• Published 24th Mar 2013
  • 12,559 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.6: Lies

Chapter 6: Lies

It was a peaceful night, aside from some mysterious howling going on from the Everfree Forest, but for the residents of Canterlot it was not enough to awaken them from their slumber. However, in the very early hours of the morning, long after the howling had stopped, the residents of the mountainside capital were rocked as a huge explosion shook the foundations of Canterlot. Those who immediately rushed out of their homes to investigate the manner were horrified to find that there was smoke billowing from where the southernmost spire of the castle had once stood. Was the city under attack? Were the Changelings returning to get revenge after the failure of their last invasion?

“Everypony, please calm down and return to your homes!” cried out some royal guardponies, a mix between the day and night guards, who were filtering through the streets with all due haste. “There is nothing to worry about, the city is not under attack! It’s only just a training accident! Everypony in the castle, including the princesses, are safe and sound!”

Naturally, the majority of the populace were still worried, but if the guards were saying it was just an accident, then what else could they do besides listen to them and return to sleep? Slowly, the streets of Canterlot emptied as ponies entered their beds once more to try and find comfort in the blankets and pillows.
Meanwhile, at Ground Zero, Princess Celestia and Princess Luna stood on what was left of the platform that had once been under Celestia’s infernal trap. They were partially covered in dust which had formerly been ancient masonry work, their coats were singed all over, and Celestia’s pajamas were a total loss. Gripped in her yellow magic was the box containing the Elements of Harmony, finally separated from the devious crossbow-launching cord that had plagued the sisters only hours ago.

“Why did you even set the tower to explode?” coughed Luna.

“Because I figured that if anypony could get this far into the castle to steal the Elements, they would have to have been very powerful and only an explosion of that magnitude would have stopped them,” answered Celestia. “Plus, I never really liked this tower, it was pretty ugly and even if I hadn’t blown it up just now I would have had it replaced eventually. You did say you wanted an observatory, didn’t you, Luna?”

“Why do I get the feeling that even though you’re being accommodating to me, that’s just an excuse to give up on your own trap and scare those stuck-up nobles by blowing up part of the castle just for fun?”

Celestia nuzzled her little sister. “You know me too well, Luna. Now, I need to go clean up so it doesn’t look like I’m dying of a plague and then raise the sun, so if you could get the box open that would be great.”

“Yes, because who knows what would happen if the stuck-up Canterlot elite thought you’d suddenly turned into a black-spotted pinto alicorn?” Luna smirked.

“It would totally be worth it just to see their faces!” laughed Celestia as she teleported back to her private quarters. Luna did the same, Elements box in tow, before setting it down on a table and getting to work on the three locks. It was an unusual set of locks, as instead of keys they had to be unlocked through the turning of dials to spell out words. She had no clues, but from the size the words had to be Luna immediately tried a familiar phrase and got the box open on the first go.

“Heh. ‘Silly nonsense’ indeed, Celly,” Luna chuckled as she looked at the gleaming artifacts within the box. The password to open the box had been “NEW-LUNAR-REPUBLIC.”

Somehow, even after running almost non-stop from the farm to the castle in the heart of the Everfree Forest, and then again back home before leaping through her open window into the bedroom where it had all began, Applejack woke up feeling rather energized.

She got out of bed and stood in front of the mirror. Although she couldn’t remember doing anything other than collapsing on her bed upon her return, now her body was once again in its original, familiar pony shape. No overgrown mane or fur coat, no paws instead of hooves, those sharp teeth were gone, and her cutie mark was once again a well-defined trio of apples colored bright red. Anypony who looked at her right now would have said she didn’t seem at all different from what a pony mare should look like.

Hopefully, she thought, it’s gonna stay like this, ‘cause tryin’ to hide paws would be very difficult.

“Big Mac? Granny? Is somethin’ wrong? Where’s Apple Bloom?” asked the confused mare, taking her seat.

