• Published 31st Jan 2017
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Creeping Happiness - LanceOmikron



Applejack is happy, but something feels off.

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Chapter 3: Life is a Struggle

Applejack woke up.

It was dark, save for a single beam of sunlight entering from a hole in the roof of wherever she was. Her head ached. From the scent of hay and dust she realized she was in her barn, but any measure of relief the familiar location granted was quickly dispelled when she looked at her immediate surroundings. All around her, ponies were bound and unconscious. Some of them she didn’t know, some she did, and with a start she realized her closest friends were among them. Even Spike was there. And every single one of them had a contented smile on their face, as though sleeping peacefully.

What in tarnation is this…?

Trying to get up, Applejack realized that her limbs were also bound. And with a thrill of horror, she discovered that her bindings were not rope, but large thorny purple vines. She thrashed against them to free herself and succeeded, the tendrils sluggishly falling away. Stepping over to her friends, she could see that they were likewise wrapped up in the vines quite thoroughly. Even Princess Twilight’s wings were held at her sides by a tendril coiling around her.

Don’t worry girls, I’ll getcha out of here in a jiffy.

Applejack took hold of one of the vines constricting Twilight and pulled, but found that they had a much more secure grip than the ones that had held her. Unable to make any progress against them, she let go and prepared to search the area to see what more she could learn about their current predicament. She never got the chance.

“Why hello, my little pony.”

Applejack gasped and jumped about a foot in the air at the sound of the voice, whipping around to face its source. Lying casually under the beam of light was… what looked to be a pony at first glance. Its body was that of a tall, beautiful, slender mare with a deep purple coat, dazzling pink eyes, and a gentle smile. Second and third glances revealed that her true nature was likely much more disturbing: Where a mane and tail would normally begin were clusters of pure-black roses, from among which sprouted forests of light-purple vines, many of which trailed off into the darkness around her. The very same vines currently binding Applejack’s friends.

“Wha-” Applejack sputtered, her head offering another twinge of pain, “What in the hay...?”

The creature giggled.

“Do not be alarmed,” she said, voice as sweet as honey, “I’m a bringer of happiness. I don’t know what could have disturbed you, but I promise I’ll return you to your dream very shortly.”

Not a moment too soon, Applejack spotted several vines creeping up on her out of the corner of her eye and kicked them all aside, quickly returning to face the creature again in one fluid motion. The being blinked in surprise.

“Is something the matter, little one?”

“Yer consarned right it is!” AJ snapped. “You… you…”

Applejack’s head throbbed once more, but memories began to surface and the pieces started to fall into place. Like a veil lifting, Applejack recalled just who and what she was looking at.

“... You’re that monster from the Everfree. The one Princess Celestia warned all of us about! The… the Alura Une!”

The creature smiled again and stood to her full height.

“Indeed, that is what I am called.”

The Alura Une began to saunter over. Passing by a few of the unconscious ponies, she pursed her lips and gently blew a sparkling stream of what looked like pollen into their faces. Their smiles widened in response to this.

“Now then, I’m not sure what went wrong with your dream of happiness, but I assure you-”

“LIKE HAY!”

In a flash, Applejack rocketed forward with the strength of all four of her legs, her head slamming into Alura Une’s chest. The floral creature grunted and was nearly tossed across the barn, but several of her mane and tail vines lashed out and anchored her to the ground, resulting in her only being forced backwards several feet while maintaining her footing.

“Nothin’ went wrong. There’s just no way I’d wanna stay in that bad joke you call a happy dream!” Applejack’s nostrils flared in fury as she pawed the ground, “Let my friends go right now, or I’ll give ya the flank whoopin’ of a lifetime.”

Alura Une wasn’t smiling anymore, but seemed more disappointed than angry. She shook her head, clucking her tongue.

“That was terribly uncalled for.”

Out of the darkness, several more vines shot towards Applejack. With a cry of surprise, she managed to duck and weave out of their way and bolted for the door.

“I believe you’ve misunderstood what's happening. I have a symbiotic relationship with the ponies of Equestria.”

Ignoring Alura Une’s words, Applejack frantically tried to open the main door of the barn, only to find that her adversary’s vines had crept into the frame and hinges, holding it shut tight. Racing to the windows (and nearly tripping over a few sleeping ponies in the process) revealed more of the same.

“You don’t want to leave, little pony. Nor do your friends, in fact,” Alura Une’s smile returned, “I’ve given them happiness, and in exchange I get to share in it. I do love tasting their bliss. Sirens and Windigos may feed on hatred, and Changelings prefer love, but happiness is the grandest flavor of all.”

With no avenues of escape left to her, Applejack charged at Alura Une. The not-pony was ready for her, stepping away and whipping around some vines from her mane to smack Applejack aside. Recovering quickly, Applejack turned and charged again to the same effect, the process repeating several times. The fifth or sixth time that Alura’s mane-vines lashed out, however, Applejack met them head on, bit down onto them and reversed her momentum. The force of the yank caused Alura Une to stumble forward a little, and Applejack whirled around to deliver a full-force buck. But just when she was about to let loose, several vines grasped her hind legs and flung her across the barn into a wall. She fell to the floor in a heap amongst several ponies. As though nothing had happened, Alura casually bent down to blow pollen over some other sleepers.

