• Published 10th Sep 2013
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Hunted - P-Russ

Cast from his own pack, Stonemaker must flee from his own kin, and hope that he doesn't bring their fury upon those along his way...

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Chapter Three: Ponies

Chapter Three:

"Now now... Easy there big fella, just stand up real slow like, and get them paws where ah ken see 'em" said the voice, an obvious gruff frontier's accent drawing out the words. "Keep it slow there, nice an' easy."

I slowly eased into a full standing position, sensing that it would be wise to comply, probably because he has some kind of weapon, and getting killed would not be productive. Raising my paws and placing them behind my head I said, "I am not here to cause trouble."

"Well, you ain't now, thats fer sure. Now, you best get to walking toward that fire over there," said the captor, "Turn around in the light so I can get a look atcha'. I'm wonderin' what a big ol' dog like you is doin' down around here."

It would probably be for the best if I didn't divulge my exact reason for leaving. I had dealt with ponies before, and they don't particularly like traitors of any kind. Considering that I had recently been branded as such, this was probably going to get awkward, quickly. "Traveling," I replied, "just passing through. And if you don't mind, I will continue passing through." I started to walk away from both the fire and the voice, but was quickly stopped by another shape rising out of the underbrush a few paces in front of me.

The figure spoke with an accent I hadn't heard before, "I'd suggest turnin' 'round, mate. The boss theah doesn't like it when you just walk away. Now, do as he says."

Sighing, I turned back to the fire, and began to walk over to it. As the firelight illuminated my back, I listened and waited. Waited for the rasp of a blade coming out of it's sheath, for the cry of anger as they jumped at me, for the pain of a blade in my back... Nothing happened, no accusations, not anger, not pain... well the brand still felt like I had decided to get a back rub from a manticore, but that was beside the point. I slowly turned around, squinting as the light from the fire glared against the black of the forest, obscuring everything beyond it. I heard the sounds of two ponies approaching the fire pit.

They were both stallions, that much I could tell by the voices, but now I had faces and bodies besides for identification.

One was an earth pony with a tan coat, and a short black mane. His mark was of two crossed knives, which was odd, but they both weren't a type of knife I was familiar with. They were bent at almost a forty-five degree angle. The blade was also out of the ordinary tapering toward the apex of the bend, but flaring out on the second straight before coming to a tip. My eyes were drawn to a sheath strapped across the stallion's back with the same shape. He also wore a hat which, surprise surprise, I had never seen before, it looked like a sort of stetson, but with the sides of the brim turned up.

The second was a pegasus. He had a short messy gray mane and a dark green coat. A full moon with a brown jug transposed over it adorned his flank. He walked with an awkward gait, dispelling my initial thought that he was unarmed. Closer inspection revealed that he wore solid iron shoes with what appeared to be spikes on the bottoms from how he tore the ground when he walked.

They sat opposite me, across the fire, examining me like I had done them.

Probably sizing me up, debating on how much of a threat I am. If I get ridiculously lucky, I may be able to talk my way out of this.

The earth pony sighed and looked at his companion. A soundless conversation passed between them. He sighed deeply and turned to me.

"Listen mate, the only reason you aren't breathin' 'round my knife is because you don't look like the usual scum wearin' that mark on yah back. And even then you would be dead if it weren't still bleedin'. So, start with the explanations, else I get the wrong idea, and trust me, you don't want that to happen."

I looked at him for a second, then nodded. There was not going to be a way out of this, none that I wanted to take anyway. "Well, you probably aren't going to believe me but I'll tell you what I can."

"Try us, we can handle a might more than you'd think," said the pegasus, "and none o' that 'If'n Ah can' business, you best tell us what we need to know, ya hear?"

I shifted to get myself more comfortable, and began to weave my tale.

"...and thats what happened, nothing left out. And now they probably are hunting me down," I finished. I had been talking for the better part of an hour. I looked back at my audience. They looked at me with a combination of cynicism, disbelief, and pity.

