilted her head, perking one of her ears up to hear more clearly. Angel had stopped as well, as if beckoning her to follow him and explaining that this is what he was chasing after at the same time. The pair walked slowly through the woods, hearing the song. It made their hearts light, despite the dark mood the forest gave. They carefully walked towards a clearing, where the music seemed to be coming from. Fluttershy hid in the bushes at the treeline so as not to be spotted, but Angel ran straight in and joined a kind of wildlife conga line that was in a circle around the boulder in the center. Seated on the rock sat the strangest creature she had ever seen. It looked like a monkey, but with far less hair and far better posture. It wore clothing and was playing an instrument, a violin if she recognized it properly. She could not see it's face, as it's back was turned to her. Her eyes widened in horror as Angel hopped right up on to the unknown creatures shoulder. She didn't know if it was dangerous or what, and she didn't like the unknown. Well, it was an unknown, until it spoke in the softest and most caring voice she had ever heard besides her own. The way he spoke also sounded somewhat like Rarity.
"Yet another song? Surely you have grown tired of them by now? No? Very well, but only one more. After this, I must be on my way."
I began to play again, at the behest of a small rabbit on my shoulder. He slowly swayed with my tune. When the song was done, he scampered off into the woods. I paid him no mind. I had played in forests many times before, but never have I had the woodland creatures as a captive audience. I stood, giving a bow to the animals before me from atop my rock. I packed up my belongings and began to walk back into the woods.
"Wait." I heard a voice call from behind me. I turned around and did not see anything, although I did hear a soft 'eep'.
"Is, is anyone there?" I ask softly. I do not receive a response.
'Mind playing tricks on me. First, thoughts that are not my own, now I'm hearing voices in the woods. Perhaps it is a dryad? I have heard legend of the tree spirits, although it is thought they had died out long ago with the druids of Stonehenge.' I muse to myself as I walk deeper into the woods. When I transform tonight, I do not wish to be anywhere near the edge of the forest, as the townsfolk may wander in. I know of several men who hunted wolves in the woods outside Blackwater whenever they heard them howl. Men who one day never returned. I will use the opening in the sky above the clearing for my moonlight. I do not wish to be set upon my monsters like last night, helpless as I was.
The next night passed without incident. The forest life avoided me, and with good reason. I assume that there is very little in these woods that can stand against me under the full moon. I am confident. Having a safe place away from prying eyes to store my belongings and transform is always pleasant. More than once I have returned to find a would be thief. Thankfully I was able to contain myself enough to let them escape. By 'contain myself' I mean rip boulders out of the ground and slice trees in half instead of the thief. Killing them was not needed, for I would be on my way at dawn. My dreams were joyous again, thinking back on my journey before it all happened. Fine dining in the court of a french nobleman. He had been recently married, and threw a grand feast. Tragedy befell them soon after. Why is it that whenever man is happy, fate can not simply leave well enough alone?
When I woke, it was raining. I always liked the rain. It was my muse. It calmed me. Even in my lycan form, I found that I had the most control over myself in a downpour. I would usually store my belongings in a hollow tree, wrapping my irreplaceable instrument in my other, less valuable things, followed by a burlap sack. It would not do to have the roaches feast on the finely carved wood of my violin. Peals of thunder came forth, and I saw a very strange sight. Apples, which had as of yesterday not yet ripened, were struck by lightning. Instead of the tree cracking, the lightning arced between the trees. As suddenly as the storm started, it disappeared. The apples themselves became rainbow in colouration and began giving off a multicoloured aura. It was by far one of the most beautiful sights I had ever seen. It was also confusing beyond all measure.
"What magic is this? These apples are certainly not natural. I can sense the magic in the air, yet, it is not the same as the dark sorcery of the wicked." I reach for an apple, then pull back my hand. If they are indeed the result of witchcraft, it is unknown what effect they might have. I do not wish to invite another curse upon myself. Then again, they are beautiful, and while they smell of magic, it is not the foul stench of witchery, but a pleasant aroma. I contemplate what the smell of joy might be before taking one in my hand and biting into it.
"I am not in hell as I thought, I am in heaven!" I have become accustomed to my thoughts sometimes escaping my mouth of their own accord, which I attribute to a life of solitude. They were by far the best apples in existence. Disregarding what joy smelled like, I was sure this was what joy tasted like. I went about picking as many as I could hold in my bag, eating several of them as I went along. I devoured them quickly, yet also carefully as I did not wish to waste any piece of this gift from the gods, nor stain my garments.
After packing my things, I began down the path towards the orchard I had seen previously. I smelled, hay, grass, apples, sugar, freshly tilled earth, and flowers of a great variety. I saw a sign labeling the farm as 'Sweet Apple Acres'.
"Seems rather, cozy. This must be where that elderly woman from the other night lives. I should thank her." I still had the 200 gold coins from the ship. Although it was blood money, it would be foolish to simply let it go to waste.
"First things first. I must find out where I am. The thanks will have to wait. Besides, farm folk would be busy with the harvest this time of year, I would hate to intrude on them. All Hallows Eve is also in three days. They are probably preparing for their harvest ceremony."
Walking down the path towards the town, a sign hangs at a crossroads. The way I came, 'Sweet Apple Acres', another path towards the forest, 'Everfree Forest', and finally, towards the town, 'Ponyville'."
"Ah, then the Everfree is the name of those woods. Probably due to it being untamed. Ponyville, as in miniature horses? Perhaps ponies are sacred in this culture. I have heard tales of India to the far east, where cows are deemed to be gods. Perhaps this is similar?"
After first checking myself over to ensure I am presentable, I notice that while I should have a scar over my left eye, I do not. That had been the first time anything had been able to injure me in my lycan form. I had been injured several times before as a human, but following my transformations, all wounds disappear. Another benefit, still not outweighing the cost. I notice that there is varying architecture. Many buildings have thatched roofs, others have shingles, and others still plain wood. I spot several buildings with what I believe to be Victorian style, although slightly different. Then, another building completely befuddles me. It appears to be literally made of sweets, not the kind the local children would eat, but pastries fit for royalty.
'I assume that is a bakery, although that is quite an odd means of advertisement, shaping the building to proclaim what is sold within.'
I finally begin my approach. One theme seems consistent throughout. Ponies. Pony statues, pony fountains, pony shaped door knockers. The houses are also somewhat smaller than what I am used to, although I have seen many with similar size, I simply have a tall 6 foot build. Most others, save the blacksmith, lumberjack, and farmer families, are around 4 foot. It is easy to tell who performs hard labour and who is blessed with fortune by family. Those who exert themselves also eat heartily, and so grow taller than his kin. I am no exception. Hauling the wood my luthier father used to craft his instruments left me with quite an appetite, though nothing compared to after I was bitten. This was somewhat unfortunate.
As those with wealth would often spend it to spare themselves labour, they had a shorter, stockier build. Being portly meant you had money to waste on food, and made you attractive. The slender and muscular men, such as myself, were seen unfavourably. If we had that form, it meant we had to work hard, and thus were poor. Those with wealth could afford not to strain themselves. This meant that while none but the farm women would set their sights on me, upon learning that I was a musician, a member of 'high society', they would be turned off. They wanted one who would carry the farm on his shoulders, not a violinist. At least this meant when destiny scoffed I did not have a wife or children to slaughter. It made going on the run easier. Of course, it was never easy. Perhaps I could make a new life for myself among the pony worshipers.
"If any of them would come out." As I walked through the town, I noticed something disturbing. There was not a soul in sight. I would momentarily spot something, a shadow in the clouds, but I dismissed it as nothing.
"It's not deserted, as the town has not fallen into disrepair. Was there a plague recently? No, the windows would be boarded up. It's as though they left mere minutes before my arrival. Then, they are hiding from me? Is it my stature, or, do they already know what I am? While I am lost in thought, I bump into something.
"My apologies, I was lost in thought an....." I am looking at a pony, light bluish gray, a blond mane. The most striking feature however, is not even it's crossed eyes, but the fact that it is flying. It has wings.
"Oh, sorry about that. I'm always running into something or somepony." It said. Forget the fact that it was flying. It spoke.
"I, I have gone mad."
"Hey, there's no need to be mad. I said I was sorry! Yeesh." The pony replied.
"No, what I mean is that I've lost my marbles."
"Oh, so you're upset that you lost your marbles. I could help you look for them!" She didn't seem to understand what I meant.
"No, no, you don't seem to understand. I'm not angry, and I haven't lost anything. It's a phrase meaning, 'I have gone insane'." I tried to explain.
"Oooooooooooohh okay. Wait, why are you insane?" She asked.
"Because I'm looking at a pony...... who is flying.....and talking."
"Well of course, I mean, I am a pegasus! I mean, you're IN Ponyville. Why wouldn't I be able to talk? You're weird. At least you're nice."
"Excuse me for a moment, I need to sit down." I carefully placed my instrument on the ground before I sat down hard. I closed my eyes.
"Alright. When I open my eyes, I will wake from this dream, and everything will be normal." Upon opening them, I was staring into a pair of crooked yellow ones.
"You're funny. Sleeping during the day, in the middle of the street. That's silly. Oh, by the way, I'm Ditzy Doo, but everypony just calls me Derpy." She was quite whimsical. I know the word Ditzy, which describes her fairly well from what I know of her. I'm not sure what 'Derpy' means.
"Charmed." I reply.
"Charmed? That's a nice name! Do you do magic?" She asked excitedly.
"No, I mean, I'm charmed to meet you, my name is... Lark. As for magic, I suppose you could call it that, although it's not really a matter of a performance as much as it is an occurrence." I was not going to tell this Ditzy Doo character that I'm cursed.
"Lark, as in the bird? That seems silly since you don't have wings. It sounds like you can't control your magic. Hmm, Twilight should be able to help with that!" She was enthusiastic to say the least. Although her speech was crude, it was not as though she was uneducated. It was almost as though the dialect was meant to say what the speaker was trying to say quickly and with little room for confusion, as though the language had developed based on efficiency.
"I highly doubt that. Who is this, 'Twilight' you speak of? An enchantress of sorts?"
"Well, yeah, I mean, she's a unicorn so of course she can do magic. She's really good at it! She lives in the Ponyville library. It's over there!" She spun around in a circle as though looking for it, before she pointed at a large tree.
"That is a tree......."
"Well duh! The library is inside the tree!" She smiled.
"That seems....... never mind. Actually, I think I'd rather not meet her at the moment."
"But, why not?" Ditzy asked.
"Well, I don't suppose you've noticed, but all of the other......"
"Ponies." She picked up on me stumbling with the word.
"Yes, ponies. They seem to have had an adverse reaction to me. If this 'Twilight' is as skilled a sorceress as you claim, it's reasonable to assume that I would be in a great deal of pain the moment I step through her door."
"Ooooh, yeah. She does tend to go a bit crazy now and then. Um, maybe we ought to wait until you're settled in better?" Ditzy suggested.
"That sounds like a wonderful idea. Once everyone..."
"EveryPONY" She corrected.
"Right... okay. Once every......pony has adjusted to my presence, and there is no longer any need for alarm, it will be far easier to deal with a slightly mad witch."
"That's not very nice." She pouted.
"Pardon? Did I say something offensive?" I was confused.
"You called Twilight a witch. She's not mean at all. A little obsessive, but not mean....." She explained.
"I don't understand. Oh, it seems there's been a misunderstanding. Witch is the term used to describe magic users where I am from."
"Oh, IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII get it. You mean the actual meaning of witch. Geez, what are you, from the 1800's? Nowadays if somepony calls you a witch they're saying that you're mean." My pegasus guide cleared up the misconception.
"What do you mean 1800's? Am I in the future? That's nonsense!" She looked back to me. Even with her crossed eyes, I could she was trying to figure out if I was being sincere.
"What's the date today?" She asked. "Day, month, and year."
"Why, it's October 25th, 1762. Why do you ask?"
"Because today is October 25th, 2010. Oh my gosh! You're a TIME PONY! Oh, wait, no, that's not right. You're not a pony. What are you? Are you a naked diamond dog or something?" She began hopping around excitedly before stopping to ponder.
"Well, no. As you can see, I'm fully clothed, and I am not a hound in any wa...... no. I am not a diamond dog, whatever that may be. I am a human." I didn't like lying to Ditzy, as she was my first companion who wasn't trying to eat me in a very long time, so I settled on not telling the entire truth, rather than a complete fabrication.
"You mean like those things Lyra is always going on about? Oh wait, you just got here, so you don't know Lyra. She's always going on about 'human this' and 'human that' how you're not a myth and hands and how everything we have was originally made by them and yaddi yaddi yadda. It get's really boring sometimes having to listen to her you know?" I simply nodded. I had been polite enough to pay attention while she rambled, my eyes opening in shock from the name.
"D...D.... did you say...... Lyra?" I began to have tears flow from the memory.
"Um, yeah, why?" She inquired at my sudden drop in mood.
"I, had a sister, named Lyra........." I responded, my eyes betraying me and allowing the salt water to flow from them.
"What do you mean had, as in past tense....... oh. Oh I'm so sorry." She began to pat me on the back with her hoof which was surprisingly soft instead of hard as it should have been.
"Perhaps it would be best for me to..... avoid her to prevent any.... awkwardness." I suggested meekly.
"Yeah, it wouldn't be very good for her to talk your ear off." I was hoping that was a metaphor and it didn't involve me actually losing my hearing.
"Oh! I know!" She suddenly had an idea and perked up immediately. "We should bring you to Sugarcube Corner! Pinkie Pie always throws parties for the new ponies in town so they get to meet everypony and make friends! If you did that, then you could cheer up and nopony would be afraid of you anymore! Then you could solve your magic problem!"
"Yes! A social gathering of sorts! That would be excellent! Perhaps I could perform and earn some money as well! Wonderful idea!" I gave Ditzy a gentle hug, having momentarily broken from my usual method of conduct due to my momentary emotional instability.
"Ah, sorry, not sure what came over me. I usually don't act as such." I said trying to hide my blushing shame.
"Oh don't worry about it! Everypony is really friendly! I'm sure they'll love you!" She replied enthusiastically. I'm not sure what it was about this quirky pegasus, but she put me at ease. I felt, calm, around her. Like nothing bad had ever happened ever. Of course, it had, but for some reason, in her presence, the thing that had never escaped my mind once for the past five years slowly began to drift away. I began to wonder if all these ponies would have that effect.
"Pinkie Pie? Are you there Pinkie Pie?" Ditzy tapped the door of the bakery with her hoof. It was even more absurd looking from up close.
"NO! Nopony's here!" A high voice yelled very seriously. Ditzy suddenly looked down.
"Oh, I guess she's not home." I looked at her incredulously.
"What?" She asked.
"She clearly IS home and is lying to avoid something, presumably me."
"Oh..... oh well, I guess she just WON'T GET TO THROW YOU A PARTY." She yelled the last part at the door before we kept walking.
"Oh, Pinkie Pie loves throwing parties. I hoped that would coax her out." Ditzy explained.
"Well darn, now how am I supposed to get my muffin? Oh! We've been walking for a while, you must be hungry." The thought suddenly donned on her.
"Actually, I am quite satisfied. I have several apples here. In fact, I was hoping to ask you about them." I opened my bag and showed her ten or so of the rainbow fruit.
"Oh! You have zap apples! Yummy!" She picked one up in her hoof, do not ask me how given that it doesn't have graspers, and proceeded to eat it.
"Where'dja get deese anyvay? I tot I wuz da ferst puny you saw." She said with her mouth full.
"It is considered rude to speak with your mouth full, as others cannot understand you." She swallowed hard.
"Oh, sorry. I asked where you got them from. I'm the first pony you saw, but you only could have gotten these from Applejack's farm."
"Applejack's farm? You mean, the orchard, Sweet Apple Acre's, on the edge of town?"
"Yeah. If you didn't see her then..." She gasped. "Did you STEAL them?"
"NO! No no, I never.... I found them in the wood. They just, appeared, when the trees got hit by lightning." I defended myself. Last thing I needed was all these ponies thinking I was a thief.
"You mean you were in the Everfree forest? What were you doing there! It's dangerous in there!" She looked genuinely concerned.
"Yes, I am quite aware that it is dangerous, a fact I learned shortly after I woke up there when I was attacked by some strange serpent with the head of a chicken, followed by wooden wolves."
"You were attacked by a cockatrice AND timber wolves? You're lucky you're alive!" She exclaimed.
"Well, I'd certainly say so. That reminds me. The wolves drove off the... cockatrice you called it? And then I heard the banging of pots and the voice of an elderly woman which in turn saved me from the wolves. I must thank this.... Applejack person..."
"PONY." She corrected.
"Yes, this pony, for rescuing me, even if it was not her intent." As she flew past, I noticed some form of brand on her flank, much how cattle farmers would brand their livestock. Now that I think about it, it should have been a fairly obvious feature, the fact that it escaped my gaze I attribute to waking up in a strange place and having a conversation with a colourful talking equine. The mark on her posterior was the least of my worries. I simply dismissed it as we continued on our path towards the orchard.
Mr and Mrs Cake were huddled in the corner, desperately trying to prevent Pound and Pumpkin from crying. Pinkie was ever vigil at the window. She watched as the strange creature with Ditzy Do walked away towards Applejack's farm.
"Twitcha twitch, my nose has an itch............ trouble be he, nopony can see..... HEY! when did I start talking like Zecora?" At which the Cake twins started crying and their parents gave Pinkie a death glare.
"Well, come on scaredy cat....." Ditzy mocked me as she flew behind me, trying to push me through the gate and into the farm.
"I am not going in. Far to many times have I been attacked by farm folk over a misunderstanding. Given the circumstances, I am positive that this time will be no different. If you wouldn't mind, do you think you can find her and bring her to me, rather than me going to her and frightening everyo....pony."
"Fine." She said in frustrated defeat as she flew off in her usual clumsy manner. I did not like where this course of action was heading, so, anticipating disaster, I stashed my violin and some other things by a tree near the edge of the woods, something I had learned to do long ago when encountering a dangerous situation, something I considered meeting a farm pony in a land where everything is afraid of me to be. More likely than not, I would soon find myself being tended to by a doctor for blunt, hoof-related trauma.
"Now, Applejack, he may look scary or strange, but he's really nice and friendly. He's also shy, and he came here to say something despite him thinking you're going to hurt him. So just.... don't go bucking him okay?" Ditzy pleaded.
"I don't see why ah would. I mean, what can possibly be so bad about him that I'd....... well hello taaaaaaallllllllllllll." I saw an orange pony with blond mane as well as a strange hat. She didn't have wings, and from what I could tell she didn't have a horn either, although I could be mistaken given the hat.
"Actually, my name is Lark. Pleasure to meet you Ms?" When I offered my hand, I then realized that because I had been talking with Ditzy, who flew at face level, that I was much taller than most ponies, this one only coming up to my waist. I crouched around the same height as she was.
"Applejack." She took my hand in her hoof, again a mystery as despite the fact that there was nothing grabbing me, my entire arm was shaken vigorously until I thought that it might fall off.
"Well Derpy, when ya said he was tall, I didn't think ya meant THAT tall. He's bigger than Big Macintosh. I'd say he's about tha same height as Princess Celestia, and that's sayin somthin." Applejack released my hand, thankfully without striking me. "Now, uh, what was it you were gonna say?"
"Oh, yes, I almost forgot. Several nights ago, I found myself in the forest nearby. I was set upon by.... timber wolves.... but was saved by a ruckus of clanging pots and pans. I wanted to thank you for that, despite it not being the intention."
"Aw shucks, ya don't need ta thank me, besides, It waddn't me who dun it, it was ma granny, Granny Smith. She's asleep right now, so I'll pass it along." She replied with the pony version of a bow, or courtesy, I couldn't tell the difference.
"Well, I also wanted you to have this. I'm not sure how much a denari is worth here, but I just wanted you to know how much it is appreciated." I handed her the bag of gold coins. They were worth a fair bit, although I have no idea how much weight they would hold here. It wasn't a fortune, but it was enough for the lumber to build a barn. I still had plenty of my own money, bronze and gold coins, as well as a single silver one coated in honey which had crystallized, the purpose of which should be fairly obvious.
"Aw, no way no how can I accept that. If y'all are new 'round here you'll need that money to get yourself set up." She pushed the bag back.
"If it's my well being that you are worried about then you need not trouble yourself. I have plenty in regards to wealth that I have gathered in my travels, I insist." It wasn't a lie. On my travels I had gathered a fair amount. Playing in the courts of nobles will do that. The fact that I knew very well the value of a denari and how to make it last as long as possible meant that I had been living the past five years off the wealth I had gained in the 6 or so before, as well as making a pittance playing in the street. I pushed the bag back to her, only to have her return it to me more forcefully.
"I insist. It's really nothing at all." She looked at me for a moment before a smile came on her face.
"There's only one way ta settle this, a hoof wrastle. Whoever loses keeps the money." As far as I could tell, this 'hoof wrastle' was the same as an arm wrestle. What better way to lose money than the way in which it was gained? Oh irony, you are so sweet and yet so bitter.
"Very well. State the rules."
"What? Ain't ya ever been in a hoof wrastle before?" She asked in disbelief.
"Considering that I don't have hooves, no. Although I have experience with something similar. I just want to make sure there is no confusion."
"Fair 'nuff. Given the way ya talk, I figured you might be a pansy like Rarity. I swear, dressmakin's fine an all, but when push comes to shove, if you don't got enough push, yer gonna get shoved." She rolled her eyes. I didn't know what to make of Applejack or this 'Rarity' although given that she was a seamstress, and that each of these pony's names matched who they were, I assume Rarity to be a member of high society.
"Actually, I am a musician. That however does not by any means mean that I cannot handle myself in a fight. As a travelling minstrel, I have all too often come across wild animals and would be thieves. Carrying lumber for my instrument maker father for years means that I am in no way a pushover." She motioned me over to a stump, where she bent her foreleg in the typical arm wrestle fashion. I placed my own to match, then the bag of coins underneath where our hands and hooves met.
"On the count of three, ya try and push mah leg down on the stump, and I try ta push yours." She explained.
"And whoever wins walks away 200 denaries poorer." Ditzy just looked at me like I was an idiot. She either expected me to lose nigh instantly, probably due to the fact that I was struggling against a very strong pony, or she couldn't understand why I wanted to lose money.
"Keep in mind, I have no idea what these are worth here. This is a battle that could be over a grain of wheat or the entire field."
"On three. One. Two. THREE!"
With that, we placed pressure against each other, not pushing forward. We both knew what we were doing. Wait for the other to tire, then make a comeback. Of course, when nobody made an attempt, she began to push forward, and my arm started to fail. It ever neared the stump and Applejack began to smile.
"Well, hate to disappoint ya stranger, but it looks like you lost."
"Is that so? Oh, forgive me, I forgot that we had started." At which point I reversed it and slammed her hoof into the stump with lycan fury. The look on her face was well worth the 200 denaries I paid to see it. Ditzy fell out of the sky and landed hard on her face.
"Well, it was nice meeting you Applejack." I began to walk away from the dumbstruck pony, collecting Ditzy Do who had finally gotten back up before heading into town.
"Well I'll be, he actually beat me. I wonder where he got that burst of strength at the end, or was he holdin back all along? He's pretty strong for a such a scrawny guy. Wonder what he is? Twi's probably gonna have a hay day with him. Rarity too, given his getup. Well, let's see what my losings are." Applejack opened the bag, spotting the coins glimmering within.
"Issat, gold?" Used to only using bronze bits, the sight of gold made her more than curious. She picked up a piece of it and bit into it, tasting the metal in her mouth, identifying it to truly be gold. She spat it out and put it back in the bag. Looking at the number of gold coins that were in there, which he had just so simply given away, she began to be weak in the knees, a small amount of foam forming at her lips.
"BIG MAC! GET OVER HERE NOW!"
"Well, now that I am finished here, perhaps we should head back to town. If you were to go ahead of me and warn every...pony that I am not dangerous, then by chance they might be more willing to see reason."
"I don't think that'll work. Applejack is one of the most open minded ponies I know, and it still took some convincing. The rest of the town won't see it that way. I remember back when Zecora came to town, everypony was afraid of her because she's a zebra. You're not even CLOSE to being a pony." Ditzy replied with her head hung low. I could tell that she really wanted me to fit in.
"Well then. I guess I'll just have to let my music speak for me. After all, I AM a traveling musician. If I am unable to coax the ponies from their homes with song I may as well give up my instrument."
"Oh! That's a good idea! I haven't heard you play yet! You think you could play me a song?" She seemed happier at the thought of me playing a song."
"Why, I don't see why not, although just one, I'll be playing more once we get back to town. Let me just get my.... what? Hey! Don't touch that!" I ran as fast as I could towards the treeline to find three smaller ponies poking at my bundle. They jumped out of the way as I swept up my belongings and hid behind the trees.
"Thank goodness." I breathed a sigh of relief to find that all my possessions were very much intact. Then, looking into the woods, I spotted three pairs of eyes hiding in a bush.
'Blast, there goes another group.'
"CUTIE MARK CRUSADER MONSTER CATCHERS GO!" At the yell of all three of them, my senses picked up movement. I jumped quickly to the left and looked back at where I was to see a regular yellow pony with red mane and hair bow, an orange one with wings and purple mane that was unkempt, and a third one with a horn and light purple, two tone mane that was in a by comparison fancy style. I tapped my foot as I waited for them to right themselves from the jumbled mess they were in.
"If you want to catch a monster, shouting, telling them what you are about to do is one of the worst methods there is. Such a thing requires patience, finesse, and a stint of good luck, three things that you three are clearly lacking." I paused and noticed that they were looking quite glum.
"I apologize for startling you earlier, It's just that among my possessions is a particularly fragile object that I value highly and I would hate for it to be broken due to carelessness." Their ears lifted from their heads, a sign that they were no longer afraid but rather interested.
"I am Lark Wolfe, traveling musician extraordinaire, and you are?" I gave a sweeping bow as I introduced myself. Finally, they became excited, almost as though introducing themselves was a treat for them.
"Ahm Applebloom, I help out at Sweet Apple Acres with mah sister, Applejack, brother Big Macintosh, and granny, Granny Smith." The yellow one said with the same accent as her sister.
"I'm Sweetie Belle, I, um, try to help my sister Rarity with her dress making, but it doesn't go so well....." She said in a squeaky voice, which at the same time seemed sad. Her voice was high and slightly painful to hear, given my condition.
"And I'm Scootaloo! President of the Rainbow Dash fan club! and together, we're......" the third one paused as all three prepared.
"THE CUTIE MARK CRUSADERS! We're on a crusade to find our special talent, and earn our cutie marks!" They yelled, which to my partly canine ears was torture. I felt dizzy for a moment, and when I regained my balance they all looked at me with a sparkle in their eyes.
"I'm sorry, you are trying to earn your what?"
"Their cutie marks." Ditzy began to explain. "Whenever a pony figures out what they're supposed to do with their lives, it appears, right here." She pointed to the bubbles on her flank. "My bubbles mean I'm supposed to travel wherever the wind takes me, which means being a mail carrier suits me perfectly. That, and sometimes the wind takes me into solid objects...." She blushed.
"So, you three are trying to determine what your skills and preferences are, and once you do?"
"Then the cutie mark appears." They added.
"Well, magic I guess. It just, you know, shows up." At the mention of magic, I became a little unnerved, but then again, not all magic is evil, just the type I'm accustomed to dealing with. There is pure magic as well. It doesn't help my case on sorcery that the divine type is often used to try and hunt me. Still, I withheld my prejudice.
"Hey, you're a musician right? What's yer cutie mark?" Applebloom asked.
"Well, I don't have a 'cutie mark', although I do have a tattoo. It doesn't appear with magic on it's own. It's something I chose. It is inked into my very skin, by a method that is quite painful mind you. This ensures that we only mark ourselves with something of great meaning. I have two, actually." With that, I pulled up my sleeve and showed the group my forearm. Ditzy seemed interested as well.
"Here, on my right, a violin. I am a violinist. I have played for as long as I can remember. I made my fortune traveling from town to town, making music for various occasions. I even played in the courts of royals, believe it or not." They seemed quite impressed at that fact.
