Seafoam floated above the beach as he waited for the boat to come pick them up. He still couldn’t believe he was going home. When the Slave King has said that they were expected to not only return his amulet, but also pluck out Lord Ouroboros’s left eye, he knew that he would be seeing the Endless Sea before the week was out. At least he could comfort himself in being able to see his homeland one last time. His thoughts were interrupted when he felt a heavy hand gently shake him.
“Seafoam, my lad!” Sir Stouthorn exuberantly said. “There’s nothing quite as invigorating as the sea don’t you agree.”
“Ah yes,” Seafoam replied to his liege and mentor. “Do you think we stand a chance?”
“Honestly, I can’t say,” Sir Stouthorn said thoughtfully. “But imagine the songs this quest will inspire!”
“I’m just not sure about this plan…” Seafoam muttered.
“Well, we can only hope that Lord Triton will allow us to fight one of his champions for the pearl,” Sir Stouthorn said.
“Do you think he’ll go for it?” Seafoam asked worriedly.
“The Slave King seemed to think so…” the blue minotaur replied, “and Lord Triton when he hears why we need the pearl may be inclined to aid us.”
“But those pearls contain his very essence!” Seafoam objected. “Should Lord Ouroboros get his claws on one, it could be disastrous for the Domain of Water.”
“Then lad,” Sir Stouthorn said, “I suggest we don’t remind the Lawgiver of that.”
“I feel that aiding the Slave King in this matter is somehow violating my oath to the order,” Seafoam grumbled.
“Where’s your sense of adventure lad?” Sir Stouthorn said, lifting his page into a big bear hug. “Always see the quest through, no matter what. That’s the first and most important rule of the order.”
“I believe I left my ‘sense of adventure’ behind, when I learned that we would have to challenge Lord Triton of all ponies for one of his pearls,” Seafoam said, shaking his head worriedly.
“Lad,” Sir Stouthorn solemnly replied, “I hope that even if you don’t take any else from this adventure, that you learn to trust the quest. It will provide.”
“Our ride is here,” Seafoam said, pointing towards a sleek looking black ship being pulled by several narwhals.
“Lad, now remember,” Sir Stouthorn said, drawing back the cloak he wore that was covering his weapon, “that this lot are seapony raiders. While they might be fellow seaponies, they aren’t bound to any oath to chivalry like ourselves.”
“But certainly they wouldn’t betray questing knights of the lawgiver?” Seafoam asked.
“Probably not,” Sir Stouthorn said, “but you can’t be too careful nowadays. Especially when the raiders might take affront to us questing for the Slave King, so remember our cover story.”
“Ah yes,” Seafoam replied, “we’re on a pilgrimage to see Lord Triton’s citadel.”
“If they press for more information,” Sir Stouthorn said, “remember the questers age old saying…”
“My business is my own, just concern yourself with the color of my gold,” Seafoam said, reciting back the mantra.
The black ship weighed anchor a short distance from the beach, then dropped a longboat into the waters of the western sea. The seapony raiders manning the oars were all wearing armor made from shells and seaweed enchanted with seapony magic. Each of the raiders had a wickedly curved scimitar strapped to their sides, and wore golden jewelry on their fins and on the antennas attached to their heads. At the bow of the boat was fearsome looking seapony mare, wearing a black captain’s hat. Her purple mane flowed down her shoulders, accentuated her shining blue scales quite nicely. Although the mare was quite beautiful, Seafoam saw that beneath her magenta eyes was a hard and dangerous seapony.
Once the longboat landed on the beach, the captain and four of the raiders who were rowing the boat got out and floated over towards Sir Stouthorn and Seafoam. The captain removed her hat with a slight flourish and bowed, while her twinkling eyes never stopped looking at them. “Knights,” the captain said, “I am Captain Undine of the purple mane, and I bid you gentlestallions good day.”
Sir Stouthorn slowly approached Undine, “We wish to book passage to Marelantis,” he said.
Captain Undine narrowed her eyes at the minotaur, “Aren’t you a bit too much of an air breather to be visiting there?” she pointedly asked.
Sir Stouthorn took out a small purse filled with sea dollars, and tossed them to the captain. “My business is my own…” he began.
“I’ll just concern myself with the color of your gold,” Undine finished, catching the purse with her flipper. Taking out one of the sea dollars, she bit down on it. “Okay gentlestallions, you’ve just booked passage on my ship, the 'Mare of War'.”
Both Sir Stouthorn and Seafoam climbed aboard the long boat as they waited to be rowed towards the Mare of War. “I wonder how the others are faring.” Seafoam said.
