Two Months Later
Archaon growled, his hands crushing the sides of the table underneath his enraged grip. ”The bastard traitors are most likely hiding in this area, near Griffinstone. I demand that you send several scouting hosts to identify what forces they have left. Once they report back, we shall send in the full might of our Legion and crush them!” The Everchosen pointed at the mountain that held the Griffin Capital on the map before him, spread out along the wooden table.
The new Chosen Leader standing before Archaon whimpered slightly, the creature that had once been a Griffin made a Chosen by Archaon after the attempted assassination. “My Lord, we do not have enough forces to investigate this site. You have our Scouts spread out across the rest of the Griffin Kingdom, and they are still struggling with their recruiting missions.” The Chosen gulped at his master’s glare. “Th-the Griffon’s seem to be resistant to the temptation of serving the Dark Gods, and we have been losing forces more quickly than we have been gaining them. These creatures are clearly stronger than the ponies of Equestria, and we would need to muster a full War Host if we wanted to gain more converts, likely with you leading them, and-”
”Enough of your excuses, you insignificant worm!” Archaon growled, interrupting the Chosen as he slammed his fist into the table, breaking it in two. ”I refuse to let these traitorous vermin, who dare to defy my right to bring about the End Times, live any longer! If we cannot muster a scout host, then we will simply march to Griffonstone, and slaughter everything in our path!”
“O-of course, my lord,” The Chosen replied, shifting on his new legs, covered in armor. “I shall muster the Legion in but a moment.” He began walking towards the exit of the tent.
”Also, Chosen, what name do you use? It would be irritating to call my Chosen simply that.” Archaon asked, causing the Chosen Leader to stutter with surprise.
“U-um, my name is T-Talius Mortarus, my lord.” The Chosen Leader stated quickly, before exiting the tent. Archaon considered the name, before growling as he returned to the broken table and map. To think, these traitors had led them on a chase for two months now… the very notion of it infuriated the Everchosen, and with but a thought, the table burned as he stalked out of the tent.
The being known as Ahriman sighed, looking over the current progress of his latest creation.
“Nothing in the world before my coming could possibly stand up against Archaon. He is simply too powerful for mere ponies and Griffons.” The Void Dweller muttered, running the factors through his mind. “If I want him to truly be an Everchosen, I need to create something that would truly test his skills…” He turned to consider his options. “A simple hero would be too much trouble, and would likely disrupt the current timeline far too much for my liking. No, whatever I challenge him with, it cannot be human. No, I need something with simple, basic commands. Something easily manipulated…” Ahriman’s gaze lingered on one of the many endless possibilities. Following it's source, the Void Dweller found a game. A game of four hunters and a beast. A metaphorical grin spread across his face.
“I need… a monster.”
Three Days Later, near Griffinstone
“My lord, the probing forces found what appears to be a massive subterranean cave system beneath the mountain. They also noted a number of tracks, which are not of equine or griffon origin, leading into the cave. We believe the traitors have hidden themselves inside the cave system, possibly to prepare to take Griffonstone. What would you have us do, my lord?”
”These fools think that this cave will save them? Ignorant fools! They have cornered themselves, and we shall hunt them down and slaughter them all!” Archaon roared, and the army behind him cheered in reply. The Traitors had left Archaon’s horde a shattered mess, but the remaining Warriors were still more than capable of slaughtering hundreds before they fell. The Everchosen held his hand in the air, and the cries for blood silenced. ”We shall enter the cave system, and kill everything inside! Hunt down these Traitors, and bring the wrath of Khorne down upon them! Charge!”
The Everchosen drew the Slayer of Kings, before rushing into the cave, followed by his ten Chosen. The rest of the army followed soon after, the mutated ponies and griffons baying for the blood of traitors.
Deep within the shadowy embrace of the caves beneath Griffonstone, something stirred once again. The cries of Archaon’s horde echoed through the cavern, though the distance had turned the fierce and terrifying cries of pure rage into a soft whisper of things to come.
It was these whispers that had acquired the attention of the denizens of the cave.
The unnatural creature shifted, uncurling from its resting spot and pushing aside the remains of the traitors that Archaon sought, their corpses making for a simple meal for the beast. It's eyeless head lifted itself up, sniffing the cool air of the cavern as its upper arms, which ended in meter-long, scythe-like talons, dug into the rocky surface of the cavern floor. It's other arms, which ended in four black, blade-like fingers, contrasting with its grey, leathery skin as it hissed.
The creature’s back curled downward, stretching the large spines on it’s back as it moved, hovering slightly off the ground as several tendril-like appendages dragged along the cavern floor.
It didn't know why it was here, or why it defended the altar in the back of the cavern, which bore a small, eternally burning eight-pointed star, which had been the only source of light in its home. All it knew was that there were new intruders in it’s home, and new meals to feast upon.
