• Published 10th Jul 2020
  • 1,306 Views, 204 Comments

Howlite Howler 3 - Three Tails

  • ...
7
 204
 1,306

Chapter 13: Escalation

The smell of smoke was the first thing off. As Filthy Rich pulled himself from sleep, he then noticed the odd warmth. Blinking the sleep from his eyes, he left his bed – his wife mumbling in her sleep – and crossed over to the door, noticing an odd orange glow underneath the hinges.

“Diamond Tiara?” Filthy Rich asked, opening the door. “Sweetie?”

Then he glanced down the hallway… and his heart stopped in his chest.

Just down the staircase was a flickering orange glow, as if the sun was rising out of the first floor. A few wisps of dark black smoke were curling up the staircase like the tentacles of some ghostly animal.

“Celestia’s mercy…” Filthy Rich whimpered, before bursting into his daughter’s room. “Diamond!” he cried. “There’s a fire!”

“Mm…” Diamond Tiara moaned. “’M sleeping…”

Rolling his eyes in irritation, Filthy Rich seized his daughter in his teeth, galloping back to his room and rousing his wife.

“Spoiled,” he claimed. “We have to go! Now!”

“Ugh…” his wife moaned. “What time is it, Filthy?”

Grimacing at the similar reactions his family members had to offer, Filthy resisted screaming in outrage and focused on crossing to the window. Wrenching the glass pane open, he stuck his head out, and nearly took in a lungful of smoke. The orange glow was brighter down below. It looked like his entire first floor had been set aflame!

“Mm, Filthy?” Spoiled Rich moaned, stumbling out of bed. “Why’d you turn on the heater? It’s the middle of…”

Filthy Rich gave a small bit of thanks to the alicorn princesses as his wife finally focused, and saw the smoke billowing up around them. Her eyes widened in horror.

“Filthy?!” she screamed. “Fire! It’s a fire!”

“I’m well aware,” Filthy declared, his eyes scanning the skies for… his heart leaped.

“Hey!” he called, waving at a familiar gray pegasus. “Hey! Hello! We need help!”

Though he winced at the sight of Ditzy Doo – Or Derpy Hooves, he couldn’t remember – her wall-eyes still managed to focus on the flames like they weren’t supposed to happen.

“What happened?” Derpy asked.

“Some pony set fire to our home!” Filthy Rich claimed. “You have to get us out!”

“Okie-dokie,” Derpy said with a grin. Flapping steadily over the blaze, she seized Diamond Tiara, placing her on her back. Spoiled Rich lunged for the pegasus, but Filthy held her back.

“One at a time,” he ordered.

“But the fire…!” Spoiled tried to insist.

“One at a time!” Filthy barked.

Spoiled gaped at him in indignation, but the gray pegasus was fast. Gliding down a safe distance from the blaze, she set Diamond Tiara on the ground, before flapping up to the others… and promptly bashing into the window. The glass pane was knocked from its perch, and fell into the smoke with a tinkle of shattering glass.

“Oops,” Derpy mumbled. “I just don’t know what went wrong…”

“I’ll bet I do,” Filthy grumbled, as Spoiled leaped into Derpy’s arms. As Derpy drifted down, another pegasus zoomed over to help.

“Mr. Rich!” Clear Skies yelled, pulling him to safety. “So, sorry about this; with Rainbow Dash gone with Princess Twilight, we weren’t sure whether to focus on your home or your work place…”

Filthy Rich’s heart tore in his chest. “My what?!”

#

A few seconds later, Filthy Rich was staring in horror as Barnyard Bargains crumbled to the ground before him, alight with flames. He fell to his haunches, tears brimming in his eyes.

“W-Why?” he stammered, even as the pegasi desperately moved to put out the blaze with storm clouds. “W-Who would do such a thing…?”

Diamond Tiara’s eyes widened as she looked towards the North. “That dirt dog…” she whispered.

