• Published 24th Mar 2013
  • 12,671 Views, 400 Comments

A Hairy Problem - BlueBastard

Strange things are happening with Applejack after a mysterious wolf-like creature attacks her when she looks into the aftermath of another CMC incident.

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Ch.19: Psychopaths "R" Us

Chapter 19: Psychopaths “R” Us

At the Crystal Castle, inside Sombra’s hideaway of horrors, Lyra and Sandalwood just sat in shock as they just stared in the direction of the open book. It had contained everything they’d possibly ever want to know about Sombra’s werewolves and even more things they didn’t want to know. Unfortunately, even Sombra himself hadn’t recorded any kind of cure for lycanthropy, despite apparently being the one who created it. But the truly horrifying thing was a side effect of becoming a werewolf that none of the legends had ever mentioned, possibly because nopony had even conceived of such a thing.

“Hey, girls, you doing alright in here?” asked Princess Cadence, who was peeking into the ancient archive. Due to her being the Alicorn Princess of Love, she was very empathetic to the presence of emotions around her, and while over the years she’d developed strength to resist any chance emotions that would have ill effect on her, Sombra’s pure hatred for the one who would steal his throne (a.k.a. Cadence) remained very strong in the room to the point even just sticking a hoof in caused her one hell of a migraine.

“Yeah, I think we just hit the motherload of ‘why Applejack is in so much trouble’ in here.” Replied Sandalwood.
“Well, uh, I’d love to see it, but I can’t really go into-“

Cadence had no time to finish as Sandalwood simply picked up the book in her mouth (which tasted disgusting) and had Lyra open the door. Then, as if it was the easiest thing in the world, Sandy just walked the book right out of the dark pit it had sat in for a thousand years and into the bright, shiny interior of the Castle proper.

Cadence thought it would be best not to say anything about the simple solution to her personal problem.

“Mhere Mwan Mwah Mmut mwis?” Sandalwood asked.

“Uh, over here…” gestured Cadence upon realizing just how heavy the book actually was and how easily the earth pony was handing it. She motioned towards a large anteroom, where inside was a large circular table inside as if purpose built to hold a large book and for ponies to stand around it, singing happy songs. Except in this case, no happy songs would be sung about Sombra’s own “I Love Me” book.

“Oh…my…” said Cadence, upon looking at the first image in the section depicting a pony halfway between its normal and wolf forms.

“Yeah, it gets worse,” said Lyra, slowly backing up from the book like it was some dangerous creature.

Summoning her resolve, for Applejack’s sake, Cadence read on. “’For all the things that I despise the Alicorns for, I must admit they have also given me some of the greatest gifts imaginable. For instance, some time ago an entire centurion of their guard showed up on my doorstep, fed up with their former rulers and seeking to serve under me. In return for their pledging of eternal servitude under me, they asked for something strange.

“’Their leader, some upstart named Sable Loam, said they were all hunters at heart and wished to be blessed with forms far more suited for hunting like a wolf. It was actually at heart a very simple request, simply use a transfiguration spell to change them into wolves. However, what made it so interesting was the catch that they have control over the ability to turn between pony and wolf, and that their wolf form still bear the advantages of the superior equine body. All the predatory instincts and ferocity of a wolf, but with the nobility and strength of a pony. The prospect of having an entire force of such wolf ponies at my command excited me, and so I agreed.

“’It took a while, and my experiments on the Crystal Slaves tended to be rather gruesome, but eventually I figured out how to grant the gift of what I have referred to as ‘lycanthropy’. It’s actually a nonsense word that sounds vaguely like ancient myths, but the Crystal Slaves won’t know the truth and by the time those morons in Equestria proper know of them, they will be tied with the very feeling of fear.

“’But even better is the name that I came up with that even their young can pronounce properly. I was originally going to call my new troops ‘war wolves’, then I got the idea to call them ‘wary wolves’ as creatures everypony should be wary of. Then, in a stroke of genius, I combined it all into one word: ‘warewolf’. Changing out the a for the e makes it not look stupid and illustrates the simple, yet fearful, art that is the term ‘werewolf’.”

“That Sombra sure had one hell of an ego, didn’t he?” commented Sandalwood, dryly, “but keep reading; the really terrifying part is later on.”

