• 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.20: Operation APPLESTALKER

Chapter 20: Operation APPLESTALKER

Lightning Dust was not happy with how things had turned out. First off, the one pony she thought of as an actual friend, or at least her equal at bar drinking, seemed to have set her up to challenge Applejack simply to fail. Second, Applejack had ended up being some kind of bipolar werewolf who had torn her a new one after she’d tried assaulting the farm pony. Third, all of Applejack’s friends not only apparently knew about the orange mare’s lycanthropy but were going so far as to indirectly threaten Lightning Dust to cover the incident up as a freak timberwolf attack. Fourth, and finally, Ponyville General Hospital was extremely uncomfortable for a Pegasus like her who had spent most of her life in the cloud cities of the pegasi and so was more accustomed to the comforts of cloud-based construction. However, with a badly sprained wing and a multitude of physical injuries she wasn’t going to be airborne anytime soon.

But she had to be true to herself: nobody truly would worry about her. Having grown up in an orphanage without parents or even stable relationships to other ponies, LD had always had to fight for herself and burn bridges when necessary. But then again she’d never had the chance to feel how truly alone her path in life had made her ever since the day she had to leave the orphanage. No family, no friends, no nopony.

Well, there was Rainbow Dash, who had come in to check up on her. But it was impossible to know if the cyan Pegasus was there out of pure concern for her fellow wingpony or making sure Lightning Dust kept mum. Because of the latter, Dust couldn’t count on Rainbow’s actions to mean anything, although it warmed her heart a little to know that after everything she’d done to Rainbow and friends, Dash kept a loyalty she shouldn’t even need to keep for any given reason.

But she was surprised when another pony came in bearing a get well gift. Derpy Hooves, the crazy-eyed mailmare of Ponyville, walked through the door with a bag of something in her mouth.

“Wh-wha?” stammered a confused Lightning Dust, unsure of what to make of a complete stranger paying her a visit.

“I heard that you got attacked by some timberwolves and don’t really know anypony from around here, so I brought you some muffins to cheer you up!” chirped Derpy, having placed the bag on the counter.

“Muffins?”

“Yeah! My favorite; chocolate chip!” Derpy’s smile then dropped to a frown, “Oh, let me guess; you don’t like chocolate chip, do you?”

“What? Oh, nonononono! I like chocolate chip!” Dust quickly sputtered. Truth be told, she’d never had muffins of any kind, but here it wasn’t so much her lack of knowledge about muffins then it was about keeping Derpy not feeling bad about what was a purely charitable action. “It’s just that…that nopony’s ever done something as simple as bringing muffins to me, somepony who probably doesn’t deserve any form of kindness.”

“Nonsense! I don’t know who you are, but you’re clearly a pony who has had it rough lately, and sometimes all we need for things to improve is to be shown some kindness!”

That was food for thought, considered Lightning. Here was this pony, somepony who in another situation Dust would have shamelessly made fun of for her weird eyes, but even though this mare had to have known about what Dust had done at the Wonderbolts Academy (it had been a wildly popular story which had spread all over Equestria), where by all rights Dust should have been mocked by this mare, instead she’d brought muffins and was being encouraging to Dust that she could still turn her life around.

But then there was the problem Lightning Dust had encountered: Applejack was a violent werewolf. While granted, Dust had pushed Applejack to the limit and effectively forced her own ass-kicking, the fact the normally mild mannered mare even had such a violent streak hidden inside that was so uncontrollable once unleashed was something that put the whole town in danger. Lightning reasoned that, despite recognizing she was pretty much a bitch through and through, she wasn’t so far gone that she’d leave a danger like Applejack to threaten innocent ponies simply because she didn’t give a damn.

Fortunately for her, Derpy chose to change subjects. “At least, more kindness than those timberwolves showed you. It’s been sort of scary lately, there’s been an increase with timberwolf attacks over the past few months, starting with the grievous injury Applejack got when one of them nearly crushed her throat in its jaws.”

“You sure it was a timberwolf?” asked Dust, secretly skeptical about how Applejack was being played up as an innocent.