"The other is on my back, and is a crescent moon. What that symbolizes is a secret known only to me, and is something I cannot share with you." At that, they seemed downtrodden. They wanted to know what my secret was. I'm not going to tell them that the moon symbolizes that I am a slave to it, becoming a bloodthirsty monster when it is full.
"Well, I've come across five ponies so far who are not avoiding me. It's a good start. Now, where was I? Ah yes, going back to town. I have an idea that......."
"Oh for goodness sake, I can't go a single moment without being interrupted can I?" I said as I tossed my wrapped bundle to the ground to avoid falling on it as I am knocked into the dirt by the inevitable impact of the thing that was charging me. I was not afraid of my attacker, given that I had bested a farm pony that was considered to be incredibly strong rather easily. I landed face first on the path and did what everyone knows to do when attacked by a wild animal. I played dead.
"Quick you four! I've got it pinned, run away while you still can! I'll hold it off!" I heard a brash voice from on my back.
"Wow Rainbow Dash, you're awesome!" Scootaloo. "Ow!" Apparently, one of the others poked her to remind her that her idol was harming her newest friend.
"Rainbow Dash, he's not dangerous. He's nice! Just a little funny lookin is all." Ditzy Do explained.
"Uug, not now Derpy. Remember what you said about that manticore that followed you into town?" Apparently, monsters are often attracted to the wall eyed pegasus. I guess I fit the bill then don't I? I would have laughed at my own thought, but then remembered that I was playing dead.
"It's different this time! Look, he walked all through town with me, met these three, and had a nice talk with Applejack. He hasn't done anything monster-ish at all. He's just a bit lost. And from a different time period." Judging by the shifting weight on my back, 'Rainbow Dash' had turned to look at my pegasus friend. I can only assume that she was trying to figure out if she was being serious or not. Then, she fell off of me and began laughing.
"Really Derpy? A different time? That's what you said about Doctor Clockwork! Time traveling pony in a blue box, get real!" She was laughing maniacally.
"The Doctor is a very nice pony and he DOES have a magic blue box. Twilight used that time spell to warn herself, what's so hard to believe?" Ditzy defended her sanity. I was starting to wonder if I really had lost mine or not.
"Grr, true enough." My still unseen attacker grumbled, having stopped her guffaw. I made no attempt to move. She poked me in the side with her hoof. I still didn't move.
"Uh, Dash, I think ya killed it." Applebloom deadpanned.
"Lark, you okay?" Ditzy gently prodded me. She walked up to my face to look at me. I opened my eyes and then winked at her. She seemed to get the hint.
"Rainbow! He's dead! You killed him! You, you, you MURDERER!" She cried fake tears.
"Hey, wait a minute, I didn't mean...." The once confident Rainbow Dash now had her confidence fading.
"No, you didn't! You just up and attacked him out of nowhere, and now he's dead! How could you?" She yelled.
"But, but, but......" Dash seemed close to tears.
"Alright Ditzy, I think that's enough." I rolled over, still laying on the ground. Ditzy fell over laughing.
"You FELL FOR IT!" She laughed and then crashed face first into the ground. "Ow."
"Well, now that miss Dash has learned not to attack strangers, perhaps she can help me up with an apology and we can introduce ourselves proper?" I smiled an innocent smile. She stood on my chest and looked at me with a very serious face. Her rainbow mane hanging over her one eye, she blew it out of the way.
"What, can't ya get up on your own?" She looked at me questioningly.
"Not unless you apologize. If you don't say sorry or don't help me up, I'll end up laying here on the path all night." Might as well play it for all it's worth.
"Mrh, sorry." She grumbled. I sat up quickly, surprising her as she was thrown off. I dusted my cloths off and stood upright, towering over her.
"There, was that so difficult? Now, how about introductions?" She stood up, flew to meet me at face level, puffed out her chest and said,
"I'm Rainbow Dash, fastest flyer in Equestria and future member of the Wonderbolts!" Oh, just perfect, a braggart. I assume Equestria to be the nation, or perhaps the province. I do not know what the wonderbolts are, nor do I care.
And I am Lark Wolfe, musician extraordinaire." I say, once again giving a large, sweeping bow. It's my standard introduction. I unfortunately did not use it with Ditzy Do as I had been out of sorts, and Applejack had taken charge of the introduction, not leaving me a chance to do so.
"Yeah, um, I'm sorry for just attacking ya out of the blue there. I saw you with these three next to the Everfree, and I kinda figured you were a monster attacking them." She was much more hospitable after she knew I wasn't a mosnter.
'Except that you are one.'
'Why am I having an inner monologue?' I shook my head to rid myself of the thoughts.
"Ah yes, were was I? Right! I have already been through town once, and unfortunately, all the others believed the same as you did and locked themselves within their houses, even the one called 'Pinkie Pie' which Ditzy has informed me is the town welcoming committee."
"Really? Even Pinkie locked herself up tight?" Rainbow asked.
"Yep, she said she wasn't home, which is kind of silly because if she wasn't there then she couldn't say it." Ditzy added.
"Well, I do have an idea of how to coax them out. As a musician, I will play a song in the center of town. All I need of you is to be an audience. If the others see you five listening to me, then they should realize that I am no danger and come out as well."
Ditzy Do began leading the group back into town. Applebloom to my right, Sweetie Belle to my left, and Scootaloo behind so she could get a better look at Rainbow Dash, above. Essentially, they had boxed me in in a kind of convoy. If I walked into town surrounded by ponies, they may think I had been captured. If not, it would at least make me seem non threatening.
As we reached the center of town, by what Ditzy pointed out as a stage, I walked up onto it. They told me that there was equipment there that would make my music louder so that all the town could hear. There were strange black boxes, as well as a stand with something on it. Sweetie Bell said 'Testing' into it, and to my surprise, the sound was much louder than her voice. I took my violin from it's protective bundle, then out of it's case. I drew my bow several times to judge the correct distance from the 'microphone' so the sound would not be too loud or too soft. Satisfied with the distance, I looked around to see various ponies looking out from their houses cautiously. Obviously, the sound had drawn their curiosity, and seeing me surrounded by ponies, including children and one who was clearly a town defender of sorts, their desire for knowledge started to overcome their fear. I cleared my throat, took a deep breath, and began to play a song.
I watched as the land bound ponies in my group, including Scootaloo despite her having wings, began to sway with the tones. Ditzy flew haphazardly in the air, attempting grace, while Rainbow Dash performed acrobatic flips and such. I closed my eyes and lost myself in the music. Because of the 'speaker system' on the stage, my song could reach the entire town, something normally not possible with a single instrument. I too began to sway with my song. I opened my eyes again to see the trio of fillies dancing in front of the stage. I have never seen a pony dance before, so although I am not sure what is considered good, Scootaloo seemed to move with more grace than the other two.
'I wonder, are all pegasi graceful, with the exclusion of Ditzy Do?'
Slowly, the numerous ponies left their respective abodes drawn by my music and the show of dancing and flying that was going on before them. They too began to sway. Two that were clearly a pair carried crying infants with them, who stopped crying and began to listen intently when they heard my song. If music can calm the savage beast, it will perform miracles for the passive one. As I played, I found myself smiling. Strange, in five years, I had not once smiled, yet after coming to this 'Equestria' this, 'Ponyville', I had done so almost constantly. My song ended and was met with the stomping of hooves. I assume this to be their form of applause. I played three more songs before I was finally approached by 6, Rainbow Dash and Applejack being two of them, the other four, I did not know. I stored my violin and prepared to greet them.
"Rarity!" Sweetie Belle said excitedly, running towards a pristine white unicorn with a blue mane, styled exquisitely.
"Applejack!" Applebloom followed.
"Somepony has caused quite the disturbance in our little town it seems. Not that that is a BAD thing. It is quite welcome." The one known as Rarity spoke in a refined manner not unlike my own.
"I heard ya all the way over at Sweet Apple Acres. That was some fancy fiddlin ya did thar." I was slightly annoyed at her confusing my violin with a fiddle, but dismissed it. Such a conversation was not worth pursuing.
"Yeah, it was pretty good." Dash huffed, trying to act as though she wasn't impressed when she clearly was.
"That was wonderful. Oh, by the way, I'm Twilight Sparkle, this is Applejack, Rarity, Fluttershy, and Pinkie Pie. I see you have already met Rainbow Dash." The purple unicorn stated.
'Wait, unicorn? Twilight? Isn't she the crazy magician? Not good.'
"Lark Wolfe, a pleasure to meet you." I bowed again.
"Oh my, so refined. And such a stylish outfit." Rarity exclaimed, quite impressed with my manners. I had the feeling that Rarity and myself would get along quite well.
"Um, hello. Um. I'm Fluttershy......" A familiar voice said.
"Aha, so you were the one watching me from the shadows in the forest." She made an 'eep' noise and shrank.
"You must be quite skilled at concealing yourself. There is not much I miss, yet I couldn't find you. I recognize you by your voice. Did you enjoy my song?" She just nodded with a blush.
"I'm Pinkie Pie and I'm watching you buster!" A pink pony with a darker pink mane bounced and stuck her nose to mine as if to be intimidating.
"Pinkie! what has gotten into you, I've never seen you so hostile before, especially to somepony new! Not even with Zecora!" Twilight defended me verbally, the pink one suddenly being surrounded by a purple glow and being lifted through the air by it back into the group.
"Magic? Why, yes it was. It is my special talent after all." Twilight replied pridefully.
'She's not a witch, she's not a witch, she's not a witch, she's not a witch.'
"I see. Well, pleasure to meet you. I'm glad I've finally convinced you all to come out of hiding."
"If you don't mind me asking, what are you? I mean, I know you're a musician, but species." She asked.
"I am a human, well, mostly. That is actually a matter I wanted to speak with you regarding, but that is something for private conversation."
"AHA! He's hiding something! I knew it! He's nothing but trouble Twilight, I know it! My Pinkie Sense is telling me he's BAAAAAAAAD news." The pink one jumped in again.
"Pinkie Sense! When things are about to happen, I get a twitch, or an itch! Uh oh, twitchy tail!" She exclaimed, at which point all the ponies covered their heads.
"Weird, twitchy tail means something's gonna fall, I wonder why nothing did?" In her musings, she knocked over the microphone stand, casing the black ended stick to fall right in front of one of the speakers. The air was filled with a shrill, high pitched screech. All the other pony's ears went flat to their heads and they covered them with their hooves, trying to block out the noise. I became nauseated, fell to the stage floor, and blacked out.
I slowly regained consciousness, finding that I was no longer on stage, rather in a bed. Everything was white, as though the room had been bleached by the sun for far too long. Glancing around, I noticed the first thing that wasn't white. A green curtain of some kind. There were shadows on the other side, matching the forms of ponies in beds, much like my own. I lifted myself from the bed which thankfully, my belongings sat at the end. I pulled back the curtain to spy another pony, this one pure white, with a red cross on her flank. Given that the 'cutie mark' symbolizes a special talent, I assumed that this one's skill was medicine.
"Where am I?" I asked cautiously, as I knew full well that my presence tends to cause alarm.
"Ponyville hospital. You passed out on stage. You really shouldn't be up and about yet, as we don't know what caused your faint in the first place." I nearly had a heart attack when she mentioned hospital.
"I know what caused it, and it has passed. I shall be perfectly fine thank you." I replied nervously, hoping to leave as soon as possible.
"Well then, just lay there while I bring Twilight and her friends in, then you can explain it to all of us." The pony left, returning several minutes later with the group of six that had been there previously, the pink one still eyeing me suspiciously, but also looking rather guilty.
"Thank you nurse Redheart. Lark, you're looking better. Thank goodness. You had us all worried when you passed out on stage." Twilight breathed a sigh of relief.
"Ah, yes. Well, I suppose I should explain that. You see, I have very sensitive ears. When the microphone fell, whatever that dreadful noise was..... well, it was too much for me to handle. My hearing is similar to that of a dog."
"Aww shucks. The feedback from the speakers is what got ya. Winona can't stand that, and you were standing right in the middle of it. I guess we know why ya passed out." Applejack pondered.
"Pinkie, don't you have something you would like to say?" Rarity asked her friend, trying to convince her.
"Huh? I do?" Ms. Pie was ever aloof.
"Yeah. Because you were all suspicious of him, you went and knocked the microphone over and caused this whole thing! If you don't apologize, he won't be able to get out of bed." The rainbow one scolded her pink friend, referring to her own encounter with me.
"Oh. Yeah. Um. Sorry about that.........." She said, looking at the floor.
"Apology accepted. I think I have spent enough time out of sorts. I'd like to leave the hospital immediately."
"Lark, what did she mean you wouldn't be able to get up if Pinkie didn't apologize? Ditzy told me you needed help with your magic, does that have something to do with it?" Twilight asked.
"That is no magic, it's more like a code. If I am wronged by someone, I make a point of ensuring they know it. For example, I was knocked down by Rainbow Dash. I refused to move until she either apologized for her mistake, or attempted to rectify it. I find that it makes one more sensitive to the needs of others. If I had simply brushed it off as nothing, then she would not have learned her lesson about attacking strangers now would she?" Rainbow blushed while the others laughed slightly.
"That's, kind of strange...... It's funny!" Pinkie exclaimed. Then she remembered to be serious. "I still get bad vibes from you. My pinkie sense says you're trouble, and you're doing everything you can to hide it."
"And that is something I need to talk with Twilight about, in private if you don't mind? I will know shortly whether or not she will be able to assist me. I would like to wait until I have reached the library to begin."
I was discharged from the doctor's care and left the hospital immediately. I had sought a doctor once, one who claimed to have a cure. Instead, he poked and prodded me, as well as cut me open for examination. Of course, all my wounds would heal once I transformed, but that did not change the fact that the so called practitioner of medicine had used me as a test subject for about a month. He had been grave robbing, trying to piece together a new life from the dead, and needed to know how the body worked. A descendant of the great Doctor. Frankenstien, he was trying to mimic his forefather's work. My resilience meant I was perfect for examining. I went to the church while I still had my scars and reported him. For once, the righteous were for me, rather than against me. They saw to it that he was punished for his crimes. It did however, leave me with a fear of medical practitioners, and a foul taste in my mouth whenever I said the word 'doctor'.
Walking down the streets of Ponyville after leaving the hospital, thankfully not having been tested on, the streets were full of clamor, as they should be. My songs seemed to have fulfilled their purpose, and the town is no longer afraid of me. They seemed to be preparing decor of some sort.
"Ah, yes. I forgot to ask. Is there a festival of some sort?"
"Yes, Nightmare Night is in two days. Everypony dresses up in costumes, go door to door trick or treating, and get candy from the rest of the townsfolk. Then, we go to the statue of Nightmare Moon and leave candy there as an offering. It's really quite silly, as Nightmare Moon is actually Princess Luna. For the past thousand years, she had been possessed by a dark and terrible magic, and confined to the moon. She returned two years ago, when the six of us used the elements of harmony to purge the evil from her and change her to her former self." Twilight explained.
"I see. I am interested in this, although I suppose that can wait for a later time. You see, where I am from, we have a time known as Halloween. It is believed that this is when the barrier between our own world and the spirit world is the weakest. We don costumes in order to frighten the ghosts and whatnot back to the afterlife. The children go door to door wearing masks, driving the spirits out of their neighbour's houses. They say, 'Trick or Treat'. At which point the household either provides a treat in the form of sweets, or they decline, which incites a prank from the children they turned away. It's remarkably similar."
"Well then, perhaps you should join us for the celebration. Oh, but you do not have a costume." Rarity pointed out.
"Worry not, this garb, combined with a jack o lantern mask shall make for a suitable headless horseman."
"Don't you mean headless horse?" Dash corrected.
"Hmm, it seems we share more legends than it first appears. He is also known as the pumpkin king. While I would not wish to frighten any... pony away, taking part in the local festival seems to be a good way of making myself known."
"Ah agree." Applejack added.
"Well then, we're here."
Entering the library, it seemed to be a still living tree that had it's interior carved out in order to make it into a home. I had to stoop down in order to enter, but once inside, it was quite roomy, despite my larger size.
"Now, what did you want to talk about?" Twilight asked intently. Apparently, the prospect of myself, a being from a very different place, having magic intrigued her.
"Well, I'd like this to be a private conversation. It is, of some embarrassment to me." I said sheepishly. At that, all the other ponies left the library, and Twilight closed the door with her magic before bringing a parchment and quill before her in the same manner. It was something I would just have to get used to.
"Oh, before we start, I'd like you to meet Spike. He is my assistant, as well as a little brother of sorts." She called up the stairs for Spike, at which point, a small, bipedal, purple creature with scales and green spines descended.
"Spike, this is Lark. He's, well, I'm not really sure where he's from. I was hoping you'd be able to answer that more thoroughly. Lark, this is Spike, he's a baby dragon." My eyes went wide and I just about fainted at the mention of dragon. I did however, fall off the stood on which I was seated, landing unceremoniously on the floor.
"Yeah, what of it pal?" Spike asked annoyed.
"As in, giant, fire breathing, burn the village down and eat the livestock dragon?" I said with a stutter.
"Hey pal, just because a lot of dragons are like that, doesn't mean I am." The youngling scoffed at how I was acting. Then I remembered. I was treating him the same way I had been treated when I first arrived. I composed myself, stood up, then bowed.
"Ah, um, yes, forgive me. Where I am from, dragons are creatures of legend, and unfortunately none of the stories are good. I of all people should know not to judge by appearances. I'm sorry. It's a pleasure to meet you, um, Spike was it? I must apologize. I suppose this has been quite a bit of a shock for me."
"Ah, don't worry about it. Twi, was there something you needed me for?"
"Actually, me and Lark need to have a private conversation, do you think you could leave for a little bit. I'm sure Rarity could use some help." The dragon looked angry that he had to leave because of me, but at the mention of the pristine white unicorn, his mood immediately improved and he happily went on his way. I elected to not ask about it.
"Alright Lark, you keep mentioning where you are from, but I know nothing of it. Would you care to tell me?" Twilight asked, finally getting to business.
"Well, that is a very long story, and it pains me to tell it."
"It's alright, you can tell me. No harm will come to you, and everything you say I will never repeat." Now was the time. If I was to be relieved of my burden, I would have to trust. That still did not make it easy. It took me several minutes to prepare myself.
"Before I begin, I must ask, are you familiar with curses?"
"Well, of course I've heard of them, but they aren't real. They're just an old pony tale." She replied, much to my dismay.
"Well, if that is the case, unfortunately, I don't think you will be able to assist me. Alright, now, to begin. I am a wandering musician by trade. Five years ago, I traveled to the castle of a noble to play for them. I felt trepidation at the gate, which I chose to ignore. I should have heeded it. You see, within the dark stone walls resided a foul creature. Upon learning of the villainy, I fled, but did not escape unscathed. When your friend, Pinkie, claimed that I was trouble, and that I was not forthcoming about it, she was quite correct. You see, despite your lack of belief in them, I am quite cursed."
"But, that is impossible! There is no such thing as curses!" She stammered.
"And where I am from, there is no such thing as unicorns, pegasi, or talking ponies for that matter. Yet, all exist. It is ignorant to dismiss something as falsehood simply because it falls outside your area of expertise. As you are not familiar with curses, I shall not go into detail of the nature of mine. Simply put, my life has held nothing but tragedy since that moment, and so I sought to rid myself of my hex. Eventually, I found the one responsible for it. I defeated them, hoping that with the destruction of the source of the evil, I would be rid of it. Sadly, I was not. In an act of spite, the one who caused my pain sent me to another world, seemingly at random. This is where I found myself."
"Oh, I, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. You must miss your family terribly, being taken away from them like this." She wrapped her front hooves around me in the pony version of a hug. I brought my hand to my face, and noticed that a tear had escaped my eyes.
"I do miss them, but not because I was taken from them. They were taken from me." She stopped for a moment to look in my eyes, finding only sadness within them. Horror donned on her face as she realized what I meant.
"Because of me, my curse, they have all died. Misfortune follows me like a dog, always nipping at my heels. Which is why I should leave this place within the next twenty days. That is when the next instance will occur. I do not wish to bring my misfortune onto you."
"I, I understand. I have a few more questions for you, if you don't mind?" Twilight asked.
"Of course, but first, I'd like a few of mine answered. For example, who are Princess Celestia, Princess Luna, and what are the elements of harmony?"
After explaining to me how the royal sisters control the day and night cycle, how both are very powerful and that Luna had become possessed, finally being freed by the ultimate magic that is the power of friendship, I found renewed hope.
"Well, although I haven't explained my curse in any detail, Princess Luna would be the one most likely able to help me. Now, you had questions about me and my world?"
"Yes, how does magic work where you are from? You don't have unicorns, so how does it work?" I didn't have extensive knowledge on the topic, having refused to fall to sorcery myself, although I did know much more about it than the general population.
"Well, in my world, we cannot perform magic on our own. One who is skilled is speaking with spirits invites one into their body, and the spirit performs the magic. There are holy men who channel the spirits of the pure and the divine, to bring healing and prosperity to others, and then, there are witches." At the mention of witch, my face became a scowl, and my eyes became full of hate.
"There are those who are greedy and wrathful. They openly invite evil, and in return for freedom to do what they wish the the magic given to them, they give their very soul to a demon. Just as your Princess Luna was possessed by a dark magic, witches are as well. They house an evil spirit within their bodies, committing heinous acts of their own free will. One of which is bringing misfortune to others through a curse or hex, which is cast via an appalling ritual that I will not speak of."
"That's horrible!" Twilight exclaimed.
"Indeed. There are those who seek out these witches, hunt them down and destroy them and their art. They purge our world of the evil that stains it. Unfortunately, the cure to my curse that they would provide is purification by fire."
"If they were to discover that I was under a witches curse, I would be tied to a wooden pole, then burnt to ashes. It is better to die than to be the pawn of evil they would say. I however did not give up searching for a way to cure myself that did not involve death. Which meant that I have been hiding myself for five years." Twilight seemed appalled that such things could happen. Being killed because someone evil put a curse on you, none of which was your fault? It was unseemly.
"So, for five years, I traveled. I avoided places that I would be recognized, running from the inquisition, as well as from the darkness that follows me. I finally found the one who caused me this strife, and I killed her. I ended her life and sent the demon within back to the burning hells where it belongs. Even then, I was not freed. In the final moments of her life, the witch Moira cast a spell to send me to another world in retaliation for killing her. I awoke in the Everfree forest four days ago."
"I can see why you wished to speak with me privately regarding this. It's horrible, and if I were you, I wouldn't want anypony else to know either. Always on the run, your entire family...... I'm so sorry. The pain you feel on a day to day basis, it must be unbearable. Five years....." Now, Twilight wept as well. She wept for me. No one had ever wept for me. They had always turned away. She had not. I was surprised to find that the first comfort I would get would be from something that was not human.
"And now you know why I am on edge whenever there is a mention or use of magic. While I know it's not the same as that evil, it brings back memories."
"Hexes and curses. Those are not magic! Magic is something that comes from within! It comes from the hearts of those with friendship and fond memory! Caring for others! What you suffer from is NOT magic." Twilight now spoke with a fire in her heart. To her, magic was always pure and good, used for the benefit of others, never in hate or greed. To her, curses did not exist, because she outright refused to recognize them. If magic comes from being pure of heart and mind, then witchcraft, which was used to harm others, wasn't considered magic. Now I understand.
"Thank you Ms Sparkle, for listening, and for giving me hope once more. You may not be able to assist me directly, but the princesses may yet find an answer to my question, and your words have done far more good than I have seen in five long years. It is time for me to go for now."
"You don't have a place to stay." She had a sparkle in her eye.
"Oh no, I couldn't possibly intrude any further. You have already given me so much, just in an ear to listen, but I must set off immediately. The princesses may yet be able to cure me. I must head to the capitol. I assume it is the castle on the mountainside I saw upon entering town?"
"Why yes, Canterlot, although it would take you several days to arrive there, as you would not be traveling by chariot. You should wait here for a few days. On Nightmare Night, Princess Luna herself will make an appearance, and so you may ask her then. Given that what she suffered from is similar to the 'possession' you described, she should be able to help." Twilight reasoned. While that is part of it, it is not the reason why I decided to confront her. If she truly controls the moon, then she indirectly controls me. If any would have a solution, it would be her.
"Very well, I shall remain in Ponyville and participate in the Nightmare Night ceremony, and upon the princess's arrival, I shall beseech her aid. As for now, I really should find a place to sleep, and despite your offer, I should not intrude on Spike's territory. I can tell he sees me as a rival. It would make things rather awkward."
"True, maybe Applejack will have you. The two of you seemed to get along well enough." Twilight suggested.
"Thank you Ms. Sparkle."
"Please, call me Twilight."
I set off through the town towards the iconic orchard, knowing the way quite well now. Quite a difference a single day makes. Rather than running and hiding in fear, locking themselves up, the ponies stopped to wave at me, all the while with smiling faces. The cheeriness of Ponyville was a welcome change to the dreary and drab of my former life. I would love to make a life for myself here. I approached the orchard, where a stallion, who was quite large in regards to the rest of the ponies, told me to go in the barn if I wanted to speak with Applejack. I hesitated at the door, hearing scuffling inside. I prepared myself for the possible attack, ready to defend. I carefully opened the door to find the interior was pitch black.
"SURPRISE!" The light's turned on, nearly blinding me, with their sudden shout making my ears ring momentarily. After I collected myself, the previously stern pink pony was bouncing up and down in front of me gleefully.
"Hi! I know we got off to a rough start, so here, let's start over! Hi! I'm Pinkie Pie and I threw this part just for you! I wanted to welcome you to Ponyville and say sorry for being a big mean meanie pants. Were you surprised? Were ya? Were ya?" She squealed hyperactively.
"Why, yes, this was just about the last thing I expected. Thank you, Ms. Pie."
"Oh silly! Ms. Pie is my mother! Call me Pinkie!" She replied with mirth. A massive smile threatening to tear her cheeks.
"Very well, Pinkie..."
"Well! Come on! There's no reason to just stand there at the door! Come on in!"
There was a very large number of ponies mingling, chatting, and playing various games. I elected to avoid the games and instead head to the food table. I passed over the various foods, most of which seemed to be made with hay or wild flowers, before finally coming to the baked goods. Pies, cakes, and such were everywhere. I settled on a piece of apple pie and several vegetables with a creme based dip.
"So, how you liking the pie partner?" Applejack asked.
"It tastes of joy and fond memory."
"Ah, that's the zap apples. Normally, we make jam out of them, but we decided to make pies this year. That good huh? By the way, Twilight told me ya needed a place to stay, and you're welcome to lay over at the farm as long as you want. We'll just call them coins ya gave me before rent." She said happily.
"If you don't mind me asking, just how much were they worth?"
"Are you sure ya wanna know?"
"I lost them fairly, and besides, I will find out eventually, as I have a great deal more that I will need to exchange."
"Ya mean you have more?" Her eyes began to shake.
"Why yes, why do you ask?"
She whispered into my ear just how much those coins I had given her were worth, and when I told her that I had about five times that value in my coin purse, she spit out her punch in surprise.
"I assume that it's a lot?"
"Humena, he, mu, wa, uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuggggggggggg." And she fainted. Rainbow Dash came over worriedly, concerned about her friend.
"What happened?" She asked.
"Well, I had given her a fair amount of coins previously as thanks for her assisting me, not knowing how much they were worth. Were I'm from, they were worth a fair amount, although, here they are worth considerably more."
"How much more?" Twilight asked.
"Well, according to a rough estimation of value, I have one million 'bits' worth of gold in this bag." I should have remembered to keep my voice down, as everyone in the barn promptly spat out their drinks, causing several of them to become soaked in fruit juice.
"Judging from everypony's reaction, it's a lot?"
"It's enough to buy half of Ponyville........." Rarity said before she fainted.
"And she was worried when I gave her two hundred gold denaries that I wouldn't have enough to find a place to live."
"Wait, you GAVE her two hundred thousand bits worth of gold?" Fluttershy fell over on her back like the goats do when they are afraid or shocked, even letting out a small bleat as she did so.
