• Published 24th Mar 2013
  • 12,550 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.4: Dreams of Days Gone By

Chapter 4: “Dreams of Days Gone By”

“Werewolves,” asked the lunar monarch, “are you telling me they actually exist?” Her skepticism was understandable; she had not heard of such beasts until after she had returned from the moon. The only time she’d even heard the term was when she had asked Scootaloo what her costume was during that one Nightmare Night some time ago.

“I’m afraid so, Luna. I thought the last one of them had been destroyed about a decade ago, but if what is happening here is true then I fear he may still be out there.”

“Sister, could you please stop dancing around the issue and tell me what I want to know so we can stop wasting time?”

“Right, sorry, it’s just that…you’ll understand once I’ve explained it.” A reassuring nod from Big Mac prompted Celestia to proceed with what had to be said; “It all started way back before you first took over the duty as matriarch of the night…”
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“No no no no no!” repeated a very irate Celestia to an upstart coronet, “We knowest not what thy betters saw in thee to put thee in such a lofty position within the guard, but even thou wilst see the folly in such a request!"

“But your majesty, doth thou not ken such benefits of a proposition?” asked the other pony. Sable Loam, a coronet of the Royal Equestrian Guard, was not a very approachable individual. A coat of dark brown and his mane a two-tone mix of almost black green colors, he’d been allowed to join the guard even though he didn’t really pass the candidate evaluation simply because his colors made for good camouflage; more so than a typical invisibility spell, his colors earned him a place as a military scout. But his cutie mark, a red wolf’s paw, was what really made him dangerous. His special talent was hunting. There was no game he couldn’t catch, no prey that could escape him. Some called him “the wolf in a pony’s coat,” and right now Celestia was sure that had gone to his head.

“What, changing the standing force of able-bodied stallions into a force of vicious beasts? The guard does not exist for thou to live out thy delusions of being a true wolf, soldier, and it is Our belief that thy betters would know the same.”

“I would doubt as such. Thy claim to the throne is only superior because thou art blessed with both wings and horn. Thou hast yet to prove thyself as much a leader as thine mother, who preferred to rule by her tai-“

“KNOW THY PLACE, SOLDIER!” bellowed Celestia in the Royal Canterlot Voice, “Thy shall not speak ill of your former ruler and Our mother. Was it not she who reunited the scattered pony tribes of wing, horn, and earth back under one crown? Who turned Equestria from a loose confederation of races into the strong realm it is today? Who guaranteed all who live within its borders would find harmony while even now the rest of this world squabbles over petty trifles?”

Sable tried to come up with a response, but failed. All he could manage was a growl as he gritted his teeth, looking up at the princess he was forced to be ruled by. She did not understand. Her mother had been a good ruler, yes, but she had failed to implement the most essential policies that would have made Equestria into a true power, to dominate over all the other, inferior races save the wolf itself, for none could top the hunter. But what made the hunter strong was that it lived and died by the belief of only the strong surviving to see tomorrow. The former queen and now the current princess would not, could not, see past the foolish idea that all are born equal as well as refusing to recognize all life must earn the right to live from the moment of birth. I must be the one to set things right, thought Sable, this pretender to the throne must be remov-

Unfortunately for Sable, one of the last things Celestia’s mother had taught her was to detect the tell-tale signs of somebody who wanted to cause her harm, to betray her, and Sable subconsciously was showing all of the warning signs.

“Thou imaginest that We are a feeble ruler, that thee shall claim the throne by violence?” intoned the pink-maned princess. The startled reaction from the now-treasonous soldier brought a small smile to her face. Thy will is known, to your misfortune, thought the princess, before she decided to show off a little to put this peon back in line. Proceeding to stand to her full height, which was about half a head taller than the fully grown Sable even though she was but a child in alicorn lifespans. She unfurled her wings, her horn bursting into color as she intimidated the lesser pony into a cowling position before her. Boosted by the RCV, she boomed “Thy art but a pitiable foal! A hunter you may be, but the only joy you get from it is the feeling of power, of submitting the weak to your total control! But it is We who are hold potency, and thee weakness! Cease these ludicrous ideas of impressing your so called ‘ideals’ of the wolf upon both pony and the Crown, or We shall do it for you!”