Although Cadence really wasn’t that eager to delve deeper into the mind of a mad king, she did so anyway. “’Continued studies of my new werewolves have been very interesting. As I prepare to launch the first assault from the Crystal Empire against the alicorns, I have found use for my vulpine warriors as a kind of elite enforcement squad. It would appear that due to the corruptive nature of my dark magic, woven into these great beast ponies, it is in fact capable of spreading to other ponies simply by exposing their blood to physical contact with the fluids of a werewolf. Usually this is best achieved by a deep bite to the neck area. The time it takes for the afflicted, if they survive the inoculation wound, varied between almost being able to transform immediately and up to a month for the first side effects to even show up. Psychological effects were to be expected; the test subject slaves showed more signs of being vicious and pack-like, tending to stay in familiar groups than socialize as they normally try to do.’”

“However, over the course of several months, the idea of converting all the slaves into werewolves must be rejected on grounds involving the very aspect of dark magic that allows lycanthropy to be contracted. Unless the victim happens to be of a certain bloodline, the lycanthropy will eventually corrupt their entire body and fully turn them into a wolf. The test subjects who suffered this are irreversibly converted into natural wolves; they show no sign of remembering who they were or any memories they might have had, and attacks from these wolves will not spread the magic. Only when they die does the magic leave their bodies and their normal form restored, although at that point it’s of no use to them or me.”

Cadence had to backpedal hard upon reading the last bit. “Wh-what?! I knew Sombra was a monster, but this…this cannot be condoned by any being that has any respect for their own species! And poor Applejack, is this the fate she’s doomed to incur? Becoming nothing more than a simple beast?”

“Well, no, there is a slight hope for her,” said Lyra, her expression not matching her hopeful words. “just keep reading.”

Now outright scared of what else she might find, Cadence wished she could tightly hug her husband to the point of breaking his ribs as she ventured once more into the dark codex: “For the rare outlier slave who managed to not succumb to the magic due to their bloodline, I decided to play nice in one of my rare benevolent moments and let them become part of my werewolf brigades. Sable Loam, possibly my greatest of the werewolves, protested my ‘interference’ with his own troop organization, but he continuously buys into my bluff that I can easily take away what I have granted him. In reality I have no such power; for I fear I would face a great challenge against him should we ever battle. He has grown almost immune to any dark magic attacks I can throw at him, and his natural skill set only boosts those granted by his lupine enhancements. It may even be possible his sheer force of will can allow him to live forever. Amusingly, he and he alone only has the possibility of immortality, none of his followers nor any of the lucky few slaves who have become werewolves appear to have their lifespans lengthened. The reason for this is a completely natural mutation in the blood of an earth pony, certainly not exclusive to whatever line Sable comes from but only theory propagates other ponies might have it. But as a result, unless he bites a pony with a similar blood mutagen, the victim will eventually become a simple wolf as if bitten by any other werewolf over a course of a few months.”

Cadence stopped there, partly out of simply being overwhelmed by the information, and partly because the rest of the transcript had faded to the point of being illegible.

“W-what happens if the victim does have this, erm, ‘blood mutagen’ Sombra wrote about?” asked the Princess of Love.

“Dunno, we couldn’t find anything else about it, just stuff on how he conducted his tests, which were FAR from proper reading material!” said Sandalwood.

“However,” began Lyra, “I’d have to hypothesize that Sombra’s specification of that genetic mutation allowing Sable’s lycanthropy to keep him alive is rather important. He said it was impossibly rare, but not unique to Sable himself. Which would meant the implication is there in the faded text that should Sable transfer lycanthropy to a pony via a bite, if the victim has the same genetic mutation as he does, then he makes his prey both a werewolf AND immortal, without the whole ‘eventually turning into a wolf in both mind and soul’ bit.”

“So what you’re saying is that while hoping-beyond-hope that Applejack is lucky enough to fall into whatever percent of the population has this genetic mutation in her blood is ill-placed faith, it is still possible by the smallest margin she will avoid a cruel fate of losing herself to be a mangy mutt to instead just be an immortal werewolf?” asked Cadence with a raised eyebrow.

“It’s better than zero, your highness,” simply replied Lyra.

Cadence just shook her head before glancing back at the dark tome on the juxtaposed bright table. “We need to get this information to Twilight. If there is anypony who will know how to use what little of it we have to save your friend, it’s her. In the meantime, you two might want to go back to see if there is anything else of worth to us in that dark study, I’ll send in some trustworthy mages to help you out. They won’t be told about Applejack’s condition, but because this is a matter considered top secret to the crown, they won’t ask questions.”

Sandalwood and Lyra merely nodded and bowed before the alicorn before heading back to their research. If even the smallest thing could be found that would save Applejack, it would be in that room.

The race, in Lightning Dust’s opinion, had started out fairly well. Even without her wings, she was able to keep pace with the grounded earth pony up to the halfway point. By then, both mares were visibly starting to work up a sweat and their endurance beginning to drain, but it was not a question that finishing was possible with either pony a victor.

