• 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.5: Monadology

Chapter 5: “Monadology”


It was a new day in Equestria as Celestia’s sun rose in the sky and Luna’s moon went below the horizon. Birds were chirping and the weather team had ensured there was not a cloud in the sky. It was a perfect day that the residents of Ponyville woke up to.

Applejack herself, despite the nightmares she’d been subjected to, woke up feeling just fine. She practically jumped out of bed as she quickly tidied up her hair and went to have breakfast with the family.

“Mornin’, everypony!” greeted her family as they gathered in the kitchen.

“Mornin’ Applejack. Did ya sleep alright last night?” Granny inquired. “You were a-howlin’ and a shoutin’ a lot, like you were havin’ some kinda horrific nightmare or somethin’.” Big Mac stiffened for a second at the mention of “nightmare” after his own dream experience, but nopony noticed.

“Can’t say that Ah did, Granny,” replied the puzzled pony. While Applejack was sure that she’d had some kinda dream last night, none of the details were coming to mind and she certainly didn’t remember having trouble sleeping. “If Ah was makin’ a racket, though, Ah hope it didn’t keep any of ya’ll up last night.”

The family talk broke down into trivial discussion at that point as Apple Bloom helped serve up the table. Topics of all sorts came and went: the price of corn seed, Apple Bloom’s school play that night, what record Rainbow Dash would try to break this week, etc. But hidden under the small talk was Applejack noticing that, despite what she had believed yesterday, eating a meal with no apples in it did not make this meal taste as good as she thought it should. In fact, it was slightly blander tasting than yesterday.

Definitely need to talk to Twilight today, Applejack reminded herself. This can’t keep going on or else Ah may never recognize mahself at the end of this.
______________________________________________________________________________
After breakfast, Applejack went back upstairs to the bathroom to begin the usual ritual of personal cleanliness: a quick shower to refresh one’s self, then brushing the teeth and finally fixing up the mane. That’s what Rarity would think of this, thought Applejack while in the shower. The cascading water felt good on her as she soaped up and worked at her fur until it shone a brilliant orange. Normally AJ wouldn’t bother going the extra mile and just settled for clean, but she was going into town and her coat did need a thorough scrubbing anyway.

Turning off the flow of water, the mare stepped out of the shower to towel off before proceeding to brush her teeth. That’s when she saw them. Normally, pony teeth were almost flush with each other on top, as while they were theoretically omnivores their biology and teeth structure suggested they were much more suited to a fully-vegetarian diet. But what Applejack noticed was that some of her forward teeth had slightly changed to be more fang like,. Running her hoof over one of them and judging it to be real, she was confused as to what that could mean. Not like Ah don’t have enough issues at this point, thought Applejack as she proceeded to brush her teeth, just one more thing to ask Twi.

___________________________________________________________________________

“Hold on, hold on!” shouted an exasperated Twilight Sparkle as she dug through a massive pile of books marked “Twilight Sparkle’s Personal To-Read Pile”. Rainbow Dash had come in and asked for the latest book in the Daring Do series, having finished the last one at a rate almost rivaling Twilight herself.

Well, if she’s the fastest in Equestria, I guess she wants it to apply to books as well, mused the unicorn as she dug deeper into the mountain of paper and words she’d built. Finally, she found the book the impatient pegasus wanted so badly.

“Yes!” exclaimed Rainbow as she flew over to help pull out her friend of the book fortress. Taking the book, she read off the title: “Daring Do and the Philosopher’s Legacy. Interesting. I hope it’s better than the last one.”

Sparkle just rolled her eyes at the comment. The previous book, Daring Do and the Crystal Saddle, had fallen well below the standard quality, and the rabid fangirl Rainbow Dash was still going on about it.

“I mean, come on! The “Turians” as some kind of forerunner race of aliens that created the early pony civilizations, what a joke! You agree with me, right Twilight?”

“Actually, I thought the ideas of challenging the notion our princesses are the most powerful beings on Earth was quite interesting. The execution, though? It...left much to be desired.”

Ever ready to argue -- or rather “discuss” it, to put it in Twilight Sparkle terms -- the finer points of the Daring Do universe, Rainbow was trying to come up with a reply when there was a knock at the door.

“I’ll get it!” shouted Spike, who found a strangely nervous Applejack on the other side.

