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26th of March.
He was moving through the ethereal fields, existing in a world of light. Even while running through the deepest forest with the thickest canopy, there were no shadows. Everything exuded light, and warmth. He had existed here for an eternity, never knowing anything else. This was his reality, his world. When he reached the den he was greeted by his sister. They did not call out to each other since they did not have lungs, and air did not exist to breathe. They were being´s of energy and light and communicate with thought alone.
“Everything is well brother?” The female spirit Wolf asked.
“Everything is well sister.” The male spirit Wolf answered. Then his gaze became warm and loving, out of the den behind his sister tumbled the pride and joy of all spirit Wolves. The eternal pups. Across the ethereal planes they were hailed as some of the most pure and innocent spirits in existence. Nothing brought more joy to the spirit Wolves then watching them tumble around in there endless antics. They had no other purpose than to spread love and joy through their play and merriment. The two spirit Wolf siblings had been their guardians for as long as they can remember. And it filled both of them with pride to be entrusted with such responsibility. From across the plain they could now feel their pack returning from their energy hunt. Then he noticed the disturbance. He looked up at the hill not too far off. A pillar of pure darkness had appeared. It felt alien, wrong and evil. He lowered his head defensively as the feeling of wrongness intensified. Immediately the siblings started to gather the eternal pups. As the last one was ushered into the den his sister looked up at him.
“One is missing.” She stated. He immediately set off, knowing exactly where it would be found. To the pure and innocent puppies the alien feelings emanating from the black pillar could not be comprehended. For them, it would seem interesting and fun, and something more or less impossible not to investigate. He was running across the fields now, faster than he had ever moved before.
The crowd had gathered around the summoning site. All of the fifty soldiers in camp were there, except for those unlucky enough to have duty this night. Lightning Strike and the Praetorian smith were standing next to Black Star closest to the circle. A little bit behind them stood a plane wooden table. On it lay Black Star´s notes, calculations and checklists. The Praetorian mare also had the mythril scales, her tools and a variety of collars and harnesses. There was quite an exciting buzz going through the crowd as the pillar of light shot towards the sky. Mist had formed along the ground in quite a large radius around the summoning site, and in the mist you could see faint movement. Spirits, Black Star realized with excitement. But as the minutes passed by the excitement started to die down. None of the spirits would approach the summoning site. They would look at it and jump away. They saw stags, lions, a great eagle and beings they had no idea as to what they were. But none would approach the circle. Black Star was getting frustrated.
“Well I wouldn't go near that thing either, not with those chains looking like that! Getting caught by them would most likely be quite painful!” Black Star heard the booming voice of Bender say. He was standing beside the Praetorian now, and had obviously answered a question. She looked back to the summoning site and noted the purple glowing chains that were now wriggling forth from the center of the circle. They did look nasty she considered. And she had designed everything to be as efficient as possible in the summoning. Nothing would be able to wriggle free from those she thought proudly. Just then, something small stumbled past her hooves. She couldn't see what was moving through the fog. It was a small spirit but it was acting strangely. Jumping around, spinning around in a circle chasing its tail. She could clearly hear a couple of laughs from the crowd as it continued to play. Then the chains seem to notice it, slowly they wriggle towards it, rising up like snakes ready to strike. And all of a sudden everyone around the site was dead silent. Finally the little spirit seemed to notice the approaching chains. But instead of fleeing, it just sat there watching them curiously. She heard a gasp beside her.
“That's a Child! That's a Wolf Cub!” Bender´s voice boomed out. Lightning grabbed Black Star head and yanked it towards her.
“Stop the summoning!” She ordered sharply. Black Star looked at the cub, to the chains and back at Lightning. She was right, a cub would probably not be able to tell them much about the world it came from. That would be a terrible waste of effort and money.
“I can’t… I never figured I would want to stop the summoning.” She said quite calmly. Lightning looked curiously at Black Star. She had not expected her to sounds so… Cold and detached from the situation this little spirit was in.
