• Published 7th Apr 2012
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Scion of Chaos - SilentBelle

Sweetie Belle plans on learning the basics of magic, but what she discovers is so much more.

  • ...

Chapter 13 - Gems in the Darkness

Scion of Chaos - Chapter 13: Gems in the Darkness

By: SilentBelle

“So, you're really sure you know where you are going?” Sweetie Belle asked hesitantly. She looked around at at the tunnel walls as the two walked. Ruben remained ahead, just on the periphery of her horn's glow. The same dull gray and brown colours passed before her eyes, much in the same way that they had since she entered the cave hours ago. At this point she almost preferred the darkness--almost.

“I am sure, Sweetie Belle,” Ruben responded, which brought forth an irritated sigh from the filly. “I have never been lost, not once.”

Maybe I shouldn't have told him my name after all. As much as Sweetie Belle enjoyed not being called 'pony' all the time, she was beginning to feel annoyed whenever she heard her own name crop up in Ruben's every other sentence.

“But how can you know? All these tunnels look the same.”

“This is my home, Sweetie Belle. How can one get lost in their own home?” Ruben replied in honest confusion.

“I'd get lost if I lived in a maze,” she muttered.

“So would I,” he agreed. “Unless I made the maze. But this is no maze, just simple tunnels. Up and down.”

The filly raised an eyebrow skeptically. “Up and down? What's that supposed to mean? We've been winding and turning around randomly, not climbing a staircase.”

“Up is up, down is down. The tunnel is all ups and downs, in between start and end. Simple.”

“Right, simple...” she deadpanned. I have no idea what he's talking about.

“As simple as life!” Scoddri announced smugly, before letting out a slight chuckle. “Either that or he's barking mad.”

“Ugh,” Sweetie Belle groaned. Between these two, it's only a matter of time before I go mad myself.

“Is Sweetie Belle okay?” the diamond dog asked, as an expression of concern fell upon the creature's face.

“Yes, Sweetie B- I mean, yes, I'm fine.” She shook her head in a vain attempt to dispel a gout of Scoddri's laughter. “I'm just kind of tired. How close are we?”

“Not far. Close, very close. But Sweetie Belle must go up before she goes down.”

“Right, that again. Well, I guess that means it's gonna take some time to get there, so I might as well ask some questions.”

“You could just stay quiet and follow the diamond dog, you'd probably get there faster. Especially since you plan on pestering him with questions.”

Not for the first time, Sweetie Belle wished there was some way for her to communicate with Scoddri that wouldn't end with any creature around her--present company or otherwise--thinking she was crazy.

“So, Ruben, what's that gem around your neck?”

“Oh this?” the diamond dog asked as he turned around while tugging at his collar. Its single red gem sparkled brilliantly in the unicorn's light. “This is my ruby. I like rubies best. Their smell, texture, and sound. Rubies are best gem.”

“I see,” Sweetie Belle said as she squinted at the gem and concentrated on it. “So all you diamond dogs dig these tunnels looking for gems?”

Ruben offered a simple nod. “We dig for gems.”

The unicorn remained squinting at the ruby. To her senses, it seemed alive with a calm and passive energy. While the gemstone didn't glow too brightly, she could sense that the stone held a significant amount of energy. Not as much as the one that had caused the collapse at the cave entrance, but certainly more than some of the smaller plants within the Everfree Forest. Upon closer scrutiny, she could just barely distinguish some small strands of magic that reached out from the small gem and tangled lazily amongst Ruben's own subdued glow.

“Wow, that ruby seems special.”

“It is special because it is mine.”

“So then, does every diamond dog have just one gem?” she asked, her curiosity evident upon her voice. She wondered what purpose the gems actually served for the diamond dogs.

“Not just one, but we all have at least one. Though, we also have our favourites. Some say emerald, others sapphires, topaz, or garnet. If there's a gem, one of us has it as their favourite.”

“Hmm, I see,” Sweetie Belle said, accentuating her comment with a nod. “But what do the gems actually do for you? I mean, why do you collect them?”

A look of confusion fell upon the dog's face as if he had never even considered such a question before. “Because we like them, we need them, we have to find more.”

“Huh,” the filly hummed. “But that doesn't really tell me why, just that it's important to you.”

“But that's why we collect gems, because we have to.”

“Well, what happens if you don't?”

“I don't know, Sweetie Belle. Every diamond dog always collects gems. That is what makes us diamond dogs. If we were not digging for gems, then we would just be dogs.”

“But what would happen, I wonder, if they ever ran out of gems?” Scoddri mused aloud, echoing Sweetie Belle's own thoughts.

“Well, there's no way to find out by asking if he doesn't know,” she responded before she could stop herself, forgetting for that small moment, that Ruben could not hear Scoddri at all.