“What?!” her mother demanded.

“That diamond dog,” Diamond Tiara insisted. “C-Celine? Her mother yelled at me, and then…”

Spoiled Rich gasped. “It makes so much sense!” she insisted, turning to Filthy. “Filthy,” she insisted. “Get up and wipe those tears away. We know exactly who’s going to pay for all of this!”

#

Despite her insistence, when the time for confrontation finally came, Spoiled Rich and Diamond Tiara quickly found themselves cowering behind Filthy as an equally furious Shiva bore down on them.

“How… DARE YOU!?” Shiva bellowed, her lightning flaring like wings behind her. “You harass and belittle my daughter, and now you seek to blame me when karma hits you?!”

“A-Alpha Shiva, please be reasonable!” Filthy Rich insisted. “After our… er, disagreement, you can’t blame us for being a little…”

“My dogs would never stoop to that level!” Shiva insisted. “I would never allow it!”

“Then who burned down our home?” Spoiled Rich demanded. “Who burned down Filthy’s place of business?!"

Before Shiva could snap back, Scorpia separated them with magic.

“Alright, enough of that!” Scorpia said, as Cadence got between them.

“Mr. Rich,” Cadence began. “I am sorry for the tragedy that befell you. But unless a resident of the Crystal Empire was responsible for it…”

“Which they aren’t,” Shiva growled, still sparking.

“Shiva,” Scorpia hissed.

“… there is not much we can do,” Cadence finished.

“Then find out who did do it,” Spoiled Rich insisted. “Princess Twilight is still off on some journey to the mountains, and she left only that insignificant dragon in charge! Who’s going to investigate it if not the prime suspects?”

“One more word out of you…” Shiva snapped, before Scorpia separated them.

“I can have one of our peace keepers investigate,” Scorpia insisted. “We’ll sort it out with whoever Princess Twilight left in her stead, and figure out what happened from there.”

Shiva huffed. “And when we prove that no diamond dogs were involved,” she added as Filthy Rich ushered his family out. “I expect a full apology.”

#

“Sorry,” Spike admitted as Skippy walked with him to the ruins of Barnyard Bargains. “But Twilight hasn’t exactly gotten around to making a police force yet.” Spike glanced around. “I don’t know if you noticed back when Chrysalis invaded, but the guards… weren’t really that effective.”

Skippy grimaced. “Just because Celestia let the times of peace soften her troops doesn’t mean Twilight should fall into the same trap,” he commented. “I’d be more than happy to give Twilight some recommendations for her own military.”

“I’ll send her the recommendation,” Spike said, his eyes turning to the ruined warehouse. “After we figure out what happened here.”

Skippy strode fearlessly into the smoldering ruins. Glaring around, he shapeshifted into his diamond dog form, carefully sniffing around at the ruins. Slowly, he backed out, before glancing down at the road beneath.

Skippy’s heart fell, however, as he noticed small worm signs in the ground.

“Burrows,” he muttered, shaking his head. “Alpha Shiva was wrong for once… diamond dogs did this.”

#

Shiva took the news… about as well as Skippy expected.

As he knelt before them and laid out what he had discovered, Shiva’s ears had gone completely flat. She slumped in her seat, her claws gripping the sides of her head.

“How did I let this happen?” she mumbled.

“We have been getting a few signs that some of the diamond dogs weren’t happy with your rule,” Scorpia admitted. “Didn’t you try to address them?”

“I did!” Shiva insisted, standing up. “Of course, I did! Unless…” She gasped. “Kodo! He and Luke were in charge while I left Ponyville…”

Skippy brushed his chin. “And I’m pretty sure one of our changelings mentioned him heading out last night. Though I suppose we were fools to think he was just going out hunting.”

“Well, he could technically say he was hunting something,” Cadence noted with a grin, before the collective glares of the others caused her to swallow nervously. “Sorry,” she admitted. “Trying to keep the mood light.”