“Look at their smiles, little one. They appreciate what I do for them. The dreams I give them are so lifelike and real that even after I've had my fill and left, they never wake up again.”

Applejack groaned in pain as she tried to get to her hooves. Alura Une approached her once again.

“I give them all what every pony truly wishes for: a blissful death,” Her grin grew dangerously wide as she looked down upon Applejack, “So... is what I do really that bad?”

Applejack found her hooves, glaring at her opponent.

“You suck out their life by feedin’ em lies. Yer no ‘bringer of happiness’, yer just a selfish weed.”

Alura Une’s smile vanished once more, replaced by an outright scowl for the first time.

“You’re an ungrateful little thing, aren’t you?”

A storm of vines flew at Applejack from seemingly every direction. She dodged, but avoiding them all proved to be impossible as she was pelted by several of the thorny lashes with many more on the way. Applejack ran like fury to escape the vicious rain of punishment. Vines on the floor shifted to trip her up, earning her a few more blows each time. She finally dove behind the cover of a large pile of hay bales below the loft. Alura Une called out once more.

“Please, little pony, don’t make this harder on yourself. I’ll give you some time to decide, but it would really be best for the both of us if you let me send you back to your dream willingly. I’ll give you a little time to think about it.”

Applejack panted, reclining against the hay bales. Her body ached and was covered in scratches, fatigue starting to set in along with a chill of despair.

Consarn it! There’s just no way I can take her. And she knows it too, it’s why she ain’t comin’ after me yet. She’s… just way too strong. Girls… Mom… Dad… sorry.

Applejack suddenly realized the direction her thoughts were going. She fiercely shook her head to clear it, then massaged her temples with her forehooves.

No! No way can I start thinkin’ like that. Come on Applejack, there’s gotta be somethin’ you can do to get outta this. There’s just gotta be! Come on, think, think! What can I do to-

Applejack’s eyes widened as she realized what was directly across from her. A hopeful smile crept onto her face.

“We always keep it in the same spot…”

***

Alura Une lazily traced circles in the dirt floor with a tendril. It had been nearly fifteen minutes, and she hadn’t heard so much as a peep out of the pony hidden behind the hay bales.

“Alright little one, that’s more than enough time. I wish I didn’t have to, but I’m coming over to bring you out now.”

As she approached the stack of bales though, it exploded outwards without any warning and filled the air with loose hay, dust, and flying hay bundles. Flinching back, Alura Une threw up several vines and deflected the oncoming missiles, readying herself for what she’d find when the dust cleared.

Except… there was no sign of her quarry. Nothing but scattered hay and an open, empty cabinet. Alura Une whipped her head around left and right. There was no possible way the farmpony could have escaped. Therefore, she must have fled to another hiding spot under the cover of the tumbling hay bales. It was but a minor trifle, though. After all, there were only so many places that she could hide. That being said, the farmpony wasn’t visible anywhere at ground level, and Alura Une had covered all of the obvious blind spots. Where was she?

Wait. She wasn’t visible at ground level...

Alura Une’s eyebrows rose. As if in answer to her realization, several quick hoofsteps sounded from the hay loft above, Alura Une’s head quickly craning up to locate the source. It didn’t take long to find. Applejack had leapt off the hay loft, and was careening towards Alura Une as if in slow motion. She had a bucket in her hooves, and before Alura Une had any chance to react, she forced it over the plant creature’s face. Whatever was in the bucket completely drenched Alura’s head and front, and she sputtered and struggled for a few moments before some of her vines pulled the bucket free and tossed it aside. She rounded on Applejack. Oddly, the farmpony was just calmly observing her, and was also now wearing saddlebags for some reason. No matter.

“You’re awfully persistent, my little pony. Do you really hate happiness that mu-”

Alura Une’s breath caught in her throat as a tingle ran over her body.

“H-huh? What in the world-?”

She didn’t have much time to ponder. Her joints buckled, eyes wrenching shut as she fell to the floor thrashing. Whereas she had been soft-spoken before, Alura Une now let out a horrific shriek. She was wracked with pain unlike any she had ever felt before.

Applejack smiled grimly.

“Seems Dad was right. A weed’s a weed.”

Reaching into one of her saddlebags, she pulled out a sickle from among several empty bottles of herbicide, gripped it firmly in her teeth, and charged. Her target, however, was not the Alura Une herself. Instead, Applejack opted to start running a circuit around the room, severing all the now-writhing vines that held the sleepers in their grasp.

When she was about a third of the way around, though, the vines suddenly uncoiled and receded away from their captives. That was all the warning Applejack got before she was forced to dodge several wild vine swings.

“YOU WRETCHED LITTLE MONSTER!!!