"Well... Ah did say we could handle it, but that there is a bit of a pill to swallow," said the pegasus.

"Nothing but the truth," I replied, aware of the looks they were giving me, and each other, "I did say you would not believe me."

There was another moment of silence before the earth pony spoke up.

"So lemme get this right... You are, or were rather, an alpha from up that mountain theah," I nodded, "Theah is some bloke that fancies himself king o' the dogs, and the bushranger's stringin' togetha all the dens... clans... whatever to make some nation out o' them," another nod, "Yah brother is workin' for 'im, and came to kick you out on yah sorry ass, and was able to do that 'cause you would not kill 'im, on top o' that he branded you a traitor baiscally sent you to yah death," again I nod, "Well mate, you are either the best damn liar I know, or yah got the worst damn luck I've ever seen, fair dinkum."

"uhh... Well it is true, if that is what you are asking," I said casting a curious glance at the green stallion who just shrugged.

"Well then mate, looks like yah going to need a cobber or two," he turned to his comrade,"What you say, want to take this bastard on a walkabout?"

"Well, ah reckon its that or leave this un' to die, and that don't feel right to me," said the green stallion.

"Ace! Been wantin' a good walk in the park, don't get me wrong. Runnin' this route is a rippah, but its been far too long since the last crossin'."

"Crossing? You don't mean the badlands do you?" I asked. Crossing the badlands, ludicrous. You would need an entire caravan just to survive, between the predators, and the absolute lack of water.

"Too right mate! Though you should probably get yourself patched up, that bleedin' yah doin' is just gonna kill you out in the bush. Oh! right, names Huntah by the by, and this seppo here is Moon Shine. Makes the best batch of grog this side of Manehatten."

"Well, my name is Stonemaker. I probably should go by something else though, no sense in making my trail that easy to follow." I thought for a moment, "Anyway, I thank you, Hunter and Moon Shine. I will gladly accept your help in the crossing. I was wondering how I would make it myself."

"Think nothin' of it mate, we were headin' back anyways. Now, I don't know about you, but I feel stuffed, so heres what we are going to do, Moony here is gonna put some slaprags on your back there, and we are all gonna read our lids."

Moon Shine, who had been rummaging around in the wagon, came back with a roll of bandages and a bottle of clear liquid.

"Alright then, yer gonna have ta get down on yer stomach for this, I'm a bit on the short side compared to ya."

I nodded and got down onto the ground, my weary muscles melting into the rock beneath me, the ground felt like a down mattress covered in the finest of silk linens. Suffice to say, I almost fell asleep right there.

Moon Shine looked up and said, "Hey, Hunter, make yerself useful and get him a bitestick. And make it a good 'un. Maker 'ere bites through diamond on the daily, so a spit o' wood ain't gonna do jack."

"No worries, its a piece o' piss, he can use that rod of black metal, right?"

"Ah ain't so sure 'bout that. Ah can't tell what it is, might do more harm then good."

"I might now what it is, if you would let me take a look at it," I said, propping myself up on my forelegs, "There are very few things that come from the ground that I do not know."

"Great, I'll just grab it quick," Hunter said trotting toward the back of the wagon.

"You sure 'bout this?" asked Moon Shine, "We can just bind yer muzzle er somthin', that thing ain't natural. Nothin' I seen can cut that thing, er even scratch it."

"I am sure it will be fine," I replied nonchalantly.

Soon enough Hunter cantered back toward the fire. In his mouth he was dragging a long rod. The black metal was just that, black and metal, nothing else really stood out about it. Hunter brought the rod over in front of me, where I could get a better look at it. I ran my paws across it's surface, feeling the grain of the metal, how the metal curved into its current cylindrical shape, the rougher surface along the cut edges. When all was said and done it was about four meters long, and about six centimeters thick.

