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“And then I saw the fountain, and drank from it till my thirst was quenched,” King said.
“Well, slave King,” Ouroboros the flame dragon, rumbled, “that doesn’t really answer our question.”
Although feeling physically refreshed from his time in the fountain, the human felt mentally fatigued. He was in no mood to answer any more questions, even if they came from beings of great power. “Ouroboros, I don’t know what more to tell you,” King said. “Pretty much for the last ten years, I was digging for gems for my masters. There’s not much else to tell.”
Triton’s liquid body floated in front of the man, while it looked down at the fountain. “I think,” Triton said, “the more pertinent question is what do you intend to do now?”
King narrowed his eyes, “You know,” he said, “I can’t quite understand, what you’re so concerned about. Each of you radiate more than enough power to destroy me.”
Darkpaw looked at the man thing with a steely gaze, “You’re of foreign origin, and we don’t want you mucking up the world,” he growled.
Celestia walked over towards the man, “We just want to make sure you’re taken care of properly,” she said with a look of benevolence. “Step out of the fountain, and maybe we can help you find your way home.”
Something wasn’t quite right, although King had no idea who most of these beings were, he had seen and heard of references to Celestia, Luna, and Darkpaw during his time as a slave. Little Bleu and Snowe had both mentioned them, during their conversations regarding Equestria. As for Darkpaw, you couldn’t walk a hundred yards in the city, without passing a stone carved in honor of him. Deciding to test them, King began to make his way out of the fountain. Looking at Celestia, he saw she had a calm and collected demeanor. Turning towards Darkpaw, he noticed that the mighty hound was licking his lips and was preparing to pounce.
King moved back towards the center of the fountain. “If it’s the same with you,” the human defiantly said, “I think I’ll stay right where I am.”
“Ho, ho, ho, excellent choice human,” Discord laughed, as he slowly turned to stone. “I’d hate for you to end up like me.” All eyes in the room glared at him.
“Discord thou art a fool,” boomed Luna, “Thine serpentine betrayal, shall not earn thee thine freedom.”
“Oh Luna, I know,” Discord said, summoning a box full of popcorn. “It’s been so dreadfully boring lately, and I think this chap might just make a little excitement.” Discord turned to the man. “Listen well human, the minute you leave the Well of Eternity all my kinfolk,” he said, gesturing towards the assembled creatures, “will imprison you in stone for a few millennia, give or take a decade or two. I really don’t care what happens either way. I’m just here for the show.”
Celestia frowned when she heard Discord speak. “King, it’s only for your own protection,” she said, stamping her hoof onto the smooth stone floor.
“Is it really for my protection, or for yours,” King said. “If it’s all the same, I’ll just wait here, until you’re all gone, I can find my own way out.”
Ouroboros let out a mighty roar, as his scales caught fire. “Man thing, what makes you think you have a choice in the matter?” he asked.
“Since you’re so keen on me leaving the fountain,” King replied. “You would have removed me forcibly if you could. From what I can tell, these moots of yours require all to be present, or Discord wouldn’t be attending.”
“So Celestia, looks like the human saw right through your little ruse,” Discord said, while eating the popcorn box and ignoring the popcorn inside it.
Celestia gave Discord a look that could boil water. “The rules of the Moot are absolute,” she sighed. “This isn’t over Discord.” Turning to King she asked, “If we allow you to leave unimpeded, what are you planning on doing?”
King considered her question for a minute, and then looked at Darkpaw, “Celestia, I plan on getting my revenge on some diamond dogs,” he said, his voice laced with cold rage.
Discord threw the popcorn over his left shoulder. It disappeared into a cloud of pink smoke, and was replaced with a blackboard covered in equations. “By my calculations,” he said, “the Sun needs to set in three hours. Tut, tut, tut, Celestia, what ever shall you do?”
“Discord, I’ll tell you what we’ll do,” Darkpaw growled through clenched teeth. “Tear the insect to pieces.” Darkpaw leapt into the fountain to attack the human.
“Darkpaw, stop!” Triton cried.
Time slowed down for King. Darkpaw sailed through the air jaws wide open to devour the human. During his time as a slave, he had performed many jobs, miner, blacksmith, carpenter, and even a gladiator for the arena. With no weapons to be had, he had only his wits to rely on. After Darkpaw crested his leap, King sidestepped the massive hound, and wrapped his arms around the beast’s thick neck. Struggling for his survival, King didn’t dare let go, and instead bit hard onto Darkpaw’s right ear. Darkpaw let out a mighty howl that echoed throughout the great cavern, as he rolled about the fountain trying to shake off the former slave.
King was amazed. He had no idea that Darkpaw was so weak. He felt as if he could hold on forever. His new found strength giving him confidence, he squeezed as hard as he could. He felt as Darkpaw’s breath’s becoming ragged and shallow. The blood from Darkpaw’s wound was filing his mouth, and made him thirst for more. By the way Darkpaw fought, King could tell that he was struggling to keep up. Where at first he had been wildly thrashing, now all his movements were labored and slow.
