• Published 11th Jul 2013
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Wolf In Pony's Clothing - Ardashir



Ardi the wolf is hiding out in Ponyville from an angry dragon and enraged ponies. Oh, and he's disguised as Rarity. AND a fear of Changelings and other monsters pretending to be ponies stalks the land. What could possibly go wrong?

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Day Four: School Project

Day Four: School Project

The last glow of Celestia’s sun had faded from the sky over the Everfree when Fluttershy glided down to Carousel Boutique, the beginning night chill helping keep her awake. She’d never intended to be gone this long, but between the care her animals needed, Angel Bunny’s efforts at keeping her home – she was really going to have to talk with him about his jealousy – and talking her way out of a escort for “protection against that savage wolf” by two persistent pegasus stallions, Luna’s moon was shining high in the sky over Ponyville before she got away from them all and made her way back across town to help “Rarity” with the fillies.

Touching down behind the Boutique, the yellow pegasus folded her wings and walked up to the back door. Boutique’s still standing and the lights are uncovered.

Opening the door with her mouth, she stepped into the mud room, announcing herself in her usual near-whisper. “Umm… Girls? It’s me.”

Light came through the kitchen doorway and she could hear the voices of a mare and two fillies. The poor little dears; I hope Ardi’s been patient with them, and that nothing’s gone wrong.

“AAAAAAAAAH! THE WOLF ATE RARITY AND WE’RE NEXT!”

“EEEEEEEK!” Fluttershy cringed, almost bolting back outside and taking to the air as two tiny multi-colored streaks galloped out to hit her forelegs and latched on. She had just enough presence of mind to kick the door shut behind her to muffle the screams.

“AAAAAAAAA!”

Gasping, she looked down and recognized the two fillies. Which wasn’t easy, given their flattened ears and the way their eyes rolled wildly in equine panic. Their fear-filled shrieks ripped through the mud room. “S-Sweetie Belle! Apple Bloom! What’s the problem?”

”THE WOLF ATE RARITY AND WE’RE NEXT! Help us, Miss Fluttershy!” Apple Bloom clutched at one of Fluttershy’s legs, tugging at her.

“SHE’S DEAD RARITY’S DEAD IT ATE RARITY!” Sweetie Belle sobbed into Fluttershy’s mane. “We gotta run or it’s gonna eat us too!”

A silhouette appeared in the kitchen doorway; both fillies froze.

Fluttershy looked up and saw Ardi, er, “Rarity” standing in the doorway, ears down and head low in what Fluttershy recognized as a lupine apologetic posture.

“Girls, little fillies, it’s not what it looks like!” That voice, so very like the real Rarity’s, made the fillies hesitate and stop yelling. They still eyed “Rarity” with vast suspicion. Fluttershy sighed her relief as “Rarity” began to step towards them, saying, “I – you just thought you saw fangs, and…”

As the white unicorn came forward into the shadow of the mud room, “her” eyes glowed as they caught the kitchen light. Sweetie Belle shrieked and resumed crying.

“AAAAAAAAAH! You bad wolf, you ate my sister!”

“What?” Ardi’s eyes went wide, his voice a properly-indignant Rarity except for the underlying lupine growl instead of an equine snort. “I didn’t eat anywolf’s sister…”

“Oh, girls,” Fluttershy added, trying to hold on to the squirmy fillies with her fetlocks, “It’s not what it looks like, Ardi didn’t eat anypony…”

“Huh?” Apple Bloom gave Fluttershy a shocked look. She pointed her hoof at Ardi. “Miss Fluttershy, how do y’all know its name?”

“I am not an ‘it’!” “Rarity” stomped forward stiff-legged, head and ears down and lip curling back to show those fangs as she directed a furious look at the two fillies. Sweetie Belle kept crying and Apple Bloom gave an angry snort as the mare-suited wolf snapped at them, “I didn’t eat your sister, Fluttershy told me she went out of town for some fancy-schmancy fashion show! And you,” “Rarity” turned on Apple Bloom, “You kicked me in the face the other day when I was begging for help!”

“You tried tah eat us!” Apple Bloom stomped forward, thrusting her hoof at “Rarity’s” face. “She” quickly jerked back and out of reach.

“And you’re wearing my sister’s hide, you nasty Diamond Dog!” Sweetie cried, though she stayed close by Fluttershy.