Sir Stouthorn stroked his mustache thoughtfully, “I’m sure Shaw, Showboat, and Slick are doing fine,” he said. “But I’m more worried about Clover and Shanks. I don’t trust that blighter Scourge any further then I could toss him.”
“Well it couldn’t be helped,” Seafoam replied, “nopony else could enter Lord Triton’s domain beside us.”
“Ah that’s true,” Sir Stouthorn agreed. “I guess we can only hope that the others are able to get their items in time.”
Seafoam didn’t reply, but just sat in contemplation of what was sure to be an ordeal. Leaning back, he let the endless song of Lord Triton’s sea wash over him.
The cold winds blowing through the mountain pass of Darkpaw’s spine made the unicorn shiver uncontrollably. Shaw had been gone for nearly an hour, and she was starting to feel a bit worried. The wind picked up and blew a few stray hairs into her muzzle. The unicorn huffed in annoyance, and blew the white hairs away from her face.
The sounds of wings overhead made her freeze. Looking up, Showboat relaxed when she saw the griffin guards overhead hadn’t seen her. Moving back into the recessed cave that was serving as a make shift camp, she impatiently waited for Shaw’s return. A chill wind began picking up, causing the frigid temperatures on the mountain pass to drop even further. Shuddering from the chill, she tightened the hood of the woolen parka she was wearing around her head.
“Are you sure we can’t start a fire?” Slick asked, as he furiously chewed on a large fire ruby in hopes of it keeping him somewhat warm. “Even a small one would be better than nothing.”
“No,” Showboat replied, “Shaw wants us to be unseen while we’re here. These passes are constantly under surveillance by Lady Zephyr’s patrols.”
“Why all the secrecy?” Slick asked, as he shivered from the bite of the cold mountain air.
“Well we can’t very well steal Lord Darkpaw’s fang and three of Lady Zephyr’s feathers undetected if she knows we’re in her domain,” Showboat said.
“I don’t see how a tooth is supposed to help us fight against Lord Ouroboros,” Slick sighed. “Besides, the Slave king had three other fangs available.”
“Well,” Showboat said, “the Slave King said something about that fang in particular being especially in tune with the Earth.”
“I still don’t know how we’re going to be able to steal both the fang and some of her feathers unnoticed,” Slick said. “It seems like an almost impossible mission.”
“Please,” Showboat said while haughtily laughing, “don’t forget who you’re talking to. I’m probably the most skilled thief this side of Equestria.”
“Yeah,” Slick replied sarcastically, “but you’re also a pony who could at any time be snatched up by any passing griffin with a hankering for a pony snack.”
“Well then I’ll just have to be extra careful in avoiding getting caught,” Showboat said, raising her muzzle proudly into the air.
“That might be harder than you think,” A voice said over the beats of its wings.
“Aiiieee!” Showboat screamed in fright.
“Showboat relax,” Slick snickered, “it’s only Shaw. He just returned.”
The corners of Showboat’s mouth turned upwards in happiness. Then remembering she had just been scared for no good reason, narrowed her eyes in anger. “You… you…,” she huffed, pointing a hoof accusingly at the griffin.
“Handsome devil?” Shaw supplied, placing a kiss lightly on her muzzle.
Shaw’s affectionate kiss placated her anger, but Showboat felt that she wasn’t quite ready to forgive him just yet, not without getting at least a proper apology first. “Sir, how dare you,” she scolded, while filling her eyes with crocodile tears, “treat your marefriend so abhorrently?”
Shaw rolled his eyes when he saw his mare turn on the waterworks. “Ugh,” he thought to himself, “I hate it when she cries. What a low blow.”
“Aww,” Shaw said, slightly patronizingly, “don’t cry my darling angel.”
Seeing her tears had no effect on Shaw, Showboat stamped her hoof down in mock exasperation. “Oh,” she pouted, “you make things so… so…”
“Better?” Shaw said, before placing a kiss on her muzzle to silence her.
Showboat sighed, as she felt the beak of her lover press against her. “Yes,” she dreamily said, “you always do seem to make things better.”
“Good,” Shaw said, relieved that the crisis was now over. “I found us a way into Lady Zephyr’s eyrie.”
“Took you long enough,” Slick growled, as he bit into another fire ruby.
“Darling,” Showboat said to Slick, “I know you’re cold, but that’s no reason to be unpleasant.”
“Actually,” Shaw said, “I had to ask some old friends to make sure my plan would work.”
“Okay now I’m really curious,” Showboat said, looking up at Shaw expectantly, “what’s your master plan?”
“You’re not married are you?” Shaw asked Showboat.
