• Published 20th Aug 2013
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A Hairier Problem: Rise of the Furball - BlueBastard

Applejack is back to normal and one of the greatest threats in Equestria's history has finally been laid to rest. But if that's the case, then what's going on with Apple Bloom?

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Ch.27: Daughters of Darkness

Rise of the Furball Chapter 27: “Daughters of Darkness”

“Ah you sure about this?” asked Apple Bloom.

“Twi said it was for the best, her and Razz, so Ah gotta believe them,” replied Applejack, no eager about the matter than her younger sister. “But…yeah, Ah’m no good at lyin’, how Ah managed to keep it down last time for so long is beyond me, but even though Ah was ‘cured’ Ah just know Big Mac’s been keepin’ an eye on me just to be sure.”

“Just keep your cool, Ah guess?” Apple Bloom’s voice didn’t carry confidence.

As it was, both Apples were sitting on the edge of the farm, having had to go on a late night run following leaving the impromptu celebration at the Traveler’s Retreat. They were in their wolf forms, having decided it would be for the best to stick to the trees to remain out of sight until they could get back on the main path in their regular forms. But first, they had to make sure nopony was around. Especially not the two ponies who stood to be hurt the most.

“Even if they have to find out about it tonight, at least the most they’ll lose is a decent night’s sleep.” Applejack motioned for Apple Bloom to follow, as they did so they shifted back to their normal pony forms. The only noise they heard was the clip-clopping of their hooves as they approached the familiar homestead. Thankfully, the sound of loud snoring indicated Granny was asleep, but that still left Big Mac unaccounted for.

“Oh, please be asleep, big brother,” whispered Apple Bloom, first to go into the house. This was her home, she’d lived here all her life, even seen it when the only light was coming out of the windows from the moon. But now, something felt out of place, like it didn’t belong. It was her.

“You feel it too, huh?” Applejack’s voice came from behind, a slight undertone of sorrow in it. “Ah felt it back then, too, worst feelin’ ever.”

“Even more than when…when you changed?”

“Worse than both times. Combined, even. You get used to the change, to becomin’ somethin’ other than a pony. But the feelin’ that this isn’t where you belong? It don’t go away. Not until you truly come to terms with yourself, as it was with me back when Ah told everypony after Cerberus attacked Rarity’s house. Only Ah doubt it’s as bad for you as it was for me, since you had confidantes.”

“Wh-what are you talkin’-”

Applejack looked back at her sister and smiled. “You think Ah believed somethin’ like becomin’ a werewolf could happen to you and somehow both Sweetie and Scootaloo would be kept in the dark? Ah reckon’ they knew from the beginnin’, didn’t they?”

“Yeah,” confessed Apple Bloom, “they actually were with me when it happened.”

“Look, don’t be ashamed that you trusted them more about this than me or the rest of the family,” comforted Applejack, “Ah mean, you shoulda told us from the beginnin’, but you had your reasons of wantin’ to keep the family out of it, to spare us more pain, so you turned to the most trustworthy ponies you knew. But now that we all know, it’s time to tell Granny and Big Mac. They need to know.”

“Tomorrow, of course.” Said Apple Bloom, indirectly reminding Applejack the Apples were asleep.

“Yeah, tomorrow. But now…Ah think we need some rest.” Replied Applejack with a wink and a smile. With a final hug, the two sisters parted ways at the top of the stairs to go to their respective rooms. Only, after Apple Bloom fully closed her door…

“Cuz!” came the hushed cry of one Babs Apple, taking her cousin into a big hug.

“Hey, Babs! Glad to see somepony’s awake to welcome me back.”

“You kiddin’? Ah haven’t seen you in days, not since Nightmare Night! Is it true that Raspberry Beryl is in fact a dark magic user? That she’s descended from King Subu himself? That-“

“Whoa, whoa, whoa! Slow down, Babs! Look, Ah’m tired, but as much as Ah’ve got stories to tell, Ah’m sure you got news to fill me in about what the Crusaders were doin’ in the absence of the most important member.”

“Actually, there’s somethin’ you gotta know about what we decided, but…” Babs put on an evil smirk, “you’ll have to wait until tomorrow, since you won’t tell me now!”

“Great, now, can Ah go back to mah bed now?”

“Uh, this is my room. Your door is right next to mine, remember?”

“Oh, right.” Apple Bloom blushed as she backpedaled out of Babs’ room to go back to her own.

The next morning…

“I trust you slept well?” asked Twilight, a knowing smile on her face.