“Hey, Twilight?” inquired the earth pony, “Ah need to talk to ya.”

“Oh, what about?” answered the lavender intellectual, always ready to help a friend.

“It’s…sorta about a private matter…”

Rainbow Dash raised an eyebrow, “Whoa there, you’re not saying that you’ve got the hots for Twilight, are you?” The pegasus was well aware of Applejack’s sexual orientation being as straight as a ruler’s edge, but the opportunity to rib her athletic rival was too good to pass up.

Applejack’s face immediately turned a shade of red-orange, the blush mixing with her natural coat, “Rainbow! Ya know Ah’m not like that! This is totally different. Ah think Ah need some psychological advice!”

At that the pegasus stopped snickering as her eyes went wide. She was not a fan of Twilight’s “psychological help” after the last time when the unicorn was convinced some minor argument between Dash and another pegasus named Cloud Kicker was born out of unresolved sexual tension due to a bloody catfight that somehow rendered Rainbow unable to have kids. To this day Rainbow didn’t know if the unicorn had been crazy or a genius with that blatantly incorrect statement, as it immediately killed the argument over a five-bit bet Rainbow technically still owed Cloudy. But the bottom line was that this was something to clearly stay out of.

“So, um, yeah…” began Rainbow, “this book is due back at the end of next month, right?”

“That’s correct. Also, don’t be late like you were two months ago, I had to raise late fees and even though you’re my friend I can’t exempt-“

“Yeahthatsgreatnicetalkingtoyougottagookaythanksbye!” was all that Twilight heard as
Rainbow Dash shot out of the library like a bat out of Tartarus before the librarian was even done talking.

“Huh, I wonder what that was all about?” Twilight mused before adding, “Oh, I know, she just wanted to give you some space since you said this is kind of private.”

“Uh, Ah guess so,” replied Applejack, amazed Twilight didn’t remember why Rainbow Dash had a problem with her psychotherapy. Frankly, Applejack didn’t trust it that much either, but it was better than-

“Actually, before we start, let me get some psychology books for reference!” Twilight suddenly said, diving back into the giant pile of books behind her.

On second thought, Applejack mentally lamented, maybe Ah should have gone to somepony other than Twilight…
_____________________________________________________________________________

“Remind me again why you thought this was a good idea, Celestia?”

“Well, at the time it seemed like a good idea. I might have partied a little too hard in celebration of Discord’s re-imprisonment.”

“Are you saying that you actually consumed enough alcohol that it affected your thinking?”

“That is not something you need to know, Luna.”

“Oh, are you going to now say that you’re also pregnant with some random subject’s foal and you don’t know who the father is?”

“Okay, I may have gotten a little drunk, but I’d think by now I’d be showing signs if I was pregnant because of that party, which I almost certainly am not! Plus, as the princess who has ruled over this land for over a thousand years I think I’m allowed to cut loose every century or so at least!”

“Oh, what would the populace think if you actually did have a foal? Blueblood would be furious, especially since I bet he’s been after the throne for years.”

“You have no idea, sister. To be perfectly honest, having a foal just to make sure there’s another heir to the throne in order to aggravate him would be so worth the trouble. But then again, there’s Cadance for that.”

“But I thought that Twilight-“

“I told you Luna, she’s not ready for the book yet. Besides, she needs the Elements for that, and right now that’s our main concern.”

“Right. So, er, how are we getting out of this again?”

The two princesses had somehow managed to make a bad situation worse. The easy part was getting to the hanging box, and removing the locks once they’d secured it on solid ground. The hard part was removing it from the string without setting off the crossbows and blowing the tower to smithereens. Right now, they’d managed to stop the tower from getting blown up, but at the same time now had tethered crossbow lines tying them in a giant ball hanging off of the box containing the Elements.

“Hold on,” Celestia grunted, horn shining with a yellow aura. “Almost got it…there!”

There was a blinding flash of light, which seemed to linger for a few seconds. Then the princesses found themselves on the solid ledge where they’d started the misadventure three hours ago. The entire room had reset thanks to a failsafe spell Celestia had put in for just the occasion. She hadn’t planned on the whole set up being this hard to defuse, however.

“Time to try again, huh?” asked Luna, the hesitancy in her voice clear.