“No…” Showboat said, her voice turning icy at the insinuation that she would ever cheat on her nonexistent mate. “I’m not. Why do you ask?”
“Well hear me out,” Shaw replied, “my plan is simple. We’ll ask Lady Zephyr to bless our union.”
“What!” Slick exclaimed, spitting out a large bits of gemstone from his mouth.
“What a cunning plan,” Showboat said with stars in her eyes. “Of course I’ll happily become your mate.”
“Well,” Shaw said, his feathers beginning to stand on end, “my plan is to do what you did to me when we first met.”
“You want Showboat to seduce and mount Lady Zephyr?” Slick asked. “I don’t think she’s a filly fooler.”
Shaw brought his talons up to his face, while shaking his head slightly. “No,” he said, “we make a duplicate fang and switch them out before Lady Zephyr figures out our scheme.”
“Of course we’ll have to really get married to make sure no ones the wiser,” Showboat said.
“If it comes down to it I suppose…” Shaw said, while tapping a talon to his beak. “But the longer we’re here the easier we could be discovered.”
“Yeah and didn’t the Slave King say we had less than a week to retrieve the fang and feathers and return to the Diamond Vale,” Slick said, reminding them of their deadline.
“Okay, the request for Lady Zephyr to bless our union covers how we can get access into her eyrie,” Showboat said. “But how do we get her feathers?”
“Well,” Shaw said, “among griffins there’s a tradition among those who wish to receive their masters permission to mate outside their clan called ‘primae noctis’.”
“What they hay is a prime knocking?” Slick asked, trying unsuccessfully to pronounce the unfamiliar words.
“Primae noctis,” Shaw explained, “is where a griffin’s lord will spend a night with the petitioner, ensuring that the griffin’s bloodline remains unbroken.”
“Oh I get it,” Slick said. “You’ll mount Lady Zephyr and try to snag some of her feathers.”
“Absolutely not!” Showboat fumed. “I don’t care if Celestia herself wanted to spend a night with you. You’re not going to be with anypony else.”
“But it’s the only way,” Shaw said, “I’ll just have to take one for the team by mounting the goddess.”
“You… you… pig!” Showboat spat out.
“I’m sleeping alone tonight aren’t I?” Shaw asked.
“You better believe it,” Showboat hissed.
“So do you think you’ll be able to create a duplicate fang?” Shaw asked.
“I would need to see it first,” Showboat replied, “but I’m sure it shouldn’t be too much trouble. However I have no idea how well the illusion will work on a deity like Lady Zephyr.”
“Seems like a sound plan to me,” Slick said, “do you think it might be okay for us to light a fire now?”
“Yeah,” Shaw said, “since we’ll be discovered when we approach the eyrie anyways, a fire now can’t hurt.”
“Finally,” Slick said, as he started putting together a campfire.
In the corner of their cave Showboat sat pouting over the possibility that she might have to share her darling Shaw with another. Overhead, the ruby eyes of a scorned female looked down at the unhappy unicorn. Hearing the lover’s quarrel made her smile. Perhaps these two would be the key to getting her revenge against that liar! As the fierce biting winds sweeping down from the mountains picked up, her feathers caught flame in an effort to keep her warm. Spying a nearby cave she entered it and waited for daybreak. Knowing she would soon have her revenge, she closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep.
Shanks was happy. Here he was with mister Clover in a new place. All its unfamiliar sounds and smells made him feel excited. Walking several paces ahead of Clover he kept looking back to make sure his friend was nearby. While looking behind him he managed to run into something big and heavy, sending him sprawling to the ground. Looking up he pulled back his ears in fear at what he saw, the almost pitch black form of Scourge! Whimpering in fear the pup quickly got up and ran behind Clover to hide from the bad dog. Peeking out from behind Clover’s back leg, he saw the burning eyes of the monster boring into him. Attempting to hide from the monster’s menacing gaze, the pup covered its eyes with its paws.
Seeing Shanks discomfort, Clover nuzzled the pups head with his muzzle. “Shanks it’s all right,” Clover said reassuringly while glaring up at Scourge. “Nopony will harm you while I’m here.”
“Pony don’t make promises you can’t keep,” the hell hound said, in a voice dark and terrible. “If my lord so wished it, you would both be dead.”
“But your lord doesn’t wish it, now does he,” Clover pointed out. “So stop scaring Shanks for no reason.”
Scourge glared at Clover for his defiance. Slowly he walked towards the much smaller unicorn and looked down at him. Slowly he curled his lips back revealing his fangs, and released a low growl from deep in his throat. The huntsdog looked down at Clover from his muzzle, and stared at him with his burning eyes.