"To be fair, I didn't know how much they were worth, but even if I had known, she did unintentionally save my life. I wanted to thank her, she refused, and so we hoof wrestled over it. I won, so she kept the money."
"That's it, you and me, right now, come on!" Rainbow Dash pulled a stool over to where I was sitting, placing her front leg on it in the typical fashion. Twilight counted down, and on three, I simply waited for a second before casually slamming her hoof to the table.
"I er, wasn't ready....." She stammered.
Beginning again, I let her push me back a little ways before overcoming her just as quickly. It was getting old rather fast. Having been beaten so easily, the blue pegasus had a look of shock on her face, as did the rest of the party.
"Well, it's a good thing you're the civilized sort. If you were some manner of monster we'd all be helpless against that kind of strength." Twilight said, causing me to swallow hard, feeling guilty for deceiving them.
"Well, enough of that! How about some music?" As I reached for my violin Pinkie put her hoof on my arm, stopping me.
"No no, we can't have you doing the entertainment at your own party! Let us handle the music!" At which point, she put on a pair of dark glasses, a hat with the brim backwards, and a chain with a large letter 'P', hanging from her neck. She stepped up to a strange looking record player, tapped different parts of it with her hooves, and music began. Various songs, such as the 'Pony Pokey' and other similar, equine related tunes were played, recorded by the phonograph with instruments I was not familiar with. As the night came, eventually those who had lost themselves due to shock had recovered and enjoyed the rest of the night. After the party ended, I began to clean up, but was halted and informed that Pinkie would perform that duty in the morn. I brought my belongings to the guest bedroom, wished the Apple family a good night, and looked up at the sky.
"Odd, the moon was full not two nights ago, and now it is already a waning crescent. Does the lunar shift occur more quickly here? Or, is it at the whim of the goddess and princess, Luna? I shall make sure to ask, come Nightmare Night."
I awoke from once again pleasant dream to find a VERY angry dog barking and growling at me from the foot of the bed.
"Winona! Cut that out! Lark here's a guest, you ought ta know better!" Applejack disciplined. The dog, Winona, winced and backed away with her tail between her legs. She clearly could tell what I was and wanted to defend her family. I let out a sigh, pulled myself together, and headed downstairs.
"Looks like ya finally got out of bed. What's the matter city slicker? Used to sleeping in late?" The orange earth pony teased.
"Actually, I believe it was the party. I am not accustomed to such..... rowdy.... events."
"Ah, yeah, Pinkie Pie'll do that to ya. Takes some getting used to."
"Eeyup." Big Macintosh replied stoically.
After breakfast which was, not surprisingly, apple products, I headed out to the orchard with Applejack.
"So partner, we gotta do some applebuckin to make up for the day we'll be taking off tomorrow. Nightmare Night and all."
"Oh yeah, I ferget that you're not from around here. We kick the trees to knock the apples from em. Like this!" She gave a grunt as she firmly planted her front hooves in the ground, spun around, and solidly kicked the tree. The apples fell from it into a basket neatly.
"Well, I suppose that would be one way to do it......"
"Go on, give er a shot." I had no idea how much effort it would take to do this. I was somewhat stronger than Applejack, but I did not have the solid surface area of hooves as she did. I kicked the tree, causing it to shake a few apples from the bough, but not nearly what she had expected.
"Aww come on, you can do better than that. Give her yer best!" She cheered. Well, she asked for it. I wound up my leg, delivering a solid kick with my shin, with as much strength as I could muster. There was a sickening crack as the apples fell, the tree being cracked at the spot which I kicked it. It leaned slightly, then gave way and fell down.
"Um, oops? At the risk of damaging more of your trees, I think it would be best if I perhaps, did NOT assist you with this task." I suggested nervously. She went running up to the downed tree.
"Oh no! Come on Leaftin, speak to me!" She spoke to the tree as if it were a dying friend.
"Applejack, that is a tree, it cannot speak." I deadpanned.
"Can I just, have a moment alone?" She looked at me with tears in her eyes. As an apple farmer, she valued her trees greatly, although this was just ridiculous. I decided not to bother her any more, went back indoors to take my violin, and set off into town towards a pony I knew I would have an understanding with, Rarity.
"Welcome to carousel boutique, where everything is..... oh hello Lark, such a pleasure to see you again. I trust Applejack was not too hard on you?" The pristine unicorn inquired about how my night was.
"Other than Winona being near violent and my accidental damaging of 'Leaftin' while attempting to harvest apples, all is well." Rarity looked at me questioningly, before remembering that her friend named her trees.
"Well, to what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?"
"Actually, I find myself with a great deal of time to waste. It seems wealth will not be a concern for me, and I was looking to entertain myself with one who has, refined tastes."
She blushed at my compliment, and motioned for me to sit. She began to chat while she worked, explaining how her sister, Sweetie Bell could make things very difficult for her, and while she loved her deeply, it distracted from her work, which needed her full attention. Finally, she revealed a dress that was absolutely COVERED in gemstones, most of which were rubies. She attempted to find my attention several times before I could tear my eyes from the piece.
"Is something wrong?"
"Are you making this dress for nobility?"
"Why, no. It's for a performing artist, who has a show in Canterlot next week."
"Such a decadent ensemble, for a mere performance?"
"Why do you ask?"
"Where I am from, the gemstones on that piece alone, given their size and number, the owner could afford an entire castle!" It may have been an exaggeration, but if so, it was only slight.
"Really?" At which point, her horn began to glow and she revealed a chest filled to the brim with the precious stones. I struggled with great difficulty to keep my composition.
"You could buy half of Europe with these!"
"Well, it seems you are impressed. Perhaps it is due to the difference is value? Gemstones are actually quite common here. I dug these up about a week ago. It was really no big deal." I was slack jawed, and had to use my hand to close my mouth.
"So, you just go out into the wilds, and dig them up? They are that common?"
"Why yes. Although precious metals are far less common here than your home it seems." Rarity mused.
"Yes, it seems so. The treasuries of nobles are filed to the brim with gold, while gems of this caliber are non existent. For a trove such as that, a war of untold proportions would take place as the various kingdoms competed for it." I should not have spoken.
"That is terrible! Why would anypony do such a thing?" Now I had to explain.
"There are those who's hearts are filled with greed. Perhaps I should avoid conversation regarding my origins."
"I think that would be best."
"Well, many thanks for your time Lady Rarity, but I must be on my way."
After exiting, I spotted Ditzy Do flying haphazardly, and called out to her. She landed next to me, and a small unicorn appeared from her mail bag.
"Hiya mister!" She greeted me happily. I found myself with another smile. By all rights, this filly was adorable.
"Hey Lark. This is my daughter, Dinky Do."
"Pleasure to meet you." I bowed and kissed her hoof, causing her to blush.
"You're funny. I like you. Oh! You should meet Pip! He talks like you do! He'd love you! I don't know where he is right now, but you can check at the tea shop. He's normally around there. You might see mommy's friend too." She suggested.
"Alright my little muffin, letters away!" And with that she flew away.
"I could go for a spot of tea."
I found the tea shop I was directed to without any difficulty. Applejack had given me some of the local currency, saying that while my own were quite valuable, they would not be accepted, and so she gave me some bits to use until I could exchange my own coins. Despite my argument, she said she didn't feel right after I had basically paid off the mortgage on her farm, and she would not take no for an answer. I graciously accepted her generosity. There were several high class looking ponies there, all listening to soothing music. I was certainly glad to have others with refined tastes. Several of them even spoke in accents similar to my own. Pip was not there, sadly, however I did find a brown stallion with hourglass mark. He seemed absolutely stunned to see me.
"A human? Here? Well, that's just not fair now is it?" He spoke in a refined manner.
"Hello, my name is Lark, may I be of some service to you?" I asked, slightly annoyed that my mere presence seemed to be a disturbance to him.
"Oh, pardon my manners Pleasure to meet you. I am 'The Doctor'." I scowled when he said that word. I did not like doctors.
"So, you are a medical practitioner?"
"Oh no no, I'm not A doctor, I'm The Doctor." He corrected.
"According to your mark, an hourglass, so, you are a doctor of time?" I asked quizzically. Did time fall ill?
"That would be one way to put it. Judging by your attire, you're from the seventeen or eighteen hundreds?"
"1762, to be exact. As for how I arrived here, well, I'm not entirely sure, but it had a great deal to do with magic. As for you, since you recognized me by my attire, that would mean.......... you are not a pony." His eyes shot wide at my discovery. I clearly guess correctly.
"We need to talk, in private."
'The Doctor' brought me to a small blue box with a strange door. He opened it, and motioned for me to enter. The outside was misleading of the object's true size.
"It's smaller on the outside."
"Why yes it is bigger on the..... well, that's funny. Most everyone says it's bigger on the inside, not the reverse. You don't seem all that surprised by this." He raised an eyebrow. I gazed around at all the strange lights and elected to NOT look at them too long, lest my curiosity get the better of me.
"Two days ago I woke up in a forest, was chased by a cockatrice, followed by timber wolves, had woodland creatures as a captive audience for my performance, and met talking, flying, magical ponies. I saw a house made of sweets, and gemstones larger than my head which are common here. I do not believe anything could surprise me at this point."
"What if I told you that with this device you are standing in, called the TARDIS, you could travel through time?" He asked, testing my theory.
"I would probably have the same reaction that you would have if I told you that I am a werewolf." His eyes snapped open. I wasn't going to bother hiding it. If this pony truly was from my realm and could travel through time, then he would have determined it soon enough, and he may be able to help me. If he was simply mad, then nopony would believe his rants. Given the fact that I am standing in a blue box that bends space, I assume it to be the former. The Doctor looked at me with trepidation.
"I take it you have previous experience then?"
"Possibly. My encounter came from an alien entity that fell to earth in the 1500's or so." He explained.
"Mine, a witch's curse passed down for a thousand years, bought from a demon with the soul of a cannibal.
"Quite different then. Still, it's nice to meet a fellow from jolly old England." He mused.
"From what I've been told of Equestria, less emphasis on jolly, and more so on old. Not only was I sent to a different realm, but 300 years later."
"Would you perhaps like to return there?" The Doctor offered.
"Indeed, I too find this 'Equestria' to be quite mirthful. A breath of fresh air from the drab and dismal. I can't blame you for wanting to stay. However, if you truly are a lycan, then, what of your curse?" He looked at me seriously, as though if I provided him with the wrong answer, that my entire future would be the sum of ten seconds.
"I intend to seek out the princess of the moon, Luna, and ask her for assistance with my plight. After all, if I am slave to the moon, who better to relieve me of my burden than the one who commands it? She will be arriving here tomorrow, Nightmare Night. I shall ask her then. Even if I cannot be cured, the princesses should at least be informed."
"Ah, well, it seems you have it taken care of then. Perhaps we should go back to our tea?" He was suddenly relieved. I assume he too enjoys this world, and if I had proven to be a danger, he would have dealt with me. I do not know what is involved with being a time traveler, but reason states that they must take great precaution.
I left the 'TARDIS' and went back to the tea shop alongside The Doctor. I ordered some Earl Grey, which I spent a good quarter of the morning enjoying. I looked at the brown earth pony, and we both nodded, an unspoken agreement to never reveal what we had discussed in that strange blue box.
As I finished my tea, I spotted a strange mint green unicorn spying on me. I was not sure what her intent was, but my instincts told me to find her before she found me. I walked away, down the street, and turned the corner. Instead of continuing, I pressed myself up against the wall, catching her as she came around.
"Would you mind explaining why you are stalking me?" I asked sternly, but not angrily or in a scary tone.
"Um, well, you see, I uh...." She stammered. Something about the way she spoke stirred something in my memory, which quickly passed back into the darkness of my unconscious mind. I raised an eyebrow at her, then began to walk away.
I turned to see that she had composed herself.
"You're Lark right? Hi! My name's Lyra. I'm a bit of a human enthusiast, I mean, nopony believed me but I always knew you were real and...." I had stopped paying attention after I heard her name. I spotted her 'cutie mark' and it was indeed a lyre. This was the pony that reminded me of my sister. Even her way of stuttering and rambling. A pony with the same name, mannerisms, voice, and talent as my sister was standing right in front of me. When I looked at her, I could see my sister's smiling face.
"I'm sorry, I, I can't do this." I stuttered and ran off, leaving the pony stunned. I found my way to an park where I sat on a bench and looked at the trees, trying to calm myself. Seeing the pony version of my deceased sister was just too much at the moment. I decided to do what I always do to calm myself, and played a song. A gentle rain began to fall, a mere sprinkle really, but enough to cause all the other ponies in the park to leave, mentioning something about a storm being scheduled for that day. How a storm could be planned is beyond me. All that remained was myself and a mint green unicorn, who had followed me there, and began to talk while I played.
"Why did you run off?" She asked. I couldn't bring myself to look at her, instead focusing on the music.
"The memory, it's, too painful."
"That's silly, seeing as how we just met." She replied.
"I, had a sister. Her name was Lyra as well. Quite comically, she also played the lyre. Your voice, it's, the same."
"What happened?" She asked, having heard the 'had' instead of 'have', realizing that she was no longer of this world.
"It, it's all my fault......"
"No, no matter what happened, I'm sure you're just blaming yourself for it. There's no reason to be so hard on yourself." She tried to comfort me. I abruptly stopped playing, my violin making a terrible screech, causing us both to wince. I turned and looked at her.
"Except that it is my fault. She died in my arms, and I'm the one who caused it. I killed her." The rain began to fall more heavily. Lyra looked horrified.
"You didn't mean to did you?"
"Absolutely not. I loved her." She looked more relaxed, realizing that I wasn't a murderer.
'Except that you are.'
"And you regret doing it?" The unicorn interrupted my thoughts.
"Every day of my life."
"Then she forgives you." With that, she nuzzled my arm softly, and I began to play again. She pulled out her lyre, and played right next to me. It was a full downpour. We had both completely forgotten that it was raining, or in my case, didn't care. After all, I always liked the rain. We played till we were both thoroughly soaked. I forgive you. It was the most meaningful thing anyone had ever said to me. I could swear that it was she who was saying it, and not her pony version, and to me, it meant the world. It was fortunate that it was raining, else Lyra would have asked me why I was crying. At the end of the song, she leaned up against me on the bench under the tree. I noticed she had tears running down her face that were definitely NOT raindrops. Seeing my curiosity, she decided to answer my question before I asked it.
"I, I had an older sister, Viola. She loved nature. She went into the woods one day, and didn't come back out. After a week, they gave up looking. It was six years ago. It's just, after talking with you and hearing you play, you remind me of her." Lyra looked at me, and I knew she felt the very same pain I did. Well, maybe not the guilt of having been the cause, but the ache of having lost a loved one.
"What say we get out of this rain?"
I bid farewell to Lyra, finally having some manner of closure after that tragedy five years ago, and went back to Sweet Apple Acres.
"Where the hay have you been Lark? You're soppin wet! Don't tell me ya've been out in the rain this whole time? You'll catch cold!" Applejack suddenly took on a scolding, motherly tone.
"I don't think there's much chance of that. I've been in the rain plenty, and have never fallen ill."
"That still don't answer mah question." She looked at me questioningly.
"I was in the park, playing music with Lyra."
"Aw hayseed, she didn't talk yer ear off did she, what with her human talk and you bein real an all?" Applejack apparently knew very well of Lyra's rants.
"No, we merely played music for a time, and learned that we have far more in common than it would first appear. That, and I feel I finally have come to terms with a..... tragedy that happened many years ago."
"Aw shucks, ya wanna talk about it?" The orange mare sat, willing to lend an ear.
"No, that's quite alright. I believe I'll be alright. It was years ago, and Lyra helped me come to terms."
"Well, that's good ta here. Leaftin is alright. We got him all patched up thanks to Twi's magic. Maybe ya wanna give it another shot? Not today, considerin it's pouring out, and not tomorrow neither on accounta it being Nightmare Night, but after? Ya won't have to worry about breakin em, cuz I'll get Twi to be around to put em back together just in case."
"That, would be acceptable. It's better than having nothing to do." Only among ponies for two days, and already my refined method of speaking began to slip. Better than having no one to talk to at all, and far better than keeping company with a vampire.
We spent the rest of the evening indoors, telling stories and such. Applejack told of how an evil spirit named Discord had literally turned Ponyville upside down, but his chaotic influence had been purified by the elements of harmony, just as the possessed Princess Luna had. She explained how he had twisted them all into being somepony they weren't. She was honest and hard working, and he made her a 'lazy liar'.
'I too am something I'm not. I'm a monster and a murderer. Perhaps if I fail to find a cure by the princesses, the elements might be of assistance? The dark magic I am afflicted with is far less than that of Luna or Discord, it may actually be a simple matter. Luna should know. For once, a twist of fate in my favour. I can already feel the misfortune of my bad luck lifting.'
I awoke the morning of Nightmare Night to find Winona glaring at me. The dog wasn't barking like the previous night, having been scolded by her owners, but was still wary of me, and keeping an eye on me. By the weariness, she must have been awake all night. I was awake before any of the Apple family, as the sun was still down. I got dressed in some more loosely fitting clothes, suitable for labour, as I did not want to ruin my performance outfit, since I would be wearing it later that night.
"Perhaps I can give them a little something."
I stood inside my room, gazing east. The sky had just barely started to brighten as I began to play a song. The rays of the rising sun shining through the windows, they were met with my music and a rooster's crow. The pony family began to rouse themselves, and from downstairs, I could hear the sounds of breakfast being made. I didn't bother to turn, instead simply greeting the sun. The song ended, and after I put my violin away I turned around to see the orange mare's smiling face.
"Well I'll be Lark, ya said you normally got up early, and you weren't kiddin. You were up early enough to give us all a song. Thank ya kindly fer that." Her smile was warm and comforting.
"It was nothing my dear."
"Hows about we get some breakfast?"
The morning went well, Applebloom unable to contain her glee at having been woken by song, Granny Smith simply smiling that old woman smile, and Big Macintosh with his usual 'Eeeyup'. Buttermilk pancakes with apple jam. Delicious. Despite my refusal of more, the apple family saw fit to force more food than I could handle into my gullet. I was absolutely stuffed and barely able to move afterwards. I always knew that farm folk ate heartily, and these ponies were no exception. They all had a round of laughter at my swelled stomach-induced misery, saying that I would get used to it. Was this what it meant to have a family? It has been so long, I had forgotten the joy of simply having others who cared for you.
'It won't last.'
'I know, twenty two days before the next full moon, twenty before I leave. Perhaps I could return and visit them again one day?'
'Not if they discover your secret.'
"Lark? You there?" Applejack interrupted my thoughts.
"Ah, yes, sorry, I was, lost in thought."
"Ya do that an awful lot. What's troublin ya?" She asked.
"Nothing you need concern yourself with. Just the past, I was thinking of my family."
"Ya must miss em somethin awful, losin em like that, is just terrible." To the farm pony, family was everything. She couldn't image what it would be like to lose any of them, although she knew her Granny wasn't too far off, she didn't like to think about it. Then again, Granny was still the picture of health, despite her age.
"They'd want me to be happy, and not to dwell on the past. They're gone, and there's naught I can do about it, they'd want me to move on. I think I can start over in Equestria."
Night had fallen, a crescent moon hanging in the sky. My costume consisted of my performance outfit, and a jack o lantern, except that it was the bottom that had been cut out instead of the top, that it might fit over my head. My eyes looked out through the mouth of the pumpkin, and something called a flashlight, a kind of magic candle that burned without flame, affixed inside to give the whole thing a sinister glow. All in all, it was somewhat frightening, although not nearly so much as the legend. My impressive stature would be far more imposing than the pumpkin. By my request, Twilight had sent a letter to her mentor, vaguely informing her that I would be seeking her sister out at some point during the night. Now that I had my costume, I took my instrument as well and set out into the town. Applejack was disguised as a scarecrow, the same costume as last year, while Big Mac was a zombie, and Applebloom, a skeleton. Granny smith opted to stay in, not wanting to lose any sleep. Applebloom met with her two friends who I offered to watch for them, as they seemed to enjoy my company. I saw from the clouds above, a chariot pulled by pegasi with bat wings, a dark blue pony with both horns and wings sitting within. The clouds began to swirl, and lightning cracked as she descended.
"HELLO FAITHFUL SUBJECTS! IT IS I, PRINCESS LUNA! I HEREBY DECLARE THAT NIGHTMARE NIGHT HAS BEGUN!" She boomed in a voice that could topple a house if used up close. A testament to her power. The crowd cheered. I was very far from it, and she was facing the opposite direction, but I still felt woozy. At least it wasn't high pitched, else I would have blacked out. Crouching behind Sugarcube Corner with the three fillies, I whispered.
"Are you all ready? Just like we planned?"
Rather than speak, they just nodded, barely containing their excitement. I drew my violin, stepping out from behind the building, playing a very eerie song that fit the festivities. The crusaders followed me in a pied piper fashion, while the town looked on in wonder and excitement. The princess was aghast. I could not tell what her thoughts were, but I assume them to be along the lines of Applejack's when she first met me. She was fairly large compared to the other ponies, with the exception of Big Mac, but I still towered over her. She was not afraid however, simply surprised, and soon joined in the dance in the festival square, along with several other ponies. I spun around several times, allowing a cape that had been a last minute addition to the outfit which Rarity insisted upon, to flow in the breeze. The princess of the night did so as well, all the while facing me. She seemed to be enjoying herself immensely.
'This is good, my first encounter with the royalty of this land, and I've engaged in Halloween themed ballroom dancing. It should not take much to steal her away from the party for a few moments.'
The song ended, and the ponies, anfet a round of applause, all went about their business, Twilight, dressed with fake spiders and cobwebs in her mane, approached.
"Princess Luna, this is Lark, the one who I told you about in the letter?" She began the introduction.
"Ah yes, Lark, Twilight, I cannot help but notice you overlooked the fact that his head is a gourd." She smirked, followed by laughter from the lot of us.
"Princess Luna, an honour to meet you your majesty." I bowed. "I am Lark Wolfe, musician extraordinaire, and tonight, the pumpkin king also." She giggled then became somewhat stern.
"Well your highness, there was something you wished to speak with me about?" She gave a playful bow as well.
"Ah, yes, but that is a matter for privacy. Shall we meet say, at the top of the hill?"
She nodded, and we both walked away, leaving Twilight and the town as we stood upon a hill on the outskirts.
"I will speak with you in a moment, but first, I must make the moon proper for such an event." Her horn began to glow.
"What do you mean, proper?" Suddenly, I felt a feeling I feared. I watched as the moon changed, shifting in the sky, moving from crescent to full in a matter of moments. I was helpless to prevent it's light from falling on my eyes, a sense of absolute dread filling me straight to the bone.
"There, it is only fitting for there to be a full moon on Nightmare Night. Now, what was of such importance that you had to draw me away from my own holiday for? Twilight mentioned it was important. Lark? Lark are you alright?" She said not with spite, but question.
"Oh, hey Lark! I hope I'm not intruding on anything. I notice you left the party after the performance and I was wondering.... um, hey, wait, are you okay?" Lyra. Lyra had followed me out of town.
"RUN!" I cried in a voice far deeper than my usual one as I fell to the ground, my precious violin smashing into little pieces as it took the brunt of my fall. At that moment, I didn't care, I just wanted them all to get away safely.
"Ha, very funny Lark, you're not gonna scare me. I know it's Nightmare Night and all, but I haven't been afraid of the dark for a long time." Lyra scoffed.
"And I am the princess of the night, what makes you think you can scare me with the dark."
"Fools.... I said RUN!" My voice turning to a growl. I winced in pain as my bones began to shift, but they could not see the change as the cloak had fallen atop me, and the pumpkin hid my face.
"I have had quite enough of this, you call me away from my party saying it was a matter of importance, only for a poorly thought out Nightmare Night prank?" She was interrupted as my clothes ripped off of me, the jack o lantern shattering as it was no longer large enough to hold my wolven head. They gasped as they beheld my fully transformed self, with Lyra shaking in horror. I looked around and only felt one thing.... hunger.
I dove at Luna, snapping my jaws at her, but she skillfully dodged and took to the air, her horn glowing, readying a spell, only to have to cancel it and dodge as a very large rock flew towards her, thrown by me. Seeing my attempts at reaching the alicorn fruitless, I turned to the only other prey present. Lyra. She shook with fear, frozen in the spot by terror.
"L..Lark, this isn't funny! Cut it out!" She finally had the nerve to say, holding out a hoof to try and keep me away. My jaws clamped down on it, causing a small amount of blood to come from the wound. I shook her around like a dog shakes a toy, before letting her go, causing her to go sailing ten feet through the air. I raced towards her, and just as I was upon her, I heard her shout,
I stopped in my tracks. As I looked at her, I saw my sister's face once more.
'No. Not again.'
'Do it. Taste her flesh. Crush her bones!'
'I WILL NOT!'
I backed away, clutching my head as I began to pound it on the earth, desperately trying to shake off my urges. Lyra lay there in pain, while Luna looked quizzically.
'I have to get away from here. Where? The forest! But it's through the town! I can't! I have to! If I can just control myself.'
I ran as fast as I could, my costume left behind, while Luna began to tend to the injured unicorn. As I ran through the village, the screams of the ponies echoed through the air, yelling about a real monster, no it's not a prank, look for yourself. It eventually all began to blend together as I ignored it, trying not to focus on anything.
"Lark?" I heard Twilight's voice.
'No, keep running!'
I had gotten through town and into the woods, where I proceeded to rip several trees from the ground, smashing them violently together. Scraping rocks, and throwing one into a lion-bat-scorpion thing. It roared in rage, which was overcome by my own. Seeing itself outmatched, it began to run. I was faster. I caught it, sinking my teeth into it's arm. It brought it's tail forth, stinging me in the shoulder. It's bright green venom dripping from the barb. As if I care. I'm a werewolf, immune to poison and disease. I rip it's tail from it's body, then proceed to beat it to death with it, all the while the yellowish ichor dripping from the detached limb. I roared in victory, only for an even louder sound to make me put my ears against my head.
ENOUGH! Luna was behind me, this time facing me, using the full force of her voice.
"IT HAS BEEN TWO THOUSAND YEARS SINCE I HAVE LAST SEEN A WEREWOLF, AND THEY HAVE NEVER BEEN AS BRUTISH AS YOURSELF!"
I growled at her, only to have my will shattered by her oppressive voice.
"HEEL!" The point blank, directed shout knocked me on my back, the sound reverberating through my skull, making me pass out.
I awoke slowly, and upon sitting up, I found that I was in a dungeon of sorts. Touching the bars, my hands began to burn.
'Silver, at least they were prepared'
My belongings, being the tattered remains of my clothing, my shattered violin, a sight which made me weep, and my bundle were on the ground of the cell in front of me. I searched through it for my coin purse, finding the crystalline honey silver denari I kept with me. I moved it between my fingers, debating on eating it. I had done it again. I had a second chance in this world, and I had ruined it. I could never be seen anywhere, again. It was over.
"He's woken up." A pony wearing golden armor was at my door, Princess Luna behind him, followed by one who I had not seen. Shimmering white, horn and wings as well, this must be Celestia. I backed into the corner of the room, clutching the coin in my hand.
"Well well Lark Wolfe, quite a fitting name. By day, as harmless as the bird with a song as beautiful, and by night, a monster. Tell me, why did you attack my sister?" Celestia demanded. I just wanted to curl up and die. I went into a ball and began crying.
"Tears will do you no good here, answer my question." She scolded.
"Because I am a god damned werewolf! I don't have control of myself in that state! How was I to know she would make the moon full? It was a crescent the night before!" I replied sobbing.
"You seemed to have some manner of control, else you would have slain poor Lyra." Luna reprimanded.
"Lyra.... LYRA! Heavens! Is she alright? Please tell me she's alright!" I grabbed the bars, only to back away from them screaming as I was painfully remeinded that they were made of silver.
"Lyra has a broken hoof and a very nasty bite, but she will survive without amputation." Celestia informed me. This calmed me a bit.
"A bite..... She must be fed wolfsbane before the next full moon, or she will share in my fate....."
"The potion is already being administered. Now tell me, why did you not seek our assistance immediately, or warn Ponyville of your presence?"