Diamond Dog!” “Rarity’s” ears flattened anew and her lip began to curl, but at a warning look from Fluttershy, “she” subsided. White pony lips relaxed, hiding the wolf fangs.

“Girls,” Fluttershy said, “Listen, what Ardi said is true. Sweetie, your sister’s okay,” the tiny unicorn looked up at her; Fluttershy wiped away tears with a nuzzle. “She just got called to Manehattan at the last minute.”

“The Spring Fashion Show?” Sweetie said in wondering tones. She smiled. “Rarity told me she was hoping she could show her creations there.” And suddenly, shooting another wary look at Ardi, “But why does he look like my sister?” Before Fluttershy could answer, Apple Bloom marched over right in front of her.

“An’ why didn’t ya tell mah big sis ‘n the rest o’ the posse that ya knew where that nasty wolf was?” She darted a nasty glare at Ardi. “He hurt mah big brother!”

“He was chasing me! After you kicked me! And I got away from that dragon!” Ardi stalked closer with every word. Apple Bloom held her ground and stared “her” in the face. Sweetie Belle just pressed back against Fluttershy. “And he only got stung!” “She” snarled the words right into Apple Bloom’s face. “You ponies love to hunt and kill wolves, and we never do anything to deserve it!”

“Y’all eat ponies ‘n make slaves ‘o them!” Apple Bloom snapped back.

“Oh dear! Ardi, Apple Bloom, please,” Fluttershy said. She tried to get between the angry filly and wolf. Her eyes full of worry, she looked from one to the other and said, “This yelling at each other isn’t being very helpful…” She cringed as Ardi almost howled.

“Eat ponies?!?” Before she could do anything, Ardi leaped and pounced on Apple Bloom, pinning her the way wolves did with small prey animals. ‘Bloom squirmed as he snarled in Rarity’s voice, “Why, you, you ignorant, nasty little pup! Diamond Dogs enslave ponies! Timber wolves eat ponies! I am a WOLF! Son of Fenris, the first Lupus Major! Not some Discorded savage! And it’s been over a thousand years since we did anything like that!”

“Now, Ardi, Apple Bloom, let’s be polite…”

“Yer a monster!”

“Monster?” “Rarity” curled her lips back, displaying a mouthful of lupine fangs. “She” lowered her muzzle towards Apple Bloom’s neck, saying, “I’ll shake you by the ruff until you eat those words, you brat!”

Okay, that’s it.

Fluttershy unleashed her ultimate weapon on both wolf and filly.

Her eyes blazed in The Stare.

“Both of you, KNOCK IT OFF!” Ardi recoiled with a yelp. Apple Bloom shrank against the floor, looking back at the pegasus in sudden fear. “You,” the butter-yellow Pegasus said, turning her burning gaze on “Rarity”, “This is not how we deal with frightened little fillies! I know that wolves sometimes get rough with their pups, but ponies are different! And no matter what, you will not frighten them any more deliberately while I’m here! IS. THAT. CLEAR?” Ardi slowly sank into a belly-to-ground submission posture as she Stared him.

“Yes,” he whimpered, tail curled up between his, er, “her” legs and eyes locked on Fluttershy’s.

“And you two,” Fluttershy said as she turned her Stare onto Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle “Listen very carefully. His name is Ardi. Not it, and not monster. He didn’t eat Rarity, and he’s never eaten any pony.” She looked from them to Ardi and felt a sudden inspiration. “And he’s about to Pinkie Promise to never hurt you or anypony else in Ponyville. Just like how you’re about to Pinkie Promise to keep this quiet.”

“I’m about to do what now?” Ardi cringed as Fluttershy looked back at “her”.

“Repeat after me, and do as I do,” Fluttershy said, her voice back at its normal volume. “’Cross my heart…” she drew her forehoof across her chest twice, “Hope to fly…” she closed one eye, “Stick a cupcake in my eye.” She touched hoof to eye. “Like that.” Her other eye darted around, half-expecting Pinkie to poke her head out of the bathroom or a cupboard or something.

Ardi rumbled a disgusted growl. Fluttershy just cleared her throat and cocked an eyebrow.

“Okay, I promise not to eat any ponies in Ponyville or anywhere else. Cross my heart, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in – OW!” “Rarity” rubbed “her” eye.

Fluttershy just looked at Sweetie and ‘Bloom. They both sighed.

