I cracked my eyes open and breathed a sigh of relief. Canary was not there. I was rather stifling in the room though. I sat up and once again ignored the bandages. It was a simple room that I was in; Two beds, the one that I had not been sleeping in covered in half used rolled of bandages and smelling of bitter alcohol.
I walked over to the single wooden door opposite of the balcony. It was slightly cracked and the hinges creaked when I pushed it open. I bit back a swear. Fifteen pairs of eyes immediately locked on my form when I swung the door open.
"Ivan." Canary trotted over to me.
I held back my urge to scream in frustration. He was starting to get annoying, despite being my new minion.
In a way, I missed Earth. In the same way that I missed having hands, or walking on two legs.
I looked at Canary. "Yes?
He smiled. "In honor of you choosing a simple name, all of the Flock have chosen their own names."
I nodded, only half listening. I was going to have to convince the Compounders today.
He led me over to each zebra. "This is Mark, this is Ken, this is Floyd..." The list went on.
Problem with zebras. They all look the same after a while.
He nudged me with a hoof. "Did you get all of those?"
I nodded and lied. "Yes I did... but perhaps we should get something more individual?" Something that made them not look the same, perhaps?
One of the few zebras who's name I actually remembered, Floyd stepped forward. "Such as what?"
"Hats. Every warrior needs a hat. Some warriors even wear hats on top of hats." Hey, I wanted to have a little fun. Besides, it might help me distinguish between them!
Floyd nodded. "Hats are a good idea, sir. What shall we make them out of?"
"The hides of our enemies?" I threw out a dark joke.
He smiled. "That's a great idea! Long live IVAN!" And then the rest of the Flock started cheering for me.
I could only blink and stare dumbfounded into the mass. I closed my eyes and tried to stay calm in the face of such ridiculousness. I opened them and started counting zebras. "Why are there only fifteen?" I asked calmly.
Canary nodded. "A few fools slipped away to aid the compounders in their mission. We will deal with them in whatever way you want us to."
It was odd just how willing the Flock was to listen to me. It was almost as if they hadn't recovered from whatever chemical soup they had been forced to down and were just empty husks with tiny flickers of personality embedded somewhere in them.
If that was the case, it would be almost criminal to not take advantage of them. "Canary, are you ready to meet with the compounders?"
He nodded at me with that odd smile I hated so much. It was almost like he was a dog in zebra clothes.
I looked to the rest of my new group. "Half of you will stay here and guard this building." I pointed to six other zebras. "You, you, you, you, you and you. All of you will come with me. Canary, teach me that barrier spell that you were using during the riot."
I had a plan. If it worked, Rej would be mine. If it didn't I'd do my damned best effort to make sure nobody else would take it.
The barrier spell was a simple affair. It was twice as draining as the fireball was and the focus for it, which of course I had to keep in my mouth, was a topaz.
I could barely hold the barrier up for more than a few seconds and it was only useful against projectiles. Canary hinted that the gems were not the best foci for the spells; they were merely the most plentiful on the island.
"But what is the best general focus?" I had to ask.
He laughed. " It should be obvious!"
I really don't like being played for the fool. "What is it?"
"Its organic and there are very few on the island that are still attached. Unicorn horns." He smiled shortly after.
I was not a fan of him dancing around the point. "So if I find a unicorn I should steal its horn?"
"And then kill it. Make sure to put it out of its misery, without magic they just rot away. Once you get the horn you need to make a small hole in it then wear it around your neck."
I had a morbid picture of myself standing around a group of unicorns and snapping off their horns, giggling the while. My day dream had more blood than was realistic and all of the unicorns were the same color. After thinking it through, I looked at Canary.
"Enchanted armor and weapons. Do you know how to make them?" I had another idea tucked in my satchel.
We all still carried satchels. We felt uneasy without them.
He shook his head. "I imagine that the magickers might have access to that."
I frowned. My brain was thinking through several things at once. "Is it hard to enchant pre existing weapons or armor?"
Watching quadrupeds shrug is weird.