“You have no idea,” replied Raspberry. “The fact I could sleep like a normal pony for the first time in my life without my damn horn impaling the pillows thanks to you enchanting them…it was heavenly to put it mildly.”

“I’m glad to hear it!” laughed the alicorn. “Though I must admit, I do still find it amusing that for all the power Sombra had, he doesn’t seem to have been able to cast a protection charm on mere pillows to sleep well.”

“I personally think he slept on rocks, honestly.”

“Well he was all about those crystals.”

“Yessss, my crystal pilllowwwwwsssszzzz!” mocked Raspberry in her strangled impersonation of Sombra, complete with cock-eyed expression. Both unicorn and alicorn laughed heartily.

“It’s good to see you in such high spirits, at least,” noted Twilight. “The last time you were here at Ponyville Station, well, you were understandably glum.”

“What are you talking about? Sure, I’d been separated from Heelee and was probably going to be put to death for my magic handicap, but otherwise I was just dandy!” Raspberry sarcastically replied. “In all seriousness, I wasn’t sure I was ever going to be back here. Or see Heelee again, for that matter.” As if that had been a summons, the flash of green from the sky was seen for only a moment before the brilliant bird divebombed to a lower altitude, then soared with wide wings around the station, attracting the attention of all the ponies who were waiting for their trains.

“Showoff,” grumbled Twilight good naturedly. She was still getting the hang of her wings, flying was no longer a problem but anything more complicated than a banked turn was still beyond her grasp. But soon there was something else to focus on. “Oh, hey, it’s here!”

A high-pitched whistle, sounding far deeper than a normal train whistle, sounded in the distance. All the ponies who heard it lost interest in the phoenix and looked down the tracks to see the source of the mysterious sound. Heliodor himself landed atop his mistress’s horn in curiosity. Soon, the magical machine came into view on the horizon. It was unlike anything many of the ponies there had seen; a completely crystal train. The engine billowed pink smoke from its smokestack, it’s plow-like design the head of a small set of train cars that, together, looked more like a wheeled snake than the common trains or even a streamliner like the Grienbrier that passed through once or twice a week. Unmistakable was the sound of the brakes, which unfortunately didn’t sound quite as nice with the loud screeching.

Nonetheless, the train noisily came to a halt with a set of doors right in front of Twilight and Raspberry. They opened, revealing two occupants; Princess Cadence and Prince Consort Shining Armor.

“Wow, this is the new private royal train?” asked Twilight, impressed.

“Yep!” confirmed Shining, “this is actually it’s first maiden run since finishing testing. Obviously the brakes…need work.”

“But it is unbelievably comfortable!” added Cadence, who briefly stuck the forward part of her body to wave to the ponies on the platform before signaling the conductor to depart. “The usual roughness isn’t found on here, something to do with a new suspension chassis or whatever, Shiny can probably go into more detail about it.”

“Can he explain why-oooh!” said Raspberry, cut off by the sudden lurching of the train car as the engine pulled its coaches away from the station. Once she regained balance, she continued; “Uh, explain why there isn’t any accommodations for Helee in here?”

“Oh, um…” Shining realized that, somehow, the instructions for furnishing the interior of the royal crystal train had not included something as simple as a bird stand. He couldn’t ask Raspberry to simply keep her pet on her horn, certainly even though her horn was capable of the otherwise impossible due to it’s true form, it was an awkward position to have to handle for several hours straight.

“Don’t worry if you forgot, not many ponies have birds for pets, either, though I thought you had one, Twilight?”

“You mean Owlie?” replied the purple alicorn, “he’s still in Canterlot, though now that Princess Celestia said I need to stay in Ponyville to watch over you, we’ll be picking him up along the way to the Crystal Empire. Both him and Spike.”

“Oh, he’s good to go now?” asked Raspberry, lifting her foreleg for Heliodor to transfer to.

“Yeah, his throat is all healed up. It will be good to have my number one assistant back!”

“That’s great!”

“Hey, uh Raspberry?” cautiously asked Cadence, having noticed why Razz had moved Heliodor. “What are you doing?

“Making a bird stand, of course,” replied the unicorn as if it was the most natural thing in the world. Then she remembered how she was going to manage that. “Oh, sorry for not warning you beforehand, your majesties.”

“You can conjure up a bird stand?”

“Well, sorta. I was just going to make one with my magic, provided that’s okay with you.”

“Actually, I think we’d all like a demonstration of your creative magic…provided you don’t turn it on us, of course!”