Feeling the burning breathe of the monster before him, Clover felt his body tense up in fear. Scourge’s massive claws dug into the rocky earth, causing the stone beneath his paws to chip and crack. “Or what…” the doom hound said.
“Or Ill summon Nidhogg, and head back to the Diamond Vale and request the Slave King give us another of his servants to aid us,” Clover said in an ultimatum, desperately trying to hide the terror that wanted to escape the false bravado he wore like a mask.
Scourge thought it over for a moment, “Fine…” he said, before trotting up ahead.
Seeing that disaster had been diverted, Clover exhaled and nearly passed out. Seeing that Shanks was still feeling frightened, he gently nuzzled the pup. “Shanks it’s alright,” he said, “Scourge shouldn’t be giving us anymore problems.”
Shanks lifted one paw up from his face tentatively, checking to see if what Clover had said was really true. Seeing that Scourge was walking away from them, the pup got up and rubbed his head against Clover’s muzzle. “Oh mister Clover you the bravest pony in the whole world,” he said.
Clover still feeling the adrenaline from having faced Scourge, felt his body trembling uncontrollably. “Oh,” he said with a weak laugh, “I don’t know about that. I’m sure Sir Stouthorn would have laughed and said something witty.”
Shanks happily barked, “Aroo,” he howled, “you my bestest friend ever. Me hope we always friends mister Clover.”
“Shanks, I’ll be happy to always be your friend,” Clover replied, as they followed after Scourge.
Scourge looked at the unicorn and pup and wrinkled his nose in disgust. “Their friendship was against the natural order of things,” he thought. “Diamond dogs should be ruling over ponies, not being their friends. Master and servant, alpha and beta, that was the proper way. He just couldn’t wait to be done with this task so he could finally kill the last Gem Biter, and save his people from the famine. He simply couldn’t understand his master’s restraint, what hold did Celestia have over him that he should care for ponies so? Weren't his diamond dogs great and powerful, didn’t their strength rival the might of even Lord Ouroboros’s dragons?”
Looking back at the ‘two friends’, he felt a twinge of jealousy at their relationship. Part of him wished the Slave king felt about him, the way Clover seemed to feel for Shanks. Remembering the mission, Scourge pushed away these weak pony thoughts and studied his map. They were getting close to their destination now. Turning back towards Clover, he motioned for him to come near him.
“What is it Scourge?” Clover asked.
“We’re approaching the Dragon’s Necropolis,” Scourge replied. “We’ll need to be very careful from here on.”
“What will we find in there?” Clover asked.
“If the Dragon’s Necropolis is anything like the Diamond Vale,” Scourge replied, “there may be reanimated dragons in there.”
“Are you sure there’s nowhere else we can get what we need?” Clover asked, hoping that there was some slim chance they could avoid facing anymore of the dead things.
“There is nowhere else,” Scourge replied, disgusted with the pony’s cowardice. “The Dragon’s Necropolis has both objects we need. One of Lord Ouroboros’s shed scales and one of his cast off spines.”
Shanks walked up close to Clover and licked his foreleg, Clover laughed as the warm puppy tongue tickled him. “Shanks,” he said, pointing towards the sunken valley that was visible from their position, “I need you to stick close to me, and keep your nose open for trouble.”
Shanks looked up at Clover and wore a serious look on his muzzle. “Mister Clover,” he said, “me be good. Me will watch your back.”
Scourge snorted in disgust, “Stop your yapping,” he growled, walking down into the valley below, “from here on out, I’ll expect you two to be as quiet as death’s passing.”
Clover nodded and followed after the hunter. As the walls of the Canyon rose up along either side of them, he was grateful for the protection Scourge offered. “For what better protection to have from monsters but another monster,” he thought. After passing through a bend in the path, what he saw maybe him stare in wonder, as far as he could see the entire valley was full of the bleached bones of dragons.
Tentatively following after Scourge, he suddenly felt a cold chill run up his spine. “I wish the others were here,” Clover thought to himself. Looking behind him he saw Shanks trotting after him, following in his footsteps. Realizing he wasn’t alone in this insane quest after all, Clover took a deep breath and continued onwards feeling the reassuring warmth that their friendship provided him.
Lord Ouroboros flew over the broken remains of the Diamond Vale, looking down he saw the ruins of Lord Darkpaw’s palace. Although there was no love lost among them, the tyrant of fire missed his old rival and the battles they waged against each other. Now all he had to fight was the coward. The man thing didn’t even have the courage to come out and face him! Everything that he’d tried doing to goad the new Lord of Earth into action had failed.
