• 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.8: Hunting Legends

Chapter 8: Hunting Legends

Nighttime in the Everfree Forest was both a beautiful and terrifying period of the day within the realm of its trees. On the one hand, the beauty lay in the fireflies and the semi-bioluminescent flowers that lit up the dark interiors of the forest, becoming an almost surreal experience to just walk through. On the other hand, many of the forest’s most dangerous predators, such as the cockatrice and the manticore, came out to play at night and tended to strike on unwary prey who ventured off the beaten path while deep inside the forest.

For Applejack, she only really cared about the former right now. Letting her legs stretch as she sped along the trail with breakneck speed, all the lights looked like blurry streaks in her vision. She wondered if this was what it was like to be a pegasus, racing across the night sky with the stars whizzing by one-by-one. But Applejack had no interest in gaining wings; she thought they’d just make her look weird. That, and her place was on the ground, just a simple earth pony apple farmer who lived with her siblings and grandmother.

Her pace slowed down as her thoughts became more troubled. She knew that, eventually, she’d have to face up to her lies and admit being a werewolf, but it was just that it would have to happen at the right time. When that time could come she didn’t know, but until then everybody she knew would have to be kept in the dark. Her family, friends - she’d even lied in front of the princesses about this. And she couldn’t shake the feeling that the longer they were unaware of the truth, the worse the repercussions. So Applejack kept on running, lost in her thoughts in an endless attempt to escape them.
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“There, that should be the last of ‘em!”

Iron Will stood back to examine his work. He knew very well that he was not going to catch a werewolf tonight. Heck, he didn’t expect to for his entire stay in Ponyville, it didn’t seem like the kind of place werewolves would hang around. The forests around Hollow Shades, Vanhoover, even Baltimare seemed a lot more likely to have evil shape-shifters lurking about.

But that was to be thought about another day. Right now, Iron Will was in Ponyville simply to self-learn how to hunt in general. Since he was a self-help coach, he figured with enough assertiveness and the right gear this whole hunting thing should be pretty easy. Tonight’s goal: a timberwolf. Iron Will had been surprised when Twilight had explained how normal wolves tended to avoid the Everfree Forest, which he also figured applied to werewolves, so timberwolves were the best he had going for him right now in the hunting seminar.

To prepare for catching a timberwolf, iron Will planned to chase one out. He’d set up traps outside one of the entrances to the forest, to be staffed by Willy and Nilly. Iron Will himself would go into the forest, track down a timberwolf, and then chase it out into the traps where his assistants would activate it, immobilizing the wooden canine. At least, that was the plan.

Iron Will, however, was taking no chances. Having donned a full-body latex sneaking suit (apparently Twilight’s friend, Pinkie Pie, kept these things hidden in caches all over the country in case of full-body latex sneaking-suit emergencies), the minotaur was also equipped with the best stealth technology Barnyard Bargains could sell him. Armed with a compartmentalized belt that held various tools he’d need for sneaking around, he also had a super-strength rope that could be used for repelling, and a special pair of night vision goggles that had three green-lensed scopes positioned as if they were the points of a triangle. He was also still wearing the headset, just in case he needed to contact Willy and Nilly at any time for emergencies.

“Alright boys, Iron Will is going in!” he told his allies before he started to walk into the thick underbrush of the woods, beginning his quest to kill a werewolf. Once he had disappeared from view, the two goats just looked at each other before snickering, then collapsing with laughter. While they held high respect for their boss, they honestly didn’t believe this “werewolf hunting” thing was going to turn out well at all. They were still getting paid for this, though, so they didn’t really have anything to complain about if it just meant sitting around and waiting to spring traps. Once recovered from their laughing fit and figuring it would take some time, Willy rummaged through the sack he’d brought and revealed a pack of playing cards. Nilly did the same, except in his hooves was a bottle of Sweet Apple Acres Reserve Cider, which he’d picked up in town while the boss was at Barnyard Bargains, and two tall steins. Filling up the glasses with cider, then toasting to their boss’s fortune, they settled down to play some rounds of Kemps to pass the time.
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Angel “Rambun” Bunny continued to make his long trek through the forest, looking for the poor sod that would become his first kill. Granted, it had been an hour and he probably wasn’t that far from Fluttershy’s cottage, but when all you can really do to cover long distances is hop, there isn’t much that can be done. The fact he hadn’t even found anything larger than a few ants to try and beat into submission was also sort of a downer.