“We won’t say nothin’ about the wolf to any adult.”

Fluttershy was about to remind them to Pinkie Promise it when hooves pounded on the door.

“Open up in there!” a stallion’s voice came through the door. “Everypony alright? We heard a scream!”

Fluttershy and Ardi exchanged looks, then Ardi went to the door as Fluttershy held onto the fillies. Pulling the door open with his mouth, the ponysuited wolf said in a near-perfect Rarity voice, “Is something wrong, darling?”

The slate-blue stallion in makeshift barding on the other side flinched back, then recovered at the sight of Ponyville’s resident fashionista instead of the expected leaping wolf.

“We – we heard a scream, Miss Rarity. With that wolf still around…”

“Blues Noteworthy! Do not stand in front of me!” The Stalliongrad-accented voice came from a mare at the edge of the light – Lotus from the Spa, wearing a wicked-looking spear in a jousting harness. “Miss Rarity! Is everything alright?”

The spa pony pawed the ground with one forehoof, ready to charge. Behind her Fluttershy could barely make out a light-coated stallion whose sudden sneezing fit identified him as Hayfever.

“But of course, darling,” Ardi purred in Rarity’s voice. “Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom are staying over tonight, and Fluttershy flew over to check on us. The fillies saw her coming in, thought she was the wolf, and panicked. That’s all.”

The five ponies and two fillies all stood there a moment in silence. Fluttershy pulled the fillies against her, covering them with extended wings, fearing any moment that they’d blurt out something to the posse outside. Just as she was about to start squimpering, Hayfever broke the silence with another sneezing fit.

“Sorry to bother you, Miss Rarity, Miss Fluttershy,” Blues and Lotus chorused in unison, then Blues added “but with this wolf…”

“Quite all right,” “Rarity” said to the three outside, then closed the door. After a moment of ear-pricked listening to make sure the others had left, pegasus and maresuited wolf sagged in relief.

Sweetie gave Ardi a curious look. “But how come he looks like my big sister? And sounds like her? And why is he here, anyway?”

“Oh, that’s because he’s wearing a magical costume your sister was making for next Nightmare Night.” Fluttershy said. The two fillies looked from her to “Rarity”, their gazes somewhere between suspicious and disbelieving.

“Umm,” “Rarity” said, before turning sideways and flipping “her” tail up. “Ta-da?”

“And he’s here because he tried plundering a dragon’s hoard in the Everfree, and it chased him here, and he saw your club house on his way in to town, and when he tried to hide there…”

“I remember,” Sweetie said with a shudder. She walked over to Ardi and said, “You scared me!” She gave him the sternest look she could manage. Which was to say, not much.

“Ahh,” he looked at her, “I’m sorry?” Ardi hesitated, and then lowered his head and gave Sweetie a nuzzle and quick lick. Sweetie hurried back. He snorted, “I’m not tasting you, you know.” Ardi gave Apple Bloom an angry look. “And you kicked me, and bit me, and then your brother and sister chased me!”

“I’m sorry,” Apple Bloom said, and it sounded like she meant it, but then she added, “I thought y’all were gonna eat us!” She looked at Fluttershy. “And how long is he gonna be in that Rarity-suit? An’ hey,” Apple Bloom’s eyes started to go wide, “If he’s gonna be around for a while, can he go snarl at Dee Tee and Spoony an’ scare ‘em real good?”

“He will not be snarling at anypony else,” Fluttershy said with a warning look at “Rarity”. “Will you?”

“She” weakly shook “her” head no.

Fluttershy continued to the two fillies, “I’m hiding him out until Twilight or Rarity come back from their trips. They’ll get him out of the suit and then we’ll sneak him out of Ponyville.”

“He’s gonna take the suit off?” Sweetie Belle walked over to Ardi and gathered up a hooffull of “her” tail. She rubbed it against her face as she said, “Aww, I think he looks better as Rarity than as some scary old wolf.” Ardi scowled at her, ears flattened.

“Wait,” Apple Bloom suddenly said, looking dismayed, “Miss Fluttershy, did ya say that Miss Twilight is out ‘o town? Darn it!” She kicked at the floor, her little hoof clicking against the wood. “We were gonna ask her ta show us some books for that school project on wolves, and…” Her eyes went wide and she grinned broadly. She turned and thrust her hoof at Ardi. “Wait! Y’all are a wolf, you can help us!”