But Shiva’s mood was dark as night. She slumped back in her seat. “How am I supposed to confront him about this?” she whispered.

“It’s got to be done somehow,” Shining noted. “He destroyed Equestrian property.”

“Shining Armor, he is our son!” Luke snapped. “You don't know what it's like...”

"But you will soon enough," Shiva noted.

Shining Armor paused, exchanging a look with Cadence. The bulge in her stomach resembled how Shiva looked mere weeks before Kodo and Celine joined their Empire.

“However,” Shiva said. “Kodo did do wrong by the ponies… and we have to hold him accountable. Just as we held the ponies accountable for what they did.”

Luke looked down with a glower, but Cadence nodded in relief. “Thank you, Shiva,” she said, before glancing around. “So… who wants to break the news to him?”

#

When the summons came, Kodo didn’t know why he felt so… nervous.

I did the right thing, he insisted to himself as Skippy led him to the throne room. I protected my family.

You forget, pup, the dark voice whispered in his head. You’re in pony territory. If they think you did wrong, then your mother will be forced to think you did wrong as well. It’s a sad day when you can’t trust your own family, but I fear that day is close.

“You’re wrong,” Kodo insisted, almost out loud. “My mother is… well, she’s my mother! She brought me into this world; she’s the only one I can truly trust. Her and my sister and my father. If we can’t trust each other… who can we trust?”

You can trust me,the voice offered. I’ve been with you since the day you left your mother’s womb. I’m closer to you than she or the rest of your family could ever be.

Maybe,Kodo admitted. But you don’t have to be the only one I can trust.

Right as Kodo said that, he was led into the throne room. And the Rich family was standing there waiting for him.

Kodo froze at the sight of them. Spoiled Rich had her nose turned up, and was regarding him like he was garbage. Filthy Rich was watching him with a more neutral, if suspicious look, and Diamond Tiara was safely behind the legs of her parents. Up on the three thrones, Shiva could barely bring herself to look at her son, while Cadence and Shining were engaged in some sort of silent discussion. Scorpia, on the other hand, watched Kodo, her eyes almost seeming to analyze his very soul.

“Thank you, Skippy,” she said, as the changeling escort bowed and left the room. Spoiled Rich watched him go with a haughty look that made Kodo want to slap her.

“What’s this about?” Kodo asked, trying to appear casual.

“A few days ago,” Scorpia said. “This family’s house and place of business were burned down.”

Kodo’s eyes briefly widened, even though he knew none of the three Alphas were fooled.

“Well,” he noted, glaring smugly at Spoiled. “Must’ve been a real shock.”

Spoiled seethed at his look before turning to her husband. “Well, Rich? Are you going to let this…?”

“Please, Princess,” Filthy Rich hissed through gritted teeth. “Continue.”

“This assault on their home,” Cadence continued. “Occurred shortly after their daughter, Diamond Tiara, got into a verbal altercation with your sister and mother.”

“Hmph,” Kodo sneered. “Then it sounds like they deserved what they got.”

“Kodo, stop playing coy,” Shiva snapped. She stood up and fixed him with a gaze that chased his smugness away and caused him to shift to his haunches. “Did you attack them?”

Kodo looked into his mother’s eyes… and he couldn’t find it in her to lie.

“Yes,” he admitted. “But you said it already; they attacked you first. They attacked Celine.”

“It was a ‘verbal altercation,’” Cadence corrected. “No physical harm was done.”

“And beside that,” Filthy Rich added. “We worked everything out! Didn’t we?” He looked to Shiva, but before she could reply.

“This is exactly why Diamond Dogs should never have been allowed here,” Spoiled Rich cried out. “You give them an inch, and they take a…”

“YOU WILL BE SILENT WHILE WE DEAL WITH THIS!”

