• Published 24th Mar 2013
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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.3: A Questionable State of Mind

Chapter 3

Applejack had slept all night after she had gone to bed early, but right on schedule she woke up around the same time as Celestia’s sun overtook Luna’s night sky. But even for an early riser like her, she couldn’t help but feel a little more energetic, as if she needed to move. Shrugging it off with the rationale it was because of her lack of activity yesterday, she descended to the kitchen to join the rest of the family for breakfast. While talking never was something the Apples did at this time of day, Applejack couldn’t help but feel the atmosphere was significantly quieter than usual.

“Applejack, dear, are you okay?” asked Granny Smith, concerned about her middle grandchild as she trotted up to the table to sit down.

“Ah’m fine, Granny,” replied AJ, her emerald eyes shifting left and right, an involuntary body motion that confessed in meaning what the mare could not in words.

“Be honest with us, sis,” said Big Mac, “Rarity showed up some time after ya went ta bed to check up on ya. She mentioned somthin’ about ya loosin’ yer temper. Ya mind explaining that?

AJ gulped. It was a rare occurrence when Big Mac said more than ten words in one breath, much less multiple sentences. When he did, that meant he intended to get a message across or was dead serious on getting an answer. She figured it was the latter.

“Alright, fine, Ah admit it. Yesterday wasn’t mah brightest moment,” the now ashamed mare said, her fur turning slightly red as she looked down at the table. Worried for Applejack’s health, Granny decided to go plate up her breakfast to make sure she could still eat. AJ gave her a small smile when the plate of food was set before her before continuing, “Ah went ta go see Sandalwood at the Spa to settle this matter about the car thing the Crusaders built.” Apple Bloom noticeably rolled her eyes at the mention of the car. While her interest in pursuing further adventures with the machine was long gone, the fact it was still being brought up annoyed her. AJ glanced over at her younger sister before resuming her tale

“Ah’m not quite sure what happened, but Ah somehow ended up with mah hooves around Sandalwood’s neck and against the wall when Rarity happened to come in.” The rest of the family was, naturally, quite shocked at the idea the normally level headed pony could get so violent as the story progressed. “Come ta think of it, Ah can’t really remember what it was that Ah was originally gonna tell her before Ah lost it beyond it bein’ related to the car” finished Applejack, looking downcast at the memory.

It was Apple Bloom who spoke up next, “But sis, why did ya even need to talk to her? She may have given mah friends and I the idea to build that thing, but she didn’t make us do it.”

“Well…Ah believe Ah wanted to confront her about the whole thing ‘cause Ah needed ta blame somepony for all the trouble. That’s usually how things end up happening around here, it’s always somepony causin’ all the trouble.”

“But it’s not her fault that you were attacked by a-“ interjected Apple Bloom, only to catch herself right before mentioning what she believed to be a touchy subject. The sudden stiffening of both Big Mac and Granny Smith told Applejack they believed the same. Giving her family a smile, she told them “It’s alright, no need ta be all careful around that subject. Apple Bloom’s right, Sandalwood wasn’t responsible for what happened in the forest, Ah’m just trying to find a scapegoat. Hopefully, Rarity might help me find a way to make it up to her.”

Feeling that she was living up to her reputation of honesty about wanting to make amends for her own mistakes, Big Mac gave Applejack a smile and a simple nod of approval. The peace settled, the family resumed the usual routine of small talk around the table. But among it all, Applejack couldn’t help but feel something was off about the food today. As if it had too much apple in it. But that was ridiculous, she’d had apples for every home meal since she was a small filly and even back then she could eat as much as Big Mac was right now. Still, the feeling was enough that the orange mare decided she might get lunch in town, something not based in apples in any way. Yeah, it wasn’t that she didn’t like apples as much anymore, she just needed a little more variety.
______________________________________________________________________________________
“Angel, you’re sure you haven’t been watching these movies without my permission?”

The white bunny, personal pet of Fluttershy, nodded his head vigorously.

His owner sighed as she looked at the crime scene. A recent new development in Equestrian technology was the condensing of movies onto a more portable form that could be played back on small boxes called “television sets” or something, Fluttershy couldn’t exactly remember. Princess Luna, still riding high on the novelty of the technological advances made in her thousand-year absence, thought the whole idea was fantastic and had multiple sets sent out to the bearers of the elements to share the glory that was moving black and white images. However, since the technology was still so new, very few movies existed on the new media form, known as “VHS tapes”. Right now, Fluttershy’s entire collection contained only three movies; The Secret Life of Trees (documentary), Flight School Musical (self-explanatory), and Ponirambo: First Blood (violent action film). Fluttershy loved the first one, and secretly liked the songs of the second, but the only reason she even had the third one was because it came with the whole set-up and she wasn’t about to return part of a gift to the princess, truthfully the rather horrifying level of violence and profanity simply wasn’t her kind of film. The problem was that recently, she’d been finding Ponirambo in the VHS player. Since she’d only tried to watch it one time and had put it back on the shelf after five minutes, she knew it wasn’t her putting the tape back in, and Angel was swearing up and down it wasn’t him, so she didn’t know what to think.