“We don’t have much of a choice. I guess this time we should-“ Celestia began, but was cut off by the door opening and a royal messenger appearing from behind it.

“Your majesties, the emissary from Draconia is here and waiting for you.”

“Thank you, Quick Wind,” said Celestia, giving him a warm smile that hid her current animosity towards her creation in the room. “Tell him Luna and I will be right down to see to him; we’re just finishing up our business here.”

“Yes, your highness,” replied Quick as he left. The moment he did, Celestia dropped the smile and facehoofed. She did not like the Draconian emissary, for he was a fat and pompous boor who thought he was better than ponies - especially the princesses, even though they controlled the orbit of the sun and moon and pretty much ensured the planet was still habitable for anything bigger than a cockroach.

“I wonder if I could negotiate with the dragons for the ability to kill their emissary. I doubt he would be missed,” mused Celestia.

“Then they’ll just send another exactly like him, if not worse. You know what the dragons think of us, sister.” Luna flatly replied.

Mock sighing, Celestia resigned herself to having to deal with politics instead of trying to prevent the potential outbreak of an evil curse which had formerly been sleeping for a thousand years. “I guess you’re right, Luna. We’ll try this again tomorrow. “

She turned to leave her deathtrap room, Luna following suit while asking, “By the way, Celly, is there more to Twilight supposedly being able to become a crown princess beyond her unrivaled magic ability?”

Celestia was about to reply with the true answer, but decided to have a little more fun with Luna instead. “Oh, yes,” she started, the tiniest bit of a grin starting to appear on her face, “she’s actually an extremely distant relative of the alicorn blood line, which is why she’s so powerful. Much more powerful than your daughter Trixie.”

“Oh, I guess that-what?!” Luna exclaimed, “You’re lying, I don’t have a daughter! I’ve been on the moon for a thousand years, how in the hay could I-“

Celestia was doing everything she could to not burst out laughing. This annoyed Luna. Slipping back into her old RCV dialect, she bellowed “Thou shall admit We do not have such a child! How could We even conceive of a foaling in a place where there are no males?! And furthermore, We would feel it would be Our duty as the younger princess to have Our elder sister meet such a suitable male that--”

The explanation having reached ludicrous levels, instead of answering, Celestia decided to just start running away, finally letting the floodgates of laughter spew from her mouth.

“Celestiaaaaaa!” cried out Luna as she gave chase. For all their years and differences, even now the royal sisters acted as little more than foals with the entire castle as their playground. Some would call it a blatant display of immaturity and that they were ill-suited to be co-rulers of the country. But in reality it was just two sisters having fun behind the scenes of the dreariness that was their political lives.
______________________________________________________________________________

It was already getting late when Applejack finally managed to escape the mental asylum that was Golden Oaks Library. Although Twilight truly wanted to help Applejack, she had tended to stick to her books a little too much in trying to diagnose what was going on with her friend. As a result, countless hours had been wasted by Twilight conducting tests that generated completely useless results.

But what was worse is that another strange behavior had made itself known to Applejack during the whole ordeal. Twilight, being too engrossed in her books, hadn’t noticed, but Applejack was understandably disturbed when she discovered she’d been trying to use her hind legs to scratch like a dog. Sure, ponies did it sometimes, but not almost exclusively. She desperately needed help, but the problem was she didn’t know who to go talk to. Nopony would listen to her if she outright stated she was having cannibalistic thoughts, her teeth were physically changing, and now she was acting like a dog.

Oh, hey, Screw Loose, guess what! There’s somebody who is just like you and she’s gonna be your new roommate! I’m sure you’ll be the best of friends! thought Applejack in a mocking impersonation of a psychiatric doctor. AJ meant no offense to the poor mare, but there was a difference between thinking you’re a dog and actually acting like one.

The various thoughts in Applejack’s head kept on going around and around as she desperately tried to fit the puzzle pieces together. But to her, it felt like every single piece was coming from a different puzzle, nothing was fitting together and no clear picture could be made. As Applejack was deeply embroiled in her thoughts, she absent mindedly took the wrong fork in the road and was heading towards a section of Ponyville she usually avoided.