"I imagine it would be more difficult." He looked at me. "Why do you ask?"
I was more of an over thinker of things. "It doesn't matter. Let's go." I wasn't going to warn him of the probable ambush.
We walked through the ash coated building. The walls were made of wood and smoke damage was everywhere. Fire damage had eaten at parts of the bottom floor; the boards were charred and I could tell they barely supported my weight. I was struck with vertigo and I stopped after we past the boards to maintain my balance.
He looked over at me and smiled. "Your injuries giving you trouble?"
I found it odd how clear spoken he was. The zebras behind me were almost brainless and continued to follow us across the room. I shook my head.
He laughed. "All you lost was quite a bit of your fur. The bandages are just to hide the bald patches." He leaned in close to me. "I figured that they would make you our leader quite a bit faster if you looked like a warrior healing from a battle." He whispered.
He was quite a bit more intelligent than I had given him credit for. And that intelligence, of all the things I had faced in the few months or however long I had spent on the island, scared me more than anything else.
I looked at him, speechless. He was using me. It was the only explanation I could think of. He wanted power for himse- No. He already had it. He had given me all of the information I knew about the island. He could have my plans already compromised.
For my sake at least, something had to be done about him. And I only knew one way to silence someone reliably. "That was a good idea." He had put me up as a leader because he knew I trusted him. He had probably painted a target on my head by doing so.
He smiled at me. "I'd like to think I have a few good ideas from time to time."
The last of the Flock that was with me passed over to our side of the room and we stepped out. The sun was almost blinding me; I was still unused to seeing the sun. I could faintly feel the rocky pavement of the street; it was slight warm. I tried not to think about how likely it was for a sinkhole to form and swallow my group.
I had to remain the charismatic figurehead that Canary wanted me to be until I had the methods to assert my dominance over the island and Canary dead. Any being that complained about Canary's death was going to be placed under scrutiny.
"I like too thank that as well, Canary." I finally responded. The entire street we were walking through looked more like it was struck by an earthquake than a mob. The only indication that it hadn't been the earth itself revolting to bring me back to the surface was the uncracked streets and the targeted destruction of this street. "What is this street called?" I called to my Flock.
"Government street, sir." Floyd replied. I liked Floyd.
"Fitting. How far are we from Compound one?" It felt good to be in charge of these mindless fools. None of them had even asked what I intended to do with the island once I had it united.
Canary answered. "Just another mile. We're getting closer as we speak."
Occasionally I would find fresh graffiti on the walls. Most of it looked familiar.
I shook my head and ran to keep up with my group.
The entrance to compound one was an ornate building which for reasons I failed to comprehend was done in a roman style. There was a large crest on the front of the building.
As we walked closer to it a slight breeze slung a bit of ash into the building. Or rather, the ash flew towards the building and instantly a large magic bubble appeared and the dust slid down it.
"Halt." I called out. The group halted. We stared into the field. As we watched, boulders were being pushed into place by the front entrance to keep it up. The barrier fell and a loud cracking noise began to echo out from the top of the building. A divide appeared above one of the pillars and a few seconds later the entire crest fell to the ground and shattered into bits of rock.
Zebras and griffons and ponies and a few dogs ran out from within the building and began clearing the debris. They worked at it and within a few minutes the worst of it was cleaned up. And then the leader of the operation walked out and I knew that I could not negotiate with them.
It was a dog. Not just any dog, but the lead dog that threw me into slavery.
I closed my eyes and calmed myself. I had to do this. But why did she have to be a fucking dog?
"Hello, Zebra." She addressed me specifically, the other zebras in my party looking to me for advice. It felt good to be the leader.
I stepped forward and walked over to her. "Greetings, Dog." I couldn't keep the disgust out of my voice. Judging by her reaction, she heard it.
"Is something wrong?" She asked walking over to me and circling me in an effort, I'm sure, to intimidate me. Her pelt was singed and no longer the correct color. She had a slight limp and the cause was from a rather large injury on her back right leg.
