The Apples has always loved Zap Apple season, especially Applebloom. However, to Applejack and Big Mac it was just more work to get done. The season was generally before the Fall, or Autumn, had gotten into full swing. Granny Smith had her own little hints towards when the season was approaching. Applejack and Applebloom had always played a little game, trying to predict when Granny Smith would notice the first signs. The game was just one of the little things they did to pass the time. However, the upcoming season would change their lives forever. Since Zecora had been made a friend, Applebloom had invited the zebra to stay with them while the timber wolves were a-howlin', to which she accepted.
The wind blew harder, the nights grew longer, and the days shorter. The summer was ending quickly. All of the farmer ponies were preparing to buck apples and collect them, make cider, and sell them in the streets. Granny Smith, being an elder mare, didn't do much to prepare as it was. However, she was even more unable this year. She'd contracted the pony pox, and was bed-ridden for two weeks plus, because her old body was so incapable of continuing to live if she'd be actively using her strength to prepare.
The night the timber wolves came, she was still sick. Stuck in bed and sleeping, just as always when she was sick. The Apples were in bed, too. Winona slept at the foot of Applejack's bed as always. All of the Earth ponies were heavy sleepers, as they woke up early and wished to be refreshed fittingly enough for the day ahead. The timber wolves were howlin'.
The dog picked her head up. The noises of the large, frightful creatures had woken her up. She walked down the stairs, and to the foyer of the home, sniffing the air with her head upward as she went. Winona looked out the windows. She could see but the eyes of the large animals. They were much bigger than she. Normally, Granny Smith would've been outside to fend them off with her loud noises. However, she was sick, and nopony could tell exactly when the wolves would be around, and she was unable to assign the job to anypony else.
The wolves took advantage, and were on the orchards of the farm, new territory for them. They were bloodthirsty, seeing as though they are wolves. The timber wolves are vicious beings- they'll eat anything that moves. One story goes as far as they ate a full-grown manticore. The wolves themselves weren't that large, but when in packs, they were unstoppable.
Winona looked for a way to get outside to defend her home, as is instinct for dogs. After a minute of unsuccessful searching, she encountered a window, halfway ajar. She put her wet nose underneath the bottom, and lifted. She hopped right through, into some bushes. Jumping out bravely, she got onto her paws and started barking at them. She tried to run alongside one of the wolves, as if she were herding with her master, Applejack. The wolves tried to bite her with their ferocious jaws, but she dodged with ease. Nopony was awake. One of the larger wolves bit her side, and left a hole from penetration, with blood dripping from the teethmarks. Winona retaliated, and jumped on top of her attacker. She bit his neck with unbelievable force, and he was instantly killed due to serious vertebrae wounds. The rest of the wolves began surrounding the dog. Their violent hunting technique went into affect swiftly. They surrounded her, and began moving in slowly. Winona barked loud, startling some of the wolves she was snout-to-snout with. They jumped back, and she bit one on the nose. The wolf let out an ear-piercing cry. The wolves continued to advance in their attack. Slowly but methodically, did they move in.
Meanwhile, Big Mac had heard the wolf's shout as it was bit by Winona. He looked up, still in a haze from his slumber. He rubbed his eyes. With strong legs, he opened his window, and rubbed his eyes yet again to make sure he wasn't dreaming. He looked out to see the family pet being surrounded by a magical predator, scratch that like Vinyl- a PACK of magical creatures. He got up quickly and got to the elder of his sisters' room. He walked over and woke Applejack. Not exactly being the loudest pony, he told her in as much of a panicked voice as he could muster, “The timber wolves are a-howlin'.”
“Hurry! I'll wake Applebloom, you go outside, quick!”
Big Mac completed his task, and his littlest sister ran into the kitchen to grab the metal objects necessary to scare the things off.
He ran outside, right behind Applejack. He looked in front of him, horrified at what vision his eyes had prevented him with; Winona, torn to shreds in a pile of her own blood. Not yet dead, but very near death nevertheless. Applejack bucked a timber wolf, and was instantaneously overcome with the enemies. Big Mac ran to the pack, and, in an effort to save his sister, bucked a timber wolf, smashing skull and obliterating its brain.
Given his stature as a large, muscular stallion, the wolves knew attacking would be futile. The red pony stood in front of his sister, blocking her from danger, when Applebloom ran outside with a pot and a big metal ladel. Clanging them together, the wolves ran, in fear for their well being. Back to the Everfree, to their imprisonment until next Zap Apple season.
