While we were in the middle of flying, I got a strange feeling. It started at my neck, but quickly spread across my whole body. While trying to contain myself, I heard Spade call something to me. "What's wrong down there?"
“We have to land. Now! Somethings wrong, my whole body feels like its on fire!" I called as I lost all self control. He started circling his way down when my body went from being on fire to searing pain. He dropped me and I landed with a dull thud. I quickly got to my paws and ran towards a rock formation.
The pain overtook me and I let out a few grunts and moans. I looked at myself, only to see these strange glowing blue lines force themselves onto me. My eyes soon had the same feeling as the rest of my body and I fell backwards. I heard Spade call something to me, but my pain caused me to black out.
"Well this certainly is different." My eyes snapped open and located the source of the voice. It was a pegasus, but he had a familiar feeling about him. I jumped to my paws, ready to kill if need be.
"Who are you, how did I get here?" I asked in more of a demanding tone than asking. I felt something in my paw, but kept my eyes locked onto the pegasus.
"Just a friend helping you on your way." He gave me a smile. I sensed no hostility from him, but I decided to be safe than sorry.
"Why are we here? Where are you taking me?" I asked quickly, eager to get to the point.
"I'm taking you to see the princess remember? We're going to get that bullet out of your chest." I thought about what he said, and felt my body weaken. I fell down and drifted to a state of unconsciousness.
“Open your eyes, third.” I did as I was told, and saw two other Diamond Dogs. Silver and Grim had markings similar to mine, but in their rune’s color. “Stage one is complete. Did you have a loss of memory too?” I nodded to her. “It should return when you awaken. Oh, and tell Celestia I said hi. If she remembers me, that is.” She gave me a smile as I shifted back to reality, memory intact this time.
I was on some sort of blanket next to a firepit when I opened my eyes. Slowly getting to my feet, I heard some noises coming from a short distance away. As I moved through the rocks, I found Spade aiming his rifle right at me. He was tense at first, but loosened up when he saw it was me.
"Dear Celestia kid, never sneak up on me. Had I only seen a part of you you may have lost it." I put my free hand on my neck, rubbing myself in shame.
"Sorry about that. I just heard some noises from over here and decided to see what was up." I started looking at what he had been doing. He had his rifle set up and must have planned on practicing.
"Well don't just stand there like an idiot. If you want to help me, come on over." He had surprised me and I hastily move over to him. "The more experienced shooter is usually the spotter, so go ahead and take the rifle." I tried getting into the firing position my uncle taught me, but being a Diamond Dog and the gun being smaller, made it a LOT more difficult. My fingers were a little too big to fit around the trigger, so I used one of my claws instead.
"Grab the magazine to your right and load it in." I did as I was told, fumbling a bit due to the size. "Pull the bolt back and load a round into the chamber. Once you do that, wait for me to call out targets. The scope is zeroed in for two kilometers so just use the holographic sight for now. “ Again I did as I was told.
"Okay, now what?" I called out eagerly.
"I'll call out targets for you, you find and do your best to hit them." He said looking through the scope, "Alright, first target, one hundred meters, spruce tree next to a large boulder." I took aim, and waited a moment before firing. I let out a shot, knowing I most likely missed. "Miss," he called, "increase your aim a bit." I readjusted my aim and held my breath before shooting. I heard the sound of a bullet grazing wood. "Take one more shot, a little more to the right." I aimed slightly to the right and repeated my preparations. I let out the shot and hit the target dead center. “Good hit.” He said to me.
We kept practicing with the rifle until I ran out of ammo. I was at 250m too. I let out a frown due to the fact of me enjoying myself. "Over already?" I called to him.
"Yeah kid, done already. Not bad for you're first time. Certainly not an ace shot." He gave me a smirk after finishing his sentence.
I returned the smirk. “I said I was a good shot with a pistol, not a rifle.” It felt like such a short time had gone by, but it was really just an hour. I stood up from my current position and stretched. “So, time to hit Canterlot.” Spade nodded to me and flapped his wings a few times before flying into the air. He circled around to gain speed and came straight back, lifting me into the air soon after.
After about another twenty minutes, we were directly above the castles main gates. Like when we first landed, he circled down and dropped me. The two guards jumped at the sight of me and looked ready to charge. Spade came down at the right time, as the guards were about to charge me. “He’s with me.” He said, dropping his previous accent. The guards nodded and let us through, eyeballing me the entire time.
After entering the castle and walking the many different hallways, we came to the throne room. Spade looked at me for a moment, as if checking if I was ready. Thinking that that is what he was gesturing, I gave him a nod. He pushed the door open and we entered.