Or at least it had been until Lightning began to gradually fall behind Applejack. Shocked, she began to try running harder to make up the gap, but that quickly fell through as the miniscule gain she got was far outweighed by the increase in exertion it took.

How is this possible?! Thought Lightning Dust. I trained with the Wonderbolts, I was far more fit than anypony else in the squad including that damn slacker Rainbow Dash, I set academy records! How am I being beaten by a country bumpkin who makes a living by kicking trees all day?!

The truth was that, while much of the training LD had gone through both before and after acceptance into the academy was fresh in her mind, she was forgetting that she really hadn’t done much to keep up her physique upon being kicked out. In the time between having her dreams crushed and now, she’d managed to land a weather support job in Baltimare that paid okay but wasn’t nearly as desirable as simply being paid to have fun flying, and the budget she’d formerly had for buying wonderbolts merchandise had gone straight into paying off the beer tab at the Rusty Horseshoe. She had completely ignored her failing personal health, and the belief Rainbow Dash, possibly the only pony outside of her family she’d considered something close to an ally, had sold her out for a rank promotion, had worsened her sociopathic issues to new levels. Initially, she’d just wanted to win the race to prove the rumors her new bar friend had mentioned to her were wrong, but when faced with the possibility of losing and proving the rumors right, she just snapped. She was going to win this race no matter how low she had to get, but not for bragging rights, simply out of a desperate need to prove to herself that she still had some self-worth left.

Applejack, for her part, had known she was going to win the moment the race had started. Taking to heart Twilight’s advice from the first year the unicorn had participated in the Running and won fifth place, she planned to pace herself. She wasn’t too happy in how it was still stacked in her favor because of her lycanthropy-boosted physical prowess, but she couldn’t really do anything about it. Not like it mattered, the pacing was easy compared to the exertion she normally tended to use on this course, she could have gone at that pace for hours and not stopped. Glancing back at LD, however, she secretly gaped at how bad the pegasus looked. She’d already started falling back despite her best efforts to regain her position, but between the gasps for air and the weird look in her eyes, she wasn’t going to make it 3/4ths of the course before running out of steam. AJ turned back to the course, wondering what on earth made Dust even think she was in competitive condition.

Suddenly, Lighting slammed into Applejack’s side, sending both off the side of the path and into the woods. Applejack had no time to react before the first punches started to collide with her.

“What in-ow!-the hay-OW!-are you doin?!”

Then Applejack caught another glimpse at LD’s face, and she understood the look. It was the look of a mare who stood on the brink of insanity and was doing everything she could to avoid it. AJ figured that once Dust had reasoned she couldn’t straight-up win the race, she’d attack AJ and knock her cold so the shameless pegasus would win by default.

Unfortunately for Dust, Applejack wasn’t about to let that happen. Rolling out of the way of the other mare’s punch, the still-hatted pony was up on her feet in a split second and poised for a fight. “Don’t do this, Lighting Dust, don’t make me have to hurt you!”

Sadly, the words failed to reach their mark as Lightning Dust just charged Applejack once again, “THEN JUST LET-“

A right hook was dodged easily.


A haymaker nearly missed its mark.


With a sudden burst of agility, brought on by desperation and psychotic anger, Lightning Dust wheeled around on her front hooves and bucked Applejack straight in the face. Crashing into a nearby tree, it took a moment for the orange mare to recover. However, the moment she did so, something about her demeanor changed. Her eyes had turned from Emerald Green to a noticeably different golden-green and were practically glowing, her posture had shifted from a typical strength-increasing stance of a fighting earth pony to that of a predatory animal which emphasize speed, and she was…growling?

With horror, Lighting Dust realized just what she was facing, and that even the greatest Wonderbolt couldn’t take on the monster before her. And that she’d just pissed it off.

From her clever cloud disguise, Rainbow watched the race from above. She knew Applejack hadn’t wanted anything less than a fair competition, and although Rainbow’s little lie about not spectating due to work probably left the apple farmer more than a little suspicious, Dash had no intentions of tipping the scales in her friend’s favor. Having raced her multiple times, RD knew Applejack would easily win against the shockingly deteriorating condition Lightning Dust had been in.

Between body language suggesting she was now perpetually drunk, the amount of wind resistance her unpreened wings would create, and Dust’s personal mission to outdo the competition by a wide margin by going beyond her limits, Dash knew the race was over before it even began.