“Hmmm, maybe one of the other animals keeps putting it back in?” mused Fluttershy as she repackaged the tape and put it on a higher shelf than usual. Deciding it wasn’t really worth looking into, since while the movie may have been highly not-safe-for-watching in her opinion, it was still just a movie that couldn’t do any active harm, she walked away to go tend to the animals outside.

Once she was out the door, however, Angel let out a huge sigh of relief. Obviously, he actually had been the one who kept putting Ponriambo back in the player, a process he’d figured out when Fluttershy had left in the middle of the night a month ago to go help her orange friend and didn’t return until the middle of the next day. Personally, he thought the documentary was boring as hell because the narrator kept saying “The Larch” over and over, and the musical nearly made him throw up, but it was different with Ponirambo. To him, the movie was an instant masterpiece. The title character, a muscle bound Pegasus who could pass as Snowflake’s brother, was a no-nonsense badass who fought a one-pony war against the oppressive powers of the Changeling Empire to free all of Equestria. Angel viewed him as a role model.

Of course, what Ponirambo could do that Angel couldn’t was reach the location Fluttershy had moved the tape to. He knew he couldn’t get at it without making some kind of stairway, and if he did then it would reveal he’d been lying. But then again, Angel had already seen the whole movie five times and could replay it in his head, so maybe the tape wasn’t even necessary.

Then an even more novel idea came to him; what if instead of just watching Ponirambo and wishing to be like him, he could go be his own Ponirambo and have his own adventures? A grin emerged on the bunny’s face as the idea grew in appeal. He’d need to make his own costume and figure out how to give himself a five-O’clock shadow, but it could be done. And it would be better than anything the movie could do short of using changelings as bludgeoning weapons against other changelings.
__________________________________________________________________________________________
Having spent the early morning doing the usual chores around the farm, namely applebucking and livestock feeding, Applejack went to go talk to Rarity to see if the whole ordeal with Sandalwood could be fixed. After getting her overreaction off her chest to the family, she was in brighter spirits and was optimistic. Today was the day the whole car ordeal would be put behind her, they could finally scrap the infernal thing for parts, and she could get on with her life.

Having met Rarity at her home/business of Carousel Boutique, the fashionista was more than willing to set up a luncheon at a local restaurant and invite Sandalwood so the two ponies could settle things. Soon, Applejack found herself waiting at The Bannered Mare, a recently opened establishment that straddled the line between the typical tavern offerings and high class dining, while Rarity had gone off to fetch Sandalwood. While Applejack personally wouldn’t have minded the atmosphere of a pub in lieu of an outdoor dining experience, she was following Rarity’s read on this since she needed to make a good impression.

As soon as the approaching ponies came in view of Applejack, Sandalwood understandably blanched and slowed her pace.
“Rarity, don’t tell me she’s the third guest at this little get-together,” Sandalwood said, starting to shuffle backwards slowly.
Giving the earth pony a friendly smile, Rarity assured her “Trust me on this, Sandy, she’s one of the best ponies in this town. I do believe I told you why she got a little, ahem, ‘physical’, with you last time, right?”

Sandalwood cautiously nodded. While she hadn’t suffered any lasting injuries from the previous day’s assault, she didn’t know what to expect from Applejack now.

Acknowledging the nod, Rarity continued; “Well, she’s informed me that she wants to apologize to you and make up for yesterday. You don’t need my word to trust her; she’s the Element of Honesty for a reason.”

As the duo approached, Applejack put on the best smile she could to convince Sandalwood she wasn’t in imminent danger. Sandalwood, in turn, gave a nervous smile right back. It was clear this was a situation nopony really wanted to be in.

After Rarity and Sandalwood had sat down, Applejack immediately tried to say something but was silenced by the other Earth pony. “I know what you’re going to say” spoke Sandalwood, “but I just want to let you know I understand why it happened.”

“Ya do?” asked a confused Applejack. Then it clicked and so she gave an annoyed look at Rarity, so gave her an embarrassed smile.

“I’m sorry, darling, but I felt it was only necessary she understand why or else we wouldn’t even be here right now, I’ll bet.”

“Look, Applejack,” interjected Sandalwood, “I think things just got off on the wrong hoof yesterday. You were still thinking about the safety of your sister and I admit I shouldn’t have told them about the car thing. Believe it or not, family is a big thing for me too, so don’t think I’m just saying what you want to hear.”