“Now, I wouldn’t be a very good guest if that was the case, now would it? But please, stand back, a craftspony needs her space.”

The two alicorns and stallion backed up to give the requisite space, Heliodor opting to depart is foreleg roost for the ground. Gently smiling, Raspberry turned to face the other end of the coach, the dark bubbling aura intensifying around her horn. With a deep breath, she seemed to take a moment of concentration before opening her eyes and letting the magic flow.

Initially, the spontaneous eruption of dark crystal was unnerving as the giant monolith of black appeared violently. But for only a second as it reached a set height, whereupon it stopped growing. With little twitches of her head as if using her horn to direct a concert, her horn in place of a conductor’s stick, she broke off multiple pieces of the large creation. Twilight, Shining, and Cadence watched in awe as the shards were suddenly refined in mid-air into jeweler's tools and started to chip away at the dark crystal. Large chunks were carved off, but dissolved into nothing as they fell from the sculpture, not even leaving dust.

Additionally, more beams of magic shot from her horn, but these circled around like gathering clouds, descending upon the work in progress like a fog. Upon contact, the black crystals shifted in coloration, the dark hues changing from pitch black to an almost clear turquoise that matched the walls of the coach perfectly, no sign of the shadows hidden by illusion. The now almost completed birdstand had lost a lot of weight, the last giant chunk falling off, but instead of dissolving, this chunk seemed to become a project in of itself, quickly becoming a well crafted little rack that the now rainbow-colored set of tools fit into. With one final twist of the neck, the bird stand levitated from the ground as if proof it wasn’t attached to the train car floor, with the set of tools made as part of the project racked and…let hanging in the air with its dark aura even as the bird stand was settled. Heliodor tweeted happily as he ascended his new throne.

“Um…there isn’t really anywhere I can put this,” said Raspberry, trying to find the best place to put the tools, “I’m not much of an interior designer.”

“Oh, let me take it-“ replied Cadence, but was stopped by Shining.

“Cady, no, you’re still weak around dark magic.”

“Huh? What are you-“ asked Razz, before remembering Sombra’s brief reign of terror. “Oh…I understand.” Her head and ears drooped.

“Shiny!” angrily chastised the pink pony, “I know you’re looking out for me, but it’s a bit hypocritical for her defense lawyer to be accusing her of the very thing you were defending her on, isn’t it?”

“No, he’s right, I’ve heard how you had to go up against Sombra’s magic, it’s best not to risk-“

Cadence, with a huff, lit up her own magic and instantly the dark aura around the tools was joined by a bright blue. “I may be highly emotive, but that’s how I know your magic won’t hurt me even if it’s descended from Sombra. While I know little of dark magic, I know it has ties to emotion in its own way, namely the hatred and greed that fills most ponies who are driven to seeking the dark arts, to which Sombra himself is no exception. I felt it in his magic back when the empire was under siege, his pure, raw hatred being what primarily was his greatest weapon against me. Of course, your magic isn’t fueled by rage and anger, it’s just…different.”

“Thanks, Princess Cadence,” acknowledged Razz, her mood improved as she let her magic drop.

“Now, these are just beautiful!” gushed Cadence as she took each tool in her magic in turn. “I know they’re sculpting tools but…ah! This is the perfect spot!” Reassembled in the rack, the tools were placed in a perfectly sized spot on one of the bolted down seats. “You truly have a level of skill with your magic few ponies your age have.”

“Cady, you’re not going to suggest what I think you’re going to suggest, are you?” moaned Shining.

“Suggest what?” inquired Twilight.

“Shiny, we can’t let something like Sombra’s own sanctuary be wasted because of our own ignorance,” Cadence said firmly, a hardness coming into her eyes. “And with the next best thing to Sombra literally dropped into our-“

“Excuse me?!” exclaimed Raspberry.

Cadence realized her mistake, taking a deep breath of calming. “Apologies, you are to be a princess as much as Twilight and myself, or Shiny as a Prince, to refer to you as anything less is beyond irreproachable and disrespectful. It’s no excuse, but if you couldn’t tell this has been a hotly debated topic between my husband and I.”

“Well, I’d like to know what it is, since I can only guess it involves my magic.”

“Indeed. Your ‘punishment’ as it were was to be the go-to expert in situations involving dark magic on a level even the highest level unicorn mages do not dare try to understand. As it stands, there is such a problem in the Crystal Castle.”