“Yeah, there was a lot of blood and everything, from what I heard. Completely random, too, some monster sized timberwolf allegedly just shot out of the woods and attacked her without any provocation. Come to think of it, a lot of the problems with the timberwolves lately seem to involve the Apples in some way."

Gee, I wonder why, thought Dust, although she kept quiet as Derpy continued.

“It’s gotten to the point that Iron Will, some motivational self-help teacher who was in town a long while back, has come to go hunt werewolves or something, because he thinks that’s the problem. Or at least I think that’s what Golden Harvest told me.”

“Wait, you’re saying there’s a werewolf hunter in town?” inquired Lightning Dust, interest peaking. She may have been stuck in the hospital, but if she could talk to this Iron Will guy then she may not be completely helpless to save the town.

“Yeah, although if I remember correctly I overheard a rumor he’s leaving town to go hunt for werewolves elsewhere.”

“What?!” exclaimed Dust, dismayed at her improving prospects almost getting dashed, “Look, um…sorry, I didn’t catch your name.”

“My name? Oh, I’m Derpy! Derpy Hooves!”

Then what does your eye condition have to do with your bubbles cutie mark? wondered Dust before clearing the thought out of her head. This wasn’t the time to go back into bitch mode. So, LD continued on as if nothing had happened; “Ah, okay Derpy, listen. I need you to go find this Iron Will guy and tell him that before he leaves town, I need to talk to him.”

“Why?”

“Because I have vital information about something he’s interested in. Now, hurry, please!”

“I’ll find him right away!” said Derpy, before turning around and promptly faceplanting due to tripping over her own hooves. Yet, with no dignity lost, she simply stood up, said ‘My Bad!” and continued on her way. Needless to say, Lightning Dust was impressed.


Iron Will put the last of his personal items into his bags, letting out a sigh of disappointment. Ponyville had been a bust for werewolf hunting, as all he’d managed to even catch in his traps and attempts were a few unlucky timberwolves and that one orange pony that’d happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Still, it hadn’t been a total loss. His time in Ponyville had at least set him on the right track about trying to catch his target prey. The lavender unicorn who worked at the library, Twilight Sparkle, had certainly been the most helpful in his endeavors, and his tactics had improved beyond just charging into wooded areas and trying to provoke timberwolves as practice.

However, it was time to move on. He’d originally started in Ponyville because of the rumors about increased wolf attacks, but historically werewolves were told to have been more active in other cities like Baltimare and Vanhoover. Slinging his one bag over his shoulder, Iron Will exited his hotel room and went to the main foyer.

There waiting for him was Willy and Nilly. The looks on their faces were enough to tell they were only too eager to move on from the town after all the failures, but were still willing to help their boss out in his marriage quest. Iron Will had to smile at that; if there was one thing he could rely on it was the loyalty of his two assistants. He’d even have thought of them as friends had he not still been paying them for what he knew was truly a fool’s errand.

Also waiting for him, though, was a wall-eyed gray Pegasus. “Mr. Will, I have a message for you!” she announced.

The minotaur raised an eyebrow at that, for he wasn’t expecting anything. He just hoped beyond hope it wasn’t from his parents, asking him if he’d caught a werewolf yet. “A message for Iron Will?”

“Yeah, there’s a Pegasus named Lightning Dust over at the hospital who wants to talk to you. She wouldn’t say what about, but that it was urgent she pass the info on to you before you left town.”

That was intriguing. Everypony in town had heard about what happened to the rambunctious Pegasus during the race with Applejack, the entire settlement growing ever more concerned about the threat timberwolves were now posing to everypony. However, it was also well known Iron Will was specifically hunting werewolves, so if there was any kind of lead that could yield even proof a werewolf still existed for him to catch, Iron Will couldn’t risk passing it up.

“Alright, Iron Will shall go see this pony. Willy, Nilly, I trust you can handle checking us out from here?” asked the minotaur, receiving twin salutes of acknowledgement from the two goats. Nodding in approval, Iron Will took his bag with him as Derpy lead him off to the hospital. Along the way, he purchased some flowers once Derpy mentioned Lightning Dust didn’t have anypony wishing her for a quick recovery.