“Yes, Sweetie Belle, no need to think on things that will never happen.” The dog nodded happily and continued walking down the tunnel.

“But how can one ever know what's going to happen?” the voice asked with a light chuckle.

The filly fell back into silence and considered Scoddri's ominous question as she followed Ruben further down the tunnel. She wondered, for just a moment, if she would ever be able to find the answers she sought. Or, for that matter, if there were any answers to be found in the first place.

Soon, the tunnel began a slow climb upward, as she remained lost in her thoughts.

* * *

Much to Sweetie Belle's surprise, the tunnel did eventually reach its destination, but it had gone up for another ten minutes before spiraling downward. She could feel the beginnings of a headache starting to form, which she guessed was caused by the consistent use of her horn as a beacon to light her way.

“And so, up has become down, and you see our home,” Ruben remarked, with a hint of pride. “This is Greystone, home of the Greypaw clan.”

The unicorn looked up ahead to see the tunnel widen into a large cavern. All along the underground walls, in the distance, she could make out the glow of sparkling many-hued stones. They shed a dim light, it wasn't the magic glow that she was accustomed to seeing within typical jewel stones; this was actual light, as if each jewel were a candle.

“Wow, I've never seen a stone glow like that before,” she said in awe, letting go of her own magic and letting her horn's light fade out. “What is it?”

“That is glowcrystal,” the diamond dog stated unreservedly, motioning for her to follow.

“A truly imaginative name.”

“So how does it work?” Sweetie wondered aloud.

Ruben stopped and scratched his head for a moment and cocked his head to the side. “We dig it up, then it glows. It is glowcrystal.”

Sweetie Belle quelled a moan before it even started and instead let out a small sigh.

“Not the answer you were hoping for, I take it?” Scoddri chimed in with a small bout of laughter.

The filly's disappointment was soon forgotten in lieu of the new sights before her. She quickly noticed there was a certain precision to the placement of the glowing colourful stones mounted on the walls. They lit up the whole cavern very subtly, and soon she noticed a few shadowy alcoves peaking in from the walls; they looked like small holes dug right into the stone. Inside, she thought she could make out some stone furniture.

“Oh! Are those your houses?”

“Houses?” the diamond dog seemed puzzled by the word.“No, not 'houses'. Those are sleeping-quarters.”

“I see, so where are we headed then?” she asked, holding out a bit of hope that she might get a more descriptive answer to her question.

“To the Boss.”

Sweetie Belle sighed yet again. I guess I'll get more answers when I talk to the Boss.

Suddenly, a strange sound of quick footfalls caught in her ears and she pulled herself back to attention. Two figures in the distance were running right toward both Sweetie Belle and Ruben. By the shape of their silhouettes, she could determine that they were diamond dogs as well. A feeling of nervousness settled readily upon the filly.

As they came closer she could make out their features. Both of them were smaller than Ruben, though they dressed in much the same manner. The features that stood out most was that their fur was a deep earthy brown colour, except they still had grey paws. And, of course, each one was wearing a different gem from around their collar. One had a topaz, and the other, an amethyst.

“Ah, it's Ruben, just as we thought,” the topaz-bearer spoke as they came to a halt right in front of Sweetie Belle. “But what are you doing bringing a pony down here? It's too small to help dig or carry. What are you thinking, you oaf?”

“I just brought Sweetie Belle here because Boss told me to.”

“What are you talking about, you fool? Boss didn't give you orders to bring a pony back. Boss would never do that!” the amethyst collared mutt piped up.

“You think that I don't follow orders?!” Ruben barked indignantly, his voice suddenly booming, as if it were an avalanche. Standing proudly, the ruby-adorned dog seemed to tower over the other two.

With a quick exchange of nervous glances, the two dogs stepped to the side and lowered their gazes. “Well, that's for Boss to decide. Go ahead, talk to the boss. But I don't care what you say, I'm certain you weren't ordered to abduct a little pony.”

The pair of mutts then turned away and retreated towards the sleeping-quarters.

“What's their problem?” Sweetie Belle asked as she watched them slink away. “I thought, you'd all be friends down here.”

“Friends? No, not friends, just family. They are diggers. They aren't bad, they just don't like Sweetie Belle smell,” Ruben amended and motioned for the pony to follow him.

Sweetie Belle sniffed at herself, and blushed slightly before complying and following the diamond dog's lead. “Yeah, I guess I haven't had a bath or a shower in a while. I kind of stink.”

“It is not a bad smell, just different. They don't like different.”

In another minute, the two made their way to the obvious center of the cavern. It looked to be a structure of some sort, built precisely and solidly from stone. If it weren't for the squarish frame, Sweetie Belle would have thought that it was a naturally forming feature of the cavern. This structure had a few more glowcrystals on its walls than the rest of the cavern. She made a mental note to herself to examine a glowcrystal when she had a chance. She found it strange how the light it emitted seemed brighter than the magic aura that comprised it.