“Back when Applejack was initially a werewolf, we sent Sandalwood and Lyra to do some research in the Crystal Empire,” explained Twilight, “only when they arrived did Cadence reveal that inside the Castle was Sombra’s own personal library, where he recorded the most ghastly things. They were able to find some stuff about Applejack’s condition, just in time too I might add.”

“But part of that involved removing a book from the room,” continued Shining, “and ever since the protective spell Sombra put on it has been getting stronger it seems. Originally we had some specially certified mages working on cataloguing what they could, but now nopony can really go in there without at worst getting a crippling headache, and as for Cady herself…”

“It’s best we don’t get into that,” cut off the love princess.

“Ah, I see,” said Raspberry, getting an understanding for the intentions at hoof. “It stands to reason that only a pony Sombra would recognize as worthy of his secrets, such as an heir, would be able to enter that room at this point. Hence, you want me to basically be a librarian?”

“More than that, really. The truth is, even the mages who were able to do anything in the room to read info, nopony really knew what the hell they were looking at. Sandalwood and Lyra were going through the old experiments, which while no less terrible, were at least legible. But right now the mages are actually scared to go any further even if they have the endurance to last in the room, since it is, well, dark magic and all.”

“You mentioned Sandalwood and Lyra got the info about werewolves from this inner library?” asked Raspberry, her focus intent on that detail.

“Yes, it’s regrettable that a place that is as bright and happy as the Crystal Empire will forever bear the horrific history of what Sombra did,” answered Cadence. “And it’s worse still that the ponies of today must revisit that terror through his writings in order to stop the ones that survived the ravages of time. But considering that there are now three ponies who are werewolves along with this unknown threat that is Fair Vista, we must call upon the ancient texts again. And as much as I hate doing this to you the day after you were let free, but-“

“No, I understand,” cut off Raspberry. “It’s my task to go through his works to help better defend Equestria. Furthermore, I can’t help but feel guilty for having been the reason for Applejack becoming a werewolf again, so I would insist I be allowed to do this even if you didn’t because I may be the only hope they have of being restored. For real this time.”

“Thank you, Raspberry.” Twilight smiled in appreciation. “Now, we’ve still got a long ride to the Empire, so let’s talk about something a bit better. Such as getting the foundations for this coronation under way!”

That afternoon…

“Both of you are jokin’, right?” asked Granny, incredulously. “Ah hope you are, even though normally you aren’t crackin’ jokes in that poor of a taste.”

“Eeyup.” added Big Mac, just as concerned.

“Ah wish we were, folks,” answered Applejack. “But the truth is that whatever happened down at Fair Vista’s grave? It didn’t fully cure me. From what the girls and Ah figure-“

“Look, we don’t care how it happened, Applejack,” interrupted Granny. “If both of you are werewolves, might as well get the shock value over with and show us your other selves.”

A quick exchange of looks between the Apple sisters and a shared sigh, then with grimaces on their faces they shifted. The atmosphere was almost anticlimactic in how Granny and Big Mac reacted.

“How long?” asked Mac in a sigh.

“Depends on which one of us, actually,” said Applejack. “For me, it turns out Ah was only partially cured, lycanthropy never left mah blood.”

“And several months for me,” added Apple Bloom, “nopony’s sure how Ah got it.”

Granny just shook her head in disbelief. “Ah have to assume the fact whatever happened in the Everfree had somethin’ to do with this.”

“Yeah, pretty much, though you’re not gonna like the full story.”

“Ah don’t like it now. What in Equestria could possibly make it worse?”

“Because of who attacked Apple Bloom,” groaned Applejack. “Accordin’ to Apple Bloom and Lightnin’ Dust, it seems the ghost of Fair Vista is dead set on finishin’ what Sable Loam started.”

“But…but how?” stammered Big Mac.

“Nopony knows. Not even Raspberry, who despite havin’ the same kinda magic that was used to create this damn curse in the first place, is capable of raisin’ the spirits of the dead.”

“Whoa, wait, so she actually was guilty of usin’ dark magic and sellin’ fake crystals?” inquired Babs, having just returned from the bathroom. She immediately noticed the glares Granny and Big Mac shot at her. “Wh-what? Somethin’ the matter?”

“You didn’t seem surprised to see your two cousins lookin’ like wolves when you came in,” pointed out Granny. “Only reason that would be true is if you already knew both of ‘em were cursed.”

“She kinda figured it out on her own,” admitted Apple Bloom, “though Ah didn’t initially want her to know, bein’ family an’ all.”