AJ couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow at that. Noticing the facial expression, Sandalwood sighed; “Let me guess, Pinkie told you about those ‘human fantasies’ where Rarity here is my real mom and I’m adopted by humans or some nonsense?” At that it was Rarity’s turn to react, with rolling her eyes while Applejack nodded, prompting Sandalwood to continue; “The truth is that, while yes, I do agree with Lyra that humans existed and I have an interest in them, I don’t have some deep seated hatred of my own family to the point I want to change species, and I don’t even know where whole ‘Rarity is my mom’ thing came from. Seriously, do we even look related to you?”

“Ah can’t say that ya do,” answered Applejack. Sandalwood was about to go on again, apparently preparing to make a rant on how it was an undeserved reputation, but it was Applejack’s turn to apologize; “Ah get it, Pinkie got her facts wrong. Happens all the time. But when are ya gonna let me do the thing we’re all here for?”

“Oh, right, the apology thing, sorry”

“Anyways, Ah am truly sorry for what Ah did yesterday, there really isn’t an excuse for hurting you the way Ah did. Whatever got into me, Ah promise you it won’t happen again.”

For all her doubts, Sandalwood had to admit Rarity was right. She could tell Applejack was truly sorry, even after it had been said the spa pony didn’t blame the farmer for what happened. If there was one word Sandalwood would use to describe Applejack at that point , It would be “trust” without a doubt.

“Well, if you promise, then I guess I can let you off the hook,” said Sandalwood, the implied remaining animosity obviously nothing more than some dark humor on her part.

Rarity, not having to play the role of peacekeeper as she had secretly feared, was pleased the problem was resolved quickly. “Ah, here comes our waiter with the menus, I hope you ladies brought your appetites, I hear the food here is exquisite,” announced the unicorn. Indeed she was correct; the food was delicious. Applejack secretly happy that her own little issue with food seemed to be fulfilled by eating things not related to apples. Everything was going just fine.

Then came desert.

“I usually don’t have desert, even at the fanciest of restaurants” chatted the unicorn, “a lady must watch her shape, after all! However, I do feel I can afford to indulge myself. Either of you ponies find something you like on the desert menu?”
“Enh, the tiramisu looks alright, but I think I could go for anything right now,” commented Sandalwood “What about you Applejack?”

But while it appeared to Rarity and Sandalwood that their friend was looking at the menu, she was in fact looking slightly above the top edge at something she didn’t realize she wanted more than anything. A few yards behind Sandalwood were none other than the Cakes, out for an afternoon stroll. What was drawing Applejack’s attention; however, were the Cake Twins: Pumpkin and Pound. So young, so full of baby fat, with supple limbs, and so weak and defenseless…

“Caaaaaaake…” droned the semi-hypnotized mare, drool starting to appear at the corners of her mouth as she looked hungrily at the infant ponies.

“Uh, you okay there AJ?” inquired Sandalwood, oblivious to where the mare was staring behind her.

Snapping back into reality, and secretly horrified at what she had just been imagining, it was a stroke of luck that the desert menu happened to have a triple chocolate mousse cake option.

“Ah, uh, sorry ‘bout that, it’s just that this chocolate cake thing looks so darn good!” stated the orange mare, managing to save herself from an awkward and possibly disturbing explanation.

“Actually, you’re right, that cake does look good. I think I’ll go with that too” added Sandalwood.

“Then I guess we’ll all have the triple chocolate mousse cake, then!” exclaimed Rarity, who flagged down the waiter. “If you would be so kind, sir, we’d each like a slice of the chocolate mousse, please.”

The cake was good, Applejack was at least thankful she didn’t choose something that was against her palette lest she try to fake enjoying it. But even after making amends with Sandalwood and heading back to the farm, Applejack just could not stop thinking about how she had legitimately entertained cannibalism as a desert option - with the Cake Twins, no less!

There’s somethin’ seriously wrong with me, no doubt about it! Ah tomorrow Ah’m gonna see Twilight first thing in the mornin’!

Her goals set, the disturbed mare did her best to put those horrible thoughts out of her mind as she set back to doing her farm work. It helped, but only sleep brought any sense of peace to her mind at the end of the day, and even then she was troubled by nightmares from which she only wanted escape.
____________________________________________________________________________________________
Big Mac was inert in the physical realm, but lucid in the plane of dreams. The letter he had sent through Spike had been most unusual, for it was a request for Princess Luna to meet with him in his dreams. While the story Scootaloo spoke of that involved Luna visiting her dreams during that camping trip she, her friends, and their sisters had taken to Winsome Falls was questionable, if it was true then help for Applejack could come faster than possible a few years ago.

Scootaloo’s story proved true, as he did not have to wait long. Appearing out of thin air, the Princess of the Night stepped forward to meet with the red stallion, as he had requested in his dreams. As per custom, he knelt before her in respect.
“Thou are Big Macintosh, the one who requested my presence for a matter of most importance?” asked Luna. “I do hope this is actually important and not, y’know, you wanting to ravish me. You have no idea how often that happens.”