Lord Ouroboros’s wings ached as he looked longingly at the ground. He desired to land to rest for a bit before resuming issuing his challenges to King, but knew that the instant any part of him touched the ground, that the invisible tendrils of the vengeful Earth would start sapping his strength. He had no idea how the man thing had figured out how to do it. Sighing in frustration, he decided to make one more pass before giving up and heading back to his hoard to rest.
“King!” Lord Ouroboros’s bellowed. “King, I know you can hear me! How does it feel to know I have that which you desire? Was it the unicorn or the griffin that you cared more for? How does it feel knowing Tiroc is having his way with them now?”
In response to his taunts, a large boulder was launched from the city below. “I have you now!” Lord Ouroboros’s laughed to himself, deftly banking to avoid the projectile.
“If you weren’t such a weakling you might have been able to save them,” Lord Ouroboros said, before heading north east towards his domain.
Far below in the ruins of the Diamond Vale the Slave King sat on his great stone throne. Hidden beneath the cold unfeeling exterior he wore, a furious rage threatened to be unleashed. Pounding his fist down hard on the arm rest of his throne, the Slave King sat down defeated when he knew he could never pursue his enemy into his domain.
“Damned chains,” he spat. “If only I could somehow escape my banishment, I would make Lord Ouroboros pay!”
“Rend the Earth in two!” a sickly voice whispered into his mind.
“No… no… I just need to be a little more patient is all,” the Slave King said. “Once they’ve returned I’ll be able to have my revenge on Lord Ouroboros, and against all the others who’ve wronged me.”
“You fool…” the voice hissed. “Do you think that the rest of the pantheon will allow you to have such a weapon?”
“They’ll have no other options,” the Slave King replied. “Once they see what it’s done to Lord Ouroboros they’ll have no choice but to acquiesce to my demands.”
“Do you think there are no consequences to this course of action?” the voice countered.
“Lord Ouroboros himself challenged me, the laws of the moot don’t apply,” the Slave King replied. “Once I have the weapon, wounding him should prove easy.”
“Others thought that they could overthrow the pantheon,” the voice said. “Discord learned the folly of trying to interfere in others domains without weakening them first.”
“Save your ramblings for another,” the Slave king replied, “I’ve ensured my immunity from sharing his imprisonment.”
“Oh have you?” the voice said with a dark chuckle. “There are worse things beyond banishment or imprisonment that could happen to you.”
"Like what?” the Slave King asked.
“You could be cast into the pit like Tiroc was,” the voice suggested.
“Stewardship over the pit belongs to me” the Slave King replied. “I have nothing to fear, from neither it nor Tiroc.”
“Break the Earth and free Tiroc from his prison,” the voice suggested, “he would prove to be a most potent ally.”
“Master don’t you mean?” the Slave King replied. “Should I release him, he would subjugate all.”
“Would not being freed from your banishment be worth it?” the voice asked.
“I spent ten years as a slave of the Gem Biters,” the Slave King said, “I have no intention to willingly return to servitude.”
“Free him, break the Earth!” the voice chanted, shouting its demands into his mind.
“Be gone!” the Slave King roared, the earth trembling under the fury of his rage.
The Slave King carefully listened, straining to hear if the voice had finally left or if it would come back to haunt him again. As he sat alone on his throne, all he could hear was the tiny whisper of “free him…” echoing throughout the broken ruins of the long dead city.
“Wake up,” A feminine voice said.
Shaw’s eyes fluttered a bit when he heard her speak. “Five more minutes please,” he said rolling over on his side.
“Ugh,” the voice sighed, then placing her beak next to Shaw’s ear she shouted, “Wake up!”
“Ahh!” Shaw screamed, surprised at being so rudely awoken.
“Ah good, your finally awake now,” the female said, with a voice as soft as silk.
“Uh what…” Shaw murmured, trying to wake himself up fully. Rubbing the sleep out from his eyes he was surprised by what he saw, a large fire red phoenix with ruby colored eyes standing over him.
“Who are you?” he asked.
“That doesn’t really matter,” the phoenix said. “However, what does matter is that you’re going on an errand to fetch a fang I believe.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Shaw blustered. “My friends and I are just heading towards Lady Zephyr’s eyrie on a pilgrimage.”
“A pilgrimage… Yeah right,” the phoenix sarcastically said. “A griffin, a dragon, and a unicorn all traveling together isn’t the least bit suspicious.”
“Why we travel together, and our destination is none of your concern,” Shaw said.
“Oh but it is my concern,” she replied. “Especially when it concerns Lord Ouroboros.”