Just then a chain struck out and several cries were heard throughout the crowd. Something flew past Black Star, moving so fast that the mist was blasted out of the way as it shot forward. The chain was knocked back violently. A great Wolf was now standing protectively over the pup. It picked the cub up with its mouth, and turned to flee. But a second chain had already lashed out wrapping tightly around its torso, pulling it backwards. Three more chains shot out towards the Spirit Wolf. Two wrapping around its hind legs, while the last one went for the pup. The Spirit Wolf defiantly batted the chain away with its right paw, only to have it ensnared in the chain. With a great heave of its neck it threw the spirit pup out of the reach of the snake like things. Before the pup landed, another Spirit Wolf deftly caught it in the scruff of the neck. Black Star looked on excitedly as a realization came to her.
“They live in families.” Black Star said and scribble down this new fact. Just then more puppies spilled into the mist and were heading towards the trapped Spirit Wolf. The newly arrived Wolf frantically tries to stop them. Not until the trapped Wolf shook its head violently did the puppy´s stop, they were obviously communicating. Then they all started to backup, as he was once again being dragged towards the circle. He was struggling so hard his whole body was shaking, the Spirit Wolf even left visible claw marks in the physical world while it was being dragged backwards.
Then more Spirit Wolves started to form in the mist around the summoning site. Some tried to get close to him but were driven back when the chains lashed out after them. As his back legs were finally brought inside the summoning circle the Wolf convulsed and raised its head to the sky. All the spirit´s jump back, and even in the physical world everyone cringed. The hearts of the onlookers skipped a beat as they ethereal cry of anguish and pain ripped through their souls. Angry and terrified voices were now starting to ring out demanding that Black Star stopped the ritual. She could not fathom why though. Don't they understand how much knowledge and insights the specimen could possibly bring to all of pony kind, it was unfortunate that it was in pain. But there was always a price to pay in the pursuit of knowledge.
More chains were lashed around it, forcing it downwards towards the ground. All the crystals were now glowing angrily. Flames leapt out from the edge of the summoning circle. And the runes had turned from eerie blue to blood red. In the middle of the spirit you could now see that bone was starting to form. The Wolf once again started thrashing wildly. It shook frantically as more and more of the skeletal structure was completed. Then tissue started to form on the bones. Muscles, sinew and entrails were starting to form without the protection of a skin. The chains were now being colored red where ever they rubbed against the thrashing form of the Wolf, it must be in absolute agony. But the biggest shock for the onlookers didn't come until the throat and lungs were connected.
From the Spirit came forth a scream that was not meant for mortal ears. Almost all onlookers fled at this point, a few managed to looked away whilst staying put, and the truly unlucky ones couldn't tear their eyes from the poor creature. Black Star was the only one who willingly looks at the Spirit Wolf while she scribbled down observations. Also she noted as the physical form became more complete, it differed from the Wolf´s already in their world. Lightning, the Praetorian smith and Bender were amongst the few still remaining at the summoning sight. All the onlookers were very pale and had shifting expressions of horror on their faces. Only Black Star and the Praetorian seemed to be able to stomach the site before them. The chains once again tried to force the Wolf low on the ground. But it would not lie down, it would not surrender. It was then Black Star felt a presence at her side. Both she and Lightning looked to their left as an enormous Wolf walked past them. When it came within reach of the chains the lash out and wrapped around its right front leg. With a mighty heave the Wolf pull back on the chains and they snapped.
“Alpha… I'm too far gone… you cannot save me… please… the pups… get them out of here! Don't let the eternal pups be tainted by this profanity!” It roared out in anguish and pain. The Alpha turned its head towards the rest of the Wolves, they immediately picked up the pups and disappeared. Black Star was looking proudly at her own brilliance. She had designed the circle to not only give the spirit a physical form. But also imbue it with the language of the Celestial Empire. It probably didn't know that as it talks to its Alpha it would also be heard in the physical world. Everyone still at the summons looked at the bound and more or less complete, but skinless Wolf. It looked up at the Alpha, he was clearly distraught.
“Now… go… leave me… I am there Guardian… if this is my fate… then so be it…” The chained Wolf croaked out. The Alpha Wolf turned its head as it looked at its brother desperately.
