The Ambassador's Son - Book 2
An MLP:FiM Fanfiction by Midnight Shadow
The heat was searing inside the underground workshop. It was dark and cramped, lit by flickering oil torches and softly glowing sunstones, and stocked with a myriad of tools and implements on every available workspace and wall. There were shears, knives, hooks and more, all with gleaming metal blades and bone handles, there were those with leather wraps held together by heavy-duty studs and others that were just bare metal. These were not weapons of war, nor were they showy heirlooms. These were ugly, necessary tools. Even the careful cleaning they had been through couldn't eradicate the dark brown stains that were all but etched into their very being.
The sound of the workshop running at full tilt was deafening, with the constant grind of pestle and mortar and the clank of stirring rod against the sides of great vats full of bubbling liquid forming a constant staccato roar. The backdrop of shouts and orders echoed through the enclosed space, causing a din which went beyond mere sound into some new plateau of noise.
The smell was pungent and thick, the unsavoury aroma of hundreds of diamond dogs working in scorching heat as fast as they could covered everything. Mixed in with the sweat was the peculiar tang of drying hide and rendering fat.
Ranger stood looking at the remains of his prizes as they dripped and steamed; now that they were washed clean of the last of the acid, he could reach out and touch them without the prospect of burns. He wanted to caress them, but he feared it would mar the vellum. Skin was not all. Dragon bones and dragon teeth, dragon scales and dragon horns, dragon claws and dragon tongues... each and every part of his haul was worth far more than its weight in the most expensive of metals or jewels, and though the dragon hatchlings were small, their hide could be stretched so very thin without breaking. Half a haul was more than enough for him. Though not for everyone.
"Ranger, this all you got?" asked a heavy-set male dog-troll. He had one broken fang and a scar to match, pulling his face up in a perpetual half-snarl. Despite that, his necklace of teeth spoke of his prowess in battle. A few scars here or there were proof they were well-earned.
Bruno was an alpha, he had fought his way to the top, not necessarily through brains but through merciless application of brawn. Once there, however, he'd had to learn a few new tricks. Make allies had been one of them.
"Yes, Alpha Bruno." Ranger turned his gaze to the collection of eggshells, bones picked clean of infant dragon flesh, and assorted piles of organs. "All others died in cave. Very sad."
Alpha Bruno nodded, "More glory for the one surviving, yes?" Bruno raised a paw and gave Ranger a friendly punch to his shoulder. "Old ones speak highly of dragon-parts. Not lie. Dragons... mm, good material!"
"But why sell first batch to ponies?" Ranger growled. "Snivelling ponies. Bad slaves. Weak."
"Was poorer skin, bad deal. Dumb ponies pay big, more than enough for Elders, they not need much to write on. Come, Ranger has proved good diamond dog, no? Alpha Mark cannot be far behind, big haul like this!"
Ranger couldn't help it, he wagged his tail. Ahead could only be good times, with a reputation as a dragon-slayer and provider of great wealth and power, he would join the ranks of the Pack Alphas. Not enough brains to be an Elder, he didn't care - Alphas got all the bitches anyway.
Suddenly, Bruno lifted his nose and sniffed. Something was happening. Ranger perked his ears up, it had caught him too. It was imperceptible at first, but slowly the sounds of the workshop changed. Maybe it was a sixth sense, maybe it was just pack spirit, but Ranger was drawn to the outside. All speech ceased and all work stopped, and the community of diamond dogs held its collective breath. The underground complex seemed suddenly stultifying and cramped, the walls gouged by diamond dog paw threatening and malevolent. It was not the holt that was the cause of such feelings, but intruders who dared work their own magic against rock that was owned by the diamond dogs of the Shattered Hills pack. Ranger put his paws against the walls, and then drew them back, hissing. There would be no burying through these hills, not until whoever stood against them was vanquished.
Outside, large dark shapes with leathery wings were circling the quarry, bellowing calls to one another. Those that landed were still and silent, oversized hind claws gripping the lip of the rock canyon, digging into it, their scaly tails tearing chunks from the bedrock as they whipped back and forth. Rubble was raining down into the basin in an almost constant tide as more and more of the creatures alighted.
Ranger and Bruno emerged into bedlam as the bitches took their pups to safety whilst the dogs fought past them to get out to confront their enemies. The holt had no doors as such, they weren't needed. Most who dared enter uninvited never made it out again. If they were not lost in the maze-like warrens, they were dealt with mercilessly and quickly by the guards. Rough arches, bare of any insignia or filigree, had been hewn from the solid rock, paths beyond arching up or down to aid in ventilation as necessary. Down was safety, down was home, away from the skies. In the skies lurked beasts most terrible.