Upon arriving at the hospital, a pony by the name of Nurse Redheart informed Iron Will that Lightning Dust’s wing injury had not been a sprain as was commonly rumored, but a serious enough bone fracture that she’d needed a minor operation to set the bones. While she was back in her room, she was still hopped up on anesthesia and wouldn’t be able to talk much. That made Iron Will’s heart sink about getting the lead he’d hoped for, but he told Redheart he would at least deliver the flowers in person. He’d already bought them, so might was well carry out the kind gesture they were meant for.
Indeed, upon arrival, Iron Will found the crippled Pegasus asleep in her bed, heart monitor beeping and an IV pouch hooked up. He wouldn’t be getting any information out of her until possibly a few hours later, but without anything to go on Iron Will couldn’t stay that long.

Well, guess it’s to Baltimare, then, thought Iron Will as he placed the flowers in a waiting vase, already filled with water. Before leaving, he wished to at least express some well-wishing.

“Iron Will doesn’t know who you are, but he hopes that you make a swift recovery so that you can go back to enjoying life in the skies, as your kind was born to do.”

He then turned and made for the door.

“W-wait…” a sleepy voice suddenly asked from behind him.

Turning back, Iron Will found Dust had now woken up to the point of being aware of her surroundings.

“So…you’re the famous Iron Will, motivational speaker, and…and werewolf hunter?”

“Of course Iron Will is,” replied Iron Will. He wisely decided now was not the time for his lengthy slogan promotionals, there was no knowing how long Lightning would be awake.

“Listen, whatever you do…don’t leave town. Not yet.”

“Why should Iron Will not leave town? There are no werewolves here and Iron Will would cover more ground faster by visiting different cities.”

“That’s where you…are wrong. What do you think put me in here?”

“A freak timberwolf attack? That’s what the town is saying happened.”

“That’s what they want you to think, to cover…the truth. All the timberwolf attacks…haven’t you noticed the connection?”

“What connection?” inquired Iron Will. He certainly hadn’t noticed any connections between the attacks. Between the initial one involving the orange apple farmer, the believed raiding parties of timberwolves on the apple farm, and then this attack that happened when Lightning Dust was racing that same orange-

Wait.

“Iron Will thinks he understands now. The orange pony…she is the connection, but how?”

“Isn’t it obvious, peabrain? She’s the werewolf you’re looking for.”

Iron Will was stunned. Looking back at the events surrounding the orange pony, and some of the stories he’d happened to overhear about her, assuming she was a werewolf made it all make more sense.

“But how? And why?” was all Iron Will could ask.

“I don’t know either, all I know is that she’s…the one who put me in here. Admittedly, I got physically aggressive with her and probably was asking…for it, but her friends know. I think they’ve known all along and have been helping her hide it.”

“I don’t believe it!” said Iron Will, more to himself as evidenced by the dropping of the third person narration, “she’s been under my nose the whole time, hell, I even had caught her, but I’d let her go because I didn’t suspect…well, Willy and Nilly aren’t going to like it, but we’re gonna be staying here.”

Lightning Dust, who looked like she was about to pass out, suddenly started looking like she was doing her hardest to not drift to sleep again. “Iron Will, listen; what…whatever you do, promise me one thing.”

“What’s that?”

“Don’t…don’t kill her. I wasn’t supposed to tell anypony, but Applejack doesn’t seem…to be in control over that part of herself. She’s a danger to everypony around, so you’re the best…one to deal with her. However, for as much as I still despise Rainbow Dash, I owe her bigtime for trying to get me back on my hooves even after all I’ve done, the least I can do is make you promise not to seriously hurt one of her closest friends.”

“Iron Will shall do his best.”

“Thank…you…” mumbled Lightning Dust before sleep claimed her. Thus, Iron Will was left in one heck of a doozy situation. On the one hand, he at least had the lead he wanted to bagging a werewolf, and it was one of the local ponies no less which should have made it easier. However, in return for the info, he couldn’t actually kill the werewolf due to the promise he just made. And as a businessman, he always honored his promises.

However, even before considering going after the werewolf, he had to make sure this “Applejack” was one to begin with, and that her friends would know about it as well if they weren’t werewolves themselves.

What have I gotten myself into? he thought.