What happened to you, Dusty? Wondered Rainbow as she tracked the runners. You were a great flyer, maybe even better than me, but has your selfishness been the reason you’ve fallen so far down in the world? Even though ties between her and Dust had long since been cut, Rainbow still found it sad the once-hopeful candidate for Equestria’s greatest flying team, somepony she had once been loyal to as a friend, had been reduced to an angry shadow of herself who lived in a drained beer bottle, not having learned anything from her expulsion and seemingly alone in the world.

This was of course demonstrated in real life by the tailing Dust suddenly slamming into Applejack’s back. Horrified, Rainbow broke cover and shot down to help AJ, now being pummeled by Lightning Dust who appeared to have lost all grip on reality. Rainbow’s speed was also not enough to prevent AJ getting bucked into a tree rather hard. Or to intervene in time to stop the very thing Applejack feared about herself.

As much as Rainbow wanted to keep flying in and stop the wolfed-out version of her friend from killing Lighting Dust, she knew there was no way to stop an angry werewolf with just speed and two hooves. So, leaving Lightning Dust to almost certain serious harm, RD shot off to get Twilight before an out of control Applejack really did commit an unforgivable sin.

Applejack, while her temper was sometimes quick to rise when dealing with some ponies, was not the kind whose anger would boil over to the point of wishing or committing harm to other ponies. At least, that’s what Applejack usually was like.

However, due to her lycanthropy and relative inability to control her more primal urges, Lightning Dust found herself facing off against anything but normal Applejack. Her fight-or-flight responses having caused a mental shift into that of a predator, all Applejack could keep clear in her head was that, for some reason, this Pegasus was attacking her with possible intent to kill having already landed a powerful blow to AJ’s face, and that she needed to go down.

Lightning Dust, on the other hand, was of the opinion that getting out of there was the best option. She couldn’t help but feel smug as she quickly opened her wings, the binding ropes having long since been cut by the crazed creature before her, and launched vertically off the ground and out of the reach of Applejack’s hooves-turned-claws.

“Nah nah nah nah nah nahhhh!” mocked Lightning, her boastful nature getting in the way of common sense, a lesson she learned when she turned to fly away and warn the town about the wolf in pony’s clothing. She did not see Applejack rear up and leap high enough to tackle the low flying Pegasus from behind, sending them both crashing to the ground and into a thorny bush.

Applejack, still set in primal predator mode, quickly made her way out of the thorns, ignoring the small pricks of pain.

Lightning Dust, on the other hand, was not so lucky. She slowly dragged herself out from the bush, the thorns going deep enough into her fur to cause multiple small cuts. Those, combined with what felt like a sprained wing from an improper crash position, and sheer exhaustion from both the race and her attempts to take out Applejack, made Lightning Dust feel like absolute crap. But when she noticed the shadow standing before her and its somewhat raspy breathing, her head involuntarily looked up at the werewolf standing right in front of her, and it was still pretty mad. It backed up, as if going to strike hard for the final blow, and Lightning Dust tensed up for the end, tears coming to her eyes as Applejack leapt at her.

Except the end didn’t come. Opening her eyes, tears falling like rain, LD looked up to see a very confused werewolf lit up in a purple magic aura. Suddenly, Applejack was thrown against a tree and a blue aura joined the purple one in what looked like a joint effort between unicorns to keep the transformed pony down. She struggled, but seemed to react upon hearing a demand from a most unlikely voice;

“Applejack, STOP!”

Fluttershy touched down in front of Applejack, apparently trying to calm her. However, this time Applejack had really lost control and barked furiously at Fluttershy, lost in a blind rage and trying to attack anything that would set her free. The yellow pegasus, both shocked and saddened at what the simple apple farmer had been twisted into by fate, shank back with her eyes clenched shut, before stepping forward with eyes wide open.

For all that Sombra had designed his werewolves to be immune to simple behavioral control magic, never in a thousand years could he have predicted a pegasus who had severe vertigo problems would wield something as powerful as The Stare. Caught in Fluttershy’s steely gaze, poor Applejack froze as her motor control over her limbs failed.

“Applejack…” said the animal specialist, trying to do her job while treating Applejack as the pony she still was inside, “stop this. This isn’t what you wanted. This isn’t what any of us wanted. But this isn’t the Applejack we know, this is the Applejack you said you couldn’t let happen. Come back, Applejack, please…”

As the mixture of Stare and soothing yet pleading words began to register in Applejack’s ears, a visible change passed over her even though she remained in wolf form. Her eyes lost their glow, returning to their familiar green shade, and her breathing began to slow down as well.

Finally, Twilight and Rarity ended their magic, letting Applejack fall softly to the ground. It took her a few seconds to realize she was back in control, the memories of what she’d done and almost did still fresh in her mind.