The reason she tended to avoid that part of town was its main attraction: a restaurant called “The Meatery”. Even though Ponyville was still a small town compared to cities like Fillydelphia and Manehattan, its centralized location and close proximity to Canterlot on the rail lines made it a hotspot for other, visiting species to come and go through. In response to this open market of hungry carnivores, The Meatery opened up on the far side of town to cater to that underserved clientele. While half the menu was vegetarian fare in order to serve the majority of its customers, it was the famed "Pack Room,” the separate portion of the restaurant that catered to carnivores and omnivores, that won the restaurant accolades and sobriquets from far and wide, becoming a regional attraction in its own right. Applejack, who was for the most part a natural vegetarian like all ponies, had never visited the restaurant.

However, the fact she had now entered it didn’t seem to register, her mind already too preoccupied with her own problems. She also didn’t react to the greeter’s reaction when she wandered past him, seating herself in the nearest empty booth in the Pack Room, which was very sparse of any ponies inside it save for two; a pegasus who looked like a royal guard soldier on break and one of Luna’s night guards. There was also a griffon there as well, her highlights black and there was also this weird scar that she had. As the server left to go put in her order Applejack turned her head away from the odd trio to try and resume thinking about her own problems. Oddly, she couldn’t take her mind off of something Twilight had mentioned during the “tests” she’d been performing; something about a legend of mythical monsters she’d heard about. Werewolves, ponies who had been cursed by an evil force to take the form of a wolf-like monster during the full moon, whereupon they would terrorize the local settlements. The whole reason she’d brought it up is because the answer to what had bitten Applejack exactly was still up for debate, to which AJ was skeptical as Twilight had even said the last reported werewolf attack was over a century ago, and even that was theoretical.

She thanked the server who had brought her the burger she had ordered, although really her mind was trying to rationalize what was happening to her. She definitely knew her violent anger was a part of it, since she’d intended to talk to Sandalwood even before going into the woods but only after getting attacked at the car crash site did she harbor any feelings of violence and wow this burger was good and then there was the whole wanting to eat the Cake Twins thing which applejack still didn’t understand at all as it had no basis in anything and then while she took another bite of the delicious meat burger she pondered more about what was going on with her between the weird teeth growth and the dog scratching and the openly eating an incredibly amazing meat burger right now and-

The out of control train of thought in Applejack’s head came to a screeching halt as she replayed that last thought. Openly eating a meat burger?

She looked down at the…thing…in her hooves. It was a BLT burger, one of The Meatery’s more famous options.


And it was half eaten.



By her.




She freaked.
______________________________________________________________________________
“Thank you so much, um…” Granny Smith started.

“Private Angel Beats, m’am!” replied the guardspony cheerfully.

“Ah, yes, thank you Miss Beats!”

“Only doing my duty, ma’am!”

The guardspony then turned around and trotted over to where the griffon and the other guardspony were waiting. It was thanks to them that the scene Applejack ended up making at The Meatery wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been. While details were not provided, Granny had noticed the griffon still pulling out strands of spaghetti noodle from her feathers, although from that the old mare didn’t know what to make of what really happened with her granddaughter outside of it involving a hamburger of some sort she’d half-eaten without realizing it.

She watched the unusual trio go down the road, back towards the town where they were staying. When they were sufficiently out of sight she turned and headed back inside. Big Mac was waiting at the foot of the steps. He’d taken his sister upstairs and laid her in bed, where she clutched one of her pillows tightly as if her life depended on it. If there was any silver lining to what was going on, it was that Apple Bloom wasn’t present; she’d stayed at the school to help prepare the stage for the play. Nopony knew what her reaction would have been to seeing Applejack have to be carried on the back of a griffoness and then hauled on Big Mac’s back up to her room, the shock of having eaten actual meat still rendering the poor girl numb to the world around her.

“Ah really do not like the idea of leavin’ her alone up there,” said Granny. It was heartbreaking for her to see what had befallen her granddaughter after what had seemed like a miraculous survival from a grievous wound and after losing both her son and daughter-in-law ten years ago, she didn’t know if she could lose another family member so soon afterwards.

“Ah agree, but we gotta go to Bloomie’s play, y’know how much she’s been wantin’ us to see it,” replied the stallion. “Ah also think poor Applejack needs her space, whatever she’s goin’ through must be terribly personal, or else she would have come to us. Unless…”

“Don’t ya dare say what Ah think yer gonna say!”