“I am happy… it was me… and not the pups… that ended up here…” The spirit said as it was once again yanked towards the ground evoking howls of pain. They Alpha nodded and said something to the bound Wolf in front of it.
“I… would live through this… for eternity… as long… as the eternal pups were safe!” It growled in defiance. The Alpha stood up and looking on its brother proudly.
“You… you would do that… for me?” The Wolf said as skin was finally starting to form. The Alpha shot its head towards the skies in what must be a howl. Immediately Black Star´s eyes started running. The ethereal howl ripping through her soul, filling her with such feelings of loss and sorrow, it almost made her crumble to the ground. Around her she saw many ponies do just that. She noted that everyone was crying around her. Even down in the camp tears were gushing forth from every pony as the howl continued. When the Alpha stopped it looked down benevolently, at the now physical Wolf before it. Whatever the effect of the howl had been on the ponies, it had definitely strengthened the trapped Wolf. It was now standing upright again, and one of the restraining chains had even snapped.
“Thank you my Alpha…” The obsidian black Wolf said. At this the Alpha Wolf bowed its head in front of its lost brother. It stood up and turned its head towards Black Star. No, not towards. It was looking her straight in the eyes. The yellow light emitting from its eyes was piercing the death within her. And for a brief second the yellow eyes turned red, and then she heard a voice in her head.
“You will forever be despised in the realm of light mortal.” it stated. Then it turned and disappeared. Black Star looked after it in disbelief. How could it possibly have talked to her? There wasn't just the language barrier she realized. To connect with her mind it would also have to break through the barrier separating the realms. Even if it was severely weakened right now inside the summoning circle. Outside the Alpha spirit Wolf would have to make the breach by itself. Black star´s eyes shone, she would have to do more research on this topic. She heard a thump and turned towards the now physical Wolf in the summoning circle. It had finally given out, lying down on the ground and breathing heavily. The Wolf had only fought as long as its brothers and sisters were present. He didn't want the last thing they saw of him, be his defeat. Its newly formed eyes opened for the first time. It looked around itself, while growling in hatred at everything it saw. Black Star turned towards the Praetorian, to her surprise tears was still flowing from the Praetorian´s eyes. She wiped her own eyes out of reflex and then spoke up.
“I think we'll go with a collar.” Black Star said calmly. The Praetorian mare's sharp blue eyes met her milky white with a stare bordering on loathing. She took an involuntary step back, and looked to Lightning for support. But Lightning eyes looked upon her with a mixture of disbelief and sadness.
“What…” She wondered.
“Send him back…” Lightning said. Black Star mouth just hanging open, she looked between the two in utter shock at what they were saying. Didn't they understand what possibilities lay before them and all pony kind?
“I still can't… The summoning circle won't let the spirit go until it feels that it's been anchored by the collar.” She said.
“Can't you just let the magical run out?” Bender asked from behind the Praetorian.
“No… It is now drawing energy from the spirit itself. Leaving it in there will destroy it sooner rather than later.” She answered. Bender looked away.
“That might be preferable for it.” He said sadly. Black Star was now shaking her head at the three around her.
“No! Definitely not. Then all this would have been for nothing. It's very sad that it's been through such an ordeal. But to let this chance slip through our hooves would be an even greater crime against it!” She said with determination in her voice. The other was still looking doubtfully at her. She turned towards the Praetorian smith.
“You have your orders. I need that collar.” She stated. The Praetorian sneered and walk away to carry out her duty. As she looked back to Lightning her chest actually hurt a little. Lightning was looking so disappointedly at her. And Black Star couldn't understand why, her experiment had been a resounding success. Sure it had been a little gruesome at times. But what they stood to learn from this could hardly be measured. But now she felt unsure about the price of this knowledge for the first time in her life, as she watched Lightning walk away from her.