"Dragons!" Bruno said, needlessly, as he shook the other by the shoulder. "Ranger! What have you done?"
Ranger snarled, pulling back the skin over his large fangs, as he uttered just one word in response. "Run!"
"No!" barked Bruno, swiping Ranger across the muzzle with the back of his paw. "Diamond dogs do not run. We fight!"
Pikes, polearms, spears and clubs, and maces, morning stars and flails - these were all common weapons easily found within a diamond dog holt. The warrior hounds scrambled noisily yet smartly, arming themselves, racing out to face the threat. Ranger snarled again, grabbing himself a spiked helmet and a pike. Jamming the former onto his head and gripping the latter by one huge forepaw, he headed not out, but back in. Bruno spat on the ground after him, Ranger made a rude gesture and left. Eyes gleaming in the darkness as he headed further in to hopeful safety, Ranger swore to himself. "Cannot fight dragons. not so many. Better to run."
More and more of the dragons fell out of the skies to land along the rim of the quarry. Their eyes gleamed in the moonlight and brief spurts of flame lit the night as they surrounded their prey. The diamond dogs streamed out to meet them, tumbling onto the rocky floor and out onto the slab ledges high up on the walls. The pack snarled and snapped loudly at the silently staring creatures. For long minutes there was no movement save for the arrival of more dragons, each majestic beast taking up a position around the area, swelling their ranks.
For a few brief moments there was tense waiting and almost total silence, and then the diamond dogs charged. Bellowing incoherent battle-cries, they surged as one mass towards their foes. The dragons reacted immediately; some took to the skies, others bent their long scaly necks and unleashed balefire at their prey. The thick, meaty sound of claws and tail meeting hide rang out below the overarching roar of the melee. The dragons roared and bellowed, sweeping thickly armoured tails through whole swathes of hounds, ridged spines and spikes making quick work of them. The long, winding, protected road up was blocked with walls of flame and deadly teeth and claws, so they instead scrambled up the sheer rock-face, claw over claw, with their weapons held in their teeth. The dragons dived down in, snatching trolls from the ledges and walls, hurling them through the air where they were dashed to pieces on the jagged rocks or snapped up and devoured mid-scream by other dragons. Spears were hurled, fouling the wings of several dragons. They landed heavily but sprung to their claws fighting, limping away and hissing defiance where they were caught by the poisoned weapons. Few dragons went down, very few, and their death-screams called bloody retribution upon their slayers, as sheets of flame burst forth from their flight-mates and seared everything in their path to blackest ashes.
The battlefield was taken as the dragons moved in, decimating the diamond dog pack without mercy. The dragons worked independently, each taking their own course, but the whole of the attack was orchestrated by the largest of them as he roared orders which were obeyed without question. The dragon was huge, as black as ebony, with burning red eyes. His glare alone was fierce enough to shred rock and none dared stand against his rage. Rock was torn from rock and the holt split asunder by the combined fury of a hundred dragons. There would be no escape in the depths of the world, not from the rage of Onyxious and his fellow dragons.
The smaller dragons swarmed in through the rock archways, tearing them open further as necessary, their bulk barely fitting in the close quarters. Red and yellow flame seared the walls of the tunnels, melting them so they could be ripped away by claw or tail, or simply devoured. The larger dragons outside were not idle, they shredded the caves like confetti, snapping up the remaining attacking trolls and rending the flesh from their bones just as efficiently. The fighting was furious, intense... and short.
As the white moon rose above the desert, it illuminated a scene of utter devastation and destruction. The holt had been reduced to nothing but piles of rubble stained black with blood, still steaming and glowing in places as the rock cooled. The whole cliff-face had been laid bare, torn away like the bark from a tree to expose a massive structure within. Green-tinged rock had been shaped meticulously in the confines of a great cave to form a huge castle-like structure, a subterranean fortress hidden from view. Into it streamed the last of the Shattered Hills pack, harried by the dragons. Those that didn't make it were mercilessly executed.
Outside the castle, a lone, old diamond dog stood. He urged his people inside with brief, quiet barks and gestures from his staff. As the flow subsided to a mere trickle and then all but stopped, screams of agony silenced as the invaders made complete their bloody victory, the old diamond dog turned to face his enemies. "Hold, dragons," he said coolly.