Deciding to give Darkpaw a chance to surrender, Andrew spit out his ear. “Darkpaw, do you give up?” he whispered.
“Only if you swear to do no harm to my diamond dogs,” Darkpaw wheezed.
“Sorry Darkpaw, that’s not going to happen,” King said, squeezing Darkpaw’s neck with all his might.
King heard bones snap, as Darkpaw squeaked out one last lonely howl. The howl echoed throughout the room as he died, Darkpaw’s burning red eyes rolled back, and his tongue hung out of his mouth. Blood from Darkpaw’s muzzle dripped from his open maw, into the fountain below. Dropping Darkpaw’s Corpse, he licked his lips tasting the blood on his face. With blood running down his mouth, and splattered over his body, the victor looked defiantly at the assembled deities.
High above the fountain on a perch, sat a griffin with blue feathers and a silvery hide. Letting out a screech it glided to ground below, electricity following it’s wake. The griffin’s feathers puffed out, and it clawed at the smooth surface of the floor with it’s black talons. When it looked at King, a look of palpable fury darkened it face. Screeching out a challenge, it readied itself to launch into the air to attack him.
“Zephyr, stop!” Triton cried out.
Zephyr considered his words, and then screeched loudly. “But he killed Darkpaw, Triton!” she said angrily.
“Darkpaw made his choice,” Ouroboros said. “However foolish it was. He knew the rules, and paid the price for violating the moot.”
Celestia shook her billowing rainbow mane and pawed at the ground. “We can mourn for Darkpaw later,” she said. “We still have the unresolved issue of the child to deal with.”
“Yes,” Luna boomed, “I nominate, that we banish the human from our respective domains.”
“I second the motion,” Zephyr said icily. “The open skies will offer you no welcome human.”
“Very well,” Celestia sighed. “All in favor of banishing the human slave King from our realms say aye.”
Throughout the chamber each deity in turn, said aye. All but Discord, Celestia, Triton, and a giant serpent with scales like flowing water, that slept coiled up in the corner with one eye open, remained silent.
“All opposed to the motion?” Celestia asked. Both Discord and Triton said nay. Waiting for the serpent to speak, Celestia stomped her hoof,waking it up.
“Jormungandr wake up and vote,” Celestia said.
“What are we voting on anyways?” Jormungandr yawned. “Are we finally going to get catering for these things?”
“You withered old snake!” Zephyr cried. “Darkpaw lies murdered, not twenty feet away and you dare to make a joke.”
“Darkpaw, eh?” Jormungandr said lazily. “I always knew he would be the first of us to go. He was always rather high strung. How did he die, and did you say it was murder? How scandalous. Did you finally off him, Ouroboros? You two had quite a tortuous history.”
Ouroboros snorted. “I did no such thing, you eel.” He said. “If I had been the one to slay Darkpaw, I would have bellowed my triumph so loudly it would have been heard across all of Equestria. His skull and skin would adorn my hoard, while I feasted on his heart.”
Zephyr pointed a razor sharp talon at King. “He’s the one that murdered Darkpaw,” she said sorrowfully.
Jormungandr looked at the human with his wizened grey eyes. “How did you do him in?” he asked. “Knife him in the ribs when he wasn’t looking?”
“No,” King replied, “When I learned that they were planning to imprison me in stone, I refused to leave the fountain. Then Darkpaw attacked me, unprovoked I might add. While we fought I gave him an opportunity to yield. He declined.”
“I’ve heard enough, young one,” Jormungandr said. “I vote nay, and request the floor once we’re done with this vote.”
Celestia nodded in agreement. “Although I vote nay as well,” she said. “The ayes have an overwhelming majority, therefore the motion passes. Human King, you are hereby banished from all our domains, and if you trespass you will find no mercy.”
King narrowed his eyes in anger. Beyond the stone prison Celestia offered, there was no where he could safely go. Having to choose between annihilation at the hands of these elemental beings, and keeping Discord company for god knows how long, was a rotten choice no matter how you sliced it was. Before he could speak in defiance, Celestia’s horn glowed with power. Manacles and chains covered his body, signifying his banishment from each of their respective elements.
“Each of us owns a chain attached to you King,” Celestia said. “Should we decide to, the banishment from our respective elements may be revoked. If that happens you’ll be free to enter them once again.” Turning towards Jormungandr, she said, “You have the floor.”
Jormungandr looked at the corpse of Darkpaw, and then looked at his fellow deities. “Brothers and sisters,” he said, “with the passing of Darkpaw, we need to assign management of his domain to someone new. I nominate the human.”
Before anyone could voice an objection, Discord’s voice shouted out, “I second the motion. Additionally I refer to the Laws of Succession to waive a vote on the matter.”
Immediately, almost everyone in the room began objecting to the idea. Stomping her hoof several times, Celestia’s horn flashed brightly, quieting everyone in the room. “Point of order,” she said. “Triton, does the Laws of Succession apply in this case.”
Triton cast a wry look towards Discord, “I never knew you were so familiar with the law, Discord,” he said. “I always took you for someone who favored anarchy to order.”