“Here's headquarters. Where boss is. Time to make my report. Follow me.”

Without looking back to see if the small unicorn followed him, Ruben strode on ahead through the opening of the structure. Sweetie Belle followed suit, as her feeling of nervousness began building.

The inside of the chamber was as sparse and bland as the cavern outside had been. There was no décor within, save for a single large stone table at the center of the room, as well as two huge chunks of glowcrystal that flanked the table and lit up the entire chamber.

Sweetie Belle made her way across the room to where Ruben stood, saluting another diamond dog on the other side of the table. The first defining feature that she noticed from this diamond dog, was the collar around its neck. It had the largest garnet she had ever seen hanging from it, as well as a series of other smaller gemstones decorating the rest of the collar.

“Boss, Ruben reporting back from duty. Mission accomplished. I brought back the cause of the collapse.” He proceeded to change his salute into a gesture, pointing to the approaching white unicorn. “Sweetie Belle caused the cave-in.”

“I see. Very good Ruben, you may take your leave for now. But just wait outside until I call you to receive your next assignment, there is much to be done,” the figure from across the room said, in a surprisingly silky voice. Sweetie Belle had expected the boss to be male, but apparently she had been wrong. “And you, little pony, come closer, I would like to talk with you.”

“Um, okay,” she replied nervously, and walked up towards the large table. In the next few seconds, silence dominated the room, with the exception of Ruben's retreating footfalls. Only once the ruby-collared dog had passed the threshold of the chamber did the boss speak again.

“So tell me, little pony, what is your name?”

“Um, Ruben already said it. It's Sweetie Belle, and uh-”

“Hello, Sweetie Belle,” the diamond dog interrupted. “I am Garner, the boss of Greystone, and the Greypaw clan that dwells within it. Now, my subordinate told me that you were responsible for the collapse of the third eastern tunnel entrance. Is that true?”

“Oh, yeah, I didn't mean to cause the cave-in, and I'm sorry if it caused you trouble,” Sweetie Belle replied earnestly.

“I see, and how, if I may ask, did you manage to destroy our tunnel entrance? You hardly seem to be the strongest of ponies out there.”

“Well, I was just practicing with some magic, then the roof caved in. I didn't mean to do it, I'm sorry.”

“Indeed, but it will still take a whole week to fix that area up, and we don't have the dogs to spare for that. This had to happen now of all times, didn't it?” Garner muttered to herself and then her expression softened, “Anyway, pony, answer me this. What are you doing in our caves? Most ponies tend to avoid the underground.”

“Well, I'm actually running away from home.”

“I see. Why?”

“Because I... want to... learn what my special talent is. I want to learn what it is that makes me special,” the unicorn said shakily. She was not about to tell the whole truth, for the truth would sound more radical than any lie that she could come up with.

“Hmm,” the boss hummed as she stoked her chin with one hand. “And why do you have to run away from home to learn who you are? Could you not do that in your home?”

“No, I can't. I don't want them to know, they can't know, they won't understand. I need to figure it out on my own, then I can go back. Otherwise I'll always feel their eyes on me, concern, pity, and fear. That's not the life I want. I want to come back home to Ponyville, then walk to my sister proudly, knowing who I am. I just don't want to involve anypony else in this.”

Garner tilted her head a moment in consideration and stroked her chin a bit more before responding. “Well, I'll tell you what, Sweetie Belle. I know of a place where you won't involve anyone else, and you can do all the soul-searching you want. I'll let Ruben take you to it, just give me a moment to give him his orders. If you would please wait right outside.”

“Really?” she asked, thankful that Garnet was so considerate of her situation. “Thanks for being so understanding.”

“But of course,” she said softly to the unicorn and then raised her voice to bark out an order. “Ruben! Get in here! I have your next assignment.”

Sweetie Belle nodded once to the boss, then took her leave. On the way out she flashed a small smile of appreciation to Ruben. Ruben simply nodded and passed by moving up to the table. With her nervousness now ebbing away, she made her way out of the structure.

“Well, that was quite the meeting, was it not?”

“Yeah, I suppose it was,” she whispered quietly, she wasn't too sure how good the diamond dogs' hearing was, but she didn't want to take any chances. “But at least I learned something.”

“Oh? Enlighten me girl.” Scoddri chuckled.

“Despite how mean some of those diamond dogs appeared, it isn't a good idea to judge all the dogs because of those two. They are all different individuals, just like us ponies. In other words: don't judge a book by its cover.”

“Or the story by a single chapter,” the voice finished smugly.

End of Chapter 13