Onyxious landed in front of his lieutenants and urged them back. "Speak, dog."
"You have punished our people enough, wyrm. Leave us now to die. Our pack is dead, our homes are in ruins, our dreams shattered."
Onyxious snarled. "You speak of dreams? You took our young, fleshling. You took lives un-hatched and ended them before they could see the stars. Why do you think you deserve to remain breathing?"
"This isn't justice." the diamond dog said, leaning on his staff. He shook his head, one paw running through his head-fur and down across his muzzle. "This-"
"This is revenge." Onyxious spoke quietly, but his words carried across the pit easily. "I do not claim an altruistic need for resolution, I desire blood. You stole my children!" The dragon slammed his foreclaws into the ground, scooping up a clawful of rocks which he threw at a group of diamond dogs. Their final yelps as they were reduced to a fine red paste echoed to nothing before the large black dragon spoke again. "There is no abyss deep enough to escape my wrath, troll. I will end your pack for their crimes."
"Then we have nothing more to discuss." The elder struck his staff against the rock floor once. It rippled, shimmering in the starlight, and it drew him backwards towards the castle. He slipped inside the great structure and a great rocky slab slid down, sealing him in.
Onyxious roared, and threw himself against the structure, claws ripping at the walls, sparks shedding as they bounced off. Finally he stopped, snarling and growling as he regained his breath. He looked over at a small box out in the middle of the canyon, guarded by four dragons. It contained the last remnants of the last clutch the dragoness who had borne them would ever lay. He had personally lain their remains within, and shut it. He glared at the castle, and knew what the final punishment of the Shattered Hills pack would be.
"His magic is strong, but he is not the only one who can talk to the rocks." The great black dragon turned to his cohorts. "Eradicate the last vestiges of the Shattered Hills pack from this miserable plane of existence. I will see to the cowards who hide within this building. It is no fortress. It shall be their tomb."
He turned back to the cave and drew in an enormous breath. He let forth a titanic blast of balefire. It flooded the cave, melting the walls and floor. It melted the rock-face, it caused the floor to sag and give, and still he spewed forth flame. The jade-tinged castle was glowing red-hot now, and as the floor beneath it turned to glass and then liquid, it began to sink. As the last few feet of the tallest spire was just disappearing beneath the lake of molten lava, Onyxious slammed his claws high into the ceiling of the cave and he pulled down the mountain itself.
The quarry rumbled and shook. Weakened by the combined attack of a hundred dragons or more, it gave in. The entire site began to collapse, falling in upon itself. The dragons leaped for safety, taking to the skies and circling as they observed the destruction. They called to one another, spurting flame and bellowing their victory cries as the canyon was levelled and flattened.
Finally, it stopped. Perched atop the mounds of rubble, with slick glass and precious metals pooling around his gleaming claws, the baleful black dragon threw back his head and bellowed. The roar was primal, angry and triumphant, and it was answered by the other dragons. All would know the fate of those who dared oppose the draconic hegemony. It was simple: obliteration.
Seeing his vengeance was satiated, Onyxious turned to leave. On great leathery wings he soared skywards, circled the devastation once, and was gone.
"Yaaaa-hoooo!" Chip cried as Hairpin did a barrel roll. He gripped her tightly with his legs, but it didn't seem to matter. She was an experienced pegasus, and she was sure and accomplished with her flight magic. It was as if he was a part of her, and however she flew it was as if he was welded to her body. She looped the loop, dropped down straight into a dead spin and then levelled out to flare her wings at the last second and land lightly on her hooves.
Giggling, she sat down on her haunches. Chip rolled off onto his back, legs in the air.
"That... was awesome." the young stallion said as he lay breathing excitedly.
"Well, anytime my master wants another ride, all he has to do is ask," said the pegasus with a flick of her golden tail. She flipped her wings to her sides and trotted off into Tacksworn with a bouncing gait that drew the eye of every stallion and most mares.
Sharptooth had decreed that she would be staying in town for a while until the preliminary set of paperwork was complete and Baroness Irontail had been contacted and declared safe and sound. Chip had been made to put his hoof-print on a variety of official-looking papers and had been lectured long and hard about the value of money, investing and thrift. He had then danced off with glee at being given a ten bit a week allowance and totally sent everything the poor dragon had tried to teach him in one ear and out the other. The night was young, he was flush with cash and it was time to go shopping! After the more important business of locating Spike, anyhow. Ah, yes life was good.