“Granny, let’s talk on the way to the play, but Ah think Applejack’s problems are much more serious than even you seem to think they are.”

___________________________________________________________________________

After Big Mac and Granny had left, the house was dead silent. For an hour all Applejack could do was lay in bed, tightly hugging the pillow to her chest as her brain tried in vain to process what could possibly be happening to her.

Her anger somehow turning into hair-trigger violence, the indescribable nightmares, the urge to eat younglings, her teeth somehow becoming more jagged overnight, the constant dog-like scratching, and now the piece d’ resistance; she had not only eaten half of a BLT burger, but she had savored it.

What’s happening to me? the confused mare thought. Why am Ah acting so differently? Who am Ah becoming?

The moment it started she immediately regretted even thinking the question.

At first, it was just an itchy feeling on her back, easy enough to scratch. Except scratching it didn’t make the feeling go away. Instead, it got larger. And larger. Soon, she felt itchy all over and it was escalating from an annoying itch into actual pain. Panicking, Applejack started screaming into the pillow, trying to hug it tighter as if it would end the suffering, but it only got worse. As if her whole body was on fire from the inside.

Suddenly, the pain intensified in her head. “Oh, sweet Celestia!” the poor pony cried out as she moved to try and hold her head with her hooves. She started rolling around, eventually falling off the bed and onto the floor, but if there had been any pain from the falling it was masked by the pain her whole body was feeling.

“Ah’m…Ah’m burnin’! AH’M BURNIN’!” wailed Applejack, the screams starting to turn into sobs as her own body turned against her. She knew nopony could hear her, the family was still at the school play, but that didn’t stop her desperate exclamations in the futile hope that they were home early and that they could do something.

The “rolling on the floor in pain” procedure lasted for another minute before Applejack ended up on her side, unable to control herself but the convulsions kept on going. Tears flowed freely from her eyes even as she kept them closed, trying to ride out this pain. Wh-why? she desperately asked nopony in particular in her thoughts. Why me?

As if in response, the pain suddenly lessened. Not gone completely, but just barely enough that she wasn’t appearing to have been electrocuted. But a strange half-pain, half…something feeling began to develop on her front hooves. She feared what was going on, but regardless she slowly opened her eyes.

Looking at her front hooves, she was horrified to see whatever process she was going through had only just started. Where the strange feeling was happening on her hooves, little nubs of flesh were rising. AJ couldn’t believe it; her hooves were turning into paws of some kind! She began to hyperventilate, her mind once again reeling at this new development as it tried to think of anything even remotely close to the situation at hand.

Then it was punished as the body-wide pain rose up again, sending Applejack into a new set of convulsions as she clamped her eyes shut again and screamed as loud as possible. She somehow felt her ears though the pain as they began to change, though she knew not what into. Her front…feet had apparently finished changing just in time for the same sensation to happen to her hind legs so she would end up with two matching pairs of disfigured hooves. All the while she kept on screaming and wailing to no avail, not noticing her sharp intakes of breath beginning to sound slightly raspier with each breath. For Applejack, the pain seemed to go on without end, her body being contorted into some monstrous shape for reasons she could not even begin to fathom.

And yet as quickly as it had started, it was finished. The entire process had in fact only taken five minutes, but even if Applejack had been thinking clearly enough to realize this it would have done little to cushion the maddening stew of feelings she was experiencing at the moment.

Panting heavily, Applejack eventually felt brave enough to try moving her limbs. Carefully, she began moving her limbs gingerly, lest any more movement start the whole parade of pain again. It was a slow process, but at last Applejack was standing on all four legs again. But was she the same Applejack?

There was a full body mirror propped up on the other end of the room, a gift from Rarity to try and encourage her farmer friend to be a little more sensible in appearance. Knowing that it was inevitable, Applejack began to move towards it. She immediately cringed as her new paws went up and down on the floor. It wasn’t pain; Thank Celestia, but the bottoms of her feet felt really strange, like she was walking on pads of some sort instead of the hard-bottom hooves she was accustomed to.