“Here ya go, Pinkie; this week’s shipment of apples to Sugarcube Corner.”

“Thanks a bunch, AJ!”

Applejack unhitched herself from the apple cart as Pinkie brought out the empty barrels. As Sugarcube Corner did a lot of apple buying from Sweet Apple Acres, an agreement had been made that the apples would be brought pre-stored in barrels, and once they were empty the barrels would be given to whichever Apple was bringing the next week’s shipment.

“So, AJ” started Pinkie, two empty barrels in tow, “aside from you wanting more you-know-what because of your ‘condition’ do you find you don’t like other foods as much?”

“What are ya talkin’ about, sugarcube?” replied Applejack.

“I mean, do you enjoy eating the regular stuff you always ate before…you know. Like pastries, cakes, stuff like that?”

“Of course Ah do, Pinkie, frankly me just bein’…you know, all that’s done is add some more things to mah ‘cuisine pallette’ or whatever it is Rarity called it.”

“Oh, that’s a relief!” sighed Pinkie, relieved.

“Ah don’t think Ah understand, Pinkie.”

“Well, I figured it would be really bad if you didn’t like sugary things anymore since everypony likes sugary things especially me and I just can’t imagine how horrible it would be if I didn’t like sugary things anymore and MRRMPH!” rambled Pinkie, stopped mid-sentence by Applejack’s hoof having found its way to Pinkie’s mouth.

“Pinkie! Don’t worry, Ah’m still me!” laughed Applejack. “Ah know y’all have been worried ever since Ah ‘lost mah cool’ with the whole Lightning Dust race, but please, don’t fret. What Ah do want you to do, however, is to get the last two apple barrels sittin’ empty in the kitchen.”

Blushing, Pinkie just turned and retrieved the barrels. With her four empty barrels tied down, Applejack departed Sugar Cube corner and headed home. Unbeknownst to her, a large, shadowy shape began to follow her, concealed by the rooftops that somehow didn’t buckle under its weight. Unbeknownst to the shadowy shape, it too was being followed by a self-propelled bale of hay with a baby crocodile periscope sticking out of the top.


“Thanks for coming, Applejack. I know this is kind of awkward, but since we haven’t heard back from Lyra and Sandalwood yet, we need to know more about your condition, and since you’re the only werewolf we have access too…”

“Why haven’t we heard back from those two? Ah thought Spike could get letters from the Crystal Empire via Princess Cadence?”


At the same time…

“C’mon, you can do it!” cheered Lyra.

At the Crystal Castle, Princess Cadence concentrated hard on the scroll in front of her. The idea was to send this letter via dragonfire magic so Spike could receive it. Contained within the letter was the warning about how Applejack’s sense of self both physically and mentally was potentially in jeopardy.

“Hon,” started Shining Armor, “why do you have to do this yourself? Don’t we have mages who can send mail by dragonfire?”

“We do, Shiny, but the trick with dragonfire when being cast by horned ponies is that they need to know the contents of the letter completely. However, since some of our mages are from the time when Sombra still ruled with his werewolf legions. If they knew there was potentially only one werewolf left, they’d go on some crusade to exterminate it, and we don’t want that happening to Applejack. Besides, I’m an alicorn, one of the three most powerful ponies on the planet, I should be able to get this spell right the third time.” The first two tries had ended up with first just a fried pile of parchment scraps, then the second time the scroll just got teleported five feet in the air, also burned to a crisp.

“Princess,” asked Sandalwood, “have you ever tried sending mail by dragonfire before today?”

“No, but it shouldn’t take more than one more try.”

Her horn glowing a bright blue, Cadence lifted the scroll with her telekinesis. Then, with pure force of will she reduced the letter into burned embers which drifted in the air before heading out an open window.

“There, see? Told you I could do it!” beamed Cadence.

The flame embers then rushed back into the castle and seemed to go straight into Shining Armor’s horn. His pupils shrunk for a second before he felt the need to empty his bowels. Instead of food, however, he threw up blue magic fire and the torn remnants of the letter.

“Erm…maybe it’s harder than I thought…” cringed the princess of love.