But would Ponirambo give up in the face of these odds? No! And so Angel pressed on in his desire to be like the larger than life action hero of some movie he’d obsessed over. At something approaching one mile an hour speeds.

This is gonna take a while, thought the rabbit, something interesting could at least happ-
It was too fast for the bunny to see, but whatever just came shooting out of the woods hit him mid-jump and sent him flying backwards a few feet into the underbrush before it disappeared back into the woods.

Dazed, Angel shook his head before he got back up, wondering if this whole “Rambun” thing was a good idea after all.
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It took a good few hundred meters for Applejack to come to a stop after something had collided with her face, kicking up dirt as she slowed to a halt. Once stationary, she brushed off her face with a paw before working her features to make sure they were alright. They were.

Now what in tarnation was that? wondered the werewolf. But she quickly lost interest in following that mystery as she decided to resume her run. The rationale for her running was…well, she just felt like it. As she’d never felt the urge to run this much before her change, she reasoned it was a side effect of being a werewolf. But since it didn’t cause nopony no harm, she didn’t see any problem with feeding the need for speed. The Everfree Forest made a good obstacle course, much better than anything the one back on the farm could be configured to. Along with the leaping and the dodging, the terrain was uneven in places and other natural hazards stood in her way. She’d taken care to note patches of Poison Joke while she was mapping out possible courses for these runs on a previous night, back when being partially a wolf was still an unusual feeling. But now…now it was almost second nature.

The thought of that made the wolf pony frown. Sure, she enjoyed these nightly runs, but they were never going to be worth the cost of her identity. She was Applejack, farm pony, element bearer, part of the Apple fam-

She skidded to a stop, the feeling to run unopposed having left. For some reason, the thought of her parents had made her realize she hadn’t visited their graves recently, not since this werewolf business had started. Feeling a bit teary eyed, she couldn’t stop herself from letting out a sorrowful howl before picking herself back up and taking a route back home. She knew what she had to do now.
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Iron Will was a good bit into the forest when he heard the sad howl. It sounded nothing like the quieter howls from earlier; those which Twilight had said were timberwolves. That meant there was another kind of wolf in the woods. If Lady Luck smiled upon him, it might be the fabled werewolf, but Iron Will didn’t hold his breath. He wouldn’t be that fortunate for this business to be over with that quickly; it would have been far too convenient.

Judging the howls to be coming from his right, he immediately took off at a jogging pace to hunt his prize. He took care to note if there were any patches of a flower called “poison joke” which the unicorn had warned him about. According to her, the plants had some kind of magical effect that played “jokes” on those unfortunate enough to come into contact with the flora. Twilight had also said due to a misunderstanding with a zebra that lived in these woods, the unicorn had come into contact with the plant, but what happened was something she declined to go into detail about. Figuring it to be something horrible, the minotaur took every precaution to ensure he didn’t land in the plant or fall victim to the effects himself.

Unfortunately, in his efforts to avoid the plant, he ended up tripping over a sleeping manticore he’d totally not seen and went flying into a tree. A brief second of recovery later and Iron Will found a very grumpy manticore looking right at him, stringer at the ready. But where this may have scared a pony stiff, Iron Will was no pony. He was not one to back down from a wild animal challenging him simply because of an accident. No, this was time to get…assertive.

“If somepony tries to block…” spoke the minotaur, looking his opponent dead in the eye before shouting “…THEN SHOW THEM THAT YOU ROCK!” and striking a flexing pose. The manticore, surprised and confused, backed away as he was unsure what was going on, keeping the stinger in position should the creature try to attack.