“What makes you think we having anything to do with Lord Ouroboros?” Shaw countered.
“You reek of the Slave King’s domain,” she said. “Lady Zephyr will know something is off about you immediately.”
“So how do you intend to help me?” Shaw asked.
“Oh, I plan to just give you a tiny push in the right direction,” the phoenix said, before plucking one of her feathers free and handing it to Shaw with her wing.
“What’s this for?” Shaw asked.
“Place this among your plumage,” the phoenix said before taking off, “when you try to have an audience with her, she will be more willing to see you.”
Shaw held the feather in his talons. Unsure as to what the feather would do, placed it among the plumage on his head. Immediately the red feather took root and held fast. Deciding to see what it looked like inside his plumage, he looked down at a nearby puddle to see his reflection.
Staring up from the pool of water at him was his reflection; he was surprised by what he saw. Standing out among his normally white feathers was the red feather he had just placed, while the remainder of his feathers was now tinted red. “Looking even better,” Shaw said as he admired his reflection. “Though I wonder how this red plumage is going to help me secure an audience with Lady Zephyr.”
He received his answer when he was tackled from behind by Showboat. “Shaw darling,” she cooed, while nibbling at his wings, “I’m so sorry for last night. Let me make it up to you…”
Shaw felt his wings fully extend as he felt Showboats lips slowly moving downwards. As the pleasure began overwhelming him, Shaw gripped the earth with his talons and flapped his wings uncontrollably. She attended to him for several heavenly minutes followed by a burst of exquisite pleasure; Shaw felt his wings drop to his sides as Showboat gently nuzzled his cheek once she was finished apologizing.
“Shaw, I hope you’ve forgiven me,” she said, “but you know how jealous I can get.”
Shaw kissed her cheek. “Yes Showboat,” he agreed, “I forgive you. But if you don’t mind me saying, you seem extra affectionate today.”
“Actually now that you mention it,” Showboat said, “I was actually still feeling rather upset with you over last night. However, when I saw you I was immediately was overwhelmed with a desire to… Well you know…”
“Ah,” Shaw said, “so that’s what she meant.”
“Who’s she?” Showboat asked dangerously.
“A phoenix that dropped by right before you awoke,” Shaw replied. “She said something about wanting to help us, and gave me a feather. She told me to place it in my plumage, and now my feathers are all tinted red.”
“Hmm…” Showboat said, studying his face. Slowly her eyes filled with desire, and she licked her lips in anticipation. “Darling, looking at your plumage has suddenly filled me with a desire to be mounted by you.”
Shaw, never one to refuse a lady’s request, obliged his lover. After twenty minutes, Shaw rolled to the ground in exhaustion. “I think I know how the phoenix meant to help us,” he said.
“Huff, huff. Darling how,” Showboat asked, while trying to catch her breath.
“By making every female that lays eyes on my plumage go into heat,” Shaw said.
“How unfair!” Showboat whined. “I don’t want to share you with anypony else.”
Look on the bright side,” Shaw said, “at least this way we have a sure way into getting a meeting with Lady Zephyr.
“You’d better remove that feather once this is all over!” Showboat demanded. “I’ll not be having every mare from here to Manehattan offering their flanks to you.”
“I wonder if it would work with either Princess Celestia or Princess Luna,” Shaw said.
“Keep that up and I’ll buck you all across Equestria,” Showboat threatened.
“I’m just kidding,” Shaw replied, blowing the red feather out of his face.
“Are you two done breeding yet?” Slick asked from the cave. “Cause I think we need to get moving.”
When they heard him, both the unicorn and griffins faces flushed with embarrassment. “Ah yes darling,” Showboat tittered.
Slick rolled his eyes in annoyance at the couple. “I knew that bridle was nothing but trouble…” he grumbled.
Shaw walked down the path towards Lady Zephyr’s eyrie and said, “I wonder what Lady Zephyr will be like?”
In response he felt the sharp jab of a unicorn horn in his flank, “Okay fine I’ll stop,” he said, rubbing his sore backside with his paw.
A smug Showboat followed behind him, while Slick rode on her back towards the golden eyrie that loomed in the distance.
The boat ride aboard the ‘Mare of War’ was uneventful. Though it had been years since he’d been back at sea, Sir Stouthorn still had his sea hooves. The smell of the salt air seemed to invigorate his old bones. He could still remember his first time at sea, back then he had been just a calf barely strong enough to lift a battleax. Looking at his page, he saw so much of himself in Seafoam’s youthful vigor. Soon the Seapony would become a full-fledged knight and receive a page of his own; the minotaur felt a bit sad when he thought of losing him as a traveling companion.