“Apple Bloom is over at the Carousel Boutique with Rarity and Sweetie Belle. We sent her there because she doesn’t need to be involved in this,” Granny answered, before turning to face her middle grandchild with a concerned look, “Applejack…we need to talk. You’ve been acting all strange like for a few days now, the latest bein’ not only somehow eatin’ half a meat burger without even realizin’ it but you also go missin’ from your room last night? As your family, we’re concerned about what’s happenin’ to you, and we want to help you, but there’s nothin’ we can do if you don’t tell us.”

Big Mac simply nodded with an “Eeyup.” While it wasn’t a case of words flowing out of his mouth, it was still clear to Applejack he was dead serious about this, both he and Granny wanting to know the reason for her recent actions. But she couldn’t tell them, not yet, she was still unsure about how to break the news to them that she was now a werewolf. But she had to say something.

“Ah…Well, Ah…” she started, the other two ponies leaning in to hear better, “Ah’m sorry, but what’s goin on with me…it’s a private matter. Like, real private, so private that Ah can’t tell you. Not yet. Don’t get me wrong, Ah wish Ah could, especially to ya’ll since Ah know the family is willin’ to help with just about anythin’, but this just isn’t the time.”

Somehow, Granny’s age decided to make her mind play connect the wrong dots and make an incorrect assumption when she asked, “What, are you tryin’ to say you’re pregnant?”

Applejack’s pupils shrunk into a very small size as she reeled in shock, “What?! Land sakes, no! Ah am not carryin’ a foal inside of me, Ah can assure you of that right now! Heck, Ah don’t even have anypony Ah’m interested in makin’ mah special somepony right now, so what in Equestria makes you think Ah’ve been seeing somepony so intimately and behind your back?!”

Granny shrugged. “Well, Ah don’t know, just seemed like somethin’ a young mare like yourself would want to keep secret.”

Applejack sighed. “Look, Ah know ya’ll want to help, but Ah really just want to keep this private. We’re a close family and Ah always am open with just about evertythin’ with you, so Ah’d honestly appreciate it if Ah could just deal with this thing by mahself.”

Big Mac, always the silent observer, didn’t know what to do. He, along with Granny, were almost certain at this point of Applejack’s lycanthropy, but Celestia had warned him (and him to Granny, by extension) about the potential risk of destabilizing somepony who didn’t know they were a werewolf by informing them as such, and although there was a small amount of evidence it wasn’t nearly enough to force Applejack into confessing about being a werewolf if she was already aware of it. With a long term plan needing to still be developed, Big Mac had no choice but to let his sister “deal with this thing by herself.” But whatever this problem of hers was, lycanthropy or not, it was still cause for concern and he had to make sure the family knew what was going on at this point. “Now, you do promise that you will tell us what’s going on with you, but only when you feel comfortable doin’ so, right?”

“Of course! Ah really don’t like keepin’ ya’ll in the dark, but Ah’m a grown mare and Ah feel like this is somethin’ Ah have to deal with alone,” replied Applejack. If there was any bit of her lying, she’d gotten significantly better about not showing it, Big Mac noted. Plus, as the Element of Honesty and an Apple Family member, truthfulness was pretty much the definition of her essence, so there was no choice but to accept AJ on her word that she’d deal with this her own way and talk about it later.

Granny, forced to the same conclusion, agreed and got up to get started on breakfast. As for Applejack, she was amazed that she’d been able to talk her way out of explaining about how unpony like she’d been last night. She had been honest in promising to reveal her secrets later on, but only when she’d gotten more comfortable with her condition. Now the only question was if she could hide it from her friends until that point as well. But that was a problem to worry about later. The current problem was having her fill of breakfast (which thankfully wasn’t as apple-heavy as usual) and getting ready for a hard day of applebucking, as the southern field was ready for harvesting.