"I did seek you out. I was told that by foot it would take a week to reach Canterlot, and since Princess Luna was coming to Ponyville in three days time, I was advised by Twilight Sparkle to wait there. I had time! The moon was not meant to be full for another twenty two days!"
"And you presume to tell me what I should do with my moon?" Luna scoffed. I turned my back to her, showing my crescent tattoo.
"When I am slave to it, yes." I replied spitefully. They both gasped at the sight.
"You, you marked yourself?" They asked.
"In my world, when you own something, you place your brand upon it. This is mine. For the past five years, I have lived through HELL trying to find a cure! I was bitten on the first night of the full moon, which lasts three nights. Wolfsbane is rather rare, and so I could not find any before the next night. On that night, I..... I......"
"I slew my sister! Unbeknownst to me, she had followed in my footsteps, a mere day behind! When she arrived, I changed, I killed her, and I ate her." I had broken into shivers. They looked at me shocked, unsure of what they should do.
"I could not eat the heart of the wolf that bit me, for it was turned to ash the instant it's tooth drew my blood. I returned to my family to inform them, and for helping me on my way, they were burned at the stake as heretics! My entire family is DEAD and I am to blame! For the past five years, I lived with one sole purpose, to find a cure, and end this nightmare. I found the witch who was responsible for the curse laid upon my bite ancestor and slew her, only to find that it was her evil spirit master who had caused it! I no longer had a way to free myself! In an act of spite she sent me here, and I awoke in the Everfree."
"That, is horrible." Luna said, looking sorrowful.
"I have been running from those who would seek to 'cure' me, as their method was death in flames. I have hidden from the people, so as not to cause them harm. I have slain a vampire while a wolf, and a witch while not. This world is a happy one, free of strife. I thought I could start over. I came to you on Nightmare Night to ask for aid in finding a cure. Even if it could not be found, then I would simply hide in the woods for three nights each month. How could I have known that the moon was slave to your whim, and with it, I am as well?"
"You still did not explain why you did not warn the townsfolk." Celestia scowled.
"I hoped to keep it a secret. Perhaps even cure it before any came to know. If they knew I was a monster, that I became a bloodthirsty brute, they would never have accepted me. They welcomed me with open arms. I have been alone for so long....... How could I tell them? How could I drive them all away?"
"And so, you instead risked their lives." She practically spat the words.
"What?" As she questioned me, I put the coin in my mouth and swallowed.
"What did you just do?" She demanded to know.
"I can never go back, now that they know what I am. I have no future, and I refuse to cause any more harm. Wish me luck in the next life, I certainly didn't have any in this one."
"I thought the guards checked him for anything dangerous?" Luna scowled at the guard.
"A silver coin covered in honey can hardly be considered a weapon. At least, to a non lycan, but to a werewolf, it is a painless death."
'Two minutes till I am a pile of ash.'
"Why did you just do that?"
"My sister, her name was Lyra. She spoke and acted the same as that pony. I've attacked both of them. I, I can never forgive myself."
"No, I will not allow this!" Luna opened the cage with her magic and pointed her horn at my stomach. I struggled to move, until she shouted.
And then I blacked out once more.
I awoke once again. It seems that being knocked out is becoming a common theme. One which I find very annoying.
'Wait, I'm alive? How? I swallowed the silver. I should be ash by now.' I tried to move, finding that I could not. I was still in the silver barred cage, but I was now chained to the wall. I had at least been changed into my final surviving pair of pants.
'Every damn time. What qualm does fate have against me and covering my shame?'
"Iron chains in a brick wall? Pfft, please." I pulled with all my might, but surprisingly enough, they did not break. As I felt them, they did not have the same texture as iron. They must be a different metal entirely, one that is much stronger. My belongings were now outside the cage. If I could not access my possessions, what point was there in having me chained? Perhaps to keep me bound while those who could not contain me entered and exited.
"He has awoken." A guard spoke to another as I heard the clopping sound of hooves on stone, presumably to fetch one of the princesses. I was correct in my assumption, as Luna made her way back to the prison.
"Well now, welcome back." She taunted with a sly smile.
"Why am I still alive? I should be a pile of ash by now."
"I used my magic to locate the coin and remove it from you before it could take effect." She deadpanned. "I am very disappointed in you, attempting to take your own life. Such is the coward's way." I became enraged.
"Coward? I have walked the halls of the damned, played in the courts of vampires, and looked straight in the eyes of the possessed! If I were a coward, I never would have crossed the threshold of Scarlet's court five years past and would not be in this predicament! If I were a coward, I would have given up long before this moment! I am TIRED! I am tired of running! I am tired of hiding! I am tired of....... hurting those who I care about. Tell me, if you had the choice between your own life and the lives of all those you hold dear, which would you choose?"
"I would defy fate and chose both." She said scornfully.
"More easily said than done. You have the powers of a god, and never ending life. What can I hope to do? I have fought fate constantly, and have lost each and every time. Trying to defy my fate was what led me to find happiness in Ponyville, and look how that turned out." I wept bitterly. By now, news would have gotten around as to what I was. Twilight was the only one who had any inkling of an idea, to the rest, it would be a complete shock. Applebloom, Scootaloo, Sweetie Belle.... Applejack! And Ditzy Do! They all must hate me by now. If I were to return, I'd find a mob carrying torches and pitchforks.
"Fool, for all my power, I never succeeded either. The point is, you must continue to try. I spent a thousand years as Nightmare Moon." Suddenly, her form changed. She became much larger, and far more fierce. Her teeth, fangs, and her eyes, slits. She stood right in front of me, glaring at me with the emerald green orbs that mimicked a snake's. I stared right back into them. I had felt fear before, this was like standing before a possessed god, yet I felt no trepidation. I knew it was a show, and there was no evil behind it. I could sense it.
"Is this an attempt to break my will, or a test of my character? I have tread ground so cursed that the shadows themselves would grow fangs and claws to massacre the unwary. I too would have fallen had I not been their kin."
She changed back to Luna, with a tear in her eye.
"Not once have I ever shown this form and others not shaken in fear. That was the form of my nightmare, the one who caused such terror and grief so long ago."
"I felt no fear because it did not hold the same evil as it once had. Had it been Nightmare Moon standing before me, I would have had the same reaction. I am a hound, I know evil when I see it. Actually, it's more of a smell. Even magic has a scent, and yours did not change."
"Fair enough. The point being, I too know what it is like. To be bound by my own desires. I know full well what it is like, your will is your own, but your personality is not. I was the same, until I was freed by the elements of harmony. The guilt I felt, and my actions had not any permanent damage. Yours....." She sighed.
"To have lost your family, such a burden is one I can not even imagine, especially given that you were the cause. So, what will you do now?" She asked.
"I can not roam Equestria, as I am still bound by my curse, I can not return to Ponyville, I have already done enough damage and would be welcomed not by ponies joyous at my return, but an angry mob, the only option I can see is for you to return my coin to me." At which point, I was surprised by a sudden pain. I now had a very red hoof shaped mark on my cheek.
"Fool! If the only solution you can see to your plight is death, then what of myself? Regardless of what happened in your world, my crimes in Equestria are the same as yours!" She said not with hate, but tears.
I stood there silently. I did not have an answer to her question.
"I attacked them. I tried to destroy the world. If I had brought about eternal night, nothing could have grown, and all would have frozen or starved. My sins are much greater than yours, yet I have been forgiven! My calamity is still fresh in their minds, but I have been given a second chance! What say you?" She wanted my answer, and I finally had it.
"Your threat has passed. Nightmare Moon is gone forever. I am still very much a danger to all who live in peace and harmony. I attempted to take my life not in guilt, but to prevent further calamity. Unless you can think of another, my two options are as follows. One, I can die, or two, I can spend the rest of my life in this prison, which would be no better than the first choice. If you have another way, by all means, DO SHARE!" I was angry. I did not do things without consideration. The fact that she believed I was about to end my life to avoid having to deal with the guilt infuriated me. The point was to prevent myself from causing further harm, not take the coward's way out.
"You will do as I say from now on, without question." She looked at me seriously.
"And why would I do that?" I spat back. She turned so I could see her flank, her 'cutie mark' being a crescent moon, the same as the mark on my back. She had a sly smile on her face, the one that thieves get when they find a rich fellow with loose strings on his coin purse.
"You brand that which belongs to you, and you have branded yourself with my mark. You belong to me, Lark Wolfe. You are my dog, and as such, you will obey your master." Her horn began to glow. The chains binding me to the wall vanished and I fell to the ground. The glow changed from pale blue to pale white and shone upon me. I felt myself begin to change. The pain coursed through me once more as I transformed into a wolf once again. She had focused pure moonlight through her horn and caused me to transform, despite it being during the day.
'I have no doubt that I shall grow to hate this mare, VERY quickly.' I dove at Luna with my now unchained arms outstretched, colliding with the bars and sent reeling with the pain. I was then pinned to the ground by a blue glow.
"Bad doggy. We don't bite. BAD!" She addressed me as one would address a pet, using that absurdly loud voice, although slightly more softly this time, I assume as to prevent me from passing out. My ears pressed against my head. She released me, and as I stood, I charged the bars again, once again being thrown back and pinned.
"Not a very smart dog, are you?" She giggled. This was FUN for her? As she released me once more, I stood, but before moving, I examined the bars, pacing back and forth in front of them before finally sitting on the stone floor, defeated.
"That's a good boy Lark. You aren't a bad dog, you just need to be trained is all. You're supposed to train dogs when they're still puppies, so I have a lot of work ahead of me. Do try and behave will you?" I growled, she scowled.
"I'll have none of that, mister."
About an hour of 'Sit, stay, bad dog', later, the effects of the moonlight finally wore off and I shifted back to normal. As a side note, the return transformation is just as agonizingly painful as the regular one. Thank goodness I normally sleep through it, except I didn't get to this time.
"Well, all in all, I'd say that could have gone better Lark, you are a very stubborn dog. In either case, it's time for dinner. Get yourself dressed and the guard will escort you to the dining room." With that, she left, magically sending my casual and loose fitting outfit to me. After all, it was all I had left.
"Hate...... you....... so....... much.........." I managed to mutter as I lay on the ground, still sore from my transformation. After I was able to stand up, I quickly dressed myself, but took a great deal of time for mental preparation before motioning to the guard that I was ready. I looked at the broken remains of my instrument and cried. It had been with me through everything, the last memento of my family, and it was dead. I let out a sigh, the guard noticing what I stared at, before he led me up through the dark corridors of the dungeon and into the bright light of what I assumed to be the castle proper. I was guided through a very large and ornate pair of double doors, featuring the royal sisters chasing one another through their respective skies.
There was an absurdly long table in an equally ridiculously proportioned room, with the only seats being taken by the princesses Celestia, Luna, as well as two others, a pink pony with both horn and wings, as well as a white unicorn. I entered the room, where I was motioned by the guard to sit at the near end of the table, quite far from everypony else.
"Oh come now, there is no need for that my new pet, come sit over here." Luna mocked. I begrudgingly stood and walked over, sitting beside the pink pony, two seats down from Luna. I remained quiet.
"Is that any way to treat your new family?" She asked.
"I was under the impression that pets could not speak." I replied with a dead tone.
"They may, but only when their master commands them to." Luna explained mirthfully. She was enjoying this FAR too much for it to be healthy.
"Very well, I am Lark Wolfe, former musician extraordinaire, and Princess Luna's new toy. As you have no doubt been informed, I am a werewolf, so I'm basically forced to do whatever she says." I had given up on trying to be graceful or polite. I was just plain annoyed.
"So then, this, THING is going to be eating dinner with us regularly? I do believe that pets should not be allowed to sit at the table." The unicorn scoffed.
"I for one am inclined to agree." Celestia replied scornfully.
"Küss mein arsch." While I almost NEVER resorted to profanity, I did have a bit of a habit of cursing in a foreign language whenever I had been pushed past the brink. Well, foreign to wherever I was at the time. A traveling musician is also a wonderful linguist. As I had lost all pretense of pride, I told both the unicorn and Celestia to kiss my ass in German. Thankfully, neither of them seemed to understand the phrase, nor did anypony else at the table. They simply let it slide.
"What do you mean 'former' musician?" The pink one next to me asked.
"Regrettably, when I had my... episode..... my violin was utterly destroyed. Without that, I cannot play music. It was.... a gift from my father..... before......" I dropped my head to the table, causing a loud thud.
"Oh, I'm so sorry. Oh! Where are my manners? I am Princess Cadence. I'll see if we can do anything about your violin. Perhaps it can be restored to it's former glory?" She said cheerfully.
"I would..... like that. Thank you." Well, at least SOMEPONY in this blasted castle is civil. She then cleared her throat and I raised my head. The unicorn across from her gave a defeated sigh.
"If you MUST know, I am Prince Blueblood. I would suggest that you stay out of my way, mutt. While Princess Luna sees fit to keep you around, I do not need you meddling in my affairs." He finally introduced himself.
"As if I have any interest in such things. I have played in the courts of enough nobles to have had more than my fill of such drivel."
"Have you now?" He pondered.
"Yes, I have. Princess Lu....." The dark princess scowled. "Master. I would very much like if the gold in my coin purse was exchanged for bits, and the amount split, then given to Lyra and Ditzy Do. It's the least I could do, given what I have already done."
"Are you sure you would simply give away a million bits?" Blueblood spat his drink, while Cadence giggled.
"What use have I for money?" I replied depressed. She seemed to take the hint and motioned to a guard, who then left to do I assume just that.
"Ah, yes, dinner has arrived. About time." Blueblood scoffed at several chef ponies who brought food in on, quite to my dismay, silver platters.
As mine was set before me, the domed topper still present to preserve the heat until the one to eat it was ready, each of the ponies removed it with their magic before beginning to consume various steamed vegetables. I sat there, glaring at the deadly platter and dome with a scowl.
'Alright, now she's just doing this on purpose.'
"Is something the matter Lark?" Luna asked innocently.
'She can't really be that dense, can she?'
I carefully plucked a single hair from my head, and the ponies watched in confusion, followed by sudden understanding, as I dropped the hair on the dome and it burst into flames, and then a puff of smoke.
"Werewolf. Silver. Duh." Luna laughed before taking the lid off with her magic. I went to pick up a fork to begin eating the steamed vegetables before me, only to burn my hand on it and nearly drop it. I carefully wrapped the cutlery in a napkin before stabbing into a piece of broccoli, taking the utmost care not to touch and portion of the silver to my body, sliding the green stalk into my mouth. Of course, absolutely tiny pieces of the infernal metal were present on the vegetable, causing me to burn my tongue. I gently moved the platter to my left with my sleeve, out of the way, before planting my head on the table once more. Cadence, on my right, looked downright unimpressed with the sisters. Blueblood simply laughed at my plight.
"On second thought, I'm not hungry. Master, I'll be in my cell if you suddenly decide you do not wish to starve me to death." I stood from the table and was joined by the guard as he brought me back to my cage. Dark, dank, musty, hard, cold. So much better than the presence of my tormentors. I waited there for about an hour before Luna descended once more.
"Lark?" She asked.
"So, you saved my life so you could torment me before you ended it yourself?"
"That's no way to talk to your master." She scolded.
"Master's usually don't starve their pets, followed by trying to feed them poison." I deadpanned. Of course, I was crying. I had never been so humiliated in all my life. I just sat with my arms across my knees in the corner, looking into my hands so that she couldn't see.
"I am truly sorry about that. I had forgotten that all the castle's silverware was... well.... silver." She said looking sullen.
"Oversight or convenient torture?"
"Perhaps a little of both." She smirked. "So, my little doggy, are you ready to try again?"
"If by try again, do you mean am I ready to try and bite a chunk out of these silver bars and swallow it?"
"You'll never get close, you know that." She said seriously, losing her smile. Her horn glowed with the pale light as I once more changed to my wolf form. Luckily, the clothes were loose fitting, and so they did not rip or tear at all. They were slightly tight when encompassing my larger lycan form. I looked at the night princess, and instead of charging, I just laid on the floor on my side. I didn't feel like moving. I didn't feel like doing anything. Dying. Yeah, I could go for some dying right now. That would be nice.
"Well well, isn't this a surprise, only your first day you're already behaving like a good little puppy.
"Well well Lark, only your first day, and already you're behaving." Luna mocked. My ears perked up at this.
'Strange, I just turned, and I'm not violent.'
"I'm sorry I had to be so rough on you, but the only way for you to take control of yourself is to break you. At this point, you've just been running wild. A werewolf is, by nature, a dog. Dogs can be trained, but you first have to let them know who's boss. I know you missed dinner, so I brought you some."
Luna opened to door to the cage, sliding a tray of vegetables and eggs in. I immediately got up to eat them, but I found that I couldn't get close. Her magic was blocking the way. I began scratching at the mystic wall like a dog at a door, getting nowhere.
"Ah ah, if we're going to tame you, you need to learn self control. You can't eat until you learn to sit nice." She smirked. I gave a low growl before sitting on the stone floor. She used her magic to feed me piece by piece, at her pace. If I tried to snap for it, she'd pull it away. I'd have to wait for her to put in in my mouth before I could try to eat it. It seems as though under the light of the full moon, transformations last an hour, and during the nights, it would last until an hour after the moon had descended. As I returned to my human form, laying prone on the floor, she nuzzled me gently.
"I know this is hard, and you've had to swallow your pride, the only thing you had left, but you have to believe I'm here to help you. I've trained werewolves before, and although they were far less violent than you, they were also not nearly as quick to pick up on it. You feel as though you have lost all reason to carry on and I am truly sorry for that and I do know what you're going through. It's harder for you because you're fighting yourself every step of the way." She said in a voice that showed she truly cared. I simply remained silent.
"Also, if you work hard and show progress, maybe I can do something about getting you a bit more suitable living arrangements, some visitors perhaps? I'm sure somepony would want to see you after that escapade."
'Who would I want to see? Forget that, who would want to see me? Nobody. How could I face Applejack, the crusaders, Ditzy Do? Lyra..... how could I look at any of them? I lied to them. I was a danger to them and I didn't let them know. I had only been here for a week, and I already thought of them as my friends, yet I couldn't let them know that one fact about me, the one that mattered most. They all must hate me. They won't come.'
"What happened to the other werewolves?"
"Well, they were trained well enough not to bite, so they never did, and it never spread. They eventually just died out on their own."
"Goodnight Lark." And the the moon princess left.
I lay awake on the metal frame bed in my cell, looking out the window at the stars. I see one falling, and decide to wish upon it.
"I wish I this hadn't happened."
"I cannot change that. You have to live with the consequences. You are not alone however, you have friends. You may have hurt one of them, but she'll recover. You deceived them, but they WILL forgive you. I don't know about where you come from, but ponies are a rather accepting bunch." The voice replied.
"The one and only."
"So then, you were the one who took away my nightmares?"
"Indeed I was. Whenever one within this realm wishes upon a falling star, I hear their desire, and I if I can, I make it happen. I did not know it to be you at the time, although it looks like I really am granting that first wish of yours. I may not be able to cure you, but I can help you take control of yourself. You should really give your friends more credit as well. They are not likely to abandon you after this." The night princess declared.
"It was so hard to earn their trust in the first place, were it not for Ditzy Do and the fact that she strangely doesn't fear monsters, they would never have come out of their houses. It took so much just to see a face, and after this, I highly doubt I'll be welcomed back."
"It will take time. I appeared in Ponyville during the summer sun celebration, everypony saw me try and rule Equestria. A year later and they all still feared me, although I must admit, it was on a holiday intended to cause fright, but I eventually earned their trust and made friends as well. You can do it too. I am royalty, which makes me difficult to approach, and you are by all reasoning an alien, so they will be fearful of you, but you CAN do it. I'll see about having some of them see you tomorrow. They are probably still confused regarding what happened." The princesses words put me slightly at ease, although I was NOT looking forward to explaining myself.
"Thank you what?" She wanted me to say 'master'.
"Thank you Lulu." I couldn't see her face, but she was definitely embarrassed.
"So you heard sister say that......"
"Not much I don't hear."
"Just to let you know, she doesn't trust you. You show up out of nowhere, hide what you are and attack her subjects, which she is highly protective of, enough so to banish her own sister to the moon. That, and she never liked werewolves to begin with. She would always get mad at me for having them at the table and in court with me. Just, try to act pleasant okay? She'll come around. And never use that nickname again." She vocally scowled.
"So long as you stop treating me like an animal when I'm not one. It's the wolf that needs training, not me."
"It was just a bit of fun....... Oh, alright fine. If it really bother's you that much, I'll stop. When I had wolves in my court, they usually stayed like that all the time, so I ended up treating them as pets more than anything else. I guess old habits are hard to break." She said with a sullen voice.
"Old habits are hard to break, so you say to a werewolf you're trying to tame."
Morning came, and I was actually able to eat breakfast properly. Simple iron plates and cutlery. I took my previous seat next to Cadence, who smiled warmly. I could tell she didn't enjoy seeing others sad.
"So, Lark, were the accommodations to your liking?" Celestia asked, clearly a set up. If I said they were fine, she'd insist I remain in them, but I didn't want to come off as demanding. I decided to return it by being vague.
"As accommodating as a prison cell can be. Canterlot certainly has the finest in dungeons, not that I've seen them from the other side of the bars before." Is she seriously going to go in to a battle of high class banter? Yes she has lived for several millenia, but I'm fairly certain she has had no use for such talk, as just about everypony bows before her in an instant. I however have wade through the river of egotistical blood and waged verbal warfare with the finest of linguistic generals. The sun princess wasn't very happy about that, and Luna just gave me a look telling me I was pushing my luck. Blueblood actually seemed amused by the whole thing.
"So, my sister tells me that you are to have visitors today?" She changed the subject. My point.
"Possibly. All depending on whether or not they wish to see me."
"I am certain they will. My faithful student Twilight will certainly want an explanation of the nature of your lycanthropy, in detail, as well as many other aspects of your culture. I will remind you in advance to be patient, as she tends to go overboard when it comes to studying new things." Celestia smiled. Great, she was going to torture me by having the mad sorceress talk my ears off. Her point.
"Of course. I already vaguely informed her of my predicament, so it should be a rather simple matter to fill in the details." I smiled. She glared daggers. On second thought, perhaps angering one who could turn me into a wall splatter is a bad idea.
"Oh, and Lyra has been released from the hospital, she'll want to see you as well." That one hurt. Play it off. Don't let her know it hurt. Oh, for goodness sake, she already knows, or else she wouldn't have brought it up.
After breakfast, I was once again escorted to the dungeon, although to a more hospitable room, presumably for meeting guests. It was some time before Luna came down, and with her, Applejack, Rarity, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, Twilight, Pinkie Pie, Lyra, Ditzy Do, and the crusaders. I hadn't been chained down, obviously since I couldn't cause any harm in this state. The ponies in front of me just glared, all except the wall eyed one. The silence was broken by Pinkie.
"I KNEW IT! My pinkie sense told me he was trouble, and I was right! None of you believed me, and guess what! In your face!" She accentuated each word.
"Pinkie, he never denied that. He actually came to me and told me he was cursed, he just didn't say in detail. I almost can't believe it. A real werewolf! Oh, this is so exciting! I have so many questions! I...."
"Umm, Twi? Ah think it would be best to save the questions fer a bit, till you two are alone, I mean, it's gonna take a while and the rest of us have sumthin we need ta say too." Applejack interjected.
"Oh, um, right. Okay, go ahead." The unicorn said defeated.
"Lark, I know you talked a tragedy, was this it? Was this what caused it?" She asked, I just nodded.
"So then, yer family?"
"My sister. When I told my mother and father, they tried to shelter me, to help me hide and escape. They were seen as traitors and heretics, blasphemers, and were burned alive for their supposed 'crime' of helping their son. If I had known, I never would have gone home."
"I know what that's like. I lost mah parents. They worked themselves to death trying ta keep the farm runnin durin a drought, all ta make sure we'd be okay. I know why ya didn't tell us, too much pain. It's alright, I forgive ya." The orange mare smiled.
"That easily? What if Luna had raised the moon in the town square? It could have easily been your sister, or any of you!"
"Yeah, but it wasn't, and you had no idea that was gonna happen. It ain't yer fault. All in all, there was no harm done. You were actually pretty lucky in that regard. Ya get out of here after ya take care of, you know, yer always welcome ta stay on the farm. Maybe try some applebuckin again? Of course, not so hard this time." She chuckled.
"Yeah....." After that, Applejack left. Rainbow Dash was the next to come forward.
"So then, Lark, the reason you're so strong and coordinated.... it's because you're a werewolf right?" She asked, trying to make the question sound casual.
"Yes, and don't even think about it. Trust me, it's NOT worth it."
"But, you're strong enough to beat ME in a hoof wrastle, EASY! Look at you, you're a... a... string bean! If I had something like that, I could get in the wonderbolt's no problem!" She argued.
"You'd join the wonderbolts, and then they'd join you, in your stomach." The phrase seemed to strike a nerve, instantly destroying her desire to share in my curse, leaving as well.
"Does, does it hurt, when you... eep!" Fluttershy tried to ask.
"Agonizing. Painful doesn't even begin to describe it. It's like all your bones are breaking, over and over, and they move around and..... I should probably stop describing it." The yellow pegasus looked woozy at the thought.
"I, I think I'll just go lie down now." She too left.
"So, dapper and sophisticated by day, horrific monster by night.... Oh, I can't even imagine, sleeping outdoors, being hideous, gives me the shivers just thinking about it." Rarity shuddered at it.
"Not every night, just the full moon. For all but 3 consecutive nights every 28, I am completely normal. Well, that WAS the way it worked, but when I came here I found out that it just does whatever the princess wants it to, changing form to what she thinks would look best in the night sky." Twilight was writing notes on what I had revealed, not wanting to lose any details.
The crusaders were next.
"Is it true Mr. Lark? Were you that monster that ran through Ponyville on Nightmare Night?" Applebloom asked.
"Yes, that was me...."
"Why'd you go through town?" Scootaloo asked.
"Yeah, wouldn't you want to run AWAY from all the ponies?" Sweetie Belle added.
"The Everfree. For a brief moment I was able to control myself, so I decided I had to reach the forest where I could do no harm."
"I, guess that makes sense, I mean, that's where all the monsters are. Well, the visit kinda has to be short so, I guess we'll see you around?" They said hopefully as they too left. Lyra was next, she approached with a bandaged hoof, limping slightly to keep the weight off it. I couldn't look at her, so I just stared at the ground.
"Lark, why won't you look at me?" She asked.
"Because, I did it again."
"But I'm fine, I mean, sure it hurt, and I was scared, but I'm still here."
"When I was like that, I killed my own sister, and I ATE her. When I look at you, I see her, and I see it happening all over again. I wasn't strong enough...."
"But it DIDN'T happen again. I saw the look of recognition in your eyes. You bashed your head on a rock for Celestia's sake! Nopony weak would hurt themselves to protect somepony else." She put her bandaged hoof on my chin and lifted my head. Her golden eyes filled with tears.
"But I hurt you......"
"Yes, and it's going to take work to get me, and everypony else in Ponyville, to trust you again, considering as how you didn't really have it to begin with, but guess what.... we'll get over it. Eventually, it'll just be 'that Nightmare Night when Lark was really scary.' And that'll be it."
"But why? By all rights, they should try to run me out of town, you should be wishing I was dead. How... how are you all so kind?"
"It's just who we are."
Lyra left, leaving only Ditzy Do, Pinkie, Twilight, and Luna. The pegasus approached me.
"I don't even know how I can apologize to you Ditzy. You trusted me right from the start, and were my first friend. I've done nothing but lie to you and you've done nothing but help me."
"Then don't apologize. You're sorry enough as it is. Everypony makes mistakes Lark, I know that better than anypony. If I had to apologize for every time I messed up, I'd be bowing for the next year! The point is, you made a mistake, and it wasn't even something you could control. It was an accident. Accidents happen." She smiled, her awkward eyes seemingly full of care, although hard to tell. I wrapped my arms around the pegasus and just cried. She's the one who I betrayed the most. She'd be mocked for having brought yet another monster to town, and yet she was here, comforting me. She wrapped her hooves around me and returned the hug.