What cowed Spoiled into submission was that it was Cadence that had spoken; Scorpia busy making sure Shiva didn’t leap off her throne and carve Spoiled Rich’s throat out. Diamond Tiara, however, recognized the look of rage seething across Shiva’s face, and wisely backed up towards the door, all but ready to bolt.

“Needless to say,” Cadence continued, fixing her glare on Kodo. “What you did, Beta Kodo, was way out of line. Not behavior befitting one of your status.”

Kodo blinked at her in shock. “So, it’s out of line to defend my family?” he demanded.

“It wasn’t defending, it was attacking.”

Kodo stared in horror as Shiva spoke the words.

“You escalated a conflict that I had already handled, and in doing so, you are encouraging the belief that diamond dogs and ponies can be nothing but enemies.”

Kodo’s ears flattened at her words. He almost didn’t even acknowledge Spoiled Rich’s smug look. And though her eyes did soften in pity, Shiva did not back down.

“Kodo,” she said. “You are my son. And it’s not wrong to want to defend your sister… but I cannot condone the actions you have taken towards that protection.”

“Mother…” Kodo whispered, as the voice tsked in sympathy.

My poor boy, he said. I’m so sorry.

Yet, as he spoke the words, he was almost drowned out by Spoiled Rich’s haughty ‘Ha!’ of triumph.

“Well,” she said happily. “I’m glad to see at least one of these dogs knows their place.”

Kodo’s ears flattened, and a growl bubbled up from his throat as she turned to the others, only for Shiva to flare with light.

“Do not test me,” Shiva snarled at the mare.

“Or what?” Spoiled taunted. “You said it yourself; your little Tartarus spawn did wrong, and now it’s time for him to pay.” She turned to Cadence. “Princess Cadence, I demand that he be arrested and imprisoned.”

“Excuse me?!” Shiva demanded, right as Kodo snarled, “Are you kidding me?!” Both of them turned to Cadence, only for Shining to run in front of her, flaring his horn.

“That is not how this is going to work,” Cadence insisted, motioning for Shining to calm down.

“Then how is it supposed to work?” Spoiled insisted. “With Celestia adding this mutt to her royal harem?” She turned to Filthy Rich. “Filthy, tell them to imprison them before we go…”

“To who?” Filthy insisted. “Celestia locked up everyone who was involved in Alpha Shiva’s first imprisonment! Who do you think she’ll listen to first?”

Spoiled turned beet red. “It isn’t fair!” she screamed, whirling on Shiva. “Your kind enslaved and tortured ponies long before you ever got to know what it was like behind a cage.”

“Oh, and were you one of those ponies that suffered?” Shiva snarled, before turning to Filthy. “Mr. Rich, you have five seconds to get your wife out of this throne room so we can discuss this like civilized beings.”

“You dare to call yourself ‘civilized,’” Spoiled screamed, pointing at a seething Kodo. “This little devil burned down my home, and I will have…”

CRACKLE-BOOM!

Lightning flashed. Oddly dark yet blindingly bright at the same time.

“AAAAAAAUUUUUUGGHGHHHHHHHHHH!!”

Heads whipped back and forth. Trying to clear their eyes, Scorpia and Cadence focused on Shiva, but she was clearing her eyes as well.

Then Spoiled Rich let out another wail, and all eyes flew to her.

The pompous mare was crumpled against the side of the wall, a cracked indentation in the crystal showing where she had been thrown against the wall. Soot and ash covered her limp form, and while her body was as still as if she was dead, her head wrenched itself up to give another wail of agony.

“Mommy?!” Diamond Tiara whimpered.

“Spoiled!” Filthy Rich screamed, racing to her side.

“HE KILLED ME!” Spoiled Rich wailed. “THAT FILTHY ANIMAL KILLED ME!”

The Alphas turned back to Kodo… but the young diamond dog was gone.

Spoiled Rich’s wailing had drowned out the slammed door.

#

As Spoiled Rich’s wailings echoed up from the castle, Kodo stormed through the Crystal Empire, racing for… where?