The radiant light ended as Celestia resumed her original sitting position, like nothing happened. Sable, reduced to a shriveling mess below her, cast an angry glare at her, as if actually daring her to carry out her words. But soon enough he simply stood up, glared at her, and then proceeded to exit through the stairs opposite the throne.
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“…I found out the next day that Sable Loam and about an entire centuria of ponies had all gone AWOL, as if in protest to my will. They would make their way up to the frozen north, where the renegade self-proclaimed “King” Sombra would recruit them, promising a chance to storm the Everfree and claim Equestria for themselves. To better ensure their loyalty, he gave them gifts only he could provide through his dark magic. Because they all in one way or another wanted to live like their perceived idol the wolf, Sombra ‘granted’ them with the ability to turn into a monstrous fusion of both wolf and pony. They were the first werewolves.”

Luna could only stand there in shock. This had all happened when she was but a filly, no, a yearling! She’d originally figured that because Celestia had been so young, their mother had set up some kind of stand-in rulership until she could rule properly. Celly had never mentioned anything about having to fill the role of full leadership during her teenage years and while Luna did not doubt she was as able then as she still was now, the thought didn’t escape Luna that had she understood her sister more back then, then Nightmare Moon never would have come about. Still, that was in the past, but apparently not werewolves.

Big Mac, for his part, was as expressionless as usual after he’d wiped the tears away. Luna figured he’d heard this all before, since he seemed a great deal knowledgeable about the signs of Applejack’s condition to begin with.

Sensing her sister’s wish for her to continue, Celestia resumed her story. “As it would turn out, Sombra would never leave the north to threaten Equestria. He spent most of his time building up what we know today as the Crystal Empire. The werewolves served as his elite enforcers and overseers, their brutality and their fearsome, unnatural wolf forms keeping the enslaved crystal ponies working themselves to death. Eventually, you and I grew up and we declared war on the Empire to free the ponies, Sombra not really standing a chance against the Royal Guard with his stagnated armies. I don’t need to go into details about the immediate results, obviously, but even with that many soldiers I’m sure the majority of the werewolves got away, finally retreating back to their true homeland. However, some of them finally realized what Sombra had done to them, as they had become not ideal soldiers but monsters. In a cruel twist of fate, the forms they had wished to shed and to wear became reversed, the annoyance of having to turn back into a pony now having become the fear of becoming what they had once wanted.”

“How do you know all this, sister?” asked Luna, surprised at how in-depth Celestia was familiar with what should have been at best fleeting knowledge.

“Some of them came back to atone for being traitors. After seeing the…things…they had become, I had to pardon those who sought redemption on the spot, as their punishment would be the curse they themselves had brought upon themselves, forced to live isolated lives in the fear of hurting others in their transformed states. However, many of the surviving werewolves did not return, leading to the ancient legends of ponies who were cursed with having to become violent night stalkers, terrorizing towns across the nation.”

“Wasn’t there something about my moon being involved?” interrupted Luna, remembering the one detail about the whole thing that she suspected was totally wrong, “like, they only turn if the moon is full?”

Celestia chuckled, but it was a sad chuckle, traces of regrettable memories in it. “Well, Luna, it was around the first reports of isolated werewolf attacks that you had your, um, ‘incident,’ and became Nightmare Moon. The werewolves went unchecked as the nation suffered ponies who were taking up the cause of, oh, what was it you called your little revolution, the ‘New Lunar Republic’ or some silly nonsense like that. Anyway, I ended up inventing the whole ‘full moon’ connection to try and alienate your psychotic fanbase. I suspect many of the wolves joined up in your armies and would perish bearing your flag in that civil war that broke out, as reports of werewolf attacks pretty much disappeared once your thousand-year stay on the moon had begun.”

Big Mac suddenly spoke up, a look of terror on his face. “Ah ya saying that werewolves don’t need to wait fer the full moon to turn inta monsters?”