“Triton, old bean,” Discord replied, “how better to break the law when you know it backwards, forwards, sideways, in, out, inverse, concave, and converse.”
Triton raised an eyebrow, “Indubitably,” he replied. “However in this regard, seeing as Darkpaw has no next of kin; and because there are no others present imbued from the Well of Eternity that are free to take on the responsibility. The human is within his rights to claim Darkpaw’s domain as his own.”
When King heard this, he smiled wickedly. His revenge on the diamond dogs was about to come to fruition. “I claim Darkpaw’s entire domain as mine,” he said.
“Very well,” Celestia replied. Walking forward her horn glowed with power. Touching her horn to Darkpaw’s corpse and then to King’s forehead.
King felt flush with power, as he felt Darkpaw’s essence enter him. Looking down at the elemental chain of the earth, he broke it free from his manacles. Exiting the fountain, he carried Darkpaw’s corpse with him and set it on the ground to use for a seat..
Zephyr screeched in protest, “Have you no respect for the dead?” she asked.
“None what so ever,” King replied coolly.
“I demand his body at least, for a proper burial,” Zephyr said.
“My kill, my prize,” King replied. “However, feel free to fight me for it.
“You’ll regret this, human!” Zephyr screamed, flying back up to her perch.
“Turning towards the deities who had voted to banish him, he pointed a finger. “You may have banished me from your domains,” he said, “but remember this, my memory is long. All in the earth is mine. Delve too deeply into it, and I reserve the right to claim it for my own.”
Celestia looked at the human with concern, “What about the innocents who are caught in your anger?” she asked.
“The strong rule and the weak serve,” he said. “However, I’m not without mercy. In deference to the mercy you showed me, those who are caught in my anger shall have the chance to win their freedom. They will be given the opportunity to gain their freedom either by their own power, or on their behalf by that of an intercessor. “
Celestia grew worried, she knew that her ponies, and the rest of the creatures of Equestria relied on the earth heavily. Knowing what she had to do, she raised her horn and filled it up with magic ready to unleash it on the unwary human, in direct violation of the laws of the moot.
Discord knew what she was attempting and called out to the human, “King, rip out your heart, or you’ll become a statue.”
King narrowed his eyes in anger. He ripped one of Darkpaw’s fangs free from its maw, thrusting it deeply into his chest. Ignoring the excruciating pain, he reached into his wound and ripped out his still beating heart from his body and threw it into the Well of Eternity. Immediately his wound healed, and his heart beat steadily in the waters of the fountain.
The human pointed a finger towards Celestia. “Even though you tried to imprison me, I’ll accept your challenge. I have no tears left to shed, make me cry thrice and I’ll yield to your judgment.”
Celestia eyed the heart beating in the water. “Very well King,” she said, “but I reserve the right to allow anyone to fulfill your challenge.”
King smiled. “I accept, and let your followers know those who are generous to the earth, will find I am generous to them,” he said, with an outstretched hand. Celestia took his hand with her hoof and they sealed the agreement.
Triton flew over them. “Let it be known, as the moot has witnessed,” he said, “this agreement is now in effect.”
Celestia raised her hoof. “King, there’s one last thing,” she said, “because you were the last to drink from the Well of Eternity, you get to choose whether it remains running, or if it shall become dry.”
The human didn’t even bother to think it over. “Whether by luck, fate, or destiny, that I came to place,” he said, “let it remain. If I perish, I perish.”
“Oh I’m so glad I left this place open,” Discord said, “This fellow is so delightfully fun.”
Celestia’s horn illuminated the entire room, I declare this moot over,” she said. “Remember, any violence is prohibited, until all are safely in their domains.” With a flash each deity in attendance returned to their respective domains, until only Zephyr, Ouroboros, Discord, and Celestia remained.
Ouroboros swung his massive neck down towards the human. “We are neighbors, King,” he warned. “It would be wise to remember that,” then disappeared in a flash of fire and smoke.
Zephyr flapped her wings a few times in anger, over the cold corpse of Darkpaw. “Please,” she begged, “at least let me have the fang you removed, as a token to remember him by.”
“In respect to my friend, Snowe the griffin,” he said, handing her the fang, “you may have the fang of Darkpaw.”
“Don’t think I’m forgiving you though,” she squawked, before disappearing in a gust of wind and ball of lightning.
Celestia eyed the Well of Eternity thoughtfully, “King, I shall rescind your banishment from my domain in exchange for a small favor,” she said, whispering something into his ear.
“Very well Celestia, I agree,” he said. Both she and Discord disappeared in a flash of light.
The ancient hall was now completely empty, except for the corpse of Darkpaw, and the Human. King picked up the corpse and headed towards a door he serendipitously created on the far side of the room. “Let’s go pay a little visit to the Gem Biter’s.” he said to no one. “I’m sure they will be relieved to have their property back.”
Opening the door, he began whistling a jaunty tune that slowly faded away to silence, leaving only the echoes of his still beating heart, deep in the Well of Eternity.