At last, she stood before a mirror, looking at the figure who stared straight back at her. She was a changed mare, alright. Her bright, emerald eyes looked the same for the most part, and she generally still resembled an equine, but now her profile looked more like a jagged outline instead of the well-built working pony she’d been only minutes ago. Her muzzle had extended slightly, becoming a bit more angular like a canine’s but still rounded enough to be reminiscent of what it used to be, her elongated canines now much more noticeable and remained visible even with her mouth closed. Her mane was a mess, blonde hair wildly ruffled up and the tie on her ponytail partially obscured by all the growth. Her actual tail was the same story. The ears on her head had become more pointed and slightly higher up on her head. Her fur had grown thicker as well, at least by maybe an inch, her beloved cutie mark of three apples now looking like three red, blurry dots, their defined shape lost in her now bushy coat.

But as she looked down at the new ends of her limbs, the final pieces of the puzzle fell into place. What had once been hooves had now become unmistakably canine paws, padded on the bottom with small claws at the end of the toes.

Looking back at the reflection in the mirror again, she mouthed the answer that explained everything.


Ah’m a werewolf.

She fell back to sit on her haunches, the revelation echoing through her head. Was she even still who she thought she was; Applejack, middle child of the Apple Family, the Element of Honesty, the simple farm mare? The thing that looked back at her through the mirror looked like Applejack, but only just.

Her gaze slowly turned right, and then focused on what was Applejack’s greatest treasure, short of her family and friends. Her trusty old Stetson cowboy hat, hanging in its usual spot on the rack next to the door. It had originally been her father’s before he passed away, she’d inherited it after her misadventures in Manehattan led her back home to the farm, where her family and cutie mark awaited her. She never left home without it, her one remaining connection to her parents.

Getting up, she walked over to the stand and placed the family heirloom on her head. Then, moving once again in front of the mirror, she confronted her new form. For the first time that night, she smiled, for now it was Applejack who smiled back. Fuzzier, more canine-like Applejack, but the combination of colors and hat confirmed it was still the same mare underneath.

One would think that in this situation, after having a crisis of identity just after a horrific transformation into something completely unnatural, the affected would start wondering many things like “Is this permanent or not?”, “How will I break the news to my family and friends?” or even “Am I going to have to worry about fleas now?”

But for Applejack, a werewolf having just gone through her first transformation, only one thing came to her mind in terms of what she should do next: Ah really want to go runnin’!
___________________________________________________________________________
“Applejack, we’re hooooome!” shouted Apple Bloom, preceding her brother and grandmother into the house. The play had gone off without a hitch, namely because the CMC had been given bit parts that didn’t actually involve much acting such as a talking tree.

“Ah’m gonna go check on ‘er” said Big Mac, proceeding up the steps. There wasn’t any screaming, no moaning, no anything in the upstairs hallway. However, the stallion could only pray that the worst had not happened.

Reaching the door, he knocked, “Applejack, are ya in there? We’re home.”

No response.

“Applejack? Hello?”

No response.

Maybe she’s just sleeping, he thought, as he opened the door. Had he been a mare he most likely would have screamed at that point, because what he found chilled him far deeper than just to the bone. Applejack was not in her room at all, neither was the Stetson. Instead, there was a rumpled bed with a slightly ripped up pillow, a few strands of fur and mane hair that looked similar to the mare’s colors, and the window on the far wall had been left open.

No…Big Mac internally mourned. It was too late, he knew there was no way it was going to happen faster than he’d expected from his previous experience with werewolves, but he now felt completely and utterly like a failure.

“Big Mac! Is everythin’ okay up there?” hollered Granny at the foot of the stairs. Big Mac didn’t respond, his mind having gone into shock. Not having heard from her one grandson, she ascended the stairs to make sure he was alright. “Did ya hear me, Ah said is everythin-“

Seeing her grandson looking into Applejack’s room with an expression of total devastation, she understood what had happened. She too knew of the real fate of her son and daughter-in-law, and many a time had she mourned them, but she’d expressed skepticism when Big Mac secretly told her of his suspicions that the same fate now awaited Applejack. Celestia herself had destroyed the vile beast, how could it have survived. And yet, as she walked over to see the room for herself, she concluded it was the only answer.