"You're the only one who never made fun of my eyes, or called me Derpy." She gave a small laugh, crying on my shoulder as well.
"I don't even know what derpy means......"
"AWWWWWWWWWWWWW" We broke our hug to see Twilight, Luna, and Celestia all looking at us with those eyes you get when you see something absurdly adorable, while Pinkie was crying happily. The scene was broken by a strange tone coming from a watch on Ditzy's foreleg.
"Oh! Yay! The Doctor is here! Are you ready for adventure my little muffin?"
"Yay!" Dinky popped out from her saddlebag as her mother went running out of the room to meet the strange pony with the blue box.
"Do I want to know?" Luna asked.
"I would suggest not asking about that."
"Another secret?" Pinkie demanded sternly.
"Yes, but, not a bad one, and not one of mine."
"I'm watching you bub......" Her eye literally stretched from her head as if to emphasize her point, before she ran out of the room as well.
"Alright Twilight, you had questions yes?"
"Ah, that's right." The unicorn suddenly snapped out of her momentary lapse in thought.
"I have some as well. I may have judged you prematurely. Perhaps I should have known a little more of the nature of your world before I acted so harshly." Celestia, clearly moved by what had happened with Ditzy, and quite possibly Lyra as I had no idea when she arrived, was starting to have second thoughts about the way she had acted towards me.
"I'll tell you everything."
I wound up explaining the whole story. Everything, right from the beginning of memory, all the way up till I found myself in Equestria. I left out the bit with the deer. It hurt, a lot. I was essentially ripping all the bandages off of my heart so I could let them see the wounds, which of course makes them bleed again. Celestia and Luna listened intently, while Twilight had to stop a couple time to keep herself from crying. Since the sisters are immortal, they are no strangers to the pain of loss. I had to take a break a couple times as well. By the end, I was exhausted.
"To think that dark spirits like the one which possessed me could exist in such multitude in your own world, wrecking havoc, and that they would be invited willingly by so many. Now then, it's time for training again. Twilight, perhaps you should take notes on this as well?"
Channeling moonlight through her horn, I fell to the ground and thrashed in pain. Twilight gazed in fear and horror at the pain I was going through as my shape changed. Bones shifting, hair growing, limbs contorting, and my yells of pain.
"Is, is it always that painful?" She asked.
"From what he has told us, yes." Celestia stated.
"Poor Lark, having to go through that on top of everything he's been through. Judging by his reaction, even after five years, he's never gotten used to the pain."
I stood there in my cell, pacing back and forth, growling like a dog who sees a rabbit but can't get it. I was about to dive at the cage when my wolf brain told me, 'No, it's silver moron', so I finally opted for just sitting on the stone floor of the cell. I had already eaten, so I wasn't hungry. I just sat there, listening, watching. They stood on the other side, their eyes scrutinizing me, until Luna spoke up.
She moved towards the cage and unlocked it.
The cage door opened, all three ponies were only a couple feet away. I could close the distance and sink my teeth into them in seconds.
'No. I'm not hungry. I'm not angry.'
'No, Luna is the master.'
'You are in charge of your self.'
'No, I tried that, it only brought me pain. I'm letting HER be in charge.'
'What about freedom?'
'That's what she's giving me, freedom from you.'
'I am you.'
'Just another part. If I am in control, then I'm in control of you too, and I say she's the boss. And the boss said stay. I'm staying.'
They all tensed up for a moment when I opened my mouth, but relaxed when they realized it was just a yawn.
"Lark, I'm going to come in the cage now. You are going to stay right where you are and not do anything."
'Good, when she comes in, I can bite her and become the alpha.'
'That will just get me killed. I don't WANT to be the alpha. She told me to stay, I'm staying.' I laid down on the ground, curling up.
"Good boy Lark." Good boy? I'm a good boy? Why does that make me happy?
She began to pat me on the head. Maybe this isn't so bad after all.
"Lark, stay. Twilight is going to come in and do some measurements."
I gave a low growl, not threatening, but voicing of disapproval.
"No! Lay here and let Twilight measure you. She's a friend remember? It's fine. You don't need to be afraid."
'Is that what this is stemming from? The dog is afraid, so it lashes out. It tries to dominate the others so it's at the head of the pack, in order to protect itself. I don't need to protect myself. They're friends. I'm..... safe. No inquisition to run from, no vampires, no monsters, safe? I like this feeling. Safe is nice.'
"There you go, see?" Luna had held my head in place with her front hooves. It was clear she didn't exactly trust me right yet, and I agree, I didn't trust myself either. A couple times I twitched, making everyone tense up, but all in all, I knew I was powerless, so I just laid there and tried not to think about the poking and prodding being done by the scholarly unicorn. She finished and let herself out, before Luna let go and closed the door. They stayed there for the rest of the hour, going over the motions of training, before I fell to the ground and started howling, my form changing back to human. Thankfully, my loose fitting clothes, while not really my style, were big enough to encompass my wolf form, and did not tear when I changed. I laid there for a couple more minutes before I finally got up.
"Lark, when you said it was painful, you weren't kidding. It looked to be absolutely anguishing!" Twilight remarked.
"It is, but nothing compared to when you touched my paws. They're ticklish it seems." I tried making light of it. She giggled a bit.
"Well, I've gotten all the information I need for now, I'm going back to Ponyville to do some research." And with that, the purple unicorn left.
"I've seen all I need to see Lark, I, apologize for being so harsh. When you came to our land as such a danger, and did not make it known immediately, I believed you to have ill intent. I, also may have been.... prejudice.... due to my past experience with my sister's pets. I am sorry." Celestia apologized.
"You have nothing to be sorry for. You were well within your rights, not just as a princess, but as a pony who cares about others."
"Regardless, I will have a room prepared within the castle for you tomorrow. Sleep well."
"Yes, try and get some rest Lark. Goodnight."
The next day, I ate within my cell and was given fresh clothes to change into. I did not mind doing so while watched, among ponies, nudity is no taboo, and I was used to it enough from having my poor defenseless pants torn off time and time again. I was guided to my new room by a guard, and when I opened the door, I was met with surprise. Celestia, Luna, Blueblood, and Cadence were all present, as well as my restored violin.
"But, how?" I asked with a tear in my eye at seeing my beloved instrument.
"Um.... magic?" Cadence said slightly sarcastically. I gave her a hug.
"Thank you so much, you have no idea how much this means....."
"You might want to be careful, I'm getting married in a few months, I wouldn't want my fiance to get jealous." She chuckled, as did the rest.
"Well, thank you all..... perhaps you would like a song?"
"I don't see why not."
Running my hand over my violin, the last aspect of my old life, I felt the wood, the bow, the strings, it was all as perfect as the day it was made. I would have believed it to be brand new if not for the names carved into it with such fine craftsmanship, it could only come from the most skilled instrument makers. Taking my position, I drew my bow, and began to play a song.
"Lark, I wish to have words with you." Luna told me in a formal tone.
"Your will?" I asked as I bowed.
"As you know, the wedding of Princess Cadence and Shining armor is upcoming. She has requested that you provide the music for the event." She smiled.
"I, I would be honoured!" Finally. Something goes right. I like Cadence. She's nice. She deserves the best and, well, not to brag, but that's me. It also gives me a chance to get out of this blasted castle. I've been travelling since I was young, being trapped within these stone walls for such a long time has done nothing to appease my wanderlust. Even a short period of freedom would be worth any expense at this point. That, and playing for royalty would certainly improve my standing with the public.
"You're going to have to work for the opportunity though." Aaaaaaand there's the catch. "I'm going to have you in your wolf form in the castle with me, around other ponies. You're going to have to be able to control yourself, and although you'll have constant supervision, you won't have constant instruction. Now, in the many months that have passed since I first began your training, you have shown remarkable improvement. This will be your first real test."
It had been seven months since Nightmare Night, it was now May. I had spent Hearth's Warming Eve, apparently the pony version of Christmas, in the castle, while the royal sisters went to watch a performance put on by Twilight and her friends. Among my company was Blueblood, and, in the time I have been here, other than his first impression, we have actually taken to each other quite well. We can both appreciate a person, or pony, of class. While he is somewhat haughty, compared to the royal ninnies I dealt with in my own world, he is rather tame in that regard. He's actually come to consider me a person, not an animal or glorified pet.
"Well, hopefully things go well. I would very much like to attend the wedding. Will you be attending as well?"
"Me? Of course. It's going to be the event of the century, although, I can't say I'm thrilled about the other attendants, even if they don't yet know they are attending. The captain wants it to be a 'surprise'. Him getting married at all is nothing short of a miracle." He replied with a huff.
"Ah yes, Lady Rarity is the friend of the groom's sister."
"There's nothing 'Ladylike' about her. She acts with poise, but as soon as pressure is placed, she cracks, and turns into a definite Ponyvillian. A country bumpkin playing dress up, nothing more. A false air of nobility."
"Well, from what I've seen of her, although it's not much, she's not that bad. Considering you have more experience on the matter however, I'll just take your word for it." We shared a laugh.
"Well, it's time for me to play the part of Luna's pet. She's holding court for some rather pompous nobles. Apparently, they don't think she's fit to lead, having returned after a thousand year absence. Any guesses why I'm going to be there?" He gave an amused huff.
"She just as much a princess as aunt Celestia, they really ought to respect her as such. Oh well, you'll go easy on them I expect?"
"Well, I sure hope so. It wouldn't look too good on either of us if I made dignitaries into chew toys."
"Alright Lark, your role is to simply lay there and look good. You may as well take a nap. Are you ready?" I nodded, and her horn began to glow once again with the light of the moon. I felt the changes take place, as painful as ever, then the soothing relief of the transformation being complete. I was no longer confined to my cell during those periods of time, as I had proven well enough to be able to control myself, around Luna at least. I still went a little out of it once in a while, but she was always there to remind me and reign me back in. I had gotten used to it really, and it was comforting to have someone, somepony I could rely on to keep me in check. For all the grief she put me through, she really always had the best intent. After all, she'd been training werewolves for far longer than England even existed.
She brought me down through the castle, to the throne room, where she had me lay down at the foot of her throne. I figured I might as well, so I walked around in a circle a couple times and curled up.
'I always wondered why dogs do that, and even now that I've done it myself, it doesn't make much sense.'
"Very well, first order of business....." She looked through an itinerary and called for a rather important sounding pony. He waddled in, oh joy a fat cat, I can already smell the arrogance, oh wait, that's just body odour. I looked at him briefly before just putting my head back down on my paws, disinterested.
"Princess Luna, what is this..... thing.... doing here?"
"Senator, this is Lark, a dear friend of mine. He's here to keep me company." She replied, gently petting my head.
"Princess, I must protest, having such a large.... brutish.... animal in the palace, the throne room no less, WHILE holding court, it's highly unprofessional." My ears perked up and I glared at him.
'Unprofessional? I note that you failed to bow on entering the room, you arrogant twat.'
"It is not your place to judge the company I keep. Now, if you are done belittling me, can we please get to business? You have no doubt traveled a long ways to arrive here, and the sooner we can settle this matter, the sooner you can be on your way to more important ventures."
'Basically, say what you're gonna say, then shut up and get out of my castle.'
He went on to ramble about something. If I had payed attention, I would have been able to understand it, but, I've had more than enough political jargon for a life time. Five hours, three visitors later, and the final dignitary enters. Well well, surprise surprise, a dog. A bipedal dog. That can talk. What?
"Princess Luna, it is an honour that you would hear us." He bowed. Well well, about damn time someone showed some respect. The princess however, looked stern. As a dog, I have an innate sense that lets me tell what others are feeling. His feeling was unreadable, while she seemed worried. Better pay attention to this one.
"Princess Luna, might I inquire as to why you are using one of my kind as a foot stool?" He asked, annoyed.
"You are in error, Glimmer, Lark is not a diamond dog." Diamond dog? These dogs are named after gemstones?
"Oh? Then please enlighten me as to what exaclty 'Lark' is."
"Lark is a lycanthropic human." She deadpanned, very worried about what his reaction might be.
"Well, that is another matter, perhaps we should deal with the business at paw first?" He suggested.
"Yes. We shall attend to this matter at a later time." She seemed slightly relieved.
"I am here on behalf of High King Rothak, who demands the return of the three hounds you have taken prisoner."
"Those hounds are guilty of the crimes of kidnapping and enslavement of Equestrian citizens, upon, or rather, under, Equestrian soil no less."
"We are well aware of their crimes. They shall be duly punished upon their arrival at the capitol and an audience before the king." He replied. Luna scowled.
'Right, by punished, he doesn't mean for taking slaves, he means for getting caught. Basically, they're just going to get let off. Diplomatic immunity.'
"Need I remind you of the accord signed by your sister and the previous king during your absence?" She grit her teeth.
"No, I am well aware of the treaty between our peoples, they will be released to your custody in the morning. Now then, is that all?"
"There is also the matter of 'Lark' as you put it. He is a sentient canine, yet is forced to submit to you. This is also against the accord. 'No diamond dog or relative thereof may be forced into servitude against their will. As you are no doubt aware, werewolves are distant ancestors of our kind, and as such, he is one of us, and will return with me to our nation." At this point, I stood on my hind legs, a full eight feet tall, and growled lowly, glaring at him.
"No Lark. *sigh* He is our guest." I turned to look at her, then sat back down, still glaring.
"Lark is here by his own desire. He is not bound in any way. The fact that he is here in the throne room in and of itself proves this." Not bound in any way? I think not princess, although, considering what he is proposing, I think I can forgive this little white lie. The dog grumbled, then conceded.
"Very well, I will begin my return trip tomorrow, with the prisoners in my custody. I will however, be reporting this to the king. Expect a response in due haste." And then he left to his lodgings for the night. Once the throne room was sealed, I followed Luna back to my room and returned to my human form. We both sat for a moment before the silence was broken by the lunar princess.
"DAMNIT!" She stomped her hoof, causing me to jump back in surprise. Noting my reaction, she calmed herself, then began to speak.
"You did very well today Lark in controlling yourself, far better than I. For a moment, I was actually considering having you gore him to death."
"Princess!" I remarked with outrage.
"I know, I know.... I shouldn't have such thoughts. I suppose you want an explanation of what just happened?" I nodded.
"Very well. As I said before, the werewolves, being trained not to bite, had no way of spreading their 'disease' and eventually ceased to be. However, that did not stop the wolves who already existed from finding mates among themselves. Over several thousand years, their descendants became what are now known as the diamond dogs. They cannot pass their transformation by bite, and are constantly in their canine form. They are also far weaker than their ancestors. They tunnel through the earth, looking for gems, although they cannot dig through solid rock."
"What does that have to do with me?"
"Well, despite their lycanthropy having risen from a disease and yours from a curse, meaning you aren't related at all, they still see you as kin. Ancestral kin. The fact that you are subservient to me is in violation of a pact between us. Going over the jargon, basically, to end a war before it started, we made a deal. We have open trade with them, and neither side is allowed to take slaves of the other. Of course, they still do, quite frequently, but they're stealthy mutts, and hide it well. Every once in a while, we catch them, but then they are immediately returned to their homeland for punishment, as if we were to bring judgement ourselves, it would be a break of the pact. So basically, they still do whatever they want, and they get away with it."
"So then, why the pact? They clearly aren't holding up their end of the bargain. Oh right, of course, you can't PROVE that. By their logic, they are holding up their end. They 'punish' the offending members of their race with a lash or two for getting caught, then send them right back out."
"Exactly. I wasn't expecting them to show up, as they reside in a far off land, their visits are unpredictable at best. They'll come back, and they'll try to find reason to prove that you're being held here against your will. They'll twist any little thing any of us say or do. If they find enough grounds for their reasoning, not only will they take you to their land, where you'll either be forced into service of the king, or perhaps treated as a god, don't know, grasping at straws on that one, but, there won't be any diplomatic immunity. Given that I'm one of the rulers of Equestria, the highest authority, they know I won't be punished, which, by the treaty, means that they will then be given just cause to do it themselves. Basically, any pony or diamond dog can take one of the others as a slave, and then be 'punished' by the authority of their homeland, but if the authority itself commits the crime, they are then subject to the punishment of the authority of the other."
"So, pretty much, if they decide that I'm here against my will, they'll take you hostage and hold you as a bargaining chip against your sister, so that they can do pretty much anything they want on Equestrian soil?"
"Yes." She hung her head.
"Well then, I have to agree with you. Damnit indeed."
"There are only two ways we can overcome this. The first is if you can complete your training and be fully in control of yourself by the time they return, and can prove that you are very much free to do as you please within." She explained.
"Alright, well, that's good. I think we can do that." I replied.
"I sure hope so. The second, and you're not going to like it.... if you can't, if they come too early.... I'll have to reinstate the assault charges that were dropped. You'd be considered a criminal, which would justify my keeping you here. You would then be brought to Cavernicous, the diamond dog capitol, to be 'punished' for your crimes against Equestria. If it comes to the second situation, they'll take you either way, and I'd have to abandon you to save face. I cannot allow myself to be used as a bargaining chip against my sister, as they would certainly force her to make absurd concessions for my continued safety. They likely won't punish you, rather, force you to submit to High King Rothak. He's a vicious bastard of a diamond dog. He might keep you as a pet, more likely kill you to prove his strength. There is an off chance that they'd treat you well, considering that they are big on ancestor worship, but, it still looks bleak. And, since you'd be too valuable to let go, unless you somehow found a way to escape, you would never be able to return. A dank dark cave would be your home for the rest of your days." She had a tear in her eye. She clearly didn't want to see me go.
"Well, that wouldn't be good at all. I wouldn't even be in wolf form then, because I'd be underground. They'd tear me apart."
"Which is why we're skipping to the final phase of your training. Complete control. The ability to change even without the power of the moon, and to prevent the change even when under it. You have made remarkable progress, it normally takes far longer to complete a werewolf's training, but given your cooperation, you've shaved several years off. We just have to step it up.
"Excellent Lark, once more?"
"Very well, once more, and then I believe it is time for dinner?"
The final training session was... strange, to say the least. And by strange, I mean awkwardly easy, and yet incredibly difficult at the same time. In order to transform at will, it's simply a matter of envisioning the full moon in my mind, and mimicking the sensation I get when in it's light. To prevent the transformation while under the moon's light is a different story. It requires intense mental focus, and a constant conscious effort. Just as changing at will requires imagining the moon, refraining from doing so means imagining that it isn't there, even when it clearly is. I had to convince myself that it was not present, almost to the point of hallucination. Basically, rejecting it's existence to the point that even if I look right at it, I wouldn't see it. This would take far longer than we had, and while I had succeeded once, It left me sweating with the strain of having gone through, then reversed, a partial transformation. I was not yet at the point that I could do it consistently, or for long periods of time. Luna explained that the entire training usually takes years, and only my intense discipline that comes from playing what is considered a 'finicky' instrument perfectly had expedited the process.
"Well, I guess that will have to be good enough. Even though you can't prevent your transformations, you can control yourself when you do change. This is the last of what I can teach you. The rest will come with practice. As such, you are no longer my charge. You are free to go." Luna stated. Freedom. It has been a long time since I have known the meaning of that word. Even though I went where I pleased during my travels, I was never free, as I had always been a cage for myself, to contain the beast. Now that it was tame, for the first time, I was able to do whatever I wanted, without fear of what I may do if I lost control.
"Then, that's it then?"
"Indeed, That's it. Now, all that remains is the political debacle regarding your..... position.... here at the castle." She gave a sigh.
"Of course. Now, when they arrive, how should we explain the situation?"
"They're going to investigate the castle, and when they find the silver cell, they're going to assume you were kept in there."
I scratched my chin. "Well, that's simple enough. Due to being unable to control myself, I came to you and asked for your assistance. I requested the cell so I might wait out my transformations. As for why I was your servant, I insisted that I repay your kindness in helping me gain control of myself by being your butler, which includes keeping you company during the long hours of the night as you held court."
"Do you think they will believe it?"
"They will, so long as I get a new suit."
The time leading up to the wedding, as well as the visit from the diamond dogs, sped by. I took the opportunity to brush up on my manservant skills. Serving tea, fetching books, cleaning the study, organizing knickknacks, and various other tasks that are part of a butler's manifest. Most of all, I played music. It is what I'm meant to do, and I was happy to entertain the princess who had given me so much.
As for my suit, it was a classic black tuxedo, with white undershirt and cuffs, and a black tie. There was a small, crescent moon pin on the breast pocket, and shiny, black shoes. Luna had several sets of this suit commissioned with the royal tailor, Silk Thread. I find it strange that each pony's name matches their job or special talent, despite the fact that they are named before they discover what it is and earn their mark, but this is a world of magic and lucky occurrence. Who would have believed that a witches spite could send me to a world not only free of the war, disease, and banditry that plagued my home, but also to the place that would ultimately let me control my curse.
"Lark." Luna called from her astronomy room. Filled with charts and telescopes of all kinds, as well as other tools such as sextants, protractors, and a single abacus. She had her eye at one of the larger telescopes, but it was not aimed at the night sky. No, it was aimed down, at the entrance to the city.
"Prepare thyself. We have company. I have no doubt that we will win this day, but, still, I wish you good luck."
"And I, you. Shall we go?"
"Yes, it's time to wage politics."
"Alright, so remember, DON'T bow. It may be a sign of respect here, but to them, it's a sign of submission."
"And always keep eye contact."
"And whatever you do, don't insult them."
"Princess Luna, it will be fine. We have prepared for this for weeks."
"Well, I'm glad you have confidence."
"They are ambassadors. Politicians. We can handle them."
"Lark..... I did not tell you before as I did not wish to worry you, but at the gate were no mere emissaries. It was Rothak himself, and his personal guard." That is not good. Not good at all. While I appreciate her not telling me to spare my nerves, I was going to find out eventually. Now I'm worried. Nobody knows what he will attempt. From Luna's description, he's as cruel and heartless in his negotiations as he is in battle, and definitely something to be afraid of, especially if you haven't had much practice in the past thousand years......
"Okay then, we can't panic. If we panic, he'll tear us apart. It's simple, I'm your lycanthropic butler, who willingly offered his services in return for help controlling myself. It was completely voluntary. If they say I should come with them to complete my training, It's no longer required since I already finished it. I'm staying here no longer from debt, but because I still haven't decided where to go, which will be entirely up to me and I won't be swayed by political influence."
"Yes, that's good..... but what if they don't buy it?"
"Well, I'll just have to stay near you and look at you affectionately. Well, if it comes to it, we can always play the 'romance' ploy."
"While I hope it will not come to this, given no other alternative, in order for both of us to save face, we can claim to be in courtship. I, the lowly musician, became entranced with you when I first saw you. This would be ample explanation for why I decided to remain with you instead of seek them for assistance with my condition. Your kindness in aiding me where no other could only deepened my feelings, which I would confess on the spot. The profession would then provide ample reasoning. You reject my advances, stating you are of noble blood, and I am a lowly butler, at which point I proclaim my determination to win your heart, regardless of circumstance. It would be a convincing show, and that would get them off our backs. If they ever return and I'm not there, just say I've gone on a quest to prove my worth. After all, I am a wanderer." Luna blushed at the explanation of my contingency plan.
"Well, it is quite the clever ruse...... let us hope that we can avoid that, and save us both some humiliation."
"Of course. It is a last resort."
"Attention. High King Rothak demands presence in the court of Princess Luna." A lowly squire hound proclaimed.
"His request is granted." Luna replied spitefully while sitting on her throne, next to her sister. I stood by the lunar princess's side, holding a tray with teacups and pot, with my violin strung over my back. The main doors opened, and a ten foot tall diamond dog, covered in scars, wearing full knight armor of a dark steel, with two wicked great swords on his back in a cross, entered the hall, flanked by a dozen or so lesser dogs carrying spears. The ground shook as he walked, until he reached the center of the room. Several other dogs struggled to carry a large throne into position behind him, which he unceremoniously slumped into. His eyes were dead locked on me, and I returned his gaze.
"High King Rothak, a to what do we owe the honor of this visit? It is a long way from Cavernicus, I trust this is not a social call." Celestia stated. The titan of a hound cleared his throat, and spoke in a gravelly voice.
"Celestia. It has been far too long. I see your sister is once again in your company?"
"Indeed I am. My banishment ended three years ago."
"And who is this? I do not recall....."
"I am Lark Wolfe, Luna's butler and the very reason for this meeting." I replied, pushing up my glasses.
"This is a royal discussion, not a place for servents whelp. I suggest you learn your place." I moved closer to Luna.
"I know my place, and it is right here. Perhaps you should learn yours....." He fixed his piercing gaze on me and growled, a growl which I returned with equal force. Then to my surprise, he began to laugh.
"Bahaha! That's good. Good. I was worried for a moment that the princess had managed to break your will. You are indeed strong. Not even my highest general has dared to look me in the eye and state his defiance. You will make a great addition to the pack."
"I will not. My will is my own, and I submit to none." His laughter stopped, and his voice turned sharp.
"You will not submit to me, yet you bow to the ponies? Pathetic whelp." He stood. "You try my patience. You are our kin, and you will submit to my rule, or face me in battle."
"I am NOT your kin. I am of no relation to you or your pack. I am a hound by demon's curse. The waters of Styx flow through my veins, and my mere presence brings ruin."
"Then your keepers will not mind if I take you off their...... hooves. You are canine. Regardless of origin, you ARE kin." This isn't working. For every reason not to go, he finds three more for why I belong to him. Looks like it's time to pull the trump card. Luna, forgive me. I turn to her and nod, and she nods back.
"I do not mind his presence, and he has yet to bring me to ruination." She stated.
"Perhaps.... but for what reason does he remain here? If he is not bound by shackle or chain, nor by duty, then he is free to return with me." Here goes.
"You are correct. What binds me here is not shackle, cage, or chain. Nor is it duty or debt. I am a slave in no way but one. My heart."
"I came to this world by a witch's spite, and found myself beaten and broken. I sought Princess Luna of my own accord, in hopes that the spirit of the moon might help me in taming my curse. When I first saw her.... I was stricken with her beauty. I begged for her aid, which she offered freely. She charged no fee, but I insisted that I serve in any way I can as recompense. Over time, her caring and kindness ensnared my heart, and I would gladly supplicate myself to her. In these many months, I have made great pains for her comfort, in hopes of winning her affections. Princess Luna, I may be a fool, but it is my earnest desire that we may enter courtship, in hopes that I may one day marry you. Will you accept my love?"
Now, turn me down. Then I can proclaim that I will continue my efforts regardless, and that'll get him to leave. Here it comes......
"Lark, in the time you have been here, I have grown fond of you. You have seen me in a way that no other has, looking not in fear but with admiration, something I have not felt all my life, and led to my banishment. You have cared for me in ways that no other has, and so I am glad to accept your offer of courtship." Wait..... WHAT?!?! No, no no no, she was supposed to refuse! Luna, by all that is good what are you doing?
"As co-ruler of Equestria and spirit of the sun, I bear witness to the proclamation of courtship between Lark Wolfe and Luna Moon." Celestia, you traitor!
"As ruler of the hound lands and spirit of the earth, I bear witness to the proclamation of courtship between Lark Wolfe and Luna Moon. Who am I to break up blossoming love?" You too Rothak? "But it seems we have made an error. No hound would romance a pony. This is a mere butler. Where is the werewolf, our spirit ancestor?" Oh, you little.....
"I am he. If you require proof, I would gladly provide it."
"Very well, show me."
I closed my eyes, and turned my focus inwards, mimicking the sensation of the full moon's light on my skin, and picturing the pale circle in my mind. I removed my tuxedo shirt to not tear it as the changes came, my hair growing into fur, my mouth turning to a muzzle, and fangs coming in. My knees reversed, and my fingers turned into thick claws. Finally, a tail sprouted from my spine, and the changes were complete. I stood before the titan of a dog, now only slightly shorter than he, and looked proud as I wrapped my arms around Luna from the side, allowing her to nuzzle me.
"I believe that confirms the claim?" Luna smirked.
"Very well. Treat him kindly. We do not take it well when our kin have broken hearts." He grumbled, then stood and left, the ground once again shaking as he walked. As soon as he left, I scooped the princess up and carried her to her quarters, where we waited in silence for my changes to reverse, as I could not yet control that aspect, and could not speak while transformed.