Alura Une was standing again, though it would be incorrect to say that she had recovered. The bloodshot state of her eyes, the withering of the grasslike fur on her face, and the random winces and spasms were all clear signs that the liquid agony was wreaking continual havoc on her body. But whether by adrenaline or sheer anger, she was working through it. A direct confrontation could no longer be avoided.

With a mixed scream of fury and pain, Alura Une flung every vine that she could at her would-be prey. Applejack ducked and dodged and evaded, but whereas before she had felt desperate, Applejack now felt empowered. She was well in the throes of her second wind, and the victory of shattering Alura Une’s calm had also helped clear her own head. Alura’s rage was Applejack’s greatest advantage, as the strikes were unthinking, uncoordinated, and easily predicted. With each dodge, Applejack whipped her head around to sever a vine, and this only made Alura Une more and more livid. However, it became clear that dodging and cutting vines one at a time like this would tire Applejack out much faster than her opponent. She needed to strike a decisive blow.

Whirling towards Alura Une, Applejack charged. As expected, Alura brought all of her vines to bear to stop Applejack from closing the distance. But with a few quick moves, Applejack opened her saddlebags and stopped short to catapult two bagfuls of herbicide bottles at Alura, who frantically moved to avoid them and realized too late that they were empty. This gave Applejack the opening she needed to run past Alura Une’s wall of vines (chopping plenty of them short in the process) and shift her momentum to slam herself into Alura Une’s side. On instinct, Alura anchored herself to the ground with her mane and tail vines, pulling them taut to absorb the force of the tackle. This was just what Applejack was waiting for. She leapt up over Alura Une’s back, and with a single swing of her sickle, sheared off Alura Une’s tail.

Alura Une shrieked once more, seeing red as she now physically flung herself at Applejack. The farmpony hacked away with her sickle and took a few more of the mane-tendrils, but had it knocked from her grasp as Alura Une and her remaining vines fell upon her.

“You’re mine!” Alura seethed.

She took in a large breath, only to have it knocked out of her when Applejack brought her back legs up and kicked Alura Une across the room. Pollen flew everywhere, and Applejack was careful not to breathe any in. Alura managed to catch herself before hitting the ground thanks to the vines that now encircled her prey. She tightened her grip and began to slowly but surely drag Applejack towards her.

“I’ve got you now, you unhappy, ungrateful child. Any last words before I send you to eternal bliss?”

Applejack struggled against the vines constricting her neck and torso, but managed to stand back up. She smirked and dug in her hooves, utterly halting Alura’s pull.

“Just to be clear, Sugarcube, who exactly has got who here?”

Through the grip of her vines Alura Une felt Applejack’s muscles tense up with incredible strength, and as usual Alura attempted to anchor herself down to counter whatever move came next. But with sudden terror, Alura realized that she had no other vines with which to do so. Her tail was completely gone, and most of the vines from her mane were either sheared to the scalp or shortened far too much to be usable. The remaining ones were gripping Applejack, and Alura simply couldn’t redirect them in time.

“Ya picked the wrong ponies to mess with, varmint!”

Releasing all of her built-up strength, Applejack pulled. Devoid of any anchoring, Alura Une was lifted clean off her hooves. The vines around Applejack relaxed, but the farmpony’s forelegs gripped the bundle of tendrils like a vise, refusing to let them escape. Pulling again into a turn, Applejack began to swing the plant monster in a massive circle in the air. Alura Une could only yell as she was spun around and around by what was left of her mane, her primary weapons turned utterly against her. At the peak of a large swing, she felt a sudden jerk and was pulled inward, careening towards Applejack as she saw the farmpony wind up for a buck.

“Special delivery from the Apple family!!” Applejack yelled, and released her back legs like two massive coiled springs right at the oncoming monster’s face.

***

Twilight Sparkle woke up.

She groaned as her head throbbed, compounding the severe disorientation she felt. She focused and took several deep breaths to center herself. She seemed to be fine, though her wings ached a bit. Blinking and looking around, she found that she was in a barn. Likely Applejack’s. Dozens of other ponies including four of her friends seemed to be in a similar state as her, groaning and trying to get their bearings. Spike was still snoozing, mumbling something about Rarity and ice cream.

What in Equestria? Why are we all-

Neurons fired in her brain as memories flooded back. She hurriedly looked around.

The Alura Une! Celestia warned us! Were we captured? Where is it now–

It wasn’t long before Twilight spotted what she was looking for, though it wasn’t quite what she expected. Unconscious and looking knocked silly was what could only have been the Alura Une. However, its viny mane and tail were sheared completely off, the clusters of black roses at the base of each having been torn to shreds. Much of the grasslike fur on its face and front was withered and falling out, and its limbs were bound with a few of its own severed vines. Piling up the remaining vines nearby was-

“Applejack!”

The pony in question turned to face Twilight and the others. She was covered in dirt and scrapes and looked absolutely exhausted, but she smiled anyway.

“Howdy girls! Have a good rest?”

Author's Note:

Special thanks to Tarbtano, Corona_Blaze, Smjames, and SkullShip for pre-reading/advice. Alura Une art by Faith-Wolff. Thanks guys!