Over in Sugarcube Corner, business was rather light. This was expected, as there was usually a lull in customers after the morning pastry rush. At the moment, Pinkie Pie was busy moving around trays with various amounts of baked sugary goodness on top of them, making way for more to be put in. She was busy trying to walk around behind the counter while carrying two trays of unsold breakfast stock when Pound Cake came running in, his sister Pumpkin chasing after him. As if communicating through a strange, shared consciousness, the twins ended up chasing each other right towards Pinkie. They liked seeing things fall on her head, especially if it was baked goods related, and right now they thought she was setting up to dump a lot of that kind of stuff on her head.

“Hey, what are you-whoa!” exclaimed Pinkie as the twins rushed her legs, attempting to make her fall. Unfortunately, Pinkie knew how to respond to this, and so tossed the trays into the air with the food still on them. Then, she somehow magically appeared in the right spot away from the twins to catch the trays, food unharmed, and slotted the trays into the display below in one swift motion. “Sorry, babies, but Pinkie’s got work to do! I’ll play with you later!”

Nodding in understanding, despite being babies who barely could even talk, the dangerous duo started their chase anew but this time into the kitchen - with their father, Carrot Cake, as the target. Pinkie could hear him go “Whoa!” in there before his surprise was followed by a sound composed of clattering pans and three layers of cake impacting an unfortunate baker pony’s face.

“Honeybuns, are you alright?!” came the worried call from the fallen stallion’s wife Cup Cake, rushing from the stairs and into the kitchen to provide assistance. All Pinkie did was knowingly smile and go back to pastry organization. The twins would be in trouble, but they wouldn’t get that much flak for their antics. After all, they were just infants who didn’t know any better and just wanted somebody to play with.

She’d just combined a tray of strawberry scones and almond cake and put it in the runners when her trademarked “Pinkie Sense” (Pat. Pend.) flared up. She began to shake all over, as if getting the shivers despite the temperature being nowhere near cold. Uh oh! thought Pinkie, There’s a doozy coming about, and judging by the intensity of my Pinkie sense it’s going to be potentially world-shattering! However, when the shuttering stopped, Pinkie just shook her head to clear her mind and then went right back to work, not worried about the potential of something coming that could possibly destroy life as she knew it.

It was already past lunchtime when the princesses, opting to go by the traditional method of guard-pulled chariots instead of just teleporting, were in view of Ponyville.

“I guess you never learned the fate of that Sable Loam character, did you sister?” Asked Luna.

Celestia sighed, “In retrospect, Sable Loam was probably one of my biggest mistakes that I made during those first years on the throne after mother passed. I thought he was just an over promoted upstart who wouldn’t dare risk his position in the guard simply to peruse some crazed obsession, so I let him leave in the hopes he would just cool off and abandon his concept of ponies-turned-wolves. He and his followers were long gone when I learned of their abandonment the next day, they could have been anywhere in the country by then, and since they weren’t causing trouble in any settlements, I paid them no attention as I was too busy proving to the nobles of my ability to rule over the country just as well as mother had. But to answer your question Luna; no, he disappeared after Sombra’s fall. I personally examined all the werewolves whose bodies were taken from the battlefields in secret so I could be sure he was dead, but instead of finding him and that red paw cutie mark of his, all I saw were horribly altered forms that had once been ponies, corrupted not only by Sombra’s magic but also Sable Loam’s insane lupine ideology. Ever since the last of the known werewolves who had been under Sombra’s command was laid to rest in the ground, I’ve hoped Sable ended up perishing in some way that disposed of his remains so he couldn’t trouble my little ponies anymore. But even if he did die hundreds of years ago, his legacy lives on somehow through some poor, tortured soul who has become a host to his love of wolves much in the same way you were a host to Nightmare Moon.”