The shadow that blocked out the setting sun brought Chip out his daze. He blinked and realised he was looking up into the sharp beak of a griffon. A griffon called Carmine, to be exact.
"You. Her. Explain."
"I, er, hi Carmine!"
"Go on." The griffon stomped over his prone form, flicking her fore-claws through the dirt, digging small grooves in the dusty walkway as she straddled the pony menacingly.
"She was just... that was Hairpin and she just, uh... gave me a ride..."
"I see." Carmine's eyes narrowed as she glared at the pony beneath her.
"...Down to Tacksworn. And it was awes- uh, it was fun. Ish. Kinda. In a really boring way," Chip grinned, hopefully.
"I'm going to-"
Chip and Carmine both looked over at the owner of the voice. The cough to clear her throat had been relatively quiet and reserved. As the pair looked at Twilight, the unicorn blushed.
"Umm, if you two need a... a moment, I can... come back later?"
Carmine looked down at Chip. Chip looked up at Carmine. He grinned. Her neck-feathers fluffed up and her crest rose. She stomped over his prone body, leonine tail slapping him in the muzzle.
Chip rolled over hastily and almost had to gallop to catch up to her. "I'm sorry, she was... really only giving me a lift. I kinda broke my wings yesterday."
"Then you'd better fix them!" snarled Carmine.
"You really think I could? I mean that one time you and me were flying together and then we..." Chip trailed off.
Carmine turned, facing the pony. "We what?"
Chip just blushed, looking down, kicking his hoof at the dirt. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to... to kiss you."
"You didn't like it?" Carmine asked weakly, her neck-feathers flattened instantly.
"Oh I did! I mean... it was nice, and, uh..." Chip looked up. He opened his mouth, but whatever he was about to say went out the metaphorical window as he nickered and leaped forwards a few inches. Carmine suddenly found her beak once again locked with the strangely draconic pony's muzzle for a brief few seconds in a perfect kiss. Carmine blinked and pulled away, leaving Chip with his eyes closed mauling at nothing for a few moments. Then he opened his eyes and blushed. "Sorry, uh, something pinched me and..."
"Shut it and kiss me again, dweeb. I might forgive you."
Twilight chuckled to herself. She wasn't much for relationships herself, but she could spot awkward young love when it was practically written in glowing, six-foot high letters like that. The telekinesis spell faded and she cast a want-it-find-it spell to lead her to her errant number one assistant. The sparkle of lights generally congregated towards the center of town, and eventually led to a large, round wooden building.
"The library?" the lavender unicorn said to herself. "Well, I guess there's no place like home." Striding in, Twilight found rather more of a busy bustle than she had expected. She spotted a smallish diamond dog sitting at a table poring over what looked like a rather ancient book in a language she was surprised to find she didn't understand, a pegasus putting books back and another unicorn pulling them out. Three other diamond dogs were rearranging shelves, putting them back into position. Spike was running between the small diamond dog and the unicorn and pegasus, either accepting or dismissing the books being presented.
"Spike? What in Equestria are you doing?"
The little purple dragon looked over at his mentor and jumped a little. Hurrying to put the books on the table, he then ran over to Twilight waving his paws. "Oh no! No, no,no. You're not allowed any books from here. I've spent all afternoon clearing this place up!"
Twilight looked hurt. "When do I ever-"
"No! I've got my number one assistant researching this already," Spike said. "We're on to something with the diamond dogs!" Suddenly, he put his front paws together, pleadingly. "Please Twilight?"
"And just why are you researching diamond dogs?" Twilight asked, nuzzling Spike, who brushed off the pony kisses and pouted. She trotted over to the table with interest. Pulling up a chair, she took a longer glance at the text.
"Well, they did kind of attack this town yesterday. Ruff says they were being controlled by that dragon Chip killed."
Ruff, the smallish diamond dog, waved nervously. His tail wagged as he showed Twilight the book. "This is old, really old."
"What is it about?" Twilight asked. Her horn glowed as she tried a few basic translation spells, but gleaned little useful information from them.
"They're stories! Old ones, about us diamond dogs! I... I had the idea when I was reading Daring Do and the Quest for the Friendship Stones. I think it's based around the Ele... the Ele... oh my gosh." Ruff stopped reading the book and flipped through the comic instead. "Oh my gosh... that's you! It is you!" Ruff picked up the comic and pointed. "Spike, you're in here too... you're kind of pinker and you fall asleep a lot."