Celestia nodded. “I think they have to transform at least once a month, but otherwise it’s a completely voluntary process that can happen at any time, day or night. Unless the afflicted doesn’t know about their condition, or is mentally unstable, then they may not even have control over it. This, come to think of it, probably explains a lot of those attacks seemingly being random and sometimes even during the day, if I remember the reports correctly.”

Then Luna had to ask what was most likely the most heart-wrenching question possible. “Is there not a cure for this?”

Big Mac immediately turned his head away; he really just didn’t want to have to answer that. Celestia couldn’t help but pity him, after what happened with the Apple parents ten years ago and now one of his sisters, it had to be taking a toll on him. Luna merely kept quiet as she waited for an answer.

It was a tense silent moment before Celestia opened her mouth to speak, but to her surprise Big Mac suddenly turned back around, holding back the emotion as he sputtered out; “What ya do is…ya don’t get bit…’cause if…’cause if ya do…the only way out is…is ta die”.

At that point the mighty stallion, the one who had been holding up the family for so long, began to weep for the tragic secret he and Granny had kept away from the younger Apples for so long. Celestia trotted over and embraced the sobbing Big Mac, shedding a tear or two herself.

It didn’t need to be voiced, she already knew, but Luna needed confirmation from Celestia; “Sis…how long ago was the most ‘recent’ werewolf attack, before Applejack was hurt?”

Without turning to face her sister, still comforting Big Mac, spoke the truth; “Ten years ago. The first one in hundreds of years. I’d thought they’d all died out three hundred years after your banishment, but somehow the curse survived, going from host to host in an endless cycle. The victims were…Appleseed and Cornflower…” The mere mention of the names made Big Mac only cry harder into the side of his ruler, letting out all the emotion of not being able to properly mourn the loss and be honest with his siblings about how they would never truly know their parents. A knife in the back only driven in further when he’d learned his sister was the Element of Honesty, and all he could do was lie to her behind his stoic face.

Luna didn’t really want to ask, but she felt the need to know even more; “Oh…but, wait…was it the actual attack that killed them, or…”

“No. They survived the attack, but they had bite marks all over. I remember being so angry about it and not being able to do anything to save them from their fate, I tried to locate where this ancient horror had come from in the Everfree, and when I was sure I’d found the abomination I…removed the issue… by making a crater several acres wide with the biggest magic spell I had at my disposal. If I couldn’t save an innocent couple, then I was going to avenge them. But, even that doesn’t appear to have ended the curse…” The emotion buried in Celestia about the matter was concealed behind her motherly appearance, being strong for the stallion that had no choice but to be strong for so long.

But surprisingly, Luna brightened up a bit at that response. “Sister, what if there’s still hope? What if we can still save Applejack?”

“Luna, didn’t you hear? There is no way to save her. Try to help her live a normal life now is the only-“

“What about the Elements of Harmony?”

That got Celestia’s attention. While the Elements had been useless after banishing Nightmare Moon, they were once again empowered with the spirits of six friends who embodied the virtues of Harmony. Furthermore, if they could cleanse Luna of the corruptive Nightmare Moon, who had taken over both Luna’s body and soul, then this werewolf thing which should only have been lingering dark magic wouldn’t stand a chance. She simply didn’t know for sure, but it was the best option in regards to Applejack’s continued well-being.

“Well then, I guess we have some work to do, don’t we Luna?” said Celestia, her spirits lifted as the outlook for Applejack improved in her head. “But that still leaves the question of what to do about the poor girl in the meantime.”

“Wh-what do ya mean, yer majesty? Ah thought that you just kept the elements in some box locked behind a magic door, that’s what AJ said after that whole Discord thing,” inquired Big Mac, also empowered by the prospect of saving his sister from the same grim fate as their parents.

Luna rolled her eyes. “Well, after the whole ‘Discord thing’, Celly decided to put up tougher defenses so somepony powerful enough can’t just swipe them from right under her muzzle like last time” ending with a sly wink towards her elder sister, who just nickered in annoyance.