At the mention of the dark entity that had nearly destroyed Equestria and forced Celestia to become estranged from her for a millennium, Luna couldn’t help but involuntarily shudder. She’d been young then, it had been all too easy for that influence to prey upon her, to steal her form and powers for evil intentions. However, where Nightmare Moon could only feed off of jealousy and hatred generated from her host, what Celestia had described about werewolves sounded a whole lot worse. Perfectly innocent ponies could contract the curse, which apparently was scientifically named “lycanthropy” some few centuries ago, and while the victims could continue being their true selves, they played host to an incredibly violent monster who savagely attacked its enemies and in some reports even ate infant ponies. In comparison, Nightmare Moon was an antagonistic political rival as she at least had standards about being violent and secretly had been quite a fan of vegetarian cuisine. But Applejack was potentially a “lycanthrope” now, so just thinking about how the kind hearted and trustworthy farm pony could be turned into a bloody predator of innocent ponies…Luna shuddered again. As the chariots drew closer to Ponyville, the dusky princess really hoped Applejack wasn’t actually afflicted with something that horrible, or if she was that the Elements could remove it and stop another living nightmare’s resurrection before it was too late.

Apples fell from the sky, only to land in baskets set below. Tree by tree, the landscape was slowly drained of the red and bright green dots as the industrious farm pony carried out her work. Elsewhere, Big Mac was doing the same while Granny worked on sorting the good apples from the bad in the pile of apples already harvested. Apple Bloom was still absent, having gone “crusading” with her co-conspirators after school let out, but not without first getting a hug from her big sister to make sure she was alright.

The simple, repetitive work that came to symbolize Applejack’s purpose in life, as represented by her cutie mark, allowed her to keep her mind clear. Free of the troubling thoughts that had plagued her recently, the fact she could once again just focus on kicking the crap out of trees until they cried red, round tears made her happy. Sure, life would never be as simple for her anymore, what with being secretly a werewolf, but if she could keep living her life the same way as she always had, it was nothing more than a mere complication.

As she loaded up the barrels into her cart, full enough to be offloaded at the barn, it occurred to Applejack she knew very little about her condition. Sure, she got a lot more dog like in her new alternate form, she had a desire for meat that had taken away some of the appeal apples once held for her taste buds, and it was incurable, but that was about it. Maybe Twilight has some books on werewolves, thought Applejack as she hauled the family crop away, gonna need to be careful enough to not give mahself away, but it wouldn’t hurt to know a little more about it. Ah’l probably stop by the library again after we’re done here in the fields.

She would soon discover her trip to the library would occur much sooner than that. The apples had been unloaded and the orange mare was about to leave to go abuse more trees when she recognized a familiar rainbow moving towards her. Sure enough, it was Rainbow Dash.

“Howdy, Rainbow!” Applejack greeted cheerfully.

“Hey, AJ! I know you’re doing farm work and all, but the princesses just arrived five minutes ago at Twilight’s place and they want all of us to go there. Something about the Elements not functioning right, I dunno.”

“The Elements and the princesses? Gosh, this must be serious. How soon do Ah need to be there?”

“They said as soon as possible, but I’d put an emphasis on soon if you catch my drift.”

“Ah do, let me tell Granny and Big Mac what’s goin’ on first.”

With her family informed, Applejack took off towards town, Rainbow taking a detour over in the direction to Fluttershy’s house, no doubt to deliver the same message.

Ah hope this isn’t another major problem like Discord or Twilight havin’ gone insane again, thought the apple farmer as she galloped down the road, not noticing that her running style was more like a wolf chasing after prey instead of a running equine.

When Applejack arrived at the treehouse, she found Twilight, Rarity, Pinkie, and the princesses already there. Several guards were also hanging around outside, supposedly providing protection but without an actual threat they were kind of unnecessary at the moment.

“What’s the problem?” inquired Applejack as she entered the tree library.

“It is a matter that we’d rather not discuss until everypony is here,” replied Celestia, with a nod from Luna to confirm. They didn’t have to wait long, as a few minutes later the winged third of the Elements entered the door.

“I…I heard there was an emergency, so I came as quickly as I could,” spoke Fluttershy in a volume somewhere between a whisper and normal conversation levels.