“Help you how?” Ardi demanded in a suspicious tone. “I’m trying to hide in this hide, remember? I don’t need the other ponies figuring out who and what I am.”

“You won’t have to tell anypony who you are,” Sweetie Belle said. She trotted up beside her “sister”, saying, “Just tell us what it’s like to be a wolf, and help us find some books at the library.” She paused and said suspiciously, “You can read, right?”

“Err, of course,” Ardi said, looking very unsure. Fluttershy knew he could, she’d taught him how to read Equestrian on his first visit months ago, but only basic Equestrian, nothing up to library books. And he’d warned her about some taboos wolves had concerning telling their history. Even as she thought that he said, “Just so long as it’s nothing magical or the like.” She barely caught his shiver.

“Yay!” The two fillies chorused, “We’re gonna do great at this essay! We got our own wolf!”

“I think it’s a wonderful idea,” Fluttershy said. She said to the stunned looking Ardi, “That way you can show them you won’t hurt anypony. And,” she leaned close and whispered into “her” ear, “Er, it might be good for them to have a reason to stay quiet. If you help them with their schoolwork, then, well…”

“Fine,” Ardi said as he looked from her to the exuberant fillies. “Rarity’s” ears drooped as “she” said in a markedly unenthusiastic voice, “I’m thrilled.”

* * *

The next day found Ardi trotting across Ponyville with Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom. He remembered to smile politely, meaning no showing fangs, at every pony who greeted him, and made sure to keep up an equine gait. He could feel the roll in his rump and hips and the sway of that long tail. Apparently he wasn’t the only one to notice, judging by the looks he could actually feel from the stallions he passed. Ardi caught their admiring glances and wondered, okay, now what would Rarity, I mean I, do?

He lifted his, er, her head high and trotted along, putting a little more of a wiggle into it as he followed the fillies past Town Hall and through the main square. Several ponies had carts and stalls set up selling goods and vegetables. He felt some glee to see that the stallions were really watching “her”, now. Better be careful, he thought as he tilted his head back even further, eyes fluttering shut, I don’t want to draw TOO much attention. And even as he thought that, he walked right into a wall wearing a horse collar.

“Mornin’, Miss Rarity.” Ardi felt his blood run cold as he saw it was the massive sorrel stallion from his first day here. Any welts from the bees seemed to have healed. He stood next to a market cart both decorated and filled with apples. Shiny, sweet, wonderful apples. Ardi couldn’t stop himself from licking his lips at the sight. Like any wolf, he preferred, needed, large amounts of meat, but he’d learned to like certain local fruits when he’d stayed with Fluttershy last year. The stallion noticed how “she” looked at them and said, “They’re just two bits a bag, same as ever.”

“Hi, big brother!” Ardi looked down to see Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle standing beside him. ‘Bloom smiled at him and said, “Ah’m SURE that Miss Rarity would love tah buy some o’ our best apples right before we go over tah th’ library, wouldn’t she?”

“Yeah!” Sweetie Belle said. She grinned at her “sister”, adding, “Just like we can go and buy some sweets at Sugarcube Corner later, right? Like you promised?

Ardi grinned weakly but inwardly cringed to remember that morning’s discussion with the two little blackmailers. After they’d finally gone to bed last night and Fluttershy left, promising to be over sometime later today – apparently it was one of two days of the week when Rarity closed her shop – Ardi finally dropped off in Rarity’s lovely plush bed. After being awakened by that filthy cat’s claws across “her” flank, Ardi went downstairs to find that Sweetie and Apple Bloom were already making a breakfast of eggs, waffles, and juice. Or so they’d told him; if not for that, he would never have guessed what was on the plate. He’d reluctantly wolfed it down and hoped it would stay there. Afterwards they spoke.

“I suppose you two want to go and take are of this library business first?” The little fillies looked dismayed, so he said, “Remember, hunt first, eat at leisure.” They’d looked blankly at him. He slapped one of his hooves to his forehead. “Oh! That’s a wolf saying. It means,” he thought about one of the Equestrian sayings he’d learned from Fluttershy, “’Business before pleasure’?”

“Ohhhh…” The two fillies looked at him, fascinated. “He’s right,” Apple Bloom said, “It’s gonna be a sunny day out. Scootaloo tole us, remember? So if we do the school stuff first, then we can do whatever we want the rest o’ th’ day.”

