The Slave King sat on his throne, his eyes heavy with sleep. Nodding off he dreamed…
King was wandering, walking through the depths of the earth looking for them. Everywhere he looked, they were nowhere to be found. He thought back to last week, back before the change. Things had been so much simpler then. He only had to worry about picking away at the stone walls, to free the gems from their stone prison. Looking at the walls of the mine he was walking through, he didn’t know where they were. Maybe he was in the wrong mine, no wait… this looks familiar, “Aha, this is the correct mine,” he thought to himself, picking up his discarded slave collar. He poured his energy into the gemstones buried deep in the earth, making them glow. The stone walls of the mine began melting like wax, as the molten stone pooled at his bare feet.
King began cutting through the walls of the mine, like a hot knife through butter. The stone walls, felt like clay as he broke through them with his bare hands. “Almost there,” he said, breaking through into a familiar tunnel he knew well. Brushing away some of the loose earth that had fallen on his thick black cloak, he walked down the passage of the mine.
The Gem Biter clan had an insatiable lust for gems, causing them to delve ever deeper into the earth. This deep in the earth, cave ins were a common occurrence and slaves were lost regularly to the unforgiving mines. The lucky ones died quickly, while the slaves unfortunate enough to survive were left behind to rot forgotten and unmourned. He was getting closer now, he knew it almost instinctively. It had been less than a week, they had water with them, they should still be alright. When King broke into the collapsed section of tunnel, all he found were a few blood stained feathers and a piece of her cloak. Feeling the ground beneath his feet, he knew every imperfection in the mine intimately. He could feel where they had been dragged away.
They were dead, both Snowe and little Bleu, his only friends. He felt a terrible rage building up inside his gut. Falling to his knees, he let out a mighty wail of lamentation. His cry, echoed throughout the mine like a wounded beast. As his cry of anguish filled the mine, it assumed a tangible form, stalking the mine for prey.
Dutch, a large black diamond dog, was checking the structural support beams of the mine for any weaknesses. His ears perked up when he heard an unfamiliar sound echoing from deep inside the mine shaft. He was confused, this mine was supposed to be empty until the inspection was completed. He sniffed at the air cautiously, what he smelt was unlike anything he had ever smelled before. His ears tilted back, while he raised his hackles at the unfamiliar sound. He slowly backed away from the passage, and began gathering up his tools. The dreadful noise increased in volume, causing him to wince in pain.
The terrible noise was getting closer; Dutch dropped his tools and began running out of the mine as fast as he could. As he ran, the dark and twisting passages only served to fuel his fear. The wailing was almost on top of him now, he wasn’t sure if he would be able to exit the mine in time. Just as he had given up all hope, he turned a corner and saw the exit. With renewed vigor, he raced towards safety. Right before he reached the exit, he was tackled from a side tunnel.
Outside the mine, two diamond dog laborers were on their way home, when they heard a few barks, a whimper, and then dead silence. Both of the dogs poked their heads inside the mine, and only saw a blood smear leading down into a dark side passage. Following the bloody trail, the dogs felt something wet and squishy beneath their paws. Spying a lantern hanging on the wall nearby, they lit it and gasped when they saw the bloody remains of Dutch. It looked like his blood had been used to paint the walls. They heard something moving behind them, and slowly turned around. Lifting the lantern high, they were relieved when they saw it was just a runty pup holding a ball in its tiny paws. Apparently the pup had been playing outside, and had chased after it’s ball when it rolled inside the mine.
“Runt, grrrr you shouldn’t be in here,” the larger diamond dog said. “Head on home, mines are no place for pups.
The pup didn’t respond, but just pointed at something behind them. Both diamond dogs slowly turned around. The light of the lantern didn’t illuminate the thing before them very well, all they could see was a massive black shape, burning red eyes, and endless razor sharp teeth. The diamond dog holding the lantern whimpered at the sight, with shaking knees, he urinated in fright. Immediately, the thing pounced on them both. The lantern fell to the ground, while the pup stared transfixed by the shadows of violence being cast on the mines stone walls. It’s bloody business finished, the monstrous thing looked down at the tiny pup with burning eyes. Moments later, a small red splotched ball rolled out of the mine and into the street.