With all the ponies gathered, Celestia gave a nod to Twilight, who along with Spike proceeded to cover all the windows and lock the doors before the elder princess addressed the gathered ponies, “While it isn’t an emergency, it could develop into one. You see, there was recently an attempt to steal the Elements from the castle, luckily my elaborate and brilliantly designed trap stopped whoever it was but not before they had somehow opened the box with the Elements in it. Although my trap also ended up blowing up both the would-be-thief and the southern castle tower to Tartarus, so we don’t know what his intentions were.” Looking away, Luna rolled her eyes and shook her head disbelievingly, since Celestia had no reason to lie about what had happened beyond trying to look not guilty about blowing up her own tower in frustration to being defeated by her own trap multiple times.

“So wait, if the Elements are still safe, then why did you need to gather us?” Rarity, who up until that point had been absent-mindedly filing her hooves, asked.

“While the intruder did not steal the Elements, he did manage to break through my defenses and could have potentially done something to them to affect them in some way. Maybe to remove a threat to unleashing yet another evil being I locked away 1000 years ago, although I think Sombra was the last from that time period. Regardless, Luna and I have gathered you here just to make sure the Elements are still functional.”

“Oh, well, that doesn’t sound too bad.” Fluttershy, who had assumed something much worse was going on, such as a giant slug with a skull face and a sawblade hat having come to suck the energy out of the whole planet.

“Well, if that’s what we’re here for, then what are we waiting for?” asked Twilight, opening the chest and telepathically putting the Elements on her friends while setting the Element of Magic on her head like a princess’s crown.

As if silently commanded by their bearers, the Elements began to glow as they had twice before in their recent uses against Nightmare Moon and Discord. After gradually reaching a brightness level just below the point of the bearers and princesses having to squint, suddenly rainbows shot out of them, creating a latticework of color as each Element connected to another. All those present marveled at the beauty, while the guards and half the town wondered what the hell was going on outside due to Golden Oaks shining as bright as the sun from their perspective.

This lasted for a few minutes before the rainbows faded and the Elements returned to their inert states. No words were spoken for a while until Rainbow, ever the impatient one, had to ask, “So…mission accomplished? These things look like they still work to me.” The other bearers were in agreement…except Applejack who suspected something was up.

“Alight, princesses, what is the real reason you’re here?”

Deciding not to bother making something up to the Element of Honesty, Celestia decided to cut to the chase; “Okay, I admit, there never was anything wrong with the Elements, although knowing they still work is always reassuring.”

Confused, Fluttershy started “B-but didn’t you just say somepony tried to-“

“Nopony broke into the castle. I purposely blew up the tower to get the Elements since I couldn’t get to them any other way due to my own trap” said Celestia, cutting off Fluttershy with an embarrassed cringe. “No, what the whole point of this was that we found evidence you might have contracted some kind of evil charm from that wound you suffered a month ago or so.”

That’s what this is all about?” asked the incredulous Applejack. The princesses were right; she’d probably been turned into a werewolf from that attack, but something in Applejack’s head made her decide this still wasn’t the right time to reveal that just yet. Instead, the farm pony went against her own element and outright made up a story before anypony else in the room could speak up.

“Ah know Ah’ve been doin’ some, well… rather questionable…things as of late, but none of it is because Ah’m some kind of zompony or even a vampony or somethin’ like that. If ya’ll absolutely have to know…”she sighed before dropping the bomb, “…it’s mah time of the month.”

Everypony else in the room immediately made an expression that showed they understood exactly what Applejack had meant...except Spike, since he didn’t know what “that time of the month” meant to those of the fairer sex but, realizing this was probably a private female thing, immediately retreated to the basement.

It was Rarity who next spoke. “Oh, I’m sure I can speak for everypony here that while we know what that’s like, has it really been that bad that you end up at The Meatery of all places and unconsciously find yourself having eaten half of…oooh!” Word had quickly gotten around town about what had happened at The Meatery, an establishment that Rarity thought absolutely barbaric and actually couldn’t think about for too long about before getting violently ill.