Applejack, now bleeding from below her eye, on her upper cheek, looked to her beloved Winona. The pup lay on the ground, blinking and whimpering in raspy tones.
“Shh, girl. Shh.” Applejack whispered to her dying companion. The dog just let herself be pet, and closed her eyes for the second to last time.
“Don't. It's okay.”
“No it ain't.”
“Mac, just gimme a minute alone.” The other Apples left, leaving Applejack in private with her comrade.
“Shh, girl. Ah'm here. It's okay, Winona,” a tear escaped the farmer's eye, “It's okay tah go. Y'all can go now. Good girl.” Applejack comforted, through blurred vision and sobs of her own. She reached down to feel Winona's chest. Rapid beating slowed to a barely noticeable pulse. The dog's nose was wet no longer. Applejack knew she'd be gone in a minute, and hugged her beloved puppy's neck, and looked away. Winona turned her head, seeking approval from her master. The farmer nodded, and Winona put her head down, and closed her eyes. For the last time.
“Good girl. You're such a good girl...” She fell asleep. When the blonde-maned pony awoke, Big Mac was standing in front of her, wearing a sad look.
“It's okay. Ah took care of your chores.”
“Big brother, you're the best.”
Applejack stood up, looking down at the pile of blood on the ground. Winona's body had been buried, she presumed. She walked into the barn, to take a look at the clock. 5:00 PM. Wow, had she really slept that late?
“What?” She sniffled.
“Fluttershy came over earlier to help us with the squirrel problem.”
“She found somethin' nopony knew.”
“Winona had puppies.”
“Five days ago.”
“How'd Fluttershy know all that?”
“Oh, no, the vet knew it. We brought Winona's body to be sure.”
“She'd lost a lot of weight before the incident. We haven't found the puppies yet.”
“Well, where could the darn rascals be?” Applejack had a realization. The apple cellar, of course! The pair rushed home to find the dogs. They went to the hidden stairs, to find Applebloom already playing with the newborns. She'd put them in a box with a blanket and a bowl of water. The scene was simply adorable. Six puppies; all still blind, stumbling over each other with tiny tails wagging and occasional whimpers escaping them.
“Applejack! Big brother! Ah was just about tah come get you guys!” She had excitement in her voice.
“Wow, Applebloom. You sure knew what tah do.”
“Of course, Applejack!”
“Wait, what's that?”
“I was getting to it, Big Mac! I GOT MA CUTIE MARK!” She bursted, beaming with a smile as wide as a mile, that Pinkie Pie could get a whole week's worth of enjoyment from. It was true, there, on the edge of her flank, was a red cross with a puppy's head. Both of her siblings were surprised, but disappointed. To see that their little sister's special talent had nothing to do with apples was a bit depressing, considering the the only of member of the extended family to not become a farmer was Great Uncle Penn Cille, who was a writer (but that's a story for another time).
“What does it mean?”
“Oh, come on Applejack, it means I'm gonna be a vet!” Applebloom said sarcastically. Applejack may be hardworking, strong, athletic, and pretty, but the gift of knowledge was one she wasn't given.
Big Mac rolled his eyes at his sister's stupidity. He wasn't exactly the sharpest tool in the shed, but he was definitely of higher intelligence than his blonde sister. (By the way, Applejack's low intelligence has NOTHING to do with the fact that she's blonde)
“What a mark, li'l sis. I'm proud of you fer waitin'.”
“Me too. Does anypony know what to do with all these puppies?”
“I've got an idea.” Big Mac interjected, “we can give 'em away, and keep one or two to take Winona's place.”
“Ah want one!”
“No, Applebloom. Not yet.”
“Aww, come on Applejack!”
“Ah said no.”
“Just- just not now, okay?”
Applejack ran away in tears. The thought of the immediate replacement of her one and only Winona was a terrible thought. To hold something so valuable, lose it, and replace it, is a horrifying concept. Especially to a pony that puts value on everything, including the trees of her orchard. She couldn't have a new puppy just yet. She wasn't over Winona. Two days is nowhere near enough time.
She ran to her room. She laid face-down in her pillow for hours, just thinking about the time she'd spent with her dog. In doing so, she missed her pony-pet play date in the park.