Arch Duke, Fifi le Yipyap, paced the throne room of the palace worriedly. Lord Darkpaw should have been back by now. It had been nearly three days, and the city was starting to worry about the absence of their lord. Stopping to admire his reflection in a nearby mirror, the poodle smiled, showing off his pearly white canines. Stroking his fine mustache, he straightened his silk shirt and adjusted the curls of his impeccably styled white fur coat. Pulling out a pocket watch, the arch duke resumed pacing when an old and wrinkly shar-pei hobbled into the throne room aided by a cane.
“Calamity and disaster, we’re all doomed,” the shar-pei moaned, hobbling towards the arch duke.
“What’s the meaning of this?” demanded Fifi, “Priest Hobbs, you’re supposed to be preparing for Lord Darkpaw’s return. The renewal of earth ceremony needs to occur at its appointed time.”
Priest Hobbs let out a mournful howl, then calmed down. “The crystal,” he said, “has cracked and gone cold.”
“What! How could this have happened?” Fifi le Yipyap asked. “Lord Darkpaw was just here a few days ago. I’ll bet Lord Ouroboros ambushed him at the moot.”
“Lord Ouroboros would have stormed the city, and then demanded ritual combat to the death,” Priest Hobbs said in disagreement. “That dragon is very old fashioned; he would never break a moot.”
“What about Lady Zephyr,” the arch duke said growling. “Perhaps they had a falling out, and she murdered him? Hades knows no fury like a female scorned, after all.”
The ancient dog wrinkled his brow, deep in thought. “I’m at a lost,” he said, “as to what could have defeated Lord Darkpaw; he was one of the toughest beings in Equestria. To have slain him, it must have been a mighty battle indeed.”
“We must prepare the cities defenses,” le Yipyap said. “Guards, fetch the generals, we…” The arch duke was interrupted by a scared looking great dane guard, running into the throne room at fast as his paws could carry him. The guard looked like he had gone through Hades. His uniform was torn in places, and covered in gore. He had several lacerations that were bleeding profusely, staining his fur with his own blood.
“Lord Darkpaw save us,” howled the frightened diamond dog. “It’s coming to get me.”
“Get a hold of yourself, dog,” Fifi said, slapping the hysterical guard. “Take a deep breath, and tell me what happened, and why you abandoned your post.”
The guard said nothing and instead ran away from the arch duke, hiding under the large throne and shivering in fright, it’s tail between it’s legs. Before the arch duke could threaten the guard for his insubordination, a dark beast slowly walked into the throne room. It’s burning eyes, bored right through his soul. It’s coat was as black as the deepest pit of Tartarus, and caked in the blood of whatever unfortunate creatures had crossed it’s path. Opening it’s massive maw to lick it’s bloodstained muzzle, it revealed teeth sharp enough to make a shadow bleed.
Arch Duke Fifi le Yipyap, didn’t have to think twice. He drew his rapier and charged the creature, crying out, “For Darkpaw!”
Meanwhile, Priest Hobbs struck the ground with his cane, causing hands to reach out of the earth to restrain the beast. The beast raised one of it’s massive paws and swiped, sending the arch duke flying through the air to land in front of the throne. Turning it’s attention towards the ancient priest, it breathed on him. Hobbs looked on in horror, as he saw his body slowly petrifying.
”Lord Darkpaw…” he managed to wheezed, before his muzzle became cold stone.
The beast growled and knocked the diamond dog statue to the side, when it impacted against the wall it shattered into thousands of pieces. Moving past the rubble, the beast was about to feast on the stunned arch duke. “Nightmare, heel girl,” a voice said, from the shadows.
Nightmare obediently walked back into the shadows towards the voice, only her burning eyes could still be seen. Arch Duke, Fifi le Yipyap, heard the speaker moving through the dark corridor. The padding of it’s paws sounded unlike nothing he had ever heard before. When the figure steeped out of the shadows into the light of the throne room, it revealed a creature unlike any he had seen before. Walking upright on two legs, it wore a cloak made from Lord Darkpaw’s pelt. On it’s head, was an iron crown that obscured his face from view. Wearing manacles on it’s front paws, dozens of chains were attached that seemed to disappear into the ether. In it’s paws was the skull of his lord, missing a single fang. Nightmare slowly followed at her master’s side, waiting for the command to attack.