"Princess Luna.... what the HELL was that?"
"Why are you upset? The plan worked flawlessly."
"Yes, but now we're courting. You do know what that means, do you not?"
"Of course I do. It means we will go on romantic outings until the point in time that we decide that either it isn't working out or that we shall wed."
"Why did you not refuse my advance?"
"Well, one thing you did not take into account in your brilliant plan is that one of the actors may actually have feelings for the other, and would change the scene to fit her desires. Why, did you not mean what you said in the throne room?" Luna pouted playfully.
"You cannot lie to me. I am the spirit of the moon after all, your governing body. I could tell quite easily that you meant everything you said in there, and for one, I am quite glad you feel that way, because so do I."
"You mean to tell me that you are interested in me romantically?"
"I do. You are one of the kindest, most generous and caring beings I have ever met, and were not afraid to look past my frightening exterior. Not to mention I haven't had a date in over a thousand years, and while you aren't a pony..... you have a certain...... attraction about you. This doesn't mean we're going to be 'involved', merely that we're going to give it a chance. Don't ruin it or purpose either, or I shall be very cross." She flicked her tail in my face and looked over her shoulder at me while biting her lip as she walked out.
"What have I gotten myself into.........."
"Dear Lord, what did I do to deserve this?" Now I'm trapped in a cross species relationship with an immortal moon pony. I mean, it's not like I don't like her. She is rather beautiful, and has shown me such great kindness in my time of need...... but I don't like like her...... and I'm not sexually attracted at all. I mean, she's a pony, a SMALL HORSE. I mean, not that that's a bad thing, but, I'm a human..... wolf..... not to mention shes the second head of the royal court, and an immortal, magical PONY, and I'm a human musician.... And what of public image? After Nightmare Night seven months ago, I'm not exactly the most popular person, even if there was minimal damage, and it was undone easily. To be courting royalty, it screams scandal! This is a massive headache.....
'One thing at a time Lark. I need to stop thinking about why it won't work and start focusing on how to make it work. If I don't give it an honest effort, there's no way the princess will let me go, and who knows? I may fall for her yet. And then what? Marriage, only for me to die and her to live on? And..... mating........ with a pony! And then, what of children, is it even possible? And what if it is? What would they be? And then parenthood.......... This is way too complicated.... no, stop whining, focus on right now.... the wedding. I'm performing at the wedding reception. I need to prepare for that. It'll be my first public appearance in a very long time, and a good way to get back on the public's good side, something I need to do regardless of whether it is to have relations with Equestrian royalty or to head out on my own and travel.'
"Lark, are you ready for the practice session?" Luna called from outside my room. That's right. Twilight and her friends are here to prepare. How had the time slipped by? The past two weeks had felt like mere minutes, most likely as I had spent the better portion of it doing the same things. Practicing, going over what I'd play with the other musicians. Lyra...... she's one of the bridesmaids. I hadn't spent much private time with Luna because of that, although I knew that was just till after the wedding. I was prolonging the inevitable. The fact of the matter is, I'm courting a princess. I may as well act accordingly.
"Yes dear. I'm on my way."
'Something, is not right. The smell..... it is strange, and not merely different. It is the scent of evil. Be on guard.' My senses were telling me as I entered the cathedral where the couple were to wed. Luna was sleeping in her quarters at the time. In fact, she was headed to bed when she woke me, having stayed up all night to search for a perceived threat. Was that the reason for my anxiety? The princesses were worried, and so too was I? Or perhaps it is that I am finally coming out from my half year in near isolation, with infrequent visits from those I knew who weren't petrified of what I am, into a crowd of those who are? Or, am I truly sensing something amiss, but I cannot determine what it is without changing form and causing a scene? Frustration upon frustration. Perhaps I should wed Luna. Goodness knows that if I could engage in activities restricted to the married I'd be able to relax for once.............. That was a joke although I'll admit a rather poor one.
As the preparations continued, I noticed something was not quite right with Twilight as well. She seemed suspicious of Cadence, who was not acting as her usual self. All others considered it to merely be pre wedding jitters, and the stress of a deadline, which it very well may be. Twilight on the other hand had a look of determination in her eye, a look of absolute certainty. She knew something was the matter, and was dead set on finding out what. Normally, I wouldn't give it a second thought, but with my own instincts telling me that she was on to something, I decided that I should follow her and make sure she didn't get herself in too deep of trouble.
'Curiosity killed the cat, so it's a good thing I'm a dog.'
It's almost time. In all honestly, I've been worried about Twilight, so I may have been stalking throughout the castle, looking for anything amiss. Ever since I noticed Cadence start acting strangely, I stayed out of sight, but kept her within mine. I saw strange things several times, including an argument between her and Shining Armor, and the lavender mare attempting to speak with her brother, only to be interrupted time and time again. As of right now, I am supposed to be practicing the music with the other ponies. Instead, I'm watching the wedding rehearsal from the window. They began talking, although even with my improved hearing I could not discern what they were saying through the thick glass. Everyone looked around, and finally, Twilight burst into the room. There seemed to be some accusation, as though she had finally found some proof of villainy, but it was shot down by those present, and the conversation ended with Twilight hanging her head as the rest of the bridal party walked out of the room, looks of scorn on their faces.
"So.... that's it then....."
Or, perhaps not. By Twilight's actions, it would seem she was giving Cadence an apology, and what occurred next was both a shock, as well as expected, given what the danger I had been sensing earlier. The pink horned pegasus glared wickedly, her horn flashing green as a circle of green flame opened in the floor and swallowed a screaming Twilight before sinking into the ground, with the mare responsible laughing maniacally. This.... this is not good at all. I need to find Luna and.....
"What are you doing here?" Blast! Alright... I can get out of this.
"Ah, just taking a break from practicing the music for your wedding Princess Cadence. After all, you personally requested that I be the one to play for you. They're all on lunch break right now, so I decided to smell the flowers. Aren't they delightful?"
"Hmm, yes, I suppose they are. Back to work."
"Oh come now, surely you have a couple minutes to talk to a good friend. You seem tense, is something on your mind? Is it about Twilight?" She seemed a little stunned and backed away as I put a hand on her neck and rubbed her mane.
"Is it because she's being overprotective of her brother?"
"Yes, that's it."
"Well, I suppose you can hardly blame her. You have been acting rather harsh to everypony lately, although wedding stress is no excuse. You ought to know better than to imprison ponies in cages of green fire and sink them into the floor....." Her eyes went wide in realization as my spine began to extend. I hunched over as my legs bent backwards, my muscles built, and I started growing hair.
"Say... isn't Princess Cadence's magic blue? Yours is green. I think we're going to go have a nice long chat with the princesses about who you really are, and what you've done with the real princess." She glared at me with interest.
"What are you?" She asked, not with fear, but with intrigue.
"And that sells it." My voice became a deep, throaty growl. "Cadence was one of the first to know that I'm a werewolf. What's more, you haven't called me by my name this entire time." And with that, the transformation was complete. I let out a grand howl to alert Luna to what I had found and dove at the impostor, intent on knocking her out. Unfortunately for me I was caught in the same thing Twilight was and bounced off it harmlessly.
"A werewolf? I was under the impression your kind died out long ago. A unique find. I could use a pet, but we'll have to get rid of that nasty free will now won't we?" She rubbed my chin with her hoof before a flash of green made my eyes roll around in my head. Next thing I knew I was in some kind of living pod, hanging upside down from the roof, in a cave full of chirping bugs.... no, wait, they look like ponies..... Either way, they smelled of evil. I was still in my lycan form, so at this point, I simply shredded the walls of my prison and dropped to the floor. I shook the goop out of my fur and turned to look at the multitude of insects around me before letting out a bloodcurdling howl that sent many of them sprawling.
'I need to get out of here and find Princess Luna. Twilight, Shining Armor, and the real Cadence are in trouble.'
The remainder of the horde began to charge at me, their sheer mass bearing down on me as I was squashed in a ball of black chitin.
'Your friend may have been able to beat me, let's see how well you fare.' My lycan rage exploded from me as I curled up my body like a spring, then let loose, opening myself up and throwing my arms into the air. The bug ball dispersed as the not-ponies were thrown around like ragdolls.
'Been a while since I killed anything. Luna told me to fully control my instincts I'd have to let myself go wild once in a while, either at a party as a human, which Pinkie Pie could help with, or in the forest as a wolf. This looks like a good place to start.' They were still getting up as my claws sank into the first one I came across as I ran on all fours, not even bothering to stop as it was crushed underfoot, staining the floor and my hands with glowing green slime. Another four fell the same way before they had managed to regain their bearings. Six, seven, and eight were gone and I grabbed one in each hand and squeezed them so their heads popped off, as well as biting off one's head with my jaws. What I expected to taste disgusting was.... surprisingly, not. As I swallowed the bug's head, the ichor oozing down my throat after it, I felt a warmth welling up inside of me, a strength I had not known before as my voice came forth, even in my shifted state.
"You....You're..... DELICIOUS!" And that was when they started to run, and fly, away. But running would not save them as I chased them down and ripped their stomachs out with my jaws, greedily devouring them. Nor would flying as they were trapped within the relatively small space of the cave, and I used my claws to dig into the thing fleshy layer that covered it, climbed the sides and leaped off, grabbing one out of the air and ripping it's wings off before biting into it's neck. All their efforts to fight me or escape only added to the thrill of the hunt.
'Let the feast begin.'
Okay, so, thank you for all your input. I figured out what was wrong with the chapter and have rewritten it to be a bit better. Still not REALLY up to my expectations, but I'm a perfectionist so, once again. Tell me what you think of it. If I can figure out a good direction to take the story, it'll take off.
'Get back here and let me eat you!' The bugs seemed to be able to sense my thoughts, screaming as they desperately tried to escape. A great many of them had gotten out of the hive, only by the fact that with their sheer numbers I couldn't possibly get them all. I was also getting full, a sensation I had never felt before in my changed form. I had literally gorged myself on the delicious green ooze and shuddered at the sensation of warmth in my gut. I was now completely covered in the slime, so I shook myself off, splattering it all over the walls of the cave.
'Alright, that's about enough of this. Time for me to get out of this cave. Let's see. They're trying to get away from me, odds are they'll fly out and try to escape the cave, so then I just need to follow the mass and the scent of fresh air.'
I ran through the cave, my feet making a 'splitching' sound as they contacted the floor, which, like the walls, was covered in the same living goo as the chamber I awoke in. Down long, narrow corridors which branched every now and then, holes in the ceiling and floor reminding me of a massive beehive.
'Is that what this is? An enormous beehive, and what I've been eating when I rip them apart is their honey? It would explain why it tastes so good.' Finally, I reached a large chamber where I could see daylight filtering in through small holes. The insects flew upwards, to the very top of the chamber, towards what looked like a piece of green glass embedded in the ceiling, except that a hole opened in it to allow them passage, then closed up once they were through.
'Looks like my exit.' I grabbed the walls with my sharp claws, using my powerful arms and legs to grip the living mass and climb up the inside of the dome shaped structure, with the bee ponies swarming around, trying to hit me and knock me down, but each attempt only being met by claw or fang. Finally, I was hanging upside down, right next to the glass pane, and through it, I could see daylight, yet, it refused to open. Another of my foes flew to me, and instead of merely splattering it, I grabbed it and pushed it into the gate, causing it to open before I threw myself through it and tossed the screaming bug into my mouth, followed by a satisfying crunch. There, in the middle of the chamber, stood what must have been the queen. Tall, slender, with a crooked horn and holes through her hooves, a large pair of gossamer wings that looked shredded. She looked at me with surprise before backing away.
"No! You weren't supposed to wake up yet!"
"The false Cadence? Then I take it your plan failed....." Some of the green ooze dripped out of my mouth and down my chin, bringing a look of horror to the queen's face.
"It did, and I may have been weakened by Cadence and Shining Armor, but I have more than enough power to defeat you. Hold still, and this will be over quickly." Her claim was cut short my me pouncing on her, flipping her on to her back and pinning her to the floor of the cave. Her smell was intoxicating, the fear in her eyes alluring, and the taste as I slowly licked up her neck and face..... fantastic. I couldn't wait to sink my teeth into her. If the rest tasted that good, the queen was going to be an amazing meal. She looked at me in horror before I grabbed her neck and swung my head back and forth, flinging her around like a dog with a rope. I kept up with this for a bit before throwing her against the wall and sinking a claw into her stomach while pinning her with the other. I brought my muzzle close and breathed on her, the stench of her dead kin making her recoil. I brought my tongue up the side of her face which made her shiver, then shook my head.
'What... what am I doing? No. I need to stop this. But.... she tastes so good! NO!' I slowly backed away, the fear in her eyes no longer making arousing the hunter, instead bringing memories of death and slaughter, horrible nightmares which I fought to lock away. 'I shouldn't be doing this. I need to stop!' I dropped her to the ground and licked the... whatever it was, off my claws and face, then sniffed at her as her wounds slowly mended, to the point that it looked as though they had never been there in the first place. She shakily got to her hooves and looked at me with interest.
"You... stopped?" She cocked her head to the side and took a step towards me, but a low growl made her step back. She tried to step around, but I moved to block her. She took to the air, only for me to grab her and pull her back down, pinning her again.
"What do you want?" I tilted my head to the side and thought 'answers'. She seemed to pick up on it and sighed in defeat.
"I am Queen Chrysalis of the changelings. I impersonated Princess Cadence in order to feed on Shining Armor's love, to nourish myself and my hive, as well as weaken him to the point that we could conquer Equestria. We failed. We were driven back, and now the entire country is on high alert. We can't gather love anymore, and we're beginning to starve. We are the same. Hated by others, always having to hide what we are, yet here we can be who we were meant to be. Changelings are parasites that feed on the love of others. We're despised because of our appearance, and hated because we live a lie, hiding among others."
"Right...... I am the one who took you from the Canterlot Gardens. I couldn't have you blowing my cover, and with your bestial strength, speed, and ferocity, which the ponies would inevitably try to break you of, if they haven't not attempted already, would be nothing but a benefit to the swarm. Here, in this place, you can be who you are. No more running, no being judged by others. Only acceptance of who you really are." At this point, I could feel my transformation wearing off, so I backed away and let Chrysalis rise to her hooves. I didn't bother trying to stay in my current form, after all, I could just change back if I need to.
Once I returned to being human, I noticed that I was naked..... again...... 'Why must I always destroy my clothing? Especially my pants. They always get torn...... At least now I can talk properly, although I wonder why I was able to before when I was hunting.....'
"I'm afraid not. I have a previous relationship with Princess Luna..... which I have to try and get out of.... and then I need to decide what I want to do with myself."
"Will you at least think about it? You could live here, not having to hide. You could stay with me, feed me love, guard the hive, and in return, we could provide for all your needs. The love honey which you so greedily devoured, without costing me my drones next time, and relief from your..... instincts......" She gave me a sultry grin, which I immediately backed away from. I know for a fact that animals have instincts in a certain order. The first is food, and the second is breed. Since I had pretty much had my fill on all those drones, the 'love honey' giving me an enormous amount of energy, and given the position I had in pinning her to the ground, it was fairly clear to me what she was suggesting. 'Wait...... promiscuous, feed on love, transform to make themselves attractive to their food source.... Changelings are the pony version of succubi. Perhaps not actual demons, much how Equestrian lycanthropy is a disease rather than a curse, but the parallels are astounding.
"...... I'll..... keep it in mind. I'm not just going to trust you after you kidnapped me, attacked Cadence and Twilight, and put me in... whatever that thing was, then tried to seduce me, but I'll think about it, along with the dozen other things I need to decide. Which way to Equestria?"
"East. Just follow the morning sun." She opened another of those green glass-like gateways to the outside which I passed through with haste before it closed behind me. I turned to look at it, only to find that the entire structure was disguised as a large boulder from the outside, and the door itself simply blended in with the surroundings. Where I found myself now was a dense jungle, a large assortment of scents making themselves known along with the moisture that hung in the air, a particularly large mosquito landed on me, but before it could bite, a frog grabbed it with it's tongue from over five feet away and made a crunch as it ate it. A roar in the distance, followed by a flock of birds taking off to avoid whatever it was.
'Wonderful. Well, no use whining. Time to get out of here. Luna's probably worried.'
I changed back into my lycan form, the process getting easier and less painful as I practiced it, then charged off towards the morning sun. The soft moss on my paws, the sticks crunching as I ran over them, bushes being thrown out of my way and vines snapping as I charged through the underbrush towards the land of the ponies.
'Really, I should consider Chrysalis's offer..... I was only in Ponyville a few days before Nightmare Night, what is my attachment to them? Lyra, whom I only care for because she reminds me of my sister, Ditzy Doo who has a life of her own, a foal, and apparently adventures with the Doctor, Twilight, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, Applejack, Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy, whom I have very little connection with, Cadence, who offered me kindness, and Luna, whom I owe my gratitude. Yes, she spent a great deal of time helping me gain control of my inner animal, but where does that become romantic? What's more, if she's anything like what I think her to be, she's a dominating, manipulative sister, used to getting what she wants, and our relationship is only one of courtship because she has feelings for me which she never told me of, and altered a carefully laid plan without my knowledge, just to get what she wants.... why does nobody take what I want into consideration, and just decide things on their own?'
=So, I think this version is better than some sort of love drug. It seemed like a cheesy excuse for clop, which I am NOT writing. I like this one MUCH more.=
I bounded through the fetid jungle for some time till I reached it's end, and with it, the end of the changeling lands. Queen Chrysalis had been true to her word, surprising for someone who lives by deceit. I had reached the borders of Equestria. The open, grassy meadow of the pony nation, with it's bright, shining sun and clear skies was a rather strange contrast to the dark, damp jungle I had been in prior. It became plain to me that even if they did not require love for sustenance, that they most likely would have invaded anyway, simply because of climate.
It was at this point that I had a brilliant idea. Or, perhaps the idea was foolish. One cannot tell such things at the moment they occur. It was risky, but had a chance to pay off wonderfully. If all went well, I could regain my standing in the public eye. If it went foul, Luna would have to explain some things, and might be cross with me, perhaps not enough to ruin her apparent infatuation with me, but all that it would cost me is some loud words from her and an apology on my part.
I decided to continue on my way to Canterlot, passing through a fairly large settlement known as Las Pegasus, which as I've heard is a hotbed of gambling and self indulgence. Now, ever the traveling showman, how could I pass up the opportunity? Of course, I did not have my violin, it was back at the castle, but how often has a pony seen a tame werewolf? Certainly not in the past nine hundred years. No, I would pass through town fully transformed, in broad daylight, show myself to be harmless, and I know for a fact that I didn't injure anyone in Ponyville, only Lyra on the outskirts, who agreed not to spread it around unnecessarily. At large, the most I would be known for is knocking over a few market stalls.
I entered the town quickly, and finding myself on the main road I was beset by lights on all sides, flashing and blinking. There were alarms of some kind, and I thought that the town guard had been called on me. That is, until I heard a mare at the machine making the terrible noise shout 'I won!'.
'Must be some strange gambling machine. I don't pretend to understand most of the technology in this world, and given my experience with 'The Doctor' I don't think I'll try. Bigger on the inside, smaller on the outside, there really is no difference.'
And so, I strode into the city calmly but with purpose, like I was just part of the crowd. Until somepony screamed and I found myself surrounded by guards.
"Back! I said back! How did it even get in the city anyways? Did it escape from the zoo?"
'Alright... quick... what does a good doggy do? Sit... stay.. wag tail.... hang the tongue out of the mouth, sure, that'll work.' So, I did just that. The guard's confusion was understandable when they saw the 'ferocious beast' acting like a trained hound, which I am. They tried to gently 'persuade' me to leave, so I got up, and walked further into the city. Directly opposite of where they had directed.
"No, dumb dog. OUT of the city, not further IN to it." They were helpless to stop me, non violently anyways, and tried to block my path, only for me to simply walk through them like they weren't even there. It was annoying them to no end. I kept this up for a while, as I found it rather amusing, until I caught a scent. A scent I found familiar. Wet fur and freshly tilled soil. Diamond dogs.
I followed the scent, quickly losing the guards with my superior speed, only to lose it, pick it back up, and lose it again. Were they masking their scent? I couldn't tell where it was coming from. At this point, I decided it would just be best to give up the search, as I wasn't finding where they were, and they may NOT have been up to unscrupulous activities. I can see how a city like this gambling den might attract all kinds. Well, when I say ALL kinds, I wasn't quite expecting to see a griffin from mythology. He stood at the entrance to an eatery, and wore a bloodied apron, taking out the garbage. That was when I picked up the scent again. They weren't hiding it, it was just mixed with so many other smells. Garbage, meat, alcohol, gutter water, vomit..... and lust. I have a feeling that whatever happens in this city is never mentioned outside of it.
'A butcher? In a country full of herbivores? I need to see this.'
I walked up to the entrance, and after exchanging glances with the griffin, his being one of 'don't cause trouble' and mine being an acceptance of that agreement, I walked inside to find many more griffins, as well as some diamond dogs, conversing over a roasted boar. At another table a group of somethings that fit the description of naga sat quietly, and a rather large fox was in the corner crying while he nursed a bottle of what smelled like turpentine. This place seems, oddly, quaint. I walked up to the bar and sat on the stool, the only pony in the building, the bartender, was performing the bartender's duty. Cleaning an already clean glass with a dirty rag.
"What can I get for ya?" Oh, that's right, I can't talk. Damn. I decided to change back to a human at that point, just to make things easier. Some of the patrons of the pub looked slightly surprised, but the bartender himself didn't seem to care in the slightest. He was the typical grease maned, dull coated bartender you found serving booze everywhere, with the same thick accent and unreadable stone face graced by a warm smile. Apparently, some things in this world are the same as my own. The dogs however stared holes in the back of my head.
"I could use some clothes, a roasted boar, and a pint of ale." After all, I had just ran several miles, after killing a large number of changelings, and I'm completely naked.
"Ya got bits?" I idly spun the bar stool, letting him catch a glimpse of the tattoo on my back as I turned, the same as Princess Luna's 'cutie mark'.
"Oh erm, it's on the house. Just don't be takin advantage of my hospitality."
"Wouldn't think of it. Soon as I'm dressed and fed, I'll be out of your.... mane...." Truly the kindness of ponies knows no bounds. He was back in a couple minutes with a number of old auburn bed sheets that had been cut to have the proper holes in it and the pitcher of ale. He told me it would be a few minutes for the food, but I wasn't in a hurry. I dressed myself in my rags, then turned to prepare for the verbal assault that was sure to come.
"I had heard that there was a lycan in Equestria, after all this time, an ancestor comes before us." The five dogs who had been watching me bowed, right in the middle of the bar. I do not like where this is going.
"I hate to ruin your evening, but I am no ancestor of yours. I am of no relation at all to your kind, and have already spoken to your king of such matters."
"That mark.... you are a slave to the moon pony."
"I bore this far before I ever came here, by choice, and before I even knew her. As for a slave, I'm as much of a slave as any suitor is."
"Then, it is true?" A griffin stepped up. "You're the 'monster' that seeks Princess Luna's hoof? Beauty and the beast alright. I'm wondering how you got stuck falling for a beast like her." The entire population of that little pub broke into rowdy laughter, and I am not at all shamed to admit that I joined them. Perhaps it is because of the ale?
"Names Malarkey. I work the meat shop in here. Catering to.... 'non-pony' clients." The griffin rolled his claw around idly. He had the typical English butcher's accent. Rough, but not foolish. A brute, but cunning underneath.
"Come, join me for a spell. Let's chat."
So, we engaged in idle conversation while we ate. I shared my story, up until the point that I came to Equestria, and for the most part they were enthralled by it. Learning about another place that was as strange to them as this one was to me. After the meal, things were winding down, so I started gathering some bits of information.
"So, I notice you have a fairly diverse group of clients."
"Yeah. Anythin carni or omni comes here for their meat."
"Even diamond dogs? I was under the impression they ate gems."
"Ya, they do, and uh... listen, can ya come talk ta me in private for a sec? It'll only take a moment of yer time." That is what I was waiting for. I followed him into the back, to the meat locker, which he then closed. It was cold, but neither of us were bothered by it.
"Alright, listen up. I know all about you and the princesses and all that. I got eyes and ears in high places. I got something I need to tell you, but keep it quiet." His accent suddenly changed to one of refinement, of high society. "The diamond dogs? They are NOT kidnappers. The ones that are have them mine under Equestria, and when they get caught, they get sent back to Cavernicus for beheading. Rothak may be a cranky old mutt, but he's been keeping the treaty word for word. Whoever's taking the ponies, it NOT them."
"How do you know all this?" I was rather skeptical. After all, it's the princess's word against this griffin's.
"Let's just say that a griffin lord's son went missing, and he wanted him found, so, he sent the world's greatest investigator."
"You're a spy."
"I went straight to the capitol under the guise of a chef, just like I'm a butcher now, and I served that dog the best meal he ever ate before slinking off and letting my team in. They combed that place top to bottom, and even under the bottom. There weren't any slaves, any chains, anything at all. Just like the last five we had been to. Just hard working dogs mining. So I got to wondering, if they aren't doing it, who is? I followed a lead to Los Pegasus, and my partner blew his cover. He's dead now, and I'm investigating, so I can't expose myself by contacting any authorities."
"And you're working in the bar because that's the best place to pick up information."
"Right. I need you to return to Princess Celestia, tell her what I've found, and to tell Lord Rigmarole that 'Jabberwock has fallen, but Nonsense lives.' He'll know what it means. You're currently my only link to the magistrate, which is why the owner was so keen on giving you a handout. He can just pass it off as 'loyalty to Equestria', but it gives me a way to communicate with the higher ups."
"I'll be sure to."
"Good, now what do ya know about meat?" He asked, switching back to his previous inflection.
"Honestly, I think they could do with more tenderizing. If you hired an earth pony to pulverize it with his hooves, it would make them nice and tender without drying it out like the herbal tenderizers do. And make sure to trim the fat off, boil it down, and put in on the potatoes as gravy. You'd be serving better cuts, without waste since it's in a different dish."
"Gotta give ya credit, fer a musician ya sure know yer meats."
"Being raised on home cooked meals and traveling the wilds brings a fair bit of savvy when it comes to food. Just... don't let anyone else know my family's secret recipe."
"Will do guv'na."
With that, I changed back to my lycan form and wrapped the cloth around me like a toga. The bartender pony gave me a wink to tell me he approved of me, before I ran out of the establishment, found the guards I had previously lost, flicked one in the head, then stole their hoof cuffs and slapped them around my own wrists. I was brought into prison for assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest (my previous escape), and theft of government property.
Luna, come and get me. We need to talk.
I waited in the prison cell for Equestrian royalty to come and fetch me. The bars were made of mere iron, so they would not have been too difficult to bend, but that was not my intent. I allowed myself to return to human form, with my bed sheet toga wrapped around me, and sat on a simple cot against the wall while I waited. The prison cell was your typical prison cell. Stone, a single window, dusty. There were two other prisoners, in the cell across from mine. One was clinking a tin cup on the bars, while the other sang drunkenly.
"Nopooooony knows, the trouble I seen. Nopooooony knows but Luna......" I found myself thinking he was a remarkably good singer for being drunk. A day passed before I finally had a visitor. Princess Luna and her entourage had come to retrieve me.
"Well Lark, in prison again. What do you have to say for yourself? Where have you been all this time?" She said with disappointment clear in her voice.
"Not a hint of concern? I've been gone for at least three weeks, without a trace. I suddenly show up in a prison cell and you begin to berate me like it's a regular occurrence. Usually such tones are reserved for begrudgingly old couples who cannot stand each other's shenanigans yet love each other still. Darling, we aren't married yet, and neither of us are that sort of ancient...." Well, one of us isn't, but I feel that stating such would be pushing my luck. The guards seemed to have a bit of a chuckle at her expense however. Hmm... perhaps there IS a way I can avenge myself against Luna, despite having the wisdom of the ages, she is rather childish.....