Celestia was sitting on her throne lost in thought when the door opened. She was brought back to reality by the sounds of us moving towards her. She seemed to tense a little at the sight of me, but was calmed when she saw Spade. “What brings you here?” She called to me.
I couldn’t think of a good answer, so I said what Silver told me to. “Silver Claw says hi.” She looked lost in thought again.
“You must be the other leader she mentioned.” I shook my head at her. I wasn’t an official leader, but I was one of three. “Then who are you?” Ah, there is the question that has an easy answer.
“Here’s a hint. A bullet to the chest.” She looked shocked, mainly due to the fact I remembered, but also because of the changes.
“How do you remember?” She asked without hesitation. Soon after, she shifted her gaze to Spade. I shook my head at this.
“Celestia, I am the third. Magic has no affect on me anymore, nor the others I think.” I crossed my arms and held my head high, as if I had just won a battle. She looked confusedly at me. “That’s not why we are here, though. We both have discovered something that could upset the balance of Equestria.” I left off for Spade to tell her, feeling she would rather hear it from him.
He let out a sigh and stepped forward, bowing to Celestia. "What we have learned," he said, "Was that the nomadic clans of the Diamond Dogs are rising in power and quickly building a force in which to attack Ponyville and the surrounding countryside." Celestia looked a little shaken by this, but not fully surprised. "By my estimates, they're going to be done with their preparations in a years time. After which they will release their forces into first Ponyville, then moving down the countryside and attacking the other cities and towns across Equestria. Also by that time their numbers will be in the thousands, enough to do just that."
She nodded, standing from her throne and moving forward to address us both, "Thank you Aces, and thank you Zin for bringing this news to me. It has come over my attention that there has been increased activity by the clans, but I never thought they would try something like this." she said, pacing around back and forth. "It will take us some time to prepare, almost the entire years grace that you two have given us. But by then we should be well enough defended to withstand the brunt of their forces here in Ponyville. If we can stop them right from the start, they won't be able to attempt something like this ever again."
She stopped in front of me, "For your services, I and my sister will aid you in removing the of the projectile in your chest." I was finally going to get this damn thing out of me. She moved over to Spade. "As for you, I will discuss your mission in further detail once we are alone." He gave her a nod. She turned her head towards me. "Now if you could follow me, we will attend to you first."
I gave her a noble bow. "Thank you Celestia." As we began taking our leave through one of the side doors, two guards came behind me. We were traveling through an open garden towards a large tower. The garden was just a small square walkway towards the towers stairwell. Right as we approached, the guards stopped. Celestia told me to follow them to where the bullet would be removed.
They broke off from their positions and lead me down a side corridor. At the end of the hall, there was one lone door, which gave me an edgy feeling. The guard to my left opened the door and motioned me inside. There was a single table in the center of the room, and straps aligned the sides. I knew this room was going to be like this, even in the movies it’s like this. I let out a sigh and laid myself on the table. Both of the guards managed to strap me down right as the two sisters came in.
“All set?” Celestia called to me. I took a deep breath and nodded, finding myself speechless. “Alright then. As you said before, magic cannot affect you. Yet, the bullet is not a part of you. Do you understand?”
“Celestia, I used to be human. I understand a lot more than you give me credit for.” I felt I could entrust everypony in the room with this, as my actions showed I was different than most.
“I see.” She sounded a little bit disturbed by this, but I just smiled at her. I started to feel off. Like I was falling asleep without having smelt or eaten any type of medicine. Luna looked worriedly at me, while Celestia just moved to my side. I could make out the words ‘this will hurt later’ before I passed out. I seem to be doing a lot of that recently.
I opened my eyes to be back in the throne room, but with only Silver this time. “Where is Grim?” I asked her. Her head shot upwards in my direction, a look of sorrow on her face.
“He has not been able to rest recently. The uprising clans have forced him to fortify our entire cave. Where are you as of now?” The last sentence sending signs of immense worry, as well as her facial expression.
“I am with the princesses being operated on. Do we have any weapons around the cave?” She gave me a nod. I started to think about how long it would take to be done with at least stage three. “What will stage two do?” She looked surprised at the question.
She got out of her throne and started walking towards me. “The second stage will enhance your mental abilities. At least, for me it will. Grim will have increased physical attributes. When you got to stage one, what did you feel like?” She was right infront of me now, her luminescent purple eyes staring into mine.
I thought back to when we were flying to the castle. I felt heat course through my veins, unmatchable to anything I have ever known. “I felt like I was on the sun, heat running through me.” Silver took my right paw and examined it closely. She followed the streak on my arm all the way to the necklace, reading the way it curved and analyzing every aspect.