Noticing that his posing confused the creature, Iron Will decided to use that to his advantage. Striking another pose and flexing his big manticore muscles, he declared “Treat me as a push over, and I’ll give you the once over!” while slowly moving his feet to gain a better position. This continued for a while, Iron Will keeping the creature at bay with his flexing and catchy one-liners taken straight from his self-help seminars, the manticore just getting more and more confused as to what his creature was doing. It wasn’t attacking, it wasn’t retreating, it was just…dancing?

Then, unexpectedly, the manticore got up on his hind legs…and began to flex his forearms the same way as Iron Will. They say that impersonation is the sincerest form of flattery, and Iron Will was certainly getting an ego boost from inspiring a manticore to go from possibly trying to kill an enemy to now engaging in a flex-off.

His original mission forgotten, Iron Will took to the challenge to prove this upstart monster couldn’t out flex a minotaur. “You call that flexing? Iron Will shall show you what it means to flex!”
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Having given up on hopping, Angel Bunny was now simply walking at a slow pace on the forest floor. No way was he going back to jumping when things could shoot out and send you sailing out of the blue. He wouldn’t have ever admitted it, but that tragic sounding howl (which had felt pretty close by) was also a reason for staying close to the ground, out of fear. Taking out a fake cigarette (a sliver of paper folded up to look like a bunny-sized cigarette), he pretended to light it before putting it in his mouth, the same way Ponirambo did every time he wasn’t beating the crap out of every single thing that moved.

Hearing a commotion in the distance, Angel went to investigate. It looked like a manticore was…dancing…with some other creature. The other presence Angel had a vague recollection about, but it had been so long ago he couldn’t clearly call forth the memory.

He was stunned at what he found. In a small clearing, the manticore and bull-like creature (which for some reason was wearing a wireless headset) were slowly walking in a circle, never turning their backs to each other. Their arms kept on making strange movements, making parts of them bulge out with visible veins, but not in a decidedly gross way. The “cigarette” fell out of Angel’s mouth as his jaw dropped at the strange spectacle. The strange, yet oddly enough extremely entertaining spectacle.

Deciding that the adventures of Rambun could wait, Angel found a small clear spot next to a tree and sat down to watch. Maybe this might break out into a fight, where Angel could then go in and smack the winner with his nun chucks, claiming both creatures as his first two kills. Nopony would know the truth. He just had to be patient.
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Big Mac had heard the howl. Applejack was once again not in her room, the window open and curtains fluttering. Standing in his sister’s doorway, the oldest child of the Apples had come to a silent decision: this would end tonight.

Taking care to not wake Granny or Apple Bloom, the stallion descended to the first floor of the residence to try and find something to keep himself for what he was hoping would not be necessary. The sweat was visible upon his brow as he entered the kitchen, knowing where the tool he sought was contained. Opening one of the cabinet drawers, he found it; a silver bladed knife. It was not the sharpest knife he had access to, but it was not the edge he was concerned about. He’d heard long ago that wolves have some kind of reaction if they come into contact with an object whose composition was mostly made of silver. Big Mac did not know what would happen if a werewolf came into contact with something made one hundred percent of silver, but if things went south tonight, he’d have to make that discovery.

With his weapon stowed, he inhaled deeply to calm his nerves. Please, sis… begged the stallion in his mind, …please don’t make me use this. He then proceeded to exit the house with the intention to save his sister, one way or another.

He never left the property, much to his surprise. He’d feared the worst and decided to use the fence gate that was the nearest to Ponyville, but he found Applejack well before he reached it. There, sitting in front of the gravestones of the Apple parents in the family graveyard, surrounded by roses, was his sister. Thankfully, she didn’t look like a monster, just a regular earth pony. But Big Mac couldn’t be too cautious.

“Ap-Applejack?” he called out.

Her limp ears perking up, she craned her head around to see her brother standing a few yards off. “Oh, hey Big Mac. What are you doin’ up this late?”