“Ah know, but ya’ll have to believe me! It’s been especially bad this time, normally Ah don’t react as badly as this.” It was true, Applejack never really did have strong reactions when that dreaded period came around, but would it be enough to sell the lie her actions were all because of a natural bodily function and not because she’d been turning into a werewolf?

Unbeknownst to her, most of her body language that would imply a blatant lie beyond the pleading smile was not being subconsciously demonstrated, a side effect of whatever it was making her decide to keep the lycanthropy a secret, so to the rest of the gathered party she was being fully honest.

To break the awkward mood, Luna coughed into her hoof before saying “Well, um, Celestia and I are sorry for having to force that understandably private bit of information from you,” glaring at Celestia who also quickly nodded with a smile.

“It’s alright, like Rarity said we’ve all had to go through this on a regular basis, and it’s touching that ya’ll care for me so much-“ Applejack couldn’t finish as she was promptly tackled by a flash mob hug consisting of her five best friends in the whole world.

Luna and Celestia looked upon the pony pile with laughter and smiles, but the telepathic conversation in their heads was of a much graver tone.

“She doesn’t seem like she’s lying, but there’s still something wrong with her and I doubt it’s just a result of…well, you know.” Celestia mentally said to her sister.

“But she’s the Element of Honesty, why would she lie about something she doesn’t have?” responded Luna.

“Because I think she does, but for one reason or another she’s hiding it. Very well, I might add, but something is going on with that mare even the Elements can’t cure.”

“What makes you say that?”

“Look at her tail, Luna, does something seem wrong?”

Luna focused on the movements of the farm pony’s bundled tail as the pile dissolved back into a group of standing ponies. It looked like a normal pony’s tail, just tied up at the end with a red hair tie, nothing out of the unusual. It was even moving normally, flicking back and forth. Back and forth. Back and-

“Why is she moving her tail so much?” Luna questioned. Outside of using it to show more body language or sometimes as an extra appendage, ponies rarely manipulated their tails at any time, especially during conversations, which the group of six ponies was now engaged in.

“That’s what I want to know, especially since it seems to be trying to act like it’s much shorter and thicker than it actually is, almost as if it were a...“ In unison the royal sisters said the same thing in each other’s heads: ...wolf’s tail.

Looking at each other uncomfortably, they knew they had a situation on their hooves. The only thing preventing them from being totally sure Applejack had become a werewolf was that she’d seemed so honest about putting the blame on something she couldn’t have helped. What if she was sure it was on that and still didn’t know what she had become? Her state of mind was still in question, risking an out of control werewolf was something Celestia wanted to all avoid at all costs, but how else would they be able to confirm what they feared was true? As they desperately tried to come up with a new plan, the alicorns could only hope Applejack was in control of herself that, in the event she was a werewolf, she wouldn’t end up spreading it and causing a repeat of the werewolf attacks from hundreds of years ago.

Applejack, for her part, was just glad she was able to hide her condition from her friends. She didn’t want them to leave her if they knew what she was, which is why that secret would be revealed at a later time. A much later time, most likely, but her fellow bearers were her closest friends and once she felt comfortable as a werewolf, they would be informed. They could be trusted.

Hours later, once the town had gone to sleep, Applejack included (she fought the urge to go on another night-long running spree in her new form in order to reassure her family she was in control of her problems), Derpy Hooves was still waiting for the mail train to arrive. It had been delayed for several hours due to the engine breaking down somewhere close to the edge of the Everfree Forest three miles down the line and getting it moving again with an old style pulling team was a slow process.

Finally, she heard the pathetic whistle of the crippled train and the clattering of sixteen hooves as four strong stallions pulled into the station. Derpy noted that it looked like something had attacked the side of the engine, as the driver rods had been removed and the scratch marks on the drive piston casings had gone deep enough that steam was still pouring out, barely leaving any for the whistle. The wall eyed mailmare had to wonder what kind of creature could do that kind of damage to a speeding locomotive, much less cut through tempered iron, but with such exact precision that the boiler only lost pressure from escaping steam instead of exploding from the sudden release of pressure.