Twilight chuckled whilst Spike fumed, his cheeks red. "That does kind of look like me. What's it about?"
"We-ell, Daring Do has to rescue the friendship stones, only they've been stolen by the evil diamond dog king Brutus."
"Poetic license," Twilight snorted. "I thought diamond dogs didn't have kings?"
"We don't, but there are stories about the High King. They say he brought us across the Rainbow Bridge to escape the Great Light. Only the truest of the diamond dogs dared follow him, and the rest perished in flames. We found our new world, here, and formed a new empire. It's all in this book!"
Twilight flipped to the beginning and squinted at it. "I have never heard any of this!"
"I think it might be the only copy in the whole wide realm." Ruff ran his paws over the yellowed pages thoughtfully.
"What happens at the end, then?"
"It... just stops. I think there are pages missing, a whole section. It talks about the High King and his taking a new wife, and then it stops."
"So?" Twilight asked as she flipped to the last pages with her horn. She couldn't read the text, but stayed sitting and staring forlornly at it.
"So... the legend of the High King says that his crown jewels will re-unite the diamond dog clans. The one who holds them holds sway over all the diamond dogs, everywhere. The Alpha of Alphas. But it's just a legend. There was no high king, it's just a story. Mama used to tell it to me when I went to bed. The high king was so brave and strong! He was clever and he could do magic. That's... how I know it's not true. We don't have magic, not like ponies or dragons."
Twilight closed the book and nuzzled Ruff softly. "Diamond dogs have magic, it's just not as showy as us unicorns. I've never seen anything dig like a dog, Ruff. That's got to be magic, and it's very useful. Besides, you've probably saved us a lot of time."
"Saved a lot of time how?" called Chip as he and Carmine trotted in to the library. His mane was mussed, and Carmine was busily smoothing down her feathers.
Twilight chuckled, rolling her eyes when they weren't looking. "It seems Ruff here has discovered what you were looking for. It's a story, the high king of the diamond dogs had some crown jewels that would make their owner the king of all diamond dogs. Only it's an old mares' tale."
Chip blinked. "So Swiftwing was chasing after old mares' tales?"
Twilight nodded as she got up, the scrape of her chair's legs against the floor loud in the old wooden building. "Certainly looks like it, but we'd best make sure. Spike, take a letter please!"
Spike jumped to his hind claws and pulled out a parchment and quill. Nopony asked him where he'd had them. He looked expectantly at Twilight as she began to recite.
"Dear Princess Celestia, our search for preliminary answers may be at an end. With the discovery of a book of tales about a high king, we believe we may have found the root cause of the disturbances so recently plaguing-"
"Distur... disturba-" Spike paused in his scratchings to chew the end of the feather.
Twilight sighed and continued. "...the cause of the problems. I now appoint Ruff as junior number one assistant, reporting to Spike, my number one assistant, as they both research more about these stories."
Spike grinned, giggling, as he shared a glance with Ruff.
"And," Twilight continued, "I think good reference material may be the Daring Do series of books."
"As their creator seems unintentionally well-versed in such matters. Signed, Twilight Sparkle, your most faithful student."
With a puff of green smoke, Spike sent the scroll on its way. He then scampered over to the unicorn and hugged her legs. She entwined her neck with his and nuzzled him.
"Come on, Spike. I think it's time we were getting home. I know the princess wants to leave."
"We can come back and visit, I'm sure."
"We-ell, okay Twi." Spike waddled over to Chip and grimaced. He pulled out a small scale and gave it to Chip. "This is for you. You'll know what to do."
"A scale?" Carmine asked. "What in Equestria would you want a scale of his for?"
Chip grinned at Spike, who grinned back. "I think I know, but it's going to take a bit of practice to find out."
There was a sudden bright flash outside the library. The sun had gone down and the sky was darkening, so the flickering light caught everybody's attention. Chip and Spike turned just in time to see Celestia trotting in to the library.
"Your majesty!" called Penny. Bella grimaced and caught the book her friend had been holding in muzzle with her horn's levitation field and slid it back in to the correct spot before she too turned to bow to the princess. Butch, Dozer and Digger saluted whilst Chip just inclined his head. Twilight on the other hoof all but galloped up to her teacher and hugged the winged unicorn warmly.
"My little ponies, and friends. And Chip." Chip looked hurt, but the princess winked. She trotted over to the table and bowed her head just a fraction. "Good evening again, my Lord Sapphire." The princess grinned, flicking her ears. She grinned wider as Chip blushed hotly. "Little Ruff, Twilight informs me you have unravelled the mystery of the disturbances in these parts?"