The figure looked down at the wounded arch duke and smiled cruelly. “Master Yipyap,” it said with a whisper as cold as the grave. “Don’t you recognize me?”
The arch duke’s eyes went wide with fright, the unique posture of the creature was just like one of the slaves he had lost last week. Recognizing his property, the arch duke tried to assume as much of a commanding posture as possible.
“Sla... slave, I order you to stand down,” the arch duke commanded.
The former slave began laughing, his laughter filling the room like pus in a festering wound. After a minute he stopped, the air becoming deathly chill. Not even bothering to look at the arch duke, he walked towards the great throne and sat down. Nightmare laid down near the foot of the throne, and obediently awaited her master’s next command.
“Master,” the former slave hissed through clenched teeth, “you, no longer get to order me around.”
“Wha... what do you plan to do…” the arch duke said through ragged breathes.
“That depends on your answer to my question,” the human said. “Where are their bodies?”
Fifi’s face turned ashen when he heard the question. They tossed all slave corpses in the refuse dump outside the city. The arch duke’s silence told the humans everything he needed to know. Getting up out of his throne, he released a mighty cry. Immediately the earth shook and trembled. The ceiling of the palace cracked and shattered sending debris to the ground below. Looking up, the arch duke could now see the dome covering the city. As quickly as it started, the shaking stopped. Thinking the worst was over; Arch Duke Yipyap tried to get up, but was stopped by the growls emanating from Nightmare’s throat.
“Master,” the former slave said coldly, “I insist you stay and enjoy the show, it’s just about to start.”
Unwilling to risk the wrath of Nightmare, the arch duke complied and laid back down. Suddenly a loud explosion thundered throughout the massive dome of the great city. Fifi’s eyes went wide with shock when he realized what his former slave was planning on doing.
“Please, I beg you. There’s no need to destroy the city,” the arch duke said, coughing in pain.
“It’s too late for apologies, master,” the man said, while pounding his fist against the grey stone throne. “There’s a time and a season...”
Looking up at the weakened dome, he chanted a dirge in measured breathes,
“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to harvest;
A time to kill, and a time to let live; a time to tear down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to receive, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”
When he finished speaking, the dome finished cracking and began collapsing, raining down the roof of the dome on the once great city.
Once the dust had settled, the arch duke saw he had survived the cataclysm. Looking at the former slave, sitting in Darkpaw’s throne, he asked, “Why did you spare me?”
“Because, there’s a time, to let live…” the human replied, nodding to Nightmare. Immediately, Nightmare pounced on the prone arch duke and growled fiercely.
“…and a time, to kill,” the Slave King said, while Nightmare tore into his former master.
The Slave King’s eyes shot open, looking at the unwelcome intruder he said, “What is it?”
The poodle before him was a shadow of it’s former self, clumps of white fur clung to it’s badly scarred body. “Master, I bring news from our scouts, we’ve found the pup’s trail,” the slave said, with eyes cast low to the ground.
“Excellent,” the human said. “Scourge, come here.”
A great dane entered the room, all over it’s great black body stone protrusions jutted out. Looking up at his master with burning red eyes, he respectfully bowed. “What does the Great Slave King desire?” he asked, his voice sounding like breaking rocks.
“Scourge, my huntsdog, our prey has been located,” the Slave King rumbled, “take your minions, the hell hounds, and kill the pup, and any who stand in your way. Show no mercy. Leave no trace. Let doom be your watchword, and death your passing.”
“I shall grind his bones to dust,” Scourge said in a low growl, flashing his mighty teeth. “Any who stand in my way will die.” Running out of the palace ruins, he let out a fierce howl, all over the desolate city, eyes opened. Their owners opened their terrible maws, howling in return. The hunt was on. Running through the broken streets, Scourge was soon joined by eight other hounds as fearsome as himself. The ground shuddered as they ran out of the city, into the snow covered landscape of the Equestrian badlands.