“Excuse me, miss?” called a voice, getting Derpy’s attention. A brown earth pony with a well groomed mustache exited the car behind the engine and approached her. “Are you Mrs. Derpy Hooves, the local mailmare?”


“Sorry for having to keep you waiting, I’m sure you can see something didn’t want this train making it to the station, but the Royal Equestrian Railway doesn’t keep reserve pulling teams simply to waste the budget! Anyways, if you could sign here please…”

Derpy signed for the mail delivery, which was nothing more than a few bags of letters she could carry in a cart back to the post office and then sort in the morning. As she was writing, however, there was noticeable movement in the corner of her vision. Most ponies wouldn’t have seen it, but Derpy’s namesake eye condition actually allowed her to see things most ponies would miss.

“Thank you, ma'am, just instruct the boys where you want them to put the sacks.”

As the conductor turned to re-enter the train, Derpy trotted over to where both her mail cart and the sack-ladden workers were waiting for her. Once again, she caught movement when she could see in between train cars, and so she shot up into the sky to get a better look. However, her higher viewpoint offered no further clues as to the identity of the thing she was looking for.

“Hey, miss? I don’t mean to be rude, but it’s been a long day and we’d like to not fall asleep with heavy mail sacks on top of us!”

“Oh! Sorry, thought I saw something, but it was nothing!” Derpy called back as she landed at her cart. Whatever she saw couldn’t have been anything important, maybe just a squirrel or a night owl.

Hidden behind a building on the other side of the station, the dark figure watched the strange pegasus without giving away his position. He was mildly curious, having never seen a pony with a face that stupid looking, but his initial impressions were rejected when she somehow had noticed him darting from the train and almost caught him mid-stride.

Somepony called out for her, causing her to abandon the search and go back to whatever it was she was doing. Allowing for a small sigh of relief, the dark figure began to dart from building to building, always staying to the shadows and only going into as few open areas as possible. It would have been much more safer had he just made the three mile journey by himself through the forest, probably would have gotten here faster, too, but even just involving the train had been a luxury he decided he could afford to rest his legs. There had been plenty of food for him to take and he’d stolen a new satchel to replace his old worn out one.

The food had been alright (no meat, which annoyed him but was not unexpected) and there had been enough for him to carry extra provisions if he’d need them later, but the satchel had been the real prize of the whole endeavor. Few things held any lasting value to him now, but those that did were more valuable than anything. The water canteen, the coin purse, the old photo, the tarnished piece of ancient brass, and the locket; the canteen was purely for survival reasons, and the coin purse was just for money he would need in periods where he’d have to buy what he required, but the rest were irreplaceable treasures chronicling his life to this point, the path that forged him into what he had become. He’d had the old satchel for years but it was going to fall apart before long, so finding a brand new replacement in which to store his priceless trinkets had been a stroke of good fortune.

Judging the coast to be clear, he made a beeline for the forest edge, disappearing in a flash the moment he crossed the border. Now safe in the forest many feared for what he considered its greatest trait, he immediately set off to find a nice cave or something where he could establish a base to which he could return to later if something went south. Hopefully it wouldn’t be necessary but as a hunter he always had to be prepared. After all, the whole reason he’d retreated so far from these grounds a month ago was to ensure nobody would find him so soon after his attack.

It was another hard hour or two of non-stop running before he found such a location near the town he approved of, a gigantic cave in the middle of a tall rock formation just a few hours walk from Winsome Falls. It was close enough to the town that he could get back here easily, but far enough that most would abandon the hunt for him well before getting close. Bunkering down for the night, he allowed himself to drift off to sleep. He would need it, as tomorrow he would begin to reel in his prey in the town known as Ponyville.