Ruff opened his mouth, but no words came out. He just nodded.
"The High King?"
"Any mention of a map?"
This time, Ruff shook his head.
"Well then," Celestia said, "it sounds to me more like we're back where we started. In a thousand years, I have seen no High King." Delicately, the princess sat down on her haunches. She sighed, heavily. "My dear subjects, I think it is time this were put to rest."
"Wait, but-!" Chip interjected.
The princess turned to him and motioned kindly for him to be calm. Reluctantly, he did so. She continued. "A great tragedy has befallen this town, a town with such a rich history and diverse peoples. It has torn up lives, shattered dreams and personally affected every one of you. Chip, for all I disagree with certain aspects of the way this town was not only saved but is being rebuilt, and with how you personally have acted to ensure the safety of your kith and kin, you have proven exemplary in your behaviour. Listen to the advice your new father gives you and grow with him in love. I can think of no better place for you than here, and in truth it is no longer any of my concern. Be that as it may, I approve.
"Ruff, Spike, I heartily approve of any friendship based on a mutual love of adventure. Against my better judgement, I approve of Twilight's recommendations. Read your books," Celestia watched the faces of the children fall, before adding, "and your comics." She smiled as they grinned, and continued with a chuckle. "Ruff, you will report on the changing nature of the diamond dogs to Spike, who will relay them to me. I will not have this realm fall into chaos, and your honest words may prove intuitive. But just remember," Celestia nuzzled Twilight before carrying on. "Don't spend too much time reading those dusty old books!"
Carmine and Chip sat outside the library as the stars came out.
"Looks like it'll be a clear night," Chip said, gazing skywards.
"Sure will," Carmine replied, "good for hunting."
"I... wish I could come with you." Chip blushed.
The griffon looked at the pony, raising her crest in disbelief. "You, hunting?"
"Dragons hunt," Chip sniffed.
Carmine chuckled, waving a foreclaw at the silly stallion. "Yeah, but most of them have at least two of these."
"You could teach me! I-I'm sure I could do it! I just need to fix my wings first."
Carmine punched Chip on the shoulder. "Fix 'em then, dweeb. They any good for, you know, actually flying?"
Chip shook his head as he shuffled to get more comfortable on the sofa. "Not the first version, no. It was more-"
"Falling with style?"
Chip grinned. "yeah. I need... I need something to make them go. Some sort of magical power source. I'll have to talk to dad."
"What's he going to say about the sofa?" Carmine grinned back, kicking a hind paw on the plush cushions.
"I'm probably grounded forever about it," Chip laughed, blushing. "I... I only really needed the box. I don't even know how I'm going to get it home. I mean Celestia just dropped it here! In the street!"
"I think I can help with that, master!" Hairpin trotted into view, saddlebags laden down with goods.
"Oh! Hey Pin, thought you'd gone... uh... oh. I guess you need to be staying with us. Pin, this is Carmine, Car, this is-" Chip turned to look at the griffon. Her neck feathers were fluffed up and her crest was raised. "Car?"
"Hi, Hairpin." Carmine said. Her eyes glittered and her foreclaws pinched the cushions rather powerfully. "It's so nice to meet you."
Chip wasn't entirely sure she meant it. "Pin, Carmine's my... my friend. She's my best friend. I guess."
"You guess?!" Carmine hissed.
"Mistress Carmine!" Hairpin called, and she bowed before the startled griffon. "Master Chip has told me so much about you. He's always telling me how clever you are, and how much he envies your flying. He didn't mention how pretty you are though. Is that eye-colouring natural? Your feathers are gorgeous!"
"Well, I," Carmine's feathers fluffed up again as the pegasus continued smoothly.
"You simply must show me how you do it! Between you and me, I've tried dressing up for Chip, but I don't think I'm his type. He's got his eye on some other lucky girl."
"Yeah, he's a dufus like that." Carmine punched Chip again, this time in the ribs. Chip coughed, winded. He smiled weakly, clearly outnumbered.
"So, master, you said you needed help getting this sofa home again? I think I can borrow a wagon big enough, you can fit in too. Any problems, I can make two trips. Besides, gives you more time to hang out with Carmine here, you lucky dog. Look after my stuff, okay?"
Hairpin deposited her saddlebags without another word, and then trotted off back to town proper, swishing her tail side to side.
"I think," Carmine said, "I'll let you keep her."