“Yeah!” Sweetie Belle grinned at Ardi. “Say, can we go by Sugarcube Corner later and get something nice to eat?” To his curious look, she said, “It’s where Pinkie Pie works, they bake cakes and pies and lots of yummy stuff like that.”

“The crazy one?” Ardi said, uneasily, remembering Nightmare Night. “I’m not sure…”

“Rarity always takes us there,” Sweetie said. Ardi missed the sly look she gave Apple Bloom, who returned her grin. “Ponies would get suspicious if they didn’t see you do it.”

And so he’d promised to take the fillies there later, along with their flyer-pony pup friend who’d be waiting for them at the library. She was apparently the flyer he’d seen trying to carry Sweetie out the window that first day. But first they had to get through this square filled with ponies who were still hunting for the wolf standing before them hidden inside a mare’s hide.

Speaking of which, they were staring at her.

“Oh, of course,” “Rarity” said. With paw inside costume hoof, “she” opened the small coin purse hanging around her neck and took out four bits, dropping them before the stallion. “There. One bag for me, the other for these darling little fillies,” Ardi smiled as “she” pulled them both in close and roughly tousled their manes. They gave “her” dirty looks. The stallion handed the bags over to “her”, a rather confused look on his face. Ardi wondered what must be wrong.

Wait, remember. Fluttershy said that her friend is the most popular mare in town. How do mares act around stallions? Oh, I know! I saw the covers of those books Rarity keeps hidden next to her bed!

“Rarity” half closed her eyes and looked at Big Mac from under the lids. He took a step back, his ears flattening and scraping nervously at the street with one hoof, as “she” purred out, “You’ve been such a helpful stallion. Is there anything else I can,” “she” fluttered her eyelids at him, “Do for you?”

The big draft pony stepped back, looking ready to spook and run. “Uhh, eenope.”

“Rarity” glanced around and saw that most of the other male vendors were looking at her with wide eyes, though some were giving the red stallion dirty looks. The mares seemed mostly to have settled on annoyed. Except for a purple one with three flowers on her flank trying to imitate Fluttershy’s Stare. Both fillies had hooves over their mouths, stifling laughter and just winning.

“Uhhh, time to go, big sis,” Sweetie said, tugging on “Rarity’s” leg. “We’ve got all that research to do, remember?”

“Why of course, dear little sister,” Ardi said, dropping the apples into her and Apple Bloom’s saddlebags. He looked back at the stallions. The big one looked ready to die of embarrassment, and the rest looked just plain poleaxed. “Until later, gentlecolts,” the “mare” said in silken tones as she followed the little fillies under the arch onto Library Lane. Ardi trotted along behind the fillies, silent as the passed the fanciest shop he’d ever seen and a huge tree with windows and balconies came into view at the end of the street. As it did “she” whispered to them, “So, how did I do?”

“Huh?”

“Was that how your big sister would act?”

“Uhh, yeah, I guess,” the little white spear-head said. “My big sis kinda acts like that, sometimes, when she really wants something from a stallion. Then they get all silly and have these funny looks on their faces and give her whatever she wants.”

“They do, do they?” Ardi grinned slyly. “Hmm, maybe there are some advantages to being a hot to trot spear-head mare.” “She” passed by another stallion, a greenish unicorn with thick glasses, and as “she” did, lightly brought “her” tail up and gently swatted his flanks. He stopped and gazed open-mouthed after “her” as “she” walked past a wooden sign to a door built into the giant tree itself.

Hah! Pony stallions really are dumb. Ardi fought down a laugh at the idea of teaching his pack to dress in pony-suits like this so they could wander wherever they wanted in Equestria. Of course, it’d only last until the Nightmare and the Burning Queen found out. A sudden mental image then, of a cowering spear-head mare, herself, cringing before two incensed giant ponies, one dark as a moonless sky and the other burning hot as a furnace.

“So, you like to pretend to be a mare and deceive our stallions, do you?” One asked, and the other said, “Then, you can be a mare FOREVER!” And a blast of light as their witchcraft tore the mare-hide from him, only to reveal an earth pony mare with Rarity's coat and mane beneath it.

“What? No! I wanted to be a wolf again!” He looked in a nearby mirror and groaned. “This can’t get any worse!” His eyes went wide at the Burning Queen’s next words.