"I'm curious. What is your name?" I looked away from her body.
"Why do you look away?" She jumped in front of me, her face inches from mine. "Do I scare you?" Her eyes were yellow.
I shook my head and looked straight into her eyes. I imagine that my blue eyes burned with hatred.
I'm happy to say that she blinked first. She backed away from me. "It's you. What do you want?"
I sighed, and showed my exasperation. It was almost like we were fighting for dominance in the conversation. Figures. Dogs.
"You recognize me? I want to know your name." I tapped my hoof against the ground and maintained eye contact. The very sight of her face was disgusting me but I held my ground. I would carve a kingdom.
"Of course I fucking recognize you. You are the last slave I brought in before I was forced into slavery. I was deemed 'incompetent' after YOU failed to walk. How was I supposed to know I nabbed a retarded zebra?"
She really wasn't helping my hatred. All work on the rubble had stopped and every being around us was watching us. I smirked. "What is your name?" I was dominating. It felt so good to be in charge.
She growled at me. "My name is Boss. And I am the acting leader of the Compounders. What. Do. You. Want?"
It was very hard to keep a straight face at her name. From what I could tell, though, it was her actual name.
I smiled wider. "My name is Ivan. I wish to use your forces to fend off the slavers when they come." There was a slight mumble amongst her peoples.
She nodded at me. "It's a fair plan. Shall we discuss it inside?"
I had won. "Of course." I HAD won. And then I made my mistake.
"Flock, with me." My group of zebras followed me inside.
After we passed the columns the barrier rose back up. The building was safe from entry. The first room was like a museum; the floors were marble, though cracked in places. There were bits that were mostly clean and still held an almost mirror shine. A few slightly cracked display cases held exquisite specimens of ore and gems.
One ore sample caught my attention. It was simply labeled Yellow Glaze.
I popped a ruby into my mouth and slipped into a spell. Uranite. The ore was Uranite. Uranium ore. My breath caught and I tried not to cry. I would never have to worry about being attacked again if I could get more of that. It was the most beautiful thing I had seen since arriving on the island. Whoever controlled these mines controlled the fate of the world.
A few more seconds passed as I thought it over.
I was thinking about this wrong.
Actually making a weapon from it would be stupid, but using it as a bartering chip might be worth it. I could start making glazes with the stuff.
I had made an error. No beings would appreciate the destructive potential of it without witnessing it...
And really, I do not want what ever beings who run this world after me just yet just because I wanted to test it.
But still. I needed a place to dispose of the stuff later. It would probably be more trouble than I wanted.
I had just lost the biggest bartering chip in history because nobody had been stupid enough to build a bomb before me.
The rest of the my group was following Boss. I cleared my throat and they ran over to my side in a rush. I walked past it and made a note to ask if I could have it on the way out. Canary walked next to me. "Are you sure it was ideal for you to come into her lair?"
I almost flinched as I realized exactly what he meant. "It wasn't a good idea, but, I will follow through with it." I whispered while contemplating my folly. I had given up all of my avenues of escape except for the way I entered. "If I try to back down I will look weak to her forces."
I was out numbered heavily. If something went wrong in here the odds of getting out were far less than stellar.
Canary nodded. "It makes sense. I will follow as you go."
I smiled. It was great to have a minion. I was still going to kill him.
Boss growled. "What are you waiting for? Let's go negotiate."
I took my time walking over to her. I shivered. A single misstep and it would all be over. I closed my eyes and calmed my mind. "I was admiring your front room." I wasn't lying for once.
She nodded. "It is a nice place. My office isn't far."
That was a lie. It was fifteen minutes inside a virtual maze of winding corridors and tunnels. And she had played me into her paws. I was at her mercy. I wasn't in control.
We stopped at a small door in the wall. Boss had to stoop to walk in. I paused at the door frame.
I had a realization back when I first got free. I liked being in control. I hated not being in control. It scared me.
I was nervous. Her office was an unknown.
I steeled myself yet again and walked into her office.