She seemed frustrated at this, but knowing better than to make a public display of irritation, she held her calm, though a her face was slightly red. "Dear Princess, I shall explain once I have been freed of my confines, and we are in private where wandering ears may not happen on things they are not meant to hear." My cue stating something is not as it seems. She caught on wonderfully, and saw to my release post haste. It was a long flight back to Canterlot by pegasus chariot, and though the night air was rather chill, neither of us felt uncomfortable, thought the princess did put her wing on my back. Neither of us spoke the entire trip, as there was not much to say that could afford to be overheard by the guards.
When we eventually reached our destination, the first order of business was a change of clothes, as wearing old bed sheets was considered fashion suicide, and being in the court of nobles in such a garb would ruin my reputation. Once I had changed, I met Luna on her balcony to discuss the matter of my disappearance.
"Kidnapped? Queen Chrysalis stole you away?"
"Indeed. Just as Twilight had her mistrust, so did I. Her smell was all wrong, her actions were not those of the mare I knew, and she knew not my name. I attempted to drive her into the open, but she was prepared, and I fell into a trap of her own. When I awoke, I laid waste to the hive I was imprisoned in and made my way to the queen, who then explained her reasons. The starvation of her entire people among them. She offered to let me stay. I would be fed and my..... urges.... dealt with."
"I am glad to see you declined." The princess replied.
"I did not. I merely stated I would 'think about it' and left." This brought raised eyebrows from the moon mare. "All it means is that you're going to have to try a little harder to keep me around." I smiled wickedly.
"Oh.... you clever.... tell me, how many 'ways out' of this relationship have you found?"
"Chrysalis and the changelings, for one, Rothak and the diamond dogs are another. The doctor and Ditzy Do are a third. From what I hear they have many dangerous adventures that having a helping hand.... or claw... would be most appreciated." I mentioned Rothak to bring up the next subject.
"You would chose slavery by diamond dogs over myself?" She asked indignantly.
"I fear you have been misled. On my travels I met an undercover agent of a griffin kingdom. He had infiltrated Rothak's court, as well as several smaller dens, and found no evidence of slavery whatsoever. The only thing slave related that he viewed was a trio who had been caught by the Equestrian government for kidnapping ponies. The trio were beheaded before his eyes. Rothak has been keeping the accord, by the letter." This news came as a shock to the Lunar sister.
"But, if not they, who?"
"I do not know. All I was told is to pass a message to 'Lord Rigmarole', through your sister and yourself, that Jabberwock has fallen, but Nonsense lives. I assume Jabberwock is the 'partner' the agent spoke of who lost his disguise and died."
"Lord Rigmarole is one of our greatest supporters within the griffin council..... I shall relay the message. You have been quite busy in the time you've been gone."
"Indeed I have. As of right now though, I'd very much like dinner, and then to rest. I intend to leave the castle and present myself favorably in the public eye. Los Pegasus seemed to survive it's encounter with me, perhaps Canterlot would be a good place to begin to regain my public image. After all, it would be unseemly of a princess to court one who is not well liked by the people."
The next morn, I awoke with the sun, and played the usual song that accompanied sunrises, much to the pleasure of the rest of the castle, including Prince Blueblood, who had quite a bit to say about my disappearance, and subsequent return.
"I must say that it is good to have you back in the castle. I have greatly missed your songs as of late. Your music sets the mood to the entire day, and I fear I have been rather..... irate.... lately without it." He paused, thinking back on some manner of behavior he regretted exhibiting, before snapping to rapt attention once more.
"I've heard that you wish to improve your public image, and so I'd like to extend a formal invitation for you to be a guest at the League Of Dapper Gentlecolts. Well... mares are permitted as well, but the founding members were all stallions. The name seemed to fit at the time...... Never the less, I wish for you to accompany me tonight. Who knows, make a good enough impression, and you may very well become a member yourself. Music, fine dining, theater, and conversation." He passed me a card with an address and a stylized tie and top hat, not drawn, but embossed onto the very card. Classy indeed.
"I shall arrive in my best suit and fashionably late." I replied.
"And, do remember to bring your violin. Perhaps I can convince the orchestra to permit a temporary addition."
I traveled alongside Blueblood, from the castle down into the city proper. Fortunately, I did not attract the stares of the high society ponies, as they were all far too busy raising their noses into the air as high as physically possible. This actually made the endeavor far easier, from my perspective. Less questions to be answered. Several of them greeted the Prince cordially, and those that did seemed somewhat confused by my presence. Given my own air of refinement, and that I was far taller than most of them yet moved with unseemly grace, they didn't seem to take offense to my presence. We eventually reached the club, and after the Prince entered, I was prevented from doing so by the bodyguards. Royal guards, actually, in their shimmering golden armor.
"I don't believe I have seen you before." One of the guards stated. They all look the same, which I've learned is due to an enchantment on their armor, nevertheless, they are quite imposing. Wanting to quickly move past this obstacle, I greeted them.
"Forgive my manners. I am Lark Wolfe, musician extraordinaire. I am here in the company of his highness Prince Blueblood, in order to display my musical talents." With a sweeping bow, I presented the calling card he gave me to their eye level. They seemed to scrutinize it for a moment, most likely for legitimacy, before they stepped to the side and allowed me entry. This must certainly be a prestigious event if it warrants using royal guards to keep out the riff raff.
"Ah, the guards didn't give you any trouble did they?" The prince asked when I entered. He was standing among a group of others, each looking equally refined.
"Oh no. they were quite civil actually. Perhaps introductions are in order?" I repeated my introduction, followed by the remainder of the group. A white unicorn stallion with a mustache and monocle, named 'Fancy Pants', another white unicorn, a mare, named Fleur du Lis, a grey earth pony mare named Octavia, a blue minotaur named Iron Will who, despite the name and stature, spoke softly and with refinement. Also among the group was a diamond dog in a suit and tie named Gram-el, and a one of the serpent folk, indeed, a 'Naga' called Varoush, wearing colourful desert garb. With the introductions done, we moved to sit at a table near the stage, where an orchestra was playing.
"Quite a, varied, ensemble if I must say so myself." The Prince was quick to point out. "What matters here is not race, but refinement. This is where foreign relations are strengthened, deals are made, and public image is set. Wealth changes hooves, businesses are born... and die, and the creme de la creme of Equestria make themselves known."
"Indeed. I have seen many in this world, from my travels across the sands, though I have yet to see one such as yourself." Varoush spoke in a thick accent. Husky, yet moderate in tone, like his speech was molded and worn like the sands he traveled. "If you would not take offense, what are you?"
"A traveler, from the land of men. Specifically, England. Brought to this world through magical means. You would not find another like me in all the nations, and that suits me."
"I see." Came the minotaur's deep voice. "And how do you make your fortune?"
"Well, violinist is my calling, and wandering minstrel is my trade. I usually play in the courts of nobles. This brought me quite a fortune, though, for the moment, I live in the castle in the service of Princess Luna. I had no need of my wealth, so I gave it to the less fortunate. I have no need of mansions, as traveling usually entails not having a place to call home. For immediate needs, I can always make enough where I am to satisfy."
"Ahh, kindness and generosity. Were it not for these, I'd still be trying to scrape together a meager living, selling self help advice." The blue giant's chuckles boomed. "That was before I found my true calling. Monster hunter. And tamer, I suppose. I make the world safe, and collect ingredients from dangerous creatures for rare medicines and the like. It has brought me quite the fortune."
"Well, as long as you don't try hunting Lark, I don't see any reason why you two shouldn't get along." Blueblood joked.
"Why would I do that?" Iron looked at me questioningly.
'Blueblood you OAF! Blast, now I have to explain.'
"Part of the reason I am in Luna's service is I owe her a great debt. She helped me to tame the monster within. Though they have been extinct for the past thousand years or so, in my homeland, lycans are alive and well." There really is no use hiding it. Lying to the people will just make them doubt me. If they know what I am, and yet still conduct myself in a manner of decorum, then it'll make it easier to accept than keeping it a secret.
"Ahh. There are no worries then. A monster isn't a monster if they're civil." Fancypants spoke up. "Isn't that right Fleur darling?" Now I'm confused. Something with Fleur?
The bleached unicorn mare smiled at me, and in that instant, it took all that I had to not turn right then and there and rip her throat out with my teeth. At first, it was a normal smile, but for a few mere moments, fangs sprouted from her gums before retreating.
"A vampony, yes." She replied in a thick french accent. My eyes shot wide. Wait. No aura of evil. No sense of impending doom. No dark magic at all.
"You seem troubled?" She half stated, half questioned.
"Ah, um, Pardonnez-moi, mais, dans mon monde, les vampires sont des monstres horribles, créé par la magie noire. J'ai eu de mauvaises expériences avec eux. C'est la raison de ma.... inquiétude."
"Vous parlez français? Le vampirisme ne se propage pas par morsure ici, et c'est une maladie, pas une malédiction, tout comme la lycanthropie du passé." She explained. I see, so instead of a bite, it is transferred by blood contact perhaps?
"Also, you do not need speak french for my comfort. You see, this League of Dapper Gentlecolts is not exactly what it seems. There are many normal ponies here, but for the most part, it is a club for monsters. Iron Will, as you see, is a minotaur, Varoush is a naga, I am a vampony, and you are a werewolf. The vamponies of Equestria can live in sunlight, for a time after recently feeding. Mon beau, Fancypants, is kind enough to provide for my needs." She kissed his neck with a hint of hunger in her eyes before backing off.
"Prince Blueblood..... why did you not...."
"I know how you feel about such things, and I was afraid if I told you, you wouldn't come. It would do you well to get out of the castle, and out from under Luna's eye for a while."
"Do the princesses know of this?"
"Yes, they know. It's one of Canterlot's well kept secrets. Hence the royal guards instead of regular bouncers. This club is proof to the world that the fear mongering stereotypes that most ponies hold in their hearts are absolute rubbish. Many so called 'monsters' come here, and engage in perfectly reasonable affairs that do not involve kidnapping, killing, or eating ponies. In fact, Princess Luna herself frequents this place, although not tonight. I figured you could use some time off from courting her. Or rather, trying to avoid courting her." He laughed. the others looked downright shocked.
"Oh? Did I not tell you? I could have sworn I had..." Blueblood laughed nervously. "Lark, you know the details better than I. Care to explain?"
"Well, due to a cultural misunderstanding and a visit from Rothak, king of the diamond dogs, Princess Luna and I were to engage in mock courtship to overcome an international treaty stating that canines must submit themselves to the king. Except it seems the princess has become smitten with me, and now I'm stuck courting her. This would be no trouble, except that she spent nearly a year treating me like a pet to help me control my instincts, and other than that I spent about a week in the country. I may well have just arrived. I am not yet ready for a relationship, let alone one with royalty. I figure she has a very long time left to live, I do not, so it may not work. If it doesn't, she has a great deal of time left to find another whom her heart desires." The guests just nodded sagely.
"If it's any consolation, you're always welcome here. Such manners and decorum are always refreshing." Octavia, who is just a normal pony, stated in a classy voice. "But, for now, perhaps you'd like to come on stage? It is about time to begin the next song, and you would make an excellent addition." I removed my polished instrument from it's case, inspected it for damage, followed up with the bow, to which I applied rosin and pulled it across the strings a few times to remove the excess, before wiping down the instrument to remove the detritus. "I see you take great care of your instrument. I cannot wait to hear how it sounds. Come, let us play."
And play we did.
We played several more songs, until I noticed something rather odd. Among the instruments required for the songs we played, was a violin duet. I appeared to be the only violinist on stage, yet there was definitely another being played. I turned to look behind me, and saw a ghastly form appear. A mare, pale as a ghost, (as that's what she was) playing right next to me. What else was astounding is that the tattoo on my arm was identical to her 'cutie mark'. She wore a sad smile, one to hide the pain she felt.
"Hello, I don't believe we've met. I am Lark Wolfe." I introduce.
"I am Viola Heartstrings, or, at least I was." I became wide eyed at the realization of who exactly this ghost is.
"Are you by any chance Lyra's sister?" Now was her turn to be surprised.
"You, know my sister?"
"We have a bit of a history. She told me how you went into the woods outside Canterlot one day and never returned."
"Well, I did come back, just like this." She motioned to herself.
"She misses you, you know."
"I... know." She looked down, and began crying ghostly tears. "I disappeared, and never got to say goodbye. She must hate me for leaving her all alone like that." She began crying again.
"No, she doesn't. She loves you and misses you, and would do anything to see you again."
"But, I... I'm stuck in this theater. I'm bound to this place. I can't leave, and it's so hard to be visible. Only moonlight, which shows the true shape of all...."
"Then I'll bring her to you. Excuse me."
I bowed and left the stage, receiving applause from the patrons of the club. I walked over to Prince Blueblood, who was enjoying his evening with his entourage.
"Wonderful Lark, Simply wonderful. I knew I wouldn't regret bringing you here."
"Listen, there is something that I must do. There is no time to waste. Two souls have wept for far too long, and I can reunite them."
"I'll trust you to safeguard my belongings while I'm gone?" He nodded, and I placed my violin within it's case before passing it to him. "I'll return soon."
With that, I exited the establishment, and headed towards the city gate. I left the majestic Canterlot and passed through a train tunnel, where I removed my shirt, and then transformed. I tied the clothing around my arm, then went on all fours and took off down the train track towards Ponyville. There weren't any trains that ran at that hour of the night, so there was no need to worry. I arrived in Ponyville in a three quarters of an hour. Still another fifteen minutes before I could turn back. It wasn't a full moon, so I wasn't forced to stay like that.
Slinking through the back alleyways of Ponyville, I finally found my way to Lyra's house. I circled around to make sure nopony was watching, then knocked on the door. I waited a couple moments, then knocked again.
"Yeah yeah, hold on a minute, I'm coming. It's the middle of the night for Luna's sake, who..... could......." She froze in her speech and stride upon seeing me, and instinctually backed away, eyes wide, and ears splayed back. She was wearing a night cap and pajama shirt, with little replica's of her cutie mark on it.
'Right, she's afraid of me... umm, I know, I'll do what I did in Las Pegasus.' I laid down at her front door, wagged my tail, and gave her the 'sad puppy eyes'. I even gave a slight whimper to enunciate.
"Um... Lark, is that you?" I nodded. She visibly relaxed.
"What are you doing here? And, like that?" She tilted her head to the side. I tried to talk, but it just came out as a growl, making her back off.
'What did I do that first time around that let me talk? Ugh.... I guess I have to do this the hard way.' I grabbed Lyra by the hoof, tossed her on my back, and tied my shirt around her with a knot on my stomach, before running off again towards the train tracks.
"Wha? Whoa! Hey! Stop! Help! somepony help!" I looked over my shoulder and gave her a sad look, which made her immediately stop her cries for help. Her eyes went wide again as she looked into my own. "Okay.... I'll trust you... but whatever it is you got me up for in the middle of the night, it better be good! It's freezing out here!" She slunk down into my fur for warmth as I ran in the night towards the capitol.
"Canterlot? We're going there? Why?" I gave a slight huff. "Oh... right, you can't talk."
We entered the city by going over the wall, rather than through the gate, as to avoid the guards. During my time in the club, and then my absence from the city, the capitol had gone to sleep. It WAS past eleven. I walked up to the League of Dapper Gentlecolts, and very carefully pulled the card I had presented earlier from my pant's pocket, presenting it to them. They moved to the side and allowed me entry to the now nearly empty club. It seems the guests had all gone home for the evening, all save the band who were just beginning to pack up. Well, that and the only one who couldn't leave. She was sitting there, on the stage, in the moonlight coming in through the skylight from the crescent, now unobstructed by the clouds that hung overhead. I let Lyra off of me and stood to the side as I howled. I allowed myself to shift back to my human form and put my shirt back on. Blueblood came up and gave me my violin, then silently walked away.
"V.v.v.v.vvvvv Viola?" Lyra said in shock as she saw the ghost, who nodded sadly as she cried phantasmal tears. As soon as she got confirmation, the seafoam unicorn dashed onto the stage and held her pale, spectral double in an embrace made possible only by the magic of the moon. I removed my instrument from it's case, then nodded to the pianist, as we began to play a song."
"Lyra... I'm... I'm so sorry..... I was walking and I.... I fell down the embankment into the chasm... I walked all the way back to Canterlot but.... I didn't even know I died... I... I left you all alone! I'm so sorry!"
"Viola... it's not your fault. You never meant to. I... I've missed you so much!"
The two sisters stood on the stage, crying into each other's manes, until Viola started to fade away.
"Wait! where are you going? Come back!"
"Don't worry, I'm not going anywhere. If you ever want to see me, just come here under the light of the moon....." The clouds above obscured Luna's celestial orb, and with the light gone, Viola turned to mist and dust. "I'll always be here."
Lyra sat on the stage, bawling her eyes out, until she felt something on her shoulder. My hand that is. She turned and looked at me with such sadness and gratitude in her eyes, all I could do is give her a warm smile.
"Come on Lyra. I know a place you can stay the night. I'll get you back to Ponyville come the morn." She nodded, still crying, as I gave her a piggyback ride to a nearby inn. She fell asleep on my back, and didn't wake, not even when I put her in bed, tucked her in, and closed the door behind me as I walked out, shedding a tear of my own.
A little ways away, in Canterlot Castle, Princess Luna was looking down on the town below, and smiled. "It's strange how things just have a way of lining up, don't they?"
As I made my way back to the castle, I was steeped in my own thoughts. If the pony doubles of myself and my sister could reconcile, then perhaps, it was not too far gone to hope that I could as well. Here, in the land where one can wish upon a star, and have their desire truly be granted, could such a thing come to pass? Could there truly be redemption for me?
Another interesting thing occurred on the walk from the hotel to the castle. Seeing such heartache and pain finally being relieved, all with the proper song, had brought up a well of emotion I had been holding in. Music can calm the savage beast, sooth the soul, and bring out that which is hidden within, (Unless it is bagpipe music, but that is another story entirely.), and after such events, upon reaching the castle, I found that I too had begun crying.
"Lark, is something the matter?" Princess Luna asked.
"I... I am well. I merely felt the need to cry." Was my weak response.
"Sometimes, we all need to let go, to lose our composure, and let who we are, and not who we pretend to be, take hold. If you ever need to talk, I will listen."
So, I went to Luna's study, she set a fire in the mantle, and I recounted the story to her whilst we sat on the couch, sipping an herbal tea. It wasn't earl grey by a long shot, but it was still a rather good taste. It smelled of heather, mint, and lavender. An odd blend, but none the less satisfying.
"So, I took Lyra off into the night, so she could meet her sister before she faded away with the light of the morn. Of course, it could have waited till the morrow, but... I suppose I was feeling rather impulsive. You know well my story, and how closely it parallels, I felt that it had to be done immediately."
"Whisking her off into the night, to meet a lost sibling, and playing a sad song whilst they cried in each other's embrace. What a thing it would be, to have seen it. No wonder you returned in such a state." She let out a long sigh. "You and your tangled heartstrings. You know I have fallen for you, but for a long time, I had not realized why, fully at least. You were one of the first to look past who I was, and royalty or not, danced with me under the moonlight. You are kind and caring, fearing not the dark but illuminating it. You are refined, yet humble, and not only do you have the wisdom to know what needs to be done, but the will to carry through."
"You are too kind, I am not..."
"But you are." She interrupted me. "And... I know how you feel about the forced arrangement. You've been seeking ways to escape, should you need them. That is not how such things should be. I see that now, and, I apologize. To bring you into such a thing was, well, immature of me. I was just worried that you would vanish, and I would never tell you how I feel. I am not the best when it comes to words, or emotions. Those are the very reasons I fell, and became Nightmare Moon. My beloved night was shunned, as was I, and I didn't know how to express my grief till it festered into hate."
"Please, call me Luna. My sadness and loneliness burned away at me, and drove me from everything I held dear. Which is why if you ever feel the need, to speak without fear of judgement, I wish that you would come to me, and, it is my hope that you could do that service to me as well. I may be immortal, but I am not flawless." She turned to look at me, and smiled a sad smile. I cupped my hand to her face, and saw a glistening sparkle in her eye as a tear ran down her cheek.
"Stay with me tonight?" She asked.
"Pri... Luna, would that be proper?"
"Of course not. I don't even care if it is. This room is sealed. Nothing can enter. Not servants, nor photographers, nor anything short of my sister. I just, I've been feeling alone lately, and I'd like for you to stay with me. We'd do nothing .... questionable, just being in each other's company.
"I..." I can't think of a good reason not to. "Oh, very well."
I reclined on the couch as Princess Luna put her left wing behind my back, though considering my height it wound up going around my side, under my left arm, and onto my stomach. I put my right arm aross her back, and rested my hand on her chest fur, just below the neck. As I gently rubbed her soft coat, she sighed and put her head to my chest. We stayed like that for about an hour, till I, due to the exhaustion of running all the way to Ponyville and back, and the emotional display from earlier, fell into a deep slumber.
When I awoke, I was laying on the couch, with my feet hanging over one of the armrests, while Luna lay curled up atop my chest and stomach, held firmly in my arms and she slumbered. Her face was pushed against my chin, where it met my chest, with her horn running along my jawline, and the rise and fall of my chest was matched by her own soft breathing.
"Hmph, that is rather adorable."
At the sound of an intruder's voice, we both snapped awake, tumbled off the couch, then attempted to stand and make ourselves seem presentable, a display that was utterly useless, though quite hilarious, to Princess Celestia who was smirking as she looked at us.
"S.... SISTER! What art thou doing in my room! Surely thou wouldst have noticed the seals I placed, specifically one that when triggered would say 'Keep out Celestia, I meant it!'. What is the meaning of this intrusion?!?" I cupped my hands over my ears, as although Luna was not using the 'Royal Canterlot Voice' she was being rather loud.
"It is time to lower the moon, and raise the sun. Though I could have performed your duty and allowed you to sleep in, Lark's arms, I decided it would be better to ask you. Also, you started speaking in 'ye old tongue' again."
Luna seemed utterly flabbergasted, and unsure of what to say or how to explain the situation.
"Oh relax, will you? I watched you for some time before you awoke, and you were doing nothing objectionable. I too sometimes find myself longing for company at night. Oh, my little sister is all grown up!" Celestia teased. Luna merely growled, raised her head, made her horn glow, then turned to her elder.
"There, the moon has been lowered, can you please leave us in peace?" She scowled.
"Oh, alright. I'll let you get back to your cuddling. Oh, and don't worry, I won't tell anypony. For Lark's sake." The way she said that gave me the distinct feeling that if it was anyone other than myself, she'd spread it all over the Equestrian news, just to embarrass her sister.
"Ah, perhaps... I should go. I did promise to return Lyra to Ponyville this morning. I imagine her friends would be rather cross if she didn't show up to.......... what DOES she do for a job? I've never heard of her playing at any concerts. No matter. I am a man of my word, so I better get going."
"Actually, you said you would stay the night with me. Sister will not raise the sun for a few moments longer." She grabbed my collar with her magic, pulled me down to her level, and gave my cheek a quick nuzzle. "Thank you, for staying with me. Now go, you have a promise to keep."
"Lyra, I trust you slept well?"
"Best I've had in years. Thank you, again, for last night." The mint mare said rubbing her eyes to sweep away the last dregs of her slumber. She did some morning stretches, arching her back, before continuing.
"Do not mention it. It was something I felt I needed to do. We should get going. We do not want to miss the train back to Ponyville."
"About that, do you think... you could carry me again? If it's not too much trouble that is." She visibly blushed as she said this, though I'm not entirely sure why.
"I suppose, though it would be troublesome to change and arrive looking like... that. I wouldn't want to scare anypony."
"Oh you wouldn't need to do that. Just carry me on your back, and let me wrap my hooves around your neck. You're plenty strong enough to do it, if the way you beat Applejack at hoof wrestling is any marker of strength. That way I can still talk to you while we travel." I rolled my eyes, but conceded, crouching down to let her climb on, much like how children are carried by their parents in a piggy back ride. I brought my arms behind and grabbed hold of her hind hooves, while she locked her front ones around me. Once I was certain she was secure, I stood up.
"Whoa! This is... really high." I looked over my shoulder and raised an eyebrow, before gathering my strength and jumping to the rooftop of a nearby house.
"You were saying?"
"Yeah, okay.... sure... but why are we on a roof?" She asked with a gasp of fear.
"Watch." We stood there for a moment before the clock on a tower rang, and all the Canterlot ponies spilled from their homes, filling the streets with an inescapable crowd.
"Right. The morning rush. I tell you, it would have been WAY easier to get to school in the morning as a foal if I could have just gone on the roofs, you know, when I still lived here."
"Let's be off then, before any more ponies fill the streets, and the sea of hustle rises to claim us." She let out a giggle at my joke, insinuating that the tide of bodies would spill out onto the roofs if any more ponies were in the channels. As I began to run across the roofs, jumping the gaps as I made my way towards the city edge, we began talking.
"You know, when she was a child, I always used to carry my sister like this at the music festival, so she could see the performers over the crowd. If feels kind of nice to do it again, very, nostalgic."
"Mmph. I've never been this high before. I wonder if this is how pegasi feel? Nothing but the wind in their mane, no obstacles, just sun, sky, and cloud."
"If you like this, then just wait, my favorite spot is coming up." We soon reached the wall around the city, where I stopped. I let Lyra down, and once I had stood again, I heard her gasp.
"It's beautiful!" The sun had just risen above the horizon, and turned the sky a crimson hue, with great wisps of cloud reaching towards it, but never to reach, like the tales of Icarus who flew to high, only to come crashing to his demise. We stood there for a few moments, atop the seven story high wall, watching the sun rise all the way.
"Au revoir, mon beau, au revoir ma belle, il ny'a pas de pot d'or a la fin d'un arc en ciel."
"What was that Lark?" Lyra asked. I turned to her with a sad gaze.
"A song I wrote, for a French noble whose wife passed on. I played it at the funeral. There is much more to it, but I cannot remember the rest. It was a morning, just like this one. It reminded me of it is all. Climb on." We began the piggy back ride again, then, at that moment, something occurred to my passenger.
"How are we going to get down?"
"Like this." And with that, I walked right off the edge of the wall. As we fell, she screamed and grasped me ever tighter, but when I turned to see her face, with her mane whipping wildly in the wind, I could see the smile plastered on it.
"This. IS. AWESOME!" She shrieked as well fell. I turned to face my back to the ground, so we could see the sky falling away from us, and a number of pegasi on the clouds above looking at us in confusion. Realizing that we were about to fall to our deaths, they rushed to rescue us from our peril, but were nowhere near fast enough. I turned to face the ground again, which was much nearer than before, and with a grunt of effort, kicked off the wall we were falling parallel to. Bringing my feet under me, coiled like a spring, I kicked off the ground when I landed, performing several hops to slow down before I went into a run. I didn't look back, but at the sound of Lyra blowing a raspberry, I could tell that our audience was in a state of shock.
"Sometimes, I love being a werewolf."..... did I just say that?
Arriving at Ponyville, I dropped Lyra off at her house, only to find the whole town in a state of disarray. There were guards everywhere, searching, while a frazzled and frenzied Twilight Sparkle came running up to us.
"Oh! Lyra! Thank goodness you're safe!"
"Um.... did something happen?" She asked, despite the obvious evidence.
"Cloud Kicker and Cloud Chaser are missing! Their houses are all torn up! The guards say they were taken forcibly, and with a fight. Yours is too, and we feared the worst." The unicorn explained.
"Wha?" She looked to her house, to find that the door was knocked in, most of her belongings were strewn about the place, and there were claw marks dug into most of the floor. The house right next to her's was in the same state, with shattered windows and torn drapes.
"Did they take anything?" Lyra asked.
"No, as far as we can tell, the only things missing are.... the ponies."
Ponies have been disappearing. We know it's the diamond dogs, we just can't prove it because we can't find any slaves..... Luna.
I checked all their dens, no ponies, or even signs of anyone being kept there..... Malarkey.
"Welp, this confirms it. Dog hair. Right out of their own homes too. Damn Rothak to Tartarus!" I heard one of the guards speak.
"And we can't do anything about it. Until we find a pony they're keeping, our hooves are tied." Another added sullenly.