“Oh, and since you like stallions so much, here’s one just for you.” The touch of a wet velvet muzzle against her withers from behind, and a deep and amused sound.

“Eeeyup!”

“AAAAAAAAAAAAH!”

“Uhh, y’all okay, Ar – I mean Miss Rarity?” He looked down to see the two fillies looking at him oddly.

“Oh, just, fine,” Ardi said, forcing a laugh as he opened the tree-door with his mouth. “Now, let’s get your wolf-books.” He followed them in, curious despite his nervousness at entering a place where ponies kept the secrets of their witchcraft. What did ponies write down about his folk?

Inside was one large room hollowed out of the tree itself, its sides covered with shelves filled with books. And a pair of mares with their little pony-pups. One mare was purple like that one back in the square, but with a cluster of berries for a cutie mark. Beside her stood a little filly in almost the exact same colors. And across the room, a wall-eyed flier-pony with an adorable little spear-head filly, both of them with gray coats and blonde manes and tails. His attention focused less on them and more on the little orange-coated flier hurrying up to them from the central table she’d been reading at, her mane and tail both purple. That’s the one who wanted to try wolf-catching me for their ‘cutie marks’. Unconsciously, his lip began to curl back and his ears started to flatten.

“Hi, guys! Hi, Miss Rarity!” She went to her friends and looked up at “Rarity”, smiling broadly. Ardi returned the smile and made sure to keep his fangs hidden as she said, “I got all the books they had left on wolves, but,” she frowned, “It looks like everypony else had the same idea. We’re gonna need a miracle to pass this assignment.” She began walking back to her table and they accompanied her there.

“Oh, I think we might have one,” Sweetie said, nudging her “sister”. “My big sis knows a LOT about wolves.”

“She does?” A new voice there, sounding young and male and somewhat dreamy. “Not that I’m surprised. I’m sure that Rarity has so many hidden depths.” It came from behind Ardi, and “she” turned to look at the speaker.

Short, purple scales, green spines, fangs and claws, slit-pupil green eyes that gazed on “her” adoringly, and a hint of flame escaping that muzzle. Just like several nights ago and that panic-stricken flight through Discord’s Demesne, pursued every pawstep of the way by a…

“DRAGON!”

Ardi would never have guessed that he could climb so fast while unable to properly grip the shelves. In a moment he found himself clinging by “her” hooves to a little cubby by one of the windows, staring down at the tiny scaled horror.

“Big sis!” Sweetie cried, staring up at “Rarity”. The dragon and her friends looked just as shocked as her as she said, “Uhh, big sis, you remember Spike, right? Twilight’s assistant and your friend?” She pointed at the small dragon. Ardi looked to see the other ponies all over the library turning and staring in shock at “her” where she clung.

“Oh-hh, of course, Spike,” Ardi said, wishing that “her” voice sounded more musical and less like a croak. “Of course! I am such a bundle of nerves from, uh, that big nasty wolf we ponies are all so scared of! Oh, Spike, my very appreciated friend, I am so sorry I behaved like that.” There, that oughta convince them. The ponies mostly looked away, shaking their heads and tapping their temples. “Just wait, I’ll be right down.” He crouched and leaped.

“Rarity, be caref—!” The dragon, Spike, stared at “her” in shock as “she” lightly landed on the floor.

“What?” “She” said idly, “It’s just four lengths or so.” Ardi trotted over to the table where the three fillies were watching “her”. “Now then, dears, let’s look at these wolf books, shall we?”

“Uhh, yeah, okay,” Scootaloo, yes, that was the little orange flier’s name, said as she pushed one thick book with wooden covers over. “I guess this one’s the best of them?”

Ardi looked at it and frowned. The cover looked faded, and it showed some white-coated, spear-head stallion in a jousting harness and tall spiked pith helmet standing over a pile of fallen wolves. He slowly worked his way through the glyphs of the title. “Wolves, Timber Wolves, and Diamond Dogs: Cruel Canine Creatures of our Country?”

“Oh, Twilight told me about him and that book,” the little dragon said. Ardi glanced sidelong at him and felt rather uneasy at the way he looked at “her”. “Great Hunter was something like the grandfather of Prince Blueblood,” he looked at Ardi as though expecting a response. Ardi shifted uneasily. The dragon looked confused but said, “He was some big monster-hunter, and he wrote books about all the ones he killed. That’s the one covering all the wolf-monsters.” He might have said more, but Ardi stuck his face down before the little dragon’s.