I-I don’t know where to go, he realized. I can’t go home! Mom will take me right back!

Do not fear, my young friend, the voice suddenly said in his mind. You have friends here. The Iron Wolves. And me.

Even as he spoke, one of the Iron Wolves poked her head out from a store, blinking at the screams cutting through the air. As Kodo glanced back, his heart chilled as he saw tendrils snaking out, followed by buzzing changelings.

Pack links, Kodo thought. And changelings to catch me.

Yet, even as his spoke, the voice pulled Kodo’s own pack link. It swam like a black eel to the Iron Wolf nearby, sinking into her temple.

Grimm, the voice said, pulling her name from her memories. We have been betrayed. The ponies want Kodo to be jailed for the crime of defending his pack.

What?!Grimm stammered.

Let the word be spread through the link, the voice commanded. Alpha Shiva has fallen to Celestia’s spells. If the Diamond Dogs want any hope for salvation, it is only in the freedom of the Young Beta Kodo.

Kodo and Grimm shared a look. And seconds before Shiva’s pack link could seize either of them, Grimm yanked Kodo into the store.

Even as they raced behind the counter, Kodo could hear Shiva’s voice through the link.

“Beta Kodo!” echoed through the Empire. “Turn yourself in, or the consequences will be far more severe!”

Grimm growled before yanking open a trap door behind a counter, leading down into a mine shaft-like tunnel.

“I use this to get back home to Outer Haven,” Grim explained. “Send the link out; I’m pretty sure most of my neighbors are with you.”

Kodo pressed his head to hers. “I owe you my life,” he whispered. “I will pay you back one day.”

“Start by making this count for something,” she asked, before the door banged open.

“I saw him in here!” a pony cried. “I swear he went down here!”

Sharing a mutual look, Kodo hopped into the tunnel, and Grimm slammed it shut behind him. Kodo raced on into the darkness, sending his links out.

Iron Wolves, he cried into his link. Abandon me, and you abandon Outer Haven to the ponies!

At first, the only response was, Beta Kodo?! Alpha Shiva needs you back! Come back!Then Kodo had to cut the links, and take the paths in the tunnel that led away from those searching for him.

But just as he feared he was about to be surrounded… one of his links tugged him forward.

This way… Alpha Kodo.

Picking up on the use of ‘Alpha,’ Kodo followed the link. It led to… Kodo’s heart leaped at the sight of Luke.

“Father?” he asked.

“I’ll be consigned to Tartarus before I let that sow punish my own flesh and fur,” Luke growled, pulling Kodo along.

However, they only made it five feet before another iron wolf raced to Luke.

“Luke, we’ve been infiltrated,” he whispered. “Changelings got through. I’m sorry; we’re completely surrounded.”

However, Luke glanced over at the tunnel.

“Not completely,” he said, before punching a hole through the wall. Working fast, they made a small tunnel. Big enough for Kodo to squeeze into.

“Just keep tunneling forward,” Luke told Kodo. “We’ll make an alternate pathway to lead them off course, then tell them we lost you.”

“And Mom?” Kodo asked.

Luke chuckled. “You know your mom. She won’t hurt me or the diamond dogs. For now, just head further North and worry about keeping yourself out of pony hooves. We’ll figure out what to do from there.”

“Thank you, Father,” he whispered. Before he turned to leave, he added. “Please… don’t hurt Mother or Celine for this.”

Luke gripped his son’s shoulder. “We’ll try,” he said, before nudging him and several of the dogs forward. “Now go. Hurry!”

Burying the pathway back, Kodo and his Iron Wolves turned and began making their way through the earth. With the aid of his fellow pack mates, they made quick progress away from Outer Haven and deep into the Frozen North.

I’m truly sorry about this, the voice in his head said. But know that we will free your mother and sister.

And the Crystal Empire will be m-mm… ‘yours.’