“Big Mac, close this door. Apple Bloom can’t know the fate of her sister. This path we are stuck on will be tragic enough, that filly doesn’t need to join us on it”

Nodding, he drew the door shut, both he and Granny wordlessly walking away. As far as Apple Bloom was told, her sister was sleeping and should not be disturbed. But if Applejack wasn’t back in her room by breakfast tomorrow, how would her absence be explained? It was a question both Big Mac and Granny desperately wanted an answer too, but knew no way of providing it.

_____________________________________________________________________________

Applejack hadn’t felt this good in a long, long time. Normally, she was already extremely athletic even for a young mare of her size. Years of working on the farm and rodeo competitions had conditioned her to top physical condition. But in her hybridized form, she could go even faster, and she was enjoying every second of it.

Maybe Ah could even beat Rainbow like this, the lycanthrope wondered as her legs propelled her further and further into the heart of the Everfree Forest. She couldn’t believe that a little over a month ago that she’d been scared stiff to come into these woods at night, now that she was rushing through the trees she didn’t have a care in the world, except maybe avoiding Poison Joke. That should always be a priority.

Having lost track of time, Applejack found herself at a location she didn’t think she’d ever return to. Standing at the far end of the chasm, on the other side lay the ruins of Castle Everfree; Where she and her friends fulfilled destiny by restoring Luna and repowering the Elements. Her mind still high on adrenaline, AJ ran across the rickety bridge and into the castle, only slowing just slightly to take a turn up another flight of stairs.

Eventually, she reached the top of the eastern tower battlement, the highest point still standing of the once great fortress. Letting her new wolfish side take control, she inhaled a deep breath before letting out a very non ponylike sound: “AH-WOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

She howled up at the moon, which coincidentally was in the full moon phase. As the transformed pony stood on the battlement, the adrenaline began to subside and her thoughts became earthbound once more. Ah’ll need to keep the whole carnivore thing in check, thought AJ, but If Ah can keep mahself in control this whole werewolf thing may not be so bad…

Sure, there were some glaring problems if she was to continue living with being a werewolf. Her family would need to know, and friends, since it would be futile to hide this secret from them. She also would want to know what exactly attacked her that night, which she figured was what turned her into this, as while it would most likely work out for Applejack in the long run, nopony else should have to be turned into a werepony. Applejack even admitted to herself that given the choice she wouldn’t want to live like this forever, but she had to make do. After all, if what little she knew about this condition was true, it was incurable. But that doesn’t mean Ah can’t enjoy the benefits, either, thought the mare as she looked out upon the Everfree, pondering the positive aspects of her new abilities.

______________________________________________________________________________

Luna stood upon the balcony just outside her personal quarters, angrily gazing in the sky as her horn burned a beautiful indigo hue. One of the constellations had gotten out of line and was being…difficult…to fix.

Then out of nowhere she heard the unmistakable howl of a wolf, which jolted Luna and caused the constellation she was fixing to explode into morse code that spelled out a very dirty expletive. But Luna paid no attention to her night as she rushed to the railing, trying to pinpoint the noise. The howl did not sound again, but after doing the calculations in her head the night princess figured it had echoed off of the mountains and had come from somewhere in the Everfree. It had also sounded suspiciously simil-

Oh, no.

That was when Celestia teleported in, still wearing a sleeping mask and PJ’s covered in suns with smiley faces. Her expression matched Luna’s as they wordlessly came to the conclusion that something terrible had happened.

“We need the Elements. Now!” Luna cried to her counterpart. Celestia found herself only able to nod, before teleporting both her and Luna to the southern tower. There the Elements remained, bait for Celestia’s madcap answer to Discord one-upping her that one time.

“Luna, remind me once Applejack is back to normal, I’m leaving these damn things in Twilight Sparkle’s care the next time I see her!”

_____________________________________________________________________________

About three miles from Castle Everfree, Applejack’s howling stirred another from his slumber. Ordinarily such a disturbance would immediately call for their wrath upon the offender, but instead the sound only brought a wide, evil smile to a shrouded face.

“Soon, little one…soon, you will belong to me, and give me all that I want from this wretched world!” stated the dark figure through wicked lips, looking out in the direction of the noise. It had taken over a month, but the plan was finally making some progress. It would take longer for it to reach completion, naturally, as the pieces needed to be set in their final positions, but if there was one thing above all else that had been accounted for, it was patience. Satisfied, the individual settled back down to sleep, for there was much to be done in the morning. Much to be done indeed.