“Well, I’m sure we’ll hear from them soon enough,” Twilight assured the apple farmer, her horn glowing and all the window covers, rendering the only light source from the interior lights. “Okay, we’re closed up, go ahead at your convenience.”

“Alrighty, pardner,” replied Applejack, before shifting into her wolf form. Twilight winced, not as strong a reaction as she first had upon witnessing the transformation a few weeks ago.

Spike, on the other hand, finally put two and two together. “Uh, AJ? Remember back some time ago when you said you’d kill me if I ever tried helping you like I did again?”

“Yeah?” replied the werewolf.

“You were serious, weren’t you?”

“Ah’ll be honest, Spike. Ah’d been tryin’ not to hurt you for most of that day. Ah never would want to hurt you at all normally, but between your refusal to leave me alone and…whatever this condition of mine has done to me, Ah, was at the end of mah rope.”

“Noted,” said Spike, somewhat embarrassed.

Twilight, sensing the moment, jumped in with the first of her research questions; “Applejack, I have to ask: does it hurt when you do…that?”

“You mean when ah turn into this version of mahself? It used to, especially the first time. The first time was just horrible.”
“Would…would you be okay with describing what it was like?”

“Ah’ll do it, Twi, but just so you know; it was the worst feelin’ anypony could ever have to endure. Ah’m only lettin’ you know this simply because Ah hope you and nopony we hold dear ever has to go through what Ah have.”
_____________________________________________________________________________________

The minotaur had to admit there might really be some credence to what Lightning Dust had said. The exchange at Sugarcube Corner between Applejack and Pink…something, he couldn’t remember the full name. Something to do with baked goods. Pink Cake? Pink Sugar?. It wasn’t important at the moment anyway. What was important was he’d been watching the place for about two hours, and he needed to grab some lunch badly. Willy and Nilly would have probably died from hunger at this point had they been with him, but he’d given them the day off. After what he’d put them through in his various attempts to hunt timberwolves they deserved at least that.

Then, the door to the library opened up, and Applejack looked to her left and right before saying goodbye to the ponies remaining in the building and heading off on her way.

Having grabbed a hayball sandwich from a street cart vendor, Iron Will followed Applejack over to Fluttershy’s cottage. Not an easy task since there were very few trees wide enough to hide IW’s girth behind, but he managed to do it without alerting Applejack. The fact she kept on acting as if she was constantly on edge about being followed also pointed towards her being a werewolf, as a pony wouldn’t have that kind of sensory range to detect him from almost 50 meters away.
Eventually, once he figured Applejack felt safe enough inside Fluttershy’s cozy little cottage, he snuck up and peered inside. To his horror, it looked like Applejack was eating hamburgers, which Fluttershy was cooking up.

Normally, Iron Will usually lived up to his secondary nickname, “Iron Stomach”, as one of his lesser known talents was the ability to eat just about anything. But being a close relative species-wise to normal cattle, he couldn’t go anywhere near meat products involving beef. Just the sight of it would make him hurl, which he had to rush off to quickly do. He knew that there were some ponies that ate meat, hell, the mere fact The Meatery existed in Ponyville more as a tourist spot than actual local cuisine was evidence enough, but the fact somepony who raised cattle also ate them…he felt the need to oblige a second gut purge.

It also just strengthened the case of making Applejack out to be a werewolf. The fact she was somepony who normally live harmoniously with cattle on the same farm pointed to her being the kind of pony who would staunchly be anti-meat, and yet there she was having one of her friends secretly prepare burger patties for her. As if she was ashamed of having a need to eat meat. Iron Will was seriously wondering if trying to hunt a werewolf was an even dumber proposition now that he was pretty sure that one did exist on the other side of that window.

Then his watch buzzed. Alarmed, he shot off away from the cottage before either pony, or any of Fluttershy’s animal friends, could realize he was there. On the other hand, it was the alarm reminding him he needed to take his blood pressure meds. He couldn’t help but smirk at the perfect timing, as his blood pressure had to be dangerously high after seeing a pony eating beef and enjoying it.


Later, Applejack was all alone by herself behind the Apple Family barn. Ever since exposing her secret to friends and family, she found these moments of self-reflection helped her truly appreciate how blessed she was to have such understanding circle of relationships.