Several of Archaon’s forces moved deeper into the cave. After the army had encountered a three-way split into the cave, Archaon had ordered that the Horde would be divided into three, so the traitors wouldn't have an escape route. These mutated creatures were a vanguard for one of said divisions, and their lanterns lit their way further into the cave, disfigured hooves and talons clinking along the rough stone.
“You would think that Lord Archaon would have come up with a better plan than this.” One of the corrupted ponies muttered, tightening his grip on the lantern in his claws, which extended outward from his hoof at odd angles, bony joints cracking with every move. “I mean, we are pretty much charging in blindly, splitting up our forces, and hoping for the best.”
“Lord Archaon is angry that those traitors have eluded us for so long. They’ve put his plans on hold, for the most part.” The second of the group, a mutilated and bright purple Pegasus replied, his toothy jaw creaking audibly. “But he is right in hunting them down. Letting even one of those bastards escape to acquire a new army would be a massive mistake, and could cost us dearly.”
“And what even are Lord Archaon's plans? All we have been doing is marching across the lands, burning everything in our way for trinkets and armor for the Everchosen. I've been part of his Horde for a while, and I've seen nothing but personal glory for him.” The first spoke again, and the third growled.
“That sounds dangerously like traitor-speak, pony.” The Griffin growled, his claws scratching against the sword he held in his bloodied claws. “Lord Archaon gave us all the blessings of the Dark Gods, and I'll cut down all who speak ill of his name.” The pony back away slightly, eyes frightful. “He is the Bringer of the End Times, as he has promised. But to bring the End Times of the entire world, not only must one be powerful on their own, they must have a mighty army behind their blade, an unstoppable force of Chaos and destruction.”
“Seems like someone believes in the cause.” The pegasus joked. “Are you saying that these crusades throughout the lands, searching for these artifacts, is him culling our weak?”
“Yes.” The Griffin nodded, relaxing slightly. “All who died were not fit to serve under Lord Archaon. Only those who survive can truly be one of those chosen who bring the End Times behind Lord Archaon!” His voice echoed throughout the tunnel, and unbeknownst to the group, bounced off something not native to the cave.
“Anyways, we should report back to the group pretty soon. Which one of you will-” The first mutated pony paused as his clawed hoof stepped on something softer and squishy than hard stone, with the sound of bones breaking underneath his mass. He lifted his hoof and backed away, letting the lantern illuminate whatever he stepped on.
Bright red flesh greeted his eyes, disfigured and blackened bones tearing through the bloody gore as a empty skull stared into his eyes, its bloodied jaws seeming to scream in silent agony. Pools of blood surrounded the remains, and the group discovered that the pools surrounded similar sights. The Griffin picked up a scrap of torn armor, and was mildly surprised to find the mark of Chaos etched into the metal.
“These… these are the traitors we are looking for.” He muttered, dropping the scrap, which met the ground with an audible clang. “We need to get back to the group right now!”
“But why? Just because something killed the traitors for us? Perhaps they turned on one another and killed themselves for us?” The Pegasus asked, shrugging.
“You ignorant fool!” The Griffin hissed, grabbing him by his fleshy neck. “Not even the traitors can do something like this!” He pointed to the remains of the traitors. “There is something down here that can slaughter an army. And we are walking right into its jaws!”
Before the group could move an inch, a massive creature chose this time to strike. It leapt out of the shadows, pale light flowing behind it as it hissed, it’s massive blade-like appendages grabbing the first pony before they could blink. And when they did blink, it was gone, as was the pony in its grip, the only proof of their existence being the fading light of its passage, and the cries of the pony in it’s clutches.
“By the Skull Throne!” The Griffin yelped in surprise, before turning around and fleeing the way they came, wings propelling his escape. “Run! We must reach the group! We need to warn them!”
“But what about-” the Pegasus started, but upon hearing the sounds of the pony’s screams get cut off with a sickening sound of a body being cut in half, he soon found himself flying right behind the Griffin. The horrific screech of whatever was behind them reached his ears, and he could hear some sort of slithering noise behind them.
The Everchosen paused, waving his shield to signal for his force to stop. The corrupted warriors paused in their march, letting the faint echoes of a creature screeching reach Archaon’s superhuman ears.
”It would appear as if our scouts from another detachment have discovered something.” Archaon growled, unsheathing the Slayer of Kings. ”We continue, but slowly! The Traitors may yet have a few surprises for us, and we shall not be lead into a trap!” The warriors behind him cheered, their cries echoing loudly throughout the entire cave system. Before the group continued, Archaon paused. He felt…something almost calling to him, deeper in the cave. He moved forward, eyes blazing with a fiery light.
The creature paused in its chase, its spines flicking up into the air as the echoes of Archaon’s detachment met its ears. It hissed, turning towards the fleeing Griffin and Pegasus it had been chasing, before growling and breaking off, its attention required elsewhere. It must defend the burning stone. Nothing else matters.