Well... Nothing like what I have seen... Iron maybe? Some sort of offshoot?... Should work though, if what Moon said is true

I took the shaft into my mouth in a completely non-sexual way, and bit down onto it to test the strength. It didn't give at all. I gave a stiff nod to Moon, and began preparing myself for what was to come.

Okay, this isn't going to be bad, not any worse than when I got the brand. Its going to be fine, my body is rea-GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

Pain. Searing pain, burning and freezing at the same time. Mind numbing, thought killing pain. The world was lit up in a spectrum of colors. Every muscle fiber strained against each other, threatening to tear apart. My jaw clamped down harder than I had ever done so before. If I weren't biting into the metal, I would probably have cracked more than a few teeth, if not broken them.

The pain only lasted for a minute, but it felt like an eon of agony. Too slowly for my liking, the bliss of unconsciousness enveloped me. The last thing I heard were the muffled voices of the two stallions standing at my side.

I relaxed on my newly acquired throne, sprawling over the regal seat. The doors at the end of the hall swung open, and two of my guards dragged a limp dog between them. Sighing I leaned back into the seat, this was most likely not going to improve my mood.

"Alpha, this dog has news of the traitor," one of the guards barked. "We thought it good to bring him to you."

"Very well," I yawned, "What news do you bring me?"

The guards dropped the still form, causing a whimper to emerge. His forepaws clutched at his jaw, he looked up. His face was covered in dried blood, the culprit a gash on his head.

"The traitor survived," he spoke through his clenched jaw, "Broke my jaw, threw me into rock. He kill other scout, I run away before he kill me too."

I stood up and strode over to the injured dog, who was still on the floor where he had been dumped. I stood in front of him and crouched down to look him in the eye. My forepaw shot forward and grabbed the unfortunate mutt by the neck, just under his broken jaw. He howled in pain as I lifted him up onto his paws, I lifted him just a bit higher so that he just barely stood on his own, his weight settling on his jaw, where I held him upright. I gazed into his eyes as he looked at me, tears of fear and pain leaking from them. I leaned in close.

"So you bring me news that I already knew, proved your incompetence by being bested by an injured outcast, and showed your cowardice by turning your tail and running with it between your legs, leaving your partner to die. You came back thinking that there wouldn't be any repercussions for that?" I whispered, words dripping with calm, unadulterated malice.

Fresh tears fell from his eyes and a gurgle came from his constricted throat. Snorting, I threw him back to the floor, earning another pained whimper from the useless dog.

"I will make a lesson out of you, failure is not an option. Come back successful, or don't come back at all. Guards, take this quivering waste of mass to the “entertainment room,” I will be around later to see to his punishment.

The guards bowed, grabbing the now weeping dog's paws, dragging him out a door to the side.

I knew you would find a way to survive, you ornery bastard you. Well, it wouldn't be as fun otherwise.

"Bring my beta," I ordered the wall of servants behind my throne, without even glancing back to them. They'll figure out who is going among themselves.

Only about a minute later, the door at the end of the hall swung open again, this time a large dog strode into my sight. He confidently approached, stopping about a meter from my dais. He swept into a bow and spoke.

"What does my alpha require?"

"My suspicions were just confirmed, my little problem decided to survive. I have already sorted out the only one who knew about it, so no one will be the wiser. What you need to do though, is make good on your word. Send out your best hunters, and bring me back his head."

"My best? Alpha, I not want to lose them, they would need to be dealt with when the mission was over."

"Yes, your best, unless you want to join them."

"Yes alpha. I will send them at once." He stood and walked back out of the hall.

I stood from my throne, "Prepare the 'entertainment room,' and fetch some of those new healing potions, this will provide a great opportunity for testing the extent of their effectiveness."

And with luck, it will drag it out nicely. I wanted to try out some of the newer techniques, and now, I might only need the one dog.

Chuckling, I headed to the side door. The same door that was used by the failure. As the door was pushed open, a wail sounded from the depths hidden behind the door frame. The cry was cut short as the door clicked back into place.