“Yer Highness,” said Big Mac as he stood back up, “believe me when Ah say that this here matter is of the utmost importance. Yah see, mah sister Applejack-“

“Yes, I am familiar with her.”

“Ah, well, she and her friends say she got attacked by some ‘wolf-thing’ in the Everfree, and while she seems to have recovered on the outside, Ah think she still needs help on the inside.”

Luna looked incredulously at the stallion, “Then shouldn’t she go to a doctor?”

“Not that kinda problem, yer highness. Ah don’t think conventional medical help can answer why she’s havin’ those nightmares. Ah can still hear her screamin’ about them from down the hall, and Ah’m asleep and here with you!”

The princess merely smiled, “Ah, so she just needs some help in her dreams? I think I can manage that, just let me take a look.” She then vanished, leaving Big Mac alone once again. As he, sadly, expected, Luna was almost immediately back in his head with a very different expression. One of horror, shock, and revulsion.

“By my sister’s beard, what is happening to her?!” exclaimed the Princess, “This is a matter most serious, but for the life of me I cannot fathom what is wrong beyond it being a very powerful dark magic!”

Now Big Mac was concerned, if the Princess of the Night didn’t know what was going on, then perhaps it was already too late for his sister. “Princess Luna, back when you and yer sister were still livin’ in those ruins in the Everfree Forest, were there any ‘special’ kinda wolves besides Timberwolves around in those days?”

Luna had to think for a moment. Even though those memories would be much more recent for her than for Celestia, one thousand years of isolation and sharing a body with Nightmare Moon does funny things to one’s memories. “Now that you mention it, there were some odd wolves that I saw lurking around in the surrounding forest, but always from a distance, never up close. Celestia tended to rebuff my questions about them, too, come to think of it,” her brow furrowing at another memory of being treated as a kid sister by Celestia in the old days. It hadn’t ended well for anypony.

Big Mac only frowned, but his true feelings remained hidden. He knew Celestia knew, after all she’d been present during the aftermath of what happened to his parents. Applejack and Apple Bloom wouldn’t remember, AJ was barely four and the youngest sister was only a foal, still at the hospital natal care area. He tended to avoid Celestia when he had to as a result, hence his absence from the Summer Sun Festival that the farm had catered. But if it was happening again, then there was no choice.

“Princess, could yah perhaps bring yer sister in here as well?”

At that question Luna had to take a step back. “Wha? Why do you want Celestia in here? I mean, I could bridge dreams since she’s asleep, but it would be far easier to-“

“No. Ah can’t really explain why, but if what Ah suspect is true, then none of us can be wastin’ time for comfort while Applejack…” He couldn’t finish the sentence, the mere thought that it was happening again was enough for him to start tearing up.

Deciding that Big Mac wouldn’t accept any alternatives, Luna vanished to go visit her sister’s dreams. It took a long time from Big Mac’s perspective, when it was really just five minutes in real time, but eventually both Luna and Celestia managed to both enter his mind.

“Hello, Big Macintosh,” greeted the sun alicorn.

“Yer highness,” he answered back, bowing once again but quickly getting back up, “Ah believe Ah don’t need to explain the situation.”

Luna, who at this point was getting a little miffed at being left in the dark about this, demanded ,“I have to disagree, somepony is going to tell me what’s going on in Applejack’s head or I’ll-“

“Luna!” The sun princess snapped at her sister. This was a rare occurrence after Luna’s return, but like Big Mac actually holding conversations longer than a minute, when it happened there was something serious going on. Her sister silenced, Celestia sighed before continuing; “I apologize for not letting you know sooner, but what we’re dealing with is no normal dark magic.” Turning to Big Mac, she asked in an annoyed tone “I also believe that when news of this incident was given to me that the assailant was a Timberwolf. That is no longer the case, is it?”

The stallion shook his head. “No, yer majesty, Ah don’t believe that was a timberwolf that hurt my sister. Ah…Ah think…” Once again he couldn’t finish the sentence, but now the waterworks were starting. Walking over to embrace the emotional pony with a wing, Celestia could only hope this didn’t end the same way it did for the Apples so long ago.

On the other hand, Luna’s eye was visibly twitching. She was trying so hard not to break out the Royal Canterlot Voice, namely because nopony was telling her what the buck was wrong with Applejack and so Luna could not do anything to help. What made it especially maddening is that Luna had undergone something similar, more or less, when she was corrupted into Nightmare Moon, and for one of the ponies who had saved her from that fate only to possibly befall it herself…

Her mouth opened and was about to let the RCV fly, when Celestia gave her a sad look that she not dare blast with vocal energy. “Luna…I think it’s time I told you about werewolves.”

Author's Note:

Big Mac sure is talkative all of a sudden, isn't he?