“Ah but such is life,” Sir Stouthorn said, while looking at the waves crashing against the ship’s bow.
Once Seafoam was knighted, it would be time to retire from active questing. The minotaur didn’t think he had it in him to break in a new green initiate of the order. Thinking about where he would like to retire to, he thought about what Princess Luna had said earlier at the banquet. Maybe taking up residence in Londwhinium might not be so bad, perhaps he could even hire on there at Lord Triton’s keep.
His thoughts were interrupted by an energetic Seafoam, “Sir Stouthorn,” he said, “something on your mind? You look like you’re lost to Lord Triton’s song.”
Sir Stouthorn laughed, “Oh no Seafoam,” he chuckled, “I was just thinking about how this quest will probably finally get you your spurs.”
"Ah yes,” Seafoam said, “I shall be Sir Seafoam. I wonder what honor they will award me.”
“If I had my way it would be Sir Seafoam, the virtuous,” Sir Stouthorn said.
“Ah, I was hoping for something like the mighty or the brave,” Seafoam said.
Sir Stouthorn patted his page’s back, “Ah to be virtuous,” he said, waxing poetic, “is better than to be mighty or brave. A virtuous pony will always do what’s right, even when it hurts. To be truly virtuous requires a pony of quality. Brave in the face of temptation, a soul strong enough to resist evil, and the conviction to be steadfast.”
“Wow I never knew you thought so highly of me,” Seafoam said, looking up at his liege.
“Yes,” Sir Stouthorn said, “I see that one day, you will surpass me. A fitting legacy, for when I go to the summerlands.”
“Sir Stouthorn,” Seafoam said in alarm, “don’t talk like that. You have plenty of years left in you!”
“Lad I know,” Sir Stouthorn chuckled. “But I’m not getting any younger. These old bones ache every night now, and my coat grows greyer each day.”
“Nonsense,” Seafoam said, “should death come for your soul, you’d challenge him to a wrestling contest and make him cry uncle.”
Sir Stouthorn heartily laughed, “Seafoam my lad,” he said, “when you’ve reach my age, I think you come to terms with your mortality. I’m just glad that I had a chance to walk part of life’s path with you.”
Seafoam felt a burning passion rise in his heart. “Sir Stouthorn,” Seafoam said. “I swear on my life and my honor, that I shall be as great a knight of Lawgiver as you.”
“No lad,” Sir Stouthorn said, “don’t shoot so low, be greater.”
“Then I shall,” Seafoam said. “I swear this by Lord Triton’s mustache.”
“I’m sure you will be lad,” the minotaur said, “I’m sure you will be.”
Off in the horizon, the knight and his page saw their destination approaching. “I hope Lord Triton forgives us,” Seafoam said.
“As long as our hearts are true,” Sir Stouthorn replied, “and we do what’s right. Lord Triton will have no need to feel shame on our account. So come let’s prepare, and bring great honor to his name.”
High above them, Celestia’s sun smiled warmly at the friends as they prepared to face their greatest challenge yet.
The frigid air of the Dragon’s Necropolis nipped at Clover’s neck like a vampire trying to feed. So far they had been lucky. Nothing but vermin and the occasional scavenger had seen them. The open air resting place of all dragons seemed like an almost holy place. As far as the eye could see, the bones of the great beasts lay where their owners had taken their final breaths. Clover felt guilty over having to disturb this place to retrieve the needed items. “This will end the famine,” Clover thought to himself. “Surely the dead wouldn’t begrudge us from saving their kin.”
Following behind Scourge, Clover was amazed that the great beast’s footpads made no sounds as he walked. Looking behind him he saw Shanks, dutifully keeping his eyes and nose open and his mouth shut. Clover followed behind their surly guide until he stopped.
“Stay very still,” Scourge whispered. “Something’s up ahead. Stay here while I check it out.”
Clover nodded as he silently prayed to Celestia that he wouldn’t have to face any more of the hungry dead. The very thought of the bleached bones coming to life and attacking them made his skin crawl. Such abominations shouldn’t be possible, and yet he had fought them earlier that day. And here he was smack dab in the middle of the graveyard full of dragon corpses that could reanimate at any moment, provided whatever animated corpses were present.
Before Clover could begin calculating how many ways they could all be horribly killed by an army of skeletal dragons, he was interrupted by Scourge, “Follow me,” he said, “there’s a dragon up ahead that’s come here to die.”