“When I felt the change, my mind felt searing pain. I could hear the thoughts of those around me, and I was able to dream of upcoming events occasionally. For Grim, his entire body felt the pain as his body changed to a form where he could be a one dog army.” She let out a hearty laugh, which I joined in on. “You say you felt heat, but not pain?” I gave her a confused looking nod. “This is most strange. What else could there be besides mental and physical...” She started pacing around, mumbling at any given moment.
I walked over to my seat and sat in it. Physical and mental abilities are what they were boosted in, but for each it is different, as no three are the same. The heat felt more like energy coursing through every fiber in my body. “Could it be magic?” I thought aloud. Seeing how everything else around me was because of magic, it was a reasonable thought.
Silver stopped dead in her tracks. “Like those who lit this cave, many years ago...” I knew it! Those gems weren’t just normally lit like that, no gem is. “The only magic bearing dogs died trying to see if they were the third.” That’s what the voice meant then. I got to my paws and stood a small distance away from Silver, deep in thought about the skills I was being given.
I felt an intense pain coming from my chest and let out a howl. Silver ran over to me, fear written all over her face. I fell to my knees, blood dripping to the rocky surface below. She knelt down to my level and looked me dead in the eyes. “You will feel what they are doing, third. It is a flaw with this connection.” She let a tear fall out of her eyes at the sight of my pain. Why did she care so much about someone she just met?
Even with the pain increasing, I shunned it and smiled at her. “I am tougher than I look...” Suddenly, a green light emitted from where I once came from. Grim yawned and took a step forward before fully opening his eyes. After seeing me, he ran next to Silver. “Bout time...” More blood was flowing from the wound, but my insides screamed where I assumed my ribcage was.
Grim offered a paw, which I gladly took, and helped me up. He led me to my chair and just stared at me. The three of us suddenly glowed our runes colors brightly. Silver had started gripping her head as Grim collapsed to the ground. As for me, my body felt as it did before. Extremely full of heat, or energy as it were. More glowing streaks formed on our bodies, fully connecting over my entire body.
When the feeling subsided, the pain in my chest did as well. The blood stopped flowing freely, but merely stayed where it was. “Stage two is complete. Wake up.” We all said in unison, returning to reality.
I opened my eyes to see a worried Luna in front of my face. The other two guards had left the small room, and Celestia was disposing of the bullet. “The job finished already?” I said in a painful yet joking manor. Both princesses nodded to me as they continued patching up my wound. Luna helped me to my feet and told me she was going to help me to the throne room. We began making our way when Celestia asked us to stop. She seemed lost in thought for a moment, as if looking for the right words.
“What did make you take Shadow’s place in front of the bullet?” She said in a calm tone, as if she had prepared for this.
“If you had to choose between yourself living and Luna dying, which would you choose?” I answered a question with a question. Normally that would make some people, or ponies, angry. She stayed calm and smiled towards her sister.
“I would choose myself.” I gave her a nod, gesturing that I would give her the answer.
“You would do it for love. I may not have loved her, but somepony did. There is enough sorrow in the world already, why add to it?” We were motioned to keep moving to the throne room after a couple minutes silence. Luna kept looking at my new markings, obviously curious. I would have to explain it to her another time, though.
When we got to the throne room doors, Celestia turned around to face Luna and I. “Sister, can you take him to his chambers for rest, like we talked about?” I didn’t like the way she said chambers, and according to the look on Luna’s face, she didn’t either. She gave her a nod and we walked off.
After many hallways and stairs going down, we arrived at a large stone door. Luna opened it with her magic and led me through. All along the sides of the walls were cell doors, some full and some not. We walked to the very end of the path where there was an open cell door. She helped me onto the bed, where I just sat and looked at her.
“Celestia has questions she wishes to ask you when she is finished. I’m sorry.” She looked a bit ashamed to be doing what she was.
“I understand, Luna. There isn’t much she could get out of me that she wouldn’t already know.” She still looked a little sad, but nodded and trotted out of the cell. She shut it and locked it before exiting the cell block.
I put one of my paws out in front of me and flipped it over, seeing my palm. I closed my eyes and focused on that feeling of warmth from before, trying to concentrate it to my palm. The sensation rushed through my arm and stopped at my hand for a moment. I just kept it like that before the feeling went away. I opened my eyes saddened, but what I saw was a blue fire in my hand. I smiled as I snuffed it out. ‘Now to keep practicing, and maybe I can bust myself out of here.’ I thought. New dog, new tricks. Let’s see how she can handle my tricks, though.