“Ah dunno, might have been somethin’ in mah dreams. But whatever it was, it don’t compare to the scare ya gave me when Ah looked in yer room to find it empty with the window open.”

“Oh, right, that. Ah opened it up to get some air into the room, it was feelin’ stuffy and all.”
It was an awkward few minutes as the siblings, one standing, one sitting, said and did nothing. Finally, it was Applejack who broke the silence; “Ah miss ‘em.”

Walking over to where AJ sat, Big Mac joined her in front of the tombstones and embraced her with one of his forelegs. “So do I, sis. So do I.”

Leaning into the warm embrace of her brother, Applejack nuzzled her face into his side before the tears began to fall. The stallion did nothing other than draw her in tighter into the hug, feeling a tear come to his own eyes, but not allowing himself to fail in his duty to be the strong one, to support the rest of his family. He was just glad he didn’t have to use the silver knife he’d kept hidden.

In front of the combined silhouette of brother and sister sat the two tombstones. While most of the deceased residents of Ponyville were buried in the town cemetery, the Apple Family had been one of the founding families and so had set a small plot of the land aside to be where their deceased family members would be laid to rest, covered in the roses planted in the ground. But while most of the tombstones were of the standard slate style, the two Applejack and Big Mac sat in front of were of significantly higher quality than what most people would expect the Apple Family would normally be able to buy. Their inscriptions read:

APPLESEED

Loving Father

CORNFLOWER

Loving Mother

As Applejack and Big Mac sat in front of the twin graves, the final resting places of their parents, they both felt the inclination to look up to the sky. As they did so, a pair of shooting stars flew across Luna’s sky.

“That’s them…” said Applejack,” They’re watchin’ over us, aren’t they?”

“Eeyup,” he replied with warmth.

The pair continued to sit until the shooting stars had long since disappeared into the darkness of the night, before getting up and returning to the Apple homestead, their respects to their parents paid for the time being, and Big Mac being made a little surer that his sister wouldn’t meet the same fate as Appleseed and Cornflower.
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The dark figure had seen the whole thing unfold. As much as he’d wanted to get involved, it had not been the right time anyway, but the fact she and her brother had been honoring their dead was what kept him chained to his machinations.

He was not disappointed; however, in fact he was rather pleased to see respect given to loved ones who had been lost. Granted, he’d been somewhat responsible for their deaths ten years ago in an extremely indirect fashion, but even so he would not raise a paw to interrupt something as sacred as mourning loved ones.

However, the fact she was still so heavily tied to the family she was born to was also delaying things. He could not intervene until her loyalties to her family were to the point of being questioned that she could be swayed. He would resort to…unrefined methods…if he had to when the time was right, but for now he simply needed to wait. He found it amusing that this had been a plan ten years in the making, but only because of that one split-second decision of opportunity. There would be time to carry out the original plan, of course, but that was a given.
Noticing his quarry and her companion leaving the graves, he too slunk back into the woods of the Everfree to await the time to continue the scheme.
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“I’ll get it!” said a drowsy Fluttershy, throwing on a night robe despite the fact she had nothing to cover up before tuning on the lights and opening the door.

What she found was a pair of extremely exhausted individuals. Namely, Iron Will in a scratched up latex sneaking suit, and Angel Bunny on his shoulder looking like he’d gone to war.

“Ohmygosh, what happened!?” inquired a concerned Fluttershy, trying to imagine what could have happened and completely overlooking the fact Angel had been out at night without her permission.

Hazily, Iron Will replied “It’s a loooooooong story, ma’am, one that involves a pack of angry timberwolves, a needle gun, and wolf traps being operated by the most drunken goats who ever lived!”

He then proceeded to pass out, falling right on top of her doorstep. Angel, still on the big guy’s shoulders, went down with him. It was only then Fluttershy noted Iron Will’s two goat partners looking drunk out of their minds and leaning on the fence near her mailbox.

All the poor pegasus could do was raise an eyebrow and go “Wha?”