"Let me see that!" I ran towards the pair, who backed away and raised their weapons.
"Halt! this is an official investigation and......" Their words froze on their tongues as I hastily removed my shirt to show the mark on my back, before putting it back on. "Many apologies, we were not aware Princess Luna sent one of her agents."
"You're forgiven, now let me see that hair." The unicorn guard among the pair, (the other being a pegasus) levitated the clump in front of me, I leaned in close to take a sniff, and recoiled in shock when I realized what it was.
"This.... isn't dog hair."
"It's not?" The investigators pondered, raising their brows.
"No. I've smelled diamond dogs before. This is different. This is the hair... of a wolf."
"No doubt about it. This is definitely wolf fur."
"But how? What wolf has the strength to break down a door, and the intelligence to come to town in the first place?" The guard asked a question with a very obvious answer.
"Well, a werewolf, clearly."
"But they're extinct! They died out, leaving diamond dogs as their descendants." Twilight remarked.
"I'm a werewolf myself, and I know this smell. it's a bit different, since the nature of the curse is different, but it's definitely recognizable. What's more, I can track it."
"You... can?" The guard asked, interested.
"They were sloppy. These kinds of things usually are. I'll track down whoever did this, and get those ponies back. I must make haste. The sky is cloudy, and it may rain."
"The pegasi set up the clouds for a heavy shower earlier today. It'll rain late tonight. Let me come with you." Twilight suggested.
"No, you should stay here, and organize a town watch. Guards, you're with me. Try and keep up. Lyra, you stay with Twilight." They nodded, and I took off down the trail, following the smell, with the unicorn and pegasus in tow.
Earth, wet hair, slick with blood, this is definitely the way..... So, I ran. Taking great strides, I raced down the path leading outside of town, with the muscular stallions keeping pace with me. It took nearly all day as I kept losing the trail, what with the shifting winds and offbeat paths they took, often cutting through brush and thicket. Eventually, late in the evening, the trail led to a cave embedded in a cliff, off the road side. It reeked of blood and dog... as well as... lust?
"Stay close. It would be best to avoid any more tragedy tonight." The guards nodded, keeping in close formation as to guard from any attackers as we entered the cave. "Hold up." I moved close the the ground. "Look, tracks. Five sets and fresh... whomever was here left with great haste. Search the cave, and keep your wits about you." They fanned out, searching, while I followed the strongest scent.
After a time, a faint crying made it's way to my ears, and I began rushing down the tunnel. A gasp, then the sound stopped. "No, wait! I'm here to help you! Where are you! Let me know where you are! Guards! I think I found one!" The crying became louder than before, the sound that of a mare, who, suddenly, at the prospect of being saved found her voice. I was joined by the pair as we entered the main chamber. The scene before us was.... grisly, and that's putting it lightly.
A pair of skeletons, picked clean of meat, but still stained red from fresh blood, sat in the middle of the cave, while a pegasus mare sat huddled and crumpled up near the wall, sobbing. She was clutching something between her hooves... well, hoof, as the other one was missing.
"Do not worry, we are here now. We're going to get you help." I tried to be reassuring. I couldn't.
"C-c-cloud Chaser. S..sshe she..." She let out a whimper, and a squeak, before showing the thing she was holding. It was a mare's head, with a face much like her own. The only problem was the head didn't have a body to it. Oh..... it's over there. And over there. And over there.......
The pegasus turned his head to vomit. At least he had the sense not to spoil the crime scene, not that much sense could be made of it to begin with, while the unicorn used his magic to gently lift her, cover her in a blanket he kept with him, and summon a stretcher to carry her away on, all the while trying to plug his nose and avoid looking at the scene. I, on the other hand, felt a rage boiling inside me that I thought I had not felt since I slew Flandre and Moira.
"His eyes!!!! He's one of them!" The mare shrieked, pointing at me with her good hoof, before passing out from blood loss. Looking at my reflection in a pool of blood, I saw that my eyes had turned yellow and wolf like, the beginning of a transformation. I clenched my eyes shut and focused, trying to calm the beast within.
"Listen well. I may be one of them, but I am NOT like them. I am going to find them. Princess Luna will sort them out. Guards, get her to safety."
I ran to the cave entrance, only to find that it was raining outside. Sniffing the air, I could find no trace of the scent I followed to get here, and the tracks were washed away by the rain.
"DAMNIT! Not now... WHY NOW?!?!" Calm yourself Lark, you're losing your composure. I pinched the bridge of my forehead, trying to deal with the stress.
"Sir. We can't move her in this weather. She's already lost a lot of blood. If we take her out in the rain, she'll get hypothermia for sure."
"She'll catch cold."
"Well, we can't just leave her here! She'll die if we do! Get pegasus patrols to clean up the sky?"
"It's too far away. It would take too long to rouse them and inform them of the situation. She'd pass before then."
"...... I have the answer. Cloud Kicker, was it?" She nodded meekly. "I'm going to do something I will most likely regret. It will be scary, and it will be painful, but it'll save your life. I have to know, are you willing to serve Princess Luna with all that you are, till the end of your days?"
"Hold still." I turned to the unicorn. "Guard, send a message to the guard in Ponyville, and tell Twilight to send a letter to Princess Luna. Tell her to make the moon full, immediately."
"It'll take me about an hour to get in range for the spell... and you?"
"I'll stay with her. GO!"
The guard galloped, leaving myself and the pegasus with the mare.
"Listen closely. No matter what you see here, you must never speak of it again, other than to the princesses. Understood?" He nodded gruffly, as I felt myself begin to change. "Keep her held still, I do not want to cause any more harm, and she may.... 'freak out' if she sees this. Once I'm finished, go outside and punch a hole in the clouds to let the moonlight through." Bones snapped, fur grew, teeth sprouted, and in moments, I had completed my transformation. The guard shuddered, and the mare screeched, but he held her still.
Slowly, carefully, I took the mare's good hoof in my paw, lifted it to my mouth, and bit down on it lightly. Once I could taste the sanguine on my tongue, I let go, the bite fresh on her coat. She looked at me fearfully, but a steady whimper from me gave her some comfort. Once the sun had set, I carefully pulled the stretcher outside as the guard flew up and allowed the moon to shine down on us. We both looked up at the full circle as we bathed in it's glow.
He got through. Good.
With the moon's change came one in the mare as well. Her coat became longer, as did her muzzle. Her teeth sharpened, paws grew where her hooves were, and her tail turned from loose strands of a pony to the thick tail of a dog. I could hear her heart pounding, faster and faster, and watched as her eyes turned golden, the moonlight reflecting in them. All her scratches and bruises faded away, and finally, her missing hoof, just like the rest of her features, formed in the agonizing transformation that is lycanthropy.
She rolled and stood from the stretcher, lifted her head, and howled at the moon. She definitely looked the part of a werewolf, but she still retained many of her pony features, so we did not look all that similar. The guard landed next to us, and Cloud kicker prepared to pounce, only to be tackled by yours truly. We rolled in the dirt as we fought, scratching, biting, tooth and claw, before I finally managed to turn the mare's back to me, and wrap my arms around her, effectively pinning her, before bringing her back into the cave.
For the next hour, she thrashed, and scratched, and clawed, and bit, and squirmed, trying to escape my grasp, before she tired and began her transformation back into a mare. She cried and screamed in pain as she turned, before falling limp, exhausted from the day. I too closed my eyes, letting myself slip back to my human form before laying the sleeping mare back on her stretcher. The guard, meanwhile, had returned from casting his spell, panting and sweating, clearly having run a long distance very quickly to be able to send a message through some unknown method.
"She's..... fine? What... buh..." He looked at me as I cradled the pegasus' head in my lap.
"Thanks to you. She's resting now. You've done a great deal, rest a while, then mark this spot so the rest of the patrols can find it. I'll get her back to town."
So, holding poor Cloud Kicker like an infant, I headed back to Ponyville, this time only taking two hours as I wasn't crisscrossing all over the blasted countryside, though I was moving rather slowly to try and avoid waking her. She'd been through enough.
When I arrived in Ponyville, the guards were still milling about, and Luna herself was directing them. On seeing me approach, she hastened to meet me. She prepared her 'Royal Canterlot Voice' for what I can only assume would be the 'chewing out' of the century, so these ponies say. She quickly hushed when she saw who I was carrying with me.
"Get her to Canterlot, and put her in my room. Make sure there's something for her to eat. She just regrew a hoof, she's going to be hungry." I passed her off to a pair pulling a chariot before turning to the princess.
"Lark... would you like to explain why I received a letter with instructions from you, demanding that I make the moon full at once?"
"My dear Luna, I would like nothing more. Unfortunately, I've been running all day and haven't had anything to eat. I think I'm going to sleep now, whether I want to or not." And so, without another word, I climbed into another chariot, then (they're rather spacious) laid down to sleep.
When I awoke, I was not in Canterlot as I had expected, rather, in the guest bedroom in Applejack's house, where I had rested a year and a half ago when I first arrived. It was evening, and the sun had half dipped over the horizon by the time I dragged myself from bed. Regrettably, I did not have a change of clothes, so I headed downstairs as is. I found the Apple family sitting around their kitchen table, Princess Luna among them. Upon my entrance to the room, they all stopped what thy were doing and looked at me with the oddest gaze.
"Um... good mor- err, evening?"
"Well s'about time ya woke up youngun! Ya had a busy day yesterday, ya musta been plum tuckered ta have slept straight ta dinner tonight, and starved half ta death ta boot! Look at ya! I can see yer ribs! Tha misses ain't been feedin ya properly ah take it?" Granny Smith, bless that mare, jabbed an elbow at Luna who, much to my delight, gained a blush and indignant pout.
"I'll have you know he is fed very well by the castle chefs."
"Bah! Fancy Canter-not-a-lot food, ya need some good ol home cookin! Now sit an eat! Tha pie's gettin cold." I obliged the elder apple, taking my own seat next to Luna and began to eat with much gusto while the others did the same. All except for the princess.
"Lark, I have learned of what took place from the guard. I find myself in a strange situation. On one hoof, you bit a pony, and had me raise my moon to turn her into a werewolf. This is serious. However, on the other hoof, had it not been for your actions, Cloud Kicker would most definitely be dead. I am certain that you would not have done what you did if there were any other options." She gave me a quick nuzzle to show that she wasn't angry.
I swallowed what delectable food I had in my mouth so that I could speak properly.
"So, what happens now?" I asked.
"Now, we must work to hunt down those animals and bring them to justice. I have come to wonder how lycan's could have lived in hiding all this time, and why they would come out now, leaving a trail behind them when they were previously so cautious. It is a conundrum, and it begs the question of how to find them."
"Perhaps we can ask the league?" I suggested.
"Of course, that was one of the reasons it was founded. What better way to catch a monster than with ones of our own? It will be difficult however. The league's resources are limited, and from the disappearances, this pack moves quite a bit. There is simply too much ground to cover, and the guard is already busy with keeping the peace." She explained.
"M'lady, I have an idea, but we must first attend to Cloud Kicker. Apple family, thank you for the meal, but we must be off."
"Well alrighty then! Take some fixin's fer the road, an don' be a stranger!"
With that, Luna, Applejack and I left the table and headed outside, towards town.
"Lark, what tha hay's been goin on? I caught bits of what ya said in there, but I ain't got the whole picture." The farmer asked. I turned to Luna, who nodded, consenting my explanation. After all, Applejack is one of the bearers of harmony, national heroines. She deserved to know.
"Well, Cloud Kicker, and Cloud Chaser, had their homes broken into by a pack of , thought previously extinct, were wolves, who stole them away. They took them to a cave in the country side, where they.... set about eating them. All that remained of Cloud Chaser was naught but bones, and Cloud Kicker was missing a hoof. She would have died from blood loss, so, I bit her, and Luna set the moon full to bring about the transformation, which heals all wounds. Now, we're going to check up on her before contacting the League of Dapper Gentlecolts, a group of Canterlot elite who are, for the most part, things that go bump in the night. Vamponies, ghosts, minotaurs and such. We'll use their connections to search for this pack and try to catch them."
"And this 'idea' of yer's?"
"I will contact someone who I think will be able to help us. Let's just leave it at that." During our conversation, we had reached town, and the chariot. Luna and I climbed in, and set off towards the castle.
"Luna, I'm curious. Why did you bring me to the Apple family instead of straight to the castle?"
"I... thought it best that we give sister some time to adjust to this. You know she was wary of you to begin with, and she never liked werewolves. The fact that there is another one will be much to her dismay, and that you are the reason behind it, well, I feared that she may act rashly if not given all the information and time to dwell on it. These are complicated times Lark. After a thousand years of stagnation, the world is moving far too quickly for our liking. My return and redemption, Discord, the changelings, and now the wolves. A great many things are happening, and we must tread carefully, lest we fall off the path."
We spent the rest of the trip in silence, enjoying the night breeze blowing through our hair. When we arrived at the castle, we hastened to my room where the mare had been sleeping. It was of course, locked, to prevent her from leaving for the time being, and on reaching the door, I heard a hustle from within.
"It seems our guest is awake." Luna stated, having heard it as well.
"Perhaps you should enter first, to ease her worry."
"I think that would be best."
I stayed outside the room as the princess entered, listening for what would take place.
"Princess Luna? What am I doing here, and, why does everything feel weird? I should be dead, but I feel good. Everything is, like... it all feels so much more real, like waking up from a dream. I'm so confused."
"Listen well, my little pony, you are safe now. Let me explain to you what has occurred."
So, the princess went about explaining what happened, and what was to come, how she'd have to stay at the castle to be trained as a wolf to control herself. She didn't object, but she cried several times, especially when she was told that her sister did not make it.
"So then, I'm... a monster now? Every full moon, I'll turn into a horrible beast? Just like the ones that did... this?"
"Only if you allow it to control you. You must rise above the instinct and tame the beast within, and we will both be here to help." At Luna's mention of me, I entered the room.
"This is Lark Wolfe. I'm not sure what you remember, but a year and a half ago, on Nightmare Night, he lost control of himself and ran amok through Ponyville. I helped him take control of himself, and now he is of great service to me. He's going to try and track down the ones who did this to you and your sister. He's also your forbear. He bit you so that the transformation would save your life, held you in your beastial state, and carried you back to town like a foal after it passed."
"I..... don't know what to say." I sat down next to her. She sniffed the air before she realized what she was doing, then blushed sheepishly.
"That is of no consequence. I can tell you what to expect, to make the transition easier. This is both a blessing and a curse. You will be stronger, faster, and more durable than before. There will be times that you will not know your own strength, so you must take care not to accidentally harm anypony. You'll also have a large appetite, though I'm not sure what cravings you'll have since you're a pony, I found myself hungry for red meat, broccoli and spinach, things you ponies say are high in iron. I don't understand how rocks are important in what we eat, but nevertheless, you'll be hungry. Your strength will increase with anger or frustration as well."
"And what about the transformation?" She asked.
"Should you touch the light of a full moon, for that time, and up to an hour after you have hidden from it's glow, you will be wolf. Your strength, speed, and endurance will grow to several times that of even the strongest earth pony. It's painful during the change, but relief after, much like the pain and relief of popping joints, though all at once. You will have better hearing and smell, it would be best to avoid loud noises..." I thought back to the time with the 'microphone' "..especially of high pitch. Powerful scents as well are troublesome, but you can also find things others cannot. You'll have better night vision. Other than that, you'll grow claws, a solid tail, and be covered in hair. You'll also try to eat anything that moves. My advice is to spend some time each day, collecting your thoughts. You'll debate taking a bite out of your friends, and you must convince yourself that it is a bad idea."
"Is there a cure?"
"Eat Wolfsbane before your first transformation, though it is too late for that now. Eat the heart of the wolf that bit you, being me. Find someone with knowledge of magic enough to remove the curse, though no one we know of has that ability at this moment, save the elements of harmony. Eating Wolfsbane now will be deadly, and touching silver will burn you, though any wounds you have will vanish at your next transformation. I believe that is everything for now."
"This is a lot to take in, you know? Turning into a.. a... werewolf, and my sister... I, don't know if I can handle it." Cloud Kicker whimpered.
"Don't rush it. You have the rest of your life, after all. Take some time to grieve and... cry to the moon. It'll listen."
"So Lark, you said you had an idea who could help us with our problem. Who did you have in mind?"
"An old enemy, looking for redemption. I must be off. I'll return in a week's time. I trust you can handle things at the league?"
"Of course. Now go."
I looked up into the night air. Being about two in the morning, I wasn't concerned with being seen by anyone. I took a deep breath, let it out, then brought the change. Bones snapping, face warping, I let out a long howl at the moon before jumping off the castle balcony and running to the west.
"Which way to Equestria?"
"East, just follow the morning sun."
Chrysalis, I'm coming, and I hope you're in a pleasant mood.
As I ran through the jungle towards the changeling hive, I took time to reflect on what had brought me to this point. In this world where lycans were supposedly extinct, they had existed in hiding for at least a thousand years. Up until this point, they have been living in secrecy, and taking great care to avoid the public eye. So then, why now? What was the reason behind the attack? It broke all conventions of modus operandi. A group, living in secrecy for several generations, hunting while hidden, suddenly making themselves known by a bold, and very sloppy attack. What could they hope to gain by putting themselves in the spotlight? It made no logical sense.
'.... that's it. They're NOT making sense because I'm thinking they have any to begin with. The way they tore into town, they way they ate, the scent of lust in the cave. They're acting like animals. Hunt, eat, mate to celebrate, sleep, then move on. But, that still doesn't tell me why now? They lived in secrecy before, what changed? What caused careful, methodical beings to suddenly become feral? Unless.....'
There could only be two reasons for their actions, both of which terrified me. The first, is that they are increasing their numbers. Why else leave Cloud Kicker alive? There was a chance she had in fact been bitten by one of those wolves, who left her in the cave expecting her to crawl her way out of it and meet moon light, then later join their pack. I bit her so to be sure she really was bitten, but there was a chance they had done it themselves. If they were multiplying, raising their numbers, that would explain their sudden bravery. The new pups wouldn't be as careful as the old dogs, and feeling invincible with their new strength, enter the false belief that nothing could harm them. It certainly fit the bill.
The other possibility is that they were trying to send a message. Ruin a house or two, kidnap ponies and brutally murder them, leaving a single survivor to relay the horror of what occurred. It was plausible, considering the overnight change between hiding in the shadows and open hunting. But, who were they sending the message to, and why now?....
Me. Since I appeared on Nightmare Night, spent time in the castle, and started making a name for myself in the world, more and more found out about the princess's pet. It's not likely, but it is possible they're trying to make me come after them. For what reason, I cannot say. Both these mean the same thing however. Raising their numbers means they're trying to become more powerful, sending the message means a threat...
'They're declaring war... If they're increasing their numbers, their hunting needs will grow as well, more death, and the princesses will be force to put them down, if that's not what's already happening. If us finding out was an accident, we can push them and force them to be on the defensive, before they can prepare. If they were sending a message of hostilities however, it could spill into open conflict, and that would be on their terms, which would be bad... I hate politics. Luna was right, the future hangs by a thread, and we must take great care with our every action.'
In that fetid jungle, swarming with giant flies and mosquitoes, I found my way to a rather large rock that did not smell of earth and stone, but a smell so sweet it was almost sickening, though not enough to stop me from taking deep breaths of it and licking my lips. I ran my claw along the edge of the stone until it sank in, the spot feeling soft and fleshy. Hearing a soft buzzing, a hole opened in the stone, showing it's green interior which went deep underground. If I had not known it was here, and did not have the senses I do, I never would have found it. A changeling greeted me on the other side, with a clicking and buzzing sound, it turned to allow me entry, where I made my way to the queen's chambers.
"Hmm... well well, Wolfe, you've returned." The queen smiled, flicking her tail back and forth in what I suppose is a seductive gesture. "I suppose you're here to take me up on my offer?" She put a hoof under my chin and placed her face dangerously close to mine, letting her eyes go half lidded. I let out a low growl. She backed off. "Hmph, all business, as always. You're no fun. I guess there's no choice but to wait for you to change back."
So, we waited another ten minutes. I winced and grimaced as my form shifted back to that of a human, took some time to compose myself, and donned the clothes I kept in my travel bag before I was ready to speak with Chrysalis.
"About time. I'm very busy, what with trying to feed a starving hive. Now that you're not so grumpy, lets talk. Are you here to accept my offer?"
"Actually," I replied. "I'm here to make one of my own." I took a card from my pocket, one with all the information of the league, and with a bow, passed it into her magical aura where it began to float on it's own. "As a member of the League of Dapper Gentlecolts, officially the most high class and sophisticated club in Canterlot, unofficially, a den of monsters dedicated to the betterment of society, I extend to you a welcome, in hopes you will come to visit, and, perhaps join the league yourself. It is a place where we can be what we are, without fear of prying eyes."
"And you are giving me this because?"
"You once offered me the opportunity to join your hive, so that I could be myself, free of judgement, and have all my 'needs' taken care of. I'm offering to let you join my 'hive'."
"I also gave you that offer based on your ability, in that with your strength you would be of service to us and strengthen the whole," Her eyes narrowed. "What is it you want from me?"
'Damn, she caught on. She's good at this game. Well, she won, might as well tell her.'
"Lycans such as myself, though, different in nature, and pony in breed. Thought long extinct, have come out of hiding with a violent attack. Numerous kidnappings over that past couple decades, thought previously to have been the work of diamond dogs under Rothak, capturing slaves to work in the mines, have by my investigation been linked to a roving pack of wolves. They're killing them. Eating them. Turning them to increase their own number. I can track them, but I am only one man. You have eyes everywhere."
"Your changelings can make themselves appear to be whatever they wish, all I am asking is to keep an eye out for them, and let me know if you find them. Anything from spotting tracks on a road to infiltrating one of their dens disguised as one of them. I'll leave that up to you. In exchange, I put in a good word for you with equestrian royalty, and see if I can get your people back in the country, perhaps even welcomed, considering you're helping to catch murderers."
"Hmm... it would solve the hunger issue, and being welcomed instead of having to disguise ourselves would be a welcome change. It would certainly make things easier, but the danger, and the effort required..." She pondered for a moment, putting her hoof to her chin in thought. "This is a big decision. I'll have to think on it..." She turned to walk away from me, then looked back over her shoulder and flicked her tail back and forth. "Though I'm sure there's something you could do to help me make the decision." She gave a light smile.
"For goodness sake Chrysalis I'm in courtship with Princess Luna!" So, her answer to that was to take the form of the moon princess and shake her rear at me. "The answer is still no. I swear you have a one track mind. Do you do this with every visitor?"
"Only if they're cute." She changed back to normal. "Otherwise I just take what I want. Oh well." Then, she brought a stone cup filled with sweet smelling yellowish goop. "Have a glass and regain your strength, then be on your way. When I've made my decision, I'll send an emissary to the league."
I hastily drank the 'love honey' which I still don't know how they make, and felt warmth and strength flowing through me, the kind that burns away the ache off tired bones, gave a short bow with a word of thanks, then left the hive, headed home.
"Focus Cloudkicker. Listen to the sound of my voice. I am Princess Luna, spirit of the moon, and I am ordering you to sit!"
"Awooooooo." The lycan mare howled in reply, opting to instead continue running around the room with her tongue lolling out of her mouth. She noticed her tail, and began chasing it. On catching it, she yelped, having bitten to hard, tripped over her own paws, then groaned in pain as the transformation reverted.
"Owwwwooooo." The now completely pony mare winced and made a sound rather similar to the previous one, except with far different tone.
"How goes it?" I asked, seeing Luna put her hoof to her head. She turned, startled, as she hadn't noticed me enter.
"About as well as you'd expect. She won't listen at all, she just bounces around, much like a playful puppy."
"She may be bored. Perhaps if she had something to occupy her she'd be more inclined to listen?"
"You have a suggestion?" The princess raised an eyebrow at me.
"A chew toy. But she can only have it if she's good."
Luna's reaction was surprising. She was very clearly trying not to laugh, and struggling greatly to contain herself for Cloudkicker's sake. Thinking back on my suggestion, which I had meant in all seriousness, It could have been taken as a joke.
Eventually, she regained her air of regality, and took her turn to question me.
"So, how went your endeavors? Did you find who you were looking for?" She asked.
"I did indeed. She has yet to make her reply, though I'm certain she will send an emissary in short order. Now, all we must do is wait..."
"Who did you go to?"
"Queen Chrysalis." At my answer, Luna's eyes narrowed, wordlessly demanding an explanation. "She's looking for a way to make things right. You and I, of all people, know the value of second chances. She could be of use."
"She will send her reply to us at the league, at which time we'll begin negotiations, if she agrees at all. You should inform your sister."
"Actually, I don't think I will. Not just yet. She may be a wise and benevolent ruler, but when she's wronged, especially on a personal level, she is slow to trust and easily angered. She becomes defensive, and unwilling to budge. It's that strength that makes her a force to be reckoned with among enemies, but at the same time, makes diplomacy difficult when she's not among allies who, let's face it, bow to her every whim. We'll at least wait for the reply. If Chrysalis declines, then there's no point in worrying her."
"Very well. Now, there's another subject that worries me. Rothak. If we're going to chase down these lycans which, having survived so many years in hiding, must be from the ancestral line. He'll most certainly see them as kin. Once we've caught them, we'll have great difficulty dealing with them, politically."
"You may be right. We narrowly convinced him to stay away from you, what to do about an entire pack?" Luna put her hoof to her chin an pondered, letting out a soft hum as she thought. "I'll have to think of something, in the mean time, perhaps you should get better acquainted with your new partner."
"Partner?" At my inquisitive gaze, Luna motioned to the pony laying on the cell floor.
"It has been decided that she'll be your responsibility. You'll take her with you on your endeavors, and teach her what you know."
'It has been decided...' Basically, Celestia pretty much forced Luna's hoof. She wants to punish me for making another werewolf, but can't do so with overt methods, so she's making me take the newcomer with me wherever I go to discourage repetition of that behavior. Clever, and there's really nothing I can do to refuse.
"Very well." The princess walked over and unlocked the cage, letting the pegasus mare blearily trot out, yelping in surprise when she brushed against the silver bars.
"So? How have you been?"
"I.. it's really strange, bizarre even. When I'm like that, there's really odd things I just find myself wanting to do. I saw my tail and just felt that I HAD to catch it, and seeing Princess Luna... well... I felt like chewing on her. Not biting but, just, you know, gnawing. It's freaky. And when she tried telling me what to do, I felt I would rather just play, where as otherwise I'd immediately do as she said. It's so weird." Cloudkicker explained.
"You really are like a puppy... Hopefully, since we're here at the very beginning, we'll be able to teach you, and things should go more smoothly than with myself. After all, I had a great deal of time to develop... misbehavior."
"So then, what now?"
"You'll be traveling with me, assisting with investigations and such, until the time that you've gained control of yourself. After that, you'll have your life back, I suppose."
"Actually, I meant now as in right now. I kinda wanna go home to see my friends and family." She scuffed her hoof at the floor.
"Well, the next full moon isn't for a while, so I suppose there's no harm in it."
"Good, I'll go request a chariot." She began to walk away.
"We do not need a chariot."
She stopped, then looked back at me, confused. "Are we taking the train?"
I sighed and shook my head. "No... we aren't taking the train."
"What are we doing here?" Cloudkicker asked.
"Proving a point. Until now, you've still been thinking like a pony. That has to change. For example, this sheer drop down to the train platform on the outskirts. This, to any normal person, would be fatal. However..." Saying nothing more, I let myself drop off the wall. She rushed the the edge, only to find me standing there, whole and uninjured. "To people like us, tis nothing at all. Of course, considering that you can fly, it's nothing to you either. Go ahead. Jump off, and do not use your wings."
She backed away from the edge, took a running start, them jumped off the wall. At the last moment, before hitting the ground, she opened her wings and landed gently, instead of what I intended. I raised my eyebrow.
"Oh... sorry, I guess I panicked." She looked ashamed. I ruffled her mane with my hand.
"Think nothing of it. You are still learning after all. Let's go to Ponyville... and, take it slow. Learn to appreciate the night, and all it brings."