“Oh…oh mah Celestia…” whispered AJ.

“It’s alright, Applejack, you’re back, and we’re here for you.” Soothed Fluttershy, having since ended The Stare and was now walking up to her friend. Upon reaching the werewolf, Fluttershy merely looked at Applejack with her sea-green eyes that just radiated compassion and kindness and all the things Applejack really needed. She then embraced her cursed friend, allowing Applejack to start sniffling and then just open the floodgates in a return hug.

Lightning Dust, both too shocked and too tired to move, just looked on with the horrifying revelation that all of Applejack’s friends had already known about this condition of hers, and had allowed the race to happen anyway. But…did that mean he had known about this as well, and had knowingly suggested something that he wanted Dust to do? Now facing the reality of having somehow been used much in the same way she used to use other ponies, and the fact her latest drinking buddy was not in fact somepony she could call anything close to a friend, she felt nothing but jealousy towards the werewolf that had nearly killed her. She was a monster, a freak, made from the shell of some backwoods hick, yet even after an outburst like that she still had friends who stood by her. But not Lighting Dust, who for all of her previous skill and ability, had anypony to rely upon or even really just talk too freely.

All she had was Rainbow Dash, who walked up from the right side of her vision.

“My, that’s a pretty bad timberwolf attack you had there, Dusty.”

Lightning snorted in annoyance, “Are you crazy? Your ‘friend’ over there nearly just murderized me and if you think for a second that I’m going to-“

“Timber. Wolf. Attack,” enunciated Rainbow, making it very clear to the vulnerable Lightning Dust that not sticking to this cover story was going to end very poorly for her. “Now, I really shouldn’t be nice to you, because the position you’re in was your fault when you attacked Applejack. Oh yes, I was watching. Didn’t I tell you I was Ponyville’s weather manager? Regardless, by all rights we should leave you here to suffer, but against my better judgment Twilight thinks you know something and so it’s off to Ponyville General for you.

“BUT…” uttered Rainbow, sticking her angry face into the now-scared Dust’s face, “before we do that, you’re going to tell me who told you about those rumors, which we both now know were completely falsified. Now.”

Desperately in need of medical attention, Lightning had no choice but to “sell out” her informant.

“I-Intellectual Pursuit!”

Twilight, who hadn’t really been listening until that point, noticeably stiffened upon the mention of the Crystal Pony scholar’s name. It was Pinkie, however, who spoke next.

“Who is Intellectual Pursuit?”

“Supposedly, he was a scholar from the Crystal Empire who came down to Ponyville to do some research on…something, I don’t remember what.”

Pinkie was alarmed, “You mean to tell me there was a new pony in town and I DIDN'T THROW HIM A WELCOME PARTY?! How did I not know of his presence!?”

“Because he didn’t want to be detected by ponies who would make his presence well-known in ways such as throwing him a big welcome party with everybody in town attending. Because he wasn’t a Crystal Empire scholar.”

“Then…then who, or what, is he, Twilight?” asked Rarity, dreading the answer.

While she couldn’t bring herself to say it above a frightened whisper, it was enough for all present (even Lightning Dust, who could tell if something scared the Elements of Harmony, then it was bad) to understand just how blind they’d been to the truth.

“Sable Loam.”

The truth now stated the ponyville residents realized with terror that the werewolf who had converted Applejack into a lycanthrope had in fact been hiding in the town for months in a disguise, and could have easily taken them all out. It was the fact he hadn’t, rather appearing to wait for something that they dreaded because none of them knew what he could possibly have been waiting for.

Meanwhile, not too far from the clearing where the commotion was going on, Sable Loam spied upon the ponies. He’d just lost the disguise of Intellectual Pursuit, but that was okay since he’d checked out of the hotel soon after his Cerberus plan had started to backfire and headed straight for Baltimare. Even though it was of the modernized lifestyle he hated so much, it was the only city of the present day he could even feel remotely safe in. Namely because his beloved had lived here the day they had met. The fact he’d run into a pegasus mare who happened to hold a grudge against a certain other pegasus who was friends with his quarry in the first bar he entered had been pure, simple luck. It had taken a week or two to “buddy up” with the mare, but he eventually fooled her into going to confront Applejack as if defending her honor.

The fact the plan had actually worked this time was even luckier, to which Sable couldn’t have cracked a wider, nastier grin. Watching the enraged Applejack just tear into that idiot wannabe-Wonderbolt had been a fun thing to watch. Sexy, even, if the pressure between his legs said anything. But the bottom line was all his hard work and patience was about to pay off. Applejack would soon be forced to embrace her new destiny…and would belong to him and him alone.