The zebra wore light leather armor over most of his body. Chain mail covered the leather. A leather mask covered most of his face. From the way he walked, it was clear he meant business.
The diamond dog was faced away from him but turned his chair around to look at him. It was definitely a weird office arrangement; it was open to the air. "I hear you responsible for setting my mines on fire. Do you have anything to say before I kill you?"
He blinked. "Wow. I was expecting you to ask for my name first. I challenge you to an honor duel. Whoever wins gets control of the island. Whoever loses dies horribly." He smiled widely and showed a little teeth.
'Note to self, get fangs. They will look awesome.' He thought to himself.
Without fangs his smile wasn't threatening.
The large dog smiled at me from across the desk. His face was scarred up and a nasty badass scar stretched across his right eye. "It's pretty clear that the zebra with balls big enough to walk into my fort and slaughter a few guards would be the one who set mines on fire. I expect you want one on one?"
The zebra nodded lightly. "Shall we mark out the boundaries? And can I ask your name? You already know mine."
He smiled. "You call me Grim."
The zebra smiled. "Right. First to step outside of the circle loses. If Ivan wins, Ivan gets the island. Can you say that out loud before we start?"
The dog nodded. "Right." He paused. "If Ivan wins, Ivan gets Rej island. But first, tell me zebra, why do you seek your death by my paws? There are far less painful means to kill yourself."
The zebra smiled faintly. "I wish to die with honor. I have no illusions about ruling this island."
The dog smiled. "I respect that. I bury your corpse outside mines. If I win, I kill you."
The zebra continued to read out the rules. "If Grim steps out of the circle, he loses. If Ivan steps out of the circle, he loses. Do you swear on your honor by these rules?"
Grim nodded and pushed his desk against the wall. "I swear on my honor that if I step out before you-"
The zebra shook his head. "You could refer to many different zebras. Say Ivan."
"I swear on my honor that if I step out of this circle before Ivan does I will give him this island and let him kill me. I can just pick up puny zebra and throw you out of the ring easily enough." He grabbed a piece of chalk and marked out a rather large circle with a radius of about five feet. Grim was almost double the height of the zebra across from him. He cracked his huge knuckles and assumed a lazy position.
"Right. Are you ready?"
"Are you ready to die, zebra?"
"GO!" The zebra shouted, then immediately stepped out of the circle. "Have fun with that fight!" He walked well out of range to the other side of the roof.
Grim blinked and walked out of the circle and slowly towards the zebra. "You just... forfeited."
And then I threw open the door. "No. You did. Your life is mine, bitch."
Skinner pulled off his armor. "Sorry. My names not Ivan. You stepped out of the circle before he did."
The stupid dog growled. "W-what...? I was... I..."
"You lost." I said, laughing.
He looked lost and confused. "I... I... You..."
Skinner smiled. "That's right, You stepped out before Ivan did."
I walked behind him and patted him on the shoulder. "There there. We all die eventually. Now go downstairs and tell those nasty guards that I am now the rightful ruler of this island..."
The Alpha turned to Skinner. "But what about wanting honorable death?"
Skinner shrugged. "I guess I'll get mine later."
The dog's sobs racked his frame. "But... I was cheated..."
I shook my head. "You stepped out of the circle before me. Whether I was in the circle or not doesn't matter. I mean, the rules never said I had to be in the circle."
The dog had large salty tears coming from his eyes. I almost felt sorry for the dumb animal. He took in a deep breath and stopped sniffling. "I am nothing if not honorable. Do with me as you wish."
He walked down the stairs slowly and we both followed close behind. I had my knife pressed to his back. His body was slightly sweating. I felt like laughing.
And then I tapped Skinner on the shoulder and slit his throat. Blood sprayed out and then he died, his lifeless corpse resting against my side. I shut my eyes to stop from getting blood in them and then turned to Grim. "I expect you to tell the truth; that I beat you at your own game."
He turned to face me and his eyes widened. "Why is other zebra dead?"
I smiled slightly. "Don't you remember? You killed him while I stepped out from cover to soundly defeat him. His sacrifice will be remembered."
He gulped. "Ivan is scaring Grim."
I smiled wider. I supposed that my entire face was slick with freshly spilled blood. "Good. I will let your death be as honorable as possible."
He continued walking downstairs, and after several fearful glances, opened the door to the main room. "Boys. It's over. We've lost."
Forty five pairs of eyes shot over to stare at us. "What?"
"I introduce new leader. Ivan now is rightful ruler of island."
"Hell yeah, that's right. I beat him in the circle."
His troops looked confused. "Grim... what are you saying?" A pegasus walked forward. His armor had a shield welded to the front of it that extended down until it almost hit the floor.
The soon to be dead Alpha bowed his head. "Iron guard... You serve Ivan."
Iron Guard jerked his head around to glare at me. Grim shook his head. "He defeated me, you don't stand a chance."
Iron guard sighed. "You are right."
I stepped out from behind the dog. "And my first order is for all of you to meet me up top. I have a dramatic scene we need to act out for my troops."