Celestia did have to admit that maybe locking the elements in a triple lock box with an added magical seal, then tying it to a cord tied to racks upon racks of magically imbued crossbows inside the southernmost castle tower that, upon any interaction with not coming from Celestia or Twilight Sparkle, would set off the crossbows and blow up the whole tower, might have been slightly overkill now that Discord was back in stone.

“Okay, so getting the elements out of my ultimate death trap might take a day or two…”
Big Mac wasn’t happy to hear that; “Ya mean mah sister has to go through this pain for possibly two more days?!”

A sad look from Celestia was enough to show Big Mac she was just as unhappy about it as he was, “I’m sorry, Big Macintosh, I’ll try to get them out as fast as I can, but in the meantime it’s up to you to make sure she stays safe. Oh, and most importantly; do not inform her or anypony else about what we have discussed here or plan to do until I let you know otherwise”

It was going to be a hard order to follow, while Big Mac was not the Element of Honesty himself, the Apples were known to be trustworthy, and they also had a keen sense of when others weren’t being as truthful. But as it was now both his duty as a brother and an order from his princess, Big Mac could not let anypony down now, “Ah will do mah best, yer highness, both as yer subject, and as Applejack’s bruther!”

Celestia gave the red pony a warm smile, “She’s a lucky pony to have you watching out for her, Big Mac. Keep her safe.” And with that, she and Luna disappeared from Big Mac’s dreams. The whole thing had seemed like it had taken an eternity, but in reality had just taken an hour.

That being said, Big Mac was still uneasy. He found himself waking up to the sound of…nothing. He could have sworn he could have heard his sister making all kinds of noises during the dream talk with the princesses, but now he heard nothing.

Taking slow, careful steps, the large pony walked towards the door at the end of the hall, taking care not to wake up Apple Bloom as he passed by her door. Somehow, she’d slept through the screaming, but then again she was just still a filly, and they slept like rocks. Still, Big Mac thought, better safe than sorry.

At last, he reached the door, and mustering up all his courage, slowly pushed it open.
His heart racing with every creak the door made, he couldn’t recall a time when he’d been more scared. But it wasn’t for the monster he thought might be in the room; it was for the monster who was also his beloved sister that was in the room. The door now open fully, Big Mac cringed at what he saw.

His sister was curled up in the blankets and turned away from the door. All he could see was a vague outline of her shape. Well, at least she’s still shaped like a pony thought Big Mac, taking small pleasures where he could in the face of what might be under there. Creeping closer, he slowly extended a hoof to uncover the blankets and…

No, Ah can’t do it. She needs the sleep, ‘an Ah don’t ‘ave an excuse for bein’ here. Oh, princesses, please let her be alright…

Although Big Mac would never know it, Applejack had finally settled down into sleep and for possibly the first time since her problems started was at peace. A fragile, temporary peace, but it was still something. Big Mac gave the sleeping form of his sister one last look before exiting and closing the door.

“Watcha dooin?”

Big Mac damn near jumped out of his skin before looking to find the source of the voice. Apple Bloom looked up at him.

Okay, he thought, maybe they don’t sleep like rocks. Now how in the hay am I gonna explain this to the one other pony who doesn’t need to know the family history involving evil curses…
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“Luna, one more question before I’ll let you out of my head,” said Celestia, the two alicorns having spent some more discussion about the situation away from Big Macintosh, this time in a more attractive setting of the Haywood Tower Hotel penthouse balcony, as Celestia remembered it in her dreams.

“Shoot.”

“Why did you even answer that letter Big Mac sent you? Last I checked these things never end well since every other time the ponies have wanted to-“

“Yeah, I know, but I didn’t really have anything better to do, now did I sister?”

Celestia could only look at her sister slightly slack jawed, unable to come up with a logical comeback. Victorious, the younger of the pair got up and kissed the older on the cheek.
“Now I actually have to do my job now, so have sweet dreams sister, and I’ll see you in the morning.”

Princess Luna then turned and entered the elevator, which transported her directly to the dreamlands, leaving Celestia still trying to comprehend Luna’s reasoning.