“I still think you should let it die…” Bender said then turned around to leave before she could answer. Black Star looked towards the Praetorian smith, she had started assembling the collar, but was obviously not in a good mood. She sighed and walked up to the summoning circle to see what it was they had truly caught. She slowly walked around it. Now that she was observing it in its complete form, she could see that it definitely was not a Wolf from the pack. And most likely not one of the species living anywhere. The spirits paws were much bigger, and the claws on them were truly wicked. Also it looks like the spirit would be able to manipulate them quite well. Not like a Griffin claw, but better than a normal Wolf. At least the front pair, the back pair was much more in line with the common Wolf, aside from being bigger. The body was also larger, especially across the chest. Even with the added difficulty of gauge its height when lying down, she was pretty certain the spirit would be taller than a normal Wolf as well. The coat was truly black, she couldn't remember if she had ever seen something black shimmer like it did. The coat looked as if every single hair in it had been coated with a thin layer of oil. Once she completed the full circuit, she looked at the head. Following the proportions of the rest of the body this too was of course more massive. But the most stunning thing about it was the two keen bright yellow eyes looking back at her.
“I will…” The spirit croaked out before it fell unconscious. Black Star looked at it with apprehension. She was pretty sure about what it was about to say. With a rustle of metal against metal the now complete collar landed beside her in a heap. She turned her head towards the praetorian who was still glaring at her.
“What's your problem? I've only done what I was ordered to do, same as you!” Black Star asked with quite a bit of anger in her voice. The way every pony has been looking at her was making Black Star uncomfortable. The Praetorian narrowed her eyes.
“One who does not know what true pain is… Should not bestow it upon others. Whatever great achievement you would have us believe happened here, I am less for having been a part of it.” The Praetorian said coldly turned back towards the camp. Black Star looked after the mare in shock. Then she got angry again. How could she say that? She had no idea how many hours of painstaking work she had to go through to get to this point. And how old was she anyway. No more than twenty, tops.
“Like someone her age would know what true pain was.” Black Star thought and snorted angrily at the mare. She picked up the mythril collar and couldn't help but marvel at it. The scales interlocked, but still allowed free movement, truly it looked like she was holding a piece of silver colored Dragon hide in her hooves. The design was quite wide and would cover more or less all of the spirits neck. She levitated it into place on the spirit, as the two edges came together. They immediately merged with each other, forming a continuous loop with no start or finish.
“Now for the unpleasant part.” Black Star thought as she activated the three different enchantments in the collar one by one. First the enchantment was in the leather, this would bind the collar to the spirit. Immediately the spirit Wolf's eyes shot open. A pained scream emerged from the Wolf, as it started to thrash around in the chains grip. Once again the whole camp stopped dead as every pony cringed at the sounds coming from the hill. The enchantments in the leather burned away all fur beneath it and started to merge with the skin of the Wolf. It literally became a part of the spirit Wolf. After this she activated the first half of the scales, they would ensure that the spirit Wolf would perish if the collar was ever destroyed. The second half of the scales were the ones that actually anchored it in the physical plane. Once the collar had a firm hold on the Wolf, the summoning circle powered down and released it from the chains that disintegrated into the air. The spirit Wolf immediately struggled to find its footing. After much trouble, it stood wobbling on all fours.
“I must say I'm surprised, according to my calculations you should be out for a few days after the summoning.” Black Star said looking at some notes that were now floating beside her. At this the Wolf charged her. Her horn was surrounded by a dark aura, but she never had to cast a spell. The Wolf stumbled head over heels, to land at her hooves unconscious once again. Black Star looked down at him and smiled.
“Seems as though my calculations were correct after all…” She said sweetly to the Wolf. It did not stir, or even twitch an ear. Satisfied that he was out, she proceeded to cost a powerful mind spell on him. Her horn once again gained its black aura, her whole face contorted while she worked through the complicated spell. When it was released onto the Wolf, his face contorted into a painful grimmer before once again going slack. Black Star was breathing heavily now, it had been an extremely hard day, but she was ecstatic about the day's results. She had brought a new spirit into the world. Her name would forever more be mentioned together with Starswirl the Bearded and Clover the Clever's, and even more satisfying, they would be mentioned as equals. She was grinning from ear to ear.
Thanks to Laughing Luna for the Pre-read/Edit