I stepped out of top of the roof and waved at my zebra allies, totally unaware of the massive hulk of a diamond dog behind me. He smashed into my side and threw me against a wall while his troops sat there and laughed.
"That's right puny Canaries! I have defeated your valiant ruler! I own you no- ERk." His body collapsed and almost killed me by crushing me. I narrowly jumped out of the way and grabbed my knife from his back. He had luckily fallen on his side. I clutched it into my teeth and stabbed it into his throat, making blood gurgle out of the powerful predator's body. It sprayed in a warm shower over me, turning my coat more of a red and black instead of a white and black.
Even as the light faded from his eyes, I kept dragging the knife back and forth, eventually overcoming his body's natural regeneration. After a long moment of checking for a puled, I began sawing at his neck.
The crowd gathered at the foot of the castle was almost speechless apart from a few whispers. "Is Ivan dead?"
After a long moment I had Grim's head in my hooves. I waited a moment for dramatic tension to build and then lifted it far into the air. "FLOCK! YOUR OPPRESSOR IS DEAD! I have defeated him in his rightful combat!" I turned back to face the forty five soldiers that were still around me.
"ALL HAIL IVAN! FREER OF SLAVES AND KILLER OF ALPHAS!" They chorused and bowed as one.
I walked over to the edge of the roof and smiled at them. "FLOCK! ARE YOU READY TO TAKE ON THE REST OF THE ISLAND?"
My zebra troop fed on my enthusiasm. "YES SIR!"
"ARE YOU READY TO AVENGE SKINNER? I WAS WITH HIM IN HIS LAST MOMENTS!"
There was a silence on the battlefield.
"Do you want to hear his last words to me?"
"Yes sir." There was a distinct lack of happiness.
"He said that he had a dream. He dreamed of an island where EVERY Species was united under one ruler! A place where anybody could be free to live under FAIR rules."
The crowd seemed to slowly perk up as I bsed my speech.
"And do you know who he said should lead it? With tears in his eyes and blood pouring from his body? His life's blood?"
There was more silence.
"He said that I should be the one to lead Rej to Utopia! This island is broken and I will reforge it with the flames from the burning bodies of our enemies! We should carve aqueducts dedicated to watering our fields with their blood!"
And then, like magic, the crowd began to perk up to the point that they started stomping their hooves against the ground. "IVAN!"
"Under my guidance we will hold this island against all invaders!" There was a loud thud behind me and I ignored it to the best of my abilities. "In the next week, we shall gather our forces and take on the last of our enemies. The Magickers shall fall!"
"Hmph. Looks like the Canary got out after all. Such a shame that he did." The voice was familiar, and while I couldn't place it with a name and a face, it sent shivers down my spine. I turned away from my army.
Facing me was the largest griffon I had ever seen. A slice of blood slashed across his face like he had just sunk his talons into something he hated. And he was giving me a stare that told me he hated me. His wing span could easily cover most of the roof top.
And after a few long seconds where I thought he was going to slice me into a thousand pieces with just his eyes, I noticed that Boss was slung across his back. She looked rather bad off and her fur was matted.
"Yeah. I've got your little bitch right here. She saved my life. Which is just about the only reason I'm not killing you and taking over this island. It'd be simple... except..." He stopped glaring at me and tapped his talons against the stone roof top.
I noted he was missing two talons. "What happened? And who are you?"
His beak was clenched tightly and a few tendons on his neck bulged out. "I'm Terror. And I tangled with something tougher than I was."
I gulped inaudibly. He looked like he could've easily taken out Grim. It made me wonder why he didn't. And something was tougher than him? "What happened?"
He smashed his right front leg into the roof top. "I. Don't. KNOW. I was stranded in Compound five when the cave ins started." He looked up into the sky. "And then there was no response from compound six. Or seven. I went to investigate..." He looked away.
I tapped my hoof impatiently. "What was wrong?"
"There was a thing there. And it killed them all." His brow was furrowed in concentration.
He glared at me. "All I can say is that it chanted constantly and that it had tentacles. It might've been purple." His feathers seemed ruffled.
I blinked. "That's the best description?"
He shut his eyes. "It's... hard to describe. It was the scariest thing I have ever seen. I had so many eyes..."
And then, to my horror, he shivered.
He shook his head to clear it. "Look. If you can take out that thing, you can have my services. Otherwise... I'll go where the wind takes me. Preferably away from that fucking thing." He placed Boss down on the roof top and pressed his wings to his side.
I grimaced and turned back to my forces. "Right..." I sighed, the urge to make a speech gone. I turned back to Terror. "Yeah. If you'll help me take out the Magickers... I'll figure out how to deal with that thing."
He frowned. "Yeah." He looked around. "The fires are out in the mines. After Boss... saved my ass in the mines they all went out."
I clutched my head. I looked at Grim's forces. "This will be my new base. You will all see action soon."
"It was a horror." Terror repeated. "A horror that was indescribable."