“But you told the others, didn’t you? Apple Bloom, you know how serious a matter this is, but keepin’ it from your own family but tellin’ your friends-“

“Granny!” interrupted Applejack. “Ah’ve already given her a speech like what Ah figure you’re gonna say, but to be fair she didn’t tell us ‘cause she wanted to spare us the pain after what happened with me. Granted, it’s no better than what Ah did when Ah became a werewolf, but-“ Something clicked in Applejack’s head. “Wait a sec…Bloomie, you were responsible for what got Diamond Tiara in such a state followin’ that one storm, weren’t you?”

“Yes…” Apple Bloom’s head sunk low, any lower and it would have to burrow through the floor.

“And Ah’m bettin’ that while you know it was wrong now, you understand how that’s landed us in the situation we’re in currently. Land sakes, Ah’m bettin’ Silver Spoon knows it’s true, too, all things considered.”

“She does, but she’s on our side,” said Babs.

“Ah doubt that, Babs. After what she did with Diamond that got Apple Bloom alone with that monster-“

“No, that was all Tiara’s doin’,” corrected the brown filly, “after Apple Bloom saved Silver from the freak flood, her leg was broken. If you remember, Silver said she was just providin’ cover for Tiara ‘bein’ in the little fillies room’ while in reality that pink pest was layin’ a trail of dog treats to lead Apple Bloom to Fair Vista without anypony knowin’.”

“Yeah, Ah forgot Tiara and Vista had been workin’ together,” confessed Applejack. “Still don’t make Silver trustworthy for bein’ in on the secret, though.”

“Actually, ever since she split ties with Tiara, Silver’s been hangin’ out with the Crusaders and said she won’t tell anypony else about what’s goin’ on.”

“But does anypony know that Applejack’s a werewolf?” cautiously asked Mac.

“Ah don’t think so,” replied Apple Bloom. “Ah only ever told the Crusaders that she was a werewolf – yes, Ah know that was bad but at the time Ah kinda just turned into one myself and was panicking – and there’s no way anypony we don’t know was made aware she’s a werewolf again.”

“Yeah, it’s mainly just the same ponies as before, only instead of Sandalwood and Lyra it’s Raspberry Beryl and Lightnin’ Dust.”

“Lightnin’?” asked Granny, “Wasn’t she that one pony who came to town drunk and made a scene by challengin’ you to a race or somethin’?”

“Yeah, turns out she got turned into a werewolf, too.” Groaned Applejack.

“Ah think we never got the full story, at last that’s what Ah think is bein’ implied here,” said Big Mac, a frown upon his muzzle. “And Ah think that needs to change.”

“There’s a lot that needs to be explained,” sighed Applejack.

“Tiara, are you okay in there?” boomed the voice of Filthy Rich behind the door.

“Yes, Dad, I’m fine! Just doing some…intensive study!” called back Diamond.

“You’ve been doing a lot of it, recently, it’s got your mother and I concerned. Are you alright?”

“Perfectly fine! It’s just that I’ve decided to apply myself more to my studies! My grades have been slacking somewhat and I don’t find that acceptable!”

“Alright, then, though it’s good to hear you’re putting all your worth into your education. But at the very least come out for some air now and then, alright?”

“Sure thing, Dad!”

Tiara waited a few minutes until the sound of her father’s hoofsteps were no longer heard. After having been severely punished for having tried to pull an incredibly mean prank (or so he’d been told, obviously the Princess and her cohorts were covering up Fair Vista’s involvement and the truth that werewolves were among the citizens of Ponyville) and then Silver publicly denouncing her by severing their friendship, the odds of Tiara ever exposing the truth had dropped sharply. Even more so following the disaster, as Fair Vista had truly vanished and there was no way to contact her.

“But I don’t need her, I don’t need anypony!” seethed Diamond as she put the final touches on her plan. Her ‘studies’ had involved extensive study of fields she normally considered the domain of unpopular nerds. Desperate times called for desperate measures, however, and without anything else better to occupy her time, she was forced to resort to the formerly unthinkable.

Now, on the large sheet of paper in front of her, in multiple colors of crayon, was the ultimate plan to expose the wolf among the sheep, or rather the bad apple among the ripe ponies. This was all or nothing, but this time, this time Diamond was absolutely sure she’d made all the necessary provisions to ensure Apple Bloom would be exposed for what she was. Silver would come crawling back, begging for Diamond to take her back as a friend, and history books would forever proclaim her name as the pony who accomplished what a Princess alicorn could not. And even if a princess alicorn could do this, they wouldn’t do it anywhere close to as adorably as Diamond Tiara.