Following after Scourge, both Clover and Shanks walked behind him closely. Right in their path was an enormous blue dragon. Its once blue hide was faded, and its scales were dull. The dragon opened up its maw to yawn revealing that it was missing many teeth, and the ones still left in its mouth were blunt and broken. As it shallowly breathed he could see its ribs under its thick hide.
“A pony, a diamond dog, and something unknown…” the dragon said. “How unusual. Travelers I welcome you to Utz’ Slith Slaan, or as you might know it the Dragon’s Necropolis.”
“Let us pass or face my fangs,” Scourge threatened.
“Oh, ho ho ho,” the dragon laughed. “What have I to fear from you strange one? I shall soon enough enter the eternal hoard. What does it matter if I enter it now or a bit later?”
“We only wish to pass you by,” Clover said. “We bear you no ill will.”
“Ah a pony,” the dragon remarked, while looking towards Clover with its sightless white eyes. “Celestia’s children were always such a joy.”
“Tell me why you’ve come to this place and I’ll let you freely pass,” the dragon said.
“Aroo,” Shanks howled, “pony princesses sent us to see the not-Darkpaw, to make him stop the famine.”
“A diamond dog,” the dragon said thoughtfully. “How interesting that you don’t recognize him as your master, the Slave King has been quite busy these past months I can tell.”
“Wyrm, we haven’t the time to waste entertaining you,” Scourge growled.
“Mysterious one,” the ancient dragon said, “surely you’d be willing to grant a dying dragon’s final request.”
Scourge studied the dragon with his burning eyes. “Very well,” he said, “but we can’t afford to stay here long. We have to get what we’ve come for before we’re discovered.”
“Oh the hungry dead?” the dragon said. “Truthfully I wonder why the Slave King would allow such a thing to happen. It seems rather irresponsible, if you ask me.”
“Don’t you dare insult my master!” Scourge snarled.
“I meant no disrespect, mysterious one,” the dragon said. “Though I am puzzled why you would consider the Slave King your master, when you aren’t even a diamond dog.”
“I used to be a diamond dog,” Scourge replied, “but the Slave King remade me into one of the first of his creations.”
“I am Travenro the Skygazer,” the dragon said. “May I have your name dark one?”
Scourge thought a minute then nodded, “I am Scourge the Huntsdog,” he said. “No matter wherever my prey has hidden, I shall find it, bite it, and tear it.”
“I see Scourge,” Travenro said, “and what is your quarry today?”
“Our own business!” Scourge snapped.
“Oh humor a dying dragon,” Travenro replied, “surely no harm could come from telling one that has one claw in the pit.”
Clover seeing that they were getting nowhere decided to reveal their reason for entering the Dragon’s Necropolis. “Travenro,” he said, “I am named Clover the Clever, and our mission is simple. We are here to retrieve one of Lord Ouroboros’s scales and cast off spines.”
“You fool!” Scourge growled. “I should rend you to pieces for betraying the Slave King.”
“Scourge there’s no need for concern,” Travenro said, “and I have an idea why you might seek out Lord Ouroboros’s cast offs. Tell me Clover, what do you plan on doing once you’ve delivered to the Slave King what he’s asked for.”
“I’m not sure,” Clover admitted, “the Slave King promised to end the feud between the Prime Elements and end the famine. So hopefully he’ll keep his word.”
“Clover, let me offer you one last piece of advice before you pass through the house of dead,” Travenro said, moving out of their path. “There are many way to end wars, and many kinds of peace to be found. The greatest peace of all is death. Remember that as you serve the Slave king.”
“Thank you Travenro,” Clover said, as he followed after Scourge. “May your rest in the eternal hoard be a peaceful one.”
“May your journey be swift small one…” Travenro murmured to himself, waiting for the end to come. “Such a nice pony, I hope I won’t be seeing him before his time.”
As the dragon laid his weary head down to rest, only the wind blowing through the desolate place answered him. And it refused to share its secrets, only quietly telling him to bid his time.
Thank you gentlereader for reading the latest chapter of The Great Slave King. As always comments are appreciated.
Here we see that the Slave King has sent the party on a quest to retrieve items from the other three domains, From the Domain of Water, a pearl containing the very essence of Lord Triton himself. From the Domain of Air, Lord Darkpaw's fang and three of Lady Zephyr's feathers. And finally from the Domain of Fire, one of Lord Ouroboros's shed scales and cast off spines. I wonder what he could possibly be planning to use those things for? And what of the voice? I wonder who the owner is? It seemed to be more knowledgeable than the rantings of somepony slipping into madness. I wonder what the weapon it referred to is capable of...
All this and more will be revealed in the next exciting chapter of the Great Slave King!
Once again gentlereader, thanks for reading. Until next time!