“Wolves are not monsters, dragon,” “she” snapped, “And you are the last being to be making that kind of remark!” Spike looked hurt, and more, confused. “Rarity” turned to the three fillies and said, “Dears, come along. And leave that nasty book here. I will tell you the true history of wolves.” Head held high, letting the disdain he felt show, Ardi turned and trotted out the door.

“Hmmph! Monster, indeed!”

* * *

Back inside the library, Spike stared after Rarity in utter confusion. The Cutie Mark Crusaders looked at him, confusion and embarrassment filling their faces.

“What, what did I do wrong?” Spike finally managed to say. He clutched at Sweetie Belle’s mane. “Please, tell me what I did wrong! I’ll make it right to her, I swear!”

“Uhh,” Sweetie said, slowly pulling away from him in the direction of the door, “Big sis, um, kinda has a lot to deal with right now? And she’s been sick.”

“Huh? Rarity’s been sick?” Spike looked after her, worried. “With what?”

“Sore throat,” Sweetie Belle said.

“Hoof in mouth,” Apple Bloom said at the exact same moment.

They looked at each other, ears down as they winced in unison.

“Okay, so which is it?” Spike looked at them, crossing his arms over his chest. They both hemmed and hawed. He said, “Yeesh, what’s the matter with you and her? You’re really acting funny.” Neither of them answered, they just turned and hurried out after Rarity. He turned and looked at Scootaloo. “Hey, are your friends okay?”

“Uhh, I guess so,” Scootaloo said, trotting after Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle. She laughed. “It can’t be anything too serious, Spike. I mean, it’s not like Rarity was replaced by Changelings like in those magazine stories, or something.” And with that she was out the door and gone.

Spike looked after them, scratching his scaly head. “Like she was replaced…” His eyes went wide before he shook his head. He went upstairs. Owlowiscous looked down wisely at him from his perch. It was nice and quiet there as he thought out loud, “Naww, it can’t be. That stuff only happens in those stories. It’d be like Changelings replacing an alicorn, or, er,” he looked over against the wall and saw one of the wedding photos from Shining Armor and Cadence, “Okay, maybe it could be true.” He thought some more and shook his head. “No, because then Sweetie and Apple Bloom would know, and…” Spike thought to how they’d acted, his mind worked faster than ever, and he came to the only logical solution.

“They got Rarity, and Sweetie, and Apple Bloom!”

“Who?”

“Changelings, that’s who!” Spike explained to Owlowiscious. “The real Rarity would never talk to me like that, and she’d never take that jump! She’s so delicate,” he clasped his claws together as he spoke in a dreamy voice, before frowning as he remembered, “Er, except when she tried to beat up those dragons that were gonna pound me. And when she fought Applejack when they were Discorded, and…”

“Whooo.” Spike jumped and nodded at the owl.

“You’re right!” He hurriedly ran to his closet and snatched out clothes best suited to following somepony inconspicuously through Ponyville. “Someone has to save Rarity,” he said as he threw the Inverness cloak around his shoulders, “And Sweetie and Apple Bloom and Scootaloo,” he put a deerstalker hat on, “And hay, all of Ponyville!” He took out the final touch, a magnifying glass. That detective in those stories Twilight read always dressed like this, and he always got the bad ponies. He turned to Owlowiscious. “How do I look?”

“Whoooo,” the owl said, shaking his head.

“Yeah, you’re right,” Spike said. He reached back into the closet and whipped out a small fake mustache that he attached. He looked at himself in the mirror. “Perfect! Nopony will recognize me like this.” Owlowiscious just rolled his eyes behind him. Spike hurried downstairs and headed for the door. Once there, he stopped and turned around to face the two mares and their foals.

“Oh, don’t worry none about me,” he said. “I’m just, uh, somepony you’ve never seen before because I never came to Ponyville before. And please put the books back where you found them when you leave. Even though it’s not my job to make you because I’m not Spike, after all. Heh.” He wheeled and raced out the door. The door slowly swung shut behind him.

Inside, Berry Punch looked at Derpy Hooves and said just one thing.

“When did everypony in this town go crazy?”

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