“Ah just don’t know what Ah’d do without them. Even Twilight’s cut back on her prodding, even though Ah can tell she wants to go as deep as possible, because she knows how personal this is gettin’ for me. Heh…and to think Ah had to put on mah best face when Ah first met her, ah coulda sworn she reeked of ‘Canterlot Snob’ stronger than a rotten apple reeks of bad odor.”

She continued to review the offerings and sacrifices her friends were making to accommodate her, but as the list grew longer and longer, she grew more somber.

“But is it all worth it, Ah mean…”

Almost involuntarily, she shifted into her wolf form and looked down at her now-uncomfortably-familiar hoof-paws.

“Will Ah be stuck like this forever? Some kinda half-monster pony who can’t even take a few hits without loosin’ mah mind and nearly killin’ somepony else? And to think Ah once thought this coulda been a good thing for me, but now Ah understand. This is nothin’ more than a curse. A damn, dirty curse! Sometimes Ah don’t even know who Ah am anymore when Ah change an’ look in the mirror at this other body I inhabit. And why did it have to be me? Ah couldn’t wish this affliction on anypony, but after learnin’ ma and pa had gone this way before they died, is it some kinda family curse? Ah don’t wanna end up as some kinda mindless monster, that’s not who Ah am! But without some kinda cure, maybe that’s who Ah’m doomed to become…”

Due to having gone on her self-inflicted rant, Applejack’s heightened wolf senses failed to notice the minotaur who had been spying on her from the roof of the barn. The one with the gaping jaw as its brain tried to comprehend what it had just seen.

But there was no denying it. Applejack had changed before his eyes, of her own volition, into some kind of wolf-pony hybrid. A werewolf if there ever was one. Lightning Dust had been right, Applejack now presented a real threat to all of Ponyville, if not Equestria itself.

At the same time, Iron Will was conflicted with what to do. His initial mission was to bag a werewolf to please his parents and marry the Minotaur princess, now with the added duty of helping protect Equestria by removing this threat to its safety.

However, Applejack had just admitted she really didn’t want to be a monster, this werewolf she’d become and burdened all those who knew her best with its secrecy, and Lightning Dust had made him promise not to severely harm her. Not to mention the fact Applejack had close ties with the princesses, who also probably knew she’d been a werewolf too, and so capturing her for his own personal glory and advancement would not only kill his motivational speaking career in the land of ponies, but almost certainly send Equestria and the Minotaur Kingdom into war all over a dispute about capturing a werewolf.

What am I gonna do? Helplessly thought Iron Will. Deciding Applejack was at least not going to leave the town anytime soon, he decided to just head back to the hotel. He could think about his choice overnight, but he knew it would not be an easy one no matter which way he went.


The train hadn’t even come to a full stop when Lyra and Sandalwood lept from the coach and raced down the streets to Golden Oaks. They had left their things at the Crystal Empire to be sent by Royal Chariots later, but now time was of the essence.

Spike barely had any time to open the door before Sandalwood nearly headbutted it open, Lyra in tow.

“Twilight! Where are the others?!” gasped Lyra, skidding to a halt and trying to fill her depleted lungs with air.

The lavender unicorn was still recovering from having two ponies burst their way into her domain. “Uh, they’re probably still at their homes, why?”

“Because…” started Sandalwood, “...because Applejack may be in great danger!”

“From what?” replied Twilight, now concerned about the news these two hadn’t sent by dragonfire mail, “or whom? Sable Loam?”

If Lyra and Sandalwood’s faces hadn’t been horrified before, now they were. “Sable Loam is alive?!”

“Yeah, don’t you…oh, right, you weren’t here. Well, while you two were gone-“

“NO TIME!” screamed Sandalwood, having rushed over and grabbed Twilight by the shoulders, “If Sable Loam is still alive, then Applejack is in even more danger than we thought five seconds ago!”

“But how?”

“Remember how in that story about AJ’s parents that they went into the forest for some reason before they died, and that reason was never found? Well, Lyra and I think we found it, and if that menace is still kicking ,